Friday, August 23, 2013

Man is a Miracle of Evolution (and Evolution is a Miracle of Man)

Humans, in the ironic words of Schuon, are condemned to transcendence, so we can't really escape it short of being comatose.

Indeed, to "escape" presupposes somewhere to escape to, and don't let anyone try to convince you it isn't possible to transcend down. Just look at the NAACP, which used to pursue clowns who slander blacks with racist bullshit, but is now reduced to slandering clowns pursued by racing bulls.

It is because there is no escape from transcendence that atheists and leftists convert their failure to transcend into a transcendent dogma for all. Nietszche, for example expresses the failure so beautifully, that it isn't difficult to appreciate the transcendent something of his prose. I don't want to say "beauty." Irony, maybe. Or sting. Or just fine insultainment.

To paraphrase someone, fascism is violent resistance to transcendence, so it necessarily devolves to power instead of truth (since truth is the Transcendental of transcendentals). This polarity -- truth/reality vs. power/ideology -- is coming up right away in Gilder's Knowledge and Power, which I can't wait to dive into more deeply (only up to page 15).

Gilder begins with an observation by Thomas Sowell, that "While market economies are often thought of as money economies, they are still more so knowledge economies.... Economic transactions are purchases and sales of knowledge."

How's that? Well, cavemen "had the same natural resources at their disposal that we have today," the difference being that we know what to do with them. So, "How could we have gone so wrong" in our thinking about the economy? Easy: "power trumps knowledge."

In short, the caveman beats the possessor of knowledge senseless and steals his property. Or else just votes for Obama. But the underlying principle is the same: power trumping knowledge.

Thus, as Gilder writes, "The war between the centrifuge of knowledge and the centripetal pull of power remains the prime conflict in all economies." By "centripetal," Gilder refers to the manner in which, in a market economy, an infinite amount of knowledge is dispersed throughout the system.

For example, as I look out my window, a gang of skilled laborers is resurfacing my pool with a colorful quartz-based substance. Later I'll be doing some of my own work here, meaning that, in the final analysis, I am exchanging my knowledge of the mind for their knowledge of swimming pools. Neither of us were forced into the exchange, and all of us will be happy with the results. Unlike, say, Obamacare, in which all are forced to participate and no one is happy.

Gilder also hints at what I'm sure will be a central theme, the manner in which knowledge enters the self-organizing system of a free economy. Clearly, it doesn't enter via braindead collectives or committees or bureaucracies. Rather, it enters via a vertical ingression into creative individuals. And in order to maximize creativity, individuals must be free. This is axiomatic.

For example, just imagine the loss of medical creativity that will be brought about by Obamacare. In point of fact, we can't imagine it (I suppose we can impotently fantasize about it), because it is unimaginable until the creative person invents or discovers it. The personal computer didn't come about because millions of people sat around thinking "gee, it sure would be great to have all human knowledge at my fingertips; or to blog -- whatever that means -- my thoughts out to the Coonosphere -- whatever that is."

Rather, creative minds had to invent the personal computer and internet, which shows how supply creates its own demand. Conversely, a caveman's demands basically revolve around bodily needs, since he can't imagine anything else. Until one of them does.

Which reminds me. Every once in awhile we'll hear the argument that, yes, the market economy was a great thing, but it has basically completed its work, and now it's time to divvy up the pie. As always, the left is not about creating wealth but distributing it, and this is just another iteration of that stale argument.

This morning, Ace Of Spades linked to this piece, which asks the questions, "What if everything we’ve come to think of as American is predicated on a freak coincidence of economic history? And what if that coincidence has run its course?" To which I might add: what if we elected a president who did everything possible to make sure it has run its course?

What a stunning lack of imagination! It reminds me of a book I read, which ironically came out on the eve of the tech revolution of the 1990s -- something about the "end of progress." It seems there's one every decade. Which proves that if the left had been successful at any point in history, progress would have been stymied then and there.

For example, FDR's deeply gnostic (in the pneumopathological sense) second bill of rights would have frozen development at 1940s levels. That is the path Great Britain took after WWII, booting out Churchill in favor of a socialist government that proceeded to nationalize most major industries. Not until Thatcher came along was the tide reversed, but I'm afraid the damage is permanent. England is no longer England.

Back to the article. The author notes the economic miracle -- and it is literally a miracle, for reasons we'll get into -- of the past 300 years:

"For all of measurable human history up until the year 1750, nothing happened that mattered. This isn’t to say history was stagnant, or that life was only grim and blank, but the well-being of average people did not perceptibly improve.... In England before the middle of the eighteenth century... the pace of progress was so slow that it took 350 years for a family to double its standard of living.... By the middle of the eighteenth century, the state of technology and the luxury and quality of life afforded the average individual were little better than they had been two millennia earlier, in ancient Rome."

