The Hall of Mirrors Effect

     When people read or hear something from different sources, they are inclined to take more notice.  In particular, if a particular idea or observation is stated by multiple people, then people are more inclined to believe it or at least give it consideration.  One reason for this is perceived social consensus; if the idea is stated by more individuals then maybe it is becoming more important in the social sphere.  

    But there is another reason, which is that if more people notice something, then it is more likely to really be there, not just a mistake of one person.  Or, if multiple people ascribe to a particular belief then it is less likely to be the result of a single person's idionsyncracies.  

    The key assumption is that these observations and beliefs are independent.  For example, if every day during seven days, a different person tells you they encountered bigfoot, then you would take notice.  Because it is seven separate sightings.  On the other hand, if you found out that only one of these people claimed to actually see bigfoot, but the others were just in the area at the time, then it is not seven sightings but one.  And in that case, whether to believe it or not depends on how reliable the one person's testimony is.  

    Similarly, there are many sources of news or information which really all come from one source, just amplified many times.  Like a hall of mirrors that reflects the same image many times and creates the illusion that there are many objects, one source of unknown reliability is repeated multiple times, creating the illusion of many independent sources.

    Social media is particularly bad with regards to this.  Because it gives people the illusion that everyone they know believes something or knows something when in reality they are just repeating mass media narratives that they know nothing about and haven't thought about other than to give official sources the benfit of the doubt.  A feature of human psychology that is natural and helpful in normal situations is hijacked.   

    Sometimes, when I read unusual opinions or beliefs in multiple places and start to take them more seriously, I sometime wonder whether if I'm fooling myself and it's just the hall of mirrors effect.  It's worth taking into consideration, but I think it is definitely far less than with leftist content.  Bruce Charlton has a post which I haven't been able to find again where he writes that left-wing bloggers are pretty much interchangeable.  It's not about expressing their individual beliefs or knowledge, it's about advancing the narrative.  By constrast, non-leftists think about what they write for themselves.  So, even if an idea comes from a single source, different people will write about it with different analyses and may agree but via different lines of thought.  

    Before the invention and proliferation of mass media, the hall of mirrors effect was far less common.  But at this point, when so much of our information comes second hand, it's good to think about from where the information originated. 

A relevant story

    This is a story from an article about the Russian Orthodox Saint John Maximovitch.  It's somewhat long, but I would recommend reading the whole thing.  Here was a story from the article, (which was originally written in 2012).  The relevance to the present time is apparent:

    "Vladyka's [John Maximovitch] constant attention to self-mortification had its root in the fear of God, which he possessed in the tradition of the ancient Church and of Holy Russia.  The following incident, told by O. Skopichenko and confirmed by many from Shanghai, well illustrates his daring, unshakable faith in Christ.  'Mrs. Menshikova was bitten by a mad dog.  The injections against rabies she either refused to take or took carelessly ... And then she came down with this terrible disease.  Bishop John found out about it and came to the dying woman.  He gave her Holy Communion, but just then she began having one of the fits of this disease; she began to foam at the mouth, and at the same time she spit out the Holy Gifts which she had just received.  The Holy Sacrament cannot be thrown out.  So, Vladyka picked up and put in his mouth the Holy Gifts vomited by the sick woman.  Those who were with him exclaimed: 'Vladyka, what are you doing!  Rabies is terribly contagious!'  But Vladyka peacefully answered:  'Nothing will happen; these are the Holy Gifts.'  And indeed nothing did happen.' "

    This is an incredible story.  I do not have much to add except that Christians (including those who do not formally canonize saints or who are not Orthodox (for instance, I myself am a Roman Catholic)) should think seriously about the beliefs and actions of those who are exemplars of their faith.  Even if we are not at their level, we can learn from them.  For instance, not everyone needs to or can go out into the desert and become a hermit, but the fact that such people did exist and the nature of their actions gives us much food for thought.

Metaphysical Voting

    One of Bruce Charlton's classic posts is "The evils of voting."  In this post, Charlton argues that there is no reason that voting should be a "gold standard" of making decisions: 

    "Where did people get the idea that voting was an acceptable - let alone the best and only, way to make decisions?  
    
... 

    There is no magic about majority voting, no 'wisdom of crowds', no place for the operation of divine or individual inspiration - neither the safety-first gut-feeling veto of requiring unanimous and full community assent to change, nor for the inspirational decisiveness of the gifted individual to lead the consenting (or acquiesing) group on the basis of superior wisdom, insight, foresight.

... 

    To rely on majority voting is fundamentally unserious; it is to regard life as essentially soft and sustaining, to regard life as unreal and something not requiring of us correct decisions and right behavior."

    I agree with this post, that there is nothing intrinsically good about voting.  It is just one method among many of making decisions; in some situations it is good, in others it is not.  Voting works best when used among a relatively small number of well-informed and honest individuals to force decisions, where something needs to be decided, but the decisions are only of small or moderate importance.  
    
    In the post, Charlton also mentions that a two-thirds majority makes more sense than a simple numerical majority because in this case those who agree outnumber those who disagree by two to one.  One could also imagine this principle being applied to an organization such that nothing can be decided by voting unless there is a two-thirds majority.  

    It is also mentioned that voting can fool human beings:

    "We hoodwink human psychology by forcing pre-commitment to the unknown outcome of majority voting as intrinsically correct."

    Even though in actuality, voting is not the same as making a specific decision, psychologically, the act of voting causes people to feel invested in the process as if they did agree. 
        
    In addition to political voting, however, people also vote by their actions, which determines what kind of society one lives in.  And this is somewhat analogous to voting because these actions are aggregated to influence people's lives.  But unlike voting, it is not one vote per individual because the influence of some matters more than others, also, one can "vote" multiple times depending on one's choices.  In some respects they may even cancel out.  
    
    But even apart the material effects, I believe that our actions and thoughts are a kind of metaphysical voting.  If we really want something, and act according to that desire, then we are metaphysically voting for that which we desire.  But if we get it, it may be as the thing really is, not as we imagined it.  
    
    This also relates to prayer, prayer is a kind of metaphysical voting as well.  One might think of the natural question "God already knows what we need, so why do we have to ask?"  I believe one reason is that by asking, one is making an active investment of will.  

    Like voting by action, metaphysical voting is not "one man, one vote" either.  For example, the "vote" of a saintly hermit, i.e., his prayers and actions, has a far greater effect on his society than those of an ordinary person.  Not only because of his virtue, but also because such a hermit is more closely aligned with God and Creation, so he would know better what to vote for, so to speak.    
    
    This relates somewhat to the peck.  In an article from a Greek Orthodox hieromonk transcribed in this post by William James Tychonievich, there is a suggestion that there will eventually be seven pecks.  I can't say whether the number is literally true, but this goes along with the concept of metaphysical voting.  Many people have received the peck without fully thinking through what it means.  But the side of evil does not want that; they don't just want people to receive the peck, they want people to identify with it.  Their goal is that with each further dose, people will with increasing consciousness metaphysically vote for a worse world.   

    However, and this is the importance of metaphysical voting, one can always cast a vote for the side of good.  And things can always be better.  Consider the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:8-15: 

    "And when they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in paradise at the afternoon air, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the face of the Lord God, amidst the trees of paradise.  And the Lord God called Adam, and said to him: 'Where art thou?'  And he said: ''I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.  

    And he said to him: 'And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?' And Adam said: 'The woman, whom thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat.'  And the Lord God said to the woman: 'Why hast thou done this?'  And she answered: 'The serpent deceived me, and I did eat.'

    And the Lord God said to the serpent: 'Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and the beasts of the earth: upon thy breasts shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. 

