nhaliday + buddhism   37

Dividuals – The soul is not an indivisible unit and has no unified will
Towards A More Mature Atheism: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/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.

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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.

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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?

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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: https://dividuals.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/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.

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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.

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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.

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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: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/08/my-kind-of-athiest.html
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
Religiosity and Fertility in the United States: The Role of Fertility Intentions
Using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we show that women who report that religion is “very important” in their everyday life have both higher fertility and higher intended fertility than those saying religion is “somewhat important” or “not important.” Factors such as unwanted fertility, age at childbearing, or degree of fertility postponement seem not to contribute to religiosity differentials in fertility. This answer prompts more fundamental questions: what is the nature of this greater “religiosity”? And why do the more religious want more children? We show that those saying religion is more important have more traditional gender and family attitudes and that these attitudinal differences account for a substantial part of the fertility differential. We speculate regarding other contributing causes.

Religion, Religiousness and Fertility in the U.S. and in Europe: https://www.demogr.mpg.de/papers/working/wp-2006-013.pdf
2006

RELIGIONS, FERTILITY, AND GROWTH IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/iere.12291
Using Southeast Asian censuses, we show empirically that being Catholic, Buddhist, or Muslim significantly raises fertility, especially for couples with intermediate to high education levels. With these estimates, we identify the parameters of a structural model. Catholicism is strongly pro‐child (increasing total spending on children), followed by Buddhism, whereas Islam is more pro‐birth (redirecting spending from quality to quantity). Pro‐child religions depress growth in its early stages by lowering savings and labor supply. In the later stages of growth, pro‐birth religions impede human capital accumulation.
study  sociology  religion  theos  usa  correlation  fertility  eric-kaufmann  causation  general-survey  demographics  phalanges  intervention  gender  tradition  social-norms  parenting  values  politics  ideology  multi  europe  EU  rot  nihil  data  time-series  distribution  christianity  protestant-catholic  other-xtian  the-great-west-whale  occident  expression-survival  poll  inequality  pro-rata  mediterranean  eastern-europe  wealth  econ-metrics  farmers-and-foragers  buddhism  islam  asia  developing-world  human-capital  investing  developmental  number  quantitative-qualitative  quality  world  natural-experiment  field-study 
february 2018 by nhaliday
Christianity in China | Council on Foreign Relations
projected to outpace CCP membership soon

This fascinating map shows the new religious breakdown in China: http://www.businessinsider.com/new-religious-breakdown-in-china-14

Map Showing the Distribution of Christians in China: http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Oct/18/map-showing-distribution-christians-china/

Christianity in China: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China
Accurate data on Chinese Christians is hard to access. According to the most recent internal surveys there are approximately 31 million Christians in China today (2.3% of the total population).[5] On the other hand, some international Christian organizations estimate there are tens of millions more, which choose not to publicly identify as such.[6] The practice of religion continues to be tightly controlled by government authorities.[7] Chinese over the age of 18 are only permitted to join officially sanctioned Christian groups registered with the government-approved Protestant Three-Self Church and China Christian Council and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church.[8]

In Xi we trust - Is China cracking down on Christianity?: http://www.dw.com/en/in-xi-we-trust-is-china-cracking-down-on-christianity/a-42224752A

In China, Unregistered Churches Are Driving a Religious Revolution: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/china-unregistered-churches-driving-religious-revolution/521544/

Cracks in the atheist edifice: https://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

Jesus won’t save you — President Xi Jinping will, Chinese Christians told: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/11/14/jesus-wont-save-you-president-xi-jinping-will-chinese-christians-told/

http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1001611/noodles-for-the-messiah-chinas-creative-christian-hymns

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pope-china-exclusive/exclusive-china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-ready-for-signing-source-idUSKBN1FL67U
Catholics in China are split between those in “underground” communities that recognize the pope and those belonging to a state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local Church communities.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-42914029
The underground churches recognise only the Vatican's authority, whereas the Chinese state churches refuse to accept the authority of the Pope.

