Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Personal spiritual experiences and evidence for the truth of religion - Blake Ostler


I have added emphasis in bold.

Q: What should you conclude when your spiritual experience conflicts with logical and tangible evidence?

A: This is a very good question. First I would suggest this, there’s nothing more immediate than your own experience. Only you know what your experience is. If it conflicts with logic? Trust me, I’m very good at logic and I know there are a lot of ways to do logic to make it conflict with just about anything I can come up with, that’s what I do for a living {laughter}. 

And tangible evidence? We don’t know what evidence is until we have all of our basic premises and axioms in place to begin with. You see, when I see through the lens of faith what counts as evidence is different than when I don’t see through the lens of faith.

In fact, I found something very interesting among people who have lost testimonies. Almost invariably they will say, “I had a testimony and then I decided, ‘I’m going to take a look at this without relying on spiritual experiences or the way that I see things when I trust the Spirit. I’m just going to see what logic or evidence provides.'”

The fact is that evidence isn’t self-interpreting, and logic is only a very useful tool for arriving – and I am very “Humean” about logic. All logic is ex post facto to prove what we already feel is true; how’s that?

Q: How can one find the truth when two people experience two opposite things while praying about the Book of Mormon? One gets the feeling it’s true, the other gets the feeling it’s wrong?

A: Well, I say trust your experience...

Trust your Heavenly Father. What I said was that the experience that anybody else has is not evidence for us. If somebody else has a different experience, I think I have good prima facia reason for believing my own experience as opposed to theirs. What else can I do?

And it comes down to faith. Am I going to trust my heart or not? Am I going to have an open heart or am I going to close it? That’s the bottom line. 

So trust your own experience and if your own experience tells you that the Book of Mormon just can’t be, and God confirms that, then go with God.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

What is the definition of entropy?

Having recently blogged on the subject:

I feel that it would be helpful for readers to have a clearer definition of entropy.

Luckily, one already exists, in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome:

I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average tow-line, and stretched it out straight across the middle of a field, and then turned your back on it for thirty seconds, that, when you looked round again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in a heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tied itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take you a good half-hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again.
That is my opinion of tow-lines in general.  Of course, there may be honourable exceptions; I do not say that there are not.  There may be tow-lines that are a credit to their profession—conscientious, respectable tow-lines—tow-lines that do not imagine they are crochet-work, and try to knit themselves up into antimacassars the instant they are left to themselves.  I say there may be such tow-lines; I sincerely hope there are.  But I have not met with them.
This tow-line I had taken in myself just before we had got to the lock.  I would not let Harris touch it, because he is careless.  I had looped it round slowly and cautiously, and tied it up in the middle, and folded it in two, and laid it down gently at the bottom of the boat.  Harris had lifted it up scientifically, and had put it into George’s hand.  George had taken it firmly, and held it away from him, and had begun to unravel it as if he were taking the swaddling clothes off a new-born infant; and, before he had unwound a dozen yards, the thing was more like a badly-made door-mat than anything else.
A modern equivalent can be observed with the wires attached to those little earphone things that you use for listening to audio devices such as small radios, mobile phones, iPods and the like.

How assortative mating (of surplus offspring) could purge accumulating mutations each generation. Implications for human intelligence

Sexual selection is usually a more proximate and often more rapid and powerful mechanism of natural selection than selection based on differential survival - because animals excluded from mating, or whose matings do not lead to viable offspring, have their genetic contribution cut short immediately - in the same generation.

Adverse sexual selection is reproductive death: genetic death.

Assortative mating is a mechanism of sexual selection in which similar females mate with similar males - similar in terms of some aspect of their phenotype such as 'beauty', status, or an ability such as intelligence - these aspects of phenotype being significantly correlated with genetic differences.

Thus the 'fittest' (those having highest reproductive potential and - through most of human history - the lowest deleterious mutation loads) will pair with the fittest, and vice versa


When humans are producing a several-fold surplus of offspring, natural selection needs to have mechanisms by which as high a proportion as possible of the following generation are on average parented by those carrying the minimum load of deleterious mutations - and this requires that those carrying the greatest mutation load be mostly prevented from producing sexually mature offspring (I say 'mostly' because by chance some small proportion offspring of the population of those with highest mutation loads will - by chance - be low in mutations).


In assortative mating, then, a minority of the population who are the most 'attractive' and fittest males and females will pair-off and have (on average) a large number of (mostly) fit children (without accumulation of mutations) - while the majority of the population who are least attractive, the least fit, and the heaviest mutation-load bearers will be left-over.

This population majority of left-over males and females may not have a sexual partner (reproductive death), or the females may have a share in mating with the minority of high fitness males, or else a male and a female pair who are both low attractiveness/ low fitness/ heavy mutation load will mate - but have a very low (but not zero) probability of raising offspring to viable sexual maturity.

(The effective of sexual selection is usually greatest on the males; with a higher proportion of males than females having zero matings, zero long term sexual partners, zero viable offspring. Thus, it is one function of the male sex to be the main way in which new mutations are purged from the population.) 

