Individuality, Freedom, and the Real Conflict Facing Modern Christians

Posted February 26th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Narratives and truth

The modern man of the West knows in his bones that he is an individual, born an individual, a clearly defined entity which stands in some sense above not only the confusing and often chaotic world around us but also above our bodies, our organisms which are also confusing and chaotic at times. An individual human being can be a chimera with the DNA of multiple human individuals—twin embryos can merge in the womb. A woman can be a genetic male because of a faulty switch which is supposed to begin the masculinization of the embryonic body. Statistically, men are more likely to have homosexual desires if they have older brothers—speculatively, the mother’s womb develops some sort of resistance to the masculinization process.

One of my favorite problems of this sort, because it shoots down the modern form of `free-will’ is the well-established fact that, when we move a finger or leg, the movement control regions of the brain begin to act before there is any activity in the regions of the brain associated with conscious thinking, including conscious planning. This is not an argument against our freedom, including our moral freedom, though it is an argument against free-will as usually imagined. That is, it’s an argument against the delusion that a human organism is controlled by some self-contained, subsistent entity that is the real us, an entity which rules our bodies.

Our individuality, which is clearly tied to our various sorts of freedom, cannot be associated with our DNA or with the conscious regions of the brain. Our individuality is a matter of our entire being, which starts with our bodies, our physical being but extends out into what seems to be not-us, human communities—past and present and future, as well as the non-human regions of Creation. We are free as being certain types of organisms, as are nearly all living creatures—viruses are almost mechanisms rather than organisms but even bacteria move with apparent freedom. To be sure, the human capabilities for certain sorts of awareness, including an explicit awareness of past and present and future, and for planning give us the possibilities of greater freedom though there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that many human beings don’t have, or at least don’t exercise, the sort and level of freedom which would allow them to be self-governing as citizens or as full participants in the marketplace or even as parents.

We’re creatures embedded in a particular universe and in very particular and very small environments inside that universe. We’re strange creatures by most traditional understandings, at war with ourselves as taught by the Biblical prophets and St Paul and the Jewish sages of the early Christian era, yet the details of DNA and sexual battles (mostly unconscious and sometimes fought at the level of parental DNA) are eerie. Some of our DNA and some of our body mass comes from bacteria and even viruses. To a pure Platonist (not a description applicable to Plato himself), there doesn’t even seem to be any `human being’ which could be part of any realm of the Real.

And that is the sort of problem that everyman faces. We have a self-understanding, and an understanding of our world, which doesn’t look plausible in light of modern empirical knowledge and we try hard to hold on to those understandings as we face up to those bits and pieces of modern empirical knowledge which come to our attention.

It won’t work. As a result of our indifference toward or rebellion against what-is, we have become confused and fragmented creatures—see my novel, A Man for Every Purpose. Those under 40 or so are in a still worse condition. They have been raised under conditions where few adults even held an inherited and defective understanding of their human self or of the world. The young of the early decades of the 21st century seem unformed, somewhat in the way of a two year-old who is just beginning to explore her environments, but there is no sign they are so exploring. They accept the condition of an unformed human being in a chaotic world and just turn to video-games or cellphones.

There is no readily available understanding of human being or of our world. It can’t be found in television shows or movies or popular music. It can’t be found in the bare facts of science documentaries, bare facts presented as if that’s all there is of human being and the world—just bare facts. It can’t be found in the fairy-tales of Catholic CCD or Protestant Sunday Schools, teachings which are fairy-tales not because they speak of the Creator and His purposes for us and for the entire world, teachings which are fairy-tales because they come from understandings of the world which were once the best the human race could do but no longer make sense.

We can read a very confused, and seemingly honest, man on this issue: We’re All Zombies. Robert Bonomo tells us:

As the Christian myth begins its third millennium, is the zombie meme telling us that this religious story is no longer viable ? Are billions of ‘zombies’ eating flesh and drinking blood but finding no nourishment? The vast majority of Western people have a profound belief in science and science tells us that the story of Jesus is not to be taken literally, yet our churches insist that the ‘myth’ of Jesus is historical. The Christian software no longer works as the science ‘virus’ has rendered it useless.

Myths are other people’s religions and for Westerners in need of spiritual ‘food’ the Eastern systems of yoga and Buddhism, which don’t depend on dogma that contradicts science, seem to be more palatable to their scientific worldviews. Unfortunately, those ‘programs’ where written for a machine other than modern Western man.

And again:

Science can give us answers to almost all our questions, yet in the end its meaninglessness is disquieting. Science gives us technologies and deep understandings of the mechanics of the universe, but it’s unwilling to the breach the topic of meaning. We are asked to live for cliches, consumerism, hedonism or fundamentalism. Rejecting science is absurd but embracing it is deadening.

If we were able to understand our own religions in the same spirit that we decipher the religions of others (myths) while embracing science (with its limitations), than maybe we could find our way to a new myth that would shed meaning on our cold world. But myths emerge, they are not consciously created, and for the moment we wade in the void of knowing how but not why. We consume but are never filled, we seek but we do not find.

We are all zombies.

No, we’re not, but we are victims of some number of generations of cowardly, faithless, dishonest leaders, priest and ministers as well as philosophers and theologians as well as businessmen and local political leaders as well as politicians and doctors.

I can imagine the pain of the inhabitants of the Mediterranean region in the fifth century who saw all meaning decaying along with the stability and nobility of Rome. I can also imagine one man, Bishop Augustine of Hippo, setting out to make sense of that decay in light of his Christian faith and then dying not even realizing he’d made such good sense of it as to provide a narrative for a still greater civilization than even the Roman. Yes, the West was founded by one man setting out to counter claims by pagan thinkers he admired, claims that Rome was falling because it had become Christian. In doing so, Augustine made such good sense of it that his basic narrative lasted for nearly 1500 years.

We need a major effort by Christians to address the claims not of those who would be our enemies but rather of those who were and are simply good historians and physicists and biologists. We need to make sense of their claims in light of Moses and Jeremiah and, most of all, in light of the man-God who walked the earth and whose story is told in the Gospels.

We of the modern world can’t possibly understand ourselves without serious knowledge of not only human history proper (disciplined writings of facts and narratives) but also our species history. We have to be inspired by Augustine of Hippo, historian and theologian, and we have to be strong where he was weak—in science and metaphysics.

We can even come up with a coherent and morally well-ordered understanding of the freedom we enjoy, not the false freedoms of a subsistent individual somehow independent of his proper and improper desires and not the false freedoms described by reductionists, such as advocates of the selfish-gene viewpoint. Even when it comes to the biology of the human being, for example our tendencies to seek relative independence from communities or to naturally subordinate individual self to community are largely found in our bodily based feelings and emotions and those bodily based human traits are not uniform across the human species; each of us has a history of particular ethnic lines within that human species. Each of us also has a cultural and family and personal history. We are individuals but not made for standing freely of either our communities or our environments.

We, as individuals or as communities, have no freedom to change much of this, some freedom to change some of it; little of true importance can be changed in the short-run. We do have the freedom to act according to our customs and the habits and thoughts we’ve developed through our own efforts and the efforts of our parents and other teachers and guides. This is where human conscious types of moral intelligence are truly important: we can form habits and shape our future selves. Otherwise we remain dependent upon either inadequate habits and ways of perceiving reality or else force ourselves to attempt the heroic effort of deep analysis for each and all of our difficult moral decisions and many of our less difficult moral decisions.

Our freedom comes as a result of proper formation of self, a self which is both individual and communal. Our freedom comes when we act as that properly formed self. Our moral habits, as well as other good habits, are encapsulated in those movements of finger or legs which begin before we consciously think about that scream of pain toward which we move or about that drink too many which has been placed in front of us by a generous buddy at the bar. This is true also in our vocations and our avocations and our daily activities of the most casual sort.

Freedom can’t be found by pursuing the false dreams of radical individualism which don’t correspond to true human being, other than perhaps to that of some extreme individuals, most of whom are probably found in the extreme ethnic groups of northwestern Europe and the descendant populations mainly in the Anglo- regions of the world. Freedom won’t be real and certainly won’t be stable if it is, in fact, a freedom to pretend to be something we really aren’t. No wonder we are so confused and fragmented, so many in the younger generation are simply empty.

We have given up our particular cultures, especially those of us who are the mush produced by the melting-pot called America. We have no greater civilization which can provide us with a narrative that tells us what it all means, where `it’ includes our own human beings. Western Civilization has decayed, almost gone away. Christ remains as Lord of Creation but His Church is in ruins and its leaders are without clothes. We are free individuals, that is, we are atoms being freely slammed and banged about by forces and even the most social of those forces are external to us, enemies.

After all this talk about individualism and freedom, I’m going to retreat to a basic, Socratic question: What is freedom? I wrote this essay under the assumption we best seek freedom as if answering the question: how can we better shape ourselves to be what we should be. We start with what we already are: poorly integrated organisms with both individual and communal being. I should stress that it is both individual and communal being which is poorly integrated.

