"The Medieval Origins of Mass Surveillance"

This interesting article by medieval historian Amanda Power traces our culture's relationship with the concept of mass surveillance from the medieval characterization of the Christian god and how piety was policed by the church:

What is all this but a fundamental trust in the experience of being watched? One must wonder about the subtle, unspoken fear of the consequences of refusing to participate in systems of surveillance, or even to critique them seriously. This would be to risk isolation. Those who have exposed the extent of surveillance are fugitives and exiles from our paradise. They have played the role of the cursed serpent of Eden: the purveyor of illicit knowledge who broke the harmony between watcher and watched. The rest of us contemplate the prospect of dissent with careful unease, feeling that our individual and collective security depends on compliance.

[...]

Eight centuries ago, in November 1215, Pope Innocent III presided over a Great Council of the Church in Rome known as the Fourth Lateran Council. It was attended by high-ranking members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and the monastic world, together with representatives of emperors, kings, and other secular leaders from throughout Christendom. Their decisions were promulgated through seventy-one constitutions. They began with a statement of what all Christians were required to believe, including specifics on the nature of God­by this time: "eternal and immeasurable, almighty, unchangeable, incomprehensible and ineffable" -- and the view that salvation could be found only through the Roman Catholic Church. Anyone who disagreed, according to the third constitution, was to be handed over to secular lords for punishment, stripped of their property, and cast out of society until they proved their orthodoxy, or else be executed if they did not. Anyone in authority would be punished if they did not seek out and expel such people from their lands; their subjects would be released from obedience and their territories handed over to true Catholics. There was nothing empty about this threat: the council occurred in the middle of the bitter Albigensian Crusade, during which heresy -- likened to a cancer in the body of Christendom -- was purportedly being cut out of Languedoc by the swords of the pious.

The Fourth Lateran Council was talking about crimes of thought, of dissent over matters of belief, matters not susceptible of proof. But whether individuals were heretics could not, in theory, be established without investigating the contents of their minds. To this end, the council decreed that bishops' representatives should inquire in every parish at least once a year to discover "if anyone knows of heretics there or of any persons who hold secret conventicles or who differ in their life and habits from the normal way of living of the faithful." These representatives were to follow these external indications of nonconformity into the recesses of the mind and establish their meaning in each case. Over the decades the role of the inquisitor was developed into an art and a science, and elaborate handbooks were produced. But in 1215 it was stated merely that individuals should be punished if "unable to clear themselves of the charge."

[...]

What is all this but a fundamental trust in the experience of being watched? Our trust is so strong that it seems to have found its own protective rationality, deeply rooted in Western consciousness. It's an addict's rationality, by which we're unable to refrain from making public a stream of intimate details of our lives and those of children too young to consent. One must wonder about the subtle, unspoken fear of the consequences of refusing to participate in systems of surveillance, or even to critique them seriously. This would be to risk isolation. It would be a trifle paranoid to reveal less -- a little eccentric, not quite rational.

Posted on December 21, 2015 at 1:09 PM • 80 Comments

Comments

Stephen SmoogenDecember 21, 2015 1:52 PM

I would say that it goes way further back than that. Looking at the total surveilance culture of some ancient Chinese empires, Ur III?, Egypt and other places where knowing what every one was doing was considered paramount to the security of the state. I think in the end, the fear of not knowing enough is endemic to humanity and linking it to a certain time period makes it like "see if we just got rid of Christianity we wouldn't have to deal with this." [which is how these sorts of papers get reposted at times]

DanielDecember 21, 2015 3:08 PM

It's an addict's rationality, by which we're unable to refrain from making public a stream of intimate details

This article is timely. Just this morning I was at the doctor's office and I was taken off-guard by the intimacy of the questions the nurse asked even though they appeared to have no relevance to the reason I was at the doctor's office. Yet there I was, babbling away like a fool simply because some person dressed in a costume that I was taught to respect interrogated me. And for no other reason! I finally came to my senses and asked the nurse, "Why are you asking me these questions?" "And her response was, "Well, you can always refuse to answer."

But can I refuse? Power's judgement is correct in part--it is an addict's mentality and I think that the addiction is that many of us are taught from very young age to be pleasing to people in authority. We are psychologically conditioned to it and this conditioning is exploited by people in power who are not our parents and who do not have our best interests at stake.

What is all this but a fundamental trust in the experience of being watched?

I think she is wrong in her answer to this question. I think that Bruce is correct that we have an innate need for psychological shelter, a place of refuge, a place we can trust. I want to believe that my medical provider is more than a used car dealer. That when my doctor sees me he sees a human being and not simply a profit center. That when the nurse was asking me those questions she cared about my health and wasn't simply looking for places where she could upsell or upcode.

I realized on my drive home that nurse was correct, I could have refused to answer and in part I didn't because I was conditioned not too. In part. But in part it was because I wanted to believe that she was on my side, an ally. That's why I didn't opt out. I needed to talk because I needed her to care.

Christianity teaches that God is ultimately a god of love, even if his methods are at times obscure. That's a comforting thought--that all is well that ends well. But what if it's not true? What if God is really a god with fangs? A god whose all knowing, all seeing powers are fundamentally exploitative of the human condition. That is a scary thought. Perhaps it's better to babble.

JenDecember 21, 2015 3:57 PM

You seem to be grasping at the question of what stolen knowledge brings the thief that stole it.

This is not merely a question of what it may be used for, but what the act of stealing it does to the thief.

Apes have sex in public. Humans have sex in private. Both apes and humans like to watch others have sex. You might argue that the desire to see things others do not want us to is built into who we are.

Then there excitement of the theft of knowledge. Sneaking around, surveillance, doing something another does not wish you to do.

Then there is the desire to use that knowledge, perhaps to punish the person that clearly deserved to be surveilled for some number of reasons decided after the surveillance occurred. A justification for doing something immoral.

But the desire to have knowledge you should not have... seems ingrained in all of us.

Petrol Puddle, Monkeys With ZipposDecember 21, 2015 4:00 PM

The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

DanielDecember 21, 2015 5:19 PM

@ Jen

You seem to be grasping at the question of what stolen knowledge brings the thief that stole it.

If by "you" you mean me then no that's not it at all. In order for something to be stolen one has to assert a claim to its ownership. But what so many people do, including myself, is give away personal knowledge for free. This is the reason, as "Petrol Puddle, Monkeys With Zippos" grasps, that it called data mining and not data theft. The land ipso facto has no right to the ore. In such data-mining scenarios "the desire to have knowledge you should not have" is not a relevant consideration because as far as the authority figure is concerned they should have a right to it all--or perhaps more properly phrased the sovereign asserts that the citizen has no right to privacy.

So while the desire to be "nosy" or to "snoop" certainly has its psychological and social motivations the article in the OP and my response looks at a different question viz why do so many people feel they don't have any claim to their data in the first instance. Indeed, the NSA's insistence on having a backdoor to encryption is the informational equivalent of the medieval "divine right of kings". One has no right to privacy and therefore one has no ownership stake in the data or meta data one creates or communicates. Or again, to most precise, one has no ownership stake in data that the NSA as sovereign king asserts an interest in. All most bow down before the NSA divinely inspired powers to be the sole proprietor of the public good.

One doesn't snoop on what one owns. The war over piracy is a war over who owns whom. Does the individual have any claim against the group as a realization of self-autonomy or is all that she is and all that she ever will be simply a commodity belonging to another? The NSA would have one believe that the only way that it can deliver us from evil is if it is allowed to possess us utterly and totally.




Clive RobinsonDecember 21, 2015 5:25 PM

@ UK listeners....

Tomorow moring 9:00GMT BBC Radio 4 will have a programe about "State Surveillance" from Oliver Cromwell's order to his Post Master General to read the mails of some suspected of sedition, untill more recent times.

So hopefully my ear will be sufficiently close to a radio to hear it (it will be repeated later in the day as well as going up on BBC iPlay).

jamezDecember 21, 2015 6:53 PM

whether you believe in god or not, i'd like to point out a few differences between him and any surveillance state:

  • god sees what we do and knows what we think and why because he's omnipotent (and already has this knowledge), not because he has to watch in order to protect his own interests or those of the rest of creation.
  • god can be trusted with this information because he's god and won't abuse or blackmail us with it. to the christian, he is trustworthy.
nsa? gchq? not so much.
also, powers's article nicely illustrates what can go wrong whenever man tries to help god do his job.

Duncan KinderDecember 21, 2015 7:56 PM

The Fu9rth Latern Council was a Western Christian council. As such, its influence would be limited to societies influenced by Western Christianity (i.e., Catholic and Protestant).

In particular, it would not have influenced Eastern Orthodox countiries (such as the Former Soviet Union.) We would expect the Eastern Orthodox Serbs to value privacy far more than the Reman Catholic Croats. And so forth.

I have not conducted any studies. But my general sense of things does not suggest Eastern Orthodox societies to be remarkably more private than Catholic or Protestant ones.

Dirk PraetDecember 21, 2015 7:57 PM

Surveillance through the ages has only ever served one purpose: to make the surveilled do the bidding of the surveillers.

@ Jamez

god can be trusted with this information because he's god and won't abuse or blackmail us with it. to the christian, he is trustworthy.

You must be joking. Failing to live up to the rules was punishable by death, purgatory, hell or all of the above.

JonDecember 21, 2015 8:03 PM

Citing religion and religious practices while arguing rationality will get you only the laughter you deserve.

J.

OsamaramaDecember 21, 2015 9:56 PM

Right, surveillance has deep historical roots as a means of statist social control. To sell it you have to have witch hunts (then it was witches, now it's the equally elastic concept of terrists/Al Quaeda/ISIS).

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/09/history-witchhunts-their-relevance-present-day.html

The threat model flops when the scary bugaboos start to fail the laugh test. Ours came close to failing the laugh test with that Red/Yellow/Green shit-your-pants index. The Boston Marathon clown show will doubtless be the high-water mark of hilarious idiocy in our time, a historical embarrassment for the ages.

tyrDecember 21, 2015 10:24 PM


I was thrilled to learn of the institution of the
confessional and its place in imposing christian
virtue by the active participation of the governed.

Today we have F___book and the cellphone to monitor
the willing ignorant.

Fortunately we aren't like those benighted past folk
who thought they could torture their way into the
worldly paradise.. (sarcasm)

Wesley ParishDecember 22, 2015 2:31 AM

It's probably worth making the comment that humanity has haunted itself with various forms of the unseen, aka spirits of localities, the dead, and whatnot, for ever and a day. It probably goes back to the first time the human brain communicated to itself in verbal symbols and the person in whose brain this was taking place, connected it to the outside world, where he had previously heard verbal communication ... some children remember that happening to them, most forget.

The difference between spirits of localities and the dead with localized and family-specific portfolios of rights and duties, versus an all-seeing all-powerful god with a universal portfolio of rights and duties, should be obvious.

A spirit of a specific locality can be fooled, fought, or faced down with aid from a more powerful spirit. A universal spirit can't.

The article's correct - this particular style of co-operation with surveillance does owe its origin to the Roman Emperors co-opting Christianity.

The irony is that this universal surveillance is being fought with appeals to "the rule of law", meaning that this abstract "law" to which appeal is being made, is likewise pictured as a universal truth applicable to all situations.

It makes for an interesting situation.

Dr. CrucesDecember 22, 2015 5:36 AM

"... We cannot conceive of how what we reveal now about ourselves and our children might be used in the future, by the systems of governance that will arise amid the instabilities of a changing climate" the author concludes. She just could not help herself ... what an irony!

I am much more concerned about the future where a non-inclusion of such or a similar clause will be considered heretical.

ChrysostomDecember 22, 2015 5:45 AM

The Fu9rth Latern Council was a Western Christian council. As such, its influence would be limited to societies influenced by Western Christianity (i.e., Catholic and Protestant).

In particular, it would not have influenced Eastern Orthodox countiries (such as the Former Soviet Union.) We would expect the Eastern Orthodox Serbs to value privacy far more than the Reman Catholic Croats. And so forth.

No. The Latin church conquered and sacked Constantinople and the remains of the Byzantine Empire during the Fourth Crusade -- just ten years before the Lateran Council.

Pope Innocent III's specific intent for the Council was to eliminate Eastern Orthodox heresy and assert the primacy of the Roman Bishop throughout Christendom.

The innovations the Catholic Church developed for this include mass surveillance for Christians and the judenstern for Jews, which were later adopted word for word in the Nazi race laws.

jonesDecember 22, 2015 10:12 AM

This issue is getting some attention lately:

http://news.sciencemag.org/archaeology/2015/08/birth-moralizing-gods

The idea is that when human societies are organized along tribal hunter-gatherer lines, everybody knows what everybody is doing, and there is no need for abstract deities to enforce social norms.

This is closely related to something Jeremy Bentham formulated with the idea of the panopticon. Here's Foucault's characterization of the idea:

“In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable. Visible: the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon. Unverifiable: the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so.”

“Hence the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power...

“So... that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers.”

