The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Monday, May 28, 2007
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Uncategorized ...

THE WARRIORS OF JERICHO TUMBLE: CBS decided not to renew the Jericho TV series, despite a loyal following that was quite incensed (you may have heard about the “nuts” campaign; I hope that CBS employees enjoyed all the peanuts and cashews that the disgruntled fans sent in). I got curious about Jericho last November, and pretty soon got hooked. It wasn’t an easy TV show to watch. In fact, it could be quite depressing. The basic premise, for all of you non-Jericho people out there, was that 20 American cities got nuked simultaneously because of a sinister terrorist plot. Something about old Soviet missile warheads that got into the wrong hands.

Well, if you vaporize 20 of the USA’s biggest cities — and then add injury to injury by popping off some air-blasts meant to fry all those computer chips that we now rely on (via an electromagnetic pulse wave) – a lot of things would fall apart. Like the economy, the government, the Internet, the airlines, the electrical power systems, the food distribution system, stuff like that. Little towns like Jericho (which was fictional) could survive whatever radiation came their way, but would still have to watch the modern world slip away. Gasoline would get scarce, modern medicine wouldn’t be available anymore, no more electricity . . . they’d have to start living like America did in 1776. And not everyone could do it. People would starve and freeze in the winter, women would die in childbirth, no more heart or diabetes medicine, people would get nasty about sharing their dwindling supplies, plenty of guns . . . . . Yes, it would get pretty depressing.

That was the problem behind Jericho. Despite Skeet Ulrich and some pretty young actresses, the show was ultimately built on some very depressing premises. There was some slight hope that the federal government would eventually get itself back together and start rebuilding. But that would take decades, and people watching TV after a hard day’s work aren’t willing to give a show 20 years to brighten up again. Yes, there are some very dark shows out there these day; e.g., 24 popped off a few nukes too this past season. But Jericho was just way too far into social collapse. So of course it’s been canceled. Get back to more edifying stuff like American Idol.

The darn thing for me is that over the last 3 or 4 episodes, Jericho hit on a really interesting theme. Given the dire circumstances and lack of government protection, Jericho and its neighboring town, New Bern, had to form militias to defend themselves from roving gangs (think Mad Max). Unfortunately, New Bern got the idea that perhaps they could use their militia to force Jericho to “share” a bit more of their food and other basic necessities. New Bern was in somewhat worse shape with regard to food stores, but it had a wildcard – an old factory that it converted over to produce mortars. Before long, negotiations broke down and a full-scale war between New Bern and Jericho broke out (and that’s where the series ended, with an unresolved war going on).

This peaked my interest – here was WAR under a magnifying glass. Here were otherwise-nice, reasonable, middle-class Americans suddenly killing each other because of bad circumstances, lack of communication, leaders who let power go to their heads, irrational fears, etc. Here were people who used to bowl together and shop together, now firing live rounds at each other (not paintballs). Here was a classic human story, one repeated so many times over the last 6 or 7 millennia in so many different places and so many different ways. WAR. Exactly what weakens humankind as a whole, and yet which seems so necessary to the parties involved. Like an infection of some sort that humankind just can’t seem to cure itself of, not even in our modern, enlightened world.

I have too many books to read right now, as it is. But nonetheless, I’m looking for a good book on WAR. A book that looks at war as a social phenomenon, a social infection perhaps. Something that tries to find commonalties and root causes, something that can put World War 2 and Iraq and Napoleon and the Pelopenesian War on the same page. Something that estimates just how much humankind has lost over the centuries because of war. What if there were no war – would we now have more resources to share? Or would there be too many people on the planet, barely getting by, always on the edge of starvation? Do we need war to innovate – e.g., the Internet started as a military tool, and the space program was clearly tied to military concerns first, with science and economics as a side thought.

Without war, could there have been a Roman Empire? Or a British Empire? Or an American Empire? Would world trade have developed as far as it has? Would we have to otherwise give in to some depressing form of socialism where we’d all be living barefoot on farms, picking corn and slooping hogs and taking orders unquestioningly from big brother? Or could we have still derived television and high-fi stereos and personal computers and such, based upon some balance of market economics and fair play? I’ve never seen the big questions about war and humankind thoroughly addressed. Can human beings, such as we are, avoid war? Or are we just wired for it, given the conditions and limitations of the world that we live in? Are we all just too different, e.g. Muslims and Jews and Christians? Or do communication and education and enlightenment have a chance?

