Sunday, April 28, 2013

Loan-Sharking Students

Succeeding Professional Protection Rackets.

Elsewhere, Anonymous writes:
Why should we feel sorry for people who can't pay their student loans? If you borrowed a lot of money to pay for a degree you were wagering that your education would land you a good job and make all the loans worth it. If things didn't turn out the way you hoped, then guess what, you rolled the dice and lost. If you welch on your bet then it's time to call in Tony Soprano.
Fair wagers depend on an accurate understanding of the variables involved in the game. If someone has stacked the deck or has X-ray vision, the poker is no longer fair, but instead a ruse designed to conceal the theft of money from other players. Like the biggest, dirtiest team of carnies ever, modern elites manage "economies" in order to produce games that look fair, but aren't. They do this, in part, by lying about the size of the available pot, lying about the players, and lying about failsafes. This works particularly well when they control all major aspects of the economy they're gaming.

Fair Wagers

We're at the County Fair. The land is leased from the government (often at a sweetheart deal, but let's not focus on that part now). You walk in the gate and are immediately confronted by hundreds of "independent operators," running different kinds of rides, games, food services, petting zoos, trinket shops, et cetera. When you go up to the basketball game, to shoot at the ridiculously tiny hoop, the setting is designed to appear like real basketball for a reason: the image of the hoop suggests "regulation basketball hoop," but in fact, the hoop is smaller. ("Everybody knows" that the fair games are rigged, except for each new generation of marks, who innocently believe it's about having fun and exhibiting skill.)

So, the basketball game is a ruse. People are unlikely to win many prizes. That's relatively easy to see, but a bigger picture is the fair itself. The basketball game, and its current operator, are but tiny parts of a whole. "The fair" is based on thousands of interconnected falsities about skill and value, and the "basketball game" is only one of them. Its entire structure is set up to facilitate overwhelming people with sensation, make them feel small, and encourage them to get tricked out of their money. Cons walk around with huge, nice prizes, pretending to have won them just the same way you could; cons demonstrate how easy their friends' games are; countless hidden messages suggest measuring worth based on your relative success at the game. Even when you "win" the prizes by out-gaming the game, you often find out that victory is measured by an arcane ticket-based currency system that results in you getting shafted even after you've gotten shafted the first several times, and you walk away with a consolation fuzzy rather than the giganormous cuddle-bear.

Many people learn to treat the fair as spectacle. Because it is loud, filled with people, and has a lot of stuff to keep you occupied, they go expecting only to see a bunch of stuff, rather than to win games, enjoy high quality art or cuisine, or otherwise enrich their lives. That's where an even bigger picture--of the society that would make a costly, relatively toxic venue a positive spectacle--can be analyzed, but we'll break off and stick inside the fair for now.

If you know the fair, it's easy to laugh this off. Of course everyone knows the fair is rigged. You go there just for stupid fun, right? The food is all the same recirculated dough and frozen mechanically separated meat, regardless of whether you're at the Chinese booth, pizza booth, or the dessert booth. The games are all bullshit, but they pass the time, so you do them just to laugh at each others' failures. You drop fifty bucks, get a few knock-off beers, and go home.

It's all really funny when you're in the know. What's not so funny is if you're among the fair's prime targets: younger people; the elderly; tourists; the mentally-disabled. No, not joking. Rowdy thirty-something yuppies pretending to slum at the fair do indeed lose a lot of money there, but little kids who actually think of it as a test of skill--because they haven't yet learned better--or special needs individuals "getting some time outside," may pay a heavy price for the spectacle. If a middle school kid gets cheated out of her twenty dollar birthday present because she was sure she could make a few free throws, the bastard who set the operation up is little better than a mugger. Those "Nigerian gold" e-mail scams were so stupidly funny, right? But when someone's Grandma lost a hundred thousand dollars and got evicted from her home, is it still funny? Should we join the liars and thieves in mocking the people who, because of life circumstance, actually believed the story?

Houses

In the Dubya-era housing bubble, we saw a good example of the elites' super-fair. Like the operators of individual shoot-a-basket win-a-prize stands, thousands of mortgage brokers farted into their task chairs, scratching the backs of their hairy necks and trying to grab commissions. They weren't even aware, like low-level carnies, that they were part of a system--they just thought they were trying to get a paycheck by making things work however they could.

At the same time, though, a coordinated effort swept the entire country: nearly every major and minor lender relaxed loaning standards so as to disregard collateral and ability-to-pay requirements. They were all on the same page, almost as if their boards of directors were staffed by the same families. And, at the same time, the corporate media flooded the country with the message GET A MORTGAGE AND BUY A HOUSE. Publishers picked up on it: newspapers, drugstore magazines, glossy yuppie magazines, and internet sites hit the world with a battery of articles about the virtues and savings of home ownership v. renting. Books came out on how you could retire earlier by owning your home instead of giving the profit to a landlord. Credit counseling services picked up at the same time, helping people inflate their credit scores. Community colleges taught classes on personal finance, and how to qualify for separate down payment assistance. Printers printed hundreds of thousands of giant placards showing happy couples moving into their first home, which were licensed to different banks for display in their lobbies. Models posed for the pictures. Photographers took the pictures. Warehouses stocked the placards, and trucking companies shipped them across the country. (The I.R.S. continued subsidizing private bank loans by redirecting taxpayer funds to allow mortgage interest deductions, as opposed to renter's deductions, and continued subsidizing private banking operations entirely by funding the FDIC.)

All at once. The "bubble" was, like all bubbles, created on purpose. It could not have been a bubble without the coordinated effort of so many seemingly disparate aspects of the economy acting in unison. The market evolved under malevolent, greedy direction, creating a demand for a product, filling that demand, extending ridiculous credit, then sparking an internal "crash" that resulted in an incredible bailout profit in the form of hundreds of billions in direct cash and hundreds of billions more in taxpayer-funded sheriff seizures. All at once, it came, just like the bumper cars setting up next to the cotton candy machine next to the shoot-a-basket game.

Students

If some high school state basketball champion kid spends $18 trying to shoot 9 baskets, misses all the shots, then climbs up the machine to discover it's not a real hoop, should we laugh at his anger? What if it's his first time at the fair? What if it wasn't $18, but $180,000, and the rest of his life will be lived under the shadow of the money that he was conned out of?

That same coordination of cons happened with student loans. Over the course of decades, bankers, politicians, and university administrators worked with the corporate media to create the illusion that careers could be purchased through "education" and "hard work." Corporations established ridiculous employment standards, like requiring a Bachelor of Arts degree for retail management positions, while universities fabricated equally ridiculous programs of study in return, like "Hotel & Restaurant Management" degrees, "Management Information Systems" courses of study, and "Business" majors. Trillions of taxpayer dollars were spent by the government encouraging multiple generations of students to get year after year after year after decade of post-K-12 education. Endless studies were commissioned, and squealingly released by the corporate media--in serious, hardbound tomes; in glossy young-adult magazines; in children's cartoons and teen dramas--promising bright futures to college graduates.

At the same time, lenders relaxed grade- and institution-standards, ensuring that droves of students would take out massive loans that they wouldn't have the ability to later repay, even as year after year from the 1970s showed real income dropping, the demand for skilled jobs dropping, and the correlation between education and career become more and more distant. Time and Newsweek churned out still more bar-graphs showing how people with more years of education made higher salaries, and websites compared "top earning professions" and "top earning majors," constantly and un-subtly linking even more education loans with even greater success later in life.

At the same time, politicians made the con better. Bankruptcy laws were altered nationwide, preventing jobless students from eliminating their debt, thereby underwriting lenders. Political speeches touted the virtues of education, and spoke gravely and condescendingly about the uneducated. The government reduced, or stopped entirely, the handing out of direct education grants (money) to students, and instead began subsidizing student loans (giving taxpayer cash directly to bankers).

Fictional movies, books, and television programs celebrated, for decades, college, as a wild and happy, yet moving and ultimately rewarding place: a phase of life through which every real person needed to pass. "Feminist" and "civil rights" movements began demeaning women and minorities who didn't spend money on college and enter college-related careers as oppressed or ignorant. Grumpy senior citizens began complaining about how younger people were trying to be "professional students," and were resoundingly mocked as "stupid" and "old-fashioned" by neo-liberal commentators.

Just as in the housing situation, these things would not have happened but for the initial lying. Without the sirens' whispers of "careers," kids would've looked for jobs and lives right out of high school, instead of being made to feel stupid if they didn't blow fifty grand on a four-year, liberal-arts education at state college, or a couple hundred grand running through graduate school afterward.

It was a symphony.

At The Fair

So, her loan was a ruse. People are unlikely to win many careers. That's relatively easy to see, but a bigger picture is the fair itself. The guy at Second Bank of Southern Arkansas, and the woman at the bursar's office, are but tiny parts of a whole. "The fair" is based on thousands of interconnected falsities about skill and value, and the "bachelor's degree" is only one of them. Its entire structure is set up to facilitate overwhelming people with sensation, make them feel small, and encourage them to get tricked out of their money. Cons walk around with huge, nice careers, pretending to have won them just the same way you could; cons demonstrate how easy their friends' games are; countless hidden messages suggest measuring worth based on your relative success at the game. Even when you "win" a career by out-gaming the game, you often find out that victory is measured by an arcane ticket-based currency system that results in you getting shafted even after you've gotten shafted the first several times, and you walk away with a consolation fuzzy rather than a pension and a place in the world.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hope 5 ~ Cosmos & Reason

Hope, Part 4 discussed 2 of the 5 topics it had laid out, leaving these three for later:
(3) After that, we'll consider why arguments that life has reached, or nearly reached (or that we are currently able to perceive), an upper limit on refinement presuppose normative judgments about potential, both upper and lower. (This would be Gould's narrow hallway.)

(4) Next, we'll expand our scope to astrophysics, and look at the conflict between deductive and inductive reasoning playing out in that discipline, and how it compares to the same in evolutionary biology.

(5) We will close by integrating all these concepts with academia, medicine, exploitative economies, and essential philosophy, and see why Market-Style Evolution is so powerfully, inductively integral to Earth's current elites.

Gould's Narrow Hallway

In his Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, Gould attempts, like Dawkins, to save Market-Style Evolution from the inevitable perils of mathematics.

As discussion began in Part 3, Dawkins' defense of independently branded mutation, sparked by individual organisms before being tested in nature's free market, ran into big mathematical problems when 1-4 billion years of life was forced to confront the colossally larger set of possibilities that the fossil record should show but didn't, and that mathematics should have made impossible but didn't. Dawkins, to deal with the problem, presupposed the preferred conclusions of nature, using his cumulative selection model, broken in Part 4.

