Sunday, December 16, 2007

An Evolutionarily Stable Strategy

Human beings can get used to anything.

The prisoner gets used to shackles and chains. The amputee hardly notices his artificial leg. The inhabitant of Vestvågøy becomes accustomed to the long dark winter, the call of the gulls, and the crash of the sea against the cliffs.

What would seem to the rest of the world to be exotic, bizarre, or outlandish becomes unnoticeable through long familiarity.

And so it is for Western Civilization and the reigning ideology of politically correct Multiculturalism.

We’re all used to it. We hardly even notice it. We’re aware of its prescribed boundaries, and anyone who holds a government job or political office soon feels the yank of the chain if he strays beyond them. The PC rules are the water we swim in and the air we breathe.

The Koran and the RPGThe fear of Muslim wrath dovetails neatly with Orthodox Multiculturalism, producing that familiar attitude of cringing appeasement displayed by virtually every public figure in the face of Islamic intimidation. Allah proposes and the infidel disposes — at least if he wants to keep his head.

If Rip Van Winkle had fallen asleep in 1949 and woke up today, the public culture of the West would be unrecognizable to him. The evident death wish of our leaders, the doubletalk in the newspapers, our collective masochistic attitude towards manifestly inferior peoples — all of this would seem evidence of mass insanity.

In a review of Lee Harris’ book The Suicide of Reason at Front Page, Janet Levy examines the Islamic encroachment and its intersection with political correctness in the West.

For most in Western societies, the behavior of Muslim fundamentalists is often incomprehensible and, at the same time, terrifying, as illustrated by incidents which make news headlines.

The most recent is that of Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher at a school for children of the Sudanese elite and foreign diplomats. Gibbons was charged by the Sudanese government with inciting religious hatred after honoring a 7-year-old student’s innocent request to eponymously name a classroom teddy bear “Mohammed.” Gibbons was found guilty under Sharia or Islamic law of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. She was jailed and informed that she could be punished by 40 lashes and six months in prison. After a “fair” sentence of 15 days was announced by the ruling clerics, frenzied rioters brandished swords and knives across Khartoum, screaming for her death.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman gang raped by seven men was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for being in a state of “khalwa” or in the presence of unrelated males. Under Sharia law, women can appear in public only with male relatives. The victim’s lawyer had his license to practice law confiscated after he deemed the rapists’ sentence lenient and the victim’s sentence unjust.

In 2005, a 14-year-old Iranian boy died after receiving 85 lashes for eating in public during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.

Such incidents provoke outrage, shock and bewilderment in the West, which perceives the innocence of these victims and the injustice of their punishments for violating outmoded codes of behavior. But Muslim societies perceive these same actions as unacceptable breaches of and major offenses to a rigidly enforced code of behavior and moral precepts.

Actually, our shock and outrage are becoming more and more muted. The idea of accepting into our midst a parallel culture of sharia is beginning to enter the mainstream, so that the behavior of Muslim fundamentalists becomes just part of the rainbow weave of the cultural fabric, representing the ideal so proudly proclaimed by Multicultural orthodoxy. All cultures have inherently equal value, and the tenets of political correctness provide no basis for judging amongst them.

In his provocative book, Harris contrasts this path of cultural evolution with an examination of the foundation of pre-modern societies, such as tribal or Islamic cultures ruled by “the law of the jungle.” Thus, hewing to tribal values, Islam is a totalitarian religious and political ideology that protects the ummah, or the Muslim world, from being undermined and preserves mandated tribal behaviors and beliefs. The fanaticism inherent in Islam produces a group allegiance that supersedes all other potential attachments. The tribal code and tribal cohesion takes precedence over anything else and a collective fanaticism fosters cultural protectionism. Harris maintains that it is impossible to appeal to a sense of reason in societies bound by fanaticism because enlightenment directly challenges and threatens their beliefs and very existence.

Another feature of tribal societies is the existence of religious authorities that control the populace and serve as their spokespeople. Fanatical intolerance demands that critics or apostates are shunned and condemned to death. There is no room for self-reflection. The only criticism permissible is that levied at “the other” or the non-believer. Ironically, the very qualities that are shunned and prohibited by cultures of reason are viewed as good and virtuous by fanatical cultures. In Islamic fundamentalist societies, the mullahs endeavor to fan the flames of fanaticism in order to make it more intense and powerful.

