Saturday’s Forum

FILED UNDER: Open Forum
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Matt Gaetz’s former girlfriend is cooperating with Federal prosecutors

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/21/politics/gaetz-investigators-cooperation-ex-girlfriend/index.html

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  2. LPNM says:

    Just when you didn’t think Alabama could be more Alabama…
    The only thing that surprises me here is that I’m really not surprised

    https://www.bbc.com/news/57204355

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    World expert in scientific misconduct faces legal action for challenging integrity of hydroxychloroquine study

    A world-renowned Dutch expert in identifying scientific misconduct and error, Dr Elisabeth Bik, has been threatened with legal action for questioning the integrity of a study promoting the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. The case, filed with the French state prosecutor by controversial infectious diseases physician Dr Didier Raoult, has prompted hundreds of scientists from across the world to publish an open letter calling for science whistleblowers to be protected.

    In March 2020, Bik published a blog post analysing a paper led by Raoult. His paper claimed the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine was effective in treating Covid infections, especially when given in combination with an antibiotic.

    Bik raised questions about the paper’s methodology, including that the researchers had failed to control for confounding factors. In strong clinical trials, the control group (who are given a placebo) and the treatment group (who are given the drug) should be as similar as possible so scientists can be confident any effects are from the medication alone.

    Bik pointed out that patients should be of similar age and gender ratio, be equally sick at the start of treatment, and analysed in the same way, with the only difference being whether they received treatment or not. She said the treatment and placebo groups in Raoult’s study differed in important ways that could have affected the results.

    Six patients enrolled in the treatment group at the beginning of the study were not accounted for by the end, missing from the data.

    “What happened to the other six treated patients?” Bik said. “Why did they drop out of the study? Three of them were transferred to the intensive care unit, presumably because they got sicker, and one died. It seems a bit strange to leave these four patients who got worse or who died out of the study, just on the basis that they stopped taking the medication … which is pretty difficult once the patient is dead.”

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Alabama has lifted a three-decade-long ban on allowing yoga to be taught in its public schools – though the word “namaste” and chanting “om” will still be barred in classrooms.

    Glad to hear that. That “namaste” is just nasty. I mean, why would anyone ever want to greet another human being with respect?

    Some conservative Christian groups fought to retain the ban, arguing that allowing yoga in the classroom could result in children converting to Hinduism.

    “Yoga is a very big part of the Hindu religion, and if this bill passes then instructors will be able to come into classrooms as young as kindergarten and bring these children through guided imagery, which is a spiritual exercise,” Becky Gerritson, director of the conservative Alabama Eagle, told state senators recently.

    Seems they don’t have much faith in their Christian God’s ability to compete.

    These complaints are part of a broader pushback against yoga in schools as it becomes a more popular tool for educators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of yoga and meditation in schools to reduce “those stressful feelings and increase your ability to remember things more clearly”.

    We can’t have unstressed children in schools and remembering their lessons clearly!

    Gray, a Christian who attends a Baptist church, told the Guardian last month: “The promoting of Hinduism argument is the only talking point these conservative groups have, and it makes them look very misinformed and miseducated on the issue.”
    …………….
    “A lot of the stuff you don’t do anyway. You don’t hypnotize people,” Gray told Alabama News. “Really, it just seemed very offensive, had some phobia in it. A lot of it just didn’t really make sense.”

    It’s always projection with these people, Mr Gray, always.

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  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

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  6. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I guess in medicine “we had to kill the patient in order to save him,” just doesn’t fly.

    1
  7. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Seems they don’t have much faith in their Christian God’s ability to compete.

    Poor Jehovah is the universe’s most omnipotent snowflake.

    6
  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @LPNM: You beat me to it. In my defense I was composing sarcastic ripostes on one cup of coffee.

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Jehovah is the universe’s most omnipotent snowflake.

    Oooooooh… I am so stealing that.

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    An Iranian couple have been arrested for drugging, murdering and dismembering their film-maker son, Babak Khorramdin, 47, and also confessed to killing their daughter and son-in-law in the same way years earlier.

    The case has stunned Iran, where it has been splashed across the front pages of newspapers with headlines including “Society in shock” and “Occupants of terror house”.

    It also prompted intense discussion on social media about a legal system that offers relative leniency to parents who kill their offspring. Murder is usually a capital offence in Iran but people who kill their children face a maximum of 10 years in jail.

    Khorramdin’s parents could still face the death penalty, however, if they are put on trial for the murder of their son-in-law.

    Any parent of a teenager would understand. s//

  11. CSK says:

    @LPNM: @Kathy: @OzarkHillbilly:

    There seems to be something called “Christian yoga.”

  12. CSK says:

    Mullets are making a comeback, but not in North Korea. Apparently they represent the capitalistic lifestyle, and as such a threat:

    http://www.nypost.com/2021/05/21/kim-jong-un-bans-mullets-skinny-jeans-in-north-korea/

  13. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I assume because “most omnipotent” makes no logical sense?

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Yeah, but it’s been a thang since I was in my 30s, so I can’t see it playing a role in the controversy. I saw it as one of those syncretistic things that have been common since the church chose December 25 to celebrate Christmas.

    ETA: But I have to note that my all time favorite mash up is the Christian Pole Dancing Studio that a woman opened a few blocks away from one of the 2-years I taught at before I went to Korea.

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  15. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Someone in Texas offers Christian pole dancing classes: Pole Fitness for Jesus.