Therefore, assortative mating of this type - with 'the fittest' parenting almost all of the next generations offspring - has the potential, in combination with normal natural selection based on survival, to (on average) purge all newly occurred mutations from a population with each generation; so each new generation can - in effect - start afresh with a minimal mutational load.


Reflecting on the above scenario in light of human society in the developed nations over the past century plus - it can be seen that the effects of the industrial revolution has been to put assortative mating into reverse; and not merely to fail to purge all new mutations from a population with each generation - but actually to amplify the proportion of new mutations in a population with each generation.

This happens by a combination of chosen sub-replacement fertility among the fittest (instead of, as has been usual in human history, the fittest parenting almost-all the next generation); with the least-fit who carry the heaviest mutational load parenting most of the next generation (instead of almost none of them). 

Furthermore, instead of a system which over-produces offspring who are then selected for optimum fitness; we now have a system which under-produces offspring - so there is no possibility of ordinary natural selection or sexual selection or any combination of the two being able to purge the new mutations from each new generation!


In such a scenario it is easy to understand how a fitness-sensitive trait such as intelligence (as objectively measured by reaction time) has declined so much and so rapidly over the past century plus.


The effect of failing to purge newly occurring mutations with each generation is that mutations accumulate and overwhelm that particular lineage with random genetic damage; each new generation will have more genetic damage and lower fitness than the previous generation; and after a number of generations, that particular lineage will lose fitness completely and become extinct. 

Note: The above idea concerning the vital role of assortative mating in purging of mutation accumulation is substantially derived from my conversations with Michael A Woodley.

Monday, 15 September 2014

God and entropy

Did God make entropy a law of the known universe, or is entropy prior to God and God constrained by entropy?

Could God have made a world without entropy, could He have made this world without entropy - a world that was not tending to corruption and chaos - and if so why didn't he?


For the medieval 'scholastic' theologians, the mortal sub-lunar world was the place of entropy - of decay, death and sin - and the Heavenly world was a place of eternal and perfect harmony. Entropy was therefore pretty much a product of Satan and his demons (all entropy is evil, but not all evil is entropy).

But it is hard to make such a world picture coherent, and hard to understand how two such different worlds can have any meaningful relationship (i.e. an always-corrupting and death-filled world of entropy, versus an eternal and changeless world of perfection).


Although entropy is destructive of life, we moderns find it hard to imagine life without entropy; in the sense that any active process would seem liable to accumulate damage.

Or, to put it the other way around, if something is static, eternal and perfect - and therefore invulnerable to entropy - we find it hard to suppose that it is actually alive.

So the medieval view of divinity and Heaven seems to secure invulnerability to entropy only at the cost of something that sounds very much like death!


I think that a Christian requires that a life, a specific life, must have a distinctive and personal essence which is eternal and indestructible - despite entropy.

Rather than zero-entropy stasis; what I think this implies is an eternal, active, energy using-and energy-generating process acting to purge entropy from each eternally-living entity.

In a nutshell, this is the process of making form, structure, organization - as a fundamental principle.


So, anything alive is alive because of the form-generating principle; and also tends to lose form and die due to entropy - the end-result depends on the relative strength of these processes of form versus entropy.

On this earth, it seems entropy is stronger than form (death is stronger than life) - so all living forms will sooner or later be overwhelmed by entropy, and will die.

Eternal life requires the opposite predominance - of form over entropy, life over death - so that although (presumably) entropy continues to occur, it is continually purged and structure continues... forever.

The possible implication is that we inhabit this high entropy world for a reason to do with the domination of the process and tendency of change - corruption, ageing and sin. But also that this mortal life is temporary and will necessarily end in death. The domination of entropy will end.

And that our habitation of this entropically-dominant kind of world is not an accident, but in some way a part of God's plan for us.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

William Arkle on God's motivation for creation

From "Wisdom" in The Great Gift by William Arkle, 1977

My understanding of this absolute form of wisdom depends on an ability I believe we have to resonate with the deep heart of our being into the deep heart of the Creator's being and feel, with that very deep sense of in-feeling, how the Creator felt towards creation before it began.

In other words one can learn to feel what it was that the Creator was longing for, aspiring to, or simply desiring, from the great work and the great effort that he has engaged in in what is known to us as creation.

Now, if we can feel with all our deepest understanding, our deepest intelligence and our deepest perception, what it was that the Creator looked for, above all else, in creation, then, and only then, shall we be close to the absolute point of wisdom which I believe is in the absolute point of deepest desire in the heart of the Creator's being.

As I myself attempt to do this, I come away with the understanding that the greatest longing that was in the Creator's heart before creation, and which brought about creation and brought into existence the individual beings, who each of us is in the Creator's eyes and to one another, was the desire to have real individual friends, in the deepest possible meaning of that word.

Friends to share his understanding, his joy and his wisdom within the context of real friendship, which creates a vital relationship between each friend and the other friend, from which ever-renewing possibilities and responses can grow.

