The democracy protests in Hong Kong are grist for our mill in the study of Last and First Men of the ‘end of history’ memes.
The counterpunch articles shift between democratic promotion and democratic critique: The Chinese setting is especially provocative in relation to the ‘dialectic’ of ‘democracy’, ‘bourgeois democracy’ and ‘commnunism as economic democracy’. We have yet to achieve any real combination that can balance the two opposites/complements, identicals.
From yesterday: http://darwiniana.com/2014/09/30/marxist-darwinism-a-dead-duck/
The failure of ‘secular’ scientific culture to see through the confusion of Darwinism (the theory of natural selection, not the fact of evolution) is a remarkable failure given the length of time and the centrality of the whole paradigm. In comparison with physics where paradigm shifting is almost constant, the stagnation of evolutionism requires some analysis and commentary. It is a simple difference: problem solving smarts, and problem discovering smarts.
The world’s smartest physicists, and, tellingly, the majority until recently of ‘supersmart’ jews and their other cultural analogs ‘the smart set’ (with significant exceptions, e.g. Johann Von Neuman), stuck doggedly to the stark fallacy of natural selection, and even distorted the understandings of statistics to maintain the ‘theory’. There is even a Wikipedia page that promotes ‘Hoyle’s fallacy’.
How can we explain this? I can’t, actually, but have some obvious comments, at least. Clearly, physics and (evolutionary) biology are different. But let us note that ‘biology’, as such, is a close associate of biochemical sciences, which are also ‘hard’ sciences, like physics. This undercurrent has apparently confused scientists, the more so since the reductionist project here is quite viable, up to a point. As science has graduated to life sciences some kind of fallacy and false analogy has gained ground. The path upward via reductionist closure suddenly becomes fallacious.
We can see the fallacy in the way that ‘biological scientists’ cling to formulas. The ‘formulas’ of natural section have reached a very advanced form in population genetics. I am struck by the sneers of people like Berlinski here. And, for myself, I find the crypto-Newtonian analog distorting correct thinking. The formulas of population genetics are hard to assess, but my feeling (and I have surveyed a lot of math subjects) as always a kind of suspicion the analog to Newton’s laws was an unconscious fantasy in this field. And the analog is false, surely. The formulas here are statistical gumbo and don’t predict anything whatever.
But this sense that the mathematization of a field has somehow put evolution into a class with physics is gross overestimation. The reality is probably that we can’t truly speak of a science of evolution. Of biology, yes, OK. But evolution is a tangent to biology and enters into a different universe of discourse. But here the illusion is maintained in the adamant fundamentalism of genetics, thence biochemistry. Here, I think, we approach the problem. Real evolution is not necessarily genetic (as common sense should remind us in the manifold usage of the term for any number of ‘developmental’ sequences, e.g. the evolution of music, of automobiles, etc…).
That means there must be form factors more general than the genetic to either guide or ‘causally determine/direct’ sequences in development. That factor is often obscure, if it is present at all as evolution. What form factor is involved in the transitions of classical music from Monteverdi to Mozart, late Beethoven, Wagner, and then the realm of atonality? Can we seriously call this development ‘evolution’. We may have mixed several things. But the answer is ‘sure’. The term in slang usage is so fuzzy as to be no fail, but… But there was no doubt some form factor of great obscurity in the ‘development’ from Mozart to late Beethoven/Wagner. Darn’d if I know.
But in the case of biology this suggests some form factor that operates beyond the level of genetics. A most un-Darwinian ‘heresy’. But surely the Cambrian suggests it. Form factors practically reached an apotheosis of ‘primordial body plans’ in experimental extravagance before settling into a set of fixed series. What was all that about? And the decided succession of constellations of form, ‘animal’/’plant’, vertebrate to primate, etc… This is obscure, but the assumption it all emerged from random mutations in genetic sequences doesn’t even sound intelligent if you think about it. It is a kind of ‘dumb error’ that saved the logic of a kind of scientism.
Surely the history of biological objects/subjects shows a massive number of ‘form factors’, yet at this point we can’t name one.
So, in any case, we can see that biology is not physics, but is still close, while evolution is apparently something else altogether. We can see where biologists get confused: the formulas of natural selection seem to do the same thing as Newton’s Laws, and the mind clings to those formulas as the answer, but the reality is somehow far different.
Here the study of the macro effect in world history (WHEE: history and evolution.com) shows a different set of ‘form factors’ operating over tens of millennia: we are far from understanding that, even as we become suspicious that civilizations ‘evolving’ are not really different from ‘organisms’ evolving. It may be a case of organisms/social-group-sets (of organisms) that are evolving in tandem, or even as one complementary process.