    One of the students says that writhing around a vertical bar brings her closer to God.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: TBH I see no logic whatsoever in religion or it’s practice. If it makes one feel better about the daily vicissitudes one must endure in this life, I don’t see any real harm in that, but personally I don’t see the advantages of lying to oneself.

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m cynical about organised religion. As far as I can tell, it’s a racket that was devised by priests and other people in power so that poor people wouldn’t revolt against the unfairness of the existing social system. Dangle in front of them the reassurance that “they’ll be rewarded in the next world” for all the crap they’re putting up with in the present world and hey, maybe they’ll let you grab their crops and rape their daughters more times.

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  18. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..I don’t see the advantages of lying to oneself.

    When the Truth is found to be lies.
    It was this song that came out in spring of 1967 that supported me when I was shedding the mythology of the faith that I had been raised to embrace.
    It’s also a kick ass jam!
    Thank’s go out to Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane flight crew.

    Encore
    No Place to Hide

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  19. Mister Bluster says:

    CNN Drops Rick Santorum After Racist Comments About Native Americans

    What? Did CNN think that they needed Santorum to represent some legitimate opinion?
    The man is just a bag.
    I’m sure that he will shine at some right wing lie factory.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mister Bluster: @grumpy realist: I have long been amazed at the cognitive dissonance one must embrace in thanking god for the healthy baby girl that has been bestowed upon one as a new parent, then later asserting that “god is merciful” and “has a plan” when receiving the news that this beautiful child one would do anything for has leukemia and will be dead before she reaches adulthood and there is nothing one can do about it.

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  21. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    href=”#comment-2615607″>Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Ah. That would explain that time I saw that pole dancer and exclaimed : “Oh,@<a Lordy!!"

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  22. CSK says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    I thought Santorum was CEO of Echolight Studios, a Dallas-based Christian movie company that apparently has no website.

  23. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    I’m sure a great many men call on God whilst savoring a pole dance performance.

    1
  24. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    It was an amateur thing in a local club, which didn’t normally have pole dancing (small towns in England generally don’t, LOL).
    A professional pole-dancer from Birmingham was sorta coaching some locals.
    Some of whom, the average male would aver, were evidence of the intelligent design of an indulgent deity.

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  25. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    “A professional pole dancer from Birmingham…” You know, that sounds like the basis for a sitcom.

    1
  26. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    TBH I see no logic whatsoever in religion or it’s practice.

    It’s really hard to see things that aren’t there, isn’t it?

    1
  27. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m cynical about organised religion. As far as I can tell, it’s a racket that was devised by priests and other people in power so that poor people wouldn’t revolt against the unfairness of the existing social system.

    Is there any culture that hasn’t developed religion? I think it might be a human need to try to organize things that cannot be understood.

    We really do need to create several colonies of feral children raised from infancy by robots on remote tropical islands to get a sense of what people in their natural state would do.

    Human need or memetic parasite? I don’t think we can know without experiments.

    I’m reminded of The Bicameral Mind, and the theory that consciousness as we know it started around 800BCE, and then spread as groups interacted. I don’t buy it for consciousness*, but religion is very possible.

    ——
    *: if nothing else, the claim that cut off indigenous people don’t have a real consciousness seems… incredibly offensive.

    1
  28. JohnSF says:

    @Kathy:
    Well, I’ve encountered some highly rational religious types.
    And Thomas Aquinas is very logical, for a certain value of logic.

    It’s not so much the logic that is flawed, or absent, but the foundations of the reasoning; the assumptions.
    Which were not unreasonable in Medieval Europe (or similar cases in India or China) but are far less so now.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Just add me to the “completely gobsmacked” column on that one. [sigh]

  30. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Well, the implications of evolutionary explanation are that a continuum existed between fully “conscious” mentalities and those who were not.

    As Dawkins has pointed out a few times, in some respects the precision of our ethics is both lucky and unlucky that pre-sapiens hominids did not survive to the present day.

    But the bicameral mind theory is vaguely nutty; positing “gods” as evidence of profoundly divided mind.
    And largely based on IIRC on over-valuing Homeric epic as an expression of reality not fiction.
    Every indication is that humans back as far as the proto-historic record goes in Egypt or China or Mesopotamia, c.5000 BC, were as fully conscious as we are.
    (i.e. not very, LOL)

    The really interesting thing is the different sorts of religions and how they may tie in to the emergence of different societies.

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  31. dazedandconfused says:

    Religion is incomprehensible to those who have never known the ecstasy of total belief. It’s essentially the endorphin-rush of love.

    1
  32. CSK says:

    @JohnSF:
    People can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing after you die, that you literally no longer exist in any form. So they invented an afterlife. And then they decided that the good went to heaven and the bad to hell after death.

    The concept of hell really came into full flower during the medieval period in western Europe.

  33. sam says:

    As Mr. Bluster notes up thread, CNN has dropped Rick Santorum: “Santorum, a former Republican senator and two-time failed GOP presidential candidate, sparked outrage last month after claiming there was “nothing” in America before white colonizers arrived and that Native people haven’t contributed much to American culture, anyway.” Santorum is evidently ignorant of this (inter alia): The Native American Government That Inspired the US Constitution.

  34. CSK says:

    @sam:
    Well, what do you expect from the guy who insisted that the fetus his wife lost during the fifth month of her pregnancy be described on the death certificate as a five-month-old baby, making it seem as if the child had died in infancy.

    He and his wife then took the corpse home with them and made their other children hold it.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Not for some.