This is precisely the concept of surveillence at play in 1984:


“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”

“You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

This is one of the less well examined consequences of the surveillance society: surveillance is control, regardless of whether law enforcement gets its hands on the information collected.

Also note that in 1984, it's not surveillance that gets Winston Smith busted, but police entrapment.

Duncan KinderDecember 22, 2015 11:44 AM

No. The Latin church conquered and sacked Constantinople and the remains of the Byzantine Empire during the Fourth Crusade -- just ten years before the Lateran Council.

Pope Innocent III's specific intent for the Council was to eliminate Eastern Orthodox heresy and assert the primacy of the Roman Bishop throughout Christendom.

Nobody wants to wade through medieval history on this blog.

Suffice it to say that the 4th Crusade did not conquer Russia.

WinterDecember 22, 2015 12:40 PM

> To sell it you have to have witch hunts (then it was witches, now it's the equally elastic concept of terrists/Al Quaeda/ISIS).

You can only have a witch hunt when you have a populace who wants to believe in witches, and wants to hunt them.

When there are dozens of shootouts by local wackos for every "terrorist" shootout, I do not believe for a second that the hysteria is about terrorists. This is simple xenophobia looking for an excuse to start a pogrom.

ThaddeusDecember 22, 2015 1:32 PM

This is just an absurd attempt to paint Christianity as the root of all the world's evils. Others have already pointed out that this type of oppression went on long before the Medieval Roman Catholic church, and it has occurred across all cultural/religious lines.

So we're expected to believe that Stalin's surveillance state (a thoroughly anti-Christian form of government) was accepted by his people because of "a fundamental trust in the experience of being watched" that was "deeply rooted in Western consciousness"? We might as well add a fundamental trust in the experience of being murdered (purged) to that list.

And how does this explain the U.S. Constitution, created in an era, and by a people who were thoroughly versed in Christian principles, who nearly all believed in God (whether Christian, Deist, or other), and who demanded a de-centralized government with limited power, which included privacy protections? (A great formula for software btw.)

I don't mean to justify or excuse the evils done by the Medieval Roman Catholic church, or by the early settlers/founders of the U.S. I just mean to point out the absurdity of the author's argument. It makes more sense to say that the need for powerful people to know everything going on in their "kingdoms" is either a result of human/evolved-nature, or of man's fallen nature, depending on what you believe.

WaelDecember 22, 2015 3:39 PM

@Thaddeus,

This is just an absurd attempt to paint Christianity as the root of all the world's evils

It maybe a misguided attempt to paint Judio-Christian religions as the root of "some evil". I see this as the problem of Rulers who used a powerful tool such as religion to "control" the population, which is inline with what she's trying to tie it to. So Christianity, in that sense, isn't under attack. It's miss-use is the object being indirectly "criticized".

The second point is:
Correlation does not imply causation
, let alone "prove causation". I don't see the article as very convincing.

Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 4:07 PM

Smith Smoogens wrote:

I would say that it goes way further back than that. Looking at the total surveilance culture of some ancient Chinese empires, Ur III?, Egypt and other places where knowing what every one was doing was considered paramount to the security of the state.

Yes, this was one of my first reactions to the story.

Never mind, all too often, Western scholars act as if "the Middle Ages" was entirely about "the West". There was enormous action going on during the very same period in the Middle East, Americas, and Asia. Besides the activities wherein "the West" engaged.

But, you can go back even further then Ur or Egypt, and you can go global, and you can notice that *societies, in general, have a tendency to corrupting towards "totalitarianism".

There is substantial evidence of this in archaeological records and whatever written records we can find. And it runs from the Americas to Asia, with everything in between. From large societies to small.

I do not think any reader is actually ignorant of this, either, so I do not feel much to argue in terms of details. How and why this historian did not note these matters, then, is beyond me. It is certainly an unfair argument.

Even worse, however, she writes as if "surveillance" (really she is speaking of "totalitarianism") was invented in the thirteenth century for "the West". But, even this is absurd. Christianity was born as a deeply controversial cult subjected to exactly the very same rules of "thought control" as what the Roman authorities later would include as aspects of the Church.

For Christ's sake, why was Christ even crucified but for the exact same reason?

It was and is a core part of the religion, to break away from exactly these sorts of personal and social structures.

That the very religion has a tendency to create the very opposite of reactions is deeply covered in the text, first as an apology for the conditions of the Jews at the time, then as a prediction - many predictions - of how the very religion they were creating would suffer the exact same issues.

How is it explained, or understood? Paul best explained it, saying that the fallibility inherent in the flesh reacts to the Holy in a rebellious, fallacious manner producing the exact opposite -- proving exactly how fallacious it is. The term used is "sin", but I changed the term because people get confused on such a loaded word that really just is an archery term for inaccuracy or missing the mark one is firing for.

It actually has nothing to do with bizarre, overly wrought concepts like the Roman "original sin" concept, and simply has to do with the inherent fallibility of being finite and so limited in capacity.

So, these things said, I do have to hat tip my own religion for both much of the greatest evil in the world, even while I do for much of the greatest good. The Christian trail back to such systems as modern democracy and worker's rights (the good kind of socialism), and so on... and the systems of Communism and Nazism, alike. The "fundamentalist" bigot "Christian"... and the everyday, truly liberal Christian who stands by a code that actually teaches to be merciful in judgment and condemns narrow mindedness.

But, to argue that "totalitarianism", or cultic societies, are new, and just lately (in the thirteenth century) is patently ignorant and absurd. I would have to say, as surely I have read less on history then the author, it is deceptive and biased more then unintentionally ignorant.


Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 4:25 PM

Jon wrote:

Citing religion and religious practices while arguing rationality will get you only the laughter you deserve.

Reasoning is deeply argued in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, especially to the level where it is very rarely taken today: reasoning at the level of one's existence and "moral" choices.

Jesus pointed out that people were "asleep", a phrase and concept he took from the older texts of the Prophets. This is a very popular statement to make of people today.

"Scientifically", we know much more about this condition, as it has been proven that people have a conscious line of reasoning, and a line of reasoning entirely unconscious. Further, in related areas, it has been discovered that human beings have the capacity to make conscious reasoning of matters they typically rely on their "unconscious" to decide.

for instance:
http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/8/845.full

(Though, hardly "first proof", as experimentation, primarily in areas of "hypnosis" and cognitive behavioral psychology had already well demonstrated the reality of "unconscious thought processes".)

In Scripture, this is looked at many ways, many times. One core argument was pointing out that much negative behavior from people was a result of "mere instinct" without the capacity of reasoning. (Jude.)

Today, we can point out that human "instinct" is the same sort of thing as human "intuition", and even "unconscious thought process".

It is not intrinsically bad, in fact, in many ways the complexity of reasoning capable in the "unconscious" is far superior to the capacity of reasoning in the "conscious".

Not unlike how computer systems work, this is the difference like the difference between the capacity of running code at the kernel, versus running it much further up at user land level. Where the later area is weighed down by significant necessities and weight.

Likewise, the conscious rationality is burdened by language, whereas the unconscious is free of these capacities.

Language, for instance, is "why" someone believes that someone else's deeply held belief system is laughable, while their own is not -- as if they are somehow immune to hypocrisy, even while they look at other people's hypocrisy and bother none with their own.

With modern "Christianity" is a often cited misnomer to think that "faith" is proposed without reasoning. The very contrary is true. Reasoning and faith must go hand in hand. This failure is proposed by the staunchest of critics who point to the worst of "Christian" failures, whom they cite as *the only true Christians*. When, in fact, modern society is majority Christian in the West. And the best depiction of virtue one can see comes from their very hands in their mythologies -- their fictional art, what they write, what they read; what they produce, what they watch and listen to.

So, what is "being asleep"? It is not having any truly innovative thought, and being entirely controlled by unconscious thought processes, without any true capacity for free will.

Basically, robotic, or as a programmed computer.

OttoDecember 22, 2015 4:51 PM

Surveillance culture probably existed since the beginning of times that have started with God or Darwin, depending on one's believes. It certainly has been practiced prior to the 1200. And just like in any surveillance state, people had been finding ways to protect themselves against the state. My earliest recollection of such protection is the Caesar cipher and the chances are that there had been others prior to Caesar using weak ciphers. Weak by today's standard, but complex and hard to break around the 50s, that's not 1950s... :)

Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 4:52 PM

@Jamez

god sees what we do and knows what we think and why because he's omnipotent (and already has this knowledge), not because he has to watch in order to protect his own interests or those of the rest of creation.god can be trusted with this information because he's god and won't abuse or blackmail us with it. to the christian, he is trustworthy.nsa? gchq? not so much.also, powers's article nicely illustrates what can go wrong whenever man tries to help god do his job.

Exactly, a truly brilliant exposition.

That requires a substantial capacity of handling deeply abstract knowledge, and putting it to intense calculations. But, such scenarios raise as many new questions as the *partial* answers they provide.

One can notice that the term "angel" in modern, Western societies is very often used, as is the symbolism. But, to truly work with such abstract concepts, one has to operate less like a regular human being who operates by their eyes and ears... and more like someone who has adapted to other processes of senses. One thing which comes to mind is how a bat flies so sophisticated in the night, able to hunt down flying insects travelling at enormous speed and catch them in flight so deftly relying entirely on ultrasonic and semi-ultrasonic "radar".

In one cognitive behavioral study, a young man - a teenager, at which age people are much more flexible in their linguisitic capacities, natively, anyway - learned how to "chirp" from his mouth, and so walk about deftly relying on the consciously imperceptible returns of that chirping, even about a maze -- and without hitting into walls or poles. Some blind folks have adapted similar concepts for themselves, aside from the easy availability these days for automated systems utilizing ultrasound.

By concept, then, what are these many new questions arisen?

What is free will in the face of evil? Is free will proven by evil, and if so, then it is also proven by good? After all, what, but evil, says "God does not exist", even if one throws out the Judeo-Christian scriptures and has the most abstract understanding of God as "someone like one's own self".

It would come to the conclusion, ultimately, that God gives people highly defined paths they can "walk" in through their lives. These paths allow them to make significant mistake, even to the point of often enabling them to harm others.

But, then, one either believes this is so, or not. And, if so, then it also means that such boundaries set for individuals are to eventually be changed, to where they no longer can make such significant mistakes, far less, being capable of harming others.

Because when a person harms another beyond their control, ultimately, it is a bit like how people blame "Obama" or "Clinton" or "Bush" for anything and everything the entire government does.

Or, when the people have harm, they look to the head for blame. When they people have abundance, however, the reverse is true, they look to the head for praise. So, ultimately, yes, it is most definitively in God's best interest to ensure "no harm is done" so far "down below" here.

Justice aside.

But, "justice" like true "cost" and "reward", these concepts are much too lofty for us mere human beings to pretend to consider to understand, as one considers the height of the Heavens versus the lowness of the earth.

In all equitable terms, however, I am surprised you did not also mention how God actually runs all nations, and that with an innumerable number of heavenly beings, often called "angels".

For anyone to assume that this "shadow" government is far outside the realm of influence on earth would run contrary to much of what was revealed by the Prophets, long ago.

In fact, God even ran effective "disinformation programs". In one extreme case, God solicited the opinion of various spirits on how to lead the King of Israel, the infamous Ahab, to his death. "One said this, one said this". "Finally, one agreed to 'go down' and 'become a lying spirit in the mouths of his prophets'". God responded, "Good, that will work, go and do it".

Hardly the simplistic, "black" and "white" moral mechanics people are normally *willing* to attribute to God. They like to attribute to God possibilities which fit their own choosing. Yet, for the heavenly spirits, that is far from any surprise to them.

(And to point out just how alien that action was, the spirit did go and become a lying spirit in the mouths of hundreds of prophets at the very same time. Not a behavior anyone today can much imagine -- but, perhaps, hackers. Even the infamous "Exorcist" story did not begin to comprehend mass, malicious possession giving full control to hundreds of highest level "church" people...)


Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 5:13 PM

@Thaddeus

So we're expected to believe that Stalin's surveillance state (a thoroughly anti-Christian form of government) was accepted by his people because of "a fundamental trust in the experience of being watched" that was "deeply rooted in Western consciousness"? We might as well add a fundamental trust in the experience of being murdered (purged) to that list.

To be fair, as a Christian, I do have to admit that the concepts of "Christianity" have been used for greatest evil through society. Communism, at its' core, is deeply derived from Christianity, but so is the Medeval Roman Church, so was Jim Jones, so was Nazism, so is modern atheism, and countless other systems which are true and good or false and bad. And many on the spectrums far in-between.

It is like a gun given to society, it was extreme knowledge of "good" and "evil". And it was well pointed out it would be used for evil. Just as the preceding revelations from Moses and the Prophets were.

The difference is only possible, in fact, by those led by the Spirit, as opposed to those devoid of the Spirit. So, for those controlled by their own finite, human fallibility, it creates in them great evil. As I argued above, does this mean "the disclosures are evil", "no, but the fallibility in people is evil and takes what is holy and good and becomes great evil". "So that evil might be thoroughly condemned". (That is, paraphrasing my above paraphrase of Paul's arguments on how revelations have such actions.)