We gain freedom by shaping ourselves properly to what lies outside of us, the objective reality which is typically, and properly for the most part, perceived as opportunities and problems. But, that by itself, should make no sense to modern men, including most Christians trying to be faithful to the traditions of their faith for they are bound to think and feel that, at conception or at least some time before adult awareness, there will be that subsistent entity which is a human being, an entity defined as a self-aware individual. It is that subsistent, self-aware entity which desires the good or what gives purely physical pleasure or something else. It is that subsistent, self-aware entity which is an atom, a plaything of a hostile world, a world in which we are aliens.

I stand against all this confusion and all this failure of Christians and others to resolve this confusion, to give us a meaning, a narrative which brings all this horror, as well as all this beauty and pleasure, into moral order. I’m advocating a worldview, an understanding of all created being and its relationship to God, which is Christian all the way down. What is good and beautiful and true, what is conducive to good order, is found in all of Creation and is there because Creation and all that is found in it is the manifestation of certain thoughts God chose freely for the very specific Creation and this still more specific world He chose to create, to create from nothingness and then to create in the way of shaping. Some of this goodness and beauty and truth is in human being in partial and imperfect states, but most of it lies outside any individual human being, outside of any communal human being—even the pilgrim Body of Christ. Ultimately, the goodness and beauty and truth are found in God, but we find them in each thought and all thoughts the Almighty has manifested as created being.

We move toward the completion and perfection found only in the world of the resurrected and we move as individual members of the pilgrim Body of Christ and as that Body in its entirety, but we move as beings existing as acts-of-being of the Creator, as objects of His attention and of His love.

That places a heavy burden upon Christians who would carry the Good News to all men. We have no Good News because our Jesus isn’t true to the universe of evolution and genes and curved spacetime, which means our Jesus isn’t the true Jesus Christ. Christians have no plausible understanding of the universe, no narrative telling other men or even our own selves what it all means. Our main failure is not that of not reading the Bible or not praying, though we may be also failing in those matters. Our main failure is not reading the revelations found in our own human beings, in the stars, in the strangeness and the beauty of modern mathematics. We don’t understand created being in this universe and we think we can jump to the meaning found in Christ who is God but also perfected and completed man, man as found in reality and not in our imaginations.

Here is what St Thomas Aquinas had to say about the importance of knowledge of Creation, empirical knowledge of created being:

[J]ust as a disciple reaches an understanding of the teacher’s wisdom by the words he hears from him, so man can reach an understanding of God’s wisdom by examining the creatures [God] made… [Page 17 of St Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on 1 Corinthians. Translated by Fabian Larcher, O.P. in unknown year and originally made available at website of Ave Maria University. It is now available online here and in print here. Both of those are edited and corrected copies unlike the one I had downloaded and lost which was Fr Larcher’s final draft at his death.]

Some Medieval Scholastics were said to phrase it: “Most of what we know about God comes from knowing His effects in Creation.”

Radical individualism and some other defective lines of thought in recent centuries developed and spread so widely because of a vacuum of sorts. Western Civilization was deeply, if quite incompletely and defectively, Christian. Western Civilization was founded upon what might be labeled the Augustinian understanding of human history and its relationship to the more specialized Christian understanding of human origins and human moral nature and much else culminating in an understanding of salvation, of the relationship of this world to its Maker. This last understanding, once rethought in terms of those lesser understandings, had then re-absorbed those lesser understandings.

Earlier men of Western Civilization were individuals with some substantial freedom and also members of various communities with their own sorts of freedom. Ultimately, individuals and communities were part of the Body of Christ.

No longer can we provide meaning by an appeal to our inherited understanding of what-is, not because it wasn’t true. It was true and is true, but the individuals and the various communities have to be understood in terms of reality, in the best terms available to men of any given age, not in textbook terms drawn from prior and no longer valid understandings of created being.

Any understanding of “what it all means” in the mainstream of the Catholic Church or any other part of Christianity is centuries out of date and can’t be taken seriously—one of the reasons so many no longer take the Catholic Church or other Christian churches seriously. Christian theologians and philosophers attempt to speak about human moral nature or—somewhat equivalently—about human origins by, at best, squeezing selected bits of knowledge about genes and evolution into old frameworks of knowledge. (The totality of any such consistent frameworks would constitute what I call a “worldview.”)

We hear of one view of human origins and human moral nature in homilies and sermons and theological or spiritual books. We hear of other views in popular or academic works about science and history. Too many will wave their hands spasmodically and claim, “There is no conflict.” There is, though it isn’t a conflict between religion and science but rather a conflict between science of past centuries and science of our own time—using the term `science’ in the broader sense of “disciplined study of facts” and including history and some philosophy as well as physics and biology. Mainstream Christian worldviews are based upon the best of human empirical knowledge as of, perhaps, 1800 in Etienne Gilson’s quite knowledgeable and intelligent understanding of the history of Christian thought. (I would tend to put the break nearer to the persecution of that orthodox Augustinian theologian Galileo, the early 17th century though the rebellion of Christians against God and His Creation had been developing for some time before that.)

I think I’ve laid a good foundation for a new understanding of Creation in my various books and other writings, but few seem interested. Some prefer to join in the fun as barbarian children party in the ruins of Western Civilization. Some prefer to watch in horror and to write learned commentaries of the decay in light of the inherited understandings which no longer work. And others, such as the blogger I quoted above, Robert Bonomo, simply express their confusion and perhaps their pain.

Readers, learn from what I’ve done and spread the word. Perhaps you can do better or perhaps join in the work to which God has called me.

Is the United States a Parasite Feeding on the Rest of Humanity?

Posted February 17th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, decay of civilization

Albert Jay Nock wrote of a friend of his who had spent some years in the United States and was returning to Europe. This friend spoke of his admiration of many American characteristics, but said he was disturbed on realizing that Americans are the first people in history to pass directly from barbarism to decadence without ever passing through a state of civilization. Nock and his friends didn’t see the real danger in this sad state of affairs—as the wealthiest and most energetic frontier region of the West, the United States had a chance to take on the role of leader of the West, the role of nurturing and, in fact, rebuilding the West which was already showing the wear and tear of dealing with the Industrial Revolution followed by the less promising conversion of parts of the economy to financial, bank-based capitalism and the parallel conversion of the productive parts of the economy to a sort of monopoly capitalism allied with government regulators. But that wasn’t all. Economic problems, usually opportunities missed or misused, were not the entirety of the reason for that wear and tear on the West. Not by a long shot. Christian leaders, ecclesiastical and cultural and intellectual, had failed to produce a new understanding of Creation which reconciled modern empirical knowledge with Christian beliefs. Leaders and shapers of opinion and great practitioners in the fields of literature and science and philosophy and history and so on achieved, at best, partial success dealing with the problems and opportunities of the Enlightenment era and the succeeding centuries; their success was limited partly by the cowardly and faithless failures of Christians who loudly claimed to be brave and strong in their faith, but failed to face up to the new knowledge of the world and more as being knowledge of some of God’s thoughts manifested as created being.

As the Catholic and Lutheran and Anglican and Calvinist churches had become corrupted in their own ways, they had turned inward, no longer in fruitful conflict with non-Christian peoples; Christian thought and customs began to soften and to simplify in various ways. When we Christians had engaged other peoples in fruitful and mostly peaceful ways, their very existence as well as their specific beliefs and intellectual or cultural traditions, even their personalities and ways of life, had been a spur to Christian understanding of a greater part of God’s Creation, a part which wasn’t and isn’t us. They spurred us on in ways somewhat similar to a thorn in the flesh but should have been experienced as similar to the frustrations of trying to explain difficult thoughts and feelings to a good friend over a mug of beer or a glass of port.

The ancient Fathers of the Church developed the theologies we falsely think to be transparently true to human vision and they developed them in conflict and in fruitful collaboration with both pagan thinkers and with those who were seen, truly or falsely, as having strayed from Christian truth. For example, Augustine of Hippo developed a Christian understanding of history (largely still plausible and fruitful) in respectful conflict with both the traditional pagan idea of history as being cyclical and also in respectful conflict with the ideas of post-Constantinian pagan thinkers who had argued that Rome had decayed and was collapsing because of Christianity.

Many of the problems of the modern West come from those successes of Christian thinkers from ancient times and the Medieval centuries and, to a lesser extent, the early centuries of the so-called Modern Age. To the heirs of those earlier Christians, all of Creation seemed transparent to examination by Christian leaders, ecclesiastical or intellectual, and the Protestant Reformation didn’t even shake this confidence that God’s Creation was understood fully and was subject to imprisonment to the pages of textbooks—the conflicts between Catholics and others concerned other matters of apparently greater importance than the understanding of God’s acts as Creator, matters such as control and ownership of various assets including entire countries.