    I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.'  "

    When God spoke to them, rather than acknowledging that they had done wrong and repenting, Adam and Eve each tried to deflect the blame from themselves.  And they could have even repented before that, if they had gone to meet God rather than hiding themselves.  Of course, the story does not say what would have happened then, but we can speculate that things would have been better.  There would still have been a great price to pay, but things would not have been so bad.  

    And there are many situations in this world where even if things are bad, even if much that is bad cannot be averted, the end result can be much better by making the right decision at the right time.  
 
    And for this reason I do not believe that there should be enmity between the pecked and the unpecked.  Certainly, one should interact as little as possible with those who believe in and enforce the current totalitarianism.  Discernment along these lines is always necessary.  By all means, let there be enmity between human beings and the serpent, between those of us on Earth and the "rulers of this present darkness."  But for one own family, or close friends, or even acquaintances who mean one no harm, there is no reason for such.  

    The more that cast a ballot for God and Creation (and there are many ways to do this), even if they supported this totalitarianism before, the better things will be spirituallly, and I believe, materially as well.

Some thoughts on the Fermi Paradox

    The Fermi Paradox is the idea that despite the large number of stars (and hence, presumably planets), we have so far not seen indications of life on another planet.  The linked encyclopedia article lists four points: 

    "There are billions of stars in the galaxy that are similar to the Sun, many of which are billions of years older than Earth.  

    With high probability, some of these stars will have Earth-like planets, and if the Earth is typical, some might develop intelligent life. 

    Some of these civilizations might develop interstellar travel, a step the Earth is investigating now. 

    Even at the slow pace of currently envisioned interstellar travel, the Milky Way galaxy could be completely traversed in a few million years."

    The first point is true and the second is reasonable.  In fact, with the Kepler telescope, it was found that there were indeed many planets orbiting stars.  But the third and fourth points are much more of a leap.  

    The article itself says: 

    "While the current understanding of physics rules out the possibility of faster-than-light travel, it appears that there are no major theoretical barriers to the construction of 'slow' interstellar ships, even though the engineering required is considerably beyond our present capabilities."

    To begin with, if one wanted to build an interstellar spaceship (even travelling slower than light), it would have to be completely self-sufficient, since there would be no resources to rely on.  (Unless someone figured out a way to collect and synthesize abient matter in space or to stop on another planet or asteroid with resources).  Nonetheless, the standards for self-sufficiency are much higher than the meaning of that phrase on Earth.  Furthermore, there must be some way to maintain and repair the vehicle over a period of hundreds or thousands (or even millions of years).  

    Even an unmanned interstellar probe would either have to be constructed so as to last for thousands upon thousands of years or be self-repairing in some way.  Even if a civilization made it its mission to send out vast numbers of probes, once the probes drift far enough away from the civilization and each other after millions of years, one might end up with widely separated, inert pieces of space debris, rather than probes that fill up the galaxy.      

    This is a similar situation to the use of models involving randomness and probability.  Probability is useful in modelling certain situations, but it is a huge leap to go from that to suggest that it can model everything.  Likewise, science and engineering have caused immense changes on Earth, yet there is no justification to go from "science can do a lot" to "science can do anything".  

    This is not to say that interstellar spacecraft are impossible, in fact, I do believe they are could be built.  One could perhaps classify the Voyager probes as such.  But in practice the task may be so difficult that it never occurs.  

    Beyond the practical issue, however, is the contrast between different worldviews concerning the purpose of life in the universe.    

    One view is that the universe is something like a bunch of blocks to be rearranged and that it's just a matter of figuring out how to do this.  Furthermore, according to this view, the natural and obvious purpose for a civilization is to use technology to colonize and spread throughout the galaxy. 

    The other view says that life is in this universe for a spiritual purpose and its ultimate destiny lies outside the material universe.  Technology is something that is possible and is allowed, but the constant advancement of technology is not the driving principle of the universe.  

    One way to illustrate the different ways of thinking is to consider two different ways of envisioning an intelligence beyond the human.  In the present day, this is frequently a computer or machine.  It exceeds human intelligence by speed and efficiency.  In the Middle Ages, the idea of a superhuman intelligence was an angel, which was viewed as exceeding human thinking in the opposite way.  Rather than processing faster than humans, there is no processing going on at all.  An angel was envisioned as having a purely intuitive mind, so while a human being might need to find the truth by laborious reasoning, an angel would jump directly to the truth by insight alone.

    From the first point of view, the Fermi paradox is indeed a paradox.  But according to the second, it is not at all.  Beings on each planet are incarnated for different reasons and the reason planets are far apart is so that there can be no interference between them.  In this case, the universe is constructed according to principles that at the most fundamental level bear more resemblance to what we would call the mental or the spiritual than to the physical.  In that case, technology is just one aspect, rather than being the be all and end all of a civilization's existence.

    Jacob dreamed of many angels going up and down a ladder, yet even in the Bible, appearances of angels are few and far between.  Might not some of them have been going to other planets?

    As far as my personal beliefs go, due to considerations about the vast number of stars and the plausible existence of many planets, I do believe that there are beings on other planets, some of whom we would call intelligent.  They might be very strange, however.  Tolkien has some interesting ideas in his Notion Club Papers, which envisions a planet of something like living metal, tended by some sort of incorporeal elves, a planet inhabited by living crystal, and a planet made as the realization of an act of contemplation.  (Some of these passages are quoted in this post).  

    However, I do not think that there will ever be widespread interstellar travel as envisioned in the Fermi paradox because I do not believe that is not what the universe is for.  Though I could certainly imagine solar systems with multiple inhabited planets and travel between those.  

Civilization, Barbarism, and Development

     Bonald's post "What cultural diversity among the savages doesn't tell us" opens by discussing an objection posed by relativists to the idea that the organization of traditional Western society is natural.  In particular, that monogamy and the traditional roles of men and women in society is natural.  Relativists point to primitive societies which are arranged differently and conclude that since the values of traditional Western society are not universal, they must not be natural.  

        But in addition to the relativist argument that simply because different societies exist, they show that culture is relative, there is another challenge, which is that because societies that are organized differently are primitive, they are in some sense more fundamental than traditional Western culture.  This leads to a different kind of challenge, i.e. are that the values of traditional Western culture just an artifact of a particular kind of society or are they more fundamental than that?

        Bonald answers the first challenge with an intersting statement:  

    "As an Aristotelian, I believe that it's the complete, perfected state of a substance that most clearly manifests that substance's essence, its intelligible principle, rather than the immature states.  If you want to understand human nature, look first at civilized man."

    But this also relates to the second challenge as well.  If primitive societies are less realized versions of less primitive societies, then the social organization of the less primitive societies is better.  

    I think there's definitely something in Bonald's statement.  To the extent that societies come about because of spiritual impulses (and spiritual does not necessarily mean good, if we consider those societies that engaged in mass human sacrifice), then they are in touch with a more fundamental reality and are not just artifacts of an arbitary form of social organization.  

    Another way to consider this relates to the idea of the evolutionary development of consciousness and how it relates to society.  Rudolf Steiner had the idea that apes are devolved men.  Or, more precisely, the physical body of both human beings and apes originated as some kind of primate, which was neither man nor ape, but possessed the potentiality for either of them.  Those members of that species which developed spiritually humanlike qualities became more human, while those who became more bestial developed into apes.  

    So, there developed a further split between the two lineages.  And it is not just Steiner who said something like this.  William James Tychonievich brought a theory to my attention (in the comments of this post) that, rather than human beings evolving from a chimpanzee-like ancestor, gorillas and chimps may have degenerated from a more human-like ancestor.  This also relates to the idea of evolution having a spiritual characteristic.  In that evolutionary change partly comes about by the response of species to spiritual impulses.  Lamarck may have been onto something, in a spiritual sense.  

    Perhaps something similar might happen with societies.  At some point they reach a "fork in the road", where further continuation along the same lines is no longer possible.  Those who continue forward along the path evolve towards a different kind of society, while those who do not can only degenerate.  