There are currently about 100 Catholic bishops in China, with some approved by Beijing, some approved by the Vatican and, informally, many now approved by both.

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Under the agreement, the Vatican would be given a say in the appointment of future bishops in China, a Vatican source told news agency Reuters.

For Beijing, an agreement with the Vatican could allow them more control over the country's underground churches.

Globally, it would also enhance China's prestige - to have the world's rising superpower engaging with one of the world's major religions.

Symbolically, it would the first sign of rapprochement between China and the Catholic church in more than half a century.

The Vatican is the only European state that maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It is currently unclear if an agreement between China and the Vatican would affect this in any way.

What will this mean for the country's Catholics?

There are currently around 10 million Roman Catholics in China.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/china-vatican-deal-on-bishops-reportedly-ready-for-signing/2018/02/01/2adfc6b2-0786-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/02/06/china-is-the-best-implementer-of-catholic-social-doctrine-says-vatican-bishop/
The chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences praised the 'extraordinary' Communist state

“Right now, those who are best implementing the social doctrine of the Church are the Chinese,” a senior Vatican official has said.

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, praised the Communist state as “extraordinary”, saying: “You do not have shantytowns, you do not have drugs, young people do not take drugs”. Instead, there is a “positive national conscience”.

The bishop told the Spanish-language edition of Vatican Insider that in China “the economy does not dominate politics, as happens in the United States, something Americans themselves would say.”

Bishop Sánchez Sorondo said that China was implementing Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ better than many other countries and praised it for defending Paris Climate Accord. “In that, it is assuming a moral leadership that others have abandoned”, he added.

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As part of the diplomacy efforts, Bishop Sánchez Sorondo visited the country. “What I found was an extraordinary China,” he said. “What people don’t realise is that the central value in China is work, work, work. There’s no other way, fundamentally it is like St Paul said: he who doesn’t work, doesn’t eat.”

China reveals plan to remove ‘foreign influence’ from Catholic Church: http://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2018/06/02/china-reveals-plan-to-remove-foreign-influence-from-catholic-church1/

China, A Fourth Rome?: http://thermidormag.com/china-a-fourth-rome/
As a Chinaman born in the United States, I find myself able to speak to both places and neither. By accidents of fortune, however – or of providence, rather – I have identified more with China even as I have lived my whole life in the West. English is my third language, after Cantonese and Mandarin, even if I use it to express my intellectually most complex thoughts; and though my best of the three in writing, trained by the use of Latin, it is the vehicle of a Chinese soul. So it is in English that for the past year I have memed an idea as unconventional as it is ambitious, unto the Europæans a stumbling-block, and unto the Chinese foolishness: #China4thRome.

This idea I do not attempt to defend rigorously, between various powers’ conflicting claims to carrying on the Roman heritage; neither do I intend to claim that Moscow, which has seen itself as a Third Rome after the original Rome and then Constantinople, is fallen. Instead, I think back to the division of the Roman empire, first under Diocletian’s Tetrarchy and then at the death of Theodosius I, the last ruler of the undivided Roman empire. In the second partition, at the death of Theodosius, Arcadius became emperor of the East, with his capital in Constantinople, and Honorius emperor of the West, with his capital in Milan and then Ravenna. That the Roman empire did not stay uniformly strong under a plurality of emperors is not the point. What is significant about the administrative division of the Roman empire among several emperors is that the idea of Rome can be one even while its administration is diverse.

By divine providence, the Christian religion – and through it, Rome – has spread even through the bourgeois imperialism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Across the world, the civil calendar of common use is that of Rome, reckoned from 1 January; few places has Roman law left wholly untouched. Nevertheless, never have we observed in the world of Roman culture an ethnogenetic pattern like that of the Chinese empire as described by the prologue of Luo Guanzhong’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義: ‘The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.’1 According to classical Chinese cosmology, the phrase rendered the empire is more literally all under heaven 天下, the Chinese œcumene being its ‘all under heaven’ much as a Persian proverb speaks of the old Persian capital of Isfahan: ‘Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast,’ Isfahan is half the world. As sociologist Fei Xiaotong describes it in his 1988 Tanner Lecture ‘Plurality and Unity in the Configuration of the Chinese People’,

...