Meanwhile, as the story goes and it’s mostly true to reality, Galileo and his successors headed out to explore those parts of Creation which were subject to exploration by their limited tools. Galileo was himself a follower of the Catholic tradition of respect for empirical reality, a tradition given us by Augustine and Jerome, Anselm and Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas, and so on. Over time, as Popes and bishops and Catholic professors, and their Lutheran and Anglican and Calvinist counterparts, stuck to politics and financial matters, an implicit truce came into being: theology and much of philosophy and parts of history would separate from physics and mathematics and biology and other parts of history and of philosophy. If any conflicts arose, everybody would refuse to engage in fruitful encounters; all parties would instead wave their hands spasmodically and sing in unison: “There are no conflicts between religion and science.” That is, all would agree to an unfruitful misunderstanding of Creation and of human knowledge. This agreement was extended to Jewish ideas and the ideas of other peoples; we extended to them the charity of respecting their ideas by ignoring them and saying, “There is no conflict between the ideas of men of good will, no matter the ideas.” We even extended to them the further charity of thinking it possible they could be like us, think like us, feel like us, at least in the most important areas of human life, such as finance and politics.

It’s most obvious in the Catholic Church—partly because it’s more intact than most Christian churches in 2015, but all Christians accepted in public the fragmentation of knowledge of God’s Creation in such a way as to imply strongly a fragmentation of the created being of which we have knowledge. Inside our own classrooms or sacred spaces, we talk and act as if the binding power of our small stock of Christian revelations applies to the entirety of our particular tradition of understanding the world, of writing greeting-card poetry and making elevator music as well as engaging in philosophical speculation or explorations of history which are far more shallow than what I saw in my childhood in old-fashioned Bugs Bunny and Mr Peabody cartoons. Knowledge became unified in a horrible and wrongful way: Christians forgot that all knowledge concerns God’s direct revelations or those of His revelations which are His effects in the world as some Medieval thinkers put it in partial understanding of the greater truth of God’s absolute power over all created being. Knowledge became unified in the mind of the knower, priest or professor, rather than being unified as a mostly communal image or mostly communal encapsulation of created being, one subject to change as we come to know more about God’s effects in Creation, or His acts-of-being as I prefer.

Americans are an extreme example of moral and intellectual and cultural disorder. We act as if believing that “I absorbed all I ever need to know from the fluids in my mother’s womb.” Not only are Americans not civilized, but we have increasingly set ourselves, as a country and as individuals, apart from and above the rest of Western Civilization and, indeed, all of humanity. If once we Americans were the pioneers on an important frontier region of the West, we are now an aggressive occupier, claiming Europe as our own. We need Europe for the deeper culture we can’t provide through our pep-rally religions nor through our utilitarian science nor, most certainly, through our mass-marketed literature and cinema and music. It’s not only Europe that we claim. The entire globe seems to be a bauble for us to play with, as if we were the god-like star-child from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We have done our best to occupy much of the earth, at least in the sense of having soldiers stationed at about a thousand bases in dozens of countries. We need the entire world for the wealth which can support our way of life, including our grotesquely oversized military, and we can no longer generate enough wealth to even keep our large middle-class consuming strongly. Perhaps we feel an even stronger desire to control the entire earth and all its peoples to justify our sense of being the point of it all, both the end-product of biological evolution and the highest of all divine goals. More simply and more in line with the degraded ways of American thought in 2015: We Americans are the ones who got it right. Whatever “it” is.

I’m going to momentarily step to the side to point to John Hawk’s commentary on some recent work in experimental and speculative evolutionary science: Notable: Coevolution drives biological complexity. Professor Hawks tells us: “One of the most interesting parts of the paper involved removing the parasite from the population, after which the host complexity began to decrease. It’s similar to classic selection experiments, in which the selection condition is removed or reversed partway through.”

It seems to me that one way to look at the global situation in 2015 is: the United States has become a parasite preying upon the culture of Europe and upon the wealth of nearly all countries. In addition, we look for human energy and developed intelligence in immigrants from other countries, largely because American culture sucks the souls and minds and moral characters out of our youth—even those who are good at learning from textbooks and can spit back the heavily schematized and lifeless knowledge on classroom tests and even those who can do quite well in making money on Wall St or in the laboratories and workshops of our high-tech electronic and medical industries.

We Americans need blood to keep going, rich blood of a sort we no longer have, not even in our children born with high spirits and serious talents, not after they’ve been raised on television and cellphones and adult-supervised games. We have allowed our own blood to be sucked out by an exploitive ruling class and we are allowing the blood of our children to be sucked out. We need fresh, rich blood and we have to go overseas to get it or, when it comes to sports, we have to go into the inner-cities or even to such places as the Dominican Republic.

We Americans need to gain natural resources cheaply because that is how we became wealthy; we have not yet learned how to work intelligently as opposed to hitting the lottery, whether the lottery run by the government or the one which is run by the contingent forces which put pools of black gold below some acres and not below others.

We invade. We, being incompetent as conquerors and looters, devastate countries and destroy infrastructure and kill large numbers of innocents. We destroy $10 billion in assets for every $1 billion we manage to steal. We who were once the best-liked of individuals and sometimes even the most highly admired of nations have become hated and feared. We’re not feared because we fight or rule effectively. We’re feared because our leaders are morally perverse juveniles with lots of firepower and we, the American people, join them in their moral perversion. We aren’t the Macedonians or the Romans or the Franks or the Normans; we are Moe as Bismarck, Larry as Napoleon, and Curly as Patton.

And, so it is, that I come to my conclusion by a path long and twisted in many ways: the United States and Americans as individuals have become the thorn in the flesh of the pilgrim Body of Christ, that is, we have become the parasite or opponent or accuser who works for God in the negative way (see 2Cor 12:6-9). We Americans, in our narcissism and selfishness, have taken on the role of the opponent that many peoples are uniting against. We are enemies of the pilgrim Body of Christ, enemies of Creation, enemies of God to the extent that the Body of Christ, Creation, and God don’t serve American desires. We would rule all in our hubris, would subjugate God Himself to our schemes and plans.

And we Americans had the chance to take on the noble role of leader of Christian Civilization, of the Body of Christ. We could have put a part of our once promising, if immature, individual and communal selves into the Body of Christ, could have shaped it in an interplay between God’s purposes and our personal desires and talents, as once did Jews and Greeks and Romans and Armenians and Syrians and even the Germanic peoples when still barbarians. Now, the pilgrim Body of Christ will continue its journey through this world bearing American marks only in the form of wounds and damaged organs. With all that we have to be ashamed of—the ethnic cleansing of native Americans, the brutal war in the Philippines after we pretended to free them, Dresden and Hiroshima and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and Libya and others—this is by far the worst of American sins: we claim to be a God-fearing people and we are waging war against God’s Creation and the Body of His Son.

Islam, Violence, Repressive Governments, and All That.

Posted February 11th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Biological evolution, Human nature

In The Return of Fear, Peter Frost, an anthropologist, gives a few facts which don’t argue fully against the current belief among Americans and Europeans that Muslim men are prone to violence and fanaticism; those facts do tell us of the ethnic basis for this inclination. Indonesians—88% Muslim—have low rates of violent crime, as do other east Asians. It’s also been known since at least the writings of the Ibn Khaldun that some of the ethnic groups which took up Islam are inclined to violence and fanaticism. ( Ibn Khaldun was a great Islamic historian and philosopher of the 14th century.) Frost quotes Khaldun as claiming Arabs are a savage nation often making a living by looting—the early books of the Bible tell us the same thing.

Evolution is for real; genes are also for real. The inclination of a lot of modern human beings is to think those parts of life on earth are just so interesting when they tell us why the dinosaurs either disappeared or flew away, how giraffes got their long necks and zebras their stripes. We haven’t learned to think in terms of modern biological science when it comes to human beings, nor do many appreciate the ongoing effects of evolution and genes when it comes to human beings. Even readers of Frank Herbert‘s Dune novels don’t appreciate the ways in which a desert environment can select for a violent form of human personality which is radically individualistic but also inclined to accept the harsh discipline of warrior bands or even conquering armies.

So, it seems to me to be wrong to assume it’s Islam which causes the inclinations of Arabs—Khaldun also mentioned Berbers and other North African nations as being inclined to violence and fanaticism. It seems more likely that the Arabs and similar peoples have retained the traits of the desert nomadic ancestors. The `early adapters’ of Islam, including the founder, could be seen as regressing to an earlier form of Hebraic monotheism. That earlier form of Hebraic monotheism is more suited to a people who are yet desert nomads—at least in their inherited inclinations and aspirations. Such a religion would provide the enrironment which would both nurture aggressive tendencies and also reward aggressive men, desert warriors, with greater reproductive opportunities. Such societies will also tend to provide better reproductive opportunities for women who are submissive to these violent men, even strongly supportive of violent sons and husbands and brothers. Over time, as violent inclinations are reinforced in men, the women are likely to become more deeply, more `genetically’ submissive.

