Who speaks for reaction

In the reactivity place, one of the commenters asks:

Who speaks for reaction?

To which the host replies:

Nature… or Nature’s God… or both

In other words, the unifying factor among reactionaries of all diverse kinds is The Dark Enlightenment.

47 Responses to “Who speaks for reaction”

  1. […] Solicitado por Surviving Babel, O Ábitro do Universo pergunta: “Quem fala pela reação?”. Nick B. Steves responde: “A Natureza… ou o Deus da Natureza… ou ambos”. (Jim comenta sucintamente.) […]

  2. RS says:

    > “Minds emerge from brains” is certainly true, in a sense

    Why? They clearly have some sort of strong relation ; I would stop there.

    Brains consist of (reduce to) the physical/sensory fundamentals: particles-waves, the four forces, space-time — whatever else (I’m nobody’s physicist).

    Nothing whatsoever emerges from the physical entities. Instead, everything reduces. Approximately all real scientists agree on this. The boiling point of water does not ’emerge’ for a mass of water — failing to exist when/if only one molecule of water exists in the universe — because boiling does not properly ever take place. Not as some kind of ‘special’ phenomenon. It’s just a phenomenon among others. Groups of water molecules fly apart when temp * pressure (or whatever) exceeds the energy of the (intermolecular) hydrogen bonds + the van der Waals bonds + whatever. It’s not ‘boiling’, it’s just something that happens. Other times, a mass of liquid water breaks into pieces because I gave it a high kinetic energy by dropping it in the earth’s gravitational field. It’s not special and it’s not called the RSing of water — unless for convenience.

    For the eye of eternity, all the boiling and all the RSing ever done by water, and all the just-sitting-there ever done by it, are equally big deals. Not very big. The average bond angle of water, the average electric field of water — now you are beginning to get towards something . . . but technically it is still absolutely nothing whatsoever special, a sheer vanity. It fully reduces to stuff like the charge/mass ratio of the electron (which is nothing), which reduces to the properties of quarks, which are maybe something, and the four forces, which definitely seem like something.

    All real scientists believe this.

    • RS says:

      > temp * pressure (or whatever)

      yeah, make that temp / pressure. And probably, multiply by something while you’re at it

    • RS says:

      Josh I don’t know if you read the anglophone school known as analytic philosophy very much. If you don’t know it well, it is kinda weird, but kind of cool, but . . . –Anyway I am using their technical definition of emergentism.

    • Thales says:

      Now you’re cooking with gas.

  3. RS says:

    Ethics-wise, Jim is probably right that no one is a true utilist. Most everyone is a virtuist, but everyone is also a utilist in some proportion.

    Virtuism is simply to prefer being well (being excellent) over well-being, over feeling well — using the commonplace sense of the latter two.

    …Insofar, that is, as well-being and being well can be distinguished. There’s a bit of a blur going on there . . . but not a total indistinctness.

    Virtuism is just as much an aspiration as it is a doctrine.

    What decides what is virtuous, excellent? Human nature(s). Humans simply harbor these desires by nature. The desires are fundamentally different — contra hedonism, whose technical definition is that all pleasure or happiness is fundamentally or qualitatively the same. There are relatively higher and lower drives, and the drive toward commonplace well-being (comfort, especially lasting comfort as opposed to respite) is one of the lower ones.

    The ‘utility functions’ utilized by utilists are not very well-defined, because being well is frequently aversive, and so, not surprisingly, we do not clearly or well-definedly prefer it. We struggle to prefer it. A learned utilist critic would answer that our revealed preference is clear after the fact. Indeed, this line of thinking is quite hard to invalidate, but I don’t think it is quite true. Hard to explain, though.

    • RS says:

      > The ‘utility functions’ utilized by utilists are not very well-defined, because being well is frequently aversive

      And also just because of the qualitative and fundamental differences between the various drives/values. They just can’t be commensurated and summed up as utilism and technical hedonism propose.

    • josh says:

      one must be a virtuist to choose to accept or reject utilitarianism.

  4. RS says:

    I agree with the post. Nature speaks. Nature constrains possibilities. We are various realists, naturalists.

    Of course it almost goes without saying a mature realist recognizes the role of idealities ; they almost have a certain reality of their own.

  5. RS says:

    > If I look out my window and see that all the cars on my street have four wheels and an engine, is it “obvious” that the Corolla is descended from the Civic? Or is it more “obvious” that the same company designed them both?