Some argue, with Nazism, "it was Christian", which is absurd, of course, and only speaks of their own lack of dilligence or concern about making accurate accusations. Few may argue the same for Communism, but that is because it rarely serves them any "political" or personal interests. It does not fit their particular range of biases.

But, looking at Communism at the core, like Nazism, they are and were both very similar to countless Christian apocalyptic cults. Nazism even had the concept of ushering in a new millennium, Communism had a similar concept but without that specific word. Nazism was deeply - and is deeply - rooted in paganism, however, whereas the core of Communism is much less. Yet, both systems ended up with an almost exactly "like the Middle Ages Roman Church" system of totalitarianism -- as do many cults do today.

(Communism is particularly absurd in its' derivations from Christianity, preaching a sort of salvation "for the poor", whom they read as "the workers", but is certainly what they meant. And mean. The few who are left.)

None of this is to say totalitarianism, or tyrannical cult structures, are anything but normal for the human condition. They most certainly are normal, and is why you see them from the Americas to the Asias.

And that across the expanse of time.

Indeed, even Islam is a deviated cultic group from Christianity.

At the extreme of Islam, it is even with ISIS that they hope to bring the nations there to fight them so *Jesus* will come and destroy them. Effectively, the similar doctrine some apocalyptic Christians believe. Only, they view the area as a little more south then where ISIS is at... at Megiddo. Where many battles have already been fought between the nations over the past two thousand years and significantly before.

Problems with literalism...

I do not think these problems exist as much anymore, however, as today the system of propagation is almost purely by metaphoric means, which is exactly how Jesus actually taught. Therefore, it bypasses people's conscious resistances, and makes them apostles and disciples under so many countless names -- without even knowing it.

(Literalists, who are the very problem, might say "Jesus by another name is not Jesus", but they are meaning to quote the argument that "someone else is not Jesus". Obviously, even the literal name "Jesus" is not accurate. It was more like "Yeshua". Likewise, people call God YWHW or "Jehovah" or "Yahweh", as if that is magic, while missing the actual meaning of the word, "I Am"... somehow they know normally how to translate words, but when it comes to names and religion, they get hypocritically confused...)


Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 5:39 PM

@Jen

And, on a final note, sex & spying. (Albeit, depending on how I am summoned, I may not come back for responses or may.)

Apes have sex in public. Humans have sex in private. Both apes and humans like to watch others have sex. You might argue that the desire to see things others do not want us to is built into who we are.
Then there excitement of the theft of knowledge. Sneaking around, surveillance, doing something another does not wish you to do.
Then there is the desire to use that knowledge, perhaps to punish the person that clearly deserved to be surveilled for some number of reasons decided after the surveillance occurred. A justification for doing something immoral.
But the desire to have knowledge you should not have... seems ingrained in all of us.


I think you raise some very interesting and important points. But, I believe people have a deeply ingrained barrier to frankly discussing such matters. Of all the matters people deal with, few are more kept in the unconscious then the matters of sex.

Just as sex is a very private, intimate matter, for human beings -- so too do they keep their own calculations on it deeply shut away from their capacity to *consciously* reason.

One must transcend one's own inalienable subjectivity to even begin to get anywhere there. Which, technically, should be impossible.

A major "trick" to bypass those conscious resistances to analyzing it, in regards to "how intrinsic sex is to public communication made by private individuals", one need only consider: what would it be like if someone thought you had sex with someone you felt deplorable? And related abstract "reasonings out".

The fact is, people communicate thoroughly, about having had sex in private, to the social structures around them. It is just very sophisticated communication which is primarily unconscious.

That social communication is always a major reason why people do not sleep with 'just anyone', even if they are focused on never making any outward claims of private sex with them.

So, humans are just more sophisticated then apes and other animals about sex. But, sex is while a very private matter, it is also certainly very public.

I do agree that sex is a major component of the desire for surveillance, however. It figures heavily into blackmail programs, and it is noted by workers in US and UK government that there are problems with workers sharing sex video and other evidence with each other. This was something specifically mentioned by Snowden, for instance.

Hoover's deep surveillance campaign often primarily focused on people's private sex lives. This ran the gamut from performing a nation wide campaign designed to expose and exfilttrate homosexuals in government (even while he himself was clearly and inarguably a homosexual, and clearly a very devious man who enjoyed deviousness as a sign of his own intelligence -- as shallow as that is)... and who was known for attempting to blackmail Presidents because of their own sex lives, or the sex lives of their close kin and spouses. Including Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor.

In non-publicly elected systems, however, surveillance usually takes a darker turn and focus. For publicly elected officials, or those under publicly elected officials, exposing socially unacceptable sexual activity is a prime blackmail card... but not so in societies such as Stalinist Russia, where 'what the people think about their officials' is nowhere near as important.

Knowledge of intimate details is a core component of people's privacy, surely. After all, that is what the definition of much of human secrecy is about, right? Secrecy and deeply held beliefs, loves, and hates.

But, I think maybe that issue can get confused with the central issue of control and power equated by surveillance. People have a vast many secrets, any of which can be used to control them.

While that behavior can be said to be intrinsically sexual, as it is dominating, and a desire to dominate people at core, intimate levels... it is also simply intrinsic to any social structure.

Some cult leaders, for instance, like Manson, sex brainwashed their disciples, whereas plenty others certainly did not. And do not. Be these groups very small and obscure as the "Manson family" *was*... or be they very large, such as Stalinist Russia, or Hoover's America...

Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 6:18 PM

@Jonez

The idea is that when human societies are organized along tribal hunter-gatherer lines, everybody knows what everybody is doing, and there is no need for abstract deities to enforce social norms.
This is closely related to something Jeremy Bentham formulated with the idea of the panopticon.

This has been tried many times, over the past hundred some odd years, and never works. To not be aware of this, is difficult to understand, except by considering there is a strong "political" component to such "reasonings" which means that ultimately one is looking at a collection of social grouping biases incarnate through human speech... far from anything dealing with rationality.

Basically, the first thing a person should do in life is follow the precept of attempting not to be a hypocrite. If you do as you condemn, you are condemned by your own standard. Problem is, I suppose, as this was heavily preached and practiced by Jesus - and the "golden rule" is found in some form in most world religions - if one is part of *a group* that believes themselves to be *morally* and *intellectually* superior to other groups, whereby an artificial delimitor like "religion" (very much in quotes) is used... then they might consider it wise and even "rational" to throw off that antiquated chain and be as hypocritical as they want to be.

Even if this means atheists end up arguing and acting and behaving exactly as their most fervent strawmen, the most grotestque examples of religious literalists.

But, at a more core, human level, it is observed that truth matters little in groups, and by "truth" - also a very religious loaded term - I mean here, what the Bible actually argues: truth which is reasonable and subject to rigorous, arguable, organized description.

Grouping of humans tends to involve the very "freedom" of dropping the chains of rationality.

This is certainly as true of a tendency for "atheistic" groupings as for "religious".

Both terms, firmly in quotes.

On the hypocrisy point, however, the problem is when people are very unpracticed in trying to live by their very own standards... they have a strong tendency, of course, to not *think through the underlining meanings of their own standards for condemnations and come up with an ample, ever diverse river for translation*.

So, they happily condemn behaviors and do the very things they condemn... because they do not bother to try and inspect their own standards in the slightest so as to truly and honestly apply these very standards to their own self.

Being in a cultic group, there is no reason for doing so: their fellow group members have agreed upon a consensual delusion to supplant truth (and so rationality). And, one might observe, then, they merely hear from the crowd, their group, adopt these "thinkings" as their own... and spew them freely as if they are their own. If terms like "reasoning" and "rationality" and "thinking" are used enough -- they will actually believe it.

Despite such terms are as much a lie as anything else which comprises the group's core social beliefs. Which can be transformed from "religious" to "non-religious", by merely dishonestly framing the words in a very narrow manner, and relying on the definition of words so the equivalent is not, in fact, equivalent. When it is.

So, for instance, a hypocrite might condemn someone for eating meat, but how do they follow that very same standard their own self? One has to look at the intrinsics of "why" they condemn eating meat. That requires deep, rational thought.

When they get into the "whys", is when they make their own standard more honest, and more universal. And is why they then would not hold such a standard for others, to condemn them with.

But, if their party leadership, or group, or group leader, simply states such things as trivial as they are, are condemnable, the group members believe and accept it without any such matter of rational thinking whatsoever.

In this instance, for instance, there are many flaws:

1. Religion is hardly overseen by an imaginary God, which produces negative, tyrannical social behaviors. After all, if they believed an unseen God views them, in all things, and will exact punishment... why, then, would they be in the least concerned about policing themselves?

In fact, early Christianity was only concerned about policing people so that *the message* did not overly offend. And so was found plausible to surrounding unbelievers.

While, in reality, the primary writing explaining just these matters also explained *in Christ there is no condemnation*, only adding "not all things are beneficial".

It was simply politics. So, for instance, 'if eating meat sacrificed to gods offends the conscious of a new believer, then do not do so because you may destroy their faith'. A highly sophisticated argument devoid of the narrow minded view of your quoted author.

2. "Religion" should be in quotes here, as there are ample examples of "atheist" groups abounding in the past two, three hundred years. All are intrinsically similar, ultimately. If one is unaware of this, one should not pretend to have an opinion on the matter, I think. One is merely regurgiated other people's statements... which never once touches any manner of rational 'working out' or 'weighing between various components, so as to order them rightly and honestly -- ie, **reasoning**.

3. Mixing up "religion" as in "the Christian religion", and forgetting all other religions in these contexts is also absurd and unthinking. Religion has been the norm, and remains it, for atheist and non-atheist alike, if one is thinking in these terms. One can "religiously clean their car", for instance. Or one can "religiously believe in doctrines one has no evidence for"... and certainly everyone has deeply held systems of belief, regardless of whether or not they have in their equations "God" or "gods", or simply "society". Such as the OCD like behavior of considering the moral perspectives of others when one goes out into the streets with mustard on their shirt, or maybe with a tshirt that says, "Fuck You".

Again, at the core, this shows the inability for introspection, of "what one condemns", and shows significant evidence that one has come to their condemnations without any manner of thinking whatsoever.

But, on the other aspect of this: across all religions, historically and globally, plenty of relatively or completely benign. Many are and have not been. These historically have been derivatives from every manner of outlook. Normally, past the last three hundred some odd years, they all did involve some belief in some manner of unseen entities... but one also has to there disregard the initial atheists -- the Christians.

For instance, for the most part, Buddhism and Buddhist deviations tend to be socially benign, and the same with Christianity and primitive shamanistic and other primitive pagan religions. But, there are always instances of this 'not being so'.

Children were sacrificed, sex cults happened, rape, murder of all kinds... and so on... and these all across the world and across time. Under countless guises.

Forced labor, in fact, typically is intrinsically tied into these sorts of tyrannical cultic societies. If a society produced immense stonework, for instance, you can pretty well guarantee they were substantially tyrannical... with an elite who ordered the work and had it performed on their own behalf... and the slave and worker class who actually were subjected to the elites "as if" slaves.

And, even, so it is and was: this all gave glory to the elites, entirely separate from any claims to beliefs of supernatural or other unseen entities.

Hence, the great poem by Shelley, on Ozymandias... which was deeply derived from observations on the sophisticated interaction between "Pharaoh" and "Moses" at the struggle which produced the "ten plagues".

Wherein it was heavily observed, and that by a sophisticated dissection by action and words, that "Pharaoh" was deeply mired in his own delusions in every part supplanted by his social group - ancient Egypt - and the vast and mighty works which cemented his power and authority as signs of his own very greatness.

(Never even mind the typical religious conceit of Pharaohs - in the plural - like countless other societal elites... to be gods, God, sons and daughters of God or gods, or otherwise be alone privy to truth and that of a higher, unseen level then what the 'mere masses' can ever hope to know. An equivalent mindset exactly found in Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, and countless other atheist and pseudo-atheist leaders, from Marlene Dixon to L Ron Hubbard and his "I gotta get real money and power by starting my own religion" arguments to his first wife before "scientology" ever got off the ground.)

Plenty of atheist enlightenment groups that went these ways, plenty from the late 18th century, Voltaire and Sade and Paine included... to modern times.


tyrDecember 22, 2015 6:38 PM


I always liked the interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls
when a leading Aramaic scholar said that Jesus was a
mushroom grown in caves around Qumran.

The rest turned out to be thinly disguised Serapis cult
which was looking for a new raison de etre.

Cultures turn out to be virtual realities concocted for
control purposes. That's why they feel a need for the
constant check on how the denizens are responding to
the VR. It's all about "pay no attention to the man
behind the curtain !".

Brainwashing has been thoroughly debunked, what was IDed
as brainwashing turns out to be the cultures VR turned
on its citizens by its enemies. So Communists used the
homilies of good citizenship to control the soldiers
of its enemies. This was explained as brainwashing so
that the nefarious evil bad guys with mystic powers
narrative could continue. Calling it a failure of the
people who produced such gullible nitwits wasn't going
to be accepted.