It would not be wise for a people with more peaceful inclinations to invite large numbers of a more violent people to settle in their midst. The peaceful people might become the victims even if in a great majority.

A violent people isn’t necessarily an evil people and they, women as well as men, might well think Western men to be womanish and Western women to be mannish. And a peaceful people can be evil. Trivial truths. The more important truth is that a people with men of violent inclinations will need strong, centralized governments to allow the building of larger-scale and more prosperous societies; otherwise, the men of violent inclinations would cause massive disruptions and distrust. Without a strong ruler, such men are much better at looting than they are at even administering a conquered people.

To exaggerate, but not by much: it takes a Genghis Khan to rule a nation (or multiples nations) of desert nomads. We of the West do not wish to live under the type of repressive government which is needed to bring peace when there are many men in the population with inclinations to violence and fanaticism. Nor do we wish to live in a society with chaos and violence on the streets. So why do we open up our countries to immigration by those who don’t have inclinations compatible with ours and with the sorts of societies we wish to build and to live in? Why do we send our armies overseas to destroy the sorts of repressive governments which have brought order and prosperity to these countries with men inclined to violence and fanaticism?

Do Numbers, as Mental Constructs, Come from Concrete Being?

Posted February 9th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: being, mathematics, Mind

We think ourselves now so sophisticated because we know the world isn’t designed, at least not in the way of a human engineer. But there are patterns and the ways of thought which provide some serious understandings of those patterns arising from states of seeming disorder are difficult and are certainly not yet part of the machinery of the human intellect or communal mind, the mind which does the sort of thinking which has made it possible for past “skills for geniuses” to be taught in the elementary schools of mass education within a few centuries of the development of those skills. See Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Randomness for one of a number of discussions I’ve provided of the general topic of order arising from seeming disorder. That same essay also discusses the strange history of long division: “[I]n the 14th century or so, long division was coming into use and was considered to be a topic for mathematical geniuses, well beyond those even of more normal high intelligence. Nowadays, we start learning long division in mass education elementary schools, though many still have trouble with it and some can never master it even to the point of figuring how much per pound a roast costs if 4.5 pounds costs $25.”

I’ve suggested in various writings and in various ways that thoughts are created being, images of that created being but images in a sense similar to: “Men are made in the image of God.” Created being is the manifestation of specific thoughts of God and we learn how to think truly by sharing those thoughts of God, by shaping our minds (but also our hearts and hands) in response to created being and its relationships and actions. Images can be concrete things. Concrete things have abstract created being as well as concrete created being.

One of the main points behind this line of reasoning can be stated: created being is created being is created being. There is a complex network of various streams coming from the truths God manifested as the raw stuff of created being, probably branching out at places and then joining again as it journeys, so to speak, to this very concrete realm of created being, of thing-like being. See this recent essay for a discussion of this general issue in a particular, focused form: Developing Human Minds, Individual and Communal. Pay particular attention to the very simple chart of created being to gain some idea of what I mean about abstract being branching out to more particular forms and joining along the way; many of those branches come together in this world of things. Even relatively simple things, for example—simple lifeforms, are the result of the shaping and the combining of a lesser or greater variety of abstract forms of being.

It would be hardly surprising if various animals have characteristics once claimed for human beings only. I’ve argued that man is unique because of the very complex human brain which is capable of `making up’ a mind. See How Brains Make Up Their Minds by the neuroscientist and philosopher Walter J. Freeman for a discussion of what it means to make up a mind. I go beyond Professor Freeman, or perhaps in a different direction from him, in seeing the human mind as capable of encapsulating what lies around it, even the entire universe and beyond, in the form of what I call a worldview, that is, a complex understanding which is unified and coherent and complete in the way of a world or—still better—all of Creation.

But this human uniqueness, seen in more or less expansive terms, is the result of evolutionary processes and a series of specific events over time. It would be hardly surprising if specific human characteristics, even particular skills of abstract reasoning, could be found even in animals we think to be truly dumb, such as chickens. Chimpanzees can keep objects in mind when those objects are no longer present and and can imagine them as being useful in solving an immediate problem. Birds from the crow family can engage in relatively powerful reasoning processes, as can octopuses.

Now we can learn from this article, Chicks Put Low Numbers on the Left, Just Like Humans, that even relatively dumb birds can not only deal with number concepts but they can order them. That they order them left to right seems to me to probably be an accident of evolution, perhaps a coincidence and perhaps a result of brain structures we’ve shared with the chicken’s line of evolution for tens or even hundreds of millions of years. Such details are important for some purposes but not for mine; at least, these particular details aren’t important for my main point in this essay.

The main point is a joining of the my first line of thought for most of this essay and the reference to some experimental facts discussed quickly in the above paragraph. Neither human beings nor chicks derive numbers, or the ordering of numbers, from some pure realm of abstractions and concepts, a Platonic realm of Ideas. Numbers are in the most concrete of things. Concrete being is shaped from those forms of abstract being we explore by way of mathematics, which is a way of exploring a form of created being with that same form, as physicists probe matter with matter. We can see this clearly with the knowledge of matter and energy and fields which comes from quantum physics. My contention is that this knowledge, mathematical formalisms which are the wavefunctions, is really abstract created being and not `mere’ knowledge. In a similar way, knowledge of numbers and the ordering of numbers, left-to-right or top-to-bottom or other, is actually a particular sort of abstract created being which is present in the concrete being of this mortal realm.

In a similar but more complex and complicated way, the order which arises from seeming chaos can be described in mathematical terms. I contend we are seeing actual created being in those patterns—fixed point phenomena, for example, are a form of abstract being. They are points of stability, f(x)=x, where the function `reproduces’ the input though perhaps in a complex and iterative process. I contend that stability isn’t just something which can happen and then can be modeled by experts in the sciences of dynamic systems. I contend that that stability is a form of created being which is described by “f(x)=x” and is f(x)=x, just as a man can be described as “rational” and rationality is a form of created being which is part of that complex entity, a man.

When we see a system come to order, perhaps by stabilizing around a fixed point (stability is rarely absolute even in simple systems such as pendulums), we could talk of an emergence in that system of that abstract form of created being we know as “stability” or we could talk about a stream of created being which is flowing into that system. I don’t know if one or the other is more right or otherwise more preferable. I do know that the stability of a fixed point isn’t so different from the set of relationships found in Schrodinger’s wavefunction, the set of relationships which are Schrodinger’s wavefunction. Concrete things come from something which can be described in those mathematical formalisms. I’m suggesting we can do no better, at least for now, than to regard those mathematical formalisms as abstract being from which concrete being is shaped; I’m suggesting that mathematical formalisms are a form of created being and not simply descriptions of some form of created being which is currently only describable in terms of those formalisms. It’s a clean way of thinking and talking which may ultimately be wrong or just part of the truth, but it allows us to avoid a lot of gibberish and to develop more unified and complete and coherent understandings. And I contend those understandings are encapsulations of created being, even of Creation, and I mean encapsulations in the same sense as used by the Biblical authors: man is an image of God. Our minds are images of what we recognize as existing, perhaps a very limited environment in the case of early men and perhaps all of Creation to those who share in abstract reasoning—not just philosophers but all of those who are engaged members of a civilization which contains philosophers and physicists and historians and composers of complex music.

Individualism: A Trait Become a Disease

Posted February 6th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, Freedom and Structure in Human Life

It’s not the failures but rather the great successes of the West which have left it as a hollowed-out and collapsing civilization, that is, our successes as individualists and our successes in nurturing our individualistic inclinations and pushing them ever further at the expense of our communalistic inclinations.

It’s not hard to understand.

