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~ Special Announcement ~

We are pleased to announce the release of Bridging The Abyss.

You can learn more about it here

Thank you,

Dick Cleary

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Multi-Dimensional Realities

To paraphrase Shakespeare in Hamlet there are more things in heaven and on earth than we dream of in our view of reality. We observe the world with our five senses and take for granted that the world we perceive is exactly what's there. We simply assume that our senses give us an accurate and exhaustive picture of reality, but why should we think that?

Why, for example, should we suppose that just because our minds can only apprehend three dimensions (four, if you count time) that that's all there are? Could the world not consist of numerous dimensions that we can not only not perceive, but we can't even imagine? Could there not actually be entire worlds integrated with our world but closed off to us because our minds lack the necessary structure to perceive them?

One way to try to imagine what reality might be like if there are actually more than three dimensions of space is to imagine how a three dimensional object would appear to a two dimensional being as illustrated in this short video:
If we actually do consist of more than three dimensions we would look completely different to a being who could perceive those other dimensions than we do to each other. There could literally be, in other words, far more to each of us than meets the eye.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Double Standards

You might recall that when Israel bombed Hamas a couple of years ago and inadvertently killed civilians, many of whom were being used as human shields by Hamas, the world rose up in high moral dudgeon to condemn Israeli "savagery." Israel almost became an international pariah for, in the course of trying to preserve its existence, killing Palestinian Arabs who were trying, and in many cases succeeding, to kill them. Well, Arabs are presently being killed in quantity all across the Middle East today, but the world doesn't seem to be much interested. When Arabs kill Arabs the world yawns. It's only when Israelis kills Arabs that the juices of moral indignation get to flowing.

Consider, for example some facts revealed in this article at Strategy Page and ask yourself how many editorials you've seen at the New York Times about them. Then ask yourself how many editorials you would've read had the death dealers been Israelis:
Saudi Arabia has its lobbyists in the West working overtime to deal with accusations that the Saudi led Arab coalition air attacks in Yemen have killed more civilians (more than 2,000) this year than Israel did during their 2014 war in Gaza with Hamas. That conflict saw 2,100 Palestinians killed and about two-thirds of them were civilians. The Palestinians, and their Arab allies in the UN, want Israel prosecuted for war crimes because of this. There is no such clamor for the Saudis to be similarly prosecuted.

The reality is that the situation is much worse than that. Far more Palestinians are killed by other Palestinians (and other Arabs) than by Israelis. For example nearly 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian Civil War since 2011. Hundreds were tortured to death and more than that were executed, often in gruesome ways, for being on the wrong side or for “blasphemy”. In Gaza hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in factional fighting or executed by Hamas for various offenses (like disagreeing with Hamas rule.) In the last half century far more Palestinians have been killed by Arabs than by Israelis.

The current situation becomes more embarrassing when you look at the reaction of Arabs and their supporters in the West to all this. The Palestinian accusations, and willful ignorance of Palestinians killed by Arabs has been increasingly supported in the West, especially among leftist political groups, who automatically agree with the Palestinians.

This justifies accusations that Israel must be doing something wrong. Israel points out that their Arab and Western critics would, and do, respond as Israel does when attacked by nearby terrorists, but that fact is ignored. Well, not completely. Many Arabs, especially Arab diplomats who know a lot about Israel and the Palestinians privately agree with the Israelis. But to openly point out the reality of the situation in the Moslem world will get you death threats, or worse. In the West it’s safer to point out the obvious although in leftist political circles the pro-Palestinian supporters can be loud and even a little violent at times. In Europe this has led to more tolerance of anti-Semitic violence and more European Jews moving to Israel (and elsewhere).
This situation can only get worse as Europe (and the U.S.) absorbs more and more Syrian refugees. Eventually a point is going to be reached where these immigrant Muslim populations have the political clout to affect the policy of their governments toward Israel and Israel will then find itself increasingly isolated in the world. Add to the mix a nuclear Iran and the current administration's surly antagonisms toward Israel, and the future of this tiny outpost of freedom and democracy in the midst of millions of hostile people ruled by tyrants and autocrats looks very bleak.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Imagining Our Politics

Imagine a cop who spends much of his time in the donut shop. You note that lawlessness is rampant in the neighborhood, laws are not being enforced, and you march into the donut shop to ask the cop why. He shrugs it off, tells you he doesn't like the laws and isn't going to enforce them. You tell him he's not doing his duty, but you're powerless to change anything so you storm out. Next thing you know the cop is pulling you over and writing you up for going three mph over the speed limit, having a small crack in your windshield, and a burned-out taillight. He tells you that if you don't like the way he does his job you can expect more of the same. That's Barack Obama.

