cohesion   318

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Dividuals – The soul is not an indivisible unit and has no unified will
Towards A More Mature Atheism:
Human intelligence evolved as a social intelligence, for the purposes of social cooperation, social competition and social domination. It evolved to make us efficient at cooperating at removing obstacles, especially the kinds of obstacles that tend to fight back, i.e. at warfare. If you ever studied strategy or tactics, or just played really good board games, you have probably found your brain seems to be strangely well suited for specifically this kind of intellectual activity. It’s not necessarily easier than studying physics, and yet it somehow feels more natural. Physics is like swimming, strategy and tactics is like running. The reason for that is that our brains are truly evolved to be strategic, tactical, diplomatic computers, not physics computers. The question our brains are REALLY good at finding the answer for is “Just what does this guy really want?”


Thus, a very basic failure mode of the human brain is to overdetect agency.

I think this is partially what SSC wrote about in Mysticism And Pattern-Matching too. But instead of mystical experiences, my focus is on our brains claiming to detect agency where there is none. Thus my view is closer to Richard Carrier’s definition of the supernatural: it is the idea that some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.


Meaning actually means will and agency. It took me a while to figure that one out. When we look for the meaning of life, a meaning in life, or a meaningful life, we look for a will or agency generally outside our own.


I am a double oddball – kind of autistic, but still far more interested in human social dynamics, such as history, than in natural sciences or technology. As a result, I do feel a calling to religion – the human world, as opposed to outer space, the human city, the human history, is such a perfect fit for a view like that of Catholicism! The reason for that is that Catholicism is the pinnacle of human intellectual efforts dealing with human agency. Ideas like Augustine’s three failure modes of the human brain: greed, lust and desire for power and status, are just about the closest to forming correct psychological theories far earlier than the scientific method was discovered. Just read your Chesterbelloc and Lewis. And of course because the agency radars of Catholics run at full burst, they overdetect it and thus believe in a god behind the universe. My brain, due to my deep interest in human agency and its consequences, also would like to be religious: wouldn’t it be great if the universe was made by something we could talk to, like, everything else that I am interested in, from field generals to municipal governments are entities I could talk to?


I also dislike that atheists often refuse to propose a falsifiable theory because they claim the burden of proof is not on them. Strictly speaking it can be true, but it is still good form to provide one.

Since I am something like an “nontheistic Catholic” anyway (e.g. I believe in original sin from the practical, political angle, I just think it has natural, not supernatural causes: evolution, the move from hunting-gathering to agriculture etc.), all one would need to do to make me fully so is to plug a God concept in my mind.

If you can convince me that my brain is not actually overdetecting agency when I feel a calling to religion, if you can convince me that my brain and most human brains detect agency just about right, there will be no reason for me to not believe in God. Because if there would any sort of agency behind the universe, the smartest bet would be that this agency would be the God of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa. That guy was plain simply a genius.

How to convince me my brain is not overdetecting agency? The simplest way is to convince me that magic, witchcraft, or superstition in general is real, and real in the supernatural sense (I do know Wiccans who cast spells and claim they are natural, not supernatural: divination spells make the brain more aware of hidden details, healing spells recruit the healing processes of the body etc.) You see, Catholics generally do believe in magic and witchcraft, as in: “These really do something, and they do something bad, so never practice them.”

The Strange Places the “God of the Gaps” Takes You:
I assume people are familiar with the God of the Gaps argument. Well, it is usually just an accusation, but Newton for instance really pulled one.

But natural science is inherently different from humanities, because in natural science you build a predictive model of which you are not part of. You are just a point-like neutral observer.

You cannot do that with other human minds because you just don’t have the computing power to simulate a roughly similarly intelligent mind and have enough left to actually work with your model. So you put yourself into the predictive model, you make yourself a part of the model itself. You use a certain empathic kind of understanding, a “what would I do in that guys shoes?” and generate your predictions that way.


Which means that while natural science is relatively new, and strongly correlates with technological progress, this empathic, self-programming model of the humanities you could do millenia ago as well, you don’t need math or tools for this, and you probably cannot expect anything like straight-line progress. Maybe some wisdoms people figure out this way are really timeless and we just keep on rediscovering them.

So imagine, say, Catholicism as a large set of humanities. Sociology, social psychology, moral philosophy in the pragmatic, scientific sense (“What morality makes a society not collapse and actually prosper?”), life wisdom and all that. Basically just figuring out how people tick, how societies tick and how to make them tick well.