  1. Human being is both individual and communal and both of those parts of human being start with traits encoded in genes and then refined by the development of a human being in a specific context within a particular culture. (The genes evolve, of course, within a total environment which includes culture which leads many to talk as if we are pure individuals but are subject to selection within an environment which includes cultures and communities and, thus, leads us to act as if we have communal being as well as individual being.)
  2. Different ethnic groups subject to different evolutionary histories, cultural and `natural’, lie on different points on a spectrum from individualistic to communalistic. A community will itself have a spread of traits so that some strong individualists might be born into the most communalistic of peoples.
  3. Northwestern Europeans are radically individualistic as opposed to, say, Chinese who are radically communalistic. (Actually, it is apparently more accurate to say the most strongly communalistic of Chinese, and a few other peoples, are those who have been rice-farmers for centuries.)
  4. It would seem that the genes and culture of Northwestern Europeans have evolved in unison over the past millenia or better.
  5. The thinking class of those northwestern Europeans, and some other Europeans as well, had developed within the priesthood and also, more freely, among the laity once education was more widely available. That thinking class seems to have been still more inclined to radical individualism than their fellow-Europeans and they developed political and economic ways of thought which assumed that it was a metaphysical truth that human being, if not deformed by culture, was radically individualistic. This started with Hobbes’ observation of the nearly sociopathic inclinations of many of his fellow Englishmen and his missing observations of rice-farmers in the south of China. Locke and Smith and Jefferson and Rousseau and Mill (both father and son) and the Classical Liberals in general, most especially the ones proudly bearing the label `Libertarian’, glorified what was a good trait so that it seemed good to make individualistic traits strongly dominant, and sometimes absolutely dominant, over any communalistic tendencies.
  6. European political and religious leaders, unlike those of most regions and most certainly unlike the Confucian rulers of China, enhanced their power by weakening other forms of human community, even the family. The Catholic Church, though biased toward the less radical individualism of Italian culture, also was guilty in treating human communities as nominal entities, as mere gatherings of individuals. Though partially true in corresponding to an imbalance in the human being of Europeans that reinforced the evolution and development of a still greater imbalance of individual over community, though some communities claimed the right and had the power to control individuals.
  7. The result was the war of all against all seen by Hobbes. Europe became a continent filled with unbalanced, murderously competitive communities of closely related peoples fighting themselves and those other peoples to whom they were closely related. Those peoples, once they had achieved what seemed to be high states of civilization, waged a prolonged war of extraordinary brutality; starting in 1914 and calming down for periods, but fully active again in some regions by the early 1930s and for much of Europe by 1939 or so. After the Cold War and its proxy wars in Asia and Africa and Latin America, the Europeans started actively fighting each other again in the Balkans, often to the profit of American politicians and arms-manufacturers, in the 1990s. Sociopaths had come to almost complete power over political and economic and cultural institutions.
  8. Along side these ultimately pointless wars, the West had to endure a prosperity of an deeply unattractive type. Westerners gave birth to start-up companies more often than to babies and the babies who did come were often raised in institutions or by women who spoke Spanish as their primary language.
  9. We in the West have passed on our moral rot, of the radical individualistic species, to some other peoples who seem to have had inadequate defenses. Maybe they also were inherently unbalanced in the direction of individualism over communalism?

Peter Frost has published another frighteningly insightful article about the ongoing self-destruction of the West and the spread of our moral disorder to some other peoples. In A Faustian Bargain?, he discusses the Parsi, a once proud and prosperous people who are non-breeding themselves out of existence as a result of their adoption of Western understandings of the good life. Please read it. It really is frightening to a thinking man.

Technicians, including many who present themselves as deep thinkers in the fields of economics and politics and sociology, tell us that our ways of life, our political and economic and cultural infrastructure, needs some fixing up. Replace a few support beams, put up a few more walls to keep the government out of some rooms, and throw on a coat of paint. In fact, the West is rotting, has been showing signs of decay since at least the 1800s. The West showed florid disease symptoms in the American War Between the States and the brutal and criminal war against the Filipino people, in the events of 1914 through 1945—both the wars and the economic collapses, in the political and financial corruption of the United States (existing from before the War Between the States but developing to absurd levels over the 20th century) and the turn to a brutal and criminal imperialism. Even the most ordinary observations in our towns and urban neighborhoods should tell us of demographic problems and of decreasing moral order in the youth of the best of families.

It would be evil to even try to rebuild the West as it once was. It would be an act of rebellion against God, an effort to push the Body of Christ out of the way so that we men can climb back up the ramp of decay to build another civilization subject to the same sort of decay as we’ve seen in recent centuries. It was a good experiment and the age of Enlightenment and a seemingly healthy form of radical individualism produced some darned good science and music and literature and art, even some interesting philosophy and theology. The experiment went bad, though not how or when most traditionalists imagine.

We are so many herds of individuals with no internal structure to those herds, no lasting relationships. Each head of Western human animal can move freely about inside the herd and form relationships as he wills at the time.

That herd isn’t part of the Body of Christ, though once it was the major part of the Body in its pilgrim, mortal life. That herd is marching toward the permanent grave and not toward Heaven.

Am I saying the typical American or European of northwestern European descent is a radical individualist? To this point, I have at least implied that to be true. Now it’s time for me to make an important correction.

Our rebellion against reality, against God the Creator of this reality, is soft and half-hearted. We can’t ridicule what is holy in our traditions because most of us are more individualistic than, say, Chinese but not nearly as individualistic as Hobbes and Locke would have us be, not nearly as individualistic as the Mills were and would have us be. We want our communities, strongly bound in their own ways though perhaps a bit more weakly bound than those of Chinese and certainly African tribal peoples, but we’ve been taught to desire the fruits which might come to a courageous Bohemian. We’ve been seduced into inappropriate ways of life by those who are even more radically individualistic than the great majority of northwestern Europeans. We’re destroying ourselves and only a small number of men and women are benefiting, those men and women who are radically individualistic to the point of sociopathy.

Though I strongly criticize the tendency of modern men of the West to develop certain traits into sociopathological conditions, though the West probably has a disproportionate number of men and women who have sociopathological tendencies, on the whole, the individualism of the peoples of northwestern Europe is a good and useful trait so long as it isn’t developed to an extreme and so long as economic and political and cultural systems of an individualistically inclined people aren’t forced upon other peoples. The Body of Christ is going to be a complex melding of valid human traits, in their various manifestations along spectrums of possibilities. We need team-players and we need healthy individualists.

The Invisible Hand, the Invisible Heart, the Invisible Mind

Posted February 3rd, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being

Adam Smith famously took a new approach to the ancient problem: how to describe and understand the mysterious workings of created being in which ordered forms exist or even can be seen coming into existence. Those ordered forms can be forms imposed upon concrete matter—concrete entities such as stars or human beings, the latter being Smith’s primary interest. Those ordered forms can also be relationships between concrete entities.

As I see it, the above problem is pretty much the problem of understanding the formation of complex entities, human beings are of particular interest to we who are human beings, in this particular world as shaped by the Creator from more abstract forms of being. The evolutionary and development processes which have shaped human beings on a species level and an individual level have produced actual creatures which have the characteristics of persons in analogy to the three Persons, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, who are the one God. There is much for Christians to do in developing a new, richer and more complex, understanding of Creation—including a specially focused understanding of human being. There are many who are fighting battles to defend tradition because of what is clearly good and true in it and many fighting to take down tradition because of the many outmoded speculations—often masquerading as theorems of a sort. Few there are who are willing to pay attention to God’s revelations as they emerge in this age when men have developed remarkable skills and technologies for the exploration of certain realms of created being. Fewer still there are who can even realize we are watching new forms of created being emerge as human communities grow to tremendous sizes and to surprising degrees of complexity. This is partly because nearly all men, especially those who are highly educated, misunderstand the nature of the human mind and mis-understand the nature of created being and of human knowledge and of the relationships between created being and human knowledge.

Men of the West were disturbed greatly by the discoveries of Galileo and his successors that matter and energy don’t behave the way that contemplation upon experience would indicate. They would be still more disturbed by relatively recent discoveries that matter and energy are something different from what even Galileo and Newton thought them to be. The same can be said of the more recent discoveries about the nature of space, time, infinity, and mathematics as a whole.

It will be still more disturbing when men, especially Christian men, face up to the discoveries by Darwin and his successors that God’s ways of shaping human being are strange and indirect, not so amenable to the forms of analysis preferred by traditional philosophers and theologians and historians and politicians and so forth.

Adam Smith was active during a period when physics stood about halfway between Newton and Einstein; Erasmus Darwin was writing a poem about an emergent form of evolution but his more hardheaded grandson, Charles, wasn’t yet born. Within the limits of Smith’s possible understandings of this concrete world, human communities as well as the physical stuff increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution, Smith managed to come up with vague language about the nature of forms and how they come into existence. It wasn’t so much Smith’s terminology which was good as was his prophetic success at capturing the spiritual essence of the formation and operation of free markets as they were in the second half of the 18th century in Scotland and England. He also saw into the future to some extent, predicting that the British colonies on the east coast of North America would become so powerful and wealthy as to likely overshadow Great Britain herself in the next century or so. (In line with some of my recent writings, Smith had not a clue that his specific theories about markets were mostly relevant when discussing a small sub-population of the human race—Europeans and especially those of the northwestern regions, a people very much skewed to individualistic traits.)

We should honor Smith for being a courageous and insightful pioneer of the modern world—his insights can be seen as prophesies of more exact forms of thought not only in the social sciences but also in the physical sciences. See this short introduction to the thought of Ilya Prigogine, a physical chemist and Nobel laureate who was a pioneer of concepts we can loosely describe as those of self-organizing systems. We should bear in mind that qualitative reasoning which can point toward more exact forms of thought are also important in physical science and are not just a fuzzy-minded child growing up into a tough-minded adult—qualitative reasoning remains important even in quantum mechanics and gravitational theories but has to always adjust to the results of explorations amenable to quantitative exactness. The global, often qualitative, aspects of a complex entity remain as important as its local, largely quantitative, aspects. Abstract being continues to exist even in the most concrete of things.