And this Chinese œcumene has united and divided for centuries, even as those who live in it have recognized a fundamental unity. But Rome, unlike the Chinese empire, has lived on in multiple successor polities, sometimes several at once, without ever coming back together as one empire administered as one. Perhaps something of its character has instead uniquely suited it to being the spirit of a kind of broader world empire. As Dante says in De Monarchia, ‘As the human race, then, has an end, and this end is a means necessary to the universal end of nature, it follows that nature must have the means in view.’ He continues,

If these things are true, there is no doubt but that nature set apart in the world a place and a people for universal sovereignty; otherwise she would be deficient in herself, which is impossible. What was this place, and who this people, moreover, is sufficiently obvious in what has been said above, and in what shall be added further on. They were Rome and her citizens or people. On this subject our Poet [Vergil] has touched very subtly in his sixth book [of the Æneid], where he brings forward Anchises prophesying in these words to Aeneas, father of the Romans: ‘Verily, that others shall beat out the breathing bronze more finely, I grant you; they shall carve the living feature in the marble, plead causes with more eloquence, and trace the movements of the heavens with a rod, and name the rising stars: thine, O Roman, be the care to rule the peoples with authority; be thy arts these, to teach men the way of peace, to show mercy to the subject, and to overcome the proud.’ And the disposition of place he touches upon lightly in the fourth book, when he introduces Jupiter speaking of Aeneas to Mercury in this fashion: ‘Not such a one did his most beautiful mother promise to us, nor for this twice rescue him from Grecian arms; rather was he to be the man to govern Italy teeming with empire and tumultuous with war.’ Proof enough has been given that the Romans were by nature ordained for sovereignty. Therefore the Roman … [more]
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Definite optimism as human capital | Dan Wang
I’ve come to the view that creativity and innovative capacity aren’t a fixed stock, coiled and waiting to be released by policy. Now, I know that a country will not do well if it has poor infrastructure, interest rate management, tax and regulation levels, and a whole host of other issues. But getting them right isn’t sufficient to promote innovation; past a certain margin, when they’re all at rational levels, we ought to focus on promoting creativity and drive as a means to propel growth.

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When I say “positive” vision, I don’t mean that people must see the future as a cheerful one. Instead, I’m saying that people ought to have a vision at all: A clear sense of how the technological future will be different from today. To have a positive vision, people must first expand their imaginations. And I submit that an interest in science fiction, the material world, and proximity to industry all help to refine that optimism. I mean to promote imagination by direct injection.

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If a state has lost most of its jobs for electrical engineers, or nuclear engineers, or mechanical engineers, then fewer young people in that state will study those practices, and technological development in related fields slow down a little further. When I bring up these thoughts on resisting industrial decline to economists, I’m unsatisfied with their responses. They tend to respond by tautology (“By definition, outsourcing improves on the status quo”) or arithmetic (see: gains from comparative advantage, Ricardo). These kinds of logical exercises are not enough. I would like for more economists to consider a human capital perspective for preserving manufacturing expertise (to some degree).

I wonder if the so-called developed countries should be careful of their own premature deindustrialization. The US industrial base has faltered, but there is still so much left to build. Until we’ve perfected asteroid mining and super-skyscrapers and fusion rockets and Jupiter colonies and matter compilers, we can’t be satisfied with innovation confined mostly to the digital world.

Those who don’t mind the decline of manufacturing employment like to say that people have moved on to higher-value work. But I’m not sure that this is usually the case. Even if there’s an endlessly capacious service sector to absorb job losses in manufacturing, it’s often the case that these new jobs feature lower productivity growth and involve greater rent-seeking. Not everyone is becoming hedge fund managers and machine learning engineers. According to BLS, the bulk of service jobs are in 1. government (22 million), 2. professional services (19m), 3. healthcare (18m), 4. retail (15m), and 5. leisure and hospitality (15m). In addition to being often low-paying but still competitive, a great deal of service sector jobs tend to stress capacity for emotional labor over capacity for manual labor. And it’s the latter that tends to be more present in fields involving technological upgrading.