Gould's attempt to save the cold, Hobbesian marketplace focuses, like Dawkins', on discrediting the fossil record. Dawkins argues that the fossil record is empty of transitional specimens because it has to be; because nature could have had it no other way. Gould's challenge is different: for Gould, he is arguing not against a lack of supporting evidence in the fossil record (as Dawkins does), but against the presence of contrary evidence. An impartial observer of the fossil record sees that life on Earth has grown from being nonexistent, to unicellular organisms, to bipedal mammals, to humans--so far. The inescapable objective conclusion, backed by billions of years of evidence, is that life grows more complex.

This is what Lightform Evolution argues: that life grows increasingly more complex, in tandem with its environment. Life becomes better able to process energy, leading to states of consciousness, memory, timeliness, emotions, psialtics, and other forms of matter-energy interaction that would be considered, by each prior stage, to be "transcendent." Gould's faith, though, provides him with the ability to disregard this billions-year trend.

How does he do it? By "narrowing the hallway," or presupposing the boundaries of permissible inquiry. Like Dawkins, he is forced to apply normative, un-proven, faith-based conclusions about his studies, in order to generate the results he wants. Also like Dawkins, he lacks evidence to support his conclusions, and indeed, is directly contradicted by life's increasing complexity, but he is famous, powerful, and occasionally referred to by the New York Times and on NPR, ergo considered proper and correct.

From the linked Wikipedia, an accurate (and suitably condescending) summary of his argument:
In the second example, Gould points out that many people wrongly believe that the process of evolution has a preferred direction—a tendency to make organisms more complex and more sophisticated as time goes by. Those who believe in evolution's drive towards progress often demonstrate it with a series of organisms that appeared in different eons, with increasing complexity, e.g., "bacteria, fern, dinosaurs, dog, man". Gould explains how these increasingly complex organisms are just one hand of the complexity distribution, and why looking only at them misses the entire picture—the "full house". He explains that by any measure, the most common organisms have always been, and still are, the bacteria. The complexity distribution is bounded at one side (a living organism cannot be much simpler than bacteria), so an unbiased random walk by evolution, sometimes going in the complexity direction and sometimes going towards simplicity (without having an intrinsic preference to either), will create a distribution with a small, but longer and longer tail at the high complexity end.

All quite true, if we assume that the things we have seen are both the lower and upper limit. We became aware of bacteria, for example, only recently, and prions still more recently, through the use of certain technology. To conclude that life cannot be more simple (or just smaller) than bacteria (or prion chains, or however low you'd like to currently go) is foolish, temporally-bound, and even utterly unscientific. Just as it would be insulting to the all powerful God of the Bible to presume that you knew His thoughts about modern internet culture, or what He had done last Tuesday, it is insulting to science to presume that later technology will not reveal smaller, simpler forms of life. Gould, here, is as clever as a fourteenth century preacher declaring that illness is caused by invisible demons, rather than by bacteria, simply because he can't see the bacteria.

The Doors at the end of the Hallway

Confronted by a history of billions of years of refinement and awareness, Gould should be a bit more humble about his conclusions that he can see just how far down the rabbit hole goes--even more, though, confronted by a mere millennium of human technological advances, he should be at least unwilling to conclude that nothing smaller or less complex could be discovered. If a single-celled organism is simple life, is a lonely mitochondria simple life? What about one a thousand times smaller? If there can be undetectable superstrings, can there be life that small? These paragons of science should know better than to declare end results. Bacteria might not be the most numerous organisms out there. Beyond range of our telescopes, there could be six googol vacuum-breathing cat-creatures surviving, outnumbering all the bacteria now, or ever, on Earth. And beyond the range of our microscopes, there could be a mere fifteen micro-prions alive. Simpler than bacteria, but less numerous. It is Gould's faith alone that sets his lower boundary.

Just as Gould makes the errors of a fourteenth century barber-surgeon, screaming about demons instead of washing his hands, he also makes the mistake of an early cro magnon tribal leader, declaring that cro magnons are at the tip of the "longer tail at the high complexity end" (or a deinonychus shaman concluding that certain subsets of dinosaurs are life's maximum complexity). It certainly seems that way, to the barber-surgeon without a microscope, the cro magnon leader without a time machine, or the deinonychus shaman without the same, but their error is in believing that their own knowledge is conclusive. Any one of them could objectively examine their surroundings and draw the proper conclusion: the cro magnon could note his similarities to great apes, their similarities to monkeys, their similarities to predecessors, and so recognize that cro magnons were not an apex, but a stepping stone--they would later be "bested" by a different kind of organism.

The barber-surgeon could, by paying attention to infection rates, draw accurate conclusions about surgical hygiene and living conditions, and their relationship to illness, and thereby conclude that something smaller than he could see, but present on his hands, was causing him to spread infection (and causing the unclean homes of paupers to do the same).

Gould is in an even better position than they to realize his mistakes. Confronted by a worldwide network of printed and electronic information, he could easily realize that more powerful microscopes might be invented, revealing smaller, simpler life--or, entirely different technologies developed to detect larger, yet simpler, life than we are currently able to. "Modern man" might--despite how impressive it seems to Gould--be surpassed by countless more sophisticated species. One of these species might, then, travel to another star after Sol's supernova. Earth would be consumed in the supernova, along with all its bacteria, leaving the only life left being this more advanced species.

Even if technology fails to demonstrate simpler organisms than the bacteria we can currently identify, Sol's supernova, and the sterile escape of an advanced silicate race, promises that Gould's "full house" will only exist for a tiny span of time: the time of Earth's lifespan during which mammals existed alongside bacteria. For Gould to base an analysis of four billion years of life on such a "spread" is as temporally-centric and ignorant an attitude as any of Gould's British Imperial forefathers would have demonstrated toward the savagery of tribes in the New World that "lacked" the concept of land ownership.

Induction Versus Deduction

The conflict between Creationism, Market-Style Evolution, and Lightform Evolution is but a modern retelling of the ancient philosophical conflict between inductive and deductive reasoning. One of the many hidden philosophical battles in the early 21st century--as invisible to most average people as the vampire world to a background character in Blade or the real world to a background battery-human in The Matrix--is that of redefining "inductive" reasoning so that it is, essentially, the same as "deductive" reasoning.

Why? Well, the mass popularization of science began with attempts by religious men to prove the conclusions of the Bible. To do this, they utilized what was then known as inductive reasoning. In inductive reasoning, as it was known until then, a premise is presupposed as true, and a thinker uses the truth of that premise to draw conclusions that explain real-world observations. For example, Martin Priest encounters a woman pleasuring herself in a barn. Martin Priest has already accepted the premise that witchcraft exists, and that witches may be identified by signs of lust where no husband is present. Therefore, it is inductively reasonable that he kill her--the townsfolk stone her to death. His specific observation--that the woman was masturbating--is an opportunity to prove the truth of his premise, rather than to learn ("deduce") something new (such as that women are biological, sexual organisms, or that this particular woman had never married Satan).

Inductive reasoning led to many of the wonders of pre-Reformation science, such as the belief in Heaven above the clouds, the presence of the Firmament, and the validity of the Torah's commandments and the Gospel's advice. Because the Bible was accepted as true, scientists induced that the sun rotated around the Earth, and so forth: observation must fit premise.

Deductive reasoning is the opposite way of thinking: deductive reasoning involves deducing general premises and broad conclusions based upon observable facts: observable, duplicable, available-to-anyone, observable facts. Deductive reasoning involves deducing reality based upon things as they are, rather than on things as they should be. When Galileo used actual observation of the planets to draw conclusions about their position (and the position of Earth), his deductive reasoning was anathema to the inductive thinkers of the then-current order. So, he was punished. His crime was, as the Indigo Girls put it, "looking up the truth," or drawing a conclusion based upon what he saw, rather than on what experts pronounced. He's popular to remember right now, but many more deductive reasoners, and their work, have been dropped down the memory hole for failing to go along with induction.

Newspeaking Induction

Lately, embarrassed by the intrinsic connections between pop-science and pop-religion, neo-liberal thinkers have been revising word usage to scrub history clean. Like Newspeak, they revise the meaning of words in the attempt to make certain thoughts un-thinkable. Many dictionaries have not yet been changed, particularly older printed ones, and they still define "inductive reasoning" for what it is, while newer versions, approved for public consumption, allow that inductive reasoning is about "probabilities," rather than actual conclusions. This softening of the prose has made modern pop-scientists unable to contend with biblical creationism in debate or schoolroom settings--whatever they may strongarm Oxford Press into editing about "probabilities," there is absolutely no question to them that Market-Style Evolution is completely correct. "Induction," or "faith-based reasoning," has been deleted, replaced by Newspeak induction, or "science-based reasoning"--a meaningless term that will leave future generations in search of a word to use to describe the logic of wishful thinking.

For the purposes of this essay, we'll use the now-outdated forms of the words, because pop-scientists have not replaced the old "inductive" with an equivalent (they just scrubbed that definition completely clean of an associated term). "Inductive reasoning," here, means what it still does in some of the dictionaries: to draw a conclusion about the world based on the way you already know things should be. "Deductive reasoning," here, means what it did in the older dictionaries, as well as the newest: to draw a conclusion about the world based on an observation.

Title Match - Creationism v. Markets v. Lightform

So, we have some observations: 10 billion years of loose matter, forming gradually into more sophisticated arrangements, followed by 1-4 billion years of a fossil record filled with living creatures that progress from simple to complex forms, internally and externally, in tandem with their environments, the later forms better able to process available energy. How does each story of life deal with the evidence?

Old Creationism: Satan's trickery. God created everything really quickly, including all life as we see it now. Satan (or his knowing/unknowing dupes) created the fossil record to trick humans. We can induce this because we already know that the Bible is true.

New Creationism: God's plan. God created everything gradually, but quickly for Him, putting together all life as we see it now as part of a plan to get here to humans, the most complex organisms in creation, modeled after His image. We can induce this because we already know that the Bible is true.

Darwinism: Plants and Animals. Plants and animals on this island seem to be uniquely adapted to this environment. Ones not so adapted die off. We can deduce this from our observations. Things may be evolving in tandem with nature.

Market-Style Evolution: climb the corporate ladder, or go extinct. Everything happened randomly, and the best, toughest, and brightest creatures managed to survive through a winner-take-all deathmatch of the finest things in existence. We can induce this because we know evolution is random.