The principle of honor is of primary importance in radical Islamic cultures. The honor of the community must be protected at all costs and far exceeds any notion of the individual or of individual rights. Religious leaders, who view the world across a long-term time horizon, operate for the good of the ummah, the propagation of Islam over time and the enforcement of Islamic law.

Tribal success hinges on the inculcation of a uniform system of steadfast shared values and of a sense of shame so deep and visceral that it is impervious to reason and makes death preferable to tribal code violations and the accompanying loss of collective honor. It solidifies a rigidly imposed “us vs. them” mindset in which “the other” is a cursed object of abject enmity. The faithful are indoctrinated and prepared to sacrifice themselves for furthering fanatic tribal goals. Martyrs for the cause are celebrated and elevated to a position of honor.

Tribal cultures thrive on the vacuum that chaos presents. It is a boon to fanaticism and totalitarian control. In a state of chaos, all behaviors become permissible and extreme measures are easy to enforce on desperate populations.

[…]

In summary, the West is suffering from an insidious ideological assault from the outside by fundamentalist Islam that could result in profound societal damage, while at the same time we are, from the inside, undermining our core values and traditions. We are not experiencing a clash of civilizations, but an overt attempt to dismantle the worldwide status quo. The West is vulnerable, because it has failed to recognize that survival hinges on being intolerant to the intolerant and acknowledging the superiority of our way of life and the exceptionalism of America. We will probably be unable to change the Islamists and alter their three-pronged prescription for non-Muslims - death, subjugation or conversion - but we can prevent them from changing us. Through our “enlightened” democracy and lack of cultural protectionism, we are inadvertently aiding their cause. Our ability to fight has been severely weakened by the enlightened principles of tolerance and multiculturalism that we have grown to cherish and by a lack of group cohesiveness and respect for our common values and accomplishments. While we think short-term and teach our children to have contempt for our culture, the Islamists think long-term and teach their children to die for Islam.

This is an effective summary of the bizarre confluence of two cultures that should be at odds with one another. The synergy of an aggressive intolerance and a weak and conciliatory tolerance has produced the surreal landscape that is the Western world in the 21st century.

Lawrence Auster has some acerbic things to say about Ms. Levy and her review:

It doesn’t occur to Levy that Islam could not have had the slightest effect on our societies if we had not admitted millions of Muslim immigrant into our societies, and that the only way to end Islam’s assault on the West is to stop and reverse the Muslim immigration into the West.

He’s quite correct: without the mass importation of Islam into the heart of the West, the primitive tribal practices of Muslims would be of no particular moment to us.
- - - - - - - - -
In defense of Ms. Levy and Mr. Harris, however, it may be that they felt no inclination to state the obvious. I might write an entire treatise on the Gobi Desert without ever mentioning that its desiccated condition was produced by a prolonged lack of rain. Writers sometimes assume that their readers are aware of the obvious.

Once again, it’s the water we swim in. Why bother to mention it?

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All of this discussion has brought to mind the Evolutionarily Stable Strategy (ESS).

An ESS is a term used in game theory, evolutionary biology, and population genetics, but it can also be applied to any dynamically evolving information system. A concise definition of the phrase can be found at Gene Expression:

As usually defined, an ESS is a strategy such that, if all the members of a population adopt it, no mutant strategy can invade (John Maynard Smith, Evolution and the Theory of Games, p. 204).

Here is a somewhat more elaborate explanation:

The concept of the evolutionarily stable strategy, or ESS, is an important part of game theory. An ESS is a strategy which, over evolutionary time, is able to withstand the invention of new strategies. Although Maynard Smith and Price (1973) visualized strategies as being genetically encoded, this same logic applies to strategies which are learned during the course of an animal’s life. In most models of the prisoner’s dilemma the “tit for tat” strategy is evolutionarily stable; over time it can beat any other strategy that you might invent for this game.