My feeling is that the Creator first of all wished to bring into existence real and individual children, whose nature was based on a part of his own divine nature, but the characteristics of which were to be developed by each of those individual children as they grew up in the universes, or the universities, of his creation. They would develop in the nature of their own individual spirits, so that each of those children would become a unique individual child and then, hopefully, would become more than a child - would wish to grow into a mature condition which was not as a child to the Creator, but was as an individual being to the Creator.

Thus all these beings could each have creative relationships of friendship and gladness with one another and with the Creator. Not with the Creator as a special 'God' individual, who was not approachable as other friends are approachable, but He himself wanted to be able to befriend us and have a creative friendship with us as we befriend one another and have a creative friendship with one another.


This is one of several phrasing's of William Arkle's fundamental and much-needed insight - which he got through personal revelation; since understanding this early in 2014, I have found it to be wonderfully helpful and clarifying. 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

The Origins of Life problem reconceptualized - implications of the new replication-entropy-natural selection idea

Continuing from:

The origin of life is not a problem!

Since replication is built into things, and can be 'taken for granted' (many inorganic molecules and other structures with propagate and make copies of themselves, in the right environment)

- then if we define 'life' in terms of replicating entities subject to natural selection (which is the usual modern concept of life, that embraces viruses and other things that lack a 'metabolism') it can be seen that life is something that can be taken for granted.

Life is something that happens whenever there is propagation or copying of any structured entity (such as a molecule or a process).

So, life will be starting all the time and all over the place; but the big problem for any replicating entity is that entropic damage with rapidly accumulate, generation upon generation and most lineages will rapidly become extinct after just a few generations.

So, we can envisage a world in which life is not a problem, life is starting out again and again and all over the place; but almost all instances of life very rapidly become extinct.

The primary function of natural selection is therefore to combat entropic damage, and to enable life lineages to survive.

Natural selection would be most likely to kick in where there is massive overproduction of 'offspring', that is to say overproduction of replicates and propagated copies of all types. In such a situation, a large population and more time make it possible that some variants will be sufficiently stable as to maintain themselves against entropy (e.g. actual crystalline structures such as we observe in the world are examples of successful variants of sufficient stability or accuracy or repair as to combat entropy).

So the proper way to consider natural selection in relation to the origins of life is not to think about how replication began in terms of replicators developing adaptations to enhance the survival of their information, but to consider how entropic accumulation and extinction was avoided.

It is the difference between explaining life as something which originates in adaptation, and explaining how life is spontaneous but with an intrinsic tendency to die (death being entropic loss of structure and organization).

So the focus shifts from explaining the origins of life to explaining the continuation of life; from explaining how life is formed to explaining how the extinction of formed-life is prevented.


(Note - in a phrase, I am suggesting that the Origins of Life is primarily a Red Queen phenomenon; 'running to stay in the same place' - i.e. there must be an active process in order to sustain life as it is.)

Friday, 12 September 2014

Who is Jehovah/ God in the Old Testament - an update

Continuing from:

I was recently reading Blake Ostler, who is my go-to guy on theology - and he argued that it looks as if the term Jehovah, or God in the Old Testament, is not used with consistency. It usually refers to Jesus Christ, in his pre-incarnate form, but not always - sometimes God refers to God the Father. And sometimes this cannot be clearly established.

All of which suggests the matter of distinguishing whether the Father or Son is referenced is not always important.

This is supported by the data cited in FAIR Mormon

SO - despite what I stated here

It seems that the name Jehovah is not always referring to Jesus, but sometimes and often, it is. 

I am pleased about this, it is something of a relief - because sometimes a strictly 100% identification of Jehovah with Jesus - which I thought was theologically insisted upon -  did seem forced


Superstitious worry

Superstitious worry is the fear that, if you stop worrying about bad stuff that might happen, then the bad stuff will happen.

Consequently, people deliberately make themselves miserable and resist allowing themselves to feel carefree - in case this provokes retribution.

I am sadly prone to this species of pernicious nonsense - and I guess I am not alone.


Time and being - William Arkle's description of a mystical experience of 'Absolute consciousness'/ a glimpse of divinization

From A Geography of Consciousness (1974) by William Arkle - pages 88-90

The Absolute [Real] Self is in a position... to experience and express the highest qualities and attitudes without distortion or compromise, for the nature of matter-consciousness at this level is extremely fine, responsive and vital; and almost devoid of the density and friction which is associated with physical matter. The experience of existence at this level of manifestation must consequently be blissful, exhilarating and free...

Since time is the result of friction, viscosity and inertia which results in opposition to movement, communication and adaptability; and since the actual experience of time as it comes to us is the same experience as space; it is the essential content of movement and the experience of movement.

If we, at the physical level, cut ourselves off from all movement in the world about us, we will cease to get any sense impressions and shortly experience the feeling of 'being' as distinct from 'living'.

This sense of being, without time or space considerations, is close to the true condition of Absolute consciousness. For a while, we still get some sense of continuing identity in some form of time sequence; this time sequence is not linked to anything which we can identify.