  36. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    @CSK:
    The thing is there’s “religion” and then there’s religion.
    A lot of what is called religion had, in the everyday way of things, little cosmological, ethical or even personal, content.
    A lot of what we tend to loosely categorise as religion was closer to just social habit and customary group ritual.
    Classical and early Hebraic belief had very little concern for a personal afterlife, at least till late in their histories.
    IIRC early Chinese ritual was similar. And also IIRC Vedic Indian had an afterlife but only for a small elite of priests and warriors.
    And as for the Greek or Teutonic gods as moral exemplars: LOL.

    Even today, America is an outlier in many ways: religion there seems to be at base a matter of personal choice. In much of the rest of the world it is primarily a matter of inherited social practice.

  37. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:

    The concept of hell really came into full flower during the medieval period in western Europe.

    Yes, been reading some medieval history recently. It’s striking how much of what we think of as Christian belief was developed in a mighty flourish in the years after 1000 and fully explicated by Dante (and given some extra decoration by Milton).
    And how little we know of the doctrines and practices of the first three centuries.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Gustopher: I’m reminded of The Bicameral Mind, and the theory that consciousness as we know it started around 800BCE, and then spread as groups interacted. I don’t buy it for consciousness*, but religion is very possible.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that but the Egyptians recorded worshiping Gods 4,000 years ago. Same for the Sumerians. Religion can be traced back 7,000 years in China. I’d be very surprised if there is an ancient culture that didn’t have gods.

    Voltaire said “If there was no God, man would invent one.” I think the human mind has a need for structure and order, that everything happens for a reason, because if it’s all just blind chance and the luck of the draw… Well, that’s just chaos.

    1
  39. JohnSF says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    They had “gods”, or at least “powers”; but IMHO a lot of earlier religions were a very different kettle of fish from “modern” personal/ethical belief systems (including the modern descendants of earlier forms eg contemporary Hinduism compared to Vedic.)

    And I’ll say again: America is on the extreme end of the “modern” spectrum of religion as a personal matter, not a social one.

  40. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    I’ve never studied religion per se, but in my copious reading of history I come across a lot of it. Many religions in the Bronze age lacked any sort of pleasant or punitive afterlife at first. See what Achilles has to say about early Greek conception of the afterlife: “No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man— some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive— than rule down here over all the breathless dead.”

    Notions of Elysium and Tartarus came later.

    Egyptian beliefs early on had the pharaoh as capable of reincarnation in the next world, but not anyone else (maybe his family and favorites). The pharaoh was a god, literally, Horus on Earth. This began to change by the end of the Old Kingdom period.

    By the time Christianity arose (hm, I can’t recall when that was. Oh well), such beliefs were much more widespread, even in Judaism which had lacked them earlier.

    So a good afterlife might explain the staying power of religion, but not its origins. IMO, the origins come from the human tendency to anthropomorphize everything, including natural phenomena like wind, rains, and snow (we still do it now). Worship of these forces, or the spirits behind them, lent the illusion of control.

    Of course, given really ancient, pre-Bronze age, pre-civilization tombs containing mortuary offering and goods, it’s possible there was a belief in an afterlife or resurrection all the way back to the very first H. sapiens, or even earlier than that. But the belief, in the cradles of Western civilization at least, didn’t survive uninterrupted.

    1
  41. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    They may find our lack of faith disturbing 😉

  42. wr says:

    @CSK: ““A professional pole dancer from Birmingham…” You know, that sounds like the basis for a sitcom.”

    Or at least a limerick.

    4
  43. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: I remember the first time reading “Consciousness as the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” and being totally blown away by it. I still think Jaynes is on to something, having had my own bicameral experience many years ago. It was a striking experience, most notably because of the absolute sense of and belief in the reality of the entity that I was left with (a.k.a. or “How I became a Pagan.”)

  44. JohnSF says:

    @wr:
    Y’know, I can’t offhand think of a limerick that has “Birmingham” in it.
    The colloquial Brum is a lot easier to both scan and rhyme.

  45. Mister Bluster says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:..everything happens for a reason,..

    Yeah, like when the Cubs whacked the Cardinals last night 12-3! In Saint Louis!!

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    There was a young girl from Birmingham.
    Who said “I’m a dancer that’s what I am.”
    I swing on the pole
    I’m not on the dole
    If you don’t like it I’m sure I don’t give a damn!

    4
  47. Mister Bluster says:

    Just got the J&J one shot an hour ago.
    I’m waiting for side effects don’t you know.
    There’s a taste in my mouth
    Like the coffee’s gone south
    And my arm feels sore Ho! Ho! Ho!

    2
  48. JohnSF says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Kudos, sir.
    I doff my cap!

    Though whether the rhyming works rather depends on the accent (works in Black Country, because all three end in -um not -am, LOL.)

  49. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    The thing is there’s “religion” and then there’s religion.
    A lot of what is called religion had, in the everyday way of things, little cosmological, ethical or even personal, content.
    A lot of what we tend to loosely categorise as religion was closer to just social habit and customary group ritual.

    I think it points to an evolutionary adaptation that conferred an advantage in social cohesion. As a matter of function, the rituals themselves fostered bonding. The underlying ‘beliefs’ were less a sincere belief than a means to a social end.

    I recall reading a history of hip hop and one of the points about rap battles traced the practice to some African tribes that had periodic social functions wherein members would engage in verbal sparring. It was a way to reduce accumulated tension between individuals in a controlled environment.