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Here’s a bit more skepticism of service jobs. In an excellent essay on declining productivity growth, Adair Turner makes the point that many service jobs are essentially zero-sum. I’d like to emphasize and elaborate on that idea here.

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Call me a romantic, but I’d like everyone to think more about industrial lubricants, gas turbines, thorium reactors, wire production, ball bearings, underwater cables, and all the things that power our material world. I abide by a strict rule never to post or tweet about current political stuff; instead I try to draw more attention to the world of materials. And I’d like to remind people that there are many things more edifying than following White House scandals.

...

First, we can all try to engage more actively with the material world, not merely the digital or natural world. Go ahead and pick an industrial phenomenon and learn more about it. Learn more about the history of aviation, and what it took to break the sound barrier; gaze at the container ships as they sail into port, and keep in mind that they carry 90 percent of the goods you see around you; read about what we mold plastics to do; meditate on the importance of steel in civilization; figure out what’s driving the decline in the cost of solar energy production, or how we draw electricity from nuclear fission, or what it takes to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground.

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Here’s one more point that I’d like to add on Girard at college: I wonder if to some extent current dynamics are the result of the liberal arts approach of “college teaches you how to think, not what to think.” I’ve never seen much data to support this wonderful claim that college is good at teaching critical thinking skills. Instead, students spend most of their energies focused on raising or lowering the status of the works they study or the people around them, giving rise to the Girardian terror that has gripped so many campuses.

College as an incubator of Girardian terror: http://danwang.co/college-girardian-terror/
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college.

Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.

Mimesis Machines and Millennials: http://quillette.com/2017/11/02/mimesis-machines-millennials/
In 1956, a young Liverpudlian named John Winston Lennon heard the mournful notes of Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel, and was transformed. He would later recall, “nothing really affected me until I heard Elvis. If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles.” It is an ancient human story. An inspiring model, an inspired imitator, and a changed world.

Mimesis is the phenomenon of human mimicry. Humans see, and they strive to become what they see. The prolific Franco-Californian philosopher René Girard described the human hunger for imitation as mimetic desire. According to Girard, mimetic desire is a mighty psychosocial force that drives human behavior. When attempted imitation fails, (i.e. I want, but fail, to imitate my colleague’s promotion to VP of Business Development), mimetic rivalry arises. According to mimetic theory, periodic scapegoating—the ritualistic expelling of a member of the community—evolved as a way for archaic societies to diffuse rivalries and maintain the general peace.

As civilization matured, social institutions evolved to prevent conflict. To Girard, sacrificial religious ceremonies first arose as imitations of earlier scapegoating rituals. From the mimetic worldview healthy social institutions perform two primary functions,

They satisfy mimetic desire and reduce mimetic rivalry by allowing imitation to take place.
They thereby reduce the need to diffuse mimetic rivalry through scapegoating.
Tranquil societies possess and value institutions that are mimesis tolerant. These institutions, such as religion and family, are Mimesis Machines. They enable millions to see, imitate, and become new versions of themselves. Mimesis Machines, satiate the primal desire for imitation, and produce happy, contented people. Through Mimesis Machines, Elvis fans can become Beatles.

Volatile societies, on the other hand, possess and value mimesis resistant institutions that frustrate attempts at mimicry, and mass produce frustrated, resentful people. These institutions, such as capitalism and beauty hierarchies, are Mimesis Shredders. They stratify humanity, and block the ‘nots’ from imitating the ‘haves’.
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october 2017 by nhaliday
Blind men and an elephant - Wikipedia
A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: "We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable". So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said "This being is like a thick snake". For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, "elephant is a wall". Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.
india  asia  aphorism  parable  learning  thinking  individualism-collectivism  spreading  info-dynamics  epistemic  wiki  reference  religion  theos  buddhism  truth  local-global  the-self  n-factor  subjective-objective  analytical-holistic  alien-character  absolute-relative  communication  apollonian-dionysian  essence-existence 
august 2017 by nhaliday
Tales of the Chinese future past – Gene Expression
older: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/09/the-past-and-the-future/
That being said, the past is likely a guide that the Chinese imperialism of the 21st century will not take the form of massed invasions and conquests, but rather client-patron relationships which reinforce the rise of a new hegemon.