    So, while some primitive societies may simply be more or less stable (like certain tribes in the Amazon) perhaps others are only primitive in the sense of their material circumstances, while they have in fact degenerated from a prior phase.  This might explain some strange behaviors like cannibalism and manifestations of non-biological sexuality; they were not there originally, but have come about after a period of degeneration.  Like Steiner's theory about apes and men, the prior phase would have been less sophisticated both in terms of cruelty and goodness.  

    For those that did successfully move to the new civilization that does not mean that the new social arrangement will be a paradise; they will have their own problems, with new possibilities for bad and good, but they will have evaded the fate of those who did not move forward.  


What lies behind the laws of nature?

     In his post Phantom arrivals, William James Tychonievich writes about the phenomenon of people experiencing other people or objects arriving at their house some time before they actually arrive.  Read that post before reading what follows to get the full context.  

    What I find interesting is that the phenomenon described in this post is that they seem to happen spontaneously.  No one is trying to make them happen; they just occur.  And also, while strange, they are not dramatic, but concern everyday events, such as ordering a book or a battery.  In some places, they even seem to be quite frequent; Tychonievich quotes the following from a book by Rupert Sheldrake: 

    "This hearning of sounds in advance is well known in northern Scandinavia, as I discussed in Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home. In Norway there is even a special name for the phenomenon, vardøger, which literally means 'warning soul.'  Typically, someone at home hears a person walking or driving up to the house, coming in, and hanging up his coat.  Yet nobody is there.  Some ten to thirty minutes later the person really arrives to similar sounds.  People get used to it.  Housewives put the kettle on as the vardøger arrives, knowing their husbands will arrive soon.

    Professor Georg Hygen, of Oslo University, investigated dozens of recent cases, and published an entire book on this subject.  He concluded that the phenomonon is not so much a pre-echo of what will happen in the future, but is related to a person's intentions.  For one thing, the sounds are not always identical to those heard in advance.  A person might be heard going up to the bedroom, whereas when he arrives he goes into the kitchen.  Moreover, the vardøger phenomenon can still occur when a person does not in fact arrive, having changed his mind."

    The line "people get used to it", particularly caught my attention.  Here we have an event that, while still paranormal, happens often enough that it becomes familiar. 

    I find the theory of telepathy in the second paragraph fairly convincing, but there may also be other things going on as well.  The vardøger could be precognitive if one believes (as I do) that the future can be partially forseen, but is not entirely predetermined.  I believe it is more like hearing someone's plans for the next day, rather than looking ahead in a book to what is already there.  So, the precognition is not an exact copy of the events that subsequently occur, but an indication of an intention.  And it may be that telepathy and precognition are also related on some level.  

    Another possibility, relates to the philosophical idea that when angels are present in a particular location, unless they take on a body, they are not present in the same sense as human beings are because they are not physical.  An angel's presence is more analogous to focusing one's mind on a location than being there physically.  A similar thing could be said of ghosts.  Based on reading and thinking about the matter, I believe that there are probably multiple kinds of ghosts: one might be a kind of energy that is sometimes left behind after death, another might be a projection from the thoughts or emotions of a person, and the last would be the soul of the individual detached from the body.  And the last kind could be present in a non-physical way related to the soul of the person thinking about or remembering some location.  

    Thus, the vardøger could be, in addition to telepathy, that the person traveling to a location is present there in some non-physical sense while they are thinking about returning home and focusing on the location.  

    In some ways paranormal events of this kind seem similar to rainbows, magnetism, or static electricity.  In the past these were probably thought of by some people are curios, interesting events that happened occasionally.  But now we know that there were glimpses of a broader understanding of nature.  Likewise, I believe that the vardøger and related phenomena provide glimses of laws that underlie the physical laws of nature but are themselves non-physical - more like mental.  Though I do not think they are the deepest level or that they are truly spiritual.  (William Wildblood has written some about this level of reality on his blog, referring to it as the psychic plane).

    I use the word laws because I think that these mental laws are regularities, that they are chaotic.  But, they are not regular in a sense that would make them easy to predict, i.e., they are not mechanical.  Also, I do not believe there will ever be a science of these laws, both because they are non-mechanical and difficult to discern and because fallen human beings are prohbited from fully understanding these matters for their own good and the good of others.  

The Influence of the Subliminal

     In C.S. Lewis's memoir Surprised by Joy, he writes: 

    "Then I read Chesterton's Everlasting Man and for the first time saw the whole Christian outline of history set out in a form that seemed to me to make sense.  Somehow I contrived not to be too badly shaken.  You will remember that I already thought Chesterton the most sensible man alive 'apart from his Christianity'.  Now, I veritably believe, I thought - I didn't of course say; words would have revealed the nonsense - that Christianity itself was very sensible 'apart from its Christianity'."

    This is a significant insight of Lewis's: that there are some beliefs which become ridiculous once articulated.  Another way to say this is that there are certain ideas that are not believed by argument but because they are propagated subliminally.  But, once stated, it is clear that these beliefs are false.  

    Many of the most powerful and pervasive ideas in the modern world are of this nature.  In his recent post "Do you want Heaven, or the other place, or nothing?  Childhood - Single Adulthood - Marriage/Parenthood", Bruce Charlton articulates what is held up as the goal of modern life: 

    "The potential of human existence is based-upon some version of an idealized young, single-adult life - involving some combination of wealth, power, freedom, high status, fame and attention, travel and leisure, excitement and comfort; lots of preferred-type sex with attractive others and without guilt, strings or recriminations ... 

Underpinned by our own beauty, sexuality, charm, intelligence, dominance, strength and fitness, perfect health and immunity to illness, disease and ageing."

    Of course, this goal is never actually stated explicitly by those who believe it.  No one believes this because they were argued into it; it is simply propagandized endlessly and the alternatives ignored, suppressed, attacked, and mocked.  The belief operates at a sub-rational, subliminal level.  What Charlton has articulated really is what people believe, but like Lewis admitted, if anyone was actually to admit this explicitly, it would be clear how pointless (not to mention impossible) it is as a life goal.  

    Another example relates to managerialism.  In the Middle Ages, theology was referred to as the Queen of the Sciences (science broadly conceived as any intellectual discipline).  By this, it was meant that theology was the central and primary intellectual discipline, the most fundamental and the most advanced, while the other subjects were the handmaidens of the Queen; their job was to serve theology by illuminating other areas of knowledge.  Over time, the science considered Queen of the sciences has changed.  In Ancient Greece (although they did not use that term), the Queen of the Sciences was philosophy; centuries later, the mathematician C.F. Gauss (1777-1855) famously said:

    "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics.  She often condescends to render service to astronomy and other natural sciences, but in all relations she is entiteld to the first rank."

    while in the early to mid twentieth century, the Queen of the Sciences was considered by many to be theoretical physics.  In all of those cases, there was at least some justification for viewing these disciplines as the most fundamental and central disciplines (also taking into account that the meaning of science narrowed from intellectual disciplines in general to natural science from the Middle Ages to the modern era).  Currently however, the two candidates are either leftism ("studies", etc.), or managerialism.  

    Both of these are treated as if, to paraphrase Gauss, "they are entiteld to the first rank in all relations", i.e., as if these two subjects (I won't call them disciplines) have, by virtue of their superior position, the right and indeed the obligation to critique all other subjects.  To actually argue this would manifest its absurdity, since both of these subjects are obviously extremely light in intellectual content and it is also apparent that they are simply justifications for cultural subversion and bureaucratic takeover.  Thus, even though these two areas really are treated as the Queen of the Sciences, this is not because of any argument; the belief also operates on the subjective level.  