Right. So at any point along the way, an individual would have been justified in saying, "look, some people have too much, while others don't have enough. Not fair. Income inequality, and all that." One such assoul was Karl Marx, who wrote his nasty diatribes right in the middle of all this unprecedented growth.

About that miracle. What is a miracle? I would suggest that a good working definition is a spontaneous vertical ingression. Gilder writes of how most economists, because they think in linear and horizontal terms, underlook "the surprises that arise from free will and human creativity. The miracles forbidden in deterministic physics are not only routine in economics; they constitute the most important economic events" (emphasis mine).

"For a miracle is simply an innovation, a sudden and bountiful addition of information into the system. Newtonian physics does not admit of new information of this kind -- desribe a system and you are done. Describe an economic system and you have described only the circumstances -- favorable or unfavorable -- for future innovation."

So, what is man but a miracle of evolution, a shocking vertical ingression of nonlocal truth and beauty into the biosphere?

Memo to leftists: there's much more to come. Unless you are successful.


mushroom said...

Just look at the NAACP, which used to pursue clowns who slander blacks with racist bullshit, but is now reduced to slandering clowns pursued by racing bulls.

That is good.

mushroom said...

You could almost say that all progress is reactionary. It's almost always a result of somebody picking up something -- from a rock to a PC -- and saying, "Look what I can do with this", and somebody else "reacting" by building on that.

And, as you say, the other side is always saying that we are at the end and now we need to equitably distribute the best rocks, with the pointier, better, head-banging, assault rocks reserved for our elite chieftains.

Then some wiseguy ties a rock to a stick and the whole process starts over.

Magister said...

Corker of a post.

I'm incensed, enraged, spitting mad today at someone who is influential in the Muslim/Christian "dialogue." As you all know, Muslims destroyed more Coptic church buildings:

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt's best human-rights organization, documents a total of 47 churches attacked, of which 25 were burned, seven looted and destroyed, five partly damaged, and 10 attacked without sustaining heavy damage.

Last year, I saw this article on "Black Sunday" in Egypt, which saw the latest round of church burnings begin. "For perspective," our intrepid [sic] reporter says, he turns to a ninny in the US:

If American Catholics want to support the beleaguered Christians of the Middle East, Appleby says, the best long-term strategy is to boost our own "Islamic literacy," learning to make careful distinctions among various actors in the Islamic world – and the best way to do that, he says, is by engaging the Muslims in our own backyard.

Christians in the West must acknowledge, and help revitalize, the traditional authority structures and leaders in the Islamic world, Appleby says, because relying solely on moderates and Westernized Muslims will not reach the "street" in Egypt or anywhere else.

I cannot imagine a more contemptible, supine, willfully naive, and destructive piece of "advice." Let's do a simple transposition:

If American Catholics want to support beleaguered Jews in Europe, Appleby says, the best long-term strategy is to boost our own "Nazi literacy," learning to make careful distinctions among various actors in the Nazi world – and the best way to do that, he says, is by engaging the Nazis in our own backyard.

Jews in the West must acknowledge, and help revitalize, the traditional authority structures and leaders in the Nazi world, Appleby says, because relying solely on moderate Nazis will not reach the "street" in Nazi Germany or anywhere else.

Forget whethe Nazism and Islam are perfectly analogous. What this transposition makes infuriatingly clear is that comments like Appleby's are worse than nothing. Innocent people, people who are being slaughtered NOW, whose churches are being burned, who are being forced from their homes and home countries, can't count on the likes of Appleby for even a CRUMB of support. No, no, the Wise Man nods sagely, patting his corpulent belly, we must take the "long-term view," we must have "perspective," and we must try to "understand" the people conducting the pogroms and try to "alter their traditional authority structures."

Meanwhile, the innocents are seeing their homes and churches burnt, their relatives killed, and their children deracinated forever. But Appleby understands.


Christina M said...

Oh Magister, I see it's not just me. That Appleby has been pushing my rage buttons all week, starting with his announcement for the September 8th push for Amnesty during the homily. I am beyond sick of the left wing of the Catholic Church.

Gagdad Bob said...

It's not a wing. More of a rear end.

Christina M said...


By the way, although the lefties push my rage button and drag me down, this post lifted me up. It is so joyful and hopeful.

It should have that Far Side cartoon with it, that says, in the midst of an equation, "And then a miracle occurs!"

julie said...

By the middle of the eighteenth century, the state of technology and the luxury and quality of life afforded the average individual were little better than they had been two millennia earlier, in ancient Rome.

One could even argue that in some ways, the Romans had it better. We are still trying to figure out how they managed to do some of the things they did.

In any case, the article goes on to explain the miracles of the industrial revolutions as "luck." Which reminds me rather a lot of the famous Heinlein quote. But of course, one must to call it "luck" if one does not grasp the effect that living in freedom has upon man's ability to create, invent and discover. If progress has slowed in recent years, that is simply what happens when a once-free nation enslaves itself to bureaucracy.

julie said...