The result of this experience is that we are made more aware than usual of the fact that innermost consciousness is concerned with qualities and attitudes which it has to learn to generate on its own without outside stimulus. When it has learned to do this, it has also learned to be truly creative, and may be said to be a god.


I interpret this passage as describing how - in thought but not in practice, in consciousness but detached from 'the world' - we may glimpse and actually experience what it is like to be further advanced in the process variously described as spiritual progression, theosis or divinization.

Such knowledge is motivating and inspiring; and may be necessary in order that we know where we are going, what direction to aim-at, and how to recognize progress when we achieve it.  


I also find Arkle's descriptions of the nature of time (the result of friction, viscosity and inertia) and 'spiritual' matter (extremely fine, responsive and vital) - and their relation (the actual experience of time as it comes to us is the same experience as space) to be useful, and valid-seeming. They are similar to the accounts of Joseph Smith - representing another convergence/ mutual validation of Arkle with Mormon metaphysics.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Understanding the Final Judgement

A lot of modern people find it difficult or even impossible to square the basic and overall nature of Christianity with some descriptions of God's final judgement; in which our perfectly-loving Heavenly Father seems to be taking delight in consigning great masses of people to everlasting and unimaginable torment for what seem like rather trivial errors, incompetence, gullibility, ignorance and minor misdemeanours.  

They are not necessarily wrong: some descriptions of the Last Judgement are clearly based on such utterly different premises and ways of understanding that they really don't make sense at all in light of what sincere and real modern Christians can understand of the nature of their faith.

So, unless we can come up with a better while still valid description of Judgement, then this will be a very serious stumbling block for some of the people who would potentially make 'the best' Christians - those people naturally abundant in love, compassion, and fairness.

Here goes:


Judgement is when resurrected Man, after death, is confronted by reality, and is made to understand it.

Then Man must choose - and this choice is God's judgement.

Either choose to acknowledge the primary authority, truth, beauty and virtue of God, to submit to the judgement of reality; and to join with God in pursuing His divine plan. 

Or Man will choose his own primary authority; each Man therefore locating truth, beauty and virtue in himself - and judging God and the divine plan by his own lights, and resolving to pursue his own individual plans.

Man has the power to reject God; God respects that power and gives Man what he has chosen. In one sense Man judges God and rejects Him; in another sense God judges Man by accepting that rejection.


There is nothing strange or difficult about this understanding. A loving mortal human parent, and earthly father for instance, does much the same with his children when they grow-up. The analogy is close (although not, of course, exact in all respects).

A grown-up child can choose to remain part of his loving earthly family, and joined to the adventures and aspirations of that family in the world - he can remain a part of that loving network; or else the grown-up child can reject his family, cut himself off from the family, live existentially separate from the family, cease to love that family.

A good earthly father must respect that grown-up child's decision, yet without ever ceasing to love the child who has rejected him and his love, and the love of all the family.

And that father may become angry if the rejecting-child tries to poison the minds of the family, torments or exploits the family; the earthly father may need to be stern, and may need to exclude the rejecting and malicious child (whom, nonetheless, he continues sorrowfully to love).

The rejecting child has, in effect, chosen to live in a hell of pride, ego and isolation: perhaps a state of eternal torment. The loving father accepts this choice with sorrow...

- however the father's angry and stern judgement may insist that the chosen hell in which the rejecting child dwells is segregated from the family, is elsewhere than the family home - that the rejecting child is excluded from the family - and that the loving and innocent are to a sufficient extent protected from the direct and insatiable depredations of those who have chosen to dwell in hell.


Why final judgment? Because it may be final - a choice may never be reversed.

But the two situations of salvation and damnation are not symmetrical. Salvation cannot in principle be reversed - because of its nature salvation is a one-way ratchet of spiritual progress; while damnation is a self-chosen doom of a type that our earthly experience shows may in practice be irreversible (the miserable, hate-and-resentment-filled addict to drugs, sex, or violence may in practice never repent).

The choice of salvation therefore caanot be reversed, while the choice of damnation may not be reversed.  


Choice and judgement: Two sides of the same coin. Love and sorrow; anger and sternness - likewise.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reconceptualizing natural selection as primarily concerned with counteracting entropy (e.g. mutation accumulation)

Reconceptualizing natural selection as primarily concerned with counteracting entropy (e.g. mutation accumulation)

Michael A Woodley and I have developed a new conceptualization of the fundamental process of natural selection. 

It draws on diverse perspectives such as a couple of years of conversations about the cause of decline in intelligence (g) since Victorian times (especially the importance of mutation accumulation due to the massive decline in child mortality rates -, the work of WD Hamilton on the evolution of sexes, Graham Cairns-Smith's work on the origins of life, an old paper of mine on 'endogenous parasitism', recent discussion on the implications of the 'mouse utopia' experiment and more.  

Obviously, this is being written-up in a referenced form for publication - but I am posting an outline of the idea because it is quite straightforward and may attract some useful preliminary feedback.


The essence of the idea is that replication is not the main problem for living entities, indeed replication can be taken for granted.