    Another example is the idea that if we just had the right bureaucratic procedures, then society would become a utopia.  And this is even taken further when it is assumed that not only can policies guarantee good, but anything bad that happens only happens either because a procedure was not in place or the procedure in place was flawed.  These assumptions are behind almost every media evaluation of any unfortunate circumstances and indeed, the entire birdemic response was based on these assuptions.  As with the other examples, if anyone was to actually try to argue this, it would be seen to be ridiculous, yet vast numbers of people speak and act as if they believe just that.  Once again the influence is below the rational level.  

    And people readily absorb beliefs in this form.  Large numbers of people are very adept at instictively taking up these assumptions, which underpin media and official communications where everything is always interpreted in light of these assumptions (although they are never spoken or argued for). 

    There are three ways out of this, corresponding to the division of human decision making into three parts: instinct, reasoning, and intuition.  One way is to have correct instincts and reject these assumptions and the actions based on them without any deliberation.  Pretty much everyone who lived before 1900 or so would fall into this category.  It's much harder now, for most of us, because we live in an environment where so much is built upon false and unnatural assumptions, so we have to consciously become aware of insticts which correspond to what is true and reject those which work with these false assumptions.  

    The second way is to explicitly articulate the assumptions and rationally perceive that they are untrue.  

    And the third way is to strengthen our intuition, by grounding our thinking in what is most good, true, and fundamental.  Although much of intuition operates unconsciously, it is not the same as instinct, because it is based on the spiritual truth about reality, rather than biology.  Both are natural, but one is higher than the other.  William Wildblood has written much about this topic, and has a good recent post on the intuition.  

    And these are not mutually exclusive; it is possible and good to use all three.  

Logic, intuition, and Motivation

    In an intellectual argument there are three factors to consider: logic, intuition, and motivation.  The logic is the actual reasoning employed in the argument itself.  The intuition is the deeper understanding of the principles involved in the argument, beyond the flow of the logic itself and the motivation is the reason for making the argument in the first place.  

    For example, in Bruce Charlton's article Reconceptualizing the metaphysical basis of biology, he writes: 

    "If Natural Selection is regarded as the bottom-line explanation - the fundamental metaphysical reality (as it is for biology, and often is with respect to the human condition) then this has radically nihilistic consequences.  And this is a paradox - if natural selection was the only mechanism by which consciousness and intelligene arose then we could have no confidenec that the human discovery of natural selection was anything more than a (currently, but contingently) fitness-enhancing delusion.

    ... 

    In sum - Without teleology, there can be no possibility of knowledge. 

    (This is not some kind of a clever paradox - it is an unavoidable rational conclusion.)"

    In this argument, the logic is the first paragraph, pointing out that if we believe natural selection is the rock-bottom reality of the human mind, then we have no guarantee that our reasoning is accurate, only that it has been useful for survival and reproduction.  But then, the theory of natural selection itself, which was developed by the human mind, is also a product of natural selection.  Hence, we have no guarantee that the theory of natural selection is true.  

    As Charlton points out, this reasoning can seem to be just a clever trick, rather than a serious argument.  Partly this is the self-referential nature of the argument, but the other reason is that this paradox, taken by itself, leads us to a certain conclusion, but says no more about it once we arrive.  So, we now move to the intition.  

    The intuition is that the theory of natural selection only refers to traits which aid survival and reproduction, it says nothing about ensuring that beliefs are true.  It may be that true beliefs also aid in survival and reproduction or it may be that some false beliefs are better, but to make these kinds of considerations, we have to go outside of the theory of natural selection.  And in a broader sense, the intuition behind other paradoxes is similar.  By showing that a theory cannot account for itself, it is shown to be incomplete; it may be valid within a certain domain, but it is not a complete description outside of it.  

    As for the motivation, there are different motivations one could have.  One possibility is that the argument is one prong of a strategy to discredit natural selection altogether.  Another is to better understand natural selection by understanding its limitations.  A third is to show that naturalism, the belief that physical nature is all that exists, is false.  

    C.S. Lewis used this argument for the third motivation in his book Miracles.  Victor Reppert writes more about this in his book C.S. Lewis's Dangerous idea.  Interestingly enough, on his blog, Reppert quotes Charles Darwin himself, who wrote in a letter: 

    "the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.  Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?"

    I find this framework helpful in understanding not just intellectual arguments, but writing and indeed communication of all kinds.    

    The three each have their own benefits and drawbacks.  

    For instance, analyzing writing from a logical perspective allows one to temporarily ignore the motivations and just focus on the arguments themselves.  The difficulty is that the logic itself may not be spelled out or may take certain assumptions for granted, or may be satisfactory, but leave out the bigger picture.  Motivations are in a sense the quickest.  If one can determine that a communication is sent out with bad motivation, like mass media for example, then it can be ignored with no further thought.  But the difficulty is that for less obvious examples, the specific motivation may take some time to infer and since people think differently, motivations may be unusual.  

    For example, there are people who are atheists because they believe the evidence in favor of the existence of God is uncertain, but choose the possibility that they least favor.  They want to put forward the most powerful argument they can, so they can be proven wrong.  This usually goes along with a fairly pessimistic personality.  In fact, I think that Thomas the Apostle was this kind of person.  He watned to believe that Jesus had been raised, but would rather be disappointed once than have his hopes raised and then destroyed.  In his case, the fault was giving into disappointment rather than accepting the testimony of his fellow Apostles whom he had reason to trust.  

    The point is that this is a rare motivation, but it is real and so could be misunderstood if people do not take the time to think over it.  And there are many other examples of motivations being misunderstood. 

    Intuition is the best in terms of understanding because when one has the intuition, one understands without needing to memorize the logic of an argument.  In fact, having the inuition makes the argument easier to remember.  But intutition can sometimes be difficult to commuicate.

    In thinking about writing or speaking persuasively, it also helps to consider these elements and how an audience responds to each of them.  Arguing against a belief according to its own logic or showing that it contradicts itself is in one sense the strongest possible refutation.  But in practice, one finds that although it works well at shoring up the beliefs of those who already disbelieve or leading to doubts for those who are netural, this method is often unsuccessful in persuading those who already believe.  

    One reason is that refuting any particular statement is viewed as merely a fluke.  Yes, that one is wrong, but what about everything else?  Another reason is that it doesn't get to the underlying assumptions and understanding behind the belief.  

    By talking about the intuition, one can address these issues.  Bruce Charlton does this well in his posts on climate change.  When I first read some of these posts, I didn't "get it" right away.  But what Charlton is doing is, rather than addressing any particular study at a methodological level, addressing the assumptions underlying the whole climate change framework.  These assumptions are that we can not only predict what the climate is going to do, but control it, to an extraordinary degree of pecision.  And once one thinks about it, it becomes apparent that we can't do this.  

    If intuition doesn't work, then one has to consider the moviations of one's audience and address those motivations.  But there is no general method for this. 

Randomness isn't a valid explanation for modern life

     One often sees attempts to explain the modern world by undirected processes, such as randomness,  the wisdom of the crowds, etc.  Events and trends are not explained in terms of the aims of human beings, but rather in terms of many small incidents that add up or interact in some way.  Or inevitable structure that results from randomness.  Of course, just like polls and surveys all these explanations are meant to fool people and prevent them from noticing what is really going on.  

    That is not to say that these kinds of explanations have no validity whatsoever.  They do and they can be very useful within the proper domain.  But in practice what happens is that non-purposive explanations are used to explain everything, even what is actually caused by planning and purpose.  

    One example is with lotteries.  Some people win the lottery twice.  It's a rare event, but less rare than one might think at first.  The reason is that the chance of any specific person winning the lottery twice is astronomical, but if we consider all the lottery winners who still buy tickets, the chance of any one of them winning is greater, in particular when people buy multiple tickets.  

