Saturday, July 20, 2019

I solved Fermi´s paradox, guys

There are two obvious solutions to Fermi´s paradox, and the reason why the matter hasn´t been put to rest is simply that both answers are intolerable to Modern Man and his belief in Eternal Progress, or rather a very specific view of Eternal Progress.

The first obvious answer is the Rare Earth hypothesis. We really are alone, and we are alone *not* because all civilizations go through a human-like history and eventually destroy themselves in a human-like nuclear war (a typical 1970´s anthropocentric conceit), but because multi-cellular life, or perhaps life as such, only emerged once in the entire universe – here on the third rock from the Sun. I´m not sure why this scenario is so intolerable to so many. Asimov has it, and in his novels, humans eventually conquer the entire galaxy because of it. I mean, there is no one to stop us! It´s almost as if the believers in eternal progress wants there to be advanced alien civilizations as a kind of guarantee that we will once reach that stage, too. And a secret wish to fall down and worship the aliens…?

The second obvious answer is that the universe is *teeming* with life, including advanced life, yes, including advanced intelligent life…but most of it is unable to or even uninterested in developing our kind of advanced technology, let alone fly around in space. (If you believe in the supernatural, you could even argue that most life is clever enough to avoid this shitty universe, much preferring the astral delights of some spirit-dimension.) Humans aren´t the only intelligent species on Earth. What about chimpanzees, whales, ravens, or even octopi? Let´s assume whales or octopi evolve for another 100 million years or so. What makes us think they can´t become smarter? And why must this necessarily entail leaving the sea, becoming bipedal and have opposable thumbs? “Because that is the only way we can create a civilization”. No, it isn´t. What makes us think the only way to create a civilization is the human way? What makes us think a species with whale-derived intelligence would want to make the things humans are making? Come to think of it, even creatures driven by pure instinct can create something eerily resembling a civilization. Yes, I´m thinking of ants, which did it millions of years before humans even existed.

And that´s just one planet…

Imagine what weird and wonderful creatures could evolve at other planets. Once again: what makes us think they would be interested in communicating with other star systems (or conquering them), rather than studying the notochord, the immortality of the common cockchafer, or what have you. If they evolved differently from us, they might not even *need* to create a high technology civilization that emits radio waves. That´s something we have to do because we (or many of us, at any rate) wouldn´t survive without one. Other species might not need this kind of jerry-rigged contraption.

Believers in the very specific kind of progress which entails going to the stars can come up with some pretty bizarre scenarios “solving” Fermi´s paradox. Thus, one prominent atheist (who is otherwise a very smart guy) claims that the aliens must be hiding in the empty space in between star systems (that´s why we can´t see them) constantly hooked up to a virtual reality more interesting than our galaxy (that´s why they don´t bother with humans). Analyzing the Bayesian probability for this might be interesting, even apart from the fact that it sounds almost religious…

Next week, your favorite blogger will solve Euthyphro´s dilemma and the theodicy problem. End of transmission.

PS. Now, read this:

Seven solutions to Fermi´s paradox

The curse of Ham

Not sure why this is my most popular blog post ever? I have virtually no readers in Ethiopia or Sudan... 

The curse of the Hamites 

Nuke the pessimists

I can´t say I agree with Carrier´s strong belief in the Western Idea of Progress, but this article is nevertheless interesting. I would like to see some figures about how realistic it *really* is to replace 90% of our energy needs with nuclear power... 

Noooooooo, it can´t be true, it just can´t!!!

I used to have a "Platonic" view of mathematics (and abstraction in general), but here is a good polemic against such a view, written by atheist-plus gadfly Richard Carrier. I think it speaks for itself. Enjoy! Obviously, I take no responsibility for neither his atheism nor the "plus", and I can only hope that a nominalist rainbow-colored Bigfoot with telekinetic abilities and Trumpocrat politix will one day set him straight and make him return to the path of the Based Tao, but that´s me...