    The point is evolution works fine without design or intent. There could have been intent ; there’s just no logical or empirical evidence for it, and you can just model it with selection and purposeless heritable mutation alone, and it works out well in every way you can think of. Except for awareness — it’s not clear to me where that comes from, nor does it seem clear that people smarter than me know. Where will might come from is equally unclear, but then it’s not that clear that it exists.

    Obviously that model doesn’t work for cars. They mutate, as individuals and as types, but they do not reproduce their kind, with or without transmission of mutations. And indeed there turns out to be satisfactory evidence that they were intentionally made by humans.

    • josh says:

      It’s not clear that awareness exists? I remember believing shit like this when I was an atheist.

      The evidence that awareness, intentionality, qualia etc exist, is as strong to any individual as the evidence that the sun exists. You perceive it as part of your experiential being. It obviously exists, I’m experiencing it right now.

      Now you can explain it away, because you think that to reduce something to its component parts is to understand it, but you can’t justify why the brain is any more “real” than the mind. And no matter how they are related you can’t say that the brain *just is* the mind. The mind is immaterial because that is what we mean when we say the mind. The strong evidence for it is that I am perceiving mine right now as much as I am perceiving that there is a keyboard in front of me.

      • RS says:

        You misread, I agree with you most exactly. It’s only will that I questioned.

        If believing in evolution by mutation-selection means believing we have a serviceable account of awareness, then I don’t believe in evolution by mutation-selection.

        But I usually don’t think of it that way. I think of myself as not believing in science as a full description of reality. (The failure to have a quantum theory of gravity is apparently a second reason to feel this way — but I am marginally capable of cognizing what that even means.)

        I think of myself as believing in evolution, universal gravitation, and the scientific method as a way of obtaining truth about sensory objects. Also, insofar as I can grasp them, relativity, as well as quantum mechanics as an explanation of the other three fundamental forces. But I don’t believe in science.

    • Thales says:

      “Except for awareness — it’s not clear to me where that comes from”

      I recommend a Functionalist approach.

      • RS says:

        Functionalism is the doctrine that what makes something a thought, desire, pain (or any other type of mental state) depends not on its internal constitution, but solely on its function, or the role it plays, in the cognitive system of which it is a part. More precisely, functionalist theories take the identity of a mental state to be determined by its causal relations to sensory stimulations, other mental states, and behavior.

        For (an avowedly simplistic) example, a functionalist theory might characterize pain as a state that tends to be caused by bodily injury, to produce the belief that something is wrong with the body and the desire to be out of that state, to produce anxiety, and, in the absence of any stronger, conflicting desires, to cause wincing or moaning. According to this theory, all and only creatures with internal states that meet these conditions, or play these roles, are capable of being in pain.

        To me these words are simply denying qualia their entity/onticity/being/nature, which we feel and experience.

        “What makes pain, pain, depends not on its internal constitution” — that is, the nature of pain does not depend on its internal constitution (nature).

        If someone cannot experience pain — determine, ascertain, its identity/nature — except through its causal relations to other phenomena such as the wish to escape the pain . . . they cannot feel it.

        So too with the frustrated desire to escape pain. You experience it as itself, as a type of immediate drive. You don’t experience it as a network of causal relations, the identification or recognition of which is independent of its internal constitution.

        I guess this is a borderline-respectable way to numb the anguish of dualism, emergentism, and all the other agonizing theories, but IMO it won’t hunt.

        • Thales says:

          My point is that it is obvious that minds emerge from brains, and that you’re over-thinking the situation.

          • RS says:

            Are you emergentist on anything other than minds, or are you reductionist on everything except minds?

          • Thales says:

            Yes and no, respectively.

          • josh says:

            “Minds emerge from brains” is certainly true, in a sense, and explains absolutely nothing.

          • Thales says:

            What is it you think needs explaining about minds that cannot (eventually) be answered by studying brains? The science is only a couple genertions old. What is so obviously NP-hard about it?

      • jim says:

        I recommend putting that problem in the too-hard file.

  6. spandrell says:

    Vox is often insane, as was his father.

    Which proves the genetic origin of all qualities, and thus evolution.

  7. RS says:

    It’s a fact that bacteria are ancestral to all eukaryotes. A lot of the basic enzymes have a highly conserved shape. (Though they do not have remotely identical amino acid sequences… but I think there are some highly conserved subsequences.)

    I wouldn’t categorically exclude the possibility that god or other unknown forces intervened. You don’t have much to work with, there, for or against, other than Occam’s razor.