Imagine a cop who stops you and tickets you for a minor infraction. Later you see the same cop pulling over a Cadillac for running a red light and nearly causing an accident. The wealthy driver hands the cop his license and a $100 bill. The cop says "thanks" and sends the driver on his way. You also learn that this cop has top secret inside information on undercover police operations involving organized crime and terrorism which he freely shares with his friends on Facebook for the whole world to see. That's Hillary Clinton.

Imagine a job applicant who, when asked how he would benefit the company were he hired, instead of answering the question, proceeds to mock the other applicants, laughing at them because they sweat too much in the interview, or have an ugly face. You think this applicant is suffering from arrested emotional development and has the maturity of a twelve year old. That's Donald Trump.

Imagine a father who has two sons. One works hard to support himself and not be a burden to the family. He works long hours and barely has time to eat, but he does what's necessary to pay his way and save for his children. The other son sleeps till noon and plays video games the rest of the day. The father nevertheless loves the second son and supports him, paying his bills and accommodating the family to the son's life choices. Finally, though, the father runs out of money. Rather than force the second son to act responsibly and get a job the father insists that the first son give 70% or more of his income to support his brother. That's Bernie Sanders.

Heaven help us.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Future of Warfare

Lasers are employed so ubiquitously as weapons in science fiction movies that it may come as a surprise to read that they really haven't been applied that way in the military. They're used as targeting devices, to be sure, but, with the exception of a laser weapon on a naval warship, the USS Ponce, not as the instrument that does the damage. According to an article in The Week, however, that's soon going to change:
This week Lockheed Martin, the defense contractor behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, announced it was exploring ways to put a laser on the controversial fighter. The U.S. Navy has already fielded a laser weapon on the USS Ponce. And the U.S. Army is looking for ways to use lasers to protect troops in the field from artillery shells, missiles, and drones.

All of this is just a start. As lasers grow smaller and more compact, eventually they will be mounted on everything from bombers to tanks. A quiet killer at the speed of light, lasers may some day dominate the battlefield as we know it.

A laser inflicts damage with heat produced by focused light. This heat can burn a hole in the skin of airplanes, set a pickup truck's gas tank on fire, and even burn holes in people. Pointed at an artillery shell in flight, a laser can heat the shell until the explosive inside detonates. Engineers have known how lasers work for decades but have been held back by various problems, chief of which are power generation and storage. A laser needs a lot of energy — in the tens of kilowatts range or higher — to be usable as a weapon. And it needs it instantly.

Despite the technological hurdles, there are reasons why research has persisted. Lasers have many advantages over conventional projectile weapons. A laser moves at roughly the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. Unlike a missile, an accurate laser beam can't be avoided. Lasers aren't affected by strong winds and can't be blown off target.

Laser weapons are invisible, operating at an optical wavelength the human eye cannot discern. They are also silent and unlike bullets and shells, do not produce miniature sonic booms. Unlike conventional weapons, which utilize a controlled explosion to generate energy, lasers have no recoil.

Lasers are also affordable. A single Griffin short-range missile costs at least $115,000. A shot from a laser costs usually costs less than a dollar, the price of the energy used. The actual laser system is more expensive — the laser on the USS Ponce cost $40 million, including six years of research and development — but expect the price tag to fall as they become more common.
The article goes on to discuss a few more pros and cons of laser weapons and the military's plans to use them. The article doesn't mention it, but for years the military was researching ways to mount lasers on high-flying aircraft to shoot down attacking nuclear ICBMs while they were still in their boost phase. With the North Koreans and Iranians developing ICBMs to deliver nuclear weapons against the U.S. homeland, and a few other nations like China and Russia already having this capability, it would be nice if we had a way to protect ourselves from such a horrific possibility.

The Democrats in general, however, and the Obama administration in particular, have been reluctant to develop such a capability fearing that it would lead to another arms race. This argument may have made some sense when the only real nuclear threat was the old Soviet Union, which was led by men who, whatever else they were, were at least not lunatics. Given that we can't say that about the North Koreans nor the Iranians it makes eminent sense to do what we can now to defend ourselves from the psychopaths who have their fingers on the nuclear button in these countries.

Of course, it would've also been helpful had the president not seen fit to release $150 billion of frozen Iranian assets so that the fanatic mullahs in Tehran, who keep declaring their devout wish to incinerate us, could fund their nuclear dreams of mushroom clouds filling American skies.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Information Enigma

One of the major intellectual controversies of our time is the debate between naturalists and non-naturalists over origins. Naturalists maintain that life originated and developed through purely mechanistic processes, processes which acted blindly and strictly in accord with physical laws. Some non-naturalists reply that blind random forces and laws cannot generate the information we see in living things. Information, they argue, is always the product of intelligent minds, never the product of random mechanisms, and living things are saturated with it.