Lightform Evolution: the whole thing seems related. Over many billions of years, increasingly complex matter structures develop that provide increasingly advanced conduits for entrapping and channeling energy. We can deduce this because we observe organisms evolving in highly coordinated ways with their environments, including simultaneously with other organisms.

Darwin formed reasonable hypotheses given what he'd observed, and his theory of evolution could have developed in two different ways: down one path, concluding ahead of time that mutations must be random, inductive thinkers would come up with any means possible of explaining why missing pieces of evidence didn't matter, because evolution had to be random--it simply had to be.

Down another, deductive thinkers could go forward from the time of Darwin, and learn that evolution was occurring, and nature selecting, but not randomly. As paleontology and geology advanced, and a fossil record began to detail the billions of years prior to the voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, showing integrative transitions, deductive thinkers would allow the hypothesis of evolution to evolve to include plants, animals, the air they breathed, and the ground upon which they walked. Instead of concluding that every detail of an initial hypothesis must be correct because it must be, they would allow further observation of the real world to evolve more refined hypotheses.

Superclusters

The inductive v. deductive debate occurs in cosmology, also. When a young priest, struggling to prove that God had created the world in a single instant, came up with the theory of the Big Bang--reasonless, purposeless, creation by fiat--astronomers spent decades using the Hubble redshift to demonstrate that galaxies were moving away from each other, ergo the Big Bang. Their calculations provided a universal age of about twenty billion years.

Everything went swimmingly (well, not really--there were massive problems, but disregard them for the time being) for a while until the superclusters were discovered: clusters of clusters of galaxies, so gigantic that they could not possibly have gravitationally formed in the time the Big Bang allowed for the universe's lifespan.

When confronted with the mathematical impossibility of this random creationism, Big Bang cosmologists spent years relying on authority alone (institutional prestige = debate win). After a time, a new generation of creationists addressed the issue in a way similar to how Dawkins and Gould finally condescended to explain how Market-Style Evolution simply had to work, despite its mathematical impossibility: they used the power of pure thought to induce the existence of "cosmic strings."

Cosmic strings--like dark matter, dark energy, and Higgs bosons--had never been observed, and will never be, but by the power of faith, many learned men were able to speak about them. They knew they existed. And those cosmic strings had spread out from the Big Bang, attracting clusters of galaxies and creating the superclusters, thereby saving their theory.

Once again, creationism was saved: because a theory had to be true, it would be declared true, even for lack of evidence. Confronted by a fossil record that did not bear out the truth of millions of years of random evolution, or massive, beautiful superclusters that would have taken hundreds of billions of years to form, pop-scientists made up, out of pure imagination, concepts that had never been observed, and declared them as weighty as if they had been products of science.

The Death of Evidence

When the fossil record was incomplete, it no longer mattered: Market-Style Evolution is right, therefore evidence is not needed to complete the theory. In fact--mind dizzyingly--the lack of evidence is even said to prove the theory, because it shows just how efficient the theory is. When superclusters of galaxies, or the relative weakness of gravity itself, disprove the Big Bang, it no longer mattered: the Big Bang Theory is right, therefore superclusters are wrong.

Popular scientists have now spent decades out of the laboratory. They write book after book of thought experiments, fantasizing about what the Big Bang was like, or how Market-Style Evolution works. They give interviews. They release scathing critiques of people too stupid and un-educated to agree with them. They facilitate international wealth transfers, starting tax-exempt foundations to influence politics and economies.

Decades earlier, scientists were expected to produce evidence supporting their hypotheses, and to discard hypotheses that were contradicted by observation, but no more. Now, in the post-industrial age, science is so wedded to wealthy nations, armies, and elites that evidence no longer matters. What matters is the end result: if a theory justifies the right kind of social structures, then the corporate media puts out books, magazines, reasonable mature talk shows, sitcoms, and movies drowning the world in its rightness, such that it warrants mockery to even begin questioning it. The ends justify the means. If you ask, "Why do they bomb Iraqi children?" and "Why do they impoverish their own people?" you will find a great part of the answer in the cold logical ends of Big Bang Creationism and Market-Style Evolution.

As in the Dark Ages, and as in almost all times in recorded human history, inductive "reasoning" is triumphant. Observation, self-study, self-worth, and wisdom gained from the world around you are not deemed important. Instead, the arch conclusions of Big Men set policy. Famous, powerful, well-degreed, well-bred men declare that weapons of mass destruction, missing links, and cosmic strings exist, and in the face of no evidence, those powerful men make the whole world cry for their preferred conclusions.

In Part 6, we'll integrate Market-Style evolution more with academia, medicine, exploitative economies, and essential philosophy, as promised earlier. From there, we'll move on to advanced hope: the light at the end of the tunnel of the New Dark Ages, and how Plasma Cosmology, Lightform Evolution, and Verse Structuring indicate what comes next.

Evolution Responses

Compiling responses to Hope Part 3 and Hope Part 4. Part 5 will follow.

hoohah writes: "...your argument still focuses exclusively on the unlimited opportunities for development that random changes at the organism level allow *in principle* without acknowledging the crucial role of *the specific environments* in which these organisms happen to live at the time of the random mutations occur, which is what determines what developmental paths get sustained."

The specific environments determine what developmental paths get sustained, but also, which ones are created to begin with. As this one said above, if the environment allowed developmental paths to be sustained over the course of so many reproductive cycles that a 99% complete organ was ready to become a 100% complete organ, then organisms at all stage of that organ's development--from 1% to 99% complete--have proven their ability to survive in that environment. The best response to that is to say that it was only the 100% complete versions of that specific organism which were able to finally drive the 1%-99% organisms to extinction, but even if we speculate such an erratic conclusion, it does not explain the absence from the fossil record of the 1%-99% organisms. There should be not only some of those 1-99% organisms, but far more of them than there are of the 100% complete ones, because intermediary stages of development would take so comparatively long.

dietl writes: "My "little" mathematical problem here is that you ignore here that some combinations of elements are more common than others, just like some elements are more common than others. Nearly half of the elements that exist in the earth's crust is oxygen. If you express it mathematically like you did you treat every element as equal, which they aren't."

Exactly! The Earth is equipped with oxygen, and its atmosphere is what we call "air," which is why air-breathing creatures developed. If mutations actually were random, then random genes should be developed that would be configured to respirate not only air, but all other elements and combinations thereof (or at least a reasonable statistical sampling, which would greatly overshadow in numbers the design suited to that rare combination that we call "air"). Under Market-Style Evolution, there's no way for the organisms to "know" that they should be focusing on combinations favoring oxygen (or nitrogen), so the combinational development would be random.

dietl writes: "The other thing is that I don't quite see how this stands in any relation to the cells of Alexandra. Are you suggesting that the cells can form with so many possibilities? I guess not, because mutations are about the DNA and not about the cells themself that change within a generation."

Life has proven itself to be what we would call "resilient." Bacteria are able to live in space, deep-sea-creatures are able to live in zero-light environments of extreme pressure and temperature, and many creatures (amphibians) can breathe both gases and liquids. Cells (bacteria) can even be developed to eat up toxic pollutants.

Ergo, cells can evolve with great possibility. The initial example of Alexandra's lungs is actually a very limited example. Not only should many Alexandras be developing partial ammonia lungs, if mutations are random; Alexandra should also be developing a world full of utterly random things, such as three-jointed arms growing out of her forehead, extra anal openings on her back, and unexplained lips on her elbows. These things would (probably) be detrimental, but according to Market-Style Evolution, we already know that detrimental mutations can survive for millions of years while they're waiting to be "finished."

hoohah writes: "The section on probabilities sounds about right, but the weakest spot is the section on no mutations being beneficial until they are complete --> you are forgetting (or at least getting it backwards) that the only reason why certain traits persisted is that all the members of the species that did not have them (or had another variety), for whatever reasons died."

Take two organisms side by side: a four-appendaged organism developed to climb trees for safety (Group 1), and a four-appendaged organism that has begun, through random mutation, to develop a discrete mass of bone on its backside (Group 2). The bone mass in Group 2 grows over millions of generations, mutating larger and larger, until finally a fifth appendage begins to form: a stump. Because these mutations are random, the stump often sticks out of the left hipbone (Group 2-LEFT), the right hipbone (Group 2-RIGHT), the anal opening itself (Group 2-ASS), the back (Group 2-BACK), and, quite rarely, a convenient distance above the anal opening (Group 2-STUMP). The stump interferes with resting position, is exposed to breakage that can threaten the spine and drastically increase the risk of infection and reduce the ability to run from predators, et cetera.

Now, which organism is more efficient? Which will survive? Group 1, or Group 2? Group 1, certainly. The bone mass upsets everything about the organism, and Group 1 is far more efficient. And even within Group 2, which organism set is more efficient? Will 2-RIGHT or 2-LEFT possibly develop a fifth reaching and grasping appendage that could aid in climbing and fighting off rearward enemies? The interference with bowel movements of 2-ASS might kill it right off, but then again, the bone could become part of the digestive tract, allowing it to process rougher foods, and giving it a better chance. Maybe a strong protrusion in 2-ASS would be a fighting-worthless but mating-worthwhile sex signal, like a peacock's feathers--the longer, thicker, and prouder the protrusion, the more desirable the mate. So, its worthlessness (and the fact that it makes it harder to escape predators) would be overruled by mating chances.

Group 2-STUMP, though, eventually develops a tail. And according to Market-Style Evolution, Group 3-TAIL then proxy-assassinates not only all the intermediate sub-groups of Group 2, but also Group 1, which spent millions of strains being more efficient than Group 2. The stump atop the anal opening turns out to be so good for balancing that it helps with tree movement, even after hindering tree movement for millions of generations, without resulting in the elimination of Group 2-STUMP in favor of Group 1. Why does Group 2-TAIL eliminate Group 1-NO TAIL, but Group 1-NO TAIL does not eliminate Group 2-WORTHLESS, CALORIE-CONSUMING BONE MASS?

Natural selection has to fail to operate on inefficient organisms for millions of potential strains, in order for Market-Style Evolution to work, and step in only when it is "the right time" to kill off the predecessor to the successful new group, leaving no intermediary trace behind. That's what makes it require divine guidance, a la Dawkins' cumulative selection, with a preferred end result choosing what will stay and what will go.

Incidentally, the evidence--the hands-on, scientific, observational evidence--is against random mutation. The fossil record includes Group 1-NO TAIL, and Group 2-TAIL, but it does not include the massive quantity of potential variations on Group 2-PRE-TAIL that it would have to in order to explain the random confluence of bone, muscle, neuron, vein, skin, hair, et cetera, that would be necessary to have randomly developed 2-TAIL through competitive trial and error.