Individuals or groups operating under an ESS behave according to strategies which have evolved to successfully resist any change. Islam presents a striking example of an ESS; its encoded rules have successfully resisted any significant change for over a thousand years.

Consider the simplicity of these rules:

1. All instructions are written in the Book (the Koran, the Hadith, and the Sunna); there are none outside it.
2. No adherents to these instructions may remove themselves from adherence, on pain of extermination.
3. Anything from the outside that threatens a change to these instructions must be immediately swarmed and destroyed.

A system designed so efficiently to prevent change probably cannot be changed. Any effective modification of it must necessarily involve its destruction.

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With the worldwide advent of modern electronic communication, the entire planet has become a vast interconnected information system. The behavior of Islam within this system most closely resembles a viral infection within a biological host, or a computer virus within a PC network.

A bacteriophageBy this analogy we would consider the precepts in the Book to be strings of individual codons in a long but finite sequence of DNA, or a series of machine language instructions in a computer program.

The instructions are typical of those found in any virus: under favorable conditions invade the host, reproduce, destroy the host, and then migrate to repeat these steps. In addition, this particular virus constructs special organelles that guard against and destroy agents that would cause mutations in its codons. Any individual viral organism is destroyed as soon as it shows evidence of mutation.

These are the characteristics of an ESS within a favorable environment. The genetic instructions for the virus under unfavorable conditions are equally simple: encyst the string of codons behind an extremely resistant shell, and await an improvement in the environment.

The favorable environment for Islam is modern Western Multiculturalism, with its weakness, its reflexive appeasement, and its masochistic urge to incorporate the Other. No more favorable conditions could be created for the survival and proliferation of the Islamic virus.

An unfavorable environment for Islam is best represented by the stance taken against the Saracens by Charles Martel and Holger Danske at Tours in 732, or the breaking of the Ottoman siege of Vienna by Jan III Sobieski in 1683. Absolute determination and ruthlessness against the Islamic virus causes it to withdraw, call a hudna, and encyst until more favorable conditions arise.

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Although Islam can be seen as an ESS from an internal standpoint, the dynamics of game theory normally involve interactions among players with differing strategies. These interactions may cause a stable strategy system to evolve over time.

The more sophisticated examples of an Evolutionarily Stable Strategy involve two or more players who look at the past behavior of other players and plan ahead, developing their strategies according to experience. Players can choose to cooperate with other players, or to attack, depending on which strategy would create the greater payoff.

An ESS emerges in the system when each player has settled on a strategy which maximizes his advantage.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma presents one of the simplest examples of a game in which an ESS can emerge. The two players in the game follow these simple rules:

  • At each move a player may either “cooperate” or “defect”.
  • If both players cooperate, each wins three points.
  • If one player cooperates and the other defects, the defector gains five points and the cooperator receives no points.
  • If both players defect, each gets one point.

The possible combinatorial outcomes are illustrated in the table below:

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

If players cannot remember past play, nor expect that their opponent will remember past play, then anticipatory strategies have no function. The only ESS that can emerge is the defect-defect strategy: each player defects on each turn, and can thus be guaranteed at least one point per turn.

However, if players can recall past play when anticipating future play, the possibility of another ESS can arise. The most effective strategy of all, as proved by computer models, is the “tit-for-tat” strategy, in which each player always makes the same move that his opponent made in the previous turn.

This makes it possible for a cooperate-cooperate ESS to appear in the game. Once it emerges, players following the tit-for-tat strategy maximize their payoffs.

Robert Axelrod in his book The Evolution of Cooperation reviewed studies of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and proposed a mechanism for the emergence of cooperative strategies within human society. The results are appealing, because they are methodologically sound, have utilitarian applications, and reinforce altruistic behavior without resorting to religious dogma:

By analysing the top-scoring strategies, Axelrod stated several conditions necessary for a strategy to be successful.

Nice

The most important condition is that the strategy must be “nice”, that is, it will not defect before its opponent does. Almost all of the top-scoring strategies were nice; therefore a purely selfish strategy will not “cheat” on its opponent, for purely utilitarian reasons first.