Though I’ve made some attempts to move toward a more exact understanding of created being on the “local” level and Creation on the “global” level, I’ve often worked on a higher level of abstraction than did Adam Smith. I usually work at a level which is necessarily qualitative because it is above the level of the more particular forms of being, including those of quantitative mathematics and the sciences which study concrete and `mostly’ particular being. (I put the scare quotes on “mostly” because quantum mechanics explores forms of being, energy-matter in this concrete world, which range from the very concrete to the not so nearly concrete; something similar could be said about other modern theories of physics with respect to spacetime.)

The type of analysis made by Adam Smith is still necessary for making greater sense of the discoveries of geneticists and anthropologists and historians and mathematicians and others, but Smith didn’t get it quite right. He couldn’t have gotten it right and needed to courageously do it the best he could, though it is also true that the better understandings of human being I’ve used as a starting point can be found in the ancient traditions of both Jewish and Christian thinkers. Men are hearts and minds and hands and yet one—defectively but truly. Men are born as communal beings as well as individual beings, or, as I prefer to put it, we have both individual and communal being. Smith, the radical individualist of northwestern Europe, was perhaps blind to knowledge emphasizing communal human being too strongly.

At the same time, we are a multitude of individuals, who remain such, and each of us is also, incompletely and defectively, our communities. We are told by the Bible and commentators from Judaic and Christian sources that we are images of God. Christians believe God to be Father and Son and Holy Spirit in one God—three individuals, who retain their individual Selves, but each is also fully and perfectly the one God.

Those who wish to explore these lines of thought can start with my freely downloadable books: Four Kinds of Knowledge and A More Exact Understanding of Human Being. From there you can explore other books, including my large collection of writings from my weblogs: Acts of Being: Selected Weblog Writings From 2006 to 2014. Other writings, essays and books, are available at my website, Acts of Being, including novels.

Was Dante a Pioneer of Radical Individualism?

Posted January 26th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Human nature

Ten years ago or more, I read the Inferno, the first volume of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. It didn’t make too much of an impression on me, seeming to be at least in part a matter of Dante taking shots at some of his enemies, a lot of people he didn’t admire (often, for good reasons), and a few friends who led disordered lives and didn’t even try to repent or reform.

After the past 9+ years of working out my worldview, a Christian understanding of created being, which necessarily included an understanding of human being, of its relationships to God, and, hence, of salvation and damnation, I wished to read all of The Divine Comedy—Singleton’s prose translation with heavy annotations. In a not so short sentence: I wished to see how much sense Dante’s theory of salvation and damnation made from the viewpoint of one who had struggled with both Christian teachings and with modern empirical knowledge and had produced a worldview which makes sense of both as compatible and mostly overlapping descriptions of the same world.

Dante doesn’t seem to have believed in the main teaching of the Bible: the Old Testament teaches that the members of the People of Israel will be saved as members of that community and the New Testament teaches that members of the Christian Church will be saved as members of that community. In Dante’s Paradiso, even those saved to live on the outermost realm of Heaven live as a gathering of individuals who are not in communion with the other souls who made it to regions closer to the center of Heaven; they are gathered together as they might have been at the hearth of a warm and well-run tavern. (That outermost realm is the everlasting home of souls who lived good lives but didn’t live up enthusiastically to their vows or presumably other serious commitments.)

Looking back, I can see that Hell and Purgatory were little different in the presentation of human beings as individuals—though I could appreciate a presentation of the damned as those who refused to properly engage with their communities and are bound not to ever do so. In any case, Dante’s poetic masterpiece doesn’t so much as hint of that ultimate community which is the Body of Christ, or rather it presents communities as mere gatherings of the `true’ human beings who are individuals.

On the other hand, I teach that we human beings, at least those who will achieve full membership in the Body of Christ, are like the three Persons of God and that Body, as I said, is like God. This is to say that, as true images of the Trinitarian God, individual human beings remain fully so while being also fully the Body of Christ. Each and every one of those who are saved to share God’s life for time without end. Dante has no such sense. Certainly, he can’t be blamed for not seeing much that history and modern biology and other sciences has brought into view or into more clear view in the past few centuries. Evolutionary biology and history and sociology supports the idea that we have a strong communal component to our human being—we aren’t just individuals who travel in groups or enter into voluntary relationships of a contractual type, though perhaps tinged with deep feelings.

Dante seems to me to be someone already on the path toward Hobbes and Locke and Jefferson and Nock—all admirable men, but dangerous men whose ideas are worth investigating and contemplating and whose ideas on human being must be rejected by any who have a Biblical faith or who are making sense of modern empirical knowledge of men and their various communities.

I’d even say that it’s pretty clear an individual human being of the sort found in Hobbes and other Liberal thinkers, finite in many ways and only displaying some of the virtues and gifts of human being even as we know it in this mortal realm, couldn’t tolerate life without end. We don’t have enough to draw on and would soon enough be praying for an end to time.

Dante is simply wrong that an individual human being could forever be satisfied, let alone in a state of bliss, by adoration of God—when that worshiper has to rely on the stuff of an individual. We can see the way to a solution when we posit a rich and complex Body of Christ in which we all share in the gifts and accomplishments of St Paul and St Augustine and Alfred the Great and St Thomas Aquinas and Blaise Pascal and John Henry Newman and Leo Tolstoy and Flannery O’Connor. But that’s still not enough. Not to fear. The Body of Christ has more—Jesus Christ, Son of God and true God. We can share in the fullness of God’s own Being and live God’s own life along with the Son and, through Him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

As individuals standing outside of God and adoring Him, we would not be able to tolerate life without end. It is only by sharing God’s own life that we could enjoy life without end and we could share that life only through full membership in the Body of Christ and full communion with its Head: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter Frost, a paleoanthropologist who is well-versed in genetic issues, has been writing for at least several years of the ways in which ethnic communities have characteristics which reflect their unique histories. One of the strong findings of modern research is that the ethnic groups which have inhabited much of Europe in recent centuries have personality characteristics consistent with their political and economic and cultural systems; these characteristics, especially a stronger sense of individual self which can be extreme in some, are said to be especially strong in northwestern Europeans, but seem to exist throughout Europe, possibly because of migrations of related peoples into all regions of Europe over the recent millenia.

The more recent immigrants from Asia and Africa to the countries of Europe and North America seem to have different characteristics, sometimes consistent enough with `Western’ characteristics that assimilation is possible at least in the public marketplaces, economic and political. Many of the more recent immigrants from eastern Europe and some from east Asia and southern Asia exhibit behaviors consistent to some major extent with the political and other systems of Europe, even the most Liberal (collectivist or classical) of countries. Even European styles of collectivism rely on pulling together mobs of individuals rather than the long-term development of complex, often kin-based relationships—Marx and Dante have similar assumptions about human communities so far as I can tell, though I admit I haven’t studied either writer too much and have no interest in doing so. Combining ethnic groups which have evolved in radically different environments can work but problems might develop between Europeans and even those groups of Chinese and Jews who have more respect than most Europeans for the accomplishments of Newton and Shakespeare and Mozart. (“Damn it, there’s some guys in tuxes playing crap music. Somebody must be broadcasting the national championships of the Women’s National Mud-Wrestling League (WNMWL).”)

In other words, as I stated above, there is now even scientific information that all that shallow speculation found in Locke and the classical liberals of the 19th century and forward is wrong but was worth pursuing but only with regards to some human beings at the extreme end of the spectrum for northwestern Europeans, themselves seeming to be at a fairly extreme end of the spectrum for mankind in general. Other peoples with equal or better accomplishments in politics and economics and culture and science aren’t even interested in the ways of the West. And they shouldn’t be.

And these wonderful northwestern European traits in their more moderate form showed up at least by the time of Dante, as did a blindness to their uniqueness and also the contradiction between an unqualified acceptance of those traits and the Biblical teachings on salvation as well as modern, scientific understandings of human being. Wonderful so long as we realize we are at the extreme end of certain human characteristics and then go on to understand, and act as if, other ethnic groups can be much different. We should also remember that many from that northwestern European population, or the European population in general, have far weaker individualistic traits.

This evolutionary stuff, including gene-culture co-evolution, is for real. The Bible is for real. Neither evolutionary thought nor the Bible should just be mined for verbal bullets to shoot at our enemy of the moment, only to be put back in the closet until another such opportunity. Both evolutionary knowledge of human being and Biblical knowledge of that same human being have to be fully accepted in understanding the fullness of human life or fully rejected.

See my freely downloadable book, A More Exact Understanding of Human Being, for a little bit more on human being as I understand it. More will be coming, God willing. See The Struggle Between the Individual and the Community in the Body of Christ for one of my recent efforts to move beyond that book.