What do? Well, the obvious move is to pull a Newton and inject a God of the Gaps into your humanities. We tick like that because God. We must do so and so to tick well because God.


What I am saying is that we are at some point probably going to prove pretty much all of the this-worldy, pragmatic (moral, sociological, psychological etc.) aspect of Catholicism correct by something like evolutionary psychology.

And I am saying that while it will dramatically increase our respect for religion, this will also be probably a huge blow to theism. I don’t want that to happen, but I think it will. Because eliminating God from the gaps of natural science does not hurt faith much. But eliminating God from the gaps of the humanities and yes, religion itself?

My Kind of Atheist:
I think I’ve mentioned somewhere in public that I’m now an atheist, even though I grew up in a very Christian family, and I even joined a “cult” at a young age (against disapproving parents). The proximate cause of my atheism was learning physics in college. But I don’t think I’ve ever clarified in public what kind of an “atheist” or “agnostic” I am. So here goes.

The universe is vast and most of it is very far away in space and time, making our knowledge of those distant parts very thin. So it isn’t at all crazy to think that very powerful beings exist somewhere far away out there, or far before us or after us in time. In fact, many of us hope that we now can give rise to such powerful beings in the distant future. If those powerful beings count as “gods”, then I’m certainly open to the idea that such gods exist somewhere in space-time.

It also isn’t crazy to imagine powerful beings that are “closer” in space and time, but far away in causal connection. They could be in parallel “planes”, in other dimensions, or in “dark” matter that doesn’t interact much with our matter. Or they might perhaps have little interest in influencing or interacting with our sort of things. Or they might just “like to watch.”

But to most religious people, a key emotional appeal of religion is the idea that gods often “answer” prayer by intervening in their world. Sometimes intervening in their head to make them feel different, but also sometimes responding to prayers about their test tomorrow, their friend’s marriage, or their aunt’s hemorrhoids. It is these sort of prayer-answering “gods” in which I just can’t believe. Not that I’m absolutely sure they don’t exist, but I’m sure enough that the term “atheist” fits much better than the term “agnostic.”

These sort of gods supposedly intervene in our world millions of times daily to respond positively to particular prayers, and yet they do not noticeably intervene in world affairs. Not only can we find no physical trace of any machinery or system by which such gods exert their influence, even though we understand the physics of our local world very well, but the history of life and civilization shows no obvious traces of their influence. They know of terrible things that go wrong in our world, but instead of doing much about those things, these gods instead prioritize not leaving any clear evidence of their existence or influence. And yet for some reason they don’t mind people believing in them enough to pray to them, as they often reward such prayers with favorable interventions.
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june 2018 by nhaliday
Contingent, Not Arbitrary | Truth is contingent on what is, not on what we wish to be true.
A vital attribute of a value system of any kind is that it works. I consider this a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for goodness. A value system, when followed, should contribute to human flourishing and not produce results that violate its core ideals. This is a pragmatic, I-know-it-when-I-see-it definition. I may refine it further if the need arises.

I think that the prevailing Western values fail by this standard. I will not spend much time arguing this; many others have already. If you reject this premise, this blog may not be for you.

I consider old traditions an important source of wisdom: they have proven their worth over centuries of use. Where they agree, we should listen. Where they disagree, we should figure out why. Where modernity departs from tradition, we should be wary of the new.

Tradition has one nagging problem: it was abandoned by the West. How and why did that happen? I consider this a central question. I expect the reasons to be varied and complex. Understanding them seems necessary if we are to fix what may have been broken.

In short, I want to answer these questions:

1. How do values spread and persist? An ideology does no good if no one holds it.
2. Which values do good? Sounding good is worse than useless if it leads to ruin.

The ultimate hope would be to find a way to combine the two. Many have tried and failed. I don’t expect to succeed either, but I hope I’ll manage to clarify the questions.

Christianity Is The Schelling Point:
Restoring true Christianity is both necessary and sufficient for restoring civilization. The task is neither easy nor simple but that’s what it takes. It is also our best chance of weathering the collapse if that’s too late to avoid.

Christianity is the ultimate coordination mechanism: it unites us with a higher purpose, aligns us with the laws of reality and works on all scales, from individuals to entire civilizations. Christendom took over the world and then lost it when its faith faltered. Historically and culturally, Christianity is the unique Schelling point for the West – or it would be if we could agree on which church (if any) was the true one.

