Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review of The Big Picture by Theoretical Physicist Sean Carroll

What a good read--this powerful book on the nature of reality from the perspective of a famous physicist. Professor Sean Carroll writes so well, lucidly, explaining very difficult concepts in astrophysics—so that we non-scientists can gain a basic understanding of cosmology. And his prose is so user-friendly that even a few parts' hardest points, still made a little sense!

Only the book's couple of chapters on computer simulation of physics and evolution were dry, boring. Also, the whole idea of scientists intentionally trying to show how evolution works—especially natural selection—by designing experiments seems odd! Their very intent, their complex efforts, all of that is DESIGNED by them, so how can that really show that evolution, though looking designed, is actually NOT designed?!

The Big Picture is one of the best books on the nature of physics, cosmology, and the nature of reality. I read it avidly. That is until Carroll's negative references to God kept coming up--that God isn't needed, that God can’t be real or true because God violates the nature of physics.

Of course, almost always the "God" Carroll refers to, that can't be true, is the God of fundamentalistic or creedal Christianity. He doesn't deal in depth with more scientific concepts of ultimate reality. On the contrary, he is a committed naturalist, materialist, atheist.

Even worse Carrroll rejects any meaning to this matter-energy reality, rejects human choice, and the reality of ethics. He thinks humans just make morality up:_(

I admit despite such total nihilism, Carroll's striking views need to be seriously considered, even if they are bleak. After all, he is a brilliant genius, a theoretical physicist at Cal Tech, has been award many science prizes and fellowships, and (unlike some controversial 'new atheists),' he is considerate, courteous, and engaging.

Of course, like most humans, even brilliant ones (whether atheists, Christians, Muslims, Hindus), Carroll contradicts himself. He claims all of time/space is already set and unchangeable, that humans are just “complicated collections of matter moving in patterns,” (page 295).

So, despite his efforts to appear positive and hopeful unlike some materialists who seem to glory in negativity, Carroll actually agrees with their claim that existence is bleak, that humans are only matter, that nothing has meaning:-(

But then near the end of the book Carroll tries to end on a positive upbeat note by bridging the chasm of negation with a little hope--he calls his view "poetic." He states that on the human “level” of reality, humans can make choices, only he is quick to emphasize that isn't libertarian choice. It's only in a compatibilistic sense.

Carroll asserts that the laws of physics prohibit human "choice" in the normal dictionary sense of the word--selecting among alternatives--because the “laws of physics” prohibit that.:-(

So then I feel like asking him—why write a book explaining physics since reality is set and can’t be changed in the future or the past?

I suppose he would answer, 'Yes, I am just a "complicated collection of matter moving in pattern" (page295) and part of that determinism is that it was determined that I write this book.' In other words, he would answer, not too dissimilar from how hard Reformed Christians such as Stonewall Jackson answered. As always, determinism is an endless loop, unfalsifiable.

Carroll’s asserts that most cosmologists are atheists and, basically, hold the same view as Einstein and other scientific determinists.

BUT then how do contrary astrophysicists who are theists counter such deterministic, atheistic claims?

Would they disagree about Carroll's "Big Picture" or only show that in their life-stance they are compartmentalizing?

CONSIDER the contrary outlook of famous cosmologist George Ellis who co-wrote wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking. Also, contrary, to Carroll's view that ethics are made up, Ellis strongly supports the view of moral realism. He actively opposed the immoral, unjust system of Apartheid in South Africa.

Professor George Ellis: "Many scientists are strong reductionists who believe that physics alone determines outcomes in the real world, This is demonstrably untrue – for example the computer on which I am writing this could not possibly have come into being through the agency of physics alone."

"The issue is that these scientists are focusing on some strands in the web of causation that actually exist, and ignoring others that are demonstrably there – such as ideas in our minds, or algorithms embodied in computer programs."

"These demonstrably act in a top-down way to cause physical effects in the real world. All these processes and actual outcomes are contextually dependent, and this allows the effectiveness of processes such as adaptive selection that are the key to the emergence of genuine complexity."

"As I stated above, mathematical equations only represent part of reality, and should not be confused with reality. A specific related issue: there is a group of people out there writing papers based on the idea that physics is a computational process. But a physical law is not an algorithm. So who chooses the computational strategy and the algorithms that realise a specific physical law? (Finite elements perhaps?)"

"What language is it written in? (Does Nature use Java or C++? What machine code is used?) Where is the CPU? What is used for memory, and in what way are read and write commands executed? Additionally if it’s a computation, how does Nature avoid the halting problem? It’s all a very bad analogy that does not work."

Interviewer John Horgan: "Einstein, in the following quote, seemed to doubt free will: "If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the Earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was traveling its way of its own accord…. So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doings, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will."
Do you believe in free will?"

Ellis: "Yes. Einstein is perpetuating the belief that all causation is bottom up."

"This simply is not the case, as I can demonstrate with many examples from sociology, neuroscience, physiology, epigenetics, engineering, and physics. Furthermore if Einstein did not have free will in some meaningful sense, then he could not have been responsible for the theory of relativity – it would have been a product of lower level processes but not of an intelligent mind choosing between possible options."

