Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Red Pill and the Negentropic God

Time only for a speed post. Perhaps enough to follow up on yesterday's loose ends.

We were discussing one of the subtle but nevertheless dramatic differences between left and right, which comes down to an appreciation of complexity. Note that when progressivism was really gaining steam in the early 20th century, conservatives had no intellectual -- or at least epistemological -- defense for it. Rather, we were dismissed as hopelessly retrograde fossils bitterly clinging to scientifically outmoded things like religion, personal liberty, limited government, and love of one's culture.

Progressives such as John Dewey would have none of this. Their whole philosophy was rooted in the idea that society was like a machine and government the operator or driver. In order for the driver to get where he wanted to go, the constitution was an obvious barrier. Rather, we should leave governance in the hands of the self-appointed experts, and let them do whatever is necessary to keep us all happy. Free blue pills for everyone. Red pills forbidden.

But society is not like a machine, and no one -- short of a dictator -- can drive it. Rather, society is much more like an evolved organism with countless adaptations that have proven beneficial over time. Take marriage, for example. Two-person heterosexual marriage -- AKA marriage -- has been so successful for so long in the Christian west, that we have forgotten how to defend it. It never occurred to anyone to defend it, even until as recently as 20 or so years ago.

Thus, because it (apparently) couldn't be rationally defended, it was taken to be irrational, or just rooted in an arbitrary and benighted prejudice. With its foundations cut from under it, it didn't take long for the final blow, delivered by a divided Supreme Court, to knock it down. "Ironically," now there actually is no rational definition of the word, for it is anything our robed clowns want it to be. There can be no principled opposition to polygamy, sibling marriages, or cross-species unions.

Levin writes that "Roosevelt and other progressives argued for an unprecedented degree of national control over the economy -- and even over the growth of personal wealth. 'We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used,' Roosevelt said." Well used? Who is this "we" who will decide if my money is put to good use? And what do they mean by "good?" A: Whatever they want it to mean.

Roosevelt continues: "It is not enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

Hmm. That would seemingly exclude the Clintons, who have made a fortune selling their influence to the highest bidder. But it's all in the service of the a priori Good of progressives gaining power, so this ill-gotten gain is actually to our benefit.

I sense a tautology, i.e., "it's good because a progressive is doing it" -- similar to Nixon's "if the president does it, it's legal." Being progressive absolves one of any- and everything -- like celebrities who fly their private jets halfway around the world for climate change conferences, or Black Leaders who become wealthy by perpetuating the victimhood of their dupes.

Weather is a quintessential complex system. It has more variables than we know, and the variables interact in ways we cannot predict. In the case of climate science, it doesn't even know what it doesn't know, which is why its models always and inevitably fail.

Complex systems exhibit what is known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. What this means is that even a tiny tweak in one variable can lead to massive changes in the system as a whole. Thus, even the best computer models of weather are "reasonably accurate only to about one week in the future." The best climate models aren't accurate at all. Of AGW's ideological cousin, communism, it was said the "the future is known. It's the past that keeps changing." Similarly, in the case of AGW, the future is known, even if earth refuses to cooperate.

Again, we just don't know what we don't know. And not only that. Rather, in the case of complex systems, we can never know what we don't know. In other words, the ignorance is not only de facto but de jure. "The key property is nonlinearity. A linear system is one you can understand by understanding its parts individually and then putting them together" (Mitchell). But "a nonlinear system is one in which the whole is different from the sum of the parts." In a nonlinear system, 2+2 can really equal 5. Reminds one of the Trinity, as in how 1+1 = 3.

Nonlinearity is "the reductionist's nightmare." Really, it spells the end of the dream of reductionism. But from the Raccoon perspective, it is reductionism that is the human nightmare. Who would want to live in such a cosmos except control freaks on the OCD spectrum? Novelty. Creativity. Upside surprise. A new blog post. What would life be without these unpredictable things?

"A complete account of how such entropy-defying self-organization takes place is the holy grail of complex systems science." But I don't believe complexity will ever be explained with the crude tools of scientism. In this regard, we ought to listen to Godel, who proved that any logical system contains assumptions that cannot be proved by the system. Thus, any complete explanation of complexity will be inconsistent, and any consistent one will be incomplete.

In order to understand complexity, I think we also need to take negentropy seriously. It is not just some side effect of entropy, rather, the converse. You could say that God is the ultimate source of negentropy, and that this is reflected in such terrestrial phenomena as life, mind, spirit, creativity, etc. In short, we already have a holy grail, and one is more than enough.

To be continued...

10 Comments:

Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Nonlinearity is "the reductionist's nightmare." Really, it spells the end of the dream of reductionism. But from the Raccoon perspective, it is reductionism that is the human nightmare. Who would want to live in such a cosmos except control freaks on the OCD spectrum? Novelty. Creativity. Upside surprise. A new blog post. What would life be without these unpredictable things?"

And of course they don't just want reductionism, they want the future to reduce to their known expectations and preferences, and the past to either be changed by omnipotent talking heads as needed in order to assist them in those expectations, or for it (meaning in effect, us) to just shut the hell up.

Complex, consistent, and completely insane.

8/09/2016 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Well used? Who is this "we" who will decide if my money is put to good use?

This reminds me of the complaint someone had about a guy who bought a Harley. The complainer wondered how many people could have been helped by the money "wasted" on the Hawg. The owner replied that he had helped the people in Milwaukee who built his bike. He helped the family of the salesman at the dealership. He helped the people who had mined the iron and forged the steel, the people who had made the tires, and on and on.

The complainer would rather have the government take that man's money and spend it for the "greater good" -- except the state, like everyone, spends for the greater good of itself, to expand and consolidate its power and control.

8/09/2016 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

I first learned about systems thinking through Peter Senge, who wrote the 5th Discipline. It's interesting how all his followers co-opted complexity around the ideas of sustainability, the triple bottom line, and other progressive ideals. Somehow the organic system needed to still be guided by man.

8/09/2016 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Weather is a quintessential complex system. It has more variables than we know, and the variables interact in ways we cannot predict.

The weather in south Florida changes so quickly, even the hourly forecasts are often wildly off base, much less even a day or two ahead. They can offer hints, but that's about it.

8/09/2016 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger Allena said...

"Roosevelt continues: "It is not enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

Precisely like mob bosses. The "greater good" or "benefit" that Roosevelt is talking about boils down to giving those in power their cut of what they did not earn...or else!

Of course, no matter what they may say, the only ones who benefit from all this greater good fantasy are the mob bosses, I mean the politicians and the idiots who put them in power.

8/09/2016 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie,

Forecast: 50% chance of rain.
Translation: we have no idea.

8/09/2016 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Coincidence: At Prager University Steve Forbes on why the economy is not a machine and the state can't force it to act like one.

8/09/2016 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Bad link; try this.

8/09/2016 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

"Roosevelt continues: "It is not enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community"

Now that's some scary talk right there. I fear we will be hearing a 2017 version of this.

8/09/2016 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Wanda Sherratt said...

Rick, Julie: Up here in Canada there's an art to that sort of befuddled weather forecast. It usually comes out as "Sunny, with cloudy periods and a chance of rain."

8/10/2016 06:26:00 AM  

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