William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 5 of 728

Jerry Coyne Doesn’t Have Free Will

Be sure to read the caption.

Edge is at it again, asking named persons “What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?” Many interesting things to discuss, so consider this the launching of a new series. (I was directed there, via this site, which linked to me.)

My eye was caught by the never-disappointing Jerry Coyne, author of Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. Coyne wrote to tell us that he has no free will. This is terrific news, because we’d hate to think he was responsible for that book. Far better to put it down to the determinism, and poor sense of humor, of genes and the laws of physics.

Coyne is at the bottom of a long line of thinkers who tell us the world would be a better place if we knew we could not make choices, because then we’d make better choices.

Profound, n’est-ce pas?

A concept that everyone should understand and appreciate is the idea of physical determinism: that all matter and energy in the universe, including what’s in our brain, obey the laws of physics. The most important implication is that is we have no “free will”: At a given moment, all living creatures, including ourselves, are constrained by their genes and environment to behave in only one way—and could not have behaved differently. We feel like we make choices, but we don’t. In that sense, “dualistic” free will is an illusion.

This must be true from the first principles of physics. Our brain, after all, is simply a collection of molecules that follow the laws of physics; it’s simply a computer made of meat. That in turn means that given the brain’s constitution and inputs, its output—our thoughts, behaviors and “choices”—must obey those laws. There’s no way we can step outside our mind to tinker with those outputs. And even molecular quantum effects, which probably don’t even affect our acts, can’t possibly give us conscious control over our behavior.

One wonders who this “we” is. It appears, according to Coyne, there is a person above and beyond the body or flesh robot whose actions are determined with full rigor by genes, chemistry, and physics. This ghost-in-the-machine, as it were, notices what’s happening, it has desires and wants, but it is powerless to have its way. This ghost can see the “mind” of the robot, but can’t influence it. Meaning, of course, the ghost is a person with free will but who is ever shackled. So there is free will after all, but only for ghosts.

Why is it important that people grasp determinism? Because realizing that we can’t “choose otherwise” has profound implications for how we punish and reward people, especially criminals. It can also have salubrious effects on our thoughts and actions.

First, if we can’t choose freely, but are puppets manipulated by the laws of physics, then all criminals or transgressors should be treated as products of genes and environments that made them behave badly. The armed robber had no choice about whether to get a gun and pull the trigger. In that sense, every criminal is impaired. All of them, whether or not they know the difference between right and wrong, have the same excuse as those deemed “not guilty by reason of insanity.”

The armed robber had no choice but to pull the trigger, yet somehow—more mysterious ghosts?—the person who punishes the robber does have free will in choosing to punish! Thus the punisher is the real bad guy.

But wait a moment, wait just a moment or two. Let’s read that passage again at a more sedate pace. What’s this about robbers behaving “badly”? Did Coyne say badly? As in not goodly?

No, Jerry, it won’t do. If people are machines responding by fixed rules to external stimuli, in the same was as the photocopier or electric mixer does, then there is no bad, there is no good, there is nothing. There is no possibility of right or wrong. No morality, no ethics. No nothing. Somebody can only act badly when they had the possibility of acting goodly, and vice versa. Under determinism, as Coyne-the-meat-machine envisions, there are no possibilities, only unbreakable rules.

When the mixer fails to break up a chunk of butter and flour we do not say it “sinned.” In the absence of free will, we cannot even say it “malfunctioned”, because that would be to assign purpose to the machine, and purpose implies intellect and will.

I choose to let Coyne have the last (explanatory) word, and will leave it as homework for the reader to analyze.

Beyond crime and punishment, how should the idea of determinism transform us? Well, understanding that we have no choices should create more empathy and less hostility towards others when we grasp that everyone is the victim of circumstances over which they had no control. Welfare recipients couldn’t have gotten jobs, and jerks had no choice about becoming jerks.

Alexander Dugin & The Pivot Of History: Part I — Guest Post by Ianto Watt

“He who rules East Europe commands the Heartland. He who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island. He who rules the World-Island commands the World.” —Sir Halford Mackinder

There are very few people who can claim to have had a profound influence on Vlad Putin. And I’d like to discuss three of them. They are, chronologically speaking, Sir Halford Mackinder, Maj. Anatoly Golitsyn (KGB), and Alexander “American liberalism must be destroyed” Dugin.

These three men make up the troika necessary to understanding the two possible conclusions we can logically come to regarding Vladimir Putin’s intentions regarding Russia, and by extension, the rest of the world. What are these two possible conclusions? Well, either he is a Russian chauvinist, out to reclaim Tsarist/Soviet glory, or else he is the culmination of a scheme so amazing and bold that it would make the Jesuits and/or the Illuminati blush. Take your pick. But before you do, consider these thoughts below.