The big problem for living entities is entropy; the main answer to entropy is natural selection, and the main anti-entropic mechanism of natural selection is massive overproduction of offspring with various means of selectively culling the most entropically-damaged offspring.

In terms of genetics; this could be understood in terms of saying that something like mutation-selection balance is the essence of natural selection


On Graham Cairns-Smith's conception of life, natural selection is built-into reality – NS is simply a part of the world – certainly part of chemistry (e.g. crystal propagation), probably physics too. In evolutionary terms, there is no dividing line between organic and inorganic, alive and dead.

Therefore, Life (in the sense of replicating entities subject to natural selection) is to be found pretty-much everywhere – not just in biology.


So the main problem for a living entity is not to make copies of itself, replication can be 'taken for granted' as a kind of universal phenomenon, but the main problem is to counteract entropy.

Entropy, that is to say random damage to replicating entities from many sources and copying errors during replication, is inevitable. Indeed, entropy will tend to degrade any identifiable structure, and any form of organization. Over time, the tendency is for all structure and organization to be returned to randomness.

This means that all lasting structures and all types of organization must overcome entropic degradation.

So, any actually-observable entity has already solved the problem of entropy to the extent that it is indeed observable! Any structured or organized thing which exists has solved the problem of entropy such that it at least came into existence, was sustained long enough to be observable by us, and - unless it is unique - has some mechanism for making more-of-itself: for replicating.


Furthermore, entropy affects all replication - so there are errors in replication that enter in the transmission of information between parent and offspring.

In a nutshell, this means that there is an unavoidable, intrinsic and cumulative entropic tendency for the fitness of any naturally selected lineage to decline to zero - to extinction, to non-life.

An example of this would be the tendency for mutations to occur in each parent organism, to be transmitted from parent to offspring - with new mutations occurring during the replication process, and for such mutations to accumulate generation upon generation until extinction.

Indeed this is not just additive accumulation, but there is a tendency towards a positive feedback cycle, in which mutations damage functionality which leads to more and additional, and uncorrected mutations.

So, the suggestion is that the fundamental problem for any entity is not replication, but combating entropy.


One implication is that the basic function of a molecule like DNA is not a matter of achieving replication - because replication would already have been happening, and can be taken for granted; DNA (and its evolution) is primarily about a mechanism of more-accurate/ less error-full replication.

So, the main question for living things is: how is entropy controlled?

And the main answer is: Natural Selection.

The context of Natural Selection (NS) is thus massive over-production of offspring (and spores, seeds, ova, sperm etc), and the strongly-selective reproductive-culling of offspring to eliminate accumulated entropic damage (such as mutations).

Thousands or millions of offspring (etc) may be generated, and selectively eliminated.


So, the context of the intrinsic decline of fitness in all replicating entities means that the main thrust of evolution by natural selection is simply to maintain fitness - to prevent extinction from intrinsic entropic tendencies - and not to improve fitness, nor to evolve adaptations.

So, this is a Red Queen phenomenon (in which there is running fast just to stay in the same place). Natural selection is necessary to maintain fitness in the face of the entropic tendency for fitness to disappear.

In other words, the phenomenon described as mutation-selection balance is not a specific, contingent, occasional circumstance: but the normal and indeed primary nature of natural selection as it applies to a genetic organism.

The genetics of NS is not primarily about evolving new genes but primarily about preserving from (entropic) destruction what are already-successful genes. It is about preventing the intrinsic tendency towards corruption/ degradation of an already- known-to-be-successful genetic recipe.


In sum, NS happens in what are ‘already fit’, already replicating, massively-over-reproducing, entities. Lacking which, fitness inevitably regresses to zero.

So – the main thrust of evolution (NS) is to maintain fitness. (A Red Queen sort of thing.)

The usual method for combating entropic damage is massive overproduction of offspring, and therefore Disposable Offspring.

The usual, background situation was that replication was not a problem, and sufficient offspring survival could be taken for granted in the immediate short –term – the problem was the distal long term of a few generations ahead at the point when the tendency was for mutation accumulation to destroy fitness.


Short term fitness, over the next few generations, was not the major problem - since there was such over-production of offspring; therefore long-term fitness beyond the next few generations is THE major problem.

Therefore, because in this conceptualization, natural selection implicitly looks-forward several generations,  so this is not about the single organism and its fitness but is instead a 'group-ish theory' kind of selection process.


With such a concept, it is trivially easy for individuals to ‘sacrifice’ their own fitness to some degree, or even the fitness of the immediate next generation or two - when the longer term fitness of the group of descendants is significantly enhanced. (This is a consequence of short-term replication being 'taken for granted' due to the context of massive over-production of offspring.

There is a very low cost to ‘adaptations’ which somewhat lower individual fitness if there is a fitness advantage in the next few generations – because the next few generations are almost guaranteed – they are not the big problem. The big problem is entropy, hence mutation accumulation – and that takes a few generations.

A pay-off two or three generations down the line is therefore almost-directly selected for, in the sense that the short term costs are trivial in the context of massive overproduction and a world of replication-not-a-problem.