"I find it very hard to believe this to be the case – indeed it does not seem to make any sense. Physicists should pay attention to Aristotle’s four forms of causation – if they have the free will to decide what they are doing. If they don’t, then why waste time talking to them? They are then not responsible for what they say."
The Big Picture
Scientific American
John Horgan directs the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology. His books include The End of Science and The End of War.

In conclusion, what if Carroll's "deepest" level of reality, atoms, neutrons, etc. is actually the most basic level of reality (as the cosmologist George Ellis counters), and actually the really complex, the most real level of reality is the one of ultimate reality (God), meaning, math, reason, ethics? Then down in the physical world, human consciousness wouldn't be an illusionary tag-a-long at all.

Evaluation: B+/H-

To Be Continued--

In the Light and Hope of Meaning and Choice,

Daniel Wilcox

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Southern Whites Got Back in Control Only 5-12 Years After Being Defeated in the Civil War! How? Why?

Try to imagine other oppressive, intolerant leaders regaining total control after being severely defeated only 5-12 earlier:

Imagine the Nazi leadership taking back control of the German government in 1950-57, only 5-12 years after WWII!

Imagine the Japanese Warlords taking back control of Japan in 1950-57 after only 5-12 years!!

Didn’t happen. Probably couldn’t have happened.

So how and why were ex-Confederate leaders able to do the nigh impossible almost immediately after the Civil War where they had just been decisively defeated?

Insurrection groups such as the Redeemers, Red Shirts, KKK, Knights of the White Camelia Southern ‘gun’ clubs, etc. intimidated, attacked, and often slaughtered Negroes who sought government positions, who sought to exercise their right to vote, who sought to decide when and where they would work and live.

Except for the Grant administration's crushing of the KKK in 1871, the Union didn't stop Southern violent groups from their actions.

Even the occupying Union Army in 1865-66 introduced Black Codes to try and get the Southern economy going again and to force former slaves to work.

Gone were the Union's promises of 4 acres and a mule to former slaves as promised only a few months before!

Then when Southern Political officials—former Plantation owners, slave owners, many of them former Confederate soldiers, etc. came to power, they basically, reintroduced the master-slave relationship toward Negroes, even though technically slavery was illegal.

Heck, in 1878, the U.S. government even passed "a law forbidding federal troops from intervening to protect African-American voters from harassment and intimidation."

From State of Mississippi Code, 1865:

“Section 2. Be it further enacted, that all freedmen, free Negroes, and mulattoes in this state over the age of eighteen years found on the second Monday in January 1866, or thereafter, with no lawful employment or business, or found unlawfully assembling themselves together either in the day- or nighttime, and all white persons so assembling with freedmen, free Negroes, or mulattoes, or usually associating with freedmen, free Negroes, or mulattoes on terms of equality, or living in adultery or fornication with a freedwoman, free Negro, or mulatto, shall be deemed vagrants; and, on conviction thereof, shall be fined in the sum of not exceeding, in the case of a freedman, free Negro, or mulatto, $150, and a white man, $200, and imprisoned at the discretion of the court, the free Negro not exceeding ten days, and the white man not exceeding six months.
Section 5. Be it further enacted, that all fines and forfeitures collected under the provisions of this act shall be paid into the county treasury for general county purposes; and in case any freedman, free Negro, or mulatto shall fail for five days after the imposition of any fine or forfeiture upon him or her for violation of any of the provisions of this act to pay the same, that it shall be, and is hereby made, the duty of the sheriff of the proper county to hire out said freedman, free Negro, or mulatto to any person who will, for the shortest period of service, pay said fine or forfeiture and all costs.”

Historian Samuel McCall: They "established a condition but little better than that of slavery, and in one important respect far worse.”


The main reason why Southern Whites so quickly got back into dominating power without changing their racist, oppressive, intolerant views is because of their CALVINIST THEOLOGY
which the large majority of Southerners subscribed to avidly!

R.L. Dabney, Southern Theologian, Chaplain to Stonewall Jackson's troops. Dabney published a book even after the Civil War which argued that slavery was the will of God, the Calvinist God.

However before explaining that, it needs to be emphasized that there are many other factors, too, as to why Southern Whites were able to create a racist social order and oppressive state governments within 5 to 12 years of the end of the Civil War.

#1 Many Northerners had only supported the invasion of the South because they wanted to force the seceding states back into the Union. Other Northerners did want to end slavery, but they didn’t want Negroes living near them, or having the same rights as Whites.

Even Abraham Lincoln as late as 1864 still supported the view that all Negroes ought leave the United States and go somewhere else—Africa or the Caribbean. Lincoln considered Negroes inferior to Whites. Only a minority of Northerners were abolitionists and for equal rights for Negroes.

#2 Since the U.S. government almost immediately rejected giving former slaves land and supplies, the Union army occupying the South thought that it must deal with the millions of freed slaves, so it introduced the Negro Codes, even though they were grossly unfair to the Negroes.

And Northern states also increased their anti-Negro Codes. Many towns and cities became anti-Negro Sundown towns. There were still at least 10,000 sundown towns even in the middle of the 20th century!