    One name for this kind of phenomenon is the Law of truly large numbers.  The encyclopedia article states in the intro:

    "The law of truly large numbers, attributed to Persi Diaconis and Frederick Mosteller, states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen.  Because we never find it notable when likely events occur, we highlight unlikely events and notice them more.  The law seeks to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology.

    Notice that the introduction starts with a somewhat valid point, but then immediately jumps to an unjustified conclusion about supernatural events.  Forget the supernatural: lotteries aren't even a good analogy for unusual events in normal human life.   

    All possible outcomes of a lottery are proscribed in advance.  Even though the number of possible tickets is enormous, it is known ahead of time what outcomes can occur.  Furthermore, drawings occur regularly and there is no limit on the number of tickets that can be sold.  Furthermore, we can calculate precisely or at least get a good estimate of the possible outcomes.  

    This is far from ordinary life, where the unusual is often unexpected and where we have no good estimate, much less a precise calculation of the probability of any event.  Furthermore, we don't know how frequently an attempt to make an unusual event occur will happen (analogous to a lottery drawing).  

    Another example is the mathematical discipline of Ramsey theory, which studies under what circumstances certain structures inevitably occur.  The standard problem asks how what is the smallest group necessary to ensure that at least one of the following two situations must occur: 

   1. At least three members of the group know each other 

    2. At least three members of the group do not know each other

    The answer turns out to be six.  In a group of six or more people, at least one of those situations will occur, regarless of how many fellow group members each person is acquainted with.  

    In every popular article on the subject, it seems to be obligatory to add a sentence like: "Ramsey theory shows that true disorder is impossible."  The implication being that if you see something strange, it's just an inevitable structure that must have occurred.  The problem is that, as with the lottery, we are taking an extremely restricted situation and applying it where it no longer applies.  

    In the example about the group of six people, the only thing we considered was whether two members knew each other or not.  There are only two possibilities.  By contrast, in a group in the real world, there are many more relationships and interactions that can take place.  So, while it is true that provided we do not have some undifferentiated mass, there will be inevitable structures, we have no way of knowing what they are or how to find them.  

    Taking these kinds of explanations too seriously is something of a clever silly behavior.  The best explanation for human behavior is the common sense explanation, that people do things because they want to.  

    But, explaining human life in terms of undirected processes has been very effective in preventing people from attempting to find the true explanations of what occurs.  The scientific or mathematical nature of the explanations dazzles some people, allows some to feel superior by believing an unintuitive explanation.  And for the scientists or mathematicians themselves, constantly refining a model that only works in special circumstances provides a powerful distraction.  In particular when the people who choose which explanations to promote and popularize do not care about the explanations themselves.  All they care about is using them to manipulate people.  

    In addition to the arguments above, there is another common sense reason not to put too much stock in undirected explanations: randomness and coordination don't look the same.  When the same thing happens in a sufficiently widespread area, or the same events happen time after time after time, then there is no reason to believe they are random.  Furthermore, when events are uncoordinated, even when they are largely similar, there are always small, though still significant differences.  

    Even when there is both coordination and independence, as frequently happens, there is a difference between an organic situation and when someone puts their thumb on the scales.  One way this happens is by setting up a situation where people can choose anything, but only within a predetermined range of choices.  Or when individuals are constantly steered in subtle ways to make certain choices or to avoid others.  And since this effect is often much more powerful than the individual choices, it is the most important factor to consider.

    And so, while non-purposive explanations are useful in certain situations, there is no reason to apply them to the world as a whole.

An idea about polygenic inheritance

    In Bruce Charlton's post, "How are highly intelligent people sometimes born to unintelligent parents (and ancestors)", he writes: 

    "This (assuming the phenomenon is real) seems hard to explain in the way that intelligence is normally considered - in terms of intelligence being a consequence of very large numbers (thousands?) of genes-for-intelligence.  With intelligence genes conceptualized as additive in effect, and in such large numberes, it is hard to understand how a very highly intelligent child could emerge by change from low intelligence parents.

But if a person's level of intelligence is also determined by the number of deleterious mutations they inherit from their parents, and these mutations are numbered in tens - then it is imaginable that, by chance, a child may be born with a very few deletrious mutations, despite his parents having a relatively heavy mutation load. 

This notion is perhaps testable, on the basis that a low mutation load should be associated with generally higher fitness - so the high intelligence child of low intelligence parents would be expected to be (on average) taller, healthier, more symmetrical, more long-lived than his low intelligence parents."

    This seems plausible.  

    Intelligence, height, and skin color are standard examples of polygenetic traits, where instead of a single gene, many genes each with a small effect contribute to the expression of the trait.  If an individual has more genes that contribute, then the expression of their trait will greater.  If the genes are inherited independently from one another, then their expression in the population follows a Bell Curve.  

    Related to this, I wonder if there is another way that two moderately intelligent parents may have an intelligent child or two moderately tall parents may have a tall child.  Suppose that they are both intelligent or tall "in two differents ways".  Here is a simple model of this: 

    Suppose that we have four genes that affect intelligence each with two alleles, one that has no effect, represented by a lowercase letter, and one that increases intelligence, represented by an uppercase letter.  

    Now, consider two people with equal intelligence but in different ways:

I: AA BB cc dd 

II: aa bb CC DD

    Now, person I and person II had a child (Person III), that child would inherit one allele of each gene from the parent, so that child's genotype would be as follows: 

III: Aa Bb Cc Dd

    The child would have equal intelligence to the parents since all three people have four intelligence-increassing alleles.  However, if Person III had a child with someone else either with a similar genotype to themselves or similar to either of their parents, they would have a chance of having a more intelligent child than themself.  

Consider person IV: AA BB cc dd

Then, there is a chance III and IV could have a child with the following genotype: 

    V: AA BB Cc Dd

    With six intelligence-increasing alleles, V would be more intellient than V's parents or grandparents.

   Or, if III had a child with someone with a similar genotype to themself: 

VI: Aa Bb Cd Dd

Then there is a chance they could have as a child: 

VII: AA BB CC DD

who with 8 intelligence-increasing alleles is significantly more intelligent than VII's parents or grandparents.  On the other hand, they could also have a child 

VIII: aa bb cc dd 

who is less intelligent than either VIII's parents or grandparents.

  Thus, according to this model is correct, after two people who are intelligent in two different ways have a child, there is a possibility for their grandchild to be more intelligent than either the parents or grandparents.  

    It is possible that different populations might have evolved different sets of genes that which code for intelligence.  The genes not used by a population might have alleles which, unlike deleterious mutations, don't decrease intelligene, they just have no effect.  For example, some inhabitants of the Solomon islands have blond hair, but the genes that code for this trait are different than the ones that cause blond hair in Euoropeans.  So, both traits express a similar phenotype, but with different underlying genes.  

    It is also not necessary for there to be no overlap at all amongst such genes.  For instance, consider the following individuals: 

1: AA BB CC DD ee ff

II: aa bb CC DD EE FF

    I and II both have intelligence increasing alleles on the "c" and "d" genes, but they don't overlap on the "a", "b", "e", and "f" genes.  In this case, we would also see a situation in the second generation where a child more intelligent than the parents or grandparents to be born.    

Christianity and Cohesion

    Bruce Charlton's post "It seems that all actual religions are honest about what they themselves offer (but wrong about other religions)" makes a fascinating and important observation: 

    "I find it very striking - although I don't know of anybody else who does - that actually existing religions seem to be honest about what they offer their adherents."

    I understand "actually existing religions" to mean religions that aren't just made up (like Scientology), but are based on some insight into the nature of reality.  (And this includes philosophies like Stoicism or Platonism).   