    Even today, America is an outlier in many ways: religion there seems to be at base a matter of personal choice. In much of the rest of the world it is primarily a matter of inherited social practice.

    IIRC, it wasn’t always like this in America. There was always an element of zealots, perhaps larger than in most European countries. But I don’t think it was a political identity the way it is now.

    Separating the politics of it, I’m not really sure I would characterize religion as a personal choice in America any more than it would be anywhere else.

    Part of the issue with America is that so much of its cultural identity is tied directly to a political document. For all its vagaries in places, the Constitution is far more specific and clear than sacred texts written centuries to mellenia before present.

    Rather than political practice resulting from cultural experience and common practice, it imposes mechanisms resistant to cultural change. One can’t separate it from English culture, of course, but it was cast to be eternal, outside time.

    The vagaries in sacred literature form a loose set of practices and because they can’t be parsed the same way as one would at the time of writing, it can be adapted as times change. Schisms occur, but the most rigid tend to form groups that stay relatively small most of the time, because it’s harder to maintain in a world that the less strict interpretations offer modern freedom and convenience.

    1
  50. JohnSF says:

    @JohnSF:
    Edit, wherefore art thou called edit?
    That should read “works better in Brummy than Black Country, because all three end in -um”

  51. Gustopher says:

    @CSK:

    People can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing after you die, that you literally no longer exist in any form. So they invented an afterlife. And then they decided that the good went to heaven and the bad to hell after death.

    That’s a very narrow, very Christian-influenced view.

    Hinduism wants to stop the cycle of rebirth.

    Buddhism teaches that there is no self, and it wants to stop the cycle of rebirth.

    A lot of early religions are less about the afterlife and more about trying to explain the here and now.

    The notion of your character and behavior on earth affecting what happens after death seems to come from India around 800BC, and becoming the basis for Hinduism’s karma, Buddhism’s nirvana, and then migrating out from there.

    I was baffled and delighted to discover that Greco-Buddhism was a thing, just kind of incorporating Buddha into the Greek pantheon.

    Even the standard Greek and Roman paganism was so much wackier than most people know, and I don’t just mean Zeus fucking anything that moves so long as it wants to fuck an animal. Seriously, the dude had a bestiality-fetish-fetish — could have shown up as an attractive man, but nope, only wants someone interested in waterfowl or horses or something. Household gods and state gods, and people still don’t understand if the Zues who guards the mud room of a house is the same Zues who lives in high.

    Early Judaism doesn’t really have hell. Not sure it does now. (Half the Jews I know don’t even believe in god)

    The more I learn about early religion, the more I realize that I don’t know.

    But I do know that humans are so good at detecting patterns that they will find them when they aren’t there.

    1
  52. Mister Bluster says:

    @JohnSF:..whether the rhyming works rather depends on the accent…

    Thank you for the kind words.

    I know that there are rules for limericks.
    I ought to look them up just for kicks.
    I can’t think of a rhyme
    I’m running out of time
    Should I revert to commenting on politics?

    I think I should stop now.

    2
  53. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: I’m not willing to kick someone for how they grieve.

    Especially when there are so many reasons to call them a freak that has nothing to do with it.

    1
  54. JohnSF says:

    @Kurtz:
    I’ve recently come across several analyses of origins of god/temple based religion (some recent, others older) that see it as developing from earlier neolithic “informal” ancestral/spirit beliefs as being able to cohere emerging urban/irrigation city-kingdoms, and to make the rule of emergent priest kings and hierarchies less psychologically unpalatable.
    (Similarly, the adoption of sky-god pantheons by metal-age pastoral cultures?)

    As regards religion and politics, at least in Britain that was in the past even more entrenched IMHO than in America now. Tories were primarily High Church Anglican, Whigs Low Church and Dissenting Protestant; Catholics were beyond the pale (pun unintended, but appropriate.)

    Also, more recently, check out Northern Ireland politics some time.

    And some other European countries had “confessional” politics till quite recently: e.g. the role of “Catholic” parties in Germany; and France in a funny sort of way.

    What I meant was not the political nature of American religin, but the remarkable (to outsiders) extent that American choose , and therefore believe their religion, rather than it being just a matter of family tradition and social custom.

    1
  55. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist: I think Jaynes had a lot of great ideas, but I don’t think he’s right. “Everyone was functionally a schizophrenic” is a bit much.

    Fantastic exploration of the idea, and testing the boundaries of what we know and don’t know, but I think we would have a lot more people slipping back and forth between types of consciousness if there was such a recent change.

    The notion that we have a clear consciousness does appear to be an illusion though — we are running on autopilot more often than not, because conscious thought is so slow. And then we try to create a narrative for what we have done.

    1
  56. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF:

    What I meant was not the political nature of American religin, but the remarkable (to outsiders) extent that American choose , and therefore believe their religion, rather than it being just a matter of family tradition and social custom.

    We are one of the few multicultural societies. We are exposed to a lot more different types of religions, so we have a lot more opportunity to choose, and a lot more things to choose from.

    I sometimes wonder if this is a strength, or a massive vulnerability. Say what you will about a theocracy, but they don’t have a lot of QAnon idiots.

    Religion provides an explanation and a community. As does Q.

  57. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    And IIRC there’s been some speculation that the influence of Greek ideas on Buddhism led to more “personalization” of the Buddha and perhaps some influence of Greek philosophy on Buddhist thought.

