8 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Steven Pinker says the world is getting better. (Disclosure, I have seen a ten minute interview given by him. I have not read his book.)

    Taking his statement in context, it is clear Pinker means the “human world” is getting better. The world is not getting better if by that term we mean something wider than the human world, perhaps global ecology or all biosphere systems. The clear marker that this world is not getting better is the earth’s sixth mass extinction event, currently under way, and wholly originating from human activities.

    Limiting the purview to the human world, I believe Pinker is correct. “By many measures of human flourishing” as Pinker says, we are doing better. We have made “tremendous progress”. “Global inequality is decreasing” is his claim. This might well be correct when we consider that “poor nations are getting richer”, although, “inequality is increasing in the Anglosphere.”

    Then there is his debatable gem “inequality itself is not a problem.” In context, he means that if poor people are getting government transfer payments and are not (presumably) below the poverty line, then this is basically okay. Or, he might simply mean that this is a better situation than in the past. However, this statement leaps over the inequality in political power which flows from a severely unequal wealth distribution. It also leaps over the economic inefficiency which flows from the same (see Joseph Stiglitz). However, his book might cover these issues.

    Part of Pinkers’ argument is that we cannot forget the data of the past and this helps us make historically and statistically valid judgements about the present. This is true. However, we also cannot ignore the rest of the non-human world nor forget projections for significant probability events based on the relevant sciences. These too help us to make judgements about the value of the human present. If present human well-being is being purchased at the cost of the sixth mass extinction event (it is) and at the cost of future human civilizational survival or even species survival (it might be) then the cost is too great. The ledger of the possible future(s) can no more be ignored than the ledger of the past.

  2. A personal take on carbon sequestration: ******samefacts.com/2018/02/energy-the-environment/burying-carbon-a-primer/
    You may not agree, but I supply quite a few useful links to get readers started.

  3. @Ikonoclast

    Bill Gates’ new favourite book? On their ABC News? Is the world better than ever before? Steven Pinker thinks so:


    Enlightenment Now: Be Positive, The World Is Not Falling Apart.

    A pick-me-up of apples ‘twixt oranges plucked hither, thither, and twist.

    Whatever else from Davos’ man?

    Yet the past begins now.

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”- Friedrich Nietzsche (unlikely)

    Picking Cherries

    Methane hydrates

    brief description of the clathrate gun

    Climate-Change Summary and Update

    Nature Bats Last

  4. @James Wimberley

    Noah… the genesis of poor analogy?

    There is sign of a singularly restricting choke point in our genome. Climate change, pathogens, whatever, it was a very close call for us. Those who survived were destined to. They did nothing particular to get through it just as the majority did nothing in aid of their perishing. They had neither the knowledge nor wherewithal. “Those who survived past disasters” other than that all but total annihilation, are ancestors again who lucked through, or moved, or already lived elsewhere than where disaster struck, or any of that in combination.

    They tried something? As did some before 2007. It failed as it was destined to do. But a valiantly struggling hero always pulls something off before the crunch, don’t they? In fiction. In Hollywood. Incredible.

    What railing against fate? The 1%? The 10%? No, certainly not. The rest then? Sure that’s shortly coming down the track big time to add to the woes, and is yet another reason climate scientists, meteorologists, ecologists, and the military are to be seen on the move, or preparing to move.

    Noah had only to float around for a bit, the only complications being some unaccustomed alleged animal husbandry and hocus pocus, and some cabin fever perhaps due to being shut in for a short period by some rain that any wet tropical climate long term resident of choice would find soothing. No mention of mind bogglingly huge storm driven waves throwing thousand ton boulders at the boat in that alleged log of Noah’s mere six week jaunt. Nor any mention of natural tipping points, nor of starvation, nor of time counted by tens, hundreds, thousands, millions of years, nor disease. Not a word of mortal heat, scorched earth, dead fish in poison seas, nor the ocean launched mothers-of-all-mothers-of-all-air-fuel-bomb airbursts, nor the planet killing hydrogen sulphide clouds, etc, … by comparison, by all accounts, those Noah ancestors just took a pleasant low risk family houseboat cruise.