    I would go farther and say that not only in what they promise, but in a broader sense, religions are constrained by their underlying nature.  They cannot change open-endedly and retain spiritual power and if their adherents try to change them in a way that is incompatible with their underling nature, things will go wrong and the change will cease to be viable (though maybe not all at once).  The exact details will be different depending on the religion and on the change. 

    In this post I want to think through this in relation to Christianity and cohesion.  My motivation comes from thinking about the fact that there are many different denominations of Christianity and wondering if they ever will become one again and if not, can they find cohesion in some other way? 

    At this point, I do not think there ever will be a single denomination of Christianity again.  Human beings are fallen, different from each other, and also the split between the denominations has gone on for so long and is involved with many other doctrinal, cultural, and historical issues.    

    But is this purely a result of human weakness or is it somehow part of the nature of Christianity?  After thinking it over, I do believe that differences (though not acrimonious divisions) among Christians would always have occurred since freedom and individuality are inherently part of Christianity.  

    To begin with, consider the 11 Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus.  Early on, we see that Peter was their leader.  He spoke at Pentecost and is shown taking a leadership role in other parts of the Acts of the apostles.  But from the descriptions given in the book of Acts, it appears that Peter's role was more that of "first among equals" rather than the ruler of the other Apostles.  Christians reading about these events after they took place are familiar with this fact.  However, one might have guessed that Jesus would have chosen one successor to be the unquestioned authority over all other Christians, just as Soloman was the king after David.  

    In addition, at some point, the Apostles went their separate ways, preaching in different places.  It does not appear to be the case that they were commanded by another human being to go to any particular place; they went where they believed they should.  Paul says in the letter to the Galatians (1:15-24): 

    "But when it pleased him, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, immediately I condescended not to flesh and blood.  Neither went I to Jerusalem, to the apostles who were before me: but I went into Arabia, and again I returned to Damascus.

    Then, after three years, I went to Jerusalem, to see Peter, and I tarried with him fifteen days.  But other of the apostles I saw none, saving James the brother of the Lord.  Now the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I lie not.  Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea, which were in Christ: but they had heard only: he, who persecuted us in times past, doth now preach the faith which once he impugned: and they glorified God in me."

    In other words, Paul viewed his mission as in parallel with the other apostles; it was complementary to their ministry, but was not ruled over by them.  If Christianty from the beginning was meant to be a religion fundamentally based on submission to external authority, Paul could never have written these sentences.  

    Also, what about the Ethiopian eunuch described in Acts 8:26-40?  Philip meets the eunuch returning to Ethiopia and baptizes him, but after returning, the eunuch may have had no contact with any other Christians for a long period of time.  Surely Philip knew that the eunuch would tell others of what he learned, but there is no mention in this passage about Philip forbidding the eunuch to teach anyone else about Christianity or telling him to submit to the authority of the apostles.  

    Also, the character of the teaching of Jesus was not based purely on submission to authority.  Jesus taught both the Apostles and ordinary people in such a way that they would be able to understand and internalize the teachings for themselves.  One the other hand, those among the Pharisees whom Jesus criticized probably did not teach the common people in this way.  Their goal was order (as they envisioned it).  

    Yet, despite the lack of a single centralized authority which demanded submission, there was indeed cohesion among the Christians after the Ascension of Jesus.  It was a variety of individuals all working towards a single goal.  Therefore, cohesion among Christians can come about by some other means than unity under external authority and indeed did come about in just such a way at the very beginning.

    Side Note: About a year ago, I had another idea related to this, which was that three of the biggest denominations among Christians were there from the beginning.  We can associate Peter with the Roman Catholic church, based on the tradition that he was first bishop of Rome, Paul with the Protestants as he preached based on his own knowledge of the scriptures, and John with the Eastern Orthodox as he was traditionally bishop of Ephesus, the captial of the Roman province of Asia and was also more mystical than the other two.  

    Interestingly enough, in his story "A short tale of the Anti-Christ", Vladimir Soloviev includes Peter II as the representative of the Roman Catholics, the Elder John the representative of the Eastern Orthodox, and Professor Pauli as the representative of the  Protestant churches.  If two people have had this idea, then probably many more have as well, so there is certainly more thinking to be done along these lines.

Leftism is not the state of nature

    A common rhetorical trick among leftists is to draw an equivalence between rejecting leftism and authoritarian governments.  They take an authoritarian government from the past or present which rejected leftism or existed before leftism and say that to go against leftism is to favor that government.  Bonald has an excellent post on this subject: "Rejecting the Enlightenment is only the beginning of thought" in which he writes: 

    "It is no doubt a great thing to free oneself from the cloud of humbug into which we are all born.  However, clearing one's vision is only the start of seeing; next we must actually look around.  One way that the Enlightenment controls the minds of billions, locking them into a degrading and absurd mental slavery, is by making people imagine that they know what's on the other side. 'Without the social contract ... tryanny!  Without separate of Church and state ... religious warfare!  Without feminism ... rape!  Without capitalism ... communism!  Without cosmopolitanism ... Nazis!  So love your chains, and repeat the slogans like a good boy.' "

    The refutation comes in next two paragraphs of the post:

    "However, those blinded by the Enlightenment have no idea what is on the other side.  How could they, with such a narrow, unimaginative, and parochial worldview?  In fact, the world of alternatives is vast, so vast that anyone beginning to step outside Enlightenment strictures should be warned that the greatest intellectual challenge is still ahead. 

    The key to rejecting liberalism (the political expression of the Enlightenment project) is to realize that it's all a swindle.  It claims to stand above every particular conception of the Good, granting freedom to all and favoritism to none, when in fact it imposes its own narrow vision on all of us.  Its claims to neutrality just mean that it gets to impose itself without every being forced to argue (or even assert) that its claims are objectively true, and that it never has to assume the responsibility that comes from being a recognized establishment."

    Related to Bonald's point, there is a similar assumption made by both leftists and even many non-leftists, which is that leftism is the "state of nature."  In other words, it is believed that leftism is just what happens when people are allowed freedom to choose what they wish.  Hence, any non-leftist society in history could only have come about by a forcible imposition from a government.  Therefore, any such society that has existed or could exist is illegitimate because it is a forced disruption of the state of nature.  

    But of course, this is completely false.  The sexual revolution provides a good example, because besides the fact that it is one of the linchpins of leftism, this assumption is particularly widespread in that case.  Even non-leftists who deplore the actual consequences of the sexual revolution still believe that it is natural.  

    But the problem is, the sexual revolution is about as far from the state of nature as you can get.  It is currently sustained by the most pervasive propaganda system ever devised.  Indeed, most people throughout their lives have been subjected to hundreds of hours of propaganda for the sexual revolution in ways both overt and covert through practically all mass media, social media, and official discourse.  And in addition to the propaganda, the sexual revolution is facilitated by efficient transportation, safety (from a world historical perspective), mass living conditions made possible by modern sanitation, and modern communications technologies, not to mention contraceptives.  In particular, modern transportation is often overlooked, but without it the sexual revolution in its current form would be almost impossible.  

    This is not to say that sanitation, peace, and transportation are bad because they are not.  But thinking through all the technologies needed in order for the sexual revolution as it currently is to exist reveals the falseness of the leftist claims that it is natural.  Not only that, one can look at the contradictory nature of leftists' own statements.  On the one hand, the SR is supposedly natural, but on the other hand we are told that it needs a vast apparatus to manage it safely.  And this even goes back to the beginning, with all the talk of "repression."  If people are repressed and this is truly unnatural, why need to argue against it?  On the other hand, if it's universal and needs to be confronted, doesn't that mean the supposed repression is natural?

    Similar considerations can be applied to other aspects of leftism.  

    As far as the belief that historical societies could only exist because they were forcibly imposed on their people, this is also completely false.  People really did think completely differently.