    It appears the switch to a generalized concept of an “afterlife” in India may have been the gradual decline of the Vedic separation of clan/ethnic lineages. Where before the priests and “warriors” had scorned the “inferior”groups, and reserved rebirth for themselves, it came to be taught that if one werte obedient, then in due course you too could get reborn as a sprititually superior brahmin or kshatriya.

    And, my, how convenient a belief for the ruling clans.

    Beliefs inconvenient for rulers seem to seldom prosper, for some reason.

  58. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:

    Hinduism wants to stop the cycle of rebirth.
    Buddhism teaches that there is no self, and it wants to stop the cycle of rebirth.

    Atheism teaches you should fit better brakes to your cycle. 🙂

    (IIRC: Zen asks: “Who’s riding the bloody bike then, eh?”)

    1
  59. Teve says:

    In your 30s you will occasionally be called sir. You will be pissed off about that and try to establish your youth. In your mid 40s, you will realize the power of that. You will tell somebody something about a $5000 Tempur-pedic mattress and 10 years ago they would’ve said fuck you you’re trying to sell me some expensive shit, and now they say “oh OK sir.”

    10 years ago I could go hell for leather into triathlon training and not think twice. Now I have to be cautious, but the fringe benefits are *awesome*.

    1
  60. JohnSF says:

    @Teve:
    Lucky you.
    In Britain nobody gets called “sir”.
    Unless they are a knight.

    “Old git” is probably about the best I can hope for. 🙁

    2
  61. JohnSF says:

    @Teve:
    Second thoughts: it’s not used in everyday, conventional speech, BUT a customer might get called “sir” in a restaurant or a “posh” retailer.
    That’s about it, these days.
    It’s a usage that has dropped out, I suspect because from the mid-19th century on it was used almost exclusively by social or organizational inferior to superior.
    (Usage in 18th/early19th centuries was closer to modern American: a term of respect that does not necessarily imply social rank difference)

  62. Teve says:

    @JohnSF: disrespectful ponces!

  63. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    What I meant was not the political nature of American religin, but the remarkable (to outsiders) extent that American choose , and therefore believe their religion, rather than it being just a matter of family tradition and social custom.

    Ah, okay. Yeah, that’s kind of what I was trying to get at.

    Certainly religion played a huge role in politics in Europe. I think what I was trying to get to was that the establishment clause in the US Constitution was a direct response to the friction caused by political religiosity.

    I think i would phrase it as focus on religion as an expression of values rather than an expression of belief.

    My point about the European experience was that, even acknowledging exceptions in N. Ireland and political factions in other countries, is that the resistance to politicized religion is borne from historical experience of a society, an organic process.

    As generations passed in America, a culture tied to that history gradually fell off and in its place came a culture less familiar with the dangers of basing politics on religious belief. In that sense, without the cultural shocks caused by religious conflict, a society lacks the tools to resist imperialistic sacred beliefs.

    Couple that with a political class willing to leverage that population for power and you get the dissonance of the Republican party– libertarians allied with social conservatives. This process also seems to be playing out in both India (Modi and Hindu Nationalists) and Israel (Bibi/Likud and Orthodox Judaism). But there is a bit of an epistemological problem analyzing other cultures, so I am willing to be shown how that’s wrong.

    To your point, I find it creepy when I see a father with 2 or 3 teen and young adult sons who all have the same haircut.

    I think your outsider view of America is close how I see it, but part of the discussion is understanding how each of us phrases it. But I think one aspect that is hard to see from the outside is that there are a lot of Americans who identify as a particular religion (or faction within) but only as a matter of tradition. They practice it about as much as I. That is to say, not at all. But the only people visibly identifiable as religious are loud and proud and it can make it look like a country of religious nuts teetering on the edge of Westernized Sharia.

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  64. Mimai says:

    Early career mental health professionals who are just learning how to do therapy feel effective (and powerful) in identifying patients’ “defense mechanisms” (this term is a bit outdated but I use it because most people know what it means…. denial, projection, intellectualization, etc).

    The junior clinician’s impulse is to take a wrecking ball to these defense mechanisms because, after all, defense mechanisms are bad. Very bad. Just look at all the chaos and harm they do.

    I try to help clinicians slow their roll, to take a step back and consider the big picture. Yes, the patient is deploying this tool. Yes, the tool is destructive in its current use. But (!), what do you the clinician or them (I can’t stop) the patient have to put in its place?

    The clinical skill is NOT in identifying or destroying the defense mechanism. Rather, the skill is knowing what purpose it’s serving, and whether the patient has the resilience to weather its destruction or a replacement that is both at-the-ready and more adaptive.

    Usually, the answer to the second part is “no”….. which then leads to the next, more advanced clinical skill of helping the patient to construct a bespoke replacement(s) AND use it instead.

    And then the even more advanced skill is to appreciate that there are no “good” and “bad” coping tools…. rather, all tools can be adaptive/helpful or maladaptive/unhelpful depending on the circumstances. Helping patients develop a full and varied arsenal of tools and the judgment on when to use which tool is most of what therapy is about.

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  65. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    I’ve recently come across several analyses of origins of god/temple based religion (some recent, others older) that see it as developing from earlier neolithic “informal” ancestral/spirit beliefs as being able to cohere emerging urban/irrigation city-kingdoms, and to make the rule of emergent priest kings and hierarchies less psychologically unpalatable.
    (Similarly, the adoption of sky-god pantheons by metal-age pastoral cultures?)