    Clouds of methane already bubble and at times explode up from those Arctic Sea and tundra deposits as ice cover shrinks, seas warm and deep ‘permafrost’ thaws. Not only thaws, but burns.

    The logs left by previous non human ancestors experiencing actual planetary wide great extinction events tell us a different story, of heat, starvation, sulphur and all. Those logs are by comparison slowly drawn out geologic epics of vast near all encompassing global devastation. The current one that human ancestors have stuck us with is an extraordinary action blockbuster screenplay that is now rapidly advancing to climax. Rolled out before us as quickly as it was in fast forward we didn’t follow it, won’t take it all in, and we won’t see the end. Not here. Not from Mars.

    Try living well as Bill Gates’ does “Saving Lives with Fossil Fuels”, and “Fighting Poverty with Fossil Fuels”?

    (Yes, I know.)

    Yet even the Robert Scribbler a few years ago now has toned down on the Holocene ‘Great Dying’ evident and destined natural feedback amplifications somewhat in favour of amplifying Elon Musk’s saviour Model 3. Capitalism/consumerism, and bau, will save us? As if, when civilization itself is a heat engine.

    robertscribbler.com/tag/amplifying-feedbacks/ robertscribbler.com/tag/permafrost/ robertscribbler.com/tag/methane-monster/ https://robertscribbler.com/tag/methane-hydrates/ robertscribbler.com/tag/hydrogen-sulfide-gas/ robertscribbler.com/category/cthulhucene/ robertscribbler.com/tag/killer-seas/
    robertscribbler.com/2015/03/09/cause-for-appropriate-concern-over-arctic-methane-overburden-plumes-eruptions-and-large-ocean-craters/ robertscribbler.com/tag/tesla/ robertscribbler.com/tag/electric-vehicles/

    Try acceptance.

    Try some Pinkeresque-like free will compatabilism with McPherson’s “Edge of Extinction: I’m a Fatalist?”

    Try to stay on the rails living, loving, and doing good. Lo que tenga que ser, sera.

  5. Watching the screeching Michaelia Cash’s performance in reply to Doug Cameron before the Senate Committee yesterday I went back to Google “Trainwreck interview Cash” to her interrogation by David Speers on Sky TV.

    I am amazed anyone could still be a minister after that interview, by a very effective cross-examiner in Speers, let alone her recent excess which needs fuller analysis also.

    Her refusal to answer any question about her staff touching upon the matter of her apparent misleading of parliament and potentially also Malcolm seems amazing. It is apparently based on a letter from now departed honest Georgie Brandis who refers to an AFP officer stating any questions would effect the investigation into the criminal release of the information to the media. What rubbish and again more evidence of the politisation of the AFP and DPP for that matter.
    The fact the AFP is doing an investigation into a matter where it is also involved as a witness
    is a classic conflict of interest.

  6. People have their pet beliefs. A very common one is that humans are special and somehow outside and above nature. The older form of that belief was that a super-being of some kind made us, that we are above the animals, hence not animals, and that we have souls and a destiny. Then science came along and punctured those beliefs for those who viewed and understood the evidence.

    However, humanism in many of its forms continues to cling to the belief that humans are somehow special. Superstitious beliefs continue in the minds of all but the most rigorous scientific humanists. Belief in humanity’s “chosen-ness” and “specialness” persist. In discourse where the word “soul” can no longer be advanced seriously as evidence of our specialness, that duty is now done by words like “intelligence”, “civilization”, “free will” and also by words like “free enterprise, “free markets”, “wealth” and “human well-being” (when the well-being and/or stability of the rest of the biosphere is simply ignored).

    The facts that we have intelligence, a civilization and a capitalist economy are taken as proofs of our specialness and especially as proofs of our immunity to natural laws, like the laws of thermodynamics for instance. But our intelligence and rationality are still very bounded. We cannot ever see the whole picture and every action still has unforeseen and unintended consequences.