Dinosaurs, for example, evolved into birds. How many millions of years does it take for a set of creatures, its habit vanishing as it undergoes mass extinction of its entire social support network, food chain, and geology, to evolve not only one feather, but bodies covered in them, simultaneously with lighter skeletons, altered muscle and brain structures, and arms turning into wings? And why aren't there extinct species with beaks growing out of their stomachs, hair growing on their elbows, single feathers growing out of their foreheads, or proto-telekinetic nubs at the ends of their tails? How did a few million years of habitat change (or much, much shorter if you adhere to Big Comet theory) cause this ludicrous jump from dinosaur to bird? And why does the fossil record show the "before" and "after," but, like an infomercial for a special new diet, no "in-between"?

Why does the evidence, instead, show us that, as the dinosaur habitat receded, dinosaurs followed an inerrant path toward birds and modern reptiles, leaving no false starts behind?

Did the Devil sponge something out of the file record? When evidence is missing, should we conclude that a theory must be right anyway? Or should we, instead, consider the evidence as we find it, rather than as we want it to be, and conclude, based upon a fossil record of smooth transition, that life is evolving in tune with its environment?

The galileaic conclusion, if you will, is to go with the observed evidence--the openly-accessible fossils and geological record of our planet, and the story they actually tell us at this point in time, rather than our own projections of competitive nothings that led to the evolution of superior western democracy and education.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

.Because

Because I can win even playing by your horrible rules, and still realize it wasn't fair. Because I can still care about the losers and see my "self" in them.

Because I've tried all the trinkets and trips and treats and I didn't fall under the spell. I don't mind that life doesn't come in bullet points and that it can't be fully explained here. I'm not frightened of beyonds.

Because being remembered in sinews and neurons fades, too, so you've painted yourself into a corner. Is that the only meaning, being remembered? I have the patience to talk to the clueless and not assign condescendingly normative jingoistic terms to anyone who isn't in my bandwagon right now. Because I don't care if it makes me a loser for a year or a thousand.

Because it wasn't the slaves' fault for being lazy or the Indians' fault for being uncivilized or the women's fault for being weak. Because I actually care. Because words mean things that are deeper than what you can get the biggest group of people to agree at any given point in time. Because every cheap self-help seminar in the world runs on condescension, simple answers, and bullet points, and what you're doing is nothing new.

Because an index fund always outperforms a managed fund and you're afraid you have nothing to offer but lies and little pieces of blame.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cooking with Oncology


It's Waiting

When life-threatening, infectious disease had been largely eliminated from the leading industrial nations, it was like the end of the Cold War. Naive observers at the time--after the conquest, say, of polio--might have thought things would start to get better in the realm of public health. Instead, massive cancer epidemics suddenly overtook the first world, spurring hundreds of billions of dollars of yearly spending, and creating a pervasive climate of fearful inevitability about the process of aging. Cancer had always "been there," in the sense that the human body had always been redirecting toxins into tumors to reduce toxin circulation into the rest of the body, but modern oncology defined itself through the use of knives and radiation to directly attack the immune system. Suddenly, "cancer" and "medicine" had a vibrant new professional life: with no more real terrorists left to fight, and all the old diseases under control in bio-weapon laboratories, the body itself became the enemy. Instead of medicine becoming as simple, cheap, and automatic a process as buying food at the grocery store, the medical industry would continue to dominate the post-industrial states in a protracted battle against cancer.

One of the most sacred of the available sacred cows, and a step that causes many to falter in their critical analysis of the world about them, is that of "modern science" and, that demented old bull, "modern medicine." It is so very, very easy, by comparison, to figure out U.S. Presidents (and the concomitant inbred warlust blend of finance, economy, and manufacturing), but, because "science" ostensibly impacts our actual bodies every time we visit the doctor's office, and because westerners have been conditioned by years of childhood to submit to the intimate probing and painful bodily invasion of state medical agents in severe processing environments, "medicine" breaks many thinkers on the path. Frightened of what they might see, they turn away, content to focus on analyzing such simple fields as art, the humanities, high finance, and international relations. These things, they feel, are quite explicable with a little internet research, but they're not qualified to draw conclusions about actually complicated subjects, like how chemicals interact with their own bodies.

To some people, it is "lunatic fringe" to suggest that national liberal Democrat politicians are not sweet, pure-hearted peacemakers who battle big business on behalf of the common people everywhere. To even more than that, it is "lunatic fringe" to suggest that there is something deeply, terribly, or--worst of all--intrinsically wrong with the idea that medicine has anything at all to do with humankind's medical problems. For decades, nutty, uneducated wackos warned people that there were too many x-ray machines popping up across the industrial west, and in the 2000s, major governments began officially acknowledging that unnecessary hospital/lab screenings and security checkpoints were giving too many people cancer (or, in the case of Europe, eliminating certain scanners entirely for public health reasons).

Cancer is our monster, in the most Romantic possible sense, and if you haven't kissed it yet, you will.

Procedural Death

Many people who go to the oncologist for the first time are stunned by the orderliness of it all. For what, to that person, is as shocking and terrible as suddenly learning that an ax-murderer is hiding in their attic, is not quite so surprising to the professionals they encounter. There are normal receptionists, waiting chairs, and magazines. People smile. Old-timers, who have been doing it for years, are yawning and waiting to get done with it so they can get home and do something else.

Initially, it can seem like a slap in the face: why does everyone not realize that this tragic mortality is consuming every aspect of the new patient's life? But then, like a pleasant drug, oncological procedure makes the patient feel warm and cared-for. "People have done this before," you think. "This is ordinary. This is everywhere." In every city, you can find this stuff. No surprises. The bald thirteen-year-old reading Cosmo isn't even scared, or asking questions, so why should you be?

Keep Positive

A heartwarming, dirty chapter in twentieth century oncology was the well-meaning lie. Cancer was acknowledged as almost utterly terminal for long enough that the physician was taught to be "responsible" and "helpful" through the use of little white lies. As one lecturer said, "...our duty is to keep the patient alive, as long as possible, them being in good spirits will do that better than telling them it's probably only one, two years." It might not have been realistic, but discussions of treatment options (in cancer "treatment" as well as many other branches of medicine) were delivered untruthfully whenever the occasion warranted.

Remember all those scenes in movies where doctors and caregivers pretend that a bullet wound is "nothing" because they know the person is going to die? That trope was borne out of modern medicinal pedagogy's approach that it was better to lie to someone than to scare them. By the time they got back from the Great War, a generation of survivors of trench warfare had learned that what the doc said was probably bullshit, after having watched their friends get eaten alive by "just a flesh wound."

Cancer-wise, treatment prospects never got better, with survival times post-diagnosis remaining roughly the same for treated and un-treated. Physicians did become a little more grimly honest, though, after decades of watching relatives die to chemo had demonstrated, to most of the population, that treatments were not going to be curative--oncologists began gravely imparting to people that this would give them "8-10 years outlook," with regular testing as to progression, instead of telling them that it would "fix" them and get things back to normal, the way they had been in the beginning.



The Postwar Period

Remember trench warfare, secret alliances, and the Red Baron? Remember mustard gas?

Remember the Great Depression, and how, after the first one, the second World War brought in the modern idea of the total propaganda state, government relocation programs, and then commie hunts and Dow Chemical research and all that stuff? How the modern intelligence agency incepted the storing of data on all citizens for the benevolent use of government? How the western trend of random political assassinations of high-profile deviants began, dropping Malcolm and Martin and John and John and expanding to random crowds?

Keep all that stuff in mind as we focus on the history of "oncology." This will later develop into a more comprehensive examination of the era's dangerously childish love affair with radiation, and a primitive attempt to control evolution. For now, though, stick with cancer.

Total War

Sidney Farber, who essentially created modern chemotherapy, was the wealthy son of a Jewish family in New York. He took his education at Harvard, and while working in child pathology (sic), realized that, if he wanted to develop influential new drug treatments, he needed to market them as effectively as manufacturing businesses marketed their own products, and as government marketed war, whether hot or cold.

When chemical warfare documents were declassified "after" World War I, Farber and others realized that mechlorethamine ("mustine"), used to slaughter German and American soldiers as part of mustard gas, could also be used to harm the human body's immune system. The massive cell death resulting from mustine exposure also killed some tumor cells, so by using mathematics to trick stupid people, it could appear that poisoning people was a good thing. For example, if a bank holds one bank robber and fifty bystanders, blowing up the bank kills all the bank robbers, so it must be a good plan, right?

Farber didn't stop at merely poisoning people in Massachusetts. He worked with other wealthy, powerful men in the field to create one of the more blatant profanities of modern medicine: a charity that advertised on behalf of disease. His "Jimmy Fund" took donations from wealthy partygoers in the big cities along the east coast, and used the money to begin encouraging cancer screenings and physician visits across the nation, lobby for governmental funding of more cell-destroying drugs, and to remake all medical schools and journals in favor of using toxic chemicals to fix a problem caused by toxic chemicals.

Farber was not alone in his work. As he spread across the country, the engines of World War II began to turn, ramping up industrial production. Naval foundries dropped millions of tons of steel and rubber runoff into the water. Einstein and other ex-German scientists spread across the country to split the atom, incinerate the Japanese, and begin piling up drums of nuclear waste around America. Fluoride and chlorine pooled into the water supplies, to such an extent that even Obama's CDC in 2011 warned that there might be "too much" of it in tap water for children's health. The rivers ran with tank-tread lubricant, while posters went up warning of the yellow menace and the Nazi menace. X-ray machines began bombarding generations of children, at the airport, dentist's office, and hospital. A potentially-sprained ankle became an opportunity to blast excited photons through developing bone marrow tissue--but at least brave souls like Sidney Farber were there, ready to spend billions of dollars prolonging the lives of endlessly sick, bald, pain-racked leukemia-children. Photographers sprang into action to take pictures of the little heroes filling their rows of deathbeds, and slap their nervous, deathly photographs up on hospital walls and newspapers nationwide, as encouragement to other parents to visit the doctor for early diagnosis via CT scan.