What you need to pay extra attention to is the everybody
knows and I'm absolutely sure of parts of your own mindset
because that's where the most dangerous falsehoods are
hiding in plain sight. Once you can examine them in detail
you get a much better foundation for rational thoughts.

ThaddeusDecember 22, 2015 6:55 PM

@Michael In the Field

I disagree with some of your assertions.

Nazism was rooted in Social Darwinian philosophy, i.e., Eugenics; or, survival of the fittest "races". Communism was similar but exchanged "races" for "social classes". In Marx's words: "Darwin's book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural selection for the class struggle in history." [1]

Both of these philosophies came out of early Darwinian social theory. Darwinism itself was a direct assault on Christian beliefs of the time, which for 1800+ years had believed in a literal Creation, Fall, Flood, etc.

Just because Nazi/Communist philosophies borrowed some mythical concepts from Christianity, such as the notion of the Millenium, or a future paradise, does not make them derived from Christianity, any more than Star Wars is derived from Christianity.

Also, I don't understand how you can argue that Atheism is derived from Christianity. Unless you're suggesting that it derived from Christianity in the sense of being a rebellion against it.

[1] Zirkle, C., Evolution, Marxian Biology, and the Social Scene, University of Philadelphia Press, Philadelphia, pp. 85-87, p. 86, 1959.

IanDecember 22, 2015 7:02 PM

The Fourth Lateran Council was primarily about persecuting Jews and taking their property from them. This was before the protestant movement, so the heretics in question were the ones who were not participants in the Roman church organisation.

The only ones who had signifcant wealth and were not participants in that organisation were the Jews. The return on investment, so to speak, was worthwhile and likely was a significant money spinner for the Roman church.

The parallel between this and more recent German history is strikingly similar, with both relying on mass surveilance to identify their targets.

Dirk PraetDecember 22, 2015 8:17 PM

@ Thaddeus, @Michael In the Field, @ Jonez

Darwinism itself was a direct assault on Christian beliefs of the time, which for 1800+ years had believed in a literal Creation, Fall, Flood, etc.

A 2014 Gallup poll showed that no less than 42% of Americans still believe in creationism, with an additional 32% believing that humans evolved, but with God guiding. That's downright scary and one of many reasons why Europeans in general have a really hard time understanding their view of the world.

The idea is that when human societies are organized along tribal hunter-gatherer lines, everybody knows what everybody is doing, and there is no need for abstract deities to enforce social norms.

Which did not prevent all sorts of deities to emerge even in such communities, not as a means to enforce social norms or control, but under Rudolf Otto's famous triangle of the Numinosum, the Fascinosum and the Tremendum, explained in his 1917 masterpiece "Das Heilige - Über das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sein Verhältnis zum Rationalen" (The Holy - On the Irrational in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational). It remains to date the best explanation on the origin of religion that I have ever read.

Indeed, even Islam is a deviated cultic group from Christianity.

No, it isn't. the Prophet Muhammed - by Muslims designated as Khatam an-Nabiyyin or "Seal of the Prophets" - built further on Judaic and Christian beliefs, just like they (presumably) had built on earlier religions that had introduced monotheism in the region, such as Zoroastrianism and the Aten cult under the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten.

At the extreme of Islam, it is even with ISIS that they hope to bring the nations there to fight them so *Jesus* will come and destroy them. Effectively, the similar doctrine some apocalyptic Christians believe

It's more than just "some" apocalyptic Christians. It's basically *most* Evangelical Christians in the US. Their influence on US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, should not be underestimated.

Marcos El MaloDecember 22, 2015 8:50 PM

There have been a few mentions of hunter/gatherer societies, and I think this approach might bear some fruit if we want to understand underlying causes.

Hunter/gathering bands and tribes require (required, if you prefer past tense) social cohesiveness and social conformity to survive. The pressure to conform to the group was a life or death matter for the individual. If expelled from the group, he or she had a low chance of survival. I think this would hold true whether the group was egalitarian or authoritarian in structure. In both cases, nonconformity would be detected by everyone watching one another. In most cases, this ongoing watchfulness would be comforting rather than anxiety provoking. Knowing that everyone was checking everyone else would bring a sense of safety. Knowing that violations of the group's security protocols against predators and hostile groups would be dealt with would ease anxiety.

The difference today is that our groups are much larger and allow for great concentrations of power. Those with this power maintain it by keeping us on the edge of anxiety while appealing to the unconscious ancient need for group watchfulness.

Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 10:30 PM

@Thaddeus

Just because Nazi/Communist philosophies borrowed some mythical concepts from Christianity, such as the notion of the Millenium, or a future paradise, does not make them derived from Christianity, any more than Star Wars is derived from Christianity.

I made the terms quite clear. What you are stating ignores that.

Many things, systems, ideas are derived from Christianity, good and bad.

You seem to be arguing semantics.

Star Wars, like most modern fiction, are examples of good products.

Nazism, Communism, are example of bad products.

Was Christianity the only influence in any of these? No, of course not.

They were, however, more major influenced then they would like to admit, that is for sure. They took some of the core concepts in terms of 'building a social group' and 'maintaining a social group' and perverted it for malicious purposes.

Knowledge is power, and power can be dangerous.

Of course, in any of those cases, it is more like knowledge in terms of 'being blinded by the light'. People come out of their cave, get blinded to the light, and do even darker things then they ever would without the light.

*shrug*

Jesus exemplified this well in the very message of being crucified, and this environment was amplified and repeated afterwards.

Just as Paul went very bad, in his argument, hearing of the law not to covet... for instance... so too where those revelations and the far greater, later ones transmitted to the entire world. It is that they are mere flesh, and flesh can not comprehend the light, so it reacts to the Holy and good rebelliously, showing what sheer wrongness it is.

Quite simple concepts.

WaelDecember 22, 2015 10:53 PM

@Dirk Praet,

Slightly off topic...

the Aten cult under the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten.

The Egyptian narrates part of the story of Sinuhe and some of Akhenaton's life. I watched the movie (twice.) Regarding Akhenaten, an Egyptologist friend (really long time ago) told me that Akhenaten didn't really worship the Sun (Aton) but said there is a god beyond the sun. He used the sun to symbolize this god, but it wasn't the sun he worshipped. Akhenaten was also known as the heretic Pharaoh. He supposedly was an honest man, that's why his statues didn't portray him as a "muscular man". He refused to have statues that weren't an accurate representation of his real feminine-like figure. It's also said (a documentary I watched) that his elongated fingers and other unusual characteristics about his body indicate he had genetic defects. After he died, other pharaohs erased all records of him.

Michael In the FieldDecember 22, 2015 11:29 PM

@Dirk Praet

A 2014 Gallup poll showed that no less than 42% of Americans still believe in creationism, with an additional 32% believing that humans evolved, but with God guiding. That's downright scary and one of many reasons why Europeans in general have a really hard time understanding their view of the world.

Your statement implies:
1. having a differing viewpoint of the universe then someone else means they are wrong, in terms of being morally and intellectually inferior
2. you speak for all Europeans
3. Europeans are 100% atheist
4. all Europeans have some manner of fear of Americans based on Americans having a different religion then theirs ("downright scary")
5. everyone should be on the same page, or be persecuted, with fear, and with superiority when it comes to their personal beliefs

Likely, you are just inaccurate in your speaking, deciding for rhetorical impact and division over accuracy of statement.

But, while, no, Europeans do not have, in general, in terms of "beliefs by nation", as strong of faith as Americans do, arguing that Europe is 100% atheist and everyone else should get in line is patently untrue.

This poll shows that the numbers by population size, as opposed to "by nation" are substantial -- the smaller nations skew the population size in these arguments, because of biased people:
http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-regions/

These polls show even by nation, that some manner of believe in God, and some manner of supernatural belief is very high:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Europe

Bottomline, is, however: America and Americans are doing very well, even if there are those who hate "us" because of their religion. As silly as that is to say, because there are many religions here.

And America is so diverse, racially, culturally, nationally (roots wise), it is very difficult to make all sweeping statements about "Americans".

I did not speak of evolution and creation, my own self, though was included in your list. Which certainly does seem to mean you are just really kind of racist -- though viewing America as a race is silly and absurd. But, you seem to be doing it.

And such clumping together is routine for racists.

My suggestion: stop listening to American music, stop buying American products, stop seeing American movies, and stop watching American tv.

Though, frankly, how anyone *but* a racist could see how any of that is about preaching one's belief in "creation" or "evolution" is well beyond me...

As for me, I normally live and work around people from other nations, from when I was doing blue collar work, to nowadays. I definitely enjoy some European movies and television, and there is really no difference. Never been to Europe.

Usually don't meet Europeans who see themselves as the superior "race" over Americans, either, though.


I really have the same reaction to white racists, European or American. Why? How are you superior? The irony is, these tend to be the most grim examples of trailer trash possible. They truly do sort themselves by being the most dumb and morally inefficient into such groups.


All your "we" says, aside, how are you so superior?


Western tiddles aside, of course, one must be truly, genuinely, deeply scared of the rest of the world:

The rest of the Americas, excluding Canada. From Mexico on down to the tip of South America.

Most of Asia. All of Africa. The Middle East.

Of course, in your statement, you show you don't even consider the beliefs of more impoverished European nations as being valid or something to count in your estimations of "we".

You would probably do good educating your self on population size of nations, as well, instead of viewing nations with small populations equal to nations with large populations. Or viewing nations with a higher level GDP as more "elite worthy" then nations with a lower level GDP.


Colonialism and that sort of sentiment is dead.

Let's keep it dead, and move on to the future.


FM RadioDecember 22, 2015 11:37 PM

@Duncan Kinder

Suffice it to say that the 4th Crusade did not conquer Russia.

The 4th Crusade didn't conquer Russia but destroyed Constantinople, weakened the Byzantine Empire to the point that the fall of Constantinople to the Turks was inevitable, and opened the road to the muslims to enter Europe (you can thank the Pope for the recent Bosnia and Kosovo mess).

It is no secret that the Pope wanted to exterminate the Orthodox Church, which led to the Croatian extermination camps a few centuries later.

Clive RobinsonDecember 23, 2015 12:22 AM

@ Michael In the Field,

Colonialism and that sort of sentiment is dead.

No it's not it's very much alive and kicking, what is dead is "responsibility for your actions".

The aim of Colonialism was "exploitation" of raw resources, markets and people. Although the latter was more a side effect of the former two.

Go study the life and times of Cecil Rhodes to see just one way it was done, abd why he is so hated in Africa. History is however littered with examples of explotative "merchant ventures" and privateers. Cortez was another, though he was not interested in trade just blood thirsty robbery. It was those that accompanied him who went on to exploit the people and Colonize in the name of God, in the process bring much death and destruction.

Religion is very much a process of colonisation, the aim being to displace one existing belief system with another, with the new exploting the riches to be made. I've seen first hand the springing up of "American style Religion" in quite a few places in East London, where there is a lot of poverty, short and often brutal lives of little hope, and all I can say of such religion, is it is explotative to a very high degree, and increasingly drawing the attention of the courts, police and revenue authorities.

Michael In the FieldDecember 23, 2015 12:34 AM

I wrote:
At the extreme of Islam, it is even with ISIS that they hope to bring the nations there to fight them so *Jesus* will come and destroy them. Effectively, the similar doctrine some apocalyptic Christians believe

Dirk Praet wrote:

It's more than just "some" apocalyptic Christians. It's basically *most* Evangelical Christians in the US. Their influence on US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, should not be underestimated.

I had missed this statement.

Not much to respond to, except you noting your fear, yet again, of America and Americans.

There's actually a great David Bowie song on this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Afraid_of_Americans


Anyway, "no", the power structure ruling America is not equivalent to those Americans who hold the wackiest of apocalyptic belief systems.

Polling is laughable to consider in these regards.

There is a currency of beliefs that is exchanged in such a power structure, that is to be sure. I am talking about top unelected officials, especially in intelligence, military, and diplomacy. Politicians are vetted by them, and often come from them, or are pushed forward by them. Usually indirectly.

They also have enormous power over corporations, because corporations rely on the government as a major buyer. Often, they fund indirectly key corporations from the beginning.

The shared social currency is nationalistic in nature, patriotic, and considering nationalist aims. Secondarily, they do tend to have a "what is best for us" calculation worked against "what is best for them" calculation. So, it is not pure and cold calculation of nationalists without any capacity for understanding at the least "what is best for them is best for us" ratios.

Ignorance on the matter is normal, when was the last time you read a book about the life of top unelected US officials which was not produced out of extraordinary bias by a distant outsider?

Top selling books typically either pitch towards Republicans or Democrats, and anyone part of the power structure is much too cynical to buy into any such partisan angle.

There is documentation left, but that means you have to read really boring books that won't be telling you what you want to hear.