Thus far, I haven’t found anyone tackling these issues, at least not on a popular level. Right now, the mysterious and important question of human consciousness is all the rage. You can find scads of recent books about it, some of them quite good. But as to WAR, capital W-A-R, there just doesn’t seem to be too much.

OK then, professors and thinkers out there! Maybe it’s time to buy the Jericho series DVD (once it comes out) and watch those last 3 or 4 episodes. Sorry about all the soap opera cheeze and the X-Files conspiracy stuff on the show. Try to get past that, and concentrate on why two towns with dwindling water and fuel and food supplies find it in their best interests to use those supplies up so as to lob bullets and explosives at each other. How might this have been prevented? What probably happened in the end? Were the two towns eventually better off because of the decline in population and centralization of government? Or was this just going to spark off another war sometime in the future, with more loss of precious resources? Next, let’s haul in 6000 years of human civilization; let’s look at all the wars, big and small. Let’s have some extensive conversations about economics and politics and sociology and anthropology and geology and psychology and neuroscience and evolution, how they all relate to all the wars we’ve ever had. Then let’s ask – is the next war really necessary?

I’m old enough to remember the Vietnam War. When it was finally over, my generation hoped it would be the war to end all wars, at least as far as the USA was concerned. But then came Grenada and Bosnia and Kosovo and al Quada (our on-going antiterror war), then Afghanistan and now Iraq. Is there any way out? Is there anything that can be done so that perhaps in 100 years, war wouldn’t be fashionable? Can the whole United Nations ideas and ideals somehow be revived (without the threat that the UN is going to impose world communism and take away our nice shopping malls and SUVs and big-screen home theaters here in America)???

The fact that Americans like neither the UN nor the ideals behind it; that they don’t want to read books about what causes war and what can be done about it; and indeed, that they don’t want to watch Jericho, makes me a bit pessimistic that war can be stopped. Hope that I’m missing something and being a bit too pessimistic here.

But nonetheless, my deepest respect to all who have honorably
served their nations in war, or in preparation for war, on this Memorial Day. They all do it in hope that their children won’t have to. May we yet find a way to fulfill those dreams.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:30 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, May 25, 2007
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Tonight, I have only a small observation to offer about the real world. And that regards apples. It’s not about how apples fall from trees towards the earth’s center. Isaac Newton already covered that. What I’ve noticed is that when you bite into a moldy spot on an apple, it tastes like dirt.

But OK, then – that makes rough sense, given that soil has a lot of rotting leaves and grass and tree branches in it. Dirt is a mix of sand (little particles of rock) and organic stuff, and the organic stuff is a breeding ground for bacteria and other microbes. And all those little microbes probably produce the same chemicals in dirt that they produce in apples, which are organic things. Not that you want to eat those rotting brown spots, or that rotting brown earth; but all this rot obviously has a role in how and why things grow, in the cycle of ecology.

I’ve also been dabbling a little in Julian Barbour’s “Platonia”, a timeless, probabilistic state-space that (in theory) pre-figures both classical reality and quantum reality as we know them; and with the grounds for number theory (courtesy of Douglas Hofstadter in “Godel, Escher, Bach”). But right now, dirty apples are about the best I can do in terms of explaining just why this world is the way it is.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:08 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, May 20, 2007
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Former President Jimmy Carter was in the news yesterday for criticizing George W. Bush’s presidency and the war in Iraq. Carter used the phrase “worst president in history”. Even thought he limited his judgement to foreign affairs, I believe this was a bit “over the top”. I’d imagine that the conservative bloggers and lists are having a field day with this. I mean, Carter did not exactly receive high marks for his handling of the Oval Office either.

The former President would stand on much firmer ground had he criticized Mr. Bush for our nation’s current energy situation. Gasoline is hitting $3 a gallon, and may not go back down again (or if so, not for long). And Iran is only a few years away from testing a nuclear weapon. Once that happens, gasoline prices could triple. Yep, $9 to $10 a gallon. Once people start paying $250 to fill up their SUV’s, they may not have much cash left for another spending binge down at the mall. Consumer spending will thus be ratcheted downward. Malls might start going bust. Commercial real estate prices will collapse. The banks will stop making loans, and the economy will be headed for a nasty and long recession. Unemployment and inflation will zoom back up to levels not seen since – well, since the Jimmy Carter Presidency.