Retaliating

However, Axelrod contended, the successful strategy must not be a blind optimist. It must sometimes retaliate. An example of a non-retaliating strategy is Always Cooperate. This is a very bad choice, as “nasty” strategies will ruthlessly exploit such softies.

Forgiving

Another quality of successful strategies is that they must be forgiving. Though they will retaliate, they will once again fall back to cooperating if the opponent does not continue to play defects. This stops long runs of revenge and counter-revenge, maximizing points.

Non-envious

The last quality is being non-envious, that is not striving to score more than the opponent (impossible for a ‘nice’ strategy, i.e., a ‘nice’ strategy can never score more than the opponent).

Therefore, Axelrod reached the Utopian-sounding conclusion that selfish individuals for their own selfish good will tend to be nice and forgiving and non-envious. One of the most important conclusions of Axelrod’s study of IPDs is that Nice guys can finish first.

As you can see from the above description, Western Civilization seems to have forgotten the importance of Retaliating, since “always cooperate” is one of the mantras of modern political correctness. “Nasty” strategies will ruthlessly exploit such softies.

Islam, on the other hand, plays the game with an “always defect” strategy, guaranteeing that it will gain a payoff at every turn.

What is reassuring, however, is that the current mix of strategies is not an ESS. The situation is not stable, and will not last.

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Reading about Evolutionarily Stable Strategies and the Prisoner’s Dilemma put me in mind of an episode from The Prisoner, a 1960s TV series. As some of you will recall, the main character, Number Six, was a prisoner in a surreal setting known as “the Village”, and every episode focused on his efforts to escape.

In one episode Number Six finds himself in a wooded area where he is watched over by a pair of the ubiquitous spy cameras, which are like giant eyeballs on stalks. The eyes are motion-sensitive, programmed to turn in the direction of any detected movement.

Number Six, in an ingenious move, grasps the stalks of both eyes and forces them to stare directly at each other. This effectively immobilizes them, and allows him to continue his movements without being observed.

What a marvelous example of an ESS! If only there were an analogy in the current struggle against Islamic expansion, a pair of jihadi eyestalks that could be turned towards one another and away from the infidel…

In any case, the current strategy set of Islam and the West is not a stable one. Over time an ESS will evolve.

What remains to be seen is which one it will be.

This is not the way of Tao.
Whatever is contrary to Tao will not last long.


— Lao Tzu, from Tao Te Ching, Chapter 55

28 comments:

VinceP1974 said...

I watched a good Lecture by the author of Suicide of Reason with follow up commentary by Ayaan hirsi Ali over the AEI website. Click on Video to watch

Lee Harris
Author, The Suicide of Reason

After 9/11, Americans returned to two pre-9/11 theories--namely, Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" and Samuel Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations"--in an attempt to analyze the terrorist attacks and devise a way forward. Attempting to fit the struggle between Islam and the West into these frameworks is futile and counterproductive because both theories assume that relevant parties will act rationally within the status quo. Islamists, however, intend to break down the current system rather than operate within it. This presents a unique problem for the West and causes division between those who want to preserve the current order by fighting and accepting temporary chaos in exchange for long-term stability and those who deny the existence of a long-term threat. The inaction that often results from this tension is the Achilles heel of the West that Islam seeks to exploit.

The term Islamofascism is misleading because it equates Islam with fascist movements in Europe in the twentieth century. Those European movements were doomed to fail because they were inherently, though not ostentatiously, atheist ideologies imposed on Christian societies. By contrast, the concept of jihad originated with the establishment of Islam as a faith.

The United States' problem is that it falsely assumes other players operate under an American concept of order and rights. What seems irrational or unfair from an American perspective may be perfectly natural to a Muslim. This is perhaps what makes the Islamic threat more dangerous than any other the United States has faced.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
AEI

The collectivist nature of Islamic theology promotes a tribal mindset. What distinguishes the West from the non-West is individualism.

Culture is influential, but individuals are not entirely constrained by it. Individuals make history, culture, and faith. Individuals of all cultures employ rational tactics while facing the struggles of daily life, and when it comes to the universal struggles of daily life, the modern Western world is more fulfilling and appealing than the world of tribal Islam.