I'm shocked, I tell ya. Invade Afghanistan. Anger locals. Experience blowback. I'm shocked, I tell ya. Invade Afghanistan. Anger locals. Experience blowback. I'm shocked, I tell ya. Invade Afgh--



Just Put On These Glasses

If you're familiar with any one or more of these things, you may be able to draw additional parallels to oncology and our dear friend cancer:

1) America quietly testing newly created chemical and biological weapons on "nigger" soldiers prior to releasing them on the Germans during World War "I";

2) America pretending it didn't do #1 for decades;

3) America having enlisted (but mixed-race!) soldiers witness an atomic bomb blast near the end of World War "II," for educational purposes so that they would know what an atomic bomb blast looked like, thereby exposing them to radiation and learning about the short- and long-term effects;

4) America pretending it didn't do #1 for decades;

/sigh

5) Agent Orange, rinse and repeat;

6) Depleted uranium, rinse and repeat.

antibiotics staph sanitizer mrsa queers hiroshima fallujah

The Great Chemical War never ended. This is the era of science. There is nothing they won't do. Halloween Parade, people.

random Boston links

Mercenaries, and backpack photos.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Server Crashes

Unfortunately, through the confluence of ackshoul pplz, Facebook, and blogs, this one did eventually become aware of Bane's misguided attack on an extravagant eastern circus, and the resulting doubleplus beating of dead horses. Pied Cow's Martial Law and a Lament discusses an estimated cost for the said beating, namely around $876 million a day.

Expensive, right? "Shutting down" a city wastes enough resources to provide food and medical care to several thousand children (say just 5,000, though obviously the number is much higher) for years. Put another way, this means that shutting down a city without a reason worth at least 5,001 children's lives is like killing at least one of them. (Or, if you shut down the city for 3 deaths, like killing 4,997 children more than necessary.)

If we don't understand opportunity cost, or how spending money on circuses/guns reduces the amount available for bread/butter, the comparison seems ridiculous, but really, on Planet of the Humans, it equates. Death. In piles.

But anyway, forget about the killing. Cost, right? What an expense?

Actually, it's a great deal. Since almost all work, and all actual work, is done by non-elites, preventing them from doing some of it only harms non-elites. If the first acknowledged American Great Depression showed us anything, it was that wealthy families are quite able to feast and celebrate for years on end, despite the seeming presence of millions of revolution-ready teeming masses yearning to eat. Sure, it "costs" $876 million to shut down Boston for a day, but think about what it gains: a savings of all the stuff the rest of MA, and the rest of the USA, paid for on Boston's behalf.

Like all subscription-based products, "citizenship" thrives on periodic outages and Acts of God. Utility companies, including internet-service providers, suffer "accidental" losses of service, and have it built into their contracts that no pro-rata reimbursement shall be made for "reasonable" outage periods. Whenever an entirely predictable hailstorm occurs, and the lines go down, the power company suddenly begins saving ("stealing") millions of dollars an hour.

If we believe in the invisible faeries of the free market, you might not be able to escape the power company, but you can change ISPs, moving to a different brand of preplanned outage-providers owned and managed primarily by the same investors as the first one.

So, too, with "shutting down" Boston. This kind of stuff is great for profit margins. All of a sudden, millions of people are not using the roads for which they are taxed. They are not using the schools, traffic lights, or business licenses for which they paid. Those payroll tax deductions to the United States Treasury, extracted for the past year, supposedly to purchase association with four branches of a powerful military to allow freedom of movement, are now meaningless. The relative savings to the government, in terms of prepaid, un-reimbursable services that no longer have to be provided, number in the billions of dollars, easily.

Look for this to continue. In the early days of American utility companies, investors and corporations so exploited the principle of planned outages as to actually make Americans take action. It took popular near-revolutions to put these entities in the control of "public" hands, to prevent the price gouging, service denial, and rolling, profitable outages from happening as often as they had been. It was a tiny, false victory, like the victory of making child labor illegal, but it was a marginal, sideways step in the right direction.

Now, buried in Grandpa's attic, the latest generation of policymakers has discovered the idea of squeezing a few more rubles outta the serfs using denial-of-service tactics by the government itself.

(If you thought being put on hold by the gas company during a mild snowfall, while your half-finished dinner congeals on the chilly stove, was bad, just wait until the street to the hospital is barricaded off while your little sister is having a hemorrhage from banging her head on the counter. If you disagree, oh, drive to the Superdome after Katrina.)

Counterfeit

In Why The Rich Are Afraid Of Counterfeit Goods, Lisa Wade writes:
I suspect that counterfeits don’t really cut into Chanel’s profits directly. The people who buy bags that costs thousands of dollars are not going to try to save some pennies by buying a knock-off...Instead, policing the counterfeiters is a response to a much more intangible concern, something Pierre Bourdieu called “cultural capital.” You see, a main reason why people spend that kind of money on handbags is to be seen as the kind of person who does. The handbags are a signal to others that they are “that kind” of person, the kind that can afford a real Gucci. The products, then, are ways that people put boundaries between themselves and lesser others...But, when lesser others can buy knock-offs on the street in L.A. and just parade around as if they can buy Gucci too! Well, then the whole point of buying Gucci is lost! If the phony masses can do it, it no longer serves to distinguish the elites from the rest of us.

An interesting curiosity as far as counterfeit goods goes is that a significant portion of their consumer base is elite children. Consider bratty, nine-year-old Bryce, who doesn't have the patience to wait and save up several weeks' worth of $100 allowances to buy a real Rolex watch to show off to his friends. Alternatively, what about poor Madison the twelve-year-old, whose mom is so mean she actually said, "Not another one now, I wanna get home," when Madison only had four purses anyway (except for that ugly one Grandma gave her)? Brittani too, though only 17, suspects that Gucci doesn't buy some of its diamonds from the best of people, so her counterfeit watch isn't just about fashion--it's a statement about helping people, and about fair trade, which those stupid, selfish, jealous girls at the poor high school just don't understand.

In that sense, counterfeit goods actually do cut into corporate profits, re-routing tiny slivers of money to poor South American and southeast Asian communities, where it rejoins a different region of the great elite money loop. Lordlings at play, and all that.

Roles, though. Elites and proles understand, deep down, that wearing "fake" things is stupid, because it violates caste-signaling rules. As an elite, you keep up appearances, and it is a duty--not in the sarcastic way, as we might critique Brittani or the other inexperienced ones above, but in a serious way. It holds the world together.

The Emperor wears new clothes, and the people cheer for them, because he and they must. If there are no castes, and no signals, then there is no divine order to the world. Fearful people need to see impoverished masses, several middling functionaries, and a few obscene kings. It provides a reassurance--a sense of order--to the dominating and the dominated, that there is some kind of plan; a shaman, filing cabinet, or computer, somewhere out there, that organized things. And organization proves order, which proves that someone has thought about something. You have a place. How reassuring. Everything has its place. Like an Edwardian court dance, or any other ritualized art, it extracts the soul to offer reassurance of the safe emptiness of existence. In a bowling alley where the gutters have all been blocked off, there are no traumatic highlights and no frightening gutterballs.

It is the duty of elites to be extravagant, pompous, and uninformed of suffering. It is the duty of proles to suffer, want, and be ignorant. It is the duty of functionaries to ineffectually whine, groan, or mock, proving thereby the futility of any life but the order in which they operate.

If you are an elite, you betray the world by acting differently. True charity would not only offend other elites, but would offend the masses. By failing to act as you should, you might appear to "help" a few people, but you would destroy everyone else's reliance on the system: you would do greater harm to the man you gifted than by letting him starve. You would harm his psyche; shake his entire faith in the world and himself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Who has the power?

The Relevant Song and Lyrics

Here's the relevant song, "The Tower," played over some pictures. Lyrics are listed without voice-overs, followed by analysis.

I'm rollin' up in a big grey bus
And I'm shackled down myself that's who I trust
The minute I arrived some sucker got hit
Shanked ten times behind some bullshit
Word in the pen the fool was a snitch
So without hesitatin' I made a weapon quick
Found a sharp piece of metal taped it to a stick
Then a bullhorn sound that means it's time for chow
My first prison meal the whole feeling was foul
It wasn't quite my style but my stomach growled
So I washed the shit down and hit the weight pile
The brothers was swole the attitudes was cold
I felt the tension on the yard from the young and the old
But I'm a warrior
I got my ground to hold
So I studied the inmates to see who had the power
The whites, the blacks or just the gun tower

In a blink of an eye, a riot broke out
Blacks put their backs to the wall
'Cause it was north and south
A gunman shouts and everybody had doubts
Until the bullets started flyin' took two men out
Then they rushed everybody back to their cells
Damn the pen is different from than the county jail
I'm in a one man cell I know my life's on a scale
I wonder if that gunman is goin' to hell
This is my second day I got a ten year stay
I learned my first lesson in the pen you don't play
I seen a brother kill another 'cause he said he was gay
But that's the way it is it's been that way for years
When his body hit the ground I heard a couple of cheers
It kind of hurt me inside that they were glad he died
And I ask myself just who had the power?
The whites, the blacks or just the gun tower

You see the whites got a thing the call white pride
The Blacks got the muscle Mexicans got the knives
You better be wise you wanna stay alive
Go toe to toe with the sucka no matter what size
A fool tried to sweat me actin' like he was hard
I stuck him twice in the neck and left him dead on the yard
It was smooth how I did it 'cause nobody could see
With my jacket on my arm and my knife on the side of me
Bam bam, it was over another fool bites the dust
I went crazy in the pen with nobody to trust
I'm benchin' ten quarters, so I'm hard to sweat
Used a tat gun, and engraved my set
They call me a lifer 'cause I'm good as dead
I live in the hole, so the floor's my bed
And I ask myself again who has the power
The whites, the blacks or just the gun tower


"The Tower," Ice T. From O.G. Original Gangster (1991).

The Relevant Artistic/Art-Historical Commentary

Rap began with a minimalist style, where actual poor people with actual hard lives, no good school-band or music teachers, and no instruments, would resort to the cheapest, most readily-available technique for artistic expression: the voice. Needs no equipment. Like the development of certain forms of White Crane Kung Fu, various Okinawan versions of te, and the more modern karate, rap grew within the boundaries of lack-of-equipment or limitations-of-equipment, and was initially defined by it.

The 21st century west, and western-inspired producers worldwide, have presided over almost the utter destruction of group-singing. Artists sing to their own backup and/or synthesized vocals, lip-sync live performances, and headline acts on their own, overshadowing nameless bands. One of the delights of American hip hop was the substitution of other peoples' voices for instruments that were not available--which could be linked to slave ballads--and the requirement that a soloist have a good voice, because she or he would not be able to rely on recording studio amplification and doubling. Bone Thugs-n-Harmony continues to more popularly exemplify the group aspect, and Ice T is a quality example of the soloist, with a percussionist's vocal delivery and a mastery of natural timing, developed before the recording studio became a pervasive industry crutch.