Why Confucianism Matters: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/
Why look to China? After all, there were ethical systems in the West. First, I’m not sure that the supernaturalistic religions work to bind elites together anymore due to lack of credibility. Christianity is getting weaker. My own personal hunch is that the current wave of Islamic assertiveness and violence is the paroxysm of a civilization confronting its irrelevance.

Second, Classical Antiquity had plenty of ethical systems, especially during the Hellenistic and Roman period. But Rome collapsed. There was a great rupture between antiquity and the medieval period. In contrast, the Confucian and Neo-Confucian system persisted down to the early 20th century in classical form and casts a strong shadow over East Asia even today. While Stoicism had personal relevance, Confucianism was designed to scale from the individual all the way to the imperial state.

The 1960s saw a radical transition to notional social egalitarianism in the West. This is the world I grew up and matured in. Arguably, I believed in its rightness, inevitability, and eternal dominance, until very recently. But I think that today that model is fraying and people are looking to find some mooring. In particular, I think we are in need of a rectification of names. From Wikipedia:

Confucius was asked what he would do if he was a governor. He said he would “rectify the names” to make words correspond to reality. The phrase has now become known as a doctrine of feudal Confucian designations and relationships, behaving accordingly to ensure social harmony. Without such accordance society would essentially crumble and “undertakings would not be completed.”

How are we supposed to behave with each given person? A lot of this is free-form and improvisational today, and it turns out that many people are not comfortable with this. Humans need scripts.

Finally, the world that Confucianism developed was highly stratified, though there was some chance of advancement. It was not a calcified caste system, but it was a hierarchical one. I believe that is the system that we are moving toward in the West, and it seems that a system that takes for granted non-egalitarianism, such as Confucianism, may benefit us.

Spandrell: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/10/why-confucianism-matters/#comment-6358
I’d say that arguably Confucianism only really flourished after the Song dynasty broke the Chinese aristocracy and instituted a fully civilian ruling class. Confucianism was a force for egalitarianism if anything. It was the religion of the mandarins, not of the people.

If we were to make an analogy to Chinese history I’d say we are more like in the Eastern Han, with private patronage networks taking over the state from within. The result of that wasn’t a strong confucianism. The result was the spread of Buddhism. A very different beast.

https://twitter.com/thespandrell/status/951469782053871616
https://archive.is/m0XAq
Read and check the comments. I wish it were true; I could sell a couple of books if anything. But Confucianism is an ideology of absolutism, not of oligarchy.

The Western Rectification Of Names: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2015/03/09/the-western-rectification-of-names/
The important insight we can gain from the longevity of a Confucian political philosophy is that its core theses do have some utility for complex societies. Unlike that of Rome the Chinese order of two thousand years ago actually persisted down to living memory, with the fall of the Ching in the early 20th century. Confucius believed he was a traditionalist, rediscovering ancient insights as to the proper relations between human beings. I suspect this is correct, insofar as the Golden Mean he and his humanistic followers recommended between the cold and cruel utilitarianism of the Legalists and the unrealistic one of the followers of Mozi is probably the best fit to human psychological dispositions (both the Legalists and Mohists were suspicious of the family).** In the disordered world of the late Zhou, on the precipice of the Warring States period, Confucius and his followers elucidated what was really common sense, but repackaged in a fashion which would appeal more systematically to elites, and scaffold their own more egotistical impulses (in contrast to the Legalists, who seem to have enshrined the ego of the ruler as the summum bonum).