  8. […] if you repeat a mantra often enough, it finally gets noticed, i.e., by folks you actually care to have notice it. It’s my one (and only) […]

  9. Koanic says:

    Throw in, “descended by natural selection” and I’m sure a donnybrook will ensue 🙂

    • jim says:

      If he concedes that natural selection happens and shapes kinds, and that men are descended from killer apes, this does not leave a lot for God to do that is observable.

      If he argues that at some point in the process, God breathed a soul into two of the killer apes, hard to produce evidence to the contrary.

  10. I’m not sure that Vox would deny that man is a killer ape, descended from killer apes…

  11. Zach says:

    Zeus Conan Donald by one-inch-punch to the retina.

  12. […] Who speaks for reaction « Jim’s Blog […]

  13. […] Prompted by Surviving Babel, The Arbiter of the Universe asks: “Who speaks for reaction?” Nick B. Steves replies: “Nature… or Nature’s God… or both.” (Jim succinctly comments.) […]

  14. Koanic says:

    I propose a debate between you and Vox Day on one of two topics:

    1. Not believing in evolution is stupid.
    2. Christianity is dead.

    Vox has proclaimed he will take all comers already, so I will ask you first, and then go to him.


    • jim says:

      I would love to debate Vox – I propose the debate be carried by simply linking to each other’s blogs and quoting from each other’s blog, with links.

      Evolution is not interesting. Who cares if one creature came from another? What is interesting is natural selection, for natural selection explains the nature of creatures, and sets limits on what their nature can be. Progressives believe in evolution as a creation myth, as something that happened long, long ago and far, far away, so that they can use it to spit on Christians. They do not believe in natural selection, which predicts that humans are fierce and egoistic.

      1. Obviously not believing in evolution by natural selection is stupid. We see micro evolution happening. Christians pretty much have to believe that micro evolution is true. Presumably a Christian believes that Noah only had one pair of cats, from which are descended today’s felines large and small. If micro evolution is true, then over ages unimaginably vast, macro evolution has to be true.

      Plus, macro evolution makes sense of the way the world is. Creatures comes in families, and families in greater families. All parrots are alike, all birds are alike. Obviously they are kin, chips off the same block. The blood of a recent common ancestor flows in the veins of all parrots, a more distant common ancestor in the blood of all birds.

      Inside the flipper of the dolphin, the feet of a crocodile, and paw of the bear are the bones of a hand, the hands of the fish that was the father of all land veterbrates, who in shallow water breathed air and dragged himself around by grabbing onto things.

      That inside the dolphin’s flipper and the bird’s wing are the bones of a hand, tells us that the blood of that ancient fish runs in all our veins.

      As for 2, How dead is dead?

      My commenters have convinced me that a few remnant Christian congregations exist, a mustard seed, but clearly the Pope is not of them, and all the other mainstream churches are in even worse shape, museums to a dead and substantially forgotten faith.

      I, who believe the apostles got the guards drunk and faked the resurrection, take the bible far more seriously than any graduate of a theological college, for, in order to give room for Jesus the community organizer, and room to blow off Paul as a silly old misogynist, the theology college teaches that the gospels were written down after the witnesses were long dead, not withstanding the compelling historical evidence that almost all of them were written before the execution of James, brother of Jesus. The doctrine that the gospels were written late gives room for the puritan return to supposedly authentic and ancient Christianity, (Jesus the community organizer) which has a curious resemblance to twenty first century progressivism.

      • Red says:

        Stocks up on popcorn. Fight fight fight!

      • Koanic says:

        OK, let’s rephrase the debate this way:

        1. “Obviously not believing in evolution by natural selection is stupid.”

        I have appointed you inquisitor of my ideal social order, so it would be in my imaginary interest to shift you on this point.

        I believe in some evolution by natural selection, but am skeptical of macro evolution, and definitely don’t believe in historical non-interventionist macro evolution as an explanation for the entirety of the tree of life on Earth.

        Could we therefore strengthen your position to:

        1. “Obviously not believing in evolution by natural selection as the explanation for the tree of life on Earth is stupid.”

        That would ensure the debate has two non-overlapping sides. Vox is also a macroevolution by natural selection skeptic, and also likes to throw around the term stupid. Should be good fun.

        “Presumably a Christian believes that Noah only had one pair of cats,”

        I don’t necessarily believe that the “whole Earth” was flooded in Noah’s flood, any more than I believe that Adam was the first and only man / man-like thing at the time of his creation and thereafter.

        2. I would suggest a second debate on this, if Vox is willing: “I, who believe the apostles got the guards drunk and faked the resurrection,”

        That would be extremely interesting, if he would agree. He’s been loathe to do defensive apologetics, so he may not be willing. Otherwise I think there would be too much agreement between you in a discussion of “how dead is Christianity”.