His artistic perspective is also increasingly differentiated from the industry. American rap developed as mentioned before--a way of sharing music in low-money, low-instrument-access environments. With a little bit of popularity, it gained a smidgen of cultural acceptance as a "party" art form, where artists would rap about dancing, clubbing, and getting together.

In its own way, this could be likened to a betrayal, because carefree "party music," set to frequently corporate-synthesized beats, and used to create a hip atmosphere in establishment facilities, was the very opposite of the thing that had created rap. Nonetheless, it was done genuinely, and fairly, sometimes.

Gangsta rap was a form of truth and purity, speaking to the realities that had birthed rap. Accordingly, it was vilified and rejected by elite culture. Prissy men and academics of all stripes would fuss about how disrespectful it was to acknowledge the existence of desperately poor people trying to deal drugs, kill others, form protection rackets, use non-politically-correct speech, or work in the sex trade. As Ice T put it regarding the resistance to his early lyrics, "Who would tell it how it really was? Who dared?"

Enough attention, though, soon made gangsta rap profitable. The vultures moved in, and during the process of devouring the art form, some truly great snippets of the American ghettos spilled through. Legions of small time rappers were killed in ways almost no one heard or cared about, and many famous faces who wouldn't sell out were killed in mysterious ways by gunmen completely unconnected to the trend of America's history of wacky, random political assassinations, or occasionally, by tragic medical accidents that were completely unforeseen. Ice T, and a few others, were wise enough to extrapolate what they'd learned from small-time crime to big-time, see what elites had waiting for them on the other side, and take steps to protect themselves.

Original Nerd provides an overview of the elite co-option of many social resistance movements. In more detail, the way this played out in rap (besides the elimination of prominent artists) was, the original dancers and gangstas made money, and once they were enjoying their lives, they continued to rap honestly: now, instead of shootings and deals, they talked about expensive homes, cars, and women.

The unfortunate side effect of this--and the one that elites had counted on from the beginning--was that, a few years after the first gangsta rappers had been bought out, rap changed. Now, having purchased the image of ghetto legitimacy from the OGs, and paired that with treasure, IP houses were able to begin taking any personable artist, surrounding him with Cadillac Escalades and professional dancers, order beats and harmonies from thousands of software engineering branches, and produce the preferred product image--without having to worry about so very many of the ghetto children themselves. When rich kids like Puff Daddy started getting into the scene, they couldn't even write their own lyrics, so old-timers or studio writers were conscripted to handle that aspect of things. It wasn't until the faux-surprise of Eminem, when white poverty was allowed out of the box a little, that new rap enjoyed a brief resurgence of addressing topics like urban wreckage, violence, and shattered lives.

Sardonic Excess Becomes Actual Excess

The message of rap was originally political. It was genuinely subversive, challenging the financial structures of domestic society and war, the manipulation of public opinion, and showcasing the much-concealed horrors of urban poverty, often likened--quite fairly--to slavery, fascism, and the police state. The greed required for thriving under unfair capitalism, and that greed's connection to escape from the ghetto, was made obvious. Just like many Americans love to hate George W. Bush because he exposed the unintelligent callousness of foreign policy, Americans loved to hate gangsta rappers for portraying reality honestly. The realest (sic) rap got taken out once it started to hit too close to home, like so many replacements of John Lennon with JK Rowling, and Martin Luther King, Jr. with Barack Obama.

The real brilliance of the job was not in fooling the listening public, which is to be expected, but in fooling many of the artists themselves: having come to associate rap history with the later, wealthier albums of older artists, newer ones felt that they were continuing a tradition by producing "empowering" work about having money, having women, and having Cadillac Escalades. And they were carrying on an American tradition, but one of having been bought out for trinkets. They missed the vital point, namely that when the first set of successful rappers bragged about the stuff they had acquired, they were engaging in morbidly mimesistic dramaturgical deconstructions of late-stage capitalism.

The latter sentence serves two purposes. Firstly, it reminds us of the horror of academic prose, and to a good end: in the early 1990s, when gangsta rap was starting to break the cultural walls of ghetto silence, middle-class academics and media figures were so frothing at the mouth about rap's purported "sexism" that they wasted around a decade criticizing black men for being sexist, while continuing to completely miss the subversively genuine dialogue gangsta rappers were trying to have with the nation beyond the walls. Secondly, latinate aside, the concluding sentence to the last paragraph reminds us of the best critique available of capitalism: the deliberate wallowing in piles of cash. Ridiculous dramatic figures, such as The Simpsons' C. Montgomery Burns, portray the the truth about late-stage capitalism, specifically, bitter, loveless old men sitting on piles of purposeless money.

A thousand academic Marxists at a thousand conferences, and a thousand Women's Studies Teaching Assistants across the hallway of the same Marriott (but in a different conference room), would still fail to produce an analysis of late twentieth century class and gender relations as poignant as many early gangsta rappers' descriptions of interacting with shameless, desperate, or conniving prostitutes, or of having women fawn over their newly-purchased Ferrari Testarossas. Missed for so many years by so many excessively educated ivory towerists was that the renditions were done to ape the success the academy, and its culture, were supporting. Mocking the greed, the self-slavery, and the dehumanization of American society, by portraying its logical extreme--selling yourself to crime, local politics, or a record company for survival; or, alternately, wallowing amidst obscene wealth in a poverty-stricken land--was such a powerful critique that it had to be crushed.

Women, for example, were portrayed as slavishly interested in wealth as a challenge to society: look what you are doing to your daughters. Despite what so many sexually-repressed white male feminists wanted desperately to believe, those black women didn't need rescuing from gangsta rappers. Rappers and dancers would intentionally portray the sad roles society had forced on them, that of exploited exploiters trying to exploit other exploited exploiters, through sex or power. They were quite cognizant of what they were doing, and did not need the academic lectures. As Ice Cube said in his brilliant "When Will They Shoot" from 1992's The Predator: "A black woman is my manager, not in the kitchen; So could you please stop bitchin'?"

The Tower

...which brings us back to "The Tower," and Ice T. Why this song? Because it expressed, in an efficient number of words, and with a deep metaphor, the falsity of managed American race relations, and well-exposed the essential nature of the society from which it emerged. The racial aspect of the Come Together series, and the playing of group against group, is conveyed masterfully here. Consider the lyrical refrain "I studied the inmates to see who had the power; The whites, the blacks or just the gun tower." Obviously, in prison, the gun tower has the real power, right? Not so obviously, though, in 1990s western societies, which were busy romancing each other with politically-correct speech. Missing the forest for the trees, as it were. No matter what congenial arrangements the prisoners of different assumed racial groups come to inside the prison, none of them result in any meaningful change, other than the destruction of the prison.

The Tower kills rioting prisoners, keeping them in control, and it is the horror of the prison structure itself which creates the need for inmates' racialist attitudes and banding. It is an incredible rap not only for its commentary on the prison system, but for the comparisons to society as a whole. That easily, in that few words, that far ago, Ice T conveyed the same message as MLK, and of everyone else who's ever figured out both the initial stupidity of genuine racism, as well as the indescribable privilege and blindness of those who spend generations trying to ascribe racism to actual racial features and skin color, rather than the nature of the prison societies and gun towers that govern human interaction.

At an even higher level of analysis, consider how far he goes in the refinement of his criticism vis-à-vis "political radicalism." Unlike almost all radicals (even ones who have spent 2008-2013 understanding Obama), Ice T doesn't angrily blame white people, male people, tragically-failed black people, American people, "the gunman," or the guards themselves. He wonders if the gunman is going to hell, but doesn't tell us the gunman's race, or condemn the gunman. His critique is focused on the structure. So, he doesn't fall into the trap of blaming the desperate soldiers (or prison guards, as you prefer) who are driven into being the ones to take the shots. The prison warden, the boards of the corporations and states that run the prisons, and the investors and ordinary citizens who quietly acquiesce to the prison: these are never mentioned, on purpose, because the rap guides you to the real conclusion, rather than rubbing an easier target in your face.

Who has the power? If you're able to ask that question, you can better appreciate the waste of, and the outsider's silliness in, focusing on inmate characteristics once you're already under the eyes of the tower.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hope 4 ~ Math, Market, & Lightwaves


Overview

Parts 1 and 2 of this series discussed the hyperabundance of energy available to life for use in things like eating nice food and flying spaceships. Most recently, Part 3 introduced Lightform Evolution, or the theory that matter and energy tend to attract one another, resulting in the evolution of interdependent structures that can more efficiently serve as energy conduits. This touched on the market-style evolution fostered to current popularity by the powerful, e.g., what might be considered the standard "evolution" debate.

This Part 4 will begin furthering the discussion pursuant to this framework:

(1) We'll begin by touching on increasing specialization in the sciences, and how it results in limiting permissible inquiry sets.

(2) We'll then turn to probably the most fun, controversial part of Market-Style Evolution v. Lightform, namely, the conflict between mathematical probability and the competitive Marketplace, and how the Market paladins have attempted to save their outlook by inducing models of random change that are both directed and yet still random. hoohah and dietl were both kind enough to provide a defense of the old model Dawkins adopted as his own.

(3) After that, we'll consider why arguments that life has reached, or nearly reached (or that we are currently able to perceive), an upper limit on refinement presuppose normative judgments about potential, both upper and lower. (This would be Gould's narrow hallway.)

(4) Next, we'll expand our scope to astrophysics, and look at the conflict between deductive and inductive reasoning playing out in that discipline, and how it compares to the same in evolutionary biology.

(5) We will close by integrating all these concepts with academia, medicine, exploitative economies, and essential philosophy, and see why Market-Style Evolution is so powerfully, inductively integral to Earth's current elites.

Factory Labor

Scientists used to be people who did science; now, they're only people who have proper degrees, grants, organizational affiliations, and journal-approved publications. They may not even do their science, but instead, serve--like senior professors, judges, lawyers, physicians, project managers, and businessmen--as mere overseers, who collect the results' of their graduate students' work, sit in on university hiring and course-offering committees, occasionally answer a question on NPR, and teach a small-section course for handpicked graduate students, where the students get to "practice being a professor" by presenting their work to other students (while the older, salaried teacher sits there, nodding, before giving bland congratulations, or making an incisive comment about something else that could've been covered). If they're really important, they give interviews to places other than NPR, or put together some of their old research and their graduate students' work into book form, and get it marketed alongside best new fiction.