Sexual reproduction was, by this account, relatively easy to evolve; because it enabled better control of entropy (see the work of WD Hamilton - but replacing/ adding to 'parasites' with spontaneously occurring entropic damage), e.g. the purging of mutations, the purifying of the gene pool of second, third etc –generations of offspring.

What gets naturally selected is therefore fitness down-the-line.

In a sense, the proximate locus of natural selection is a few generations ahead; specifically the future generations whose fitness would have declined to zero absent the operations of natural selection.

(This is different from the main emphasis of the conceptualization of mainstream selfish gene theory - which only very seldom allows for the possibility of long-term 'group' fitness advantage overcoming a significant short-term fitness disadvantages. In our view the short-term disadvantages are trivial in effect in a context of 'replication taken for granted' and the usual situation of massive overproduction of offspring.)


The new conceptualization of NS implies that ‘competition’ with other living things is mainly about preventing the accumulation of entropic damage. Competition with other living things, including other members of the same species, is primarily about the purging, purifying or culling of a large majority of offspring - as the primary method for removing what would otherwise be fitness, lethal accumulations of mutations.


Note added 11 Sep 2014:

New concept of Natural Selection: RES
1. Replication
2. Entropy
3. Selection

1. Replication is taken as given, 2. entropy tends to degrade structures and organization to stop replication (extinction of lineage), 3. natural selection controls the entropy - lineage is maintained.

By contrast -

Traditional concept of Natural Selection: ERS
1. Entropy
2. Replication
3. Selection

1. Entropy generates variants 2. some of which replicate, and 3. some of these undergo natural selection to expand and create a lineage.

Comments, corrections and suggestions are welcome

A proud day! - I am mentioned in an article by Scyld Berry: probably the best cricket writer in the world


Very unfortunate, however, that the occasion should be the banning of Saeed Ajmal - who is my favourite bowler currently active in world cricket

What should single men *do*?

Some ideas, or notions - from a perspective which sees current arrangements as extremely bad and contributing to vast misery and despair.

I am implicitly referring to able-bodied men in decent health, who can work and make a living.


Given that it is generally much better to be married and to have children; what about those men (and it would mostly be men) who do not marry, do not have children - and whose lives are therefore celibate (as the ideal)?

1. Do not live alone. People are not meant to live alone: it is bad for them.

If you have one and if possible, continue to live with your family. If you don't or can't, then live communally in some kind of structured environment (like a college, boarding school, the military or other community). Or with a group of friends or similarly-placed men. At least have meals together.

But if no such thing exists, as is usually the case, the prospects are indeed bleak. Finding some such environment should be a life-priority. 

2. Work is not enough. Work and leisure is not enough.

You must be religious, and live a life of service in a (real) church if you are not to go off the rails psychologically and spiritually - one way or the other.

3. If possible and appropriate, befriend and become attached to some family or families that you can help in whatever ways they need, and where you can become 'part of the family' to some extent.

The life of a 'live in' servant of some type may be suitable (caretaker, gardener etc) as long as it is not solitary.

4. If you are a Christian with a 'monastic' tradition of the religious life, consider living in a religious community, and serving that community in whatever capacity they need - perhaps as a 'lay brother'.

The above list is far from exhaustive - but the problem for single men is, and doubtless always will be, a real one - and, psychologically, a big one.


Note added: I think the point I most would emphasize is that the single man must not make work his priority, and fit everything else around it. Nor should he live for his leisure: for weekends and holidays. Neither of those will be effective, and either may prevent him finding what he really needs. The strategic priorities, that towards which he plans and schemes, should be along the lines described above. For example, he might seek a job in a place where there is a good church, or to stay with his family. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Advocacy of sin is the worst evil: worse than actually sinning - some implications


Which is why the mass media is by far the most evil entity which has ever existed.

It is generally not understood, even by Christians, that it is standard Christian doctrine that advocating sin is far worse than actually sinning. The reason is that sinning (to some significant extent) is unavoidable and a part of the human condition, while advocating sin is deliberate.

So the primary virtue is to advocate virtue; the worst sin is to advocate sin.


Actually being virtuous is certainly a good thing, the best thing - but is not always possible to everybody - for reasons of character and circumstance, weakness and ignorance.

Intellectuals preen themselves on their virtuousness because they refrain from violence and theft  - yet theologically speaking modern intellectuals are - as a class - practitioners of deliberate evil on an vast scale in their systematic destruction of truth, beauty and virtue.

And, of course, the biggest and worst evil of the class of intellectuals is to advocate evil by inversion of the good: to claim ugliness is beauty (eg. mainstream modern art, design and architecture), to enforce wickedness as a higher virtue (eg. the sexual revolution as positively-depicted in a million novels, movies and TV shows and a billion news items), and to enforce distortion and suppression as the essential truth (e.g. the narrowing and ever-more-aggressively false doctrines of political correctness).


The corruption runs deep, yet not so deep that intellectuals have utterly lost subliminal awareness of what they are doing. This combination accounts for the prevalent misery, angst and anger of the dominant classes having a different quality from that of the past - a undertow of self-hatred and suicidal despair.