    Meant to add that the thing I’ve read closest to that was Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. But it’s been years, so I would have to go back and look at the folk religion section to see if he takes that approach. At the very least, he likely uses some of the older analyses.

  66. Mimai says:

    Ben Weshoff wrote a book on west coast rap – Original Gangstas. He also wrote one on southern hip-hop but I forget the title. Oh, and for something completely different, he wrote Fentanyl Inc. A curious cat indeed.

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  67. Kurtz says:
  68. JohnSF says:

    @Kurtz:
    That’s an interesting point.
    How the “modern”, sort-of American, praxis of religion as idelogical/political statement is spreading in e.g.India, Israel, and arguably “modern neo-fundamental” Islam, even some variants of Buddhism.
    And that the antagonists of this sort of ideology, can be traditionalism, humanistic modernism, or even “rationalistic” religion (I’ve commented before: a lot of orthodox Anglicans are condescendingly scornful of evangelicals: “lunatics and heretics.”)

    Similar maybe to the early C.E. shift of religion from the “ritualised superstition” of Classical period (and much later in Chinese “state” religion) to personal/moral/legal forms of Christianity, Islam, and post-Temple Judaism.

    I find it creepy when I see a father with 2 or 3 teen and young adult sons who all have the same haircut.

    I dunno. Maybe just got a bargain “4 for the price of 1” deal at the barbers? 🙂

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  69. JohnSF says:

    @Kurtz:
    Thanks for that; looks like a must read.
    Added to my Amazon “to purchase” list!
    Be interesting to read alongside another I’ve recently added, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States by James Scott

  70. Jax says:

    @Teve: I’m 46 and I have actual “old lady” white/silver hair. When my kids and I went out to eat a couple weeks ago, I ordered drinks. The kid showed up with my cocktails and asked for ID. I just laughed at him and took my drink, took a sip while making eye contact. Then I looked over at my kids and both their eyes were really wide. After he left the teenager said “MOM, I THINK HE REALLY WANTED TO SEE YOUR ID!!”

    I laughed and laughed and laughed. Tipped extra big. 😉

  71. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    Adding that book to my list. Maybe the top. I find the study of early humans and research into the formation of states fascinating. I’m not familiar with Scott’s work. Upon looking at his influences on wiki, I’m intrigued.

    And through that page, I found a partial answer to a question posed about Spivak by @Mimai a few weeks ago. (The link is to their comment in this thread.)

    Spivak’s criticism doesn’t appear to be a criticism of strategic essentialism as much as a critique of trends among later subaltern theorists that veered away from the bottom-up approach. She called it “metropolitan post-colonialism.” I don’t have the book. But I’m guessing this may be what you were recalling and I am unsure if she comments on strategic essentialism within it.

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  72. steve says:

    A lot of my young staff now call me sir and it makes me feel old, however I take care of a lot of kids at work. I still remember one very verbal kid about 6 or 7 who was a lot of fun. I had incorrectly guessed his age so asked him to guess mine. He said I think you must be really, really old, at least 29. Being on the wrong side of 60 that made me feel pretty good. Told Mom we were waving the co-pay.

    Steve

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  73. DrDaveT says:

    @wr:

    Or at least a limerick.

    You beat me to it 🙂

    “There once was a bishop…”

  74. DrDaveT says:

    @JohnSF:

    Well, the implications of evolutionary explanation are that a continuum existed between fully “conscious” mentalities and those who were not.

    Not exactly.

    It is an axiom of materialism that consciousness arises automatically in appropriately complex organisms. There is no known mechanism that could explain this, not even hypothetically, but the dualist assumption that mind and matter are coequal and distinct is ruled out on aesthetic grounds. This is where the Dennetts and Dawkinses of the world live — they assume the correctness of materialism, then derive the impossibility of dualism (or worse yet mentalism) using that assumption. They usually carefully hide this fact, making it look as though they were attacking dualism without first assuming materialism.

    But even if you assume that matter produces consciousness, then the idea of a continuum between unconscious and conscious is silly. There could certainly be a continuum of complexity of awareness within the conscious, but the distinction between “does not have subjective experiences” and “has subjective experiences” is all or nothing. Either you do, or you don’t. Even the most minimal and trivial of subjective experiences are utterly unlike the absence of subjective experiences.

    Until someone can offer an explanation of how physics and chemistry can produce subjective experiences, materialism is a religion. There is far more objective evidence for mentalism — the idea that only mind exists — than for materialism.

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  75. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:
    @JohnSF:

    I suspect both you gents have read Sapiens. Although it’s probably lacking in depth compared to the books you are talking about, I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on it nonetheless.

  76. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    And a book about the best NYC dive bars as well. Probably mostly gone now as the book was published in 2010.

    I much prefer New York hip hop. The others are hit or miss for me. Growing up in the South during Outkast’s run was great, but my consumption of the Crunk and Chopped and Screwed stuff is limited mostly to certain tracks. And Weezy…eh, clever but…:sigh: I dunno maybe I just haven’t really listened like I should. I like Luda, but he leans more toward the party rap. Clipse, especially Pusha T… Okay I like more of it than I let on. Especially once Killer Mike got political and hooked up with El-P, but again it lost the Southern sound.

    There is a guy from this generation from a small town in South Carolina named Nick Grant who is really good. His debut is excellent (Spotify; Apple Music). A friend of mine who really dislikes the contemporary stuff, was skeptical when I recommended it. An hour later I got a text, “Fire!” I get a little bit of a New York feel from a lot of that album.

