Friday, October 15, 2010

1 Chron 12:32 report, 64: Progress and possibilities for sustainable, modular, open source industry

In recent months, I have been tracking the Open Source Ecology movement, and especially Marcin Jakubowski's Factor-e-Farm initiative. 

This, because -- if successful -- a shift to open source, modular industrial technologies would be a way to move towards economic self-sufficiency for small island developing states, through implementing a localised, self-sustaining industrial infrastructure. In short, industrial civlisation 2.0, following the general pattern of the increasing success of the open source software movement: core technologies are open to all as a common good for humanity, and businesses can make money from providing adaptations, off-the-shelf implementations,  technical support and extensions. Or, by embedding their own implementations inot their production systems.

The advantage for the community is that a move to localised modular, open source technologies for critical agriculture, construction and industrial systems creates a more robust, resilient economy in the face of possible dislocations. So, if we develop down this road, we would become much more self-reliant to feed development and prosperity in the region.

Jakubowski's Humanity+ presentation on building a replicable, post-scarcity resilient community gives a good overview of -- and preliminary progress report on -- this possibility:

The ongoing development of the LifeTrac tractor and associated Power Cube prime mover are an iconic, more specific case in point. The key idea here is that by creating a modular prime mover and using fluid power hydraulic technology to move power to where it is needed, with controls, many functional systems can be implemented in a much less complicated, easier to fabricate and maintain way.

(a) LifeTrac II prototype:

 (b) Power Cube modular prime mover:

Such initiatives are of course very experimental, but they offer a new world of possibilities that are well worth  exploring. For instance, many of the ideas are well within reach of technology departments of regional community colleges. END

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Update: IDFNA timeline videos on the May 31 2010 Mavi Marmara incident

Given the unfortunately flawed UN investigation and report on the Mavi Marmara incident, it is a useful balancing exercise to look at the following IDFNA timeline videos on the May 31 2010 incident:

First Video:

Second Video:


Time will eventually tell where the full truth lies, but we should be aware that there are two distinct sides to this story. END

PS: My at the time impressionistic preliminary analysis is here.

PPS: For those requiring more details, the UN Watch submittals here will provide a treasure trove to balance the general run of regional punditry and news, as well as international news.  (Sadly, this does not seem to be former Trinidad Attorney General Karl Hudson-Phillips' finest hour.)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Matt 24 watch, 110: Updating an argument regarding the self-defeating nature of materialism

In a day when the so-called new atheists confidently set out to trash belief in God as a destructive delusion, and seek to smear Christians and other theists as inevitably ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked, we need to subject their confidently projected evolutionary materialism to serious scrutiny.

So, as a part of my ongoing development of an Independent Origins Science Education course, I have been updating my longstanding critical examination of the logical underpinnings of evolutionary materialism. 

I therefore wish to excerpt the following from the in-development IOSE's survey unit, in the section on the emergence of man, mind, and morals. (Comments and suggestions are of course welcome.) 


>>12 --> Some materialists . . .  suggest that consciousness is an “emergent” property of matter in the brain in action; one dependent on that matter for its existence and behaviour.  But, "emergence" is itself immediately problematic: is "emergence" a euphemism for "Voila: poof!" . . . i.e "magic"?

13 --> Some materialists go further and suggest that mind is more or less a delusion. For instance, Sir Francis Crick is on record, in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:

. . . that "You", your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons." This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

14 --> Philip Johnson has replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: "I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."  Johnson then acidly commented:  “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

15 --> In short, it is at least arguable that
self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin. This can be drawn out a bit in a fairly simple way:
a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity. 

b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance initial circumstances.

c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture.  So, we rapidly arrive at Crick's claim in his  The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as "thoughts," "reasoning" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. 

d: These forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning [["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].

e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways?  Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And -- as we saw above -- would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

f: For further instance,  we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion.  Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely error, but delusion. But, if such a patent "delusion" is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it "must" -- by the principles of evolution -- somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be an illustration of the unreliability of our reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

g: Turning this dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

h:  That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, "must" also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this "meme"  
in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence.
i: The famous evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark: 
"It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms." [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)] 
j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then the "thoughts" we have, the beliefs we hold, the reasonings we attempt and the "conclusions" we reach -- without residue -- must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or logical validity.  (The conclusions of such "arguments" may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or "warranted" them.)  

k: And, if materialists then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that -- as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics and many other theories shows -- empirical support is not equivalent to truth for a scientific theory. For, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the most reliable of theories.

l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories, such as the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allows us to test theories of gravity.

m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, "Billions and billions of demons," it is now notorious that:
. . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [[materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
n: Such a priori assumptions of materialism are plainly question-begging, mind-closing and fallacious.  
o: But, more importantly, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists' theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited. 

p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion.  But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”

q: In the end, it is quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is plainly based on self-defeating, question-begging logic. 
[ . . . . ] 

Now [also], the only “is-es” permitted in the dominant scientific worldview are matter, energy and forces that put them in motion and combination . . .  Thus, there is an apparent explanatory gap between our experience of moral obligation and constraining conscience, and the implications of a materialistic view . . . . 

In short, the is-ought gap by which is does not ground ought, save if “ought” is inherently in the foundational "is," is real. In that context, evolutionary materialist theories of origins plainly embed a serious moral hazard. One that, by its nature, can seemingly only be balanced by abandoning what many view as a fundamental finding of fact of modern science: that we are wholly material creatures in a wholly material world. 

Will Hawthorne draws out some sobering conclusions from that, echoing the concerns on amorality that Plato made in his The Laws, Bk X (as was already mentioned in the Introduction and Summary): 

Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can't infer an 'ought' from an 'is' [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces].  (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an 'ought'. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there's no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it's not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action. (This is just the standard inferential scheme for formal deontic logic.) We've conformed to standard principles and inference rules of logic and we've started out with assumptions that atheists have conceded in print. And yet we reach the absurd conclusion: therefore, for any action you care to pick, it's permissible to perform that action. If you'd like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan 'if atheism is true, all things are permitted'.
For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don't like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can't infer 'ought' from [[a material] 'is'. [[Emphases and paragraphing added.]
Also, we must make a painful footnote on Darwin himself. For, it is indisputable on the facts of Chs 5 - 7 of Descent of Man, that Darwin was indeed one of the first Social Darwinists; e.g. arguing that natural selection explains how Saxons [[= Englishmen] dominate Celts [[= Irish] and Scots. Similarly, in a July 3, 1881 letter to William Graham, he cited how natural selection explained how Europeans beat the Turks “hollow” in previous centuries of struggle. Worst of all, in Ch 6 of Descent, he coolly predicted that by natural selection the more advanced races would wipe out the “inferior” ones such as Negroes and Australians in the centuries to come. (Nor will angry dismissals and distractive retorts or attempts to assert immoral equivalency etc. change such painful facts.)>>


Such issues are sobering, and need to be carefully reflected on, especially in a day when evolutionary materialists are reaching for state power and control of key institutions such as education. We would therefore be wise to ponder the warning Plato made in his The Laws, Book X, 360 BC:

Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily "scientific" view!] . . . .

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them. 
 As the Greeks used to say, "a word to the wise is sufficient." END

UPDATE, Oct 3: The argument under point 15 has been extended.