Despair is the key concept: the absence of real hope: hope of good that is real, objective, permanent.

(The creed of the modern intellectual is that no good thing is real, objective and permanent.)

The creed of the modern intellectual is implied-despair. Not the direct preaching of despair as a principle - but rather preaching of a set of non-beliefs that must lead to despair - because there is nowhere else for them to lead...


There is then - understandably - a craving for escape... but an escape merely into distractions that are pre-acknowledged to be unsatisfactory and unsatisfying because they are regarded as untrue.

(We are allowed to escape, sometimes, but only if we regard the escaped-to word as untrue. An imagined world must be acknowledged as fundamentally imaginary.)

Having demolished (to their own satisfaction) the objective validity of God; the intellectual elites have recently demolished (to their own satisfaction) the objective good of marriage and family - and they are left only with a life based-on 'work and leisure'...

Work and leisure are all that remains. There is nothing else.

Yet work has long since been exposed as a fraud and demolished (to the satisfaction of elites) by Marxism/ Socialism/ Liberalism/ Leftism...

So leisure is now the whole thing - a life aspiring to leisure, and yet leisure pre-acknowledged merely as a pastime - something to pass-the-time... a search for distracting novelties.

Sexual novelty, travel to new places, buying new stuff, doing new things... that is IT: the whole thing. That is the highest conceivable aspiration of the modern intellectual elites and the world they propagate 24/7 via the mass media, the world to which we are addicted, the world to which we are electronically plugged-in: a world which is, in its primary operations, built-upon the deliberate advocacy of sin: that is, the deliberate destruction of good.

An "Outward Bound" course on the Moray Firth and the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland - summer of 1976

I had a grim time overall, much like military basic training - but the 1976 summer was the hottest and driest on record, and the photos are quite interesting.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Brief Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams (1972)

I have just re-reread this after a gap of six years, and can confirm that I rate it as one of the best 'children's' fantasy books of all time - to be set alongside Wind in the Willows, The Hobbit, Narnia and Harry Potter (my personal pantheon).

Like each of these it is unique, a one-off - and clearly written under some kind of inspiration.

Also, Watership Down has that multi-valent richness and depth of the best books in this genre - including a vivid, convincing and beautiful incorporation of the rabbit's religion and spiritual life (and some of their language!); which is, I think, better-done than in any of the other-mentioned books.

Watership Down has great characters, adventures, love, battles, natural beauty, humour, mystery and high seriousness, and lots about the life of bunnies! - a complete and rounded sub-created world; but to pick these apart and present them separately would be to distort and misrepresent the feel of the book.

Certainly, it is a work of genius.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Four early morning walks in Oxford

Note: 'Early' means before 7 am.

I had four early morning walks during my recent family holiday to Oxford. Walking in Oxford can be marvellous - or else made disappointing by dense crowds, the intrusions of sturdy beggars, and the sense of being walled-out-from so many gems.

But if you pick your places and times, and have a pilgrim's purpose - all these problems may be circumvented - and depth and richness of experience will be your reward.

1. Christ Church Meadows

I began by walking from Jericho, cutting across to St Giles, down the Broad and past the Radcliffe Camera (as featured in the Notion Club Papers) to the Magdalen end of the Meadows, looping around to the Christ Church end.

The Meadows are one of the loveliest spots in England when you have them to yourself on a summer morning. I men only one other person. There is the natural beauty of the river, and also looking across at the beauty of the old colleges lined-up across the top of the meadows, and reflecting on the fundamental spiritual health of early generations who built them.

I came back to Jericho via the canal from Hythe Bridge, and past numerous (some astonishingly scruffy) houseboats.

2. The Parks and St Cross churchyard

The Parks are surrounded by the Science labs and research units of the university, and centred on the cricket grounds. They are very pleasant - especially at the far end where there is a view across the River Cherwell to summer pastures and the possibility of a diversion to really rural countryside.

Alternatively, from another corner of the Parks one can reach Mesopotamia - a narrow strip 'between two rivers' - actually a spit of land dividing the Cherwell. It was a favourite route for the Lewis brothers between the home in Headington Quarry and Magdalen College.

However, this day I went to St Cross Churchyard to visit the grave of Charles Williams (and Hugo Dyson and Kenneth Grahame). It is a gorgeously verdant, overgrown backwater - very quiet at this time of day.

3. Port Meadow Willow Walk

This is a very pleasing narrow, streamside walk leading-out onto Port Meadow from Jericho. It goes to an excellent spot beside the River Thames, the rather OTT-named 'Rainbow Bridge' and a great view back across Port Meadow and out towards The Trout at Wolvercote (an Inklings pub).

4. The suburbs of North Oxford

This might not have a wide appeal; but I had a wonderfully enjoyable Victorian suburban morning walk that began with visiting Tolkien's two houses in Northmoor Road in its route zig-zagged past broad leafy residential streets, most of the women's colleges, the Dragon School and into The Parks (again) via the Lady Margaret Hall entrance - crossing the dewy grass and ducking under trees next to the cricket square, and by various means to Blackwell’s bookshop.