And you will only be getting bits and pieces of the truth, cemented heavily with innuendo and speculation, as well as outright misdirection. Deciding "what is true" and "what is not", really, then should be impossible.

...

Not that such a projection is without value.

It is of great value.

Reagan is a great example of a person from that power structure who was extremely good at playing brinkmanship to powerful effect. He scared the hell out of many Europeans and Russia, alike. But, he also steered things so things never got too scary.

It is bluffing. No good having a big stick if you won't even plausibly use it.

This does not mean, however, that the actions of America should be considered as being actions of a nation that is unwilling to pull the trigger. Clearly, they are very willing to pull the trigger. Maybe too willing, as you say. Or maybe a bluff.

With armies of drones flying about and everything under Heaven hacked up by them, hard to plausibly argue any bluffs are involved.

Heck, these guys will even blow up hospitals. If that means getting a terrorist.

And public sentiment can be fuel for actions. A poll recently showed a lot of Americans wanted to bomb the fictional city Aladdin lived in. But who is really behind enflaming the public in these directions.


tyrDecember 23, 2015 1:35 AM


"Heck, these guys will even blow up hospitals. If that means getting a terrorist."

Of course once they are safely dead you can chalk
them off as a terrorist on your score sheet without
any further proof.

The kind of thinking that uses anti-tank missles on
people and calls it surgical precision based on the
metadata shouldn't be questioned.

Like Saint Dominic said, Kill them all God will know
his own.

Like Gandhi said about western civilization I think it
would be a good idea. So far no one wants to try it.

Michael In the FieldDecember 23, 2015 1:55 AM

@Clive Robinson

The word "religion" is being misused here. "Religion" as in some sort of dealing with "belief in the supernatural". As we all well know all of these negative attributes of "religion" were plainly and deeply found in Communism. Which was atheistic. Similar story with Nazism.

Christians certainly are hard core "evangelists". "Evangelism" as in selling one's culture.

Any deeply cohesive group has a "religious" layer. That "religious" layer is what actually makes them so cohesive.

If this was the 1960s, at best, really? One could try and argue otherwise. But, it isn't. Everyone has really full visibility of how Communism was atheistic and extremely "evangelistic".

This is why two of the most ardent evangelistic groups online are of those who are atheist, or those evangelizing their political group.

In both cases they are extremely religious folks. In neither case does "the supernatural" have anything to do with it.


Of course, those evangelizing the religion of their politics are far more ardent and numerous online... then those evangelizing the religion of their atheist beliefs.

The political evangelists are not so offended - usually - at noting they are deeply religious in their beliefs.

The atheist evangelists, of course, sorely and painfully are.


The later group? I do not know how they keep that ten ton gorilla out of their mind, when they go around arguing that "religion" is something they are free from and the solution to all the world's ills.

I am certain they would outlaw religion of every kind if they could. And, of course, no quotes there. Not necessary. Because by the true definition, that means every group which believed differently then their own -- even atheistic ones.


Not in power, these groups try and be more diplomatic with their rival groups.

But, once in power, as history well shows, their behavior is quick and deadly to rid their foes whom they once shared commonality with.


Would they off every Buddhist? Every homosexual? Every Christian? Every Jew? Of course they would. It is part of their religion.


Not even something anyone can have to wonder about: the Communists showed this time and time again over this last century.


Finally, plenty of deeply cohesive social groups are certainly not aggressive in evangelizing their religion. Be that religion atheistic or otherwise.

Judaism, Buddhism, shamanistic religions -- some good examples of that.

Fact is, most religions, in terms of that deep intimate, cohesive layer of highly cohesive groups are not highly evangelistic. They are not interested in growing their group very much, if at all.


The American power structure is certainly Christian. But, it significantly differs in viewpoint in terms of national proceedings from the "Holy" Roman Empire, or the later strongly Protestant Europeans.

People can be scared and tell lies about that, but it won't actually change the global power structure or alter the truth.

A major reason for this is America has a strongly set political religion which goes far deeper then what is seen in any political party, and that is in the founding documents and founding sentiment. Which includes strong belief in freedom of religion and speech.

That does not mean the American power structure is not Christian, they certainly are.

But, the viewpoint is one of free and openly competitive systems, as opposed to closed ones, whereby matters can actually be weighed.


Further, most American cultural propagation is already performed by the media and other culturally based products. With today's information revolution, this makes everything from a telephone to blue jeans cultural propagation.

Using the blunt instrument of "missionaries" forcing religion onto people is silly and antiquated. Nobody bothers.


Fargo well said it, in their finale this past season, 'pictures are a sort of universal language that goes beyond speech'. How much more so moving pictures.


Problem is some countries remain who won't accept the brain hypnosis hookup to our television sets and moving picture shows.

So, they must become assimilated to the Borg by other means.


In the end, everyone just wants one world religion, be it atheistic or political in nature... or something more sublime.


Anyone arguing to me their ardent atheism, they would be happiest if everyone shared their currency. I won't buy, unfortunately.

And my optimism for their desire for their one currency to rule the world... is extremely low, and laughably so.

Never will happen. And they would not even consciously admit their own desire to have it happen. Which is also laughable.

ThaddeusDecember 23, 2015 2:30 AM

@Dirk Praet

A 2014 Gallup poll showed that no less than 42% of Americans still believe in creationism ... That's ... one of many reasons why Europeans in general have a really hard time understanding their view of the world.

I would add: about 58% of Americans have a hard time understanding the creationist view of the world too. :)

I think it's a common misconception that only uneducated Christians believe in creationism. Yet, many of the founders of modern science were creationists. A short list of the most well known names: (before Darwin) Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Leibnitz, Linnaeus; (contemporary with Darwin) Faraday, Morse; (after Darwin) Joule, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin, Maxwell. This article also lists over 150 current PhD scientists that believe in biblical creation. There are of course many orthodox Jews who believe the same. I'm no expert on Islam, but I think there are many Muslims that also hold to a (more-or-less) similar account of origins.

If you're interested in understanding the creationist view, this is a good place to start. It is (in my opinion) the most professional of the creationist organizations (run by PhD scientists).

... It remains to date the best explanation on the origin of religion that I have ever read.

I haven't studied much on the origin of religions. However, some have suggested (from studies of primitive people groups) that an original monotheistic faith "devolved" into ancestor-worship, nature-worship, etc. The best-known book (to my knowledge) on this point of view is "The Origin and Growth of Religion" by Wilhelm Schmidt (brief review by a creationist).

It's more than just "some" apocalyptic Christians. It's basically *most* Evangelical Christians in the US. Their influence on US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, should not be underestimated.

You may have overstated this a bit, but the trend is real, and I too find it worrying. Any time Jewish/Christian/Muslim groups believe they have the correct interpretation of prophecies, and then try to *bring those prophecies about themselves*, it seems to me like they are "playing God" (in a very dangerous way).

ThaddeusDecember 23, 2015 2:44 AM

@Michael In the Field

Problem is some countries remain who won't accept the brain hypnosis hookup to our television sets and moving picture shows. So, they must become assimilated to the Borg by other means.

This is pure poetry. Love it. :)

WaelDecember 23, 2015 3:25 AM

Two people can witness the same event and come out with different conclusions. For example, they can watch a boxing match and have different opinions who won, bias and subjectivity aside. The same can be said about debates, or other "events"... Doesn't necessarily mean one should accuse the other of being less intelligent, so long as they can logically and coherently justify their belief to themselves.

A creationist will look at a bird and say: it flys because it has wings that were designed by someone omniscient... Someone who knows Bernoulli's Principle and Wing Aerodynamics (shape of the wing, etc...)

An evolutionist will say: it needed to fly, so it developed wings through mutations and natural selection over a period of millions of years, and we have the fossils to prove it.

A creationist will look a DNA sequence and say: Someone wrote that complex code (with error correction mechanisms, dependencies on RNA and other proteins, separation of roles, segregation of duties, all programmed on a sub 2 nano meter host technology, by the way)

An evolutionist will see DNA as a proof of the theory of evolution, citing examples such as virus mutations and new strains to resist vaccines, etc...

An evolutionist will attribute elaborate designs to "nature", "survival of the fittest", "natural selection", "mutations",... Whereas a creationist will see the hand of a supreme being behind the design. A creationist refuses to accept the probability that "nature" has the ability to design. Evolution is also a theory -- not a fact. Big Bang is a theory among other competing theories. Nothing has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, and that's why they are called "theories".

This debate won't be settled here, I'm sure. But my theory of evolution is: Darwin was adopted --Steven Wright :)

Dirk PraetDecember 23, 2015 5:40 AM

@ Michael In the Field

Your statement implies:
1. having a differing viewpoint of the universe then someone else means they are wrong, in terms of being morally and intellectually inferior

There seem to be a great number of things you are deriving from me referencing a Gallup poll and finding its results scary, including but not limited to calling me a racist who hates Americans.

Suffise it to say that they're all baseless, intellectually dishonest and nothing but the product of your own imagination. As to your point 1: the notion at the core of US creationism that the earth is 10,000 years old and humans at some point lived along dinosaurs is not an opinion or a belief that somehow should be respected. It's factually incorrect and on par with saying that Ronald Reagan was the first president of the US. I'm not even going to bother commenting on your other statements.

@ Thaddeus

If you're interested in understanding the creationist view ...

I am familiar with it and it's not my thing, to put it politely.

The best-known book (to my knowledge) on this point of view is "The Origin and Growth of Religion" by Wilhelm Schmidt

Schmidt was a Catholic priest, and a pretty smart one. Some of his work in the field of linguistics was ground-breaking.

@ Wael

It's also said (a documentary I watched) that his elongated fingers and other unusual characteristics about his body indicate he had genetic defects.

It has been speculated that they were the result of generations of inbreeding, just as with the house of Habsburg in medieval-renaissance Europe. I've always found Akhenaten (or Amenhotep IV) a most fascinating character.

JonDecember 23, 2015 8:40 AM

@ Michael in the Field

I would agree with you that the word 'religion' is being misused here. To say that atheists are religious is an insult to the English language. They are almost exact antonyms.

I also object to your use of the word 'reason'. Unconsciousness is practically an antonym to reason. There is no unconscious reasoning, proven "scientifically" or not.

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Furthermore, nobody knows what Jesus said. What you have is "someone wrote down what someone said Jesus said", a brand of hearsay that would promptly get thrown out of any reasonable court of law.

J.

ThaddeusDecember 23, 2015 11:58 AM

@ Dirk Praet

... the notion at the core of US creationism that the earth is 10,000 years old and humans at some point lived along dinosaurs is not an opinion or a belief that somehow should be respected. It's factually incorrect and on par with saying that Ronald Reagan was the first president of the US.

This is an absurd statement in light of actual scientific evidence.

There's good reason the creation/evolution debate has been raging for 50+ years in the U.S. There are rational interpretations of the evidence on both sides. The media characterizes the debate as religion vs. science, and most of us were indoctrinated in school and by TV, into believing that Evolution and billions of years are "facts". But this is really a philosophical debate at it's core (Creationism vs. Materialism). You can't do scientific experiments on the past, you can only interpret evidence collected in the present, according to a set of unprovable starting assumptions. Which makes most of this pseudo-science or guesswork at best (on both sides).

JonDecember 23, 2015 12:58 PM

Words again.

@ Thaddeus:

"Scientific". You keep saying that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Certainly creation.com doesn't know what it means.

The media characterizes it as religion vs. science because that's exactly what it is. Your Holy Book is wrong. Thank you.

J.

PS - No, Science doesn't claim to be always right, either (unlike Holy Books, which do so claim). Science constantly tests and explores and corrects itself (most unlike a Holy Book). And no, science is not just another religion - for one example, a religion assumes supernatural powers, and science does not. J.

Dirk PraetDecember 23, 2015 2:49 PM

@ Thaddeus

This is an absurd statement in light of actual scientific evidence.

"Actual scientific evidence" is a term used when most, if not all subject matter experts after thorough scrutiny accept it as such. Which is definitely not the case here, and probably why creationism isn't taught in many schools, not even in the US. It's pseudo-science at best, only purpose of which is to try and alter reality to fit a(n obviously metaphorical) narrative passed down across generations.

Perhaps it's better we just leave it at this. Please feel free to believe whatever you want, but I'm afraid it's going to be easier to convert the pope to Islam than convincing yours truly here of creationism and the so-called proof thereof.

ThaddeusDecember 23, 2015 4:31 PM

@ Jon

"Scientific" ... Certainly creation.com doesn't know what [that] means.

PhD scientists don't know what the word "scientific" means? They can defend themselves against your charge.

The links in my previous comment describe: (1) that secular archaeologists have found unfossilized dinosaur bones in Alaska - they were perplexed at how these bones could remain "fresh" for 70 million years; (2) diamonds extracted from rock layers supposedly a billion years old, were found to contain carbon-14, which should have dissipated (due to radioactive decay) in no more than 100,000 years; and (3) a list of many other evidences that suggest a younger age for the earth than is commonly taught.

... a religion assumes supernatural powers, and science does not.