    For one thing, even though may governments of the past were authoritarian, their ability to control people at the micro level was far less than today.  To begin with, any propaganda before the mass communications of the 20th century was far more inefficient.  It was necessary to have people actually go out and tell people what they were supposed to hear and then repeat as necessary.  Furthermore, to compel the population to do something required physically forcing people.  This requires people to go about and do the forcing.  Of course it is true that the harsh punishments of many such societies were a powerful deterrent, but these societies could not exert widespread control of people's behavior at the micro-level; they simply did not have the manpower.  

    Furthermore, if a change in society truly is imposed only by the government, once that government goes away, the change will go away as well.  For instance, had Henry VIII been the only person who wanted to break away from the Catholic Church, once he died, England would have happily reverted to Catholicism.  Since that did not happen, we can assume there were many others who wanted to break away.  In other words, changes that are purely forced do not look the same as changes that are not.  

    Another example, borrowed from Bruce Charlton is Ancient Egypt.  As he has pointed out, this is pretty much the most conservative and stable society ever, existing for about 3,000 years.  Egypt certainly was authoritarian, with the pharaoh being regarded as a god and having immense power, but had the society as a whole been imposed on the populace purely through force, there is no way that it would have lasted so long with such stability.  

     

Chess, Chaos, and Creation

    An occasional subject for debate among chess players is whether great players of the past, if they were to come back today would be able to hold their own against or even beat the great players of today.  The reason the question is interesting is because knowledge about chess has increased over the hundreds of years the game has been around, in particular from the late 1800s to the present day.  Therefore, the greatest players of the past, if they were to play top modern players without learning the new developments, would probably have little success.


    On the other hand, because of their aptitude for the game, they might be able to learn the new developments quickly or even introduce new ideas.  But there is more to the debate.  By its very nature, chess is a game with fixed rules and a finite (though enormous) number of possibilities.  This means that over time as more is learned, new ideas become more difficult to find because they build on old ideas.  The simple concepts have already been learned, so the new ideas will be more complex.

    Furthermore, even though the number of possibilities is enormous, some moves just are better than others, so a skilled player can beat someone who makes a mistake (or even a less than optimal move) if he knows how to take advantage of it.  So, after a period of time, there is less opportunity for creativity.  

    So, as a thought experiment, I wondered, what about a different kind of game?  A game with an unbounded number of possibilities where at every move creativity is possible.  The opposite of tic-tac-toe, so to speak.  Imagine a game with an infinite number of playing cards, where each player plays a card in sequence and each card influences others in the sequence.  In such a game anything could happen.  

    In this type of game, it would be quite disruptive to play with a player of genius who was reinventing the game at every move.  Without being a genius oneself, you couldn't keep up.  In a game like this, even preparation would be difficult.  One could learn from past games but the victory would go to the more creative and intelligent almost every time.  A game like this would be analogous to the mythological stories where human beings must share the world with gods who can reshape reality at a whim, for instance, changing themselves and human beings into animals.  

    I would call this active chaos.  It is "too much" creativity in the sense that those who are most creative dominate entirely and the rest can't find a footing.  This would be in contrast to passive chaos.  Imagine a chessboard and pieces, but no rules.  In that case, nothing can happen because there are no rules to get anything started.  

    I find this helpful to think about our situation on Earth.  Passive chaos would be the chaos before creation.  Just like a set of pieces with no rules, there are endless possibilities.  Any set of rules can be imposed, but before they are, nothing can happen.  On the other hand, total open-ended creation does not allow for the less creative (in the sense of power to create as well as creativity in thinking) to learn.  They are powerless before those who can sweep away everything that has gone before.  
    
    The best situation is some rules that allow for creativity, but not too much so there can be both learning and invention.  Both active and passive chaos need to be kept under control.  And this is the situation that we do see on Earth.

Change in Society and Change in Consciousness

    What does it mean to say that society has changed because consciousness has evolved?  It means that societal changes have come about because of an internal change, a change in how human beings think, feel, and understand.  

    Most discussions about changes in society refer to external forces such as changes in laws, technology, forms of government, etc.  But although changes in consciousness are more subtle, they are also influential in societal change.  A good example where we have to consider both internal and external changes is the case of monarchy.  Monarchy has been eliminated from most countries in the modern West and in many of those where it still exists, it is drastically weakened.  This has come about from changes in the structure of government, but we also have to consider changes in consciousness.  

    The Mad Monarchist blog writes in the section "Legitimacy": 

    "First and foremost, it is the official position here at The Mad Monarchist that the legitimacy of the remaining monarchs of the world is not to be called into question.  Monarchies, in this day and age, are an endangered species and monarchies must remain ever vigilant to preserve those which remain.  If any were to fall they would most certainly not be replaced by another dynasty or alternative member of the Royal Familly but whould be replaced by a republic.  That cannot be allowed to happen.  Now is not the time to argue over centuries-old conflicts or obscure genealogical charts. 

...

The Duke of Bavaria, for example, has no wish or desire to replace HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom even if it were possible for him to do so.  

In most cases, so much time has passed that the basis of these arguments have absolutely no meaning in the modern world.  In other words, for their arguments to even be considered, the entire mindset and way of thinking of society as a whole would have to change.  Being a reactionary sort, the Mad Monarchist believes this would be much for the better, but it is certainly not about to happen and would not be magically brought about by changing the person on the throne in London or Madrid.  In most cases there would have to be the most fundamental and far-reaching religious revival in human history for these issues to even be considered by the public of today."

    The last paragraph is crucial.  It is not just a matter of changing laws or changing rulers, but changing people's "entire mindset and way of thinking", i.e., consciousness.  Even if a monarch were able to be installed by some means they would be either a powerless figurehead or a dictator with a crown.  

    The Mad Monarchist another post, "A Monarchist Hero for Today" which provides an example of what the consciousness of people was like in the days of monarchy: 

    "Picture in your mind (I doubt it will require much imagination) this scenario which I certainly see.  You have a European country, a monarchy, which seems to be as often as not taking the side of the invaders, your monarch does not seem to be much of a monarch, inspires no one and seems more intent on simply securing a comfortable life than saving the country.  The populace is divided and many people seem to simply be looking out for their own selfish interests and not for their society, their nation, as a whole.  If you see things that I see, you might think I am talking about any number of countries today.  The Kingdom of Sweden might be a good guess.  However, I have no doubt that some of you already know that I am actually describing the Kingdom of France in or about 1429 AD.  It certainly seems highly reminiscent of the present in a number of ways, though just as certainly radically dissimiliar in more.

    France was in a state of crisis and a great and ardently monarchist, pious champion stepped forward to save it.  That person was, of course, an illiterate, teenage peasant girl from Domremy in northeastern France.  

...

    All of this is clearly impressive but why does it make Joan a model hero for monarchists today?  It seems to me, there are a number of reasons.  For one, Joan revived the French national spirit, giving them back their proper sense of themselves as French, identifying with their nation and not simply their village, town or provine which might just as easily belong to the English king as the French king or the Duke of Burgundy.  She made the French proud to be French again, made them believe in their identity and purpose.  This is something, it seems to me, everyone needs more of today in practically every country.  That goes for traaditionalists, conservatives and right-wingers just as much as those of the liberal, leftist or revolutionary varieties.  The left hates their countries for what they were, which is fine as they wish to destroy them anyway.  However, the right tends to hate their countries for what they are and this is deliberate for you will hardly have much zeal to fight for the salvation of your country if you do not love it.  Joan lived in what was possibly the darkest period in the history of France, she could have easily been discourged, but she fought for the France that could be, that should be and looked beyond the divided, dispirited country that was.  

Also, very much like today, Joan had to confront traditional institutions that were less than ideal.  However, she had a quality that made her immune to the damage this could cause.  Joan of Arc possessed a type of loyalty that seems exceedingly rare in this day and age, even among many who call themselves monarchists or royalists.  