    Having said all of that, one thing I really like about A$AP Rocky is that he uses elements of other regional styles without it feeling gimmicky. Plus all three of his albums are distinct.

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  77. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    Harari is awesome. I was introduced to him via a Sam Harris podcast episode.

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  78. DrDaveT says:

    @JohnSF:

    Y’know, I can’t offhand think of a limerick that has “Birmingham” in it.

    Crudeness alert — pass by if easily offended.

    The one I heard long ago went something like this:

    There once was a bishop of Birmingham
    Who buggered two nuns while confirming ’em.
    He [something something something]
    And [something something something]
    And shot his episcopal sperm in ’em.

  79. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:

    Nick Grant got pushed to me via his tiny desk concert. That first song hooked me. Great sound all the way around. The guitar player was on point…… keeping the strat dialed back but still allowing the tone to shine through. (I’m a guitar player so that’s what caught my ear)

    That plus a solid rhythm section and excellent lyrics and delivery… dude is talented!

  80. Kurtz says:

    @DrDaveT:

    There is no known mechanism that could explain this, not even hypothetically

    I dispute this. Well, sort of. I think consciousness as an emergent property of complex, specialized regions is a distinct way to look at it. Whether one could argue this is a mechanism, I could see that.

    The simple chemical analogy is the structure of water. We can describe the mechanisms that cause the shape of the molecule–electronegativity differential between H and O causes polarity, covalent bonding, etc. The result of that structure are emergent properties: surface tension, relatively high specific heat, cohesion and adhesion, and water as a universal solvent of other polar compounds.

    To me, that provides a path of inquiry into how materialism can explain subjective experience. To me, materialism leaves open the possibility that consciousness can arise from several different arrangements of neurons (octopus vs. mammals) in a way that dualism can’t. I can’t imagine a dualist being able to explain a conscious agent that has a distributed neural structure. (Myabe they have, and I’d be intrigued to read it.)

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  81. Kurtz says:

    @Mimai:

    Just watched it! Yeah, that’s good.

    Opposite of dialed back guitar parts, but:

    Melting Pot live on BBC Radio 1 It sounds like BT says “c’mon Dilla” during the keyboard solo. If so, it’s pretty cool they had J. Dilla (RIP) with them for the performance. Give that guy anything and he could make a beat.)

    The Grand Return

    There was a cool trend for a while, I’m thinking of a couple Lupe Fiasco songs and few Kid Cudi tracks, with guitars that have a Space Rock sound that I love.

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  82. Mimai says:

    @Kurtz:

    The Roots! Captain Kirk is a killer. Prince once borrowed Kirk’s prized epiphone crestwood. Tossed it in the air at the end of his set (as Prince does), but no one caught it and the headstock broke. Prince made it right, but damn!

    I was lucky as hell to get to play a ’64 cherry crestwood a few years ago in Portugal. Holy shit, I would trade a kidney for that guitar.

  83. DrDaveT says:

    @Kurtz:

    I think consciousness as an emergent property of complex, specialized regions is a distinct way to look at it. Whether one could argue this is a mechanism, I could see that.

    I could argue that consciousness is an emergent property of astrological orientation, too, with just as much evidence. This is where materialists palm a card — since consciousness must be a material phenomenon, it must be emergent. How? (Shrug.) Note that materialists are quick to point out that physical things like drugs or poking about in the brain can cause mental events, but seem to think that mental events causing physical things is obviously impossible magic. There’s an obvious asymmetry of skepticism there.

    More tersely — you gave examples of physical properties giving rise to emergent physical properties. Sure, that’s easy. But where does the subject in subjective experience come from? What gives rise to an ego out of nothing? There is, quite literally, no theory or proposed mechanism that could account for this. It certainly must be emergent if it’s purely physical — but then we all know it isn’t purely physical. The subjective experience is not a physical thing, even if it were caused by a physical thing. We know with 100% certainly that subjective experiences happen, with a certainty that we can’t even claim for our conviction that physical reality exists. Seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who believe only matter exists, rather than on those who believe that matter might also exist.

    To me, that provides a path of inquiry into how materialism can explain subjective experience.

    Agreed. If there’s an explanation, it will have to be that mental events are emergent from physical events. (Of course, that leads to other problems, like the impossibility of rationality, but let’s set that aside for the moment…) But none of the many investigators into neurobiology or consciousness have even the seeds of a notion of how this could work. Contrast this with, for example, the concrete notions we have for how life could arise from nonlife.

    To me, materialism leaves open the possibility that consciousness can arise from several different arrangements of neurons (octopus vs. mammals) in a way that dualism can’t.

    I’m not following you here. Dualists don’t have to explain how consciousness can arise; they take it for granted, the same way materialists don’t have to explain how matter can arise. Mentalists might try to explain how matter can arise as an emergent property of mind*, but dualists just take them both as given. Dualists do need to have a theory of how mind and matter interact, and that’s indeed a problem, but it’s a lesser problem (IMHO) than trying to figure out how one could create the other.

    *See, for example, various interpretations of quantum mechanics that seem to require a conscious observer for particles to behave like matter and energy and fields. I’m not a mentalist, but it seems to me that there is more evidence that minds create matter, and more understanding of the potential mechanisms for that, than the other way around.