If you're suggesting that science assumes there are no supernatural powers, then you're confusing science with Materialism: a philosophy which asserts that nothing other than matter/energy exists in the universe. Creationism, on the other hand, asserts that all matter/energy was originally created by a supernatural being. Both of these assertions are unprovable assumptions (axioms).

Science in its most basic form is just the quest for knowledge. A more strict definition involves using the scientific method to discover knowledge: testing hypotheses with repeatable experiments. All scientists trying to explain our past (whether they start with Creationist or Materialist assumptions) do the same things. They experiment in the present, and draw conclusions about the past. Their conclusions are always colored by their starting assumptions.

Mind you, I did say in my previous post that much of Creation/Evolution is pseudo-science and guesswork. I agree with you that conclusions change over time (due to further experimentation and new evidence coming to light). But it's important to realize that starting assumptions (axioms) never change. For biblical creationists, the assumption is that the bible is true and accurate (so any explanation will always include a divine Creator). For materialist/evolutionists, the assumption is that no supernatural being exists (so any explanation will always exclude the possibility of a divine Creator.)

If such a thing as a truly objective person existed, with no biases at all, that person could use tools like Occam's Razor to make a judgment call about which philosophy fits the evidence better (i.e., test the "model"), and thus determine if Creation or Evolution were "true" (according to their judgment). We can try our best to do that, but in reality, people usually look for outcomes that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs.

ThaddeusDecember 23, 2015 4:38 PM

Perhaps it's better we just leave it at this ... I'm afraid it's going to be easier to convert the pope to Islam than convincing yours truly here of creationism ...

:D

We can agree to disagree. We fell pretty far off-topic, but I've enjoyed the discussion.

Dirk PraetDecember 23, 2015 5:33 PM

@ Thaddeus

For biblical creationists, the assumption is that the bible is true and accurate (so any explanation will always include a divine Creator). For materialist/evolutionists, the assumption is that no supernatural being exists (so any explanation will always exclude the possibility of a divine Creator.)

Actually, no. Only atheists will reject any notion of "divine intervention". There's plenty of people out there - even scientists - that believe in evolution, the big bang et al AND are religious people. It's not like it's a mutually exclusive thing. As opposed to biblical creationists taking Genesis literally, they just see it as a metaphor and do not forcibly preclude the existence of $DEITY or some other "higher force(s)".

A couple of thousands of years ago, it made perfect sense to tell people that $DEITY created the world and everything on, above and beneath it in six days. And that this omnipotent being made woman out of a rib of man. It's something people could understand. Anyone coming up with big bang and evolution theories, earth being billions of years old and stuff, would have been promoted to village idiot and/or, even till a couple of centuries ago in Europe, burned at the stake. Not exactly the best way to get a message across.

You cannot sell any idea to people that they are incapable of understanding. Simple people want simple ideas and simple solutions. And that's what cunning preachers and politicians have been giving them since the dawn of times.

tyrDecember 23, 2015 7:05 PM


Re:

Carbon 14, You have to assume that Earth is a closed
system with no influx from elsewhere. If you are only
slightly aware of astronomy falling stars will show
this isn't true.

Considerations of human behavior make any diety for
this planet the Demiurge of the heretics because of
the historical records. As risen apes we have done
quite well for ourselves, as fallen angels we have
buggered it up horribly.

Clive RobinsonDecember 23, 2015 7:45 PM

@ Dirk Praet,

...they just see it as a metaphor and do not forcibly preclude the existence of $DEITY or some other "higher force(s)".

To be honest I've always regarded "$DEITY" as just a rung in the maturity ladder.

As you note mankind has through the ages had levels of understanding. The first "$DEITY" was probably the sun or "the spirit of the hunt", we can but guess as mankind matures it's notion of what a supreme being / deity / god / force etc changes, usually with a considerable "conservative" social lag.

The important thing to note, is mankinds need for a deity etc. We can make jokes about fish and their pushbikes, but for some reason the majority of humans appear to need to believe in something. Even if it's just the acquisition of wealth and power and divine right that gives us "The King Con" or luck most people believe in something that is above anything that can be shown to exist by logic or reason. This obviously leaves them wide open to exploitation by others, which historicaly we see happening for as long as records have been kept.

I don't know if this need is "nature or nurture" but those who have control via religion appear to believe it's "nurture" by the way the go about indoctrination of the very young and continuous reinforcment via their mothers.

Personaly I don't have any affinity with either religion or deities, I realy can not see why people waste their time and money on them. I suspect that within a fairly short period of time we will have a sufficient explanation of the way the human brain works to understand this apparent "need".

It may well turn out to be a variation on "Nature abhors a vacuum" in that our subconcious brain needs to "fill in the gaps" in our conscious knowledge to avoide certain stresses it creates.

Or it could be a side effect of parenting, whereby before children have the maturity to behave by themselves they effectively have to be shamed/scared into beliving that they are being continuously watched and judged. That is it's not just Santa with his "naughty or nice list" but some other being(s) and that there is some kind of devine retribution.

History shows that the fear of excommunication was one way the Pope exerted fear over a large part of the known world. However England's King Henry VIII put the nail in the lid of that superstition. As far as Henry was concerned the Pope had over stepped the line, and he simply decided after some thought to reform the church around himself and tell the Pope where he could go... It was not long before others started to likewise cast off the ritual and tyranny of the Holy Roman Empire realising it was a self imposed yolk rather than something that was real.

Perhaps people should go further and throw off the yolk not just of Kings and Popes but deities as well, and try a little self belief instead and take the next step up the maturity ladder.

ThaddeusDecember 24, 2015 2:11 AM

@ tyr

Carbon 14, You have to assume that Earth is a closed system with no influx from elsewhere. If you are only slightly aware of astronomy falling stars will show this isn't true.

I applaud you for offering a rational explanation (the possibility that C14 leached into the diamond). That certainly is a possibility, but there are difficulties. First, diamond is one of the hardest substances on earth, not typically prone to chemicals leaching in from outside. Second, the sample was dug out of *deep* rock, which is (supposedly) covered by one billion years worth of slow-and-gradual accumulation of sediment, including fossils of pretty much the whole geological column of creatures that (supposedly) evolved, some going extinct over millions and millions of years. The notion that star dust from less than 100,000 years ago leached that far down the geological column is possible, but far-fetched.

Nevertheless, there are always other explanations. For instance, the samples could have been contaminated. My point is: if you start with the assumption that the diamond in question was a billion years old, you're going to look for an explanation to confirm that. For the same reason, if you start with the assumption that it's 6000 years old, you'll do the same.

@ Clive Robinson

You start with the assumption that "$DEITY" doesn't exist, and from there, you try to explain why people are religious (e.g., a psychological need). You could be right. But it's perfectly valid to argue from the opposite starting assumption: that "$DEITY" does exist. This leads to a host of interesting questions (e.g., why does an all-powerful, loving, "$DEITY" allow a global surveillance state?)

@ Dirk Praet

Hey, I thought we agreed to disagree. You saw my response to Jon and just couldn't resist a final blow huh? :)

I'm game. If only simple-minded people believe in biblical creation, count me in that group. I'll be in good company along with Isaac Newton (who wrote more about theology than science), James Clerk Maxwell (who formulated the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation and was a devout bible believer), Raymond Damadian (inventor of the MRI; also a biblical creationist), and many other great minds past and present.

Regarding theistic evolution: it's a logically inconsistent position, in my opinion. Here's a pretty damning quote from evolutionist Richard Dawkins:

Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn’t it? Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual? Nobody not brought up in the faith could reach any verdict other than barking mad! ... It seems to me an odd proposition that we should adhere to some parts of the Bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry-pick the Bible? Why bother with the Bible at all if we have the ability to pick and choose from it, what is right and what is wrong?

@ All

I've really enjoyed my first foray into the comments section here: you guys are an intellectually stimulating bunch. Of course we could argue back and forth all day on religion, but the truth is I read this blog to learn about IT security and privacy issues. I'm not an expert in that field: just beginning to learn. And while the topic of the original article had some religious implications, we've drifted pretty far from the topic of the surveillance state. So I'm going to duck out and wish you guys a (slightly P.C.) Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays.

[1] The root of all evil? (TV program broadcast on Channel 4 [UK?], 16 January 2006); I think this video is also available on youtube if you search for "dawkins on theistic evolution".

WaelDecember 24, 2015 2:42 AM

@Thaddeus,

You start with the assumption that "$DEITY" doesn't exist

Oh no! $DEITY exists! But still, earth is much older than 6000 years -- and that is an indisputable fact.

@Dirk Praet, @Clive Robinson,

To be honest I've always regarded "$DEITY" as just a rung in the maturity ladder.

Ok, so I'm a "baby" now, eh? Fudge! you just ruined the mood @Dirk Praet put me in -- it didn't even last an hour. Oh, well... I'll be nice: may the $DEITY be with you. Oops! You defined your $DEITY to be null. I guess you're on your own now :)

just a rung in the maturity ladder

Yes, a descending ladder :)

BoppingAroundDecember 24, 2015 9:43 AM

Clive Robinson,
> Personaly I don't have any affinity with either religion or deities, I realy
> can not see why people waste their time and money on them. I suspect that
> within a fairly short period of time we will have a sufficient explanation of
> the way the human brain works to understand this apparent "need".

Fromm and other people in psychology/sociology have explained this at least
partially. Fromm explains it for the authoritarian type of person claiming
that the roots of such submission grow from some internal masochistic
tendencies that manifest as feelings of inferiority, powerlessness
etc. Through obedience and deferrence to a 'higher external power'
authoritarian types lose their internal
conflicts, get a rub of that structure's power, beauty; transcend their
feelings of powerlessness.

Altemeyer wrote a work on right-wing authoritarian (RWA) type and I believe a
solid piece of the book was dedicated specifically to religion. I don't recall
what his arguments were though.

WaelDecember 24, 2015 1:22 PM

@Dirk Praet,

that believe in evolution, the big bang et al AND are religious people

I get the feeling that you think I'm disputing the Bing Bang theory. Just a small clarification... I do believe in some form of evolution. I don't know if the Big Bang theory is true or not and in either case, this has no effect on my belief that there is a supreme being who created everything. I don't know if I would classify myself as "religious", though! This is a highly subjective "label".

AnuraDecember 24, 2015 1:44 PM

I have a theory that all religions started out as jokes that people started taking too seriously. For example, people jokingly believe in the Cthulhu mythos, but imagine if it came out before mass printing of books and instead was told through oral tradition; after a century or two, kids who grew up fearing the Deep One under their bed will not realize it was fiction, and an actual religion will have formed.

I have no evidence to support my theory, but where does evidence fit in to a discussion about religion?

ThomasDecember 24, 2015 2:49 PM

@Clive

> I don't know if this need is "nature or nurture" but those who have control via religion appear to believe it's "nurture" by the way the go about indoctrination of the very young and continuous reinforcment via their mothers.

Or maybe they just want to "get in first"

@ Thaddeus
> why does an all-powerful, loving, "$DEITY" allow a global surveillance state?

"global surveillance state" is the least interesting of the "why does an all-powerful, loving, "$DEITY" allow "$STUFF"" questions

tyrDecember 24, 2015 5:32 PM

@Thaddeus et al

Notice I never used the word leached.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to
support them. Science is hard because of its premises
and it can offer some hope that what it says has some
testable evidence of being right.

Once you step outside that boundary you will be trapped
by every fallacy of our benighted human past. Religions
have the nasty habit of clinging to what should have
been discarded in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Once you accept that nothing is discardable you are in
the trap of a system that can't be changed by evidence.

This mindset can carry over into security, politics, and
other forms of human activities with disastrous results.
You have to know why you think things are the correct
way, because blind acceptance of an imposed narrative is
the road to egregious errors in judgement.


Wesley ParishDecember 26, 2015 11:43 PM

@All

Re religion OT but don't queer my pitch, mkay?!?

I've taken it that we work up from the simpler to the more complex, ie, we learn the times table before not after, we get into algebra and calculus ... we sing "Three Blind Mice" before we learn the Cello Suites or Stairway to Heaven... we find atoms are built from sub-atomic particles and molecules from atoms and not viceversa...

What are the usual group behaviours of the species homo sapiens? The usual group hierarchies that enable most human groups to continue existing? (These relate to the perfectly visible members of the group, their behaviours, interactions, etc.)

Now we have the baseline, what sort of behaviour exists between the visible humans and the (alleged) &DEITY/IES? Is there a correlation? Do humans behave in a similar way to superiors in their individual hierarchies as they claim they do for &DEITY/IES?

I think the answer is self-evident.

So we would appear to have found a possible correlation between human social behaviour and human religious behaviour.

I'm sure we could also approach religion from the viewpoint of mental health, which is interesting, but which would unnecessarily offend a number of the participants in this forum.

Just Another Tentacle of the Cthulhu MonsterDecember 27, 2015 2:24 AM

@$DEITY

Truth be told, I may be flat out lying when I am saying I am "just another tentacle".

I may be the head of the monster posing as just another tentacle.