    We seem incapable of ceasing worship. When we scientific humanists stopped worshiping God or gods, we then started worshiping ourselves and our own creations. It is this vanity and hubris which prevents us from implementing economics and science with due caution about our impacts on the biosphere, our natural world. The mistake has been understandable, or was understandable up until about the 1960s. Then, with the fuller development of systems science, the ecological sciences and the publication of limits to growth it become clear to anyone with the rigor and courage to read the evidence and make sound deductions, that we had to change our approach to (attempted) endless growth and (attempted) endless growth in production.

    Instead of heeding the warnings, the doyens, the functionaries and even the minions of capitalism all doubled down on endless greed, endless growth and the concomitant destruction of ecosystems, the environment and the climate.

    Clearly, humans are not special after all. They obey the same rules of bounded rationality as other species, insofar as at least some other species could be declared to demonstrate some rationality no matter how primitive. In the case of humans, a rationality of larger but still finite bounds remains bounded after all.

    At the same time, there is no point making a religion out of nihilism or despair. Human existence was always precarious and brief in duration. It still is. Nothing has changed really. Existence itself is a kind of illusion. In cosmic terms, when all information that something existed is erased, can that something be said to have ever existed? I refer to information as pattern, not only as pattern which can be decoded (which implies a decoder) but also as pattern which can influence or generate other patterns.

    Since, the cosmos is non-deterministic (according to our best current knowledge) rather than mechanically deterministic then far future patterned states are ultimately unpredictable. Even if we had perfect knowledge we could not predict the patterned far future , for it is not mechanistically determined. Heat death is unpatterned and thus predictable from the Laws of Thermodynamics if they remain entirely valid until heat death.

    In like manner, we cannot properly deduce past realities from the present. Uncertainty increases in that direction too. Once the information of the past is entirely lost (for example in the heat death of the universe if that theory is correct) then is it not possible, in any valid way, to postulate at that time (the time of the heat death of the universe) that any past happened. In a very real sense, at that time, no past happened and we humans never existed. The same is true of a cyclical big bang universe. At the generation of a new high entropy state, that pattern would be entirely novel and without a past (in my opinion). Again all information of a previous cosmos is lost and in a profound sense here “lost” is identical to “never happened”.

    Eventually, we will have never happened. Existence is a temporary, albeit convincing, illusion.

    And that my friend is my pet belief. 😉

  7. Is it possible to make a religion out of nihilism? A clique, a cult, a school, a party perhaps? Religionists certainly dislike nihilism, and the reverse is true, but neither argument makes nihilism a religion.

    However, I think you mistake the realism here for some form of nihilism. Realism that huge change, extinction, personal and global, is coming abruptly much sooner than most are even vaguely aware or much less anticipate. A shocking realisation of the inevitable, even for those who may be considered to be comparatively well informed.

    I’ve no idea where you’ve drawn ‘despair’ from other than that there can be an understandable place for grief counselling following apprehended loss such as those concerning major physical trauma resulting in impairment, or a prognosis of an impending early death due to disease. After all, life goes on until it doesn’t, and counselling in coming to terms with changed, especially unexpected circumstances often is a boon in making such life far better than it otherwise might be.

    I’m unsure where you have it from that the cosmos is non deterministic. There is no TOE as yet. Maybe there won’t be. Or maybe there shall be better theories completely different and forever followed by other better completely different theories, ad infinitum (if given the time we don’t have). At the macro level the cosmos is relativistic and determinate in cause and effect.

    The oblivion lying beyond either end of this particular cosmos or any simulacra in a multiverse is remote and impersonal, and importantly being well outside the expected lifetime or reach of anyone living it is of no present danger. Quite the opposite is the apprehension of immediate global and personal danger presented by natural feedback amplifications of climate change now that natural tripping points have passed and others shall irrevocably continue to be triggered. The illusion is that things will go on much as they have, but now nature has gone in to bat things won’t last long at all. Any illusions are in for a big shake up, and that’s going to occur shockingly soon. If by mentioning nihilism you’re referring to values necessarily collapsing in response, I don’t see that. That the response will be varied, is varied, goes without saying.

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