What could be done to stop or avoid this? Trying to bomb Iran will probably only make things worse. Besides, they reportedly have most of their nuclear development sites in “hardened” locations. About the only sensible thing would be to jumpstart the alternative energy and energy efficiency industry with federal subsidies (in lieu of some or all of the subsidies we currently give the big energy and utility companies for their use of fossil fuels). Which is just what Carter tried to do. But Ronald Reagan pulled the plug on this, and no president since then has shown any interest in renewing it. The attitude is, “let the free market resolve it all”. Well, the free market led this nation into the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Sometimes a little collectivism is needed to avoid the worst pitfalls of economic freedom.

Once gas prices hit $4 or $5, which might not be too long from now, people might be finally be willing to listen to Carter regarding energy. He might thus save his reputation for that moment, instead of wasting his credibility taking cheap shots at GWB, pointing out things that even the most hard-assed guys sitting in VFW and American Legion halls in West Virginia and Missouri and Montana are coming to see. Jimmy, keep your cool. Your moment of redemption for the 1977 cardigan sweater speech is coming.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:53 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, May 18, 2007
Brain / Mind ... Science ...

I finally started digging into “Godel, Escher, Bach” by Douglas Hofstadter. This is a big book; over 700 pages. And it’s mostly about math. Well, really it’s about “meta-math”: the bigger ideas behind math. But in order to get to the bigger ideas, the reader has to wade thru a lot of stuff about ordinary math, the kind of stuff that you sat thru in high school and freshman year in college, bored out of your skull. Mr. Hofstadter tries to make it as un-boring as possible by telling entertaining stories and presenting little ‘brain-tickler’ puzzles and hosting a fairly wide sample of artistic works by Escher (those crazy drawings that defy the normal rules of dimensionality and gravity). And he wants to convince you that math is the foundation of human consciousness.

I’m only at page 110, but so far I can’t see how a group of conventions regarding sets and axioms and theorems are going to explain why I think there is a ‘me’ inside of me. But that’s just it, Hofstadter would say. Consciousness is all about chasing your tail, about looping around without any starting or ending points. And that’s just what a lot of mathematicians have been thinking about over the past 100 years or so. Well, all this recursive math stuff is pretty interesting, but I’m still not sure that it’s going to bring me any closer to the mystery of subjective mental experience than the various neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers, whose books about the mind and consciousness line some of my shelves. (Or sit on my floor – I don’t exactly have a nice, neat library here in my dinky apartment).

Hofstadter is enthralled with Bach’s musical works, because of the complex relationships between the various musical patterns that interweave cleverly through many of his compositions. I can’t say that I’m a big classical music fan; and even the Bach that I have heard . . . . well, let’s just say that I’ve thus far failed to appreciate the genius behind it.

The best song that I know of which deftly intermixes a group of wandering musical elements is a guitar instrumental by The Ventures, from their Live in Japan ’65 album. The song in question is a 3 and ½ minute medley of three Ventures hit songs from the early 60’s: Walk, Don’t Run; Perfedia; and Lullaby of the Leaves. It uses the standard 4-man pop tune setup typical of the mid-60’s: drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and base, i.e. the same line-up that the Beatles and their imitators made famous. But I’ve never heard a song where each musical element is so distinctive and independent, and yet plays off the other three so well. When listening to Medley, you can easily pick out one instrument and follow it all the way through. Even rhythm guitar, something that you hardly notice on most “fab four” songs, is a distinctive contributor to Medley. Each player gets his moment in the spotlight (even Bob Bogle on bass fills in the weak spots with some fantastic rides). But at just about every point in the record, each player is present, working away. I’m not sure about the math behind the notes on Medley. But my conscious mind tells me that there was some real genius at work in putting it together.

One more thing about the Ventures versus Bach: most classical work is quite complex but rather slow tempoed. Medley moves along at a lively clip. There isn’t much room for error. It’s kind-of like a race car ballet, moving along at 150, everyone hoping that everyone else gets the moves right and doesn’t crash. Maybe that’s not a bad way to think about how our minds work – at least when they work right. Every now and then they go crash, and all the notes in life are off-key. At least three-fifths of my typical work-week goes like that! And not like Godel, Escher, Bach, and The Ventures.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:55 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Monday, May 14, 2007
Art & Entertainment ... History ... Spirituality ...