If so, then I probably would be of such comfort as one who can speak of the angel of God as 'one who is not as merciful because he has my Name on him'. As God told Moses. Hence, I could probably take the name of the angel of the lord, aka, Michael, with zero concern that I would suffer consequences. Because, like him, I also have the name of God on me.

If that was the case, then I forged the name of the angel of the lord to make these posts.

And, I have the authority to do that, because he is my angel.


Casual observers might say I have zero power.

Anyone whose attention I have taken over the years... primarily nation state based attackers, as we in the comp sec industry like to say... would strongly disagree.

Though, none of them can prove anything.


Personally, I am looking for the elimination of the leadership structures of Gog and MaGog. These are code words for Russia and China.


So?

Catch me if you can?


In the meantime, believe me: watch me have my dinner while you are not.


And mourn.

Dirk PraetDecember 28, 2015 7:20 PM

@ Wael

I do believe in some form of evolution. I don't know if the Big Bang theory is true or not and in either case, this has no effect on my belief that there is a supreme being who created everything.

Until definitive and irrefutable proof has been presented for either, both theories are just what they are: theories. My personal belief is that just like relativity and quantum mechanics, they don't have to be by definition mutually exclusive, but may just be part of a bigger GUT that is still eluding us and in which $DEITY is not necessarily some anthropomorphic super-being, but something entirely different with many avatars.

abbadabbaDecember 29, 2015 9:41 AM

If I said your essay has a beautiful body, will you hold it against me?

I've got tubs of printed out scoop for display I'm about to throw away. What would Watson think if he missed everything we typed to ourselves? Predict and infill? I got this 210 Smith Corona, and it recoils like a Winchester when you fire the return. Snaps and slaps like real weaponized machinery, Gutenbergers. I've killed the same men over and over and over again with same damnation, but history easily rolls heads like that, Watson.

How about that Luther telling us not to mind the Pope, but if we offend our local load and master, we've lost our heads to his ax with Luther's urgent blessings? Luther knew whose side of the bread was nicely buttered. My uncle John married Cromwell's daughter Betty, so of course we got a boat load of them to follow through. He could not with naught have made nothing from nobody, ya'll. NSA, GCHQ, are you ready for some football? Soccers.

WaelDecember 29, 2015 3:59 PM

@Dirk Praet,

but may just be part of a bigger GUT that is still eluding us and in which $DEITY is not necessarily some anthropomorphic super-being

What is "GUT"? I already don't believe $DEITY is anthropomorphic or like anything else we can imagine.

but something entirely different with many avatars.

I don't subscribe to what Joseph Campbell postulates whether it's the "follow your bliss" in his book The Power of Myth, nor do I totally agree with his views in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. He claims "The journey is the goal" ;)

Clive RobinsonDecember 29, 2015 6:54 PM

@ Wael,

What is "GUT"?

I suspect it is what eluded Einstein and still eludes every one else and it is called the Grand Unified Theorem.

The thing is as others have put it "The more we know, the less we know we know". It is realy only ignorance that does not question, test and try to prove knowledge.

Another observation made by others is that often the simpler the rule of a system the more complex and seemingly random it's behaviour is, you can see this with various simulations like "The Game of life"

In fact in a number of cases it's not possible to distinguish from the output alone, complex behaviour, chaotic behaviour or random behaviour. If such mathematical models are analogues of the real world, then what we call TRNGs may be anything but. Thus we might likewise find "That God realy does not play dice" even though quantum physics might suggest otherwise.

If there was a "creator of our universe" then by definition they must be outside of our universe, thus in effect invisable to us. Which in turn means that it can not be shown that a deity exists or not, which makes a belief in one a fairly pointless endeavor.

WaelDecember 29, 2015 8:24 PM

@Clive Robinson,

I suspect it is what eluded Einstein and still eludes every one else and it is called the Grand Unified Theorem.

Thanks! I guess you're right. Too many acronyms.

The thing is as others have put it "The more we know, the less we know we know". It is realy only ignorance that does not question, test and try to prove knowledge.

No argument from me. I agree.

Another observation made by others is that often the simpler the rule of a system the more complex and seemingly random it's behaviour is, you can see this with various simulations like "The Game of life"

I'll need to think about this. I can see your point, though, because the more complex the rules are, the more constrained the "system" is and the less "degrees of freedom" it has, so to speak.

In fact in a number of cases it's not possible to distinguish from the output alone, complex behaviour, chaotic behaviour or random behaviour. If such mathematical models are analogues of the real world, then what we call TRNGs may be anything but

Yup, we've been there some time in the past.

Thus we might likewise find "That God realy does not play dice" even though quantum physics might suggest otherwise.

God doesn't play with dice. I'm aware of the reference.

If there was a "creator of our universe" then by definition they must be outside of our universe

Yes, the creator will also not be bound by time, space, or the laws of physics, all of which are part of the "creation".

Which in turn means that it can not be shown that a deity exists or not

It can be shown - both mathematically and logically - that the universe and "humans" didn't just appear out of nothing. They aren't "random" or "things that happened by chance" or without a "creator". If you argue otherwise, then you'll face a science contradicting science problem.

which makes a belief in one a fairly pointless endeavor.

Not if there is an afterlife and accountability!

Dirk PraetDecember 29, 2015 8:46 PM

@ Wael, @ Clive

What is "GUT"?

I meant Grand Unified Theory indeed, i.e. the theoretical merger of the strong, the weak and electromagnetic forces into one single force, addition of gravity to which would unify general relativity (GR) and quantum field theory (QFT) in a "Theory of Everything" (ToE).

I'm not familiar with the work of Joseph Campbell, but he seems to have borrowed from Emanationism and the likes. Not too keen on "the journey is the goal" kinda stuff either. I get why some people dedicate their entire life in search of certain answers, but the search for $DEITY is not just that high on my list to make it either a goal or a journey.

In fact in a number of cases it's not possible to distinguish from the output alone, complex behaviour, chaotic behaviour or random behaviour.

Well, actually, in QFT output observation is a really hard thing to do, and the particles, forces and spaces predicted by certain GUT's are so infinitesimally small, weak or complex that they for all practical purposes are impossible to (directly) detect with current cyclotrons like the LHC. And even if they were, the output does not add up if the theory is even slightly off, leading to perceived chaotic or random behaviour. So as to the question whether or not $DEITY plays dice, I'd say that it's impossible to tell at this time.

If there was a "creator of our universe" then by definition they must be outside of our universe, thus in effect invisable to us.

Not necessarily. It just depends on your definition of "creator". If it's some sort of single force, as in a somehow sentient union of strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational interactions at the dawn of times and from which everything else has emanated, then I would definitely not have any objections to referring to it as $DEITY.

WaelDecember 29, 2015 9:31 PM

@Dirk Praet, @Clive Robinson,

but the search for $DEITY is not just that high on my list to make it either a goal or a journey.

It isn't my intention to prioritize your goals or map your journey; to each his own[1]. All I'm doing is countering direct and indirect claims that all people who believe in a creator are immature, gullible, naive, closed minded or otherwise less intelligent. Some are, some aren't.

I already have two strikes under my belt, and @DIETY of this blog could turn out to be a vengeful and merciless one[2] if I deviate too much from the secret question needed for posting!

[1] How do you properly say that in Latin? May come in handy someday to impress someone :)

[2] I know he has a long fuse, but when he blows, you'd better be away! He'll excommunicate your a** for ever! I've seen him obliterate a few miserable f**ks in the past.

Clive RobinsonDecember 29, 2015 11:45 PM

@ Wael,

All I'm doing is countering direct and indirect claims that all people who believe in a creator are immature, gullible, naive, closed minded or otherwise less intelligent.

Inverting the order, your level of intelligence, has little or no influance on if you believe in a creator, and that in of it's self should be enough to give people pause for thought.

As for other "name calling", that almost always goes with the tribalism still very present in mankind. It is the nasty side of the "Either you are with us or against us" debating style. It's a position that once adopted can not be reversed out of. Worse it denies all the ability to be uninvolved, and thus if someone invokes it, it automaticaly makes them enemies and thus a rod for their own back. Which is not exactly a smart thing to do, thus gives others the right to say of the person invoking the argument they are at best daft...

As for invoking maths and logic, you end up in an akward position. They are models of reality --not reality it's self-- based on the assumption of certain rules being correct in all places. Thus you have to ask if the rules apply outside of our universe as we understand it, without being able to see outside our universe...

A major aspect of our understanding of our universe is "causality" and thus things have an order and thus a time and a place. Does causality make sense if you don't have time and space etc?

But as humans causality is fairly fundemental to our being at levels we can not realy comprehend. We glibly say our universe had a begining and will have an end and an existance inbetween we are currently in. But what about before the begining and after the end, and what was before and what will come after time and space, more importantly can they have meaning to creatutes of causality, time and space?

As has been pointed out by others, we will only know if our ideas fit in with causality. Let's say we get to the point we become creators of our own sub universes, we might be able to look in but will those within such sub universes be able to look out? Causality in effect says no, that is if we cross the barrier backwards in any way we have escaped from our closed universe, and our very definitions of the universe as being a closed system fails, and the house of cards that is our current understanding will go tumbling as will the rules.

Thus we can not "know" only "guess" because we can not "test" because we can not "measure" because we have know measures outside of time and space.

As for "Not if there is an afterlife and accountability" you first have to answer the question of "Why whould there be either?" After reasoned thought you realise it's actually a hope for wish fulfilment, which puts it back to something to do with our ego etc.

Currently our minds can not answer these questions let alone contemplate them in a meaningfull way. Is it thus to suprising that our minds fill the voids with either mysticism or madness?

AnuraDecember 30, 2015 12:14 AM

You are very generous about saying "Well, we simply can't know." If I went to a physicist and told them "I believe there is a particle in the universe that had no mass/energy and didn't interact with any of the fundamental interactions, they would dismiss me as not only having no reason to believe it, but that it does not allow for predictions, cannot be tested, and that it has absolutely no bearing on the observable universe. There is simply no more reason to believe in a deity than that there is a six foot tall invisible rabbit following you around but being incapable of interacting with the universe that you can observe.

WaelDecember 30, 2015 1:47 AM

@Clive Robinson, @Anura, @Dirk Praet,

Inverting the order, your level of intelligence, has little or no influance on if you believe in a creator, and that in of it's self should be enough to give people pause for thought.

What would you say if I replaced "believe" with "disbelieve" and kept the rest of the statement above intact? It's an argument that can be used either way, so we won't go very far with it.

As for other "name calling" [...] thus gives others the right to say of the person invoking the argument they are at best daft...

It's the reason I typically ignore name-calling and arguments that lack intelligence. Sometimes I come back with a sarcastic response if I'm in a good mood,

As for invoking maths and logic, you end up in an akward position. They are models of reality --not reality it's self-- based on the assumption of certain rules being correct in all places. (1)

Math is a tool used for representation of reality, and we extend it beyond reality as well. Logic is a tool we use for analysis.

Thus you have to ask if the rules apply outside of our universe as we understand it, without being able to see outside our universe...

At this point in time, this is an Inconsequential question for us who live in the universe.

Does causality make sense if you don't have time and space etc?

Time is a scalar quantity that we defined. In the past, time was defined by events that took place. For example a revolution around the sun, a periodic river flood, seasons, plants, movements of celestial objects, etc... Time also tells us the order of events: A happened before B, therefore A is the cause of B, under certain circumstances. If time doesn't exist, then causality is undefined. But only for "creatures" that are bound by time since time is a constraint imposed on them. But suppose there is no time, and you are hammering a nail in a wall with a hammer (of course.) How will that look to an observer? Everything happens at the same "time"? This is quantum mechanics at the macroscopic level, and too hypothetical. However, I can also argue that "time" is a mathematical quantity that we use to model reality, as you mentioned in (1) above. Another answer is time and space are intertwined; no time implies no space ( I'll have to think about that one.)

Let's say we get to the point we become creators of our own sub universes, we might be able to look in but will those within such sub universes be able to look out?

I would think not. The same can be said if we suppose someone lives in two-dimensional space, like a sheet of paper. Can they see beyond their dimension of existence, like other sheets of paper or the book they are part of? I say they can't, but it wouldn't stop someone living in an n-dimensional space to extrapolate (using math and models of their n-dimensional space) to extrapolate what an n+m dimension looks like (how the laws would change to accommodate the "extra" dimensions.)

Thus we can not "know" only "guess" because we can not "test" because we can not "measure" because we have know measures outside of time and space.

That's a possibility. Another possibility is the fact that we "sense" our surroundings using the "five senses" we have. The rest is extrapolation through various techniques. Our five senses may not be sufficient to make us fully aware of all phenomena taking place around us. Thus, we lack knowledge and the information we use to formulate testable theories is incomplete.

As for "Not if there is an afterlife and accountability" you first have to answer the question of "Why whould there be either?"

How about conservation of energy? The difference between a live human and a dead one could be a fraction of a second (forget how we define medically dead for now.). What happened to the energy between the two states of life vs. death?