...

She never faltered in her own loyalty, she fought the battles that made it possible for the king to do what he needed to do and she urged him toward the proper course of action but her loyalty did not depend on the King acting as she saw fit or of him reciprocating her commitment. "   

    Another example comes from Andrew Lang's writes in his book The Story of Joan of Arc

    "The Dauphin had no money to pay his troops, but men-at-arms came in, hundreds of them, saying that they would fight for the love of the Maid and of chivalry.  Not doubt they would have been very glad to crown her, in place of the stupid Dauphin, but the French law did not allow it; and Joan wanted nothing for herself, only to make France free, and go back to her mother, as she said."

    In other words, people in those days really believed in idea of legitimacy through descent; the idea that she could have started a revolution and become a queen would have been unthinkable to Joan of Arc.  Furthermore, the underlying motivation of the citizens of monarchies was strong enough that willingly risked their lives for their king.   

    All of this has changed drastically in the present time.  But, examining this change this through the perspective of the evolution of consciousness helps us to understand it better.  Things have changed not just because of revolutions or propaganda, but because people's underlying way of thinking has evolved.  A modern person cannot make themself think like someone from the 1400s.  

    This change in consciousness does not mean that monarchy can never come again, just that the old form of monarchy is no longer possible.  It may well be that if the world survives, then some new type of monarchy based on a different form of consciousness will arise.  In fact, something like this has already happened.  The form of government of the early United States, though inspired by the Roman Republic and Athenian democracy, was not an exact continuation of either of them but a new thing because (in addition to the geographic differences and other external circumstances) the consciousness of an 18th century American was very different from that of either an ancient Roman or Athenian.

    Monarchy is one example, but there are many others which show that we should take into account the development in consciousness as well as external factors when trying to understand changes in society.  

Three lost christian writings

    Three lost Christian writings which would be interesting to read are the books of Hegesippus and Papias, as well the Acts of Pilate.  The Acts of Pilate was an account that Pilate wrote of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus and sent to the emperor Tiberius.  There is an apocryphal document with that title, but there is evidence that a real Acts of Pilate existed.  One example is that the early Christin Philosopher Justin Martyr writes refers to them his First Apology

    "How it was prophesied that our Christ would heal all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was spoken, as follows: 'At his coming the lame will leap like a hart, and the stammering tongue will be clear; blind will see and lepers be cleansed, and the dead will arise and walk.'  That he did these things, you can learn from the Acts of what took place under Pontius Pilate."

    No doubt Pilate's view of the miracles of Jesus was different than that of the Christians.  However, although some Romans were skeptical of the existence of the supernatural, many, even those who disbelieved in Christianity had no difficulty in accepting the miraculous healings of Jesus.  Indeed, pagan writer Eunapius writes of the philosopher Porphyry (who wrote a book against Christianity which only survives in quotation from other authors because all copies were burned): 

    "And he says too that he cast out and expelled some sort of daemon from a certain bath; the inhabitants called this daemon Kusatha."

    In other words, many Romans admitted the possibility of, and actually believed in, miraculous healings and other supernatural events, but their understanding of their significance was different than that of the Christians.  

    More evidence for the existence of the Acts of Pilate comes from Eusebius in his History of the Church: 

    "Our Saviour's marvellous resurrection and ascension into heaven were by now everywhere famous, and it had long been customary for provincial governors to report to the holder of the imperial office any change in the local situation, so that he might be aware of all that was going on.  The story of the resurrection from the dead of our Saviour Jesus, already the subject of general discussion all over Palestine, was accordingly communicated  by Pilate to the emperor Tiberius.  For Pilate knew all about Christ's supernatural deeds, and especially how after death He had risen from the dead nd was now generally believed to be a god.  

    It is said that Tiberius referred the report to the senate, which rejected it.  The apparent reason was that they had not gone into the matter before, for the old law still held good that no one could be regarded by the Romans as a god unless by vote and decree of the senate; the real reason was that no human decision or commendation was required for the saving teaching of the divine messge.  In this way the Roman council rejected the report sent to it about our Saviour, but Tiberius made no change in his attitude and formed no evil designs against the teachings of Christ."

    As with Justin Martyr's reference, it is not likely that Pilate believed in the resurrection of Jesus; he probably viewed people's discussion of the resurrection as the emergence of a new religious sect.  Nonetheless, this document would be worth reading because it would give us a description of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity from a Roman perspective.  

    Hegesippus's writings have been lost, but he lived in the 100s AD and wrote five books that described events that happened in the early Church, many after the Acts of the Apostles.  For example, Eusebius quotes Hegesippus's description of the martyrdom of James, the first bishop of Jerusalem, who was killed by the Scribes and Pharisees.  This James was not James the Apostle, but a relative of Jesus who was a Nazirite (like Samson) and was widely respected because of his upright manner of living.

    Papias wrote five books called The Sayings of the Lord Explained.  Eusebius writes: 

    "Pre-eminent at that time in Asia was a companion of the Apostles, Polycarp, on whom the eyewitnesses and ministers of the Lord had conferred the episcopate of the church at Smyrna.  Famous contemporaries of his were Papias, bishop of the see of Hierapolis, and one who to this day is universally remembered - Ignatius, the second to be appointed to the bishopric of Antioch in succession to Peter."

    Papias did not know the Apostles personally, but he spoke with those who had known them.  Eusebius quotes Papias as writing: 

    "And whenever anyone came who had been a follower of the presbyters, I inquired into the words of the Presbyters, what Andrew or Peter had said, or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord, were still saying.  For I did not imagine that things out of books would help me as much as the utterances of a living and abiding voice."

    Since Papias spoke with people for whom the age of the Apostles was still a living memory, his books would have much of historical interest.  

    Unfortunately, all of these books are long gone.  But then again, it is not unprecedented that long-lost Christian writings be recovered.  The Infogalactic page on Hegesippus says: 

    "Zahn has shown that the work of Hegesippus may still have been extant in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in three Eastern libraries, saying: 'We must lament the loss of other portions of the Memoirs which were known to exist in the seventeenth century.' "

    Furthermore, the Didache, an early document of Christian teaching, which had been referred to by other writings, but lost was rediscovered.  The Penguin Classics Early Christian Writings gives the following account: 

    "Towards the end of 1883, Philotheos Bryennios, then Metropolitan of Nicomedia, astonished the world by publishing a text of The Didache which he had discovered ten years earlier in a small eleventh-century codex of 120 pages in the library in Constantinople belonging to the Patriarch of Jerusalem (it has since been transferred to Jerusalem) - a manuscript we have already encountered as it contains the only complete Greek texts we know of the epistles of Clement and Barnabas.

    Another example of a lost and found again text is the Epistle to Diognetus.  The introduction to Early Christian Writings says: 

    "In about 1435 in Constantinople, where he had gone to study Greek, a young Italian student, Thomas of Arezzo, discovered amonst a pile of packing paper in a fish market a rather tattered volume of ecclesiastical writings in Greek.  The first five treatises in this manuscript volume were spurious works acribed to Justin Martyr, i.e., the second century apologist the fifth of them headed 'By the same [i.e. Justin], to Diognetus.  ... It was a work previously unknown - neither Eusebius nor any of the Fathers refers to it - and this sole manuscript was the basis of many editions, from that of H. Estienne in 1592 onwards, until the manuscript was destroyed in the flames of Strasbourg in 1870, a victim of the Franco-Prussian War.

... 

it is the sole - though fleeting - evidence of a work that has fascinated since its discovery.  It is written in Greek of a conscious elegance rare among early Christian writings, even though at times, because of illegibility, it becomes barely comprehensible."  

The Hall of Mirrors Effect

      When people read or hear something from different sources, they are inclined to take more notice.  In particular, if a particular idea...