And that is the reality which we face today. Our world is not on the precipice of war, but social and technological changes are such that we are in a period where a new rectification of names is warranted. Old categories of sex, gender, religion and race, are falling or reordering. Western society is fracturing, as the intelligentsia promote their own parochial categories, and traditionalists dissent and retreat into their own subcultures. To give two examples, there are those who might find offense if addressed by the pronoun he or she, even though this is an old convention in Western society. In contrast, traditionalist Christian subcultures no longer have unified control of the public domain which would allow for them to promulgate the basis of their values. There are those who might accede to traditional Christian claims who can not agree with their metaphysics, which the traditional Christians hold to be necessary to be in full agreement.*** In contrast, the progressive faction which declaims the morally restrictive manners of the traditionalist Right in fact belies its own assertions by the proliferation of terms which serve to define the elect from those who do not uphold proper morals and manners.

Why I Am Not A New Atheist: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/11/why-i-am-not-a-new-atheist/
Fundamentally I do not think this is correct. Nor do I think that religious beliefs have much to do with logic or reason. Religion is a complex phenomenon which is rooted in supernatural intuitions and then evolves further in a cultural context, with some possible functional utility as a group-marker.

Second, I do not think religion is the “root of all evil”, and so see no need to convert the world to atheism. Obviously, the horror of Communism illustrates that removing supernatural religion does not remove the human impulse to atrocity.

More recently, I have been convinced that truth and knowledge is a minor value to most humans, including elites. Lying is pretty ubiquitous, and most people are rather satisfied with big lies girding social norms and conventions. One may try to avoid “living by lies” in private, but actually promoting this viewpoint in public is ridiculously self-destructive. Most people could care less about the truth,* while elites simply manipulate facts to buttress their social positions and engage in control.

In other words, the New Atheists seem to think that it’s a worthy to aim to enlighten humanity toward views which they believe align with reality.

At this point, I care about converting the common man to a true understanding of reality as much as I care about a cow grokking trigonometry. I don’t.

https://twitter.com/razibkhan/status/954392158198525953
https://archive.is/TXjN0
i have long believed many 'traditional' institutions and folkways which we in the post-materialist world look askance at are not traditional, but ad hoc cultural kludges and patches for ppl to manage to survive in villages where our cognitive toolkit wasn't sufficient
in an affluent liberal democratic context they may indeed be outmoded and easy to slough off. but if a different form of life, characterized by malthusian immiseration, comes to dominate then the kludges will come back
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may 2017 by nhaliday
Greco-Buddhism - Wikipedia
Although there is still some debate, the first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha himself are often considered a result of the Greco-Buddhist interaction. Before this innovation, Buddhist art was "aniconic": the Buddha was only represented through his symbols (an empty throne, the Bodhi Tree, Buddha footprints, the Dharmachakra).

This reluctance towards anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha, and the sophisticated development of aniconic symbols to avoid it (even in narrative scenes where other human figures would appear), seem to be connected to one of the Buddha’s sayings reported in the Digha Nikaya that discouraged representations of himself after the extinction of his body.[24]

Probably not feeling bound by these restrictions, and because of "their cult of form, the Greeks were the first to attempt a sculptural representation of the Buddha".[25][page needed] In many parts of the Ancient World, the Greeks did develop syncretic divinities, that could become a common religious focus for populations with different traditions: a well-known example is Serapis, introduced by Ptolemy I Soter in Egypt, who combined aspects of Greek and Egyptian Gods. In India as well, it was only natural for the Greeks to create a single common divinity by combining the image of a Greek god-king (Apollo, or possibly the deified founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius I of Bactria), with the traditional physical characteristics of the Buddha.
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march 2017 by nhaliday
I Just Ran Four Million Regressions
great title

In this paper I try to move away from the Extreme Bounds method of identifying" Instead of analyzing the" extreme bounds of the estimates of the coefficient of a particular variable distribution. My claim in this paper is that, if we do this, the picture emerging from the" empirical growth literature is not the pessimistic Robust" that we get with the" extreme bound analysis. Instead, we find that a substantial number of variables can be found" to be strongly related to growth.