We have to study the long sequences of historical civilizations, but embedded are a set of exemplary transitions that generate a whole new set of ‘civilizational innovations’. Look at the Greek Archaic in parallel to the ‘Israel/Judah’ Canaanite parallel from -900 to -600 (a periodization requiring careful analysis): we can see similar or analogous ‘form factors’ at work in two completely different situations. We can see the rough outlines of a form factor: a geographical region undergoing a set of parallel/hi-low innovations in all the variable of culture/population with suspected genetic correlates in reflection.
Look at the Greek archaic in this way: new men in a new culture in a new era in a short burst of ‘evolutionary innovation’.
It is always possible this analysis in reality reflects some kind of design argument, but the basic issue is clear. Lo and behold we discover that the ‘musical transition’ seen in isolation for modern music shares the larger form factor of the modern transition!
Now we are really confused: we are in the presence of hypercomplex objects/sequences that we are inside of, and not able to really observe, save in retrospection. But we are making some progress in accumulating data here. But the point is clear that we can define ‘evolution’ without clear genetic correlates. But form factors here are not necessarily inconceivable: we have to try and visualize a cultural sequence developing over a region over x number of centuries, a stunning problem, but not an inconceivable one. Elephants are big, but his ‘object’ is bigger, much bigger.
The moral for earlier evolution is not clear: the history of civilizations may give us some hints, but in general we are forced to realize we don’t really observe past evolution at close range. The ‘evolution’ of the elephant’s trunk has NOT been observed either in general or in the specific sequences over tens of millennia stretching to eons. We weren’t there, and had no cameras there either. So the actual sequence itself, let alone its causality, are not ‘factual’. In fact, such sequences are ‘Big Data’ at some astronomical level. And they are lost to us.
So we can see that we are in a different realm here: physics isn’t much help.
A Setting for US Mischief?
Occupocalypse Now! © in Hong Kong
by PETER LEE
I’ve copyrighted the term Occupocalypse ©, Hong Kong Occupocalypse © and Occupocalypse Now! © as you can see. Please contact me for T-shirt and umbrella licensing, etc.
Interesting that the United States, the United Kingdom, and the UN General Secretary have all voiced concern about developments in Hong Kong and called for restraint.
In other words, what we see is creeping internationalization of the Hong Kong issue. Given the relatively minor and local character of the matter to date, at least, it makes one pause.
After all, the current toll in Hong Kong is a few dozen injured after some confrontational street protests, some tear gas got fired, now everybody’s sitting around waiting for Occupy Hong Kong’s latest move.
NY Times, Sept. 30 2014
A Rising Tide of Contaminants
By DEBORAH BLUM
Deborah Swackhamer, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Minnesota, decided last year to investigate the chemistry of the nearby Zumbro River. She and her colleagues were not surprised to find traces of pesticides in the water.
Neither were they shocked to find prescription drugs ranging from antibiotics to the anti–convulsive carbamazepine. Researchers realized more than 15 years ago that pharmaceuticals – excreted by users, dumped down drains – were slipping through wastewater treatment systems.
But though she is a leading expert in so-called emerging contaminants, Dr. Swackhamer was both surprised and dismayed by the sheer range and variety of what she found. Caffeine drifted through the river water, testament to local consumption of everything from coffee to energy drinks. There were relatively high levels of acetaminophen, the over-the-counter painkiller. Acetaminophen causes liver damage in humans at high doses; no one knows what it does to fish.
“We don’t know what these background levels mean in terms of environmental or public health,” she said. “It’s definitely another thing that we’re going to be looking at.”
Or, she might have said, one of many, many other things.
The number of chemicals contaminating our environment is growing at exponential rate, scientists say. A team of researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey tracks them in American waterways, sediments, landfills and municipal sewage sludge, which is often converted into agricultural fertilizer. They’ve found steroid hormones and the antibacterial agent triclosan in sewage; the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) in fish; and compounds from both birth control pills and detergents in the thin, slimy layer that forms over stones in streams.
“We’re looking at an increasingly diverse array of organic and inorganic chemicals that may have ecosystem health effects,” said Edward Furlong, a research chemist with the U.S.G.S. office in Denver and one of the first scientists to track the spread of pharmaceutical compounds in the nation’s waterways. “Many of them are understudied and unrecognized.”
In an essay last week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, titled “Re-Emergence of Emerging Contaminants,” editor-in-chief Jerald L. Schnoor called attention to both the startling growth of newly registered chemical compounds and our inadequate understanding of older ones.
The American Chemical Society, the publisher of the journal, maintains the most comprehensive national database of commercially registered chemical compounds in the country. “The growth of the list is eye-popping, with approximately 15,000 new chemicals and biological sequences registered every day,” Dr. Schnoor wrote.
Not all of those are currently in use, he emphasized, and the majority are unlikely to be dangerous. “But, for better or worse, our commerce is producing innovative, challenging new compounds,” he wrote.
Dr. Schnoor, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, also noted rising concern among researchers about the way older compounds are altered in the environment, sometimes taking new and more dangerous forms.