Do you remember Steppenwolfe? The rock band, that is? I do. But to be honest, I wasn’t much of a fan of theirs. I didn’t like the name, didn’t like the music, didn’t like the concept; a bit too primal for me (although I guess that’s what rock is supposed to be). And I especially didn’t like the nasty looking beast with the long teeth on the cover of their albums. (Footnote — they were originally called “The Sparrows” — but who would take seriously a song from The Sparrows entitled “Born to Be Wild”?)

Well, I was reminded of Steppenwolfe the other day while reading a short article about the Vikings and their metaphysical beliefs (not the NFL team from Minnesota — their metaphysical beliefs are no doubt mostly financial in nature). The ancient Norsemen did indeed believe in an afterlife, and your status in that afterlife depended on how tough you were here on earth. That’s not too surprising. If you were a brave and valiant warrior here on earth, you’d go to the best place in heaven, a place called “Valhalla”. Notice the word within that word: Val – HALL – a. (Only the tough guys went to Valhalla; dweebs like me got put off on some ice-covered island out near the celestial Arctic Circle, something like Spitsbergen.) The Vikings literally saw heaven as a great big banquet hall. A place where the great warriors would gather with their valiant king in a continuous eating and drinking festival. There might even be some bawdy women there too. All kinds of action up there in that great hall in the sky. Sounds like a place that a wolf could appreciate.

And actually, that was part of the legend. The great legendary king of Valhalla (I forgot his name) was fond of saying that “the wolf is watching the hall”. Just because someone got to heaven doesn’t mean that their days of war are over. Not for the Vikings! A great battle between the primal forces of nature, represented by some big wolves, and the men of the hall, was yet to come, according to the Nordic mythology. And it wasn’t gonna be a little scuffle either. Men were going to get killed – once again! Dang those Vikings; even heaven for them was a place of great battles and bloody death.

That’s what the whole Steppenwolfe concept seemed to be about (to me, anyway). Thus, I was relieved the day that I was in some record aisle of some department store, and I saw the cover of Steppenwolfe’s break-up album, “Rest In Peace” It showed a gravestone saying “Steppenwolfe, 1967 – 1972”, with a little picture of that toothy wolf on it. The wolf was dead now; it wouldn’t menace us any more. (Actually, Steppenwolfe did come back together, but it wasn’t the same wolf anymore. No one took them or their albums seriously at that point.)

But if the Vikings were right, Steppenwolfe is still out there, lying in wait in the snows outside that great party hall way up in the sky. Yes, one can almost hear “Magic Carpet Ride” playing as burly warriors feast on sides of beef and mutton, brandishing huge pewter mugs of ale . . . . arg, greasy meat, sweaty guys with horned helmets, and early 1970’s rock. If there is an afterlife, I sure hope to avoid that part of it!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:33 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Society ...

I was working on a federal grant application yesterday regarding DNA analysis for criminal cases, and one of the Chiefs mentioned that the murder count to date for this year is 53. Last year on this date, it was 43. In 2006, we had the highest number of murders in ten years. And we’re on the way to break that record this year. So, things aren’t exactly going that well out in the post-industrial slums of Newark and its surrounding cities (Irvington, East Orange and Orange).

That bit of info made me reflect on my former life as a crypto-activist in Newark, i.e. my 2 years as a loyal volunteer and my 10 years of employment at New Community Corporation. New Community got started about 15 years before I got there, and reached its peak in terms of size and achievement during my tenure. But unfortunately, it never really got close to its lofty goal of “converting the neighborhood and then the city”, into a functional working-class environment where every child has a good chance of leading a fulfilling and productive life.

In fact, New Community unintentionally contributed to Newark’s ongoing urban tragedy by building and clustering thousands of low-income apartment units. These were designed to be humane, low-density alternatives to the many high-rise “New Jack City” towers that were built in the 50s by the Newark Housing Authority (and hundreds of other urban HA’s). But as unionized entry-level jobs left Newark in the 70’s and 80’s, and the schools fell apart in the 90’s, this housing served just as effectively as the old “projects” to breed a nasty way of thinking and an unpleasant way of life amidst those who couldn’t get out. New Community was imitated in its heyday by a variety of other Newark community agencies, who sprinkled thousands of additional low-income apartments throughout the town. Together with the extraordinarily large inventory of developments built by the Newark Housing Authority, large swaths of Newark have been “locked in” to poverty culture by these buildings for the foreseeable future.