We don’t know for certain if it was Dugin who enlightened Putin about MacKinder. Maybe Dugin is the Rasputin of today, with the new Tsar in thrall to him. But maybe it’s the other way around. And this same thing can be said, in another sense, about Golitsyn. But in any event, you need to know who these three men are, and the impact they have had on both the East and West, because the events they have influenced and/or predicted are coming to a head. So, let’s take a look at what we know about these three, and how they may have influenced Vlad. And if we know that, then we may well be able to predict Vlad’s next (and even final) moves. And that would be of critical value, I believe. Because the time grows short, my friend.

So then, just who is this man, Alexander Dugin? Is he really the muse of Vladimir Putin? Or is he Vlad’s stalking horse? Is it true that there are two Vlad’s, as Dugin says in his book Putin vs. Putin? And does Dugin’s work The Last War of the World-Island represent his own thoughts, or are they just window dressing for Vlad’s already pre-conceived plan? The same question can be asked about Dugin’s other seminal work, The Fourth Political Theory.

Or is Anatoly Golitsyn the true prophet here? What was it that Golitsyn said in his incredible book New Lies For Old? And just who is Anatoly Golitsyn? Probably the most important Russian you’ve never heard of. Until Alexander Dugin, of course.

Finally, who is Sir Halford Mackinder, and why does Alexander Dugin take him so seriously? What is it that Mackinder said in 1904 that has made Dugin mimic him? And now we’re back to the question of whether Vlad Putin is in thrall to Dugin (and thus Mackinder), or whether Dugin is the puppet of Golitsyn’s astounding prophecy. And the puppet-master of Golitsyn’s predictions would be Vlad, of course. So we seem to have a three-way conundrum going on here. Unless of course, you are familiar with Liar’s Logic. If you aren’t, read my book, The Barbarian Bible. It will provide you with the discernment you’ll need to tell who is lying. That too is a valuable thing, in all of life, eh?

What is this prophecy of Golitsyn’s? Well, in a way, he’s like Laocoon, the Trojan Priest/Seer, who warned the Trojans, to no effect, about the danger the Horse represented. And that’s exactly what I think is happening here. But we’ll get to that. First, we have to put all this in perspective. So let’s have a drink and get to work.

Let’s jump back a bit and see why Mackinder was so bright. He was a member of the Royal Geographic Society, well known and respected. And he gave a talk to the Society in 1904 entitled ‘The Geographic Pivot of History‘. It was a pithy work, fairly straightforward. Basically, he said that the world is composed of two parts, the inner continental landmass, and the outer surrounding coastal lands. Russia is the name we give to that area that is landlocked, but which comprises the greatest contiguous landmass on the earth today. This area is what Mackinder calls the Pivot Area, also known as the Heartland. It is the center of gravity for all of the Eurasian landmass that Mackinder calls the World-Island. This landmass holds the greater part of the mineral and energy resources of the planet today. This makes it the most coveted area for those who desire material wealth.

But the population base of this Heartland power is thin, making it hard to defend. Additionally, this landmass is rather geographically defenseless, having few real barriers like rivers and mountains that can shield these occupants from attack. The power exerted by the people occupying this land is continental by nature. That is, it is a land force. The People of the Land, as Dugin says. But in the course of the past millennium, these people of the Heartland (the Slavs) have been too few to effectively control and defend this same Heartland. Thus, Russia has always been on defense. And her attackers have been many. The usual route has been across the Steppe, that flat grassy plain that extends from near the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Carpathian Mountains of Hungary. Which is how the Huns got to Hungary, of course. And the Avars and the Pechenegs and the Mongols as well.

The other global political power, according to Mackinder, is centered on the surrounding coastal areas (in two concentric rings, as shown on the map above). These people are termed the Atlanticists by Dugin, and they are a sea-faring power. And since the vast majority of the world’s population lives adjacent to the sea, these Sea People have vast amounts of manpower to direct against any enemy. But they must project it by way of the sea. Thus, their ability to penetrate into the interior of the Pivot Area dissipates with every mile they travel inland, through that area Mackinder calls the RimLands.

Mackinder and Dugin are agreed that there are two basic ‘nations’ that occupy these two positions. The Sea Power is The Roman Empire, and it still exists today in the Anglo-American Empire. And the Land Power is Russia, as it has been for nearly 1,000 years (with a few interruptions, like the Mongols). Overall, I have to agree with both Mackinder and Dugin, up to this point. But here is the point where I depart. They have both reduced mankind and his national-racial imperatives, to a geographic imperative.