        Anyhow, I will immediately convey this news to Vox, and I suspect negotiations will proceed between you two from there.

        However, it occurs to me that I have no way to loop you into the discussion, since I do not have your email address. Mine is koanicsoul@gmail.com, please drop me a line.


        • jim says:

          I believe in some evolution by natural selection, but am skeptical of macro evolution, and definitely don’t believe in historical non-interventionist macro evolution as an explanation for the entirety of the tree of life on Earth.

          It is not obvious that the entire tree of life comes from a single creature, not obvious that roses are related to men. I am pretty sure that roses are related to men, but others may reasonably disagree, and it does not matter anyway.

          It is, however, obvious that men are related to dolphins, descended from a common ancestor, because of the many commonalities, such as the skeleton of the hands.

          But the controversial issue that everyone cares about is not whether men are related to roses, or even dolphins, but whether men are the children of killer apes.

          It used to be thought that chimps were peaceful timid vegetarians, and thus, supposedly our ancestors were peaceful timid vegetarians, who subsequently did some scavenging, and eventually, quite recently, learned to hunt.

          But it was discovered that chimps hunt and make war, so the common ancestor of man and chimp probably hunted and made war.

          War requires cooperation, communication, loyalty, and all that, so selects for intelligence and virtue – the warlike virtues.

          Thus warlike apes are under greater selective pressure for intelligence and the ability to communicate than peaceable vegetarian apes.

          Which must, eventually, produce a man.

          One might hope that at some point in the process, God intervened and gave killer apes souls, but the hypothesis is not required. Natural selection is sufficient to create men from killer apes.

          On the other hand, the progressives have a point, that if people think we are risen killer apes, they might conclude that all sorts of bad behaviors are natural to us. Which of course they are.

          • Koanic says:

            That’s fine, I think you’ll find plenty of disagreement by isolating to the man, dolphin and killer ape part of the tree.

            Vox’s reply:

            “Tell him I’m up for it. Let’s do TENS first. He can take the first shot as I have to wrap up my money debate with Nate.”

            TENS would be Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

          • Samson J. says:

            It is, however, obvious that men are related to dolphins, descended from a common ancestor, because of the many commonalities, such as the skeleton of the hands.

            In point of fact I agree that on the face of it, from an atheist’s perspective, this superficial resemblance makes common descent seem like an obvious inference, just like Paley’s Watchmaker hypothesis seems obvious. But I am continually surprised by the otherwise intelligent men who can’t imagine any explanation for homology besides common descent. If I look out my window and see that all the cars on my street have four wheels and an engine, is it “obvious” that the Corolla is descended from the Civic? Or is it more “obvious” that the same company designed them both?

            • jim says:

              If I look out my window and see that all the cars on my street have four wheels and an engine, is it “obvious” that the Corolla is descended from the Civic? Or is it more “obvious” that the same company designed them both?

              If motorcycles had four wheels, two of which were vestigial, it would be obvious that they were descended from motor cars.

              That monkeys have hands and humans have hands does not prove them to be related. That dolphins have the skeleton of a hand inside their flipper does prove them to be related. That Alexander’s horse had five toes does prove them to be related.

              What could be more curious than that the hand of man formed for grasping, that of a mole, for digging, the leg of a horse, the paddle of a porpoise and the wing of a bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern and should include similar bones and in the same relative positions?

          • josh says:

            I have to believe Noah had two cats? I ain’t no fundie.

    • Handle says:

      Actually, a debating society is a great idea. It’s entertaining and illuminating when the participants are high quality and the questions are intriguing.

      It also helps highlight areas of agreement and disagreement which would be beneficial. Robin Hanson’s been in a bunch, and I like them a lot. I prefer the limited-time (or word count) format where the “audience” votes on their view of the right answer to the question both before and after the presentation of arguments and rebuttals.

      It’d be great if someone were to put something like that together in a website. “Dark Debates”. I volunteer to participate.

    • Samson J. says:

      I propose a debate between you and Vox Day on one of two topics:

      2. Christianity is dead.

      Do you really think this would be an interesting debate? I am asking sincerely. Jim’s insistence on employing a bizarre, idiosyncratic (and thus in my view self-serving) definition of who is a “Christian” continues to be one of the silliest things I’ve seen from an otherwise intelligent man. I think the debate would be a snore-fest:

      “There are lots of Christians at lots of churches. QED.”

      • jim says:

        Where they are taught progressivism, rather than Christianity. What you are calling Christianity has changed since 1950 far more radically than it changed in the previous two thousand years.

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