The Struggle Between the Individual and the Community in the Body of Christ

Posted January 20th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, civilization, Freedom and Structure in Human Life

A large number of Americans, leading good lives in most ways, believe the United States is and always was a champion of justice and charity towards all nations when we really believe that the only good life is one ordered to the individualistic tendencies so attractive to those descended from the residents of northwestern Europeans. These tendencies were sharpened into truly dangerous weapons, used to sunder the individual from his communities, by a host of thinkers from Hobbes through Voltaire through Mill, father and son, through the classical liberals of the late 1800s and on to various barbarians home-grown in the hothouses of the modern West, no longer describable as Christian and not unified nor coherent nor complete enough to even be described as a civilization.

Oddly enough, the basic principles of the radical individualists were set in concrete as the evidence started coming in that they were wrong. In particular, the work of evolutionary theorists and historians and anthropologists and geneticists has tended to a rich and complex, and as-yet partially ordered, view of man not so much different in outline from that found in the Bible and in the great literary works of the ancient and Medieval and modern world. Men of the West, especially the Anglo-American regions, tend strongly to think, in a peculiar fit of self-righteous bigotry, that our ways of living are appropriate for and desired by all human beings when our ways are in a state of disorder as individuals, once the source of the creativity and energy of the West, have been set loose from their communities and have run amok, having broken the ties to Western tradition which once nurtured that creativity and that energy and guided them toward good goals.

I’ve stated the problem in terms more or less forged by traditionalist critics of the modern West, but much of my work, in nonfiction writings and novels, is aimed at showing our situation is far more dire and the problems go even more deeply into our individual selves and our communities.

There is a conflict which is part of the evolution and development of human being, individual and communal, which is obvious in the 20th and 21st century in a particular and concrete manifestation. The West in recent centuries has been dominated by Northwestern Europeans who are now known be strongly individualistic due likely to co-evolution of their genes and culture. A long history, including the response to Mao’s policies, would indicate the Chinese have traits leading to the opposite problem of communal human being threatening to swallow the individual human being.

Those who know a little of modern geometry and topology can think of it in the terms I’m trying to develop into an appropriately rich and complex model, quantitative and qualitative, of human nature and maybe of all concrete created being. I’ll present imagery in terms of a vague and necessarily simplistic model in two dimensions–the surface of a sphere with a bit of raggedness going into the third dimension.

Individual human beings can be seen as sheets—think of us as more or less flexible pieces of sheet metal. We are to be found on the surface of a sphere and making contact with other sheets in ways good or bad or mixed. We have to think of the surface of globe as truly being formed as the individuals form. We also have to bear in mind that this is one level of community and also one level of individual as he could develop in his primary communities of family and other local communities. We also have to bear in mind that we might sometimes have to imagine the globe’s surface as being too small for the individuals and more local communities trying to find space and sometimes too large so that we can visualize isolated individuals or communities. Keep these complications in mind but I’ll speak mostly as if we’re dealing with simple and fully-defined individuals (being tangent to the globe’s surface at a point which `locates’ the individuals) and just one layer of community. [The stuff about `tangent’ is very sloppy language and needs to be refined by use of some sort of qualitative limit process which are similar in some sense to the epsilon-delta limits of calculus. Some of this language has been developed in modern physics where `small-enough’ regions of spacetime do have separable space and time and follow the dynamics of Newtonian physics. These small-enough regions are tangent to surfaces like that of a hypersphere but attach to that hypersphere in a way defined by the business of small-enough. In physics, the hypersphere of interest usually has spacetime rather than space and time and follows the dynamics of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.]

In terms of this physical image, groups of human beings which are excessively individualistic make bad contact with others in their community and with their community or even nearly no contact in the extreme case of some mental or emotional disorders. Groups of human beings which are excessively communal make contact too easily in a way that produces smooth boundaries and uncertainty as to the start and stop of the individual.

There are two major groups of tasks for those who feel a calling to help the Body of Christ to better form in this mortal realm or for those who simply wonder, “What the hell is this guy up to?.” First, philosophers and scientists and creative writers and others must develop this sort of a model (or maybe different but with similar potential descriptive power) so that we can understand what we human beings are and what our possibilities really are—as we can currently see them. I think I provided a solid introduction, though no explicit model in my freely downloadable book: A More Exact Understanding of Human Being. The second group of tasks is the practical task of working towards some goals in various communities and with various degrees of certainty and pure hope. Experimentation would seem to be much in need in the upcoming generations and that experimentation might proceed along with or even ahead of efforts to understand and describe.

In these terms, excessively individualistic groups of human beings, seem to be bad in a clear way but excessively communal groups of human beings seem not so bad in any clear way. I’m sure I’ve been biased in my discussions because I come from one of those excessively individualistic peoples and I’m trying to work my way to an understanding which might produce a better balancing, one equivalent in many ways to the views found in the Bible and in the works of some great thinkers, certainly the Jewish sages so deservedly beloved by Jacob Neusner who saw, in particular, the disciplined emotions of men as being the binding forces of human communities—see Do We Need Heart and Hands as Well as Mind to Understand Reality?.

Strong individuals, who remain separate selves even as they become fully their communities, are needed as a Christian would assume from Trinitarian theology where Father and Son and Holy Spirit remain fully their individual selves even as they are fully God. These sorts of statements communicate some important core truth but they are too simple even for the reality of human being, individual and communal; certainly too simple for the large and complex human communities which have emerged in recent centuries. Yet, they are a starting point for the beginning of an effort to understand human being more exactly and more accurately, in appropriately rich and complex terms. To a Christian, the Body of Christ in its perfected and completed form must have an exact and accurate self-understanding and human beings, Christian human beings and perhaps others, who will have a future as part of the Body of Christ when it fully shares the life of God must play their role in all of this by proper development of powerful individual and communal minds, hearts, and hands which will lead to that self-understanding.

I’ll also suggest that the major cause of the often violent turmoil in human communities of our age is caused by this particular imbalance. I can see the possibility of moving forward, of realizing an overarching community—a civilization or prefiguration of the Body of Christ—on the great Eurasian landmass, reaching from China and her sphere of direct influence through Central Asia and Russia and perhaps other parts of Eastern Europe and perhaps even ending at the British Isles. Other regions of the world may participate to various degrees, perhaps even the United States once it is taken down a few notches and the juvenile leaders of the various political and economic and cultural and religious communities are replaced by adult leaders who are willing to take on the Augean stables of a promising country sunk into moral and cultural rot. But, a people gets the leaders it deserves and the American people will have to develop some true moral character before they could get any leaders with true moral character.

Developing Human Minds, Individual and Communal

Posted January 15th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, Freedom and Structure in Human Life

Reality often messes up our formal models or our less rigid schemes of how reality should work. A good thinker takes such glitches not as a sign that we can’t use models in a particular situation but rather as an invitation to think their way to a better model or perhaps to develop a more flexible understanding, perhaps a narrative structure in which some of the entities and events are describable by quantitative or qualitative mathematical models and much has to be described in a more purely qualitative way.

We need a general way of thinking this through and one of my goals has been to produce an understanding of created being which unites created being, and allows us to also see the true relationship of created being to its Maker. Specifically, I’m choosing to look at the `boundary’, which may be gradual or abrupt, between qualitative mathematical models and more purely qualitative understandings. This is roughly the domain of openended, non-deterministic narratives. This is also the domain which largely gives the setting for the more formal models and also points toward the greater story which is Creation, all the realms of created being.

I advocate the idea that relationships between and among creatures and other `abstractions’ are also a form of being. We can now abstract from matter and energy and fields to a level of reality already very abstract to us, though largely quantitative and deterministic to an extent that I’d further claim it can’t be the entire source of this concrete world’s being. That limited but extensive abstract level is described by the formalisms of quantum mechanics. Even on strictly physical grounds, it can’t be the entirety of the abstractions from which the thing-like being of this world is shaped. Spacetime comes from a different set of abstractions which may or may not be tightly linked at some highly abstract level to the abstractions of quantum mechanics. I’d go beyond what I’ve said in the previous few sentences: recognizing the dangers in consistency for its own sake, I would yet argue we get a more consistent and also more coherent description of created being if we simply consider those abstract levels (or realms) as created being. In this way of thought, I speak of concrete being as shaped from more abstract being. See How a Christian Finds Metaphysical Truths in Empirical Reality for a more complete description of my ideas, including a discussion of this very simple, almost cartoonish chart: .

Don’t think of this chart in terms of knowledge of being but rather in terms of being which we can encapsulate in our minds so long as we respond properly to what lies outside of us, abstract being which is metaphysics and mathematics and some qualitative aspects of our concrete world and also concrete being which is chemical engineering and surgery and carpentry and child-rearing. Our vocations and avocations are created being as much as the tools and materials we use.

There is no absolute separation of abstract and concrete being. Concrete being is shaped from abstract being itself shaped from relatively more abstract being until we reach the truths God manifested as the raw stuff of this Creation, but abstract being remains yet in the lowest and most degraded things of this world.

