Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Mystery of Consciousness

The Philosopher's Magazine recently passed along this quote from Thomas Huxley:

How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djinn when Aladdin rubbed his lamp, or any other ultimate fact of nature.

Indeed, and neuroscientists still marvel that something as astonishing as consciousness could be somehow generated by brute matter and could have evolved through purely mechanistic processes acting blindly and by chance.

How this could be so no one has as yet been able to say. Consciousness is a mystery, like life and gravity. It's hard enough to define it, it's devilishly difficult to understand it, and it seems impossible to explain it. How material substance can give rise to what philosophers refer to as the qualia of experience, sensation and awareness, is a bafflement.

Someday it might all be figured out, but we wonder whether it will ever be explicable in purely materialistic terms. We'll be greatly surprised if it is.

More On Social Security

From the inimitable Richard Russell...

On Tuesday President Bush visited the office of the Federal Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The Prez passed by a cabinet that contained the $1.7 trillion in Treasury securities that make up the so-called Social Security Trust Fund.

Later, in a speech at a nearby university, Mr. Bush announced, "There is no trust fund, just I.O.U.'s, that I saw first hand."

Yeah, Mr. President, we knew that. The government has spent all of the so-called Social Security trust fund, and in its place they have left a load of I.O.U.'s. But listen, Mr. President, the dollar itself is an I.O.U. In the good old days when the U.S. was solvent, a dollar was an I.O.U. which said the Treasury owed you one dollar's worth of gold. Today the dollar is a piece of paper that says a dollar owes you "nothing."

You don't believe it. Then try turning in your dollar to the Treasury and see what you get for it. What you'll get is another dollar with the slogan, "in God we trust." Hey, I already trust God. What I'm worried about is trusting my government.

What's wrong with that picture?

You and me have paid into Social Security all of our working lives only to have those dollars taken by our politicians spent on other programs that fulfilled their fancy. Now we hear that those dollars have been replaced by I.O.U.s of the federal government which means they will tax a future generation to make good on the debt. In other words, all that you and I have paid to Social Security has gone somewhere else. Our politicians have ripped us off. And the next generation will have to make good for it. Where is the outrage?

As long as people continue to support the present two-party system that is hell-bent on leading the American individual to a standard of living far below what currently exists, we will continue to have more of the same. Beyond a few issues, their isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties.

I have maintained for years that the two party system in this country is like a highway. The republicans are in the right (cruising) lane and the democrats are in the left (passing) lane. While the democrats may reach the destination before the republicans, the outcome will ultimately be the same. It doesn't really matter which lane you choose, the highway leads, inevitably, to an impoverished American society that will embrace total socialism with open arms.

To Your Health

Fox News has a couple of reports on nutrition that might be of interest.

The first is that researchers have found that pomegranate juice not only appears to prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage, but the antioxidant-rich juice may also reverse the progression of this disease. So where can we get the stuff?

Another report discusses what are referred to as Superfoods. Salmon, trout and albacore tuna may reduce the risk of heart disease. So may olive oil, almonds, walnuts, Cheerios and Boca Burgers. See the article for more details.

Viewpoint is optimistic that researchers will soon discover that chocolate, potato chips, oreo cookies, and mayonnaise promote weight loss and lower cholesterol. In fact, I'm assuming that this is so and am celebrating the good news by just now eating the ears off of one of my daughter's chocolate Easter bunnies. I feel healthier already.

The Infamous Memo

PowerLine has what appears to be the full story on the infamous "talking points" memo to which Democrats are so fond of adverting and in which Republicans seem to be urged to exploit the Schiavo tragedy for political profit. It turns out that, contrary to what the Washington Post and ABC reported, the memo was not authored by Republican leaders and officials, but was the work of an aide to Republican senator Mel Martinez who has been serving in office for all of three months. Martinez is hardly a Republican heavyweight, much less is his aide, who, it turns out, has resigned. Nor was the memo distributed to other senators as the Post implied.

In other words, an obscure assistant exercised very poor judgment, and the Democrats and their media amplifiers seized upon it to tarnish the reputations of the Republican leadership by falsely accusing them of churlish behavior. They didn't know the truth, nor did they care about the truth, they simply saw an opportunity to exploit the Schiavo tragedy for their political profit (by lying about Republican officials' alleged insensitivity to Terri Schiavo's circumstances), and they grabbed it.

The details are at PowerLine.