  84. DrDaveT says:

    @Kurtz: Addendum: we know what the laboratory experiment would look like to create a living organism from nonliving chemicals, and how we would judge its success. We have no clue what the laboratory experiment would look like that created a conscious awareness where there was none before, or how we would judge its success.

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  85. Gustopher says:

    @Mimai: I am neither of those gents, but I think Sapiens is one of the worst books that I have ever read, and that I got dumber by the minute as I read it.

    Having a random smattering of bits of in depth knowledge, I kept finding Hurari was just wrong in the things that I did know about, and that made me very wary of the things that I didn’t know about. Not over-simplified, but wrong. Little things, generally, but wrong little things that change the meanings of the big things, bent to fit his narrative.

    You’re going to get that in any cross-disciplinary work of pop-sci, but he seemed worse than most.

    Also, he has a belief that ancient hunter-gatherers were some kind of MacGyvers, with no specialization of any form:

    The average ancient forager could turn a flint stone into a spear point within minutes. […] But at the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skilful people in history.

    This is never backed up. A lot of things are never backed up.

    And then there is this:

    As the twenty-first century unfolds, nationalism is fast losing ground.

    I get that the book is a few years old, but the dude lives in Israel. What does he think Zionism is? What does he thinks motivates the Palestinians? Why does he think the Czechs and the Slovaks broke apart. And Yugoslavia?

    And then there is this, the final thing I read in this horrible book, before abandoning it:

    Medieval noblemen wore colourful robes of gold and silk, and devoted much of their time to attending banquets, carnivals and glamorous tournaments. In comparison, modern CEOs don dreary uniforms called suits that afford them all the panache of a flock of crows, and they have little time for festivities.

    The man is an idiot. I don’t know why people praise him so much.

  86. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: I have a pet peeve about this book. (Also, it’s nice that I can get to all my highlights on kindle…)

  87. Gustopher says:

    And to be more positive about something… anything… currently listening to “Yeti, Set, Go!” By the Polyrhythmics, and it is great.

  88. Gustopher says:

    Also, “Grassnake” by I Start Counting. Delightful, fun song about keeping a grassnake under your bed for your sins.

    Lots of very smart, reasonable people like that Sapiens book. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. I’m even clearly in the wrong because it sparks thought in a lot of people… just can’t get past the Stone Age MacGyvers.

  89. JohnSF says:

    @Mimai:
    Belated reply; had to sleep and I suspect I’m several time zones ahead of most folks here.

    Yes, I’ve read Species.
    Has a few interesting bits, but my word it’s sloppy.
    Gets some basics wrong, jumps from argument to assertion without evidence, or even ignoring contradictory evidence.
    He goes on about the “fictional” nature of culture. Well, a lot is non-material, but it’s no more wholly fictive than is money, or yet more fundamentally, a language. It’s both true and trivial.

    And most historians and archaeologists use culture to refer to a complex of both material and immaterial usages. One of the most interesting things about humans is how we transmit, and develop, immaterial rule-sets for handling material and social issues.
    The two can’t be separated.

    Then he jumps from culture and hence nationalism being a “fiction” to waffling about “hive intelligence”. Talk about straining at a gnat and swallowing a whale!

    Hariri may be right on the “trap” aspect of agriculture; though it’s hardly an original concept.
    But the hunting/gathering life isn’t the edenic life he makes out, IMO. For instance social custom is rigidly and sometimes violently, enforced. And there is a lot of evidence that conflicts between hunters could be brutal and persistent.

    The errors that are there over things I do know about (he makes schoolboy howlers on events of 19th century history) make me doubt his reliability on other subjects.

    Oh yes, he goes on about humans being haunted by their pre-history as victims of predation. In fact indications are that even pre-sapiens, most hominids since they took up using basic tools were quite formidable predators in their own right i.e. for the best part of a million years.

    Also, there’s a lot of reason to believe that the a recent cognitive “breakthrough” is not what happened; rather, the co-evolution of the brain with social and material system (i.e. culture) much further back left brains capable of handling major increases in cultural complexity when the material basis of society allowed: literate cultures, for example.

    In short, interesting in parts, annoyingly arrogant, badly argued, poorly researched.
    Don’t bother unless you’ve nothing better to do.

  90. Mimai says:

    @Gustopher:
    @JohnSF:

    These are great comments, thanks. I too took issue with the specific things that I know quite a lot about, and read with side-eyes some of the things I have medium level knowledge of. Gustopher referred to bending facts to fit the narrative, and I think JohnSF is getting at this as well. (side note, this harkens to my comments earlier this week about bastardizing conservative and libertarian positions in order to fit a “stupid and evil” narrative)

    This is my biggest problem with books that “explain everything about everything” or “explain everything about this one thing” – an accurate and encompassing portrayal of the causal density of real life just isn’t feasible in a book that is marketed to the general public. So we get books that simplify things to the point of egregious distortion, and yet leave readers feeling so much smarter about themselves. Don’t get me started on the horror of ted talks. (side note 2, in earlier comments this week, I referred to being a “good” interlocutor. One of the key characteristics is regularly providing caveats to one’s stated position and/or presentation of “facts”….. these books are almost entirely deficient in caveats)

    All that said, I rather like Harari as a person. He is, in fact, very learned. And he seems to be a good natured chap. Malcolm Gladwell too. I think I’d quite enjoy a long walk and dinner/drinks with them.

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  91. Gustopher says:

    @JohnSF: I’m so happy. I’ve felt alone for so long!

  92. Mimai says:
  93. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    Yer welcome. 🙂