In other words, it doesn’t matter which particular ethnic group occupies either of these two global positions (Land or Sea). What actually matters, to Dugin especially, is the positions that occupy these (or any) people. Hmm? Do you get what I’m saying? They are inferring (Mackinder) or actually saying (Dugin) that the position you occupy on the globe determines your fate. To hell with any national or racial particularity or talent or drive. The Position is the only thing of true importance. Do you see what this means?

To me, it means that life is pre-determined by geography. And while it is certainly true that whatever position you occupy on the planet confers certain advantages and/or dis-advantages, none of that can result in geographic pre-destination. If this were true, as Dugin seems to think (and Mackinder to a lesser degree), then it means that the earth has dominion over mankind, and not vice-versa. Gaia is God, in other words. And man is toast. And that, to me, is a very stupid conception. Which doesn’t add up. Why? Because neither of these two guys is stupid. Not in the least.

Now let’s be fair here. Mackinder wasn’t really discounting the reality of the differences between the nations. Like, say, the difference between the Anglish and the Tunisians. Both are coastal people, and both are small. Yet one has overcome her size and become the heir to The Empire. The other has not. And never will. Mackinder was simply explaining that you can look at The Great Game, as it were, in a geographic way that clarifies the various strengths and weaknesses of the rulers of the two relevant areas of the globe—the Land People and the Sea People.

Dugin, on the other hand, has taken Mackinder’s insights, and converted them into a religion. A nationalistic religion. A religion that places geography over culture, it would seem. At least in all that I have read of his works, he rarely mentions the culture of Russia. And that culture, of course, is Eastern Orthodoxy. And this Orthodoxy then is ultimately subordinate to the religion of geographical grace that he detects in Mackinder’s insights. So instead of the old saying, ‘you are what you eat’, we have Dugin telling us, in effect, that ‘you are where you eat’. Interesting, no? But again, I must insist, this man is no fool. He is very erudite. But I don’t believe he believes what he says. Because no Russian would talk like this if he has any connection to his historic Orthodox past. Yet in the few references Dugin does make of religion (relative to the references to the primacy of geography, that is), he espouses the traditional Orthodox reverence for his nation’s religious roots. In fact, I believe he is an Old Believer. A Raskolnik, in fact. Which of course means he couldn’t possibly believe in the primacy of his (or Mackinder’s) own geopolitical theory. In which case he’s either an idiot or a deceiver. I for one do not believe he is an idiot. So then, who is Alexander Dugin?

Well, first of all, Dugin is a decade younger than Putin. Secondly, and more tellingly to me, Dugin claims that there has been a Fifth Column of traitors within Russia that has actively worked to bring about the destruction of that nation and the enslavement of its Slavic people. This is a signal to me. A signal that perhaps Dugin, like all great deceivers, is accusing his phantom opponents of his own crime. We will come to that. But there is another question here, directly related to that very issue: who is influencing whom? Is the younger Dugin mesmerizing the older Putin? Or vice versa? Did Vlad have these vague pro-Russian sentiments before he met Dugin, who finally clarified for Vlad the reality of the geopolitical situation Russia has found herself in? Or, more ominously, is Dugin the convenient savant that Vlad is using to mask his plan? And what plan is that? Is it some nebulous Russian-nationalist chauvinism that drives Vlad? Or is it some crystal-clear yet totally opaque plan that is unfolding, as planned and on schedule, to the detriment of the West, and the rest?

For the answer to that question (and that, after all, is THE question of our age), we have to talk to Major Anatoly Golitsyn. And just who is this man? He was highest-ranking KGB defector of all time. Until Yuri Nosenko, of course. And that man’s story is very telling too, which we’ll get to sometime. But remember this about Nosenko, and Golitsyn: the real meaning of the acronym of the CIA is: Can’t Interpret Anything. And remember this too; Golitsyn predicted that the KGB would send a crafty Sinon to rebut Golitsyn’s revealing of this master plan concocted by these wily Greeks. But first, I have to tell you the story. The story that links The Fall of Troy to today. It is the story of the Great Lie. So first, a little background, because unless you understand the Fall of Troy, you will understand nothing about our own time.

Here it is in a nutshell: The Illiad and The Odyssey are the Old and the New Testament of the ancient pagan world. Each has a theme. The theme for the Illiad is Wrath. Open warfare. Remember the opening lines? ‘Sing, ye gods, of the wrath of Achilles’.

The only problem for the Western Greeks was, wrath didn’t work. Ten years on, and Troy had not fallen. And so Odysseus, the world’s greatest liar, convinces the Western Greeks (they were all Greeks, you know, Trojans included) that they must switch tactics. He sells them on the idea that the new theme that is needed is this: Deception. Which is the defining theme of The Odyssey, as Odysseus (p)lies his way back home to Ithaca. By the way, Peter Chaadayev, the Father of Russian Philosophy, is the only other writer that I have found that agrees with me that Homer was a criminal. A criminal who sold the stories of evil deeds dressed up as heroic virtues. A peddler of poetic poison, as I believe he put it. I mean, really, who gives up their entire (Trojan) civilization for a slut like Helen? Toss that woman, Priam. Paris too. Idiots. Get on with life.