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/Comments/decadenewgrowth.html
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march 2017 by nhaliday
Justified by more than logos alone - The Unz Review
The scientific study of religion is another topic where I once had a lot of interest, but where I concluded that the basic insights have stabilized. Since I stopped reading much in this area I stopped writing much about it too. To get a sense of where I’m coming from, Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion is probably the best place to start. It’s about 15 years old, but I don’t see that much has changed since then in the basics of the field.

And what are those basics? At its fundamental basics religious impulses must be understood as an outcome of our cognitive mental intuitions. All religion operates on top of this basic kernel of our mental OS. Religion may have functional utility as a social system of control, or channeling collective energies, as argued by David Sloan Wilson in Darwin’s Cathedral. Or, one might be able to fruitfully model “religious marketplaces” as argued in Marketplace of the Gods. But these are all basically simply applications installed into on top of the operating system.

...

Very few are Roman Catholic because they have read Aquinas’ Five Ways. Rather, they are Roman Catholic, in order of necessity, because God aligns with their deep intuitions, basic cognitive needs in terms of cosmological coherency, and because the church serves as an avenue for socialization and repetitive ritual which binds individuals to the greater whole. People do not believe in Catholicism as often as they are born Catholics, and the Catholic religion is rather well fitted to a range of predispositions to the typical human.

...

There are a subset of believers who are not well captured by the generalizations in books such as Slone’s, or in ethnographic descriptions which trace the assimilation of Catholicism into the American scene. They are usually highly intellectual and analytical in their orientation. Often, they seem to be converts. Rod Dreher was a convert to Catholicism from Methodism, before he became Orthodox. Leah Libresco and Eve Tushnet also seem to fall into this category. Highly intellectual. And, converts to Catholicism.

Because they are analytical and articulate, these sorts of religious people are highly prominent on the public stage, and, they also write the histories that come down to us through the centuries. These are also the type of people who are overrepresented in the clerical apparatus of any organized religion. This is a problem, because their prominence can obscure the reality that they are not as influential as you might think. As a metaphor, imagine mountainous islands scattering amidst a featureless ocean. The islands are salient. But it is the vast ocean which will ultimately be determinative. Similarly, the vast number of believers who move along a nexus of inscrutable social forces, and driven by powerful universal psychologies, may be hidden from our view.

And yet even for the “analytics” reason does not dictate. Both Dreher and Tushnet have made references to mystical and emotional occurrences and impulses which are beyond my ken. I have no need, no wish, no impulse, and no intuition as to what they are talking about in that dimension (Libresco seems a somewhat different case, but I haven’t read much of what she’s written; I suspect I’ve been in the same room with her since she worked for an organization which I have many personal connections with, but I’m not sure).

It isn’t a surprise that I think Hume was onto something when he asserted that “reason is a slave to the passions.” In many instances I suspect theological analysis is simply the analytic engine being applied to a domain whose ultimate rationale is driven by a passion.

Addendum: Leah Libresco seems to have been associated with the broad umbrella group of Bay Area rationalists. I’ve been associated in some fashion with these people as friends and acquaintances for nearly 10 years. I will admit that I’ve generally found the conceit of rationality as an ends, as opposed to a means, somewhat off-putting. Ultimately I’m more of a skeptic than a rationalist I suppose at the root.

The nature of religion and Breaking the Spell: http://www.unz.com/gnxp/the-nature-of-religion-and-breaking-the-spell/

Buddhism, a religion or not?: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2007/02/buddhism-a-religion-or-not/

Against the seriousness of theology: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/04/against-the-seriousness-of-theology/
This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity. This has important consequences, because intellectuals write, and writing is permanent. It echoes down through the ages. Therefore our understanding of the broad scope of religious history is naturally shaped by how intellectuals view religion. In a superficial sense the history of religion is the history of theology, because theology is so amenable to preservation.

http://www.unz.com/gnxp/justified-by-more-than-logos-alone/

What Religion Is: https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2018/01/12/what-religion-is/
It’s been about 10 years since I addressed this topic. Largely because I have no new thoughts. But probably after 10 years, it’s useful to revisit/clarify on this topic to clarify confusions, since people have a lot of opinions on this topic.