Christina & Magister, it's interesting to hear you talk about the left in the Church. Now that I have little ones and no family close by, I've been thinking it's time to start going again. But knowing how many leftists hold positions of power, it's not without trepidation...

John Lien said...

Just started attending a backwater Catholic Church a couple of miles from here as a non-Catholic. Sorry to hear about the Leftist faction but not surprised. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to keep attending and give it my infinitesimal nudge to the Right.

Gagdad Bob said...

Chomsky meets his match. In intellectual depravity.

Gagdad Bob said...

Knowledge and Power is making my head spin: economics rooted in metacosmic principles -- ideas we've speculated about, but which he makes more explicit, grounded in the latest science.

Gagdad Bob said...

Moving all the books out of my office, although a hassle, has had a major upside. We installed bookshelves in a closet, so I can store away thousands of books I don't need, and separate them from the ones I do need.

So now, right behind my desk, I have a bookcase with six shelves, about three feet wide, where I want to keep the truly vital ones that form the underpinning of Raccoon doctrine, and which I turn to time and again. There aren't that many.

The most prominent ones would be about fifteen volumes of Voegelin, twenty or so of Balthasar, the complete works of Schuon, MotT, a handful of psychoanalytic thinkers such as Bion, Matte Blanco, Allen Schore, Fairbairn, and Grotstein, philosophers Aquinas, Polanyi, and Whitehead, a few anthologies and surveys of Christian mysticism and the early fathers, works by and about Eckhart, works and biographies of Abhishiktananda, other important Catholic thinkers such as Pieper, Kreeft, Maritain, Ratzinger, de Lubac, and Schall, a couple of more occultish guys, Boris Mouravieff and Robert Bolton, some reference books, a number of one-off authors, and Finnegans Wake. Oh, and the aphorisms of Nicolás Gómez Dávila. And of course the Book of the Subgenius. To which will probably be added Knowledge and Power.

With these titles, I believe it would be possible to reassemble the whole Cooniverse.

Gagdad Bob said...

W. Norris Clarke should be added to the list of Catholic thinkers. For a devastating indictment of the left, Dennis Prager's Still the Last Best Hope is about as pointed and concise as one can get. For the religious principles of the Founders, Novak's On Two Wings. Speaking of which, I'd like to try to integrate his Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (a fine corrective to the often kooky economic beliefs of the Catholic hierarchy) with Gilder's Knowledge and Power. And let's not overlook Thomas Sowell, whose every book is an antibiotic for mind parasites. Or would it be antipsychotic?

Gagdad Bob said...

Believe it or not, A.A. Almaas's The Point of Existence and The Pearl Beyond Price contain excellent surveys of modern psychoanalytic thought, although his spiritual program is gobshite.

julie said...

Knowledge and Power does look interesting. Reading the blurb, it occurs to me: there are many fine thinkers who have great suggestions about implementing a free market system that would likely be very effective. And yet, to my knowledge, no government anywhere has been wise enough to seriously give these systems a chance. And I don't imagine for a second that the US government would be willing to give it a go. Notably, this is because all the usual suspects stand in the way, essentially on the grounds that free market systems aren't compassionate enough.

So instead, we keep getting varying degrees of socialistic and outright communistic systems, which inevitably lead to ruin anywhere they are implemented, with a death toll numbering in the hundreds of millions. And when it is pointed out how poor of a track record these systems have, the response from the usual suspects is that all those other times, people did it wrong.

julie said...

Or in other words, the free market does not satisfy the envious heart, even though the free market would benefit everyone.

Gagdad Bob said...

Envy is so intrinsic to the human condition, realistically speaking, you have to have some sort of 'legitimate' institutions or policies to deal with it. Thus, certain aspects of liberalism, although regrettable, probably serve to siphon off and channel some of the envy. But the transition to leftism marks the elevation of envy to first principle.

ge said...

world where everythin s perfect
mistakes and all
and bursting into laughter
is the form breathing takes

ge said...

Drudge: "Wildfire Threatens San Francisco's Water...
Thousands of homes in path..."

ntm 'homos'

ted said...

Bob, I love the recap of the readable underpinnings of Raccoon doctrine.

Now, if I could only find a community that could close to this (beyond this blog). Is there any group you have found that even remotely comes close to this?

Gagdad Bob said...

I've given that a lot of thought, and in theory, Catholicism probably comes closest. However, in practice can be another matter entirely.

ted said...

That's so fascinating, as I was raised Catholic. Found it uninspiring. Turned to Buddhism. And then brought in all the Wilber Integralism with that. And then even found some interest in progressive evolutionary spirituality. Now find myself back to Catholicism in some strange way, without the label. (Incidently, just finished Robert Barron's series on Catholicism on DVD which I loved.)