Working scientists--those without supervisory or tenured employment--quite frequently do well-meaning work, limited by their funding. Funding comes from the government, major corporations, and universities, and it comes based on grant proposals, which are written based on the desire to get funding. In order to get grants, get respect, or get even remotely-acceptable jobs in any field, you must be familiar with highly-specialized journals addressing only a very limited set of concepts. Certain types of specialized chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and particle physics, though intrinsically related, are subdivided within themselves to such a degree that their end-users, and participants, read and become aware only of things that journal publishers will treat as respectable and publish nationwide.

What we now call scientists, then, are--surprise, surprise, just like the rest of the world--economically mandated to be professionally aware of only a very small subset of science. It grows increasingly popular in the twenty-first century to view "scientists" as impartial scions of the enlightenment, lost in the pursuit of knowledge, even though most westerners are otherwise comfortably able to recognize that a tire salesman is not actually interested in the safety of their passengers, but just wants to sell new tires.

Whatever the more dire employment prospects in the humanities, the pressure on new STEM postgrads remains immense. Approaching or in their thirties, saddled with 10 years of debt (and maybe considering wanting stuff like "house" or "family"), and being increasingly overshadowed by engineer drones who can fill most of their job requirements straight out of a bachelor's degree, the financial need to pick a popular focus and start bolstering conventional wisdom can be, understandably, overpowering.

Many, many acknowledged scientists, as a hobby, may venture out of their own professional fields, just as may amateurs. If those scientists, however, inside or outside of their field, begin criticizing conventional, profitable wisdom, their papers stop getting published. Their tenure committee no longer has time to meet. Industry won't touch them. All the vulgar toadying and administrative oversight of "regular" academia permeates scientific research, too.

As a result, and in order to receive the same in turn, established experts adopt deferential, reverent attitudes toward the supposed "experts" in any other field. If you're a really good chemist, at the top of your field, you get respect because of your curriculum vitae, the budget of your lab, and the prestige of your institution. If you attack the fundamentals of a really good physicist's work, you are attacking the very structure that establishes your own expertise. And you are, by definition, being "un professional," because without degrees and publications in the other field, how dare you try to ignorantly apply your knowledge to the separate discipline known as physics?

Criticizing conventional wisdom by coming up with a cheaper kind of dish detergent or local anaesthetic is great, of course. Where science can instantly result in cash in hand, it is not challenged, by either Bible-thumpers or free-traders. Galileo made a lot of money speculating on futures with his telescope, observing ships before they could be seen from port, and that was okay--but turning his telescope toward the sky, and questioning the conclusions that justified elites' hierarchical society, was not okay.

Vis-à-vis more distant topics like "evolution of the past 4 billion years of life" or "the creation of the universe 20 billion years ago," though, the only monetarily-valuable applications of non-evidentiary theorizing are in the publication of popular books, the derision of the ignorant, and other justifications of elite culture. We see, accordingly, massive major-institutional and big-man resistance to any scientific theory which discredits the idea of fierce resource competition.

If you don't think money can make people jump, nod, and spend years working on things about which they're unsure (or which they outright hate), then an entirely different discussion on human nature is in order. Our perception of reality, and discussions thereof, should rise and fall on the merits, rather than on the postulations of experts. Many people do already get that, but a sizable majority, even among the community of people who spent ten years and paid several dozen grand for a paper saying Doctor of Philos--sorry, sorry, "the scientific community"--prefers to let extremely specialized experts decree reality.

This is a major systematic problem in and of itself. As to the issue at hand--"evolution," or more essentially, whether the world is bleak/hopeless or wonderful/hopeful--what we must remember when considering such lofty issues as where we came from (and where we're going) is that the experts who promulgate ideas can indeed be fallible. We may objectively judge arguments on their merits, just as we may read the Bible or Qur'an for ourselves, and draw conclusions thereabout.

Math v. Dawkins - On Cumulative Failsafes

The mathematical improbabilities of randomized evolution were laid out in great detail in Part 3. Ever since Darwin's work began morphing into the Market-Style Evolution we know of today, though, the "that's way too impossible" claim has been made. The late Michael Crichton had, in the written The Lost World, perhaps the cutest analogy, in this case bats to jumbo jets:
If you believe the current theory, then all the wonderful complexity of life is nothing but the accumulation of chance events - a bunch of genetic accidents strung together. Yet when we look closely at animals, it appears as if many elements must have evolved simultaneously. Take bats, which have echolocation-they navigate by sound. To do that, many things must evolve. Bats need a specialized apparatus to make sounds, they need specialized ears to hear echoes, they need specialized brains to interpret the sounds, and they need specialized bodies to dive and swoop and catch insects. If all these things don't evolve simultaneously, there's no advantage. And to imagine all these things happen purely by chance is like imagining that a tornado can hit a junkyard and assemble the Parts into a working 747 airplane. It's very hard to believe.
At first, really big numbers--like millions or billions--were used to amaze the masses into believing that it must be true, but as more and more non-evangelists have used calculators or the fossil record itself to question whether evolution might be less individualized than the industrialists and post-industrialists prefer, the issue of the impossibility of randomness has come again to the fore.

Many pop biologists have run the numbers, too, which is why they've spent the past couple of decades focusing on how stupid some religious people are--often correctly--or on finding "missing link" creatures that prove that these hyper-unlikely random occurrences did actually happen on Earth. I.e., they have conceded that the improbabilities of a randomized evolution are so high as to be essentially im-possibilities, but hoped to find fossils demonstrating that somehow, amazingly, those one in a googolplex mixes did happen on this one particular planet, by nigh-impossible chance alone.

Cumulative Evolution

They haven't found that evidence, which is where heuristics comes in. Generally, in science, when one of these two things happens, a theory is discarded in favor of an alternate explanation, or the theory is heavily modified to account for new findings:

(1) A theory is demonstrated to be almost impossible; or,
(2) Thorough research fails to turn up evidence that a theory demands.

In many non-applied sciences, such as cosmology, theoretical physics, and evolutionary biology, these scientific maxims no longer apply to the mainstream view. Random evolution was theorized, the fossil record was investigated, and when enough intermediary organisms were not located, instead of modifying the theory, pop biologists simply decided that the theory "must" be right, and that the evidence would surely be found later. Similarly, when subjecting the theory to mathematical scrutiny demonstrates its fallibility, Market-Style scientists conclude that the math must be somehow "wrong," because it does not support the conclusion they've already drawn. This is the absolute reverse of science: conclusions are supposed to be drawn on the basis of observed evidence, rather than a conclusion drawn beforehand, and all available evidence fitted into that conclusion.

Pop-biology's response to (2), above, has been to put faith in the belief that the missing links existed, and have simply vanished without a trace. After all, there were glaciers in the past. Evidence of dinosaurs and trilobites still exists in abundance, though, and that abundance stands alongside the vast zero of intermediary creatures that should be there.

The community's response to (1) has been the claim that actually, "random" does not quite mean random, and therefore, random mutations produce the non-random results we have seen. This is where Dawkins' idea of "cumulative selection" came in: an attempt to make the improbabilities conform to a theory whose accuracy has been pre-determined.

Here's a selection from Wikipedia, which draws on Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker to explain his methodology:
The scenario is staged to produce a string of gibberish letters, assuming that the selection of each letter in a sequence of 28 characters will be random. The number of possible combinations in this random sequence is 2728, or about 1040, so the probability that the monkey will produce a given sequence is extremely low. Any particular sequence of 28 characters could be selected as a "target" phrase, all equally as improbable as Dawkins's chosen target, "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL".
A computer program could be written to carry out the actions of Dawkins's hypothetical monkey, continuously generating combinations of 26 letters and spaces at high speed. Even at the rate of millions of combinations per second, it is unlikely, even given the entire lifetime of the universe to run, that the program would ever produce the phrase "METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL".

Here, Dawkins has acknowledged the near-impossibility of un-directed evolution. Even reducing all the complexity of life down to 28 potential characters--as opposed to a few modest trillions, which would still be far too low--he concedes that there is not enough time in the "lifetime of the universe" to run the program until achieving the preferred Anglophiliac's result. He did the perfect politician's setup, though: he feels your pain; the pain of mathematics, and by taking one of the twelve steps of admitting that there is a problem, this demonstrates his genuine commitment to solving it.
Dawkins intends this example to illustrate a common misunderstanding of evolutionary change, i.e. that DNA sequences or organic compounds such as proteins are the result of atoms randomly combining to form more complex structures. In these types of computations, any sequence of amino acids in a protein will be extraordinarily improbable (this is known as Hoyle's fallacy). Rather, evolution proceeds by hill climbing, as in adaptive landscapes.

This particular passage is quite indicative of Dawkins, and why he's become such a PR-person for pop biology. He, like many others in the field, characterizes any disagreement with his outlook in as condescending a way as possible: i.e., you disagree with me because you're ignorant.

This type of reaction--fake empathy followed by condescension--is a combination of demeaning and understanding, used throughout history by politicians, bookies, and spousal-abusers. It is usually employed in conjunction with a lack of substance. It's not conclusive as to the underlying issue all on its own, of course--Dawkins is frequently considered "just a jerk." Its frequent occurrence throughout this issue, though, should be noted when we consider the debate over inductive v. deductive reasoning later on.
Dawkins then goes on to show that a process of cumulative selection can take far fewer steps to reach any given target. In Dawkins's words: We again use our computer monkey, but with a crucial difference in its program. It again begins by choosing a random sequence of 28 letters, just as before ... it duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error – 'mutation' – in the copying. The computer examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the 'progeny' of the original phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembles the target phrase, METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. Notice his use of "the target phrase."

What Dawkins has done, here, is direct a computer to "prefer" a certain arrangement. He has created a model more like Lightform Evolution than Market-Style Evolution, by designing his example to have a specific direction: an environment that prefers animals end up a certain way (say, humans) or sentences to end up another (METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL). The computer in his program accepts and rejects phrasings based on a desired end-result, e.g., the computer is "god" or "direction," interfering with the entire theory of random mutation and non-directed natural selection that he's supposed to be defending. If something is not random, then it is, quite literally, not random. It will take some dizzying displays of expert logic to get out of this, but remember: we're dealing with the same Market-Style motivations that sell quantitative easing and corporate bailouts as good for common people, and that drop bombs to save their victims. It can be done.