People mean different things when they mean “religion,” and the different meanings are not contradictory, nor in conflict.

At the lowest level in terms of individual cognition religion emerges from deep intuitions about the nature of the universe. Colloquially one might say that religion bubbles out of our unconscious.

In relation to social units, say the clan or tribe, religion consists of these intuitions about the nature of the universe and the world around us, bound together with rituals and verbal descriptions and narratives. These rituals and communal narratives help forge some sort of group Weltanschauung that has a functional utility in terms of inter-group competition and relations. Here religion steps out of the individual and becomes an expression of collective consensus.

As human societies became more complex the role of religious professionals became more elaborated. The common role of a shaman can be thought of as a magician, one who manipulates and operates in the domain of the supernatural. Shamans are common and ubiquitous in pre-state societies (even if a tribe does not have a “professional” shaman, someone takes on the role when needed). The priest adds on top of this institutional authority, often supra-clan or tribal. No king, no priest. Eventually, though the shaman-priest took on the role of the metaphysician. The metaphysician generates abstract principles and rationales, which can transcend the tribe or ethnicity, and allows religion to generate meta-ethnic civilizational identities in the service of priestly functions.

So in the post-Axial Age, the religious professional is often shaman, priest, and philosopher.

...

What about the priest? Though I am wary of the term “political religion,” due to semantic confusion, it seems clear that the function of the priest can be stripped of its supernatural valence. Many of the most objectionable characteristics of religion for people of liberal orientations derives from the institutionalized priestly functions. Unfortunately, the persistence of the priest in the absence of gods, shamanic powers and metaphysical justification opens the doors to secular totalitarianism.

...

These different aspects of religiosity exist and persist simultaneously in most contexts, but sometimes in tension. Philosophers and priests often take a dim view of shamanic religiosity. In organized religion of the modern sort shamanism is marginalized, or highly constrained and regulated in sacraments. But the recession of state-sponsored Christianity across much of the West has arguably resulted in a resurgence of shamanism, and the proliferation of diverse supernatural beliefs which had previously been suppressed (much of East Asia is characterized by relative weakness of philosophical religion but the strength of shamanism).

The relevance of all this in relation to New Atheism is that New Atheism seems to posit a religious “Blank Slate.” That is, children are indoctrinated in religion at a small age, previous to which they had been atheists. Part of this is due to the fact that the philosophical-metaphysical aspect of religion is quite clearly indoctrination, and often of a superficial sort at that (judging by how weak most believer’s grasp of theology is). But the communal and psychological aspects are not indoctrination, as much as specific instantiations of general human sentiments, dispositions, and intuitions. The erasure of a Christian, Buddhist or Islamic religious orientation will not necessarily leave in its wake a mind primed for scientific naturalism. Rather, it will simply be one shorn of Axial-Age accretions, reverted back to the shamanic age…

Atheism As Mental Deviance: http://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2011/09/18/atheism-as-mental-deviance/
Tyler Cowen points me to a PDF, Religious Belief Systems of Persons with High Functioning Autism, which has some fascinating results on the religiosity (or lack thereof) of people with high functioning autism. I’ve seen speculation about the peculiar psychological profile of atheists before in the cognitive science literature, and there’s a fair amount of social psychological data on the different personality profile of atheists (e.g., more disagreeable). But there hasn’t been a lot of systematic investigation of the possibility that autistic individuals are more likely to be atheist because they lack a fully fleshed “theory of mind,” which … [more]
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february 2017 by nhaliday
What Chinese corner-cutting reveals about modernity | Aeon Essays
Your balcony fell off? Chabuduo. Vaccines are overheated? Chabuduo. How China became the land of disastrous corner-cutting

The copy is the original: https://aeon.co/essays/why-in-china-and-japan-a-copy-is-just-as-good-as-an-original
In China and Japan, temples may be rebuilt and ancient warriors cast again. There is nothing sacred about the ‘original'
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december 2016 by nhaliday

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