#3 Reconstruction failed, largely because of the failure of the U.S. government to radically alter the nature of Southern beliefs and society.

#4 The U.S. government pulled its troops out of the South in 1877, way too soon and because of a devil’s deal with Southern racists in order to get Benjamin Hays elected president.
"Southern segregation of the races began soon after the Civil War ended. Although segregation was more flexible during Reconstruction, more rigid laws were passed after federal troops withdrew from the South. These laws, which became known as Jim Crow laws after the name of a minstrel from the 1800s, prohibited African-Americans from using the same facilities and services as whites. In 1875, Congress had passed a Civil Rights Act that made racial discrimination in public places, including hotels and trains, illegal. However, in 1883 the Supreme Court declared that law unconstitutional. The court reasoned that refusing to accommodate someone because of their race was not the same as slavery, and did not violate the constitutional amendments abolishing slavery. The decision paved the way for extensive legalized segregation in the South."

Notice even now in the present how quickly major national events can change because of differing philosophies. Despite 8 years of fairly moderate Obama-type politics, suddenly in 2017, the opposite side of the political spectrum came to power via the Electoral College (the Democrats won the popular vote by about 3 million). Then U.S. policy has swerved to fairly extreme right-wing views, statements, and actions under President Donald Trump.

And Donald Trump got elected partially because millions of white Evangelical (at least 81%) and Calvinists voted for and continue to support President Trump, despite his many immoral, unethical, unjust statements and actions.


Let us rise against injustice and inequality,

Daniel Wilcox

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Please Write for the Release of Nonviolent Human Rights Worker Munther Amira

"An Israeli military court sentenced Palestinian human rights defender Munther Amira on 12 March 2018 to six months in prison, five years of probation and a fine. He was convicted on charges relating to his peaceful participation in protests.

"Munther Amira is currently being held in Hadarim prison in central Israel.
He was arrested by Israeli soldiers on 27 December 2017 while peacefully participating in a protest.
Munther Amira was originally charged with 13 offences relating to his participation in five separate demonstrations. He was convicted on four counts of “disturbing public order” and participating in a “march without a licence” in relation to four demonstrations that took place in November and December 2017."

Munther Amira is "...the coordinator of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC). PSCC describes itself as a community-based resistance movement that believes in the power of popular struggle, through various forms, such as strikes, peaceful protests and legal campaigns. The group also provides legal aid, communication and advocacy support to activists and seeks to encourage the emergence of new committees and initiatives in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)."

A section of Israel’s separation barrier next to the Aida refugee camp, where Munther Amira lives and works. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/AP

"Munther Amira is a Palestinian refugee from the village of Deir Aban, located south of Jerusalem. He is a resident of Aida Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem, where he works as a social worker and director of the Aida Youth Community Center...provides support to Palestinian farmers affected by Israeli settlements through his campaigning and advocacy efforts and promotes locally produced Palestinian products.

Amira is committed to a platform of non-violence in his popular struggle and regularly organizes peaceful protests against Israeli actions in the city of Bethlehem."

Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

Immediately and unconditionally release Munther Amira as he is a prisoner of conscience and is imprisoned solely for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly;
Ensure his conviction is quashed;
Rescind Military Order 101 and fully respect the right of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Contact these two officials by 30 April, 2018:

Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu
Office of the Prime Minister
3 Kaplan St, PO Box 187
Kiryat Ben-Gurion
Jerusalem 91950, Israel
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Ambassador Ron Dermer, Embassy of Israel
3514 International Drive NW, Washington DC 20008
T: 202.364.5500
Twitter: @AmbDermer
Salutation: Dear Ambassador


Stand up for Human Rights,

Daniel Wilcox

Part 2: Scenic Photos

In the Light of Beauty,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, March 12, 2018

Wise Words on Social Justice

The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now
as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all
that is bad around us,
is itself
a marvelous
--Howard Zinn

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, March 5, 2018

Of Moose and Men

Of Moose and Men: Redux

Like moose drool down from his jaw
Liquid drip of much after thought,
The human chews his abstract cud.

Drooling brought-back cussedness

This brainy mammal with his huge
Mental jaw ruminates and masticates
Difficult philosophical concepts.

He chews and chews and chaws
Minding repeatedly, and pondering
Into his daily life for good or ill

Drooling, brought-back cussedness

The meta-conundrums, the ones
He can't stomach, that ethical gristle
Imponderable quandaries.

Like the massive moose of yonder glen,
Man stands as king and all get out
In this damned lake he calls civilization;

Drooling brought-back cussedness

Then walking admidst verbal tall trees, he
Rummages through this forest of ideas,
Philosophical redwoods towering above.

And he peers up searching the heights, but
Stands sludged mired in his soggy morass,
The moral muddle of his shallow bog.

Drooling brought-back cussedness

What festering future, or fertile destiny
Awaits this drooling race of primate
Caught in the quagmire, a hypocrite?

Any St. Bernard dog, as Thoreau said,
Has more basic moral sense than
Most men who swallow gross wrong whole,

Drooling and drooling and drooling...

--Daniel E. Wilcox

First pub.
Dark Energy,
by Diminuendo Press