Anyway, now we are back to Mr. Dugin. For I believe he too, like Sinon, is telling (and selling) a lie. A big lie. And that he is in the pay of a certain paymaster named Putin. To hell with the Comintern. The only thing that counts to these guys is Russia! I show why next time.

Predictions For 2017—Register Yours Today!

Once more unto the breach!

We did well last year, but we had the advantage of a neat unambiguous set of predictions all could make, i.e. the United States primaries and election. This year lacks something of such seeming international importance.

We could ask, What of war with China? Or of China and Japan? Or of Russia and anybody? Will a thermonuclear device be detonated in anger in 2017? Of equal apocalyptic shock, will a major Western university renounce its Diversity initiatives? Will we end the year with the same Pope as we began? Will the world still exist?

Stretch your minds. Remember that forecasts which are not perceived by “average” man as difficult receive little weight. Saying there will be a murder in Chicago, says this fictional mean man, is all but certain. And thus receives little weight in the standings.

Here are mine. What are yours?

1) China comes to blows with somebody, openly and overtly. Their provocative chip-on-the-shoulder sailing around the Pacific will lead to at least one shot being fired, either by or at them.

2) Despite the stupefied mouth-breathing from the State media, President Trump will not be impeached. To impeach is to indict, and to indict means to charge with a crime. There will be no crime with which to charge him.

3) What can you say about Germany that isn’t easy? Take this report: “Merkel asserted that the terror attacks committed by Islamist migrants in Wurzburg, Ansbach, and recently at a Christmas market in Berlin were not attacks on Western civilisation but an attack on ‘refugees’ and Germany’s willkommenskultur (‘welcome culture’).” That statement, and many others like them, is the result of either willful or actual stupidity. Not to be ghoulish, but maybe the thing to forecast is the number of Germans slaughtered by “migrants.” Say, between 50 and 100.

4) Insider baseball. The in camera caritatis offered to Pope Francis by inter alia Cardinal Burke will happen and will be leaked in corrupted form by pro-Bergoglio insiders. This leaking will force the actual details to be leaked, albeit piecemeal. Those in the Church who want to emulate Anglicans will cast the affair as a personal attack on Francis. These people are easy to identify because they refuse to answer the simple dubia. Francis will still be Pope at the end of 2017, because (this prediction goes) he will ignore the correction as he ignored the dubia, and he will issue no concrete statement one way or the other on the matters at heart. No charge of heresy will thus be possible. Will this be the year of the official push for the Modern Church, i.e. a formal split, i.e. schism? In one sense, no, because without the charge of heresy the hierarchy remains as it is. In another sense, like what happened 500 years ago and what is happening to the mainline Protesting Christians now, yes. (This topic will be expanded later.) Look for a tumultuous year!

5) Report: “A CHRISTIAN woman was stabbed by an asylum seeker after he heard her reading from the bible. The 50-year-old woman was only saved by her winter coat when she was attacked with a knife in the accommodation in Timelkam in Voecklamarkt in Upper Austria.” There’s a joke here about being stabbed in the accommodation which we pass by. In Europe, in at least one town, there will be an open battle between natives and “migrants”. The natives will not be police or other official authority, but citizens tired of being told they are the problem. It is too easy a guess to say which side the press and politicos will condemn.

6) Obamacare will not, as it deserves to be, eliminated. It will be attacked piecemeal, but Republicans, even after learning the Lesson of Trump, have no stomach to be called names by the State Media. Great chunks of Obamacare will remain, however much wee tweaks are celebrated as “decimating” it.

7) As I predicted before the election, no wall. I’d lay good money that certain portions of existing structures will be shored and and extended in some press-release worthy way. But no wall.

8) Has the Cathedral, sputtering and teetering as it is, juiced enough fools so that there is a public assassination attempt on Trump? I put this at sixty percentum, but with most of the chance coming early on.

9) Scoffers will scoff, but with so much of the world in retreat from Tradition, Reality, and Being Itself, and the spiritual at no distance from the physical, with the former corrupting the latter, I give you the same warning Scotty gave us at the end of The Thing From Another World: Watch the skies. Let the reader understand.

Only predictions made over the next two weeks will count. And please, please number them and point to the source (if necessary) that can verify them.

Happy New Year!

Predictions for 2017 and how we did in 2016 will commence tomorrow. For now, lie to us and tell us of your resolutions.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2017 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