One version of this non-naturalist view is called intelligent design. Intentionally or unintentionally, ID is perhaps the most misrepresented theory, scientific or metaphysical, on the contemporary scene. It's detractors frequently confuse it with creationism, which is a caricature, and insist on calling it religious, which it is not.

The following recently released twenty minute video, titled Information Enigma, presents a nutshell explanation of ID. It's intended for those who wish to have an accurate understanding of the theory and why increasing numbers of philosophers and scientists are finding ID's arguments intellectually compelling. It's worth the twenty minutes it takes to watch it:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Science and Metaphysics

There's a school of thought in philosophy called scientism which asserts that there is no significant truth about reality that is not in principle discoverable through the methods of science. Philosophers who embrace this view are at pains to eliminate metaphysics from their ontology. There are no metaphysical truths worth knowing, the devotee of scientism argues, everything worth knowing is a physical fact. In the words of Duke philosopher Alex Rosenberg, "Physics fixes all the facts."

The problem with this, beside the fact that it seems patently false, is that it itself is a metaphysical assertion. It's making a claim about reality that transcends the ability of science to adjudicate. Science simply cannot tell us what the limits of science are. Nor can it tell us whether there are facts to which the methods of science are blind.

An excerpt from a new book by philosopher Roger Trigg, the title of which is Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics, discusses the problem:
Once the logical independence of reality from science is accepted, the question is why reality has a character that enables it to be understood scientifically. The intelligibility and intrinsic rationality of reality cannot be taken for granted. Even the greatest scientists, such as Einstein, have seen that the intelligibility of the world is a mystery.

He famously remarked that “the eternally incomprehensible thing about the world is its comprehensibility.” Like the way in which mathematics seems to map the intrinsic rational structure of the physical world, this is presupposed within science and cannot be given a scientific explanation. It appears to be a metaphysical fact, and the explanation for which, if there can be one, must come from beyond science.
In other words, metaphysical assumptions are woven into the body of assumptions that scientists make as they go about their everyday work. Science would be impossible without these assumptions (for example, the assumption that the universe is intelligible and that it can be explained by mathematics). When scientists and philosophers allege that science doesn't use or require metaphysics they're, in fact, sawing off the branch on which they sit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Species?

The recent discovery of hominin (human-like) bones in a South African cave has sparked a lot of excitement. The skeletal remains are virtually intact and reveal a people who have an interesting blend of characteristics - curved fingers which suit them for arboreal life and modern feet which indicates that most of their time was spent walking upright. An article in The Guardian elaborates on the find. Here's an excerpt:
Another team led by William Harcourt-Smith at the City University of New York analysed 107 pieces of Homo naledi foot bone. Writing in the journal, they describe how the foot is similar to those of Neanderthals and modern humans, but with a number of subtle differences. The toe bones are slightly curved, which may have helped Homo naledi a little when it took to the trees. The arch of the foot is low, or absent entirely, making Homo naledi flat-footed.

“It was unequivocally spending more time walking upright than not,” said Harcourt-Smith. “But you can imagine it spending time in the trees to gather fruit, or perhaps nesting in trees, or going there when there are predators around.” The curved toe bones are thought to be skeletal adaptations that Homo naledi inherited from its more arboreal ancestors and had not lost.

Until the bones can be dated, one of the major questions surrounding Homo naledi will remain: did the species emerge millions of years ago and live in successful isolation, perhaps even overlapping with modern humans? That is one possibility. Another is that Homo naledi is an evolutionary side-branch, a sister species of a known human ancestor, such as Homo erectus.

“You can imagine this lineage emerging early on, close to the origins of the Homo genus, and hanging on for a long period of time,” said Harcourt-Smith. “But that’s speculation. Evolution is messy. There is lots of experimentation going on, and lots of dead ends.”
However long ago H. naledi lived a question still remains that I've not seen anyone answer. Why is it assumed that these are the bones of an organism that is an entirely different species from H. sapiens? For that matter why is it assumed that H. erectus and H. sapiens are different species? The definition of a species is (or was) a reproductively isolated population of organisms. In other words, if two organisms can copulate and produce fertile offspring they're considered to be members of the same species. If they can't produce fertile offspring then they're assigned to different species.

So the question is how do we know that H. naledi, H. erectus, and H. sapiens could not interbreed? Even if they were separated in time that doesn't mean that they were a different species any more than a H. sapiens today is a different species than a H. sapiens which lived 50,000 years ago. It's true that all of the hominins are anatomically different but why would that make them different species? After all, every breed of dog, as different as they all are, are all the same species.

I'm eager to be instructed on this point, but until I am it seems to me that calling any of these hominins anything other than morphological variations of the same species is simply unwarranted on the basis of the evidence we have. What reason do we have to think that just because these different populations of hominins were separated by time or morphology that they would've been incapable of producing fertile offspring?