Here are my arguments for true Christianity as the Schelling point. I hope to demonstrate these points in subsequent posts; for now I’ll just list them.

- A society of saints is the most powerful human arrangement possible. It is united in purpose, ideologically stable and operates in harmony with natural law. This is true independent of scale and organization: from military hierarchy to total decentralization, from persecuted minority to total hegemony. Even democracy works among saints – that’s why it took so long to fail.
- There is such a thing as true Christianity. I don’t know how to pinpoint it but it does exist; that holds from both secular and religious perspectives. Our task is to converge on it the best we can.
- Don’t worry too much about the existence of God. I’m proof that you don’t need that assumption in order to believe – it helps but isn’t mandatory.

Pascal’s Wager never sat right with me. Now I know why: it’s a sucker bet. Let’s update it.

If God exists, we must believe because our souls and civilization depend on it. If He doesn’t exist, we must believe because civilization depends on it.

Morality Should Be Adaptive:
I agree with this
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Society of Mind - Wikipedia
A core tenet of Minsky's philosophy is that "minds are what brains do". The society of mind theory views the human mind and any other naturally evolved cognitive systems as a vast society of individually simple processes known as agents. These processes are the fundamental thinking entities from which minds are built, and together produce the many abilities we attribute to minds. The great power in viewing a mind as a society of agents, as opposed to the consequence of some basic principle or some simple formal system, is that different agents can be based on different types of processes with different purposes, ways of representing knowledge, and methods for producing results.

This idea is perhaps best summarized by the following quote:

What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle. —Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, p. 308

The modular organization of human anatomical
brain networks: Accounting for the cost of wiring:
Brain networks are expected to be modular. However, existing techniques for estimating a network’s modules make it difficult to assess the influence of organizational principles such as wiring cost reduction on the detected modules. Here we present a modification of an existing module detection algorithm that allowed us to focus on connections that are unexpected under a cost-reduction wiring rule and to identify modules from among these connections. We applied this technique to anatomical brain networks and showed that the modules we detected differ from those detected using the standard technique. We demonstrated that these novel modules are spatially distributed, exhibit unique functional fingerprints, and overlap considerably with rich clubs, giving rise to an alternative and complementary interpretation of the functional roles of specific brain regions. Finally, we demonstrated that, using the modified module detection approach, we can detect modules in a developmental dataset that track normative patterns of maturation. Collectively, these findings support the hypothesis that brain networks are composed of modules and provide additional insight into the function of those modules.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Moral Transposition – neocolonial
- Every morality inherently has a doctrine on that which is morally beneficial and that which is morally harmful.
- Under the traditional, absolute, eucivic moral code of Western Civilisation these were termed Good and Evil.
- Under the modern, relative, dyscivic moral code of Progressivism these are called Love and Hate.
- Good and Evil inherently reference the in-group, and seek its growth in absolute capability and glory.  Love and Hate inherently reference the out-group, and seek its relative growth in capability and privilege.
- These combinations form the basis of the Frame through which individuals aligned with those moralities view the world.  They are markedly distinct; although both Good serves the moral directive of absolutely strengthening the in-group and Hate counters the moral directive of relatively weakening the in-group, they do not map to one another. This failure to map, as well as the overloading of terms, is why it is generally (intentionally, perniciously) difficult to discern the differences between the two world views.

You Didn’t Join a Suicide Cult:
“Thomas Aquinas discusses whether there is an order to charity. Must we love everyone in outward effects equally? Or do we demonstrate love more to our near neighbors than our distant neighbors? His answers: No to the first question, yes to the second.”


This is a perfect distillation of the shaming patriotic Christians with a sense of national identity face. It is a very Alinsky tactic whose fourth rule is “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.” It is a tactic that can be applied to any idealistic movement. Now to be fair, my friend is not a disciple of Alinsky, but we have been bathed in Alinsky for at least two generations. Reading the Gospels alone and in a vacuum one could be forgiven coming away with that interpretation of Christ’s teachings. Take for example Luke 6:27-30:


Love as Virtue and Vice
Thirdly, Love is a virtue, the greatest, but like all virtues it can be malformed with excessive zeal.