After reasoned thought you realise it's actually a hope for wish fulfilment, which puts it back to something to do with our ego etc.

Could be one of the reasons, but not the only one!

Currently our minds can not answer these questions let alone contemplate them in a meaningfull way.

That's where prophets and messengers come in for help. They tell us about the "unseen"; things we cannot "scientifically" measure, but "logically" validate.

Is it thus to suprising that our minds fill the voids with either mysticism or madness?

You'd be surprised to hear from me that it's not surprising! It has, and continues to happen.

@Anura,

You are very generous about saying "Well, we simply can't know."

He is being objective. Generosity has no place in this discussion ;)

If I went to a physicist and told them [...] they would dismiss me...

You're being too generous[1]. If you said that, they'll put you in a straight jacket and commit you (to the closest asylum.) If Steven Hawking (no "Sir" title because he reportedly declined a knighthood.) said the same thing, he'd be awarded a Nobel prize. Your "rabbit" analogy is a little silly, though :)

[1] Yea, I said "generosity" has no place in this discussion. So sue me :)

Clive RobinsonDecember 30, 2015 3:58 AM

@ Wael,

What would you say if I replaced "believe" with "disbelieve" and kept the rest of the statement above intact?

Exactly the same, which is my point, belief in a creating entity or not is independent of how you chose to otherwise measure intelligence. That is they appear unconnected in the mind, suggesting that it is a different part of the brain than that more usually associated with reasoning and logic. Hence it should give people pause to think.

You also need to seperate out a creating "event" from a creating "entity". That is it is possible to have an event without the "creating mind", and if you go backwards through events must have happened at some point for there to be a "creating mind" in the first place. Unless you chose to think in terms of an endless continuum which has niether begining or end. It may be possible that we live in an oscillating continuum which spawns universes over and over endlessly thus the begining and end of our universe may have no special meaning other than to us.

Math is a tool used for representation of reality, and we extend it beyond reality as well. Logic is a tool we use for analysis.

Have a carefull look at logic and then how we extend it into math. There are a lot of assumptions on the way to avoid certain issues. For instance the idea that something falls on one side or the other of an arbitary line precludes the possability that it might be on the cusp/line neither side or both simultaneously. It's only in the past century that such thoughts have started to be thought by scientists... After all contrary to popular view sometimes a tossed coin does come down on it's edge, I've seen it happen twice so far in my life as I've mentioned before.

And we get to this point,

At this point in time, this is an Inconsequential question for us who live in the universe.

Unfortunately it is very far from being "inconsequential" when we are talking about the creating event/entity, it's the most important question. If you don't ask it or you don't do it correctly, then you are condemed to arguing without reason for the rest of time on this subject...

As for,

How about conservation of energy?

That is known as a "non-answer", used to "side step" the argument.

Conservation of energy applies to all objects in one way or another sentient, inanimate or otherwise, and in no way implies either an "afterlife" or having to be "accountable" for your preceading actions to a creating entity outside of our universe judging you...

To support it as an argument you would somehow have to demonstrate beyond doubt that there was an energy loss out to a place unknown beyond our universe. And that would bring the whole house of cards down, because you would have demonstrated that our universe was not a closed system, which amongst other things would alow the possability of time travel and perpetual motion...

WaelDecember 30, 2015 8:37 AM

@Clive Robinson,

Re Creation...
Give me sometime to put together a short and concise comment that doesn't span 20 pages. In the meantime, I'll comment on "Security". I won't forget this topic.

Dirk PraetDecember 30, 2015 7:00 PM

@ Wael, @ Clive

Re. To each his own

That would be "suum cuique", as in "Iustitia suum cuique distribuit." - "Justice renders to everyone his due.", and coined by Cicero but probably inspired by Socrates in Plato's Republic.

All I'm doing is countering direct and indirect claims that all people who believe in a creator are immature, gullible, naive, closed minded or otherwise less intelligent.

Like @Clive, I don't think this belief has anything to do with intelligence or maturity. The simple fact of the matter remains that as long as there is no definitive explanation for the creation, a creator cannot be precluded by definition.

I've seen him obliterate a few miserable f**ks in the past.

I still kinda miss Richard Hack, though. Too bad he just couldn't resist the urge to go ballistic on everything and everyone on a regular basis, which eventually got him banned.

@ Clive

To support it as an argument you would somehow have to demonstrate beyond doubt that there was an energy loss out to a place unknown beyond our universe.

Some folks like Georgi Dvali, borrowing from string theory, believe that it is possible for gravity to "leak" into other dimensions than the four (observable) standard dimensions most of us are familiar with (3 directions + time).

Thus you have to ask if the rules apply outside of our universe as we understand it, without being able to see outside our universe...

Assuming there is only one universe and M-string theory with its n dimensions is more than just a mathematical model, then nothing is really inconsequential if we wish to fully understand this universe, including those dimensions that today cannot be observed as they are all part of the puzzle. The Higgs boson at some point was called the "God particle" for giving particles their mass. I guess someone will sooner or later also come up with a reference to a "$DEITY" dimension.

It is speculated that the ordinary laws of physics may not apply in these non-observable dimensions, just like they would probably also not apply at the core of a black hole.

WaelJanuary 5, 2016 10:33 PM

@Clive Robinson, @Dirk Praet,

reasoning and logic. Hence it should give people pause to think.

But I would think 'reasoning and logic' are part and parcel of intelligence, although I have seen really intelligent people that showed no common sense :)

You also need to seperate out a creating "event" from a creating "entity"

I have no problem with this approach, so long as the evidence supports the existence of a creating event without a creator. I can understand how a volcano erupts, I can understand how a cave with beautiful designs forms as a traceable event. I cannot separate a creation event such as, say, a complete platform with HW, SW, and a nice application GUI from a creator. This is basic logic and reasoning.

Unless you chose to think in terms of an endless continuum which has niether begining or end

Events surrounding us show that things have a beginning and and end. Trees, animals, humans, planets, stars, and galaxies, as well as the universe have a start and an end. Theories such as Steven Hawking's M-Theory and its predecessor "String Theory" are just "speculations" to solve the equations of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. The fact that they mathematically work means little in the real world. For example, there is no such thing as an imaginary unit (&radic -1) in the real world, but in mathematics and engineering it exists and is very handy.

It may be possible that we live in an oscillating continuum which spawns universes over and over endlessly thus the begining and end of our universe may have no special meaning other than to us.

Yes, among many other possibilities! But it's not probable!

After all contrary to popular view sometimes a tossed coin does come down on it's edge, I've seen it happen twice so far in my life as I've mentioned before.

I haven't seen that, but I won't exclude the possibility, so I believe you. It also is a factor of the surface you toss the coin on. If the surface is made out of sand or peanut butter, then the experiment is no longer a Bernoulli trial.

As for invoking maths and logic, you end up in an akward position. They are models of reality --not reality it's self-- based on the assumption of certain rules being correct in all places. Thus you have to ask if the rules apply outside of our universe as we understand it, without being able to see outside our universe...

This is way too hypothetical! See, we don't even understand everything about the universe we live in (what we know is more like a drop in an ocean.) So now you come and tell me suppose there is another universe and if our "rules" apply there? That's why I say it's inconsequential. Show me a universe outside ours exist (whatever that means), then let's talk. Oh, "Logic" isn't a model of reality and Math is a tool that can be used to describe models of reality.

Take a look at this and tell me it wasn't "designed":

The bacterial flagellum is driven by a rotary engine (the Mot complex) made up of protein, located at the flagellum's anchor point on the inner cell membrane. The engine is powered by proton motive force...

There you have it... A bacteria with a goddamn rotary engine! Random my ankle, or a little bit above ;) This bacteria can sue Mazda for patent infringement! It's prior art :) Which brings us to this:

The thing those who have not tried to hide signals for real usually fall foul of, is the incorrect assumption that, Signal + Noise = Noise

Those who believe in a creator claim to see the signal through background noise. Others don't see the signal; i.e. It's all random :)

Clive RobinsonJanuary 22, 2016 8:54 AM

@ Wael,

Take a look at this and tell me it wasn't "designed":

Err nobody can say it was not "designed" because of the "proving a negative issue", but that does not mean it was created by a being advanced or not.

It has been shown from practical experiment that a random process with a simple selection mechanism can and does produce "effective designs". Designs that are better and more efficient than creative humans have been able to do, but most importantly that humans can not currently explain the way those designs function. This is important and a point I will come back to.

Thus the question of design falls to the selection process. Simple processes can create the most beautiful of designs, as anyone who has seen a large waterfall can realise.

Thus you have to be careful, the fact that something appears to be beautiful, functional and made for a job, does not mean it was created by purpose for that job, or that the job, what ever it is, required that solution and only that solution. It's a reasoning trap many fall into. The classic example is "this world was made for us" rather than "this world shaped us by simple processes".

There is an old story about golf and prediction. A golfer hits a ball and it lands on a tuft of grass and the golfer says "right where I wanted it". Most people realise it's a nonsense for a couple of reasons. The first is the golfer did not make a prediction and name the specific tuft of grass before they hit the ball. Secondly most people know that the golfer could not have been able to predict the exact energy and angles required to account for windage etc. Because we know that the ball has a flight time off a second or so, thus the golfer would have to have a reliable way of looking into the future.

Which is also a problem with forensics because the results are in thus you can come up with what sounds like a reasonable argument for a person being able to do the specific thing.

But worse forensics does not work from cause to effect, but trys to determine the cause from the effect, which science very much frowns upon for the obvious reasons that it can not be reliably tested and also falls into the "this world was made for us" argument.

As an example the speed of light is believed to be a constant that provides a limit on how fast matter or energy can move. There have been experiments to show this appears to be true but... we have a problem with entanglement of particles and their measurement. Which unfortunately the more we experiment on, the more it shows our understanding could be at best inadequate, wrong or that the speed of light is not an inviolate limit for all things[1].

But there is the issue of concious design -v- selection I said I'd come back to. I think you are aware of the FPGA experiment to make a tone decoder via selection rather than concious design. The result was an efficient but fragile design that nobody "knows" how it works.

It appears to be what Prof Michael Behe would call a "mouse trap design" if we did not know that it was made by a random change and selection process.

Prof Behe has argued that many things we see around us are like "mouse traps" remove any individual piece and the mousetrap fails to do it's job. He thus "assumes" that as a mousetrap was a conscious design that anything you find that is similar must also be by concious design. We know the FPGA tone decoder was most definitely not a conscious design, it was designed by selection, but we can not understand how it works only that it does thus it meets Prof Behe's criteria for being a mousetrap... Which in tern means his mouse trap theory is flawed.

It also upsets Arthur C. Clarke's any sufficiently advanced technology appears to be magic idea as well. From that argument the FPGA design was "magic"... Does the FPGA experiment mean that some "God like omnipotence" was involved? Of course not.

I've little doubt that we will get to understand how the FPGA works and thus decide if it is a useful technology (I suspect not as it appears to be quite fragile).

What the experiment does show is that the design by selection process can be more powerful than concious design humans were at the time capable of doing. But importantly without any supernatural designer being involved.

But there is another issue which is the job and the solution. The "whip" appears to be a good design match to the job of swimming quickly. But you have to ask "Is the job of swimming the only job?" and "Is the whip actually the best way to solve that job?". The answers we know is "No" and "Probably not".

Take the job of finding and catching prey for food. It is insufficiently specific, and we know that animals use light, heat, vibration, chemical smell, and electrical field sensing. Thus the "job of seeing" is not the only job. Further we know that the camera eye is not the only solution because there are compound eyes.

The problem "Creationists" have is that they try to argue from effect to cause and argue some kind of intelligent design from it. There is now sufficient evidence to show that is wrong.

Thus humanity has taken another step along the road away from faux ideas.

I'm sure that at some point some one will argue that there is intelligent design behind the selection process and that in turn will prove to be a faux argument. Thus humanity will have taken yet another step on the journey.

Eventually I've no reason to doubt that humanity will solve the question of why in general humans have a tendency to need to believe in the idea of other beings greater / better / more advanced etc than themselves.

But as long as we can not look outside our universe we will never know if it came into existence as a unique event or one of many, or if that event happened by random processes and simple selection or not. Even if we end up being able to create our own universes we will still not have the answer, just the knowledge of one way to create universes...

So currently nobody can prove a creator nor can they disprove it, does it matter? No not really it only effects those who's brain chemistry requires there to be certainty on the matter, and I'm not one of them. Also I suspect so would many others depending in what happens to them in their formative years. Humanity has outgrown the notion of miracles and replaced it with probability, we've outgrown many superstitions and replaced them with rationality and science, and arguably humanity is the more capable for it. But such capabilities are agnostic to use, they do not care if they are used for good or bad, and history shows one man's good is another man's bad. Thus conflict, with each calling on the same deity to bless their endeavours and bring them victory over there opponents. Does it sound like rational behaviour? No, nor does it use resources wisely which implies that as an activity it is unwise in the long term.

[1] See the quantum pigeonhole principle, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160120112110.htm

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