Some research suggests that polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are broken down by plants into even more toxic metabolites. Equally troubling, scientists are finding that while PCBs are banned, they continue to seep into the environment in unexpected ways, such as from impurities in the caulk of old school buildings.
PCBs have long been identified as hazardous, but not every contaminant is so risky, Dr. Schnoor emphasized.
“Out of the millions of chemical compounds that we know about, thousands have been tested and there are very few that show important health effects,” he said in an interview.
But, he added, the development of new compounds and the increasing discovery of unexpected contaminants in the environment means that the nation desperately needs a better system for assessing and prioritizing chemical exposures.
That includes revisiting the country’s antiquated chemical regulation and assessment regulations. The Toxic Substances Control Act went into effect in 1976, almost 40 years ago, and has not been updated since.
The law does require the Environmental Protection Agency to maintain an inventory of registered industrial compounds that may be toxic, but it does not require advance safety testing of those materials. Of the some 84,000 compounds registered, only a fraction have ever been fully tested for health effects on humans. The data gap includes some materials, like creosote and coal tar derivatives, which are currently manufactured at rates topping a million pounds a year.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Schnoor and other scientists want to see the act updated and transformed into a mechanism for science-based risk assessment of suspect compounds. Indeed, everyone from researchers to environmental groups to the American chemical industry agree that the law is frustratingly inadequate.
“Our chemical safety net is more hole than net,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group. The Food and Drug Administration, for instance, doesn’t regulate the environmental spread of pharmaceuticals. And the toxic substances law ignores their presence in waterways.
“Where does that leave us in terms of scientific understanding of what drugs to regulate?” Mr. Cook said.
Anne Womack Kolton, vice president for communications at the American Chemistry Council, an organization representing chemical manufacturers, agreed. “Think about the world 40 years ago,” she said. “It was a vastly different place. It’s common sense to revise the law and make it consistent with what we know about chemicals today.”
The two sides don’t agree on what standards for chemical testing are needed or what kind of protective restrictions should be put in place for chemicals deemed hazardous. And they are in deep disagreement about whether a revised federal law should preempt actions taken by tough-minded states like California.
The council argues for federal standardization as the most efficient route; environmental groups believe that such an action would weaken public protection. Legislators have so far not been able to resolve those differences. This month yet another proposed update to the act stalled in a Senate committee.
“Congress has not sent an environmental law to the president’s desk in 18 years,” Mr. Cook said. “And in the current environment, it’s very difficult to get something through.”
Still, Dr. Swackhamer, who recently stepped down as chair of the E.P.A.’s science advisory board, notes that despite the lack of legislation, scientists have been working toward better ways to assess the risks posed by the increasing numbers of chemicals in our lives. Some may help whittle the inventory of T.S.C.A. compounds down to a priority list that focuses on less than a thousand products.
That’s still a daunting number of chemical unknowns. But given the tens of thousands of materials in the inventory, it’s a start.
Chomsky: Corporations and the Richest Americans Viscerally Oppose the Common Good
The Masters of Mankind want us to become the “stupid nation” in the interests of their short-term gain.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
What 35,000 Walruses Forced to the Beach Tell Us About Global Warming
As sea ice recedes amid warming oceans, Pacific walruses crowd onto beaches to rest and forage for food
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
As China Plays Waiting Game, ‘Umbrella Revolution’ Vows Escalation
Pro-democracy movement leaders say that if their demands are not met, they will move to take over government buildings
September 30th, 2014 · No Comments
Our discussion of the ‘stuck paradigm’ syndrome with respect to darwinism has an urgent message for the left: the attempt to expose darwinism as the root of social darwinism and the incestuous relationship to capitalist ideology is an uphill battle with the left as it is now. In fact, the left spectrum stuck in historical materialism is even more dogmatic on darwinism than any of the other seuclar-spectrum groups.
I think that there is no second coming of darwinism-dominated marxism/leftism, but the various orgs and groups are so frozen in place they can’t/won’t budge from their now archaic views.
I think that a revised view of evolution, and one applied to history, can create the basis for a new postmarxism. That requires the near impossible: for the whole corps of darwin idiots on the left to at least try to apply a ‘dialectic’ to the question of darwinism.
It may be that the only avenue of the future is to start over with a new set of groups to jumpstart a novel post-marxist critique of economy and a platform of neo-communism, with a few eclectic remnants of the brilliant core marx legacy, but in the main recasting the subject in a new and more viable form.
September 30th, 2014 · No Comments
WHEE, with its critique of Darwinism, is a useful way to move into postdarwinism without religious obsessions: you can adopt a minimal set of perspectives on the question of evolution: if the problem with darwinism is natural selection theory the material can help to see how world history suspiciously demonstrates the evidence of ‘non-random’ patterns and processes. The later are not supposed to exist, but they obviously do, very close to home, and if that is true we should be suspicious that claims of random evolution for ancient times unseen as simply speculative.