And so, the gangs, guns, drugs and killings continue in greater Newark, despite valiant and innovative efforts on the part of both local police and my boss (the county prosecutor) to combat them. You could say that I’m now helping to mop up the mess that I helped to make. But please believe me, the road to this hell truly was paved with the best and most heavenly of intentions. I missed the formative days, when the spirit of Christian social justice at New Community was “so thick you could cut it with a knife”. However, the dream (and the illusion) had not fully died when I got involved with NCC in 1988. We still believed that we could disassemble urban poverty by weaving a thick net of housing, daycare, job training, youth programs and health services. We really didn’t anticipate that the surrounding economy and political culture would change so much; it happened while we weren’t watching. We couldn’t have imagined that as things got worse, an angry “f*** it” attitude would take hold amidst the young. Yea, this attitude sells plenty of rap music in the suburbs, but it ain’t no entertainment in the cities. Mopping up after the latest shooting is no fun, or so I hear from the guys at work who actually do that stuff.

Newark is not without hope. If you listen to Mayor Booker, there are plenty of things to be hopeful about in Newark these days (although Booker recently gave a rather despairing speech about the murder crisis). The downtown area is still getting better, a new professional sports arena will open soon, and thousands of new homes have been built and sold to valiant young families who are pushing the gang-bangers off their blocks. There’s nothing like owning property to inspire people to get involved in crimewatches. I even helped to develop about 300 or so of those houses during my final years at NCC. But there are still tens of thousands of impoverished single-parent families going from apartment to apartment (with boyfriends drifting in and out) throughout greater Newark. As welfare reform showed, the women usually find some kind of crappy, unpleasant work to keep their kids going. However, too many of the young men refuse to bite that bullet, and get caught up in the cycle of drug involvements, jail and gang affiliation. It’s nice that there are so many stable working families who are buying up all of the new houses, even on some of the worst streets. But the gang-bangers who they push off of those streets aren’t going to be going too far. No other towns will take them.

In my Some Urban Thoughts pages, I have outlined my vision for a new kind of urban anti-poverty effort (actually, a “regional” effort) to respond to the realities that let all the air out of my earlier idealism. But right now, I don’t see anyone with a new and more realistic vision making any waves in the cities and amidst the halls of power and wealth (as New Community’s founders once did). So, I’ll stay where I am, helping to mop up the mess that our spiritual justice inspirations ironically helped to create. But I still hope to live long enough to see a new spirit of urban activism, one that learns from our mistakes and builds on our failures. As I point out, it’s not going to be a bootstraps operation, as NCC tried to be. It’s going to directly involve suburban areas like where I live. That’s gonna be a tough sell. Still, you never know when a new generation of neophyte saints and prophets are going to come out of the woodwork. One must keep their hope alive.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:02 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, May 6, 2007
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Cultural Corner: I saw a little article about recent goings-on in the field of cultural anthropology. Actually, they’re doing some fairly interesting research these days. Well sure, anthropology was always sort of interesting, with Margaret Mead and her cronies searching out the last of the painted tribesmen and hunter-gatherers in central Africa or some far-away Pacific island, with their colorful feathered costumes and crazy dances.

But today, the anthropology professors and grad students are focusing on a topic that hits home, right here in post-industrial America. They are now doing “ethnography” research and writing papers about “commodity chains”. Consider this: in America today, it seems like we don’t make anything. Just about everything we eat, use, drive, burn, entertain ourselves with, etc. comes from somewhere else. The place could be Mexico, could be Brazil, could be China — who knows. Actually, there are people who DO know – they are the trans-national businesses that get rich off of all this international trade. And then there are the people in far off lands who dig up or make the stuff for those big importers. Interestingly enough, the anthropologists have recently gotten interested in all of this, and how it’s changing the world.

I hope that some of this research will be tapped by the popular article writers and TV news shows, to enlighten the public on just what the effect of modern trade arrangements are, and who wins and who loses. (No surprise that the losers are mostly the poor countries who gather the raw materials and process it for us; although maybe there are some good effects in some places). For the time being, I’m going to give links to a few commodity studies that I found in a quick Google search.