Wtf, I love Saudi Arabia now

Intressant artikel om Saudi-Arabiens geopolitik i Afrika. (På bilden ovan syns Sudans nyligen avsatte president Omar Bashir.) 

Afghanska män

Dax för svenska kultur- och demokrati-ministrarna att göra en insats? Eller?

Afghanistans ledning skakas av sexanklagelser

Sunday, July 14, 2019

How capitalist is Singapore *really*?

Singapore leader Lee together with Ronnie the Ray Gun himself

A tie-in to the discussion on Singapore on a previous thread:

How capitalist is Singapore really?

Making me wonder what exactly United States capitalistas see in this Chinese paradise? LOL.

The little left-liberal catechism

“Lilla boken om kristen tro” is a book published by the Church of Sweden (Svenska Kyrkan) in 1992. It was distributed free of charge to most Swedish households. My copy of the book also contains information from “Nynäs kontrakt”, the Church sub-division in the Nynäshamn area of Stockholm County, suggesting that it´s a local edition of some sort. Incidentally, I don´t recall getting the national edition in 1992! (Swedish Wiki claims that the author´s name is Christer Hugo. Well, no, Hugo is the author of an archived article on the web *criticizing* the book, which is anonymous.)

The book is a very left-liberal work, both theologically and politically. The fact that Jesus was a refugee in Egypt is used to promote solidarity with modern refugees. Peace and environmentalism are important goals, as is women´s liberation and economic development in the Third World. Direct aid in the event of natural disasters and famine is another activity strongly promoted by the Church. “The Little Book on Christian Faith” gives a very “soft” impression, with lots of photos of girls, infants and nice old ladies. No crusaders or fire-and-brimstone preachers in this one! It´s constantly emphasized that the Christian faith must be reinterpreted anew in each generation. (The anonymous writer doesn´t seem to understand that this makes it possible for illiberal groups to reinterpret the Bible afresh.) Issues not mentioned (this was 1992) include gay rights, trans rights and the glories of Islam. Today, “Lilla boken” wouldn´t be considered “inclusive” enough.

Interestingly, the book takes an “orthodox” (or seemingly orthodox) view of Jesus. He really was the Son of God, died and was resurrected. He was also an actual historical figure, the book claiming that “several ancient writings” mention him (they don´t) and that we can be almost sure that he lived from around 7 BC to 33 AD (we can´t). The resurrection gives fighters for social justice hope that there really is a God and immortality, and that their strivings won´t be in vain. Since the goal is justice here on Earth, Jesus becomes a kind of left-liberal overcomer of a social gospel postmillennial vision. (His Second Advent is never discussed, as far as I can see.) Naturally, his loving forgiveness is emphasized, rather than his curses or apocalypticism.

I can´t say I like this little volume. During my hard left phase, I would have regarded it as too soft and frankly hypocritical. (The bourgeoisie doesn´t mind charity. What it fears is revolution.) Today, I also have a couple of objections, too dangerous to mention here. Still, I admit that “Lilla boken om kristen tro” does give a fairly good introduction to the left-liberal illusions of the Church of Sweden.

Out of Greece?

This just in. It´s a bit speculative at this point, but personally, I think discoveries like this one will be proven to be true. First, I think the human story is far older than we think, so of course “modern humans” left Africa earlier than current research suggests. Second, I´m not even sure whether Africa is the cradle of humankind. Maybe, maybe not. Anatomically modern humans mixed with Neanderthals in Europe and Denisovans in Asia. Apparently, they also mixed with a hitherto unknown human species in Africa – Africans have unknown genes postulated to come from such a lineage. These genes are *not* found among non-Africans, suggesting either that the migration out of Africa took place before Africans started to date and mate our unknown evolutionary cousins…or humans didn´t emerge in Africa in the first place. Not that I really care. I have no problem being a honorary Afrikan, just as I don´t have any problems having Neanderthals in my family tree (although I probably would have preferred, say, peregrine falcons, LOL). Besides, the term “unknown human species” is a bit of a misnomer, since Neanderthals, Denisovans and African Hominin X must have been the same species as Homo sapiens by definition, otherwise they wouldn´t be able to mate with each other and produce viable fertile offspring…   