For decades, Muslims have been immigrating to the West in droves in search of a better life. But the West's own multicultural policies have encouraged these communities to stay segregated in their own collectivist tribal enclaves.

By adopting the romantic notions of multiculturalism and moral relativism, the West is currently squandering a vital opportunity to win the minds of Muslims.

AEI research assistant Yael Levin prepared this summary.

F451-2.0 said...

I believe one need only examine the stages and techniques of feminism to discern what template the Muslims find most successful.

Dots my good man, dots.

KJP said...

Well said! I have long thought I might be last rational westerner...

Baron Bodissey said...

Vince --

The excerpts you quote (though a little over-long for the comments), are within our topic.

However, they are not addressing what I am attempting to address here, namely, the meta-system of the dealings between the West and Islam.

Within the meta-system, the content, intentions, and rationality of either given belief system are irrelevant. Total irrationality may in fact be an effective strategy, or again it may not.

My interest -- as an amateur in these fields -- is how game theory and evolutionary biology may provide instructive analogies in our current circumstances.

livfreerdie said...

Not that I understood most of what you wrote, but shouldn't player two get 5 points for defecting resulting in the square being 5-0 and not 0-5?

It's not a solution, but stomping on them until there is nothing left but a greasy spot works for me. Yes, I am Neanderthal.

Tom

whiskey_199 said...

Baron --

Game theory offers an alternative, though rarely discussed.

Kill your opponent. That is how the Mongols, Romans, and Americans 1941-45 played that game.

Very likely Islam is likely to over-estimate the concessions the West is prepared to give, over-reach, and force a confrontation. While Islam has superior manpower, that is not always the way to victory. As Darius found out.

If an outside force, let's call it "China" wanted to reduce Islam's adherents by say, half, there is little that Islamists could do. The Tribalism of Islam has one fatal weakness -- inability to adjust to opponents who are more unified, mobile, and ruthless.

The Mongols conquered them easily. Despite the historic power of Islam vs. other civilizations of the time.

livfreerdie said...

Baron, just figured it out, sorry.

Tom

Wimbledon Womble said...

Chalk it up to the unholy alliance of liberal multiculturalism and big business' desire for cheap labor. In Europe, you can add a good dose of Eurabian geopolitical strategems. And so you get mass immigration.

Of all immigrant groups, without a doubt Muslims are the most dangerous and also least beneficial to the economy of the host country. They seem to have a natural affinity for the legal system, rightly perceiving it as the weakest link in Western societies. They grasp that it is not truth or justice or which party is right that counts in the justice system, but who has the most money and who can lie most consistently. They also perceive that claiming victim status goes a long way.

The legal system provides Muslims in the West with the outlet they need to wage war on their terms, since the legal system is based on things they already understand from their tribal societies: the person with the most money and who lies most effectively gets to dictate terms to everyone else. So legal jihad is a very natural alternative for Muslims to physical jihad.

How much has jihad cost Western societies? How much have lesser frivolous lawsuits by Muslims seeking a quick buck, playing the grievance game, cost Western societies? To balance this, how much have Muslims contributed economically to Western societies?

In terms of intangibles, have Muslim immigrants contributed socially and culturally to Western societies in any way the benefits the society as a whole. The answer is clearly to the contrary, not only have Muslim immigrants cost Western societies economically, they have contributed nothing but negative things. They have sought to destroy Western societies by actual and threatened acts of terrorism. They have increased the degree of insecurity of people in Europe and the US, as they have in their own countries of origin. They have worked as a group to weaken the foundations of Western civilization and bring sharia law to the West.

Muslim immigration brings nothing of economic or social or cultural value to the host country. On the contrary, it only brings costs and ultimately will bring the absolute destruction of Western civilization if it continues.

Until a system can be designed that can tell a Muslim who seeks to become a Westerner in all ways (in other words, an apostate) from a Muslim who wishes to be parasitic or, worse, subversive in the host country, all Muslim immigration to the West must be banned.

leadpb said...