1.) Table Grapes from Mexico

2.) African Gray Parrots

3.) Imitation Crab (a.k.a. “surimi seafood”)

All of this stuff is probably exists right there in your home town, if not in your house; it’s available at your local supermarket and pet store, probably at the Wal-Mart. Maybe you might want to know a little about what the stuff is, who makes it, who brings it over and sells it, and whether things are better or worse off because of it.

Well, just thought you might want to know what’s going on.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:16 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, May 4, 2007
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I’ve been reading some books about human consciousness over the past two years (the serious ones, not the new-age stuff), and I’ve noticed that most of the authors don’t have much regard for God or religion. I suppose they figure it would be bad for their academic careers to mix metaphysical hope with such a strange and uncertain topic, as consciousness certainly is. The ones who posit that consciousness may be more than a materialistic process, at least beyond any material physics that we now know, seem especially assertive in asserting their atheism (e.g. John Searle, Colin McGinn, David Chalmers). Their “dualism” arguably leaves a gap through which God’s presence might arguably enter the world and be shared in and through our realization of it. But to even consider that possibility seems beyond the pale of any serious mind scholar right now. Even the most “science-friendly” concepts of dualism are attacked by many as naive, wishful thinking.

At least one consciousness researcher, Dr. Susan Blackmore from England, speculates that practitioners of Buddhist “mindfulness” find our conscious mind to be an illusory (Consciousness: An Introduction, 2004). Buddhists claim to know that the self and free will are illusions. They realize there to be no distinction between ego and experience. They experience nonduality. Well then, consciousness is certainly not real, and God is obviously toast too.

Right now I’m finishing a book by another ‘Dr. Susan’ from England, Dr. Susan Greenfield (The Private Life of the Brain, 2000). Dr. Greenfield makes an interesting point about meditation, the primary practice informing Buddhist metaphysics. Dr. Greenfield explains that the electrochemical processes which correspond to deep meditation create very large neuronal constellations which are remarkably stable and distributed, so as to deeply diminish the mind’s need for sensory stimulation. A different kind of consciousness ensues, one that is not in need of the usual external reassurances that we seek from our environments (the company of other people, conversation, music, food, etc.). At that rarefied point, the normal kind of egotistic self that we are used to becomes unnecessary. Thus, it becomes easier for those who have known such meditative experience to speak of how we don’t actually exist, how mind and earth are one, how nothing more is needed. It’s just an impression created by a certain mental state made possible by a certain combination of chemicals and electrical signals.

What I find interesting about this is how similar it is to the arguments being used by other mind analysts to disregard the opposite notion, that we are different from the earthy world beneath us, and that our difference is a half-way step to the ultimate principle represented in God. Daniel Dennett, Samuel Harris and Richard Dawkins have recently released books explaining those feelings to be nothing more than accidents stemming from certain chemical and electrical patterns in the brain, patterns that may have spun-off from useful evolutionary processes. Dr. Greenfield (who herself seems to have little sympathy for the religiously inclined) ironically identifies a similar pattern as the basis for non-belief.

So, it would appear that Dr. Blackmore’s fashionable Buddhist anti-dualism and its implied atheism are just as illusory and physically explainable as the processes which seem to push most people in this world, except Buddhists, toward the consideration of a “higher metaphysical principle”. (And a whole lot of Buddhists aren’t all that dismissive of higher metaphysical principles after all; the practice of Pure Land Buddhism, quite popular in Asia, has various elements that a Christian or Jew or Muslim would find familiar). Dr. Blackmore doesn’t seem satisfied with a dryly logical approach to the God-or-not question. She wants something a bit more deeply felt. But if so, then why would her Buddhist ‘anatta’ be any more compelling or intellectually respectable than my longing for ultimate universal hope?

It looks to me as if we wind up right on the fence, as always. The glass remains half-empty and half-full. It’s up to you what to call it. Despite the bad name that various political factions have given the notion of Abrahamic faith within the past few decades, I’ll stick with the hopeful view, but I’ll keep the ‘God-politics’ aside. And I hope that the consciousness analysts can likewise learn to disregard the politics and fashions of modern academia, and be able to think and write freely on whether or not their research leaves room for the notion of God. It would certainly be nice if discussions about God could be brought back to the intellectual circles without all the politically-correct fear.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:57 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
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