How does Dawkins do it? He suggests that the "computer's preference" for a certain end result is not comparable to an integrated, rather than an individual, evolution, nor to the direction of his preferred strawman Jehovah, but rather, that the computer preferencing an end result is only a metaphor for the way that nature preferences an end result (e.g. a creature that is able to survive). From the same Wikipedia article, here are some selected generations of Dawkins' Weasel destiny:
Generation 01: WDLTMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P
Generation 02: WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZLMQCO P
Generation 10: MDLDMNLS ITJISWHRZREZ MECS P
Generation 20: MELDINLS IT ISWPRKE Z WECSEL
Generation 30: METHINGS IT ISWLIKE B WECSEL
Generation 40: METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL
Generation 43: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL

How can a program with a predetermined end result, making deliberate adjustments to the randomness each time, be considered "random" and "un-directed"? Dawkins' claim is that, if a creature shaped like METHINKS is more life-worthy than a creature shaped like MELDINLS, and a creature shaped like MELDINLS is more life-worthy than a creature shaped like WDLTMNLT, then nature will kill off the WDLTMNLT, and gradually evolve the MELDINLS into the METHINKS.

That, though, is our original problem with Alexandra and her ammonia lungs: if a WDLTMNLT consisting of five trillion cells can successfully survive and reproduce long enough to mutate 1/8 of its cells into a better new form, then it has lived a very, very long time. WDLTMNLT consists of 8 letters. 1/8 of 5 trillion is 625 billion. To change that first letter from W to M is that significant (and remember, Alexandra is a small, simple, example animal, here). The entire time that "W" is mutating into "M," though, the second letter--D--is serving Alexandra well. She is doing an excellent job surviving with that D.

In the Market-Style Evolution regime, we have a twist: WDLTMNLT is going along, reproducing successfully, and altering its W to an M. The new MDLTMNLT strain is superior to the old WDLTMNLT strain, so it does better. Then, a more-striking development: some MDLTMNLTs randomly mutate into MELTMNLTs!

What about the old WDLTMNLTs, though, and the newer (but still un-cool last-year's-model) MDLTMNLTs? They had been successfully surviving for all that time that it took to change W to M, and suddenly, they're dying off, because other models have that E instead of that D. They vanish from the fossil record, leaving no trace, except thought experiments and speculative computer models, that they ever existed. How did they survive so well, and then die off like that? Why does the release of a new specimen invalidate prior ones so handily? Those same species' predecessors had already been competing fiercely for food with other organisms, and surviving the struggle. This isn't just line to line, here--remember that Dawkins is metaphorizing a vast area of time. By the later generations of even exceptionally over-generous experiments, we're talking about millions upon millions of years of survival, in changing geological and meteorological circumstances, dispersed across a wide area. Suddenly, one MDLTMNLT becomes a MELTMNLT, and she's propagating so many descendants that they dominate, speciate, and then wipe out the MDLTMNLTs, which had previously survived millions of years of predators and competition? And that happened with almost all life on the surface of the planet, so that now, we're only left with recognizable words like METHINKS?

Even inside the obscenely alogical, picking-and-choosing, deux ex machina example of the computer preferring a certain result, it stretches the boundaries of the available 3-4 billion years to explain how the following sentence wouldn't also develop: METHINKS IT IS LIKE ZORT A WEASEL. That is the ammonia lung: a worthless development within an otherwise successful model.

If METHINKS IT IS HHHH A WEASEL can survive for the reproductive cycles necessary to produce METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL, then that means a metaphorical difference of four letters is not a mortal difference. METHINKS IT IS LIKE ZORT A WEASEL, then, should be able to survive and thrive, also, alongside METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. The artificial size boundaries Dawkins placed on the experiment produce only one acceptable end-result: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. This is the world of creationism; of God; of divine ordinances; it is not the world of freely evolving creatures.

Nature does not have preordained conclusions, either. It is dynamic, and ever-changing, so that animals evolve along with the plants they are eating, and the weather patterns inside the biosphere in which those plants are themselves evolving (and the electromagnetic patterns around the star that biosphere is orbiting, and so forth, as large as you like).

The reticulorumen, broad molars, synovial joints, descending udders, and hooves all evolve alongside one another, along with the biosphere's drying land, grazing plants that disperse depending on seasonal weather patterns, and masses of other ruminants to safely graze alongside. Even the Weasel program would break if it had to concede that the survival of the mutating individuals was dependent on the near-simultaneous mutation of dozens or hundreds of other individual organisms, in order to form socialization, protection, breeding, warmth, and other networks, without which noticeable deviations from the norm would result in mortality.

The Useless Organ, and the Utter Failure of Cumulative Selection

The biggest problem with cumulative selection is not in additions, though, but in the entire structural process he uses to coax the computer toward the end result. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL begs the question, and indeed, directs evolution in a way pop-biologists' own descriptions find unacceptable, but even if they are allowed that stretch, cumulative selection is unworkable within itself. Its own rules invalidate it.

Dawkins' program, by metaphorizing survivability in nature with a preferred end result meant to convey impartial natural efficiency, made a fatal flaw: it assumed that a small change toward efficiency was itself efficient, when in fact, a small but incomplete movement toward efficiency is actually an inefficiency.

The Messy Office

Say you realize your office is messy. It's too blighted messy, and you're not getting as much work done because of it. So, you put the laptop on standby, and you get up out of your chair. You get a big trash bag, throw out all the old napkins and soda bottles, and move your skis from last winter out to your car. You come back in, reorganize the filing system, return all your calls, put the ringer on mute, settle into your chair, and get some serious work done. The End.

That's evolution. That's METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL (if we assume Shakespeare is a good end result). We got somewhere good, and productivity is up.

Now, let's try it a different way:

Say you realize your office is messy. It's too blighted messy, and you're not getting as much work done because of it. So, you put the laptop on standby, and you get up out of your chair. The End.

There is no incremental benefit to an incomplete mutation, even if it might produce a positive end result. That's the same problem that Alexandra had in Part 3: until the new lung (kidney, liver, brain, set of gills, alterations to existing lung so it can respirate air, limb, fin, wing, et cetera) is finished, there is no benefit. Getting up out of your chair--wasting calories on a useless organ--is actually detrimental. Until that air-breathing lung is completed, any cells devoted to it are a waste, so there is absolutely no reason for impartial nature to "preference" it into the next generation. The worthless cells are a drawback.

Look at Dawkins' letters again. METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL is completely and utterly worthless to the organism. In fact, METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL is deadly. An air-breathing lung with one small hole in it, or designed to safely breathe nitrogen, oxygen, and neon, is going to kill Alexandra.

Consider untreated, severe asthmatics, who have otherwise perfect air-breathing lungs: organs have to strike an incredibly delicate balance to not only be of partial worth to an organism, but to avoid killing that organism during the fetal stage, let alone after it attempts to draw its first breath. Nature could never naturally select METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL unless it was able to divinely preference a change from "W" to "M" in the first section of WDLTMNLT's genetic code, because the change from W to M would not be helpful, and would likely be mortal.

Long before we've written METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL, any incomplete variation on that organ (or even a much smaller development, such as a tiny adjustment in the chemical makeup of the brain fluid) would eliminate those mutated organism(s) from Dawkins' cruel world.

Deadly Randomness

Because randomness is so deadly, we see that random evolution is actually far less probable than our initial math suggested. In order to develop new bodily structures, organisms not only would have to mutate inexorably toward that end (say, working Earth-air-breathing lungs), but also to mutate cells in such a precise order that newly-mutated organisms avoided all potential pitfalls of an incomplete addition. For example, if Alexandra somehow began mutating in healthy new lung cells by the thousands, she would have to mutate them so carefully that they did not connect to her throat until the lungs were functional. If she developed the throat connection first--even a throat connection that would have worked perfectly alongside the right set of lungs--then that connection would attempt to respirate air bubbles into an unprepared body cavity, and kill her. The placement of millions upon millions of new lung cells would all fail if, in a later Alexandra strain, that lung didn't wait until it was absolutely finished before making the connection.

Deadly randomness works well with the cruel, Hobbesian outlook of Market-Style Evolution. It also dovetails with Creationism: if mutations are random, and nature kills the inefficient, then there's no way to reach the end without the kind of divine guidance that Dawkins offered via his cumulative selection. Since the advent of industrial Market-science, we've seen how easily it blends with fundamentalist Christianity to produce modern businesses, militaries, environmental destruction, and wars. All the endeavors of free inquiry, and the requirement of an evidentiary record, have gone out the window in the area of evolutionary biology, where we're called upon to believe in something on the promise of later evidence, or no evidence at all.

Integration Through Lightform Evolution

True "evolution" is integrative. This is why entire systems within organisms' bodies evolve together--why the bats, from Crichton's example, evolved ears and brains capable of echolocation while simultaneously evolving the ability to produce the necessary sounds, or why birds evolved wings simultaneously with light skeletons, feet structured for gripping tree branches, and better eyesight. Without Lightform Evolution, any one of those components would be useless--a perilous waste of resources, rather than part of something good.

This conclusion has nothing to do with Creationism--in fact, it stands against Creationism, while Market-Style Evolution stands for Creationism. Dawkins, and others like him, are forced to divinely direct the development of hypothetical strains in order to explain how modern organisms came to be. Lightform Evolution, taking into account the ways organisms' entire bodies develop in tandem with their environments, is the way to begin overcoming the mathematical impossibilities of market selection: natural selection does occur, and it occurs by "nature," or "Earth" (or "verse") developing more efficient matter-energy conduits.

Modern humans don't bat an eye at the notion that a human brain can direct a bodily cell to do something. Why, then, is it so supernatural to conceive of a portion of the biosphere directing a discrete section of biomass to develop in a certain way? You can't "see" neural connections without cutting someone open or attaching wires, and our current technological limitations on understanding how the biosphere communicates development to sub-portions of itself--organisms--should not make us conclude that the communication is either magic or impossible. The very "genes" that pop-biologists like to attribute the world to are but one tiny piece of the coding that links and coordinates matter and energy. When others are discovered, the stamping and hooting of 21st century human scientists that life develops in independent, random, severable ways will seem as brilliant a conclusion as bleeding patients to cure disease.

A magnet is held above a paper clip. Like magic, the paper clip jumps from the table and attaches itself to the magnet.

Rain falls on the top of a mountain. Like magic, the water rolls down the mountainsides all by itself.

Water recedes from a large area of land. Like magic, creatures develop new limbs and lungs, and crawl out of the water all by themselves.

None of these things is magic, and none of them are random: they are the results of gravitational and electromagnetic forces--light energy--operating on and through matter.

Continued in Part 5, where we'll touch on points 3-4 from above.