Baron,

Thanks for this interesting post. While game theory is a valid avenue of thought for our problem, it relies on both sides recognizing the adversarial nature of the other. We are not close to such a state, officially, though what gov't strategists are thinking and saying behind the scenes is anyone's guess. External evidence of their awareness if not promising at this time but they can't all be in denial, can they?

There can be no "game" unless both players recognize that they are in play and what are the stakes.

whiskey-- excellent points.

Baron Bodissey said...

Leadpb --

You're misunderstanding the nature of game theory. Players don't have to be aware of the game; they only have to follow the rules and have a single goal of maximizing their payoff for the theory to be meaningful.

Obviously, since the theory's math is applied very effectively to evolutionary biology, awareness is not necessary at all.

The "player" must be constrained by the rules, and have a goal. Those are the only required premises.

In Darwinian evolution, the "goal" is to reproduce before dying.

Ethelred said...

For a culture, the "goal" should be to survive.

Islam survives by being a parasite. It needs the output, both physical and mental of others because it outputs nothing. Being totally nihilistic, it ends up destroying the host, and not caring, because Muslims do not care about this life.

To win a game, the players must learn the other's strategies, and then develop both an offense and a defense.

What would winning mean in the game of Islam vs West? For Islam, it means the destruction of the West and ruling a dung heap. For the West it means denying that victory.

The West has the military power to smash Islam, or at least the center(s) of Islamic control. It might come to that, but in the short term, the West must recognize that Islam NEEDS us.

If we understand this need, then we can regain control. China needs us too, and a real boycott of Chinese products would hurt them badly.

Islam needs us too. It needs us to (1) recognize it as a legitimate religion. Take that away - in essence to NOT play this part of the game - and we can begin to reduce Islam's teeth in the West, (2) our knowledge. Do not allow Islamic airlines landing rights, do not do business with them, do not allow Muslim students into our universities. Worried about China and Russia? Let them begin to worry about Islam for a change.

Play the game by removing ourselves from the game. Force Islam to become self-sufficient (hah!) Make them see clearly their economic inferiority. Pull out of the game, make them drink their oil.

Let them shout and protest. Ignore it, and then mock it. Give Islam no sense that we think Allah or Muhammad important enough to venerate. Spit on it, laugh at it, humiliate it.

Push it out, and watch it either shrivel up or make one last attempt at conquest - and then crush it physically.

Game over.

crowsnest said...

Baron,

thanks for a stimulating post. I'm pleased that an anti-Jihad blog takes Darwinian theory seriously; it's my impression that there's a lot of hostility to evolutionary biology out there.

I'm with you on this all the way, especially in your assertion that being aware of being in a 'game' is not necessary. In fact, I'd argue that self-deception is an advantage in dealing within the social world. Robert Trivers, in the foreword to Dawkins' 'The Selfish Gene' states

'if deceit is fundamental to animal communication, then there must be a strong selection to spot deception and this ought, in turn, to select for a degree of self-deception, rendering some facts and motives unconscious so as not to betray - by subtle signs of self-knowledge - the deception being practised.'

Parasitic and Machiavellian behaviours are perfectly 'healthy' within a Darwinian, especially when acting upon a naive host.

Obviously such a world view undermines the idealistic leftist/multicult fantasy of 'noble savages' and such like and are therefore dimissed as being 'reactionary' or 'misanthropic' etc.

rohan said...

I believe the best analogy for Islam is to compare it to cancer. Cancer is a horrible disease that brings nothing but pain, suffering and eventual death to the host. Cancer does not care that it will cause the death of its own host, it just wants to grow. It cannot be reasoned with or made to change its nature. To fight cancer you must cut out as much as possible, then mercilessly attack the remainder with everything you have at your disposal. However, to add to the dilemma, you have a body that has willingly allowed this cancer into its body and removed most of its own immune system. This does not make for a good prognosis.

The game theory is very interesting. We are currently being "nice", as you mentioned. Islam knows this, and is counting on it. Our next administration in the USA will indicate where this game will lead.

Baron Bodissey said...

Crowsnest --

I'm pleased that an anti-Jihad blog takes Darwinian theory seriously

I'm puzzled -- why would you expect an anti-Jihad blog to do anything else?