Aristotle taught that virtues were a proper balance of behavior or feeling in a specific sphere. For instance, the sphere of confidence and fear: a proper balance in this sphere would be the virtue of courage. A deficit in this sphere would be cowardice and an excess would be rashness or foolhardiness. We can apply this to the question of charity. Charity in the bible is typically a translation of the Greek word for love. We are taught by Jesus that second only to loving God we are to love our neighbor (which in the Greek means those near you). If we are to view the sphere of love in this context of excess and deficit what would it be?

Selfishness <—- LOVE —-> Enablement

Enablement here is meant in its very modern sense. If we possess this excess of love, we are so selfless and “others focused” that we prioritize the other above all else we value. The pathologies of the target of our enablement are not considered; indeed, in this state of enablement they are even desired. The saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” is recast as: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, BUT if I have nothing squeaking in m y life I’ll make sure to find or create something squeaky to “virtuously” burden myself with”.

Also, in this state of excessive love even those natural and healthy extensions of yourself must be sacrificed to the other. There was one mother I was acquainted with that embodies this excess of love. She had two biological children and anywhere from five to six very troubled adopted/foster kids at a time. She helped many kids out of terrible situations, but in turn her natural children were constantly subject to high levels of stress, drama, and constant babysitting of very troubled children. There was real resentment. In her efforts to help troubled foster children, she sacrificed the well-being of her biological children. Needless to say, her position on the refugee crisis was predictable.
gnon  politics  ideology  morality  language  universalism-particularism  tribalism  us-them  patho-altruism  altruism  thinking  religion  christianity  n-factor  civilization  nationalism-globalism  migration  theory-of-mind  ascetic  good-evil  sociality  love-hate  janus  multi  cynicism-idealism  kinship  duty  cohesion  charity  history  medieval  big-peeps  philosophy  egalitarianism-hierarchy  absolute-relative  measure  migrant-crisis  analytical-holistic  peace-violence  the-classics  self-interest  virtu  tails  convexity-curvature  equilibrium  free-riding  lexical 
march 2018 by nhaliday
Randomizing Religion: The Impact of Protestant Evangelism on Economic Outcomes
To test the causal impact of religiosity, we conducted a randomized evaluation of an evangelical Protestant Christian values and theology education program that consisted of 15 weekly half-hour sessions. We analyze outcomes for 6,276 ultra-poor Filipino households six months after the program ended. We find _significant increases in religiosity and income_, no significant changes in total labor supply, assets, consumption, food security, or _life satisfaction, and a significant decrease in perceived relative economic status_. Exploratory analysis suggests the program may have improved hygienic practices and increased household discord, and that _the income treatment effect may operate through increasing grit_.

Social Cohesion, Religious Beliefs, and the Effect of Protestantism on Suicide:
In an economic theory of suicide, we model social cohesion of the religious community and religious beliefs about afterlife as two mechanisms by which Protestantism increases suicide propensity. We build a unique micro-regional dataset of 452 Prussian counties in 1816-21 and 1869-71, when religiousness was still pervasive. Exploiting the concentric dispersion of Protestantism around Wittenberg, our instrumental-variable model finds that Protestantism had a substantial positive effect on suicide. Results are corroborated in first-difference models. Tests relating to the two mechanisms based on historical church-attendance data and modern suicide data suggest that the sociological channel plays the more important role.
study  field-study  sociology  wonkish  intervention  religion  theos  branches  evidence-based  christianity  protestant-catholic  asia  developing-world  economics  compensation  money  labor  human-capital  emotion  s-factor  discipline  multi  social-structure  death  individualism-collectivism  n-factor  cohesion  causation  endogenous-exogenous  history  early-modern  europe  germanic  geography  within-group  urban-rural 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Chengyu - Wikipedia
Chengyu (simplified Chinese: 成语; traditional Chinese: 成語, pinyin: chéngyǔ, lit. "set phrases") are a type of traditional Chinese idiomatic expression, most of which consist of four characters. Chengyu were widely used in Classical Chinese and are still common in vernacular Chinese writing and in the spoken language today. According to the most stringent definition, there are about 5,000 chengyu in the Chinese language, though some dictionaries list over 20,000.

They are often referred to as Chinese idioms or four-character idioms; however, they are not the only idioms in Chinese.

one example is 指鹿為馬 zhi lu wei ma "point deer, make horse"
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february 2018 by nhaliday
'No Man is an Island' - John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Olde English Version
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne
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february 2018 by nhaliday

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