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Onward, Singapore...or the wet dreams of our local unfriendly capitalistas

Capitalist hero Lee busy building bridges to Putin´s Russia, here with Medvedev

“The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)” is a collection of short quotes from the writings and speeches of Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, the independent Chinese city-state south of Malaysia. The publisher seems to be Singaporean, but nominally unconnected to the ruling party. The book is difficult to understand unless you have a working knowledge of Singapore´s history and politics. Interestingly, it covers all phases of Lee´s political career: his “socialist” anti-colonialist period, his authoritarian anti-Communist period, and the later liberalization (or supposed liberalization) of the regime. The last quotes in every section often deal with globalism and the new information technology era.

Singapore, while nominally a parliamentary democracy, is a de facto one-party state dominated by the People´s Action Party (PAP) and Lee Kuan Yew himself (until his death in 2015). Since Singapore is considered a capitalist success story, the early “democratic socialist” statements by LKY has to be seen to be believed. His authoritarian statements are surprisingly explicit – no beating around the bush here (in contrast to Communist regimes). Lee openly says that of course the PAP must remain in power, that the only way to rule a Chinese society is by force, stability and economic growth is more important than democracy, indeed, democracy is wrong even in principle since it assumes that all men are equal or can contribute equally to society. 

Lee does have a siege mentality in which Singapore is constantly threatened by its neighbors, by Communism, by communal violence or by a downturn in international trade (Singapore being an important trade hub). Of course, this siege mentality wasn´t entirely irrational, the little city-state having a somewhat precarious geopolitical position. To Lee, the only guarantee of national survival is to keep the PAP strong, pure and willing to use the knuckles if necessary. In return, the people get economic growth, good education and a fight against corruption at all levels. In his later statements, LKY even concedes that Singapore used to be “boring” (this was a state in which you could get arrested for spitting on the pavement) and should instead become an international center for culture and entertainment. The older Lee Kuan Yew, while graciously allowing an Opposition, nevertheless constantly warns the people against voting for it, fearing that a non-PAP government will ruin Singapore in just five years…

Many of the quotes in this little book are standard capitalist sound bites against high taxes and nationalizations, for home ownership and huge wage differentials, complaints about Singaporean workers being lazy, and so on. This from the leader of a party which at least nominally belonged to the Socialist International! More interesting are Lee´s views of immigration and a multi-cultural society. He seems torn between a more nationalist-traditionalist position, and one more in keeping with global capitalism. There are apparently 500,000 foreign guest workers in Singapore (presumably unskilled ones), but the leader assures the people that they won´t stay indefinitely. 

Skilled immigration is explicitly encouraged, however, and use of the English language as a lingua franca is promoted. It seems to have been Lee Kuan Yew´s first language. At the same time, Lee doesn´t believe in an American “melting pot”, but rather a situation in which different ethnic communities live side by side, keeping many of their traditions intact. This would be similar to the multi-culturalist ideal current in the contemporary West. Lee doesn´t seem to like the widespread use of Hokkien, the Chinese dialect actually spoken by the common people in Singapore, but instead promotes Mandarin, the “Standard Chinese” used officially in both the PRC and Taiwan. It´s unclear whether the reason is some kind of Han national pride, or simply pragmatic considerations.

As far as I understand, Lee Kuan Yew was much admired in the United States by the tireless promoters of the eternal blessings of capitalism. This is interesting for many reasons. As already pointed out, Lee was no democrat. Nor was he a nationalist in the sense usually understood by that term (despite Singapore´s break with Malaysia). Is this the state of affairs secretly yearned for by the GOP-ish and business Democrat establishment, an authoritarian multi-cultural society?

With that reflection, I close this discussion of “The Wit and Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew”.