This gives a new perspective on what a mathematical model is, including the most complex of scientific theories, say those of quantum physics or modern gravitational theory. It also gives us a way of speaking about my division of knowledge: revelation, speculation, scientific empirical knowledge, and practical empirical knowledge. (For more on this, see my freely downloadable book: Four Kinds of Knowledge.) Note also the problem I’ve created just by trying to break the bounds which were holding back human efforts to understand Creation, including human being, and to better order our own individual and communal selves: I’m forced at times to use a confusing, mixed language in which `knowledge’ seems to mean what I deny it means. But `knowledge’ had a meaning to ancient Hebrews and ancient Greeks far closer to that which I propose. For a man to know a woman was to become one with her in an act of sex and, at least to the ancient Hebrews, this implied a respectful and loving act. We can recover such an understanding of `knowledge’ and purge our thoughts and feelings and acts of the modern dualism which fragments our world in a way less plausible than the ancient split between body and soul or matter and spirit.

I propose:

For a man to know this world is to have an encapsulation of that story being told by God in his own mind, so that it shapes his feelings and thoughts and actions. If such a story is morally well-ordered, it can be the stuff of a civilization.

For a simple and short introduction to my understanding of being, see two essays I wrote early in the process of developing that understanding: A Christian View of Einstein’s and Bohr’s Debate on Reality and Quantum Mechanics and Moral Formation. In that second essay, I pointed out the similarity of Bohr’s `radical’ position to the teachings of the school of St John the Evangelist.

I’ve written of human being as a matter of heart and hands and mind—see Do We Need Heart and Hands as Well as Mind to Understand Reality?. Since we are images of God the Creator, this means we can speak, in the sense in which we already have something of a share of God’s life, of all created being as created by human mind and human heart and human hands at work along with our Father in Heaven. All three are necessary. All three acting together is truly God-like and when we share God’s life there will be no true distinction between the three. To feel is to act is to think. There will be one person even if the organs of brain and heart and hands yet exist.

I’ll quickly examine a case where some scientists applied the type of thinking associated with the study of complex dynamics (physics) to a linguistic problem. In the article, Focus: Why Language Exceptions Remain the Rule, Michael Schirber, a freelance science writer, discussed some work done by Christine Cuskley of the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Turin, Italy and her colleagues on an oddness which is particularly noticeable in English: Why do irregular verbs survive? Why “swept” instead of “sweeped?” Children try to apply the rules to every verb and will say “sweeped” until `corrected’ often enough that an eccentric verb form settles into their minds.

It turns out that it’s the verbs less often used which remain irregular. The force of many users, including children learning English, will lead to the use of a regular verb form so long as those many users do truly use that verb often enough.

The last paragraph of the article is a summary sufficient for my current purposes:

“The strength of this paper is that it focuses on the essential ingredients of simplified models for the evolution of language,” says Eduardo Altmann of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany. Because the new model can be solved analytically, it provides more direct access to the conditions that produce the different language states, he says. In addition to irregular verbs, Altmann imagines the model could also work for instances where two languages (or ideas or beliefs) compete.

The initial model didn’t work and the scientists complicated it, making it more accurate but at the cost of adding in a population of people with certain behaviors about adopting simpler rules or staying with the older rules—this population can’t be identified. To match reality on a global level, they had to move away from reality on a local level.

This is all very interesting but my point will be a still more general one. Because we, as individuals, are very particular, we view being from a particular perspective at any time. On the other hand, we as communal human beings, view being—including this thing-like world—from a multitude of particular perspectives which an individual can somewhat assimilate and, in a weak sense, come to understand a great deal about Creation. Of course, what we understand about Creation is always timebound and spacebound, culturally constrained, subject to our particular role and skills, and so on.

When communal forces suppress an individual’s inclination to do things more consistently and, at least arguably, better, we see the communal mind at work; this should be generalized to the conflict when any individual tries to think or feel or act in a creative way that conflicts with convention. Our communal minds are themselves far from mature, even for the simplest of communities with the simplest of roles in the life of the community which can be called mankind and is really the Body of Christ in formation. (This doesn’t mean all men will be saved into the Body of Christ in Heaven, just as it is well recognized that formal membership in the Church doesn’t imply any automatic salvation.)

In Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Randomness, I wrote:

From facts come—sometimes—patterns. We’ve become somewhat accustomed, by way of terribly vulgarized mathematics and biology and other sciences, to the idea that patterns come from `randomness’ or `chaos’. Something of an overview can be communicated to those who have not heard of Poincare or Hadamard or Duhem, Ruelle or Smale or Prigogine and to those who don’t know what a nonlinear equation is; we should wonder what sense these people make of it. We are at a more complex transition point than the one noted by Oystein Ore, prominent number theorist and teacher (see Number Theory and Its History republished by Dover Publications in 1988): in the 14th century or so, long division was coming into use and was considered to be a topic for mathematical geniuses, well beyond those even of more normal high intelligence. Nowadays, we start learning long division in mass education elementary schools, though many still have trouble with it and some can never master it even to the point of figuring how much per pound a roast costs if 4.5 pounds costs $25.

In the struggle between consistency and established convention in verb forms, we see the communal mind reluctant to change certain fundamentals of language unless it has good reasons to do so. In the ongoing expansion of the human mind’s capacity for learning what was once considered advanced mathematics in elementary school, we see the communal mind growing and maturing and individual minds somehow becoming capable of mastering skills well beyond the capacity of similar minds in earlier generations. Could the same happen with quantum mechanics and other hard theories some day? Could it happen with larger and more complex bodies of theories and concepts and narratives, such as the greater narrative of this world and the world of the resurrected set in the entirety of Creation?

We can see in the study of the irregular verbs that there is always the possibility of an imbalance between the individual mind or the communal mind. It’s hard for a people to develop individual and communal minds in a way such that both are strong and healthy, though—in principle—the strongest and most capable of individual and communal minds will develop together and co-exist. But not in peace, for we live in a world of struggle. It’s almost a cliche that some of the best literature has been written by authors fighting the constraints of implicit or explicit censorship. I think of myself as fighting an implicit censorship which is the result of willful ignorance and the resultant stupidity of Americans and most other Westerners; this censorship takes the form of a sort of Gresham-like flooding of the bookstores and movies and television lineups with mindless crap which dulls the mind and stimulates our less noble emotions and will often lead to immoral acts.

My current opinion is that we’re not in a situation where individual or communal minds have become too strong at the expense of the other. There are certainly some who think only the thoughts put into their heads by the wig-stands of the mainstream media or by the speeches of Presidents or Senators. There are also certainly those who think to break free of a morally disordered society, or perhaps to protect their own interests as they remain part of that society, by nurturing their own sense of individuality and denying what they inherited from their fellow-citizens or from men of distant times and places. This latter denial often takes the form of treating received human being as objective knowledge, that is, knowledge which can be treated as if it were x’s to be combined in logical formulations. In any case, the West in 2015 has individual and communal minds which are both weak.

We Americans are morally unordered or disordered individuals who are ignorant and functionally stupid, yet we have some sort of strong attachment to the idea that we are well-formed individuals. Our communities, and communal minds, are equally disordered and yet express a strong self-regard, unlovable and criminal communities demanding our full and unqualified love. We Americans are poorly formed individuals moving in disordered herds and we think ourselves to be at the height of human accomplishment, downright exceptional we are. Similar states hold in most Western countries though the paths to those disordered states were different and some of those other Western peoples seem to at least suspect something is profoundly wrong inside of us and our various communities.

And, yet, there is much truth in claims that we’ve reached our disordered states at least partly because of those who sought to develop our communal natures at the expense of our individual natures, because of others who sought to rip individuals from their communities or to seduce them to leave their families and other communities. Marxists and libertarians are equally committed to deformed understandings of human being.

Updated Collection of Weblog Writings Now Available

Posted January 10th, 2015 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: books for free downloading

I’ve uploaded an update to the collection of my weblog writings: Acts of Being: Selected Weblog Writings From 2006 to 2014. Here is the text from the Preface for this new edition:

I’ve added nearly 50 chapters to this Fifth Edition. All but this chapter are reformatted essays from my writings during 2014 which were published on this weblog, Acts of Being.

In 2014, I shifted course slightly and began working on a more than half-completed novel which has sat in storage for nearly 10 years—how the time does fly. I continued my study of mathematics of a sort which might help to develop the qualitative tools, concepts and words, which can help generate proper descriptions of human being and its various relationships, including the issue so important in an age in which the `positive’ sciences (including empirical studies of history and literature and so forth) have been so successful: how much can be understood by way of quantity and what is left over to be understood by way of those non-quantitative modes of understanding which often seem to be as necessary as they are ghost-like in recent generations?

And it remains true that I hope your thinking is stimulated by what you find in this book.