NOTE: The above photos of the places I walked were taken from Google Images - acknowledgement and thanks are due to the gifted photographers who made them.

"...And when I tried to pray I found the line 'dead'" - what to do when disconnected from God (Christians are pagan as well as Christian - therefore we can use pagan remedies)


Dairy of Warnie Lewis (C.S. Lewis's brother) for 4 March 1948.

Whether from cold, temper, depression, or all three, I had a shocking night, and when I tried to pray I found the line 'dead'. 

This poignant comment comes from a day when Warnie returned to an unwelcoming home from hospital; where he had landed after a severe and prolonged alcoholic binge. The cause of the binge he gives as "the wearisome cycle of insomnia-drugs-depression-spirits-illness".

So there are many possible reasons from religious, through psychological and including physical why Warnie had a shocking night that particular night - but his experience of finding 'the line dead' when he tried to pray (and most needed help) is what jumped out at me; because I suppose all Christians have experienced this to a greater or lesser extent.


When the benefits of prayer are most needed, sometimes - and for whatever reason - the 'connection' to God just doesn't seem to work.

What then? Clearly some kind of Plan B is required; and what 'works' (if anything) will depend on the individual.

Anything requiring other people (such as attending liturgy or participating in Mass) is not timely. Reading scripture works for some people, but again may not be possible - indeed, powers of concentration may be too poor.

One neglected possibility may be to dwell upon a very simple (child-like) vision of the nature of existence - that the world around us is alive and that there is a benign personage behind it all.

There may be some such positive and connective vision in the mind - perhaps from memories of childhood or happy times; perhaps from a book or a movie.


The idea is that feeling disconnected, alienated and existentially-alone is the worst thing and prevents any better things; and the remedy cannot be complex or nuanced.

Christians are pagan as well as Christian; pagans first and naturally - with Christian understanding and goals added onto that.

Paganism is what connects us with the world - Christianity is what explains the meaning and purpose of this connection.


This means that there can be (and should be) 'pagan' solutions to Christian problems.

This happens when the basic problem (e.g. disconnection from Life) may be pre-Christian or sub-Christian; and then pagan remedies (such as re-connection) may be necessary, or at least work better than jumping ahead to specifically-Christian solutions.

This is not un-Christian but simple realism. Christianity includes and transcends all the goods of paganism: why not use them when they work?


Friday, 5 September 2014

The Inklings and the politics of the sexual revolution


Analeptic and proleptic (intuitive) thinking - clues for truth, validation of truth

Continuing from

There is a direct, feeling-based, non-rational way of thinking which Robert Graves termed analeptic and proleptic thinking- analeptic thinking is a vision of the past while proleptic refers to the future.

This happens in what could be termed a trance state, a state of altered consciousness, somewhat detached from immediacy and distraction - in which some other time or place (or person) or even an idea (a concept, an image, a belief) is perceived and felt as real.

What does this mean?

I think when something is analeptic/ proleptic it means that there is a certain validity and coherence to an idea. It does not mean that it is true - but it means that it is... well, that it is worth considering, worth thinking-about at least.

So, when something appears through analeptic thinking it then needs to be validated in whatever ways appropriate - by logical analysis, experience, new observations and so on.


But there is more to it than this; I think intuition is necessary to truth - for it to be meaningful, purposive truth.

Truth is contained-within intuition.

If you don't have an intuition, a personal sense of the reality of a time, place, person, idea, vision, notion... then it cannot be really real.

So, to evaluate an idea that is just an idea - then there must be a process of seeking intuitive confirmation; and unless or until the idea is confirmed by intuition (analeptic or proleptic thought) then it is not rally real and not much use could or should be made of it.


Yes, modern people are excessively proccupied with personal development; but - personal development is also intrinsic to Christianity

It is true to say that modern people are excessively preoccupied with their own personal meaning of life without sufficient attention to general things.

It is therefore understandable, and probably the correct priority, for Christians to emphasize general duties, general principles, obedience and sacrifice to the needs of others - above personal development...

However, I expect that, like me for much of my life, modern non-Christians are aware that even if everything about Christianity were correct - all its general purposes and precepts - then even all of that is not enough.

The fact that it is not enough, may lead them to assume that:

1. Christians believe that it is enough. And

2. That (therefore) Christianity actually wants its adherents to be undifferentiated 'cookie cutter' clones (and sometimes Christians do talk that way).

However, however - all people are different, things are set-up that way: personal development is part of the divine plan (and an extremely important part) - so cannot and should not be neglected, ignored or suppressed.

And indeed, real and specific personal development is only possible in a context of general purposes and precepts - so the modern notion of personal development in isolation from religion or any general system of objective beliefs and duties is sheer nonsense.

So it turns-out that only within, inside-of, Christianity (or something very like it) is real, genuine and objective personal development possible. 

If you are an individualist, creative, feel that you have some personal and specific 'thing to do' in life; then you ought to be a Christian first