Perhaps it's because this blog's owners are avowedly Christians...?

I am a religious believer who accepts the findings of experimental science. I'm also a mathematician, both by training and by inclination. So the application of game theory to evolutionary biology seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Many secular-minded people seem to view Christians through the most simple-minded stereotyped templates derived from the mass media. The reality is quite different, but I've long since given up trying to correct these errors of perception.

People trapped in any kind of orthodoxy are very hard to convince.

crowsnest said...

Thanks for your reply Baron.

Maybe I've fallen prey to the MSM stereotype myself, but it has been my perception, on reading the comments on many anti-Jihad sites that many people view evolutionary theory as something akin to Marxism in its supposedly deleterious effects upon Western culture.

I'm pleased to be corrected!

rohan said...

Baron,

I am always surprised at the belief that science and religion are incompatable. I am not a scientist, and I am agnostic (i.e. lapsed catholic), but I see absolutely no conflict. God, or whoever, gave us brains to figure stuff out, not to blindly accept rules created by fellow humans. To do anything other than search for the truth about our incredible universe is a disgusting waste of the gift of life.

Ethelred said...

Belief and faith, by definition are outside of reason and provability.

To say "God, or whoever, gave us brains to figure stuff out" is to have a faith. Apparently, though, the brains that were given to us, do not have the ability to "know" the giver.

I, personally, do not think Man needs God to be moral.

As an aside, on the subject of consciousness, everyone MUST read "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes.

NJArtist said...

To paraphrase Michael Polani: To think let alone believe that you can read the scientific intruments is an act of faith.

I recommend his book "Conciousness."

NJArtist said...

Consciousness

Ethelred said...

NJArtist,

I believe you meant Michael Polanyi.

Let me ask you, do you exist or not? Or do you just think you exist?

Does the table you see with your eyes exist, and if not, why do you get hurt when you bump into it?

Does your consciousness exist, even if we do not know exactly what it is?

Indeed, who or what is asking the question in the first place?

I know, I know, it is too simplistic to assume axiomatically that existence exists, a la Aristotle, and hence we must postulate a world uncorrupted by our senses, a la Kant.

I refute it thus, he said, kicking the stone.

NJArtist said...

An old queastion posed in my art history class: the answer is the I am says "I am" even before thinking.

NJArtist said...

"question"

I hate using laptops.

Ethelred said...

Fine.

I am therefore I think - rather than the other way around. The universe exists, including you and the scientific instruments.

So, what do you think Polyani was trying to say?

I am asking sincerely.

NJArtist said...

It has been twent years since I read Polanyi.

The dominant concept that I came away with and remember from then: that faith is the underpinning of all human endeavor; that each human being, atheist and scientist included, must rest upon a faith that he can reasonably trust that he is able to perceive the world.

I need to dig the book out from my boxes ans reread it.

leadpb said...

The Jaynes book sounds interesting. I'm glad to see others express their 'belief' that science and religion are not incompatible. I never thought they were, especially regarding evolution since it is substantiated by inferences based on statistical probabilities that are thought to be probable enough. One must have faith that the methodologies of science give us valid results, even as they change over time.

Vol-in-Law said...

Lee Harris re 'The Clash of Civilizations':

"both theories assume that relevant parties will act rationally within the status quo"

There's no such statement in TCoC. The whole point of TCoC is that different civilisations operate by different rules. It's a very perceptive book which was highly prophetic and should be read by all GoV readers. It's well aware of Islam's hostility to Western civilisation. Neocons don't like it because it recognises the un-assimilability of Islamic and other civilisations to Western civilisation.

Vol-in-Law said...

Just listening to Harris' talk - most of what he says is pretty perceptive, aside from his mischaracterisation of TCoC. He seems to be trying to make reality-based, often paleocon, notions acceptable to a neocon audience.

Patrick_A_NonnyMouse said...

Posting a week late, so probably too late to get this reference noticed; but -

see link
http://www.ejectejecteject.com/archives/2007_05.html

Bill Whittle goes into the Prisoners Dilemma and the ramifications for society, and it's REALLY WORTH READING. My 2 cents worth.