The Long War of the American Ruling Class Against All That Exists

Posted December 17th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: decay of civilization, Narratives and truth, politics

That Brazilian globetrotter, Pepe Escobar, has summarized the New Cold War in a recent article, The new European “arc of instability”. In that article, he published a paragraph from an email he received from the Saker, a former military intelligence analyst who lives outside his homeland of Russia but defends her strongly and intelligently in his comments on the Internet. Saker tells us:

“Putin is telling both the West and the Russian people that there is a long war in progress and that the Russian people have to morally be prepared to accept sacrifices for the survival of Russia. This is one more step in the ‘coming-out’ of what I call the ‘Eurasian Sovereignists’ in which the US [has] now openly declared as a Russophobic (Russia-hating and Russia-fearing) enemy, and the Europeans as a powerless colony. Military power is not directly a factor in this, the internal power balance between the pro-Western ‘Atlantic Integrationists’ and the ‘Eurasian Sovereignists’ is.”

(You can find more writings of the Saker at The Vineyard of the Saker or Russia Insider.)

All of this is interesting and extremely important but I’m going to deal with this specific idea of a “long war” and in a terrible insight into the moral degeneracy of the American ruling class but a degeneracy being endorsed by even those Americans who live local lives of moral integrity: the United States is waging a demonic war against all that exists to the extent it won’t bow to the American ruling class. Captain Ahab, he of utilitarian competence and moral insanity, is the normal American, as Melville feared back in the 1850s. (The results of recent American adventures in Asia and Africa and even in Detroit and Ferguson raise questions as to our competence in 2014, but that merely turns a moral tragedy into a greater farce.)

As I see matters, the American ruling class is waging a long war against nearly every entity and region on the face of the earth. I don’t exclude the American people or peoples or individual citizens nor do I exclude the various regions and cities of the United States. So far as I can tell, the American ruling class is comfortable only with gangster and bankster behavior, enforcing their desires upon others. I almost think they would be disappointed if everyone on earth were suddenly to obey Washington or Wall St. A great period of boredom would set in. There would be no reason for ambitious young Americans to go to Harvard or Stanford to learn how to play with the world as if it were a risk board and its men, women, and children were plastic pieces.

This moral sickness on the part of Americans, foreseen by the likes of Melville and Hawthorne in the 1850s and others since, is what doomed the peace dividend when the Soviet Union fell: we Americans, along with some of our allies in Europe and other regions, had built up bloated militaries and national security agencies which had no way to justify their existence unless they continued waging war upon…anyone and everyone. From the beginning there were Dr Strangeloves and bomb-crazy generals and politicians combining ignorance with an egocentric understanding of the world. Nearly all American leaders, including those religious leaders betraying God and flocks, came to enjoy this idea that we Americans know how human beings should live. All Americans are ever horrified to discover some peoples hate us for our DisneyWorlds and our McDonalds and our military bases in their backyards. Those who fear such a morally trashy culture and nation for the sake of their own children are as jingoistic as those who treat wars against largely defenseless countries as another spectator sport—see Dumber Every Day, With Beer in Hand and War on TV.

In a fit of paranoia, we Americans fell in behind our profiteering leaders to threaten war against the entire world and to actually wage it upon various countries, including two countries, Iraq and Libya, which were suffering under brutal leadership but were also advancing in many ways toward a stable and prosperous state. And, all the time, our leaders were using some American citizens to wage war upon the entirety of the citizenry.

I’ve covered much of this ground before and have little to add. I prefer to get back to my goal of developing ways of thought which can help us, or our descendants, to better shape our multitude of overlapping communities, including those of a political and military nature. Above, I gave some links to relevant essays I’ve written. The interested reader can also check out a recent essay I wrote trying to make larger-scale sense of this bad situation: Deep States and the Modern American Citizen. That essay contains links to other, related essays I’ve posted over the past 5 years or so which deal with conspiracies in the sense of deep-states or predatory classes. (A little warning: I prefer to speak in terms of classes or institutions and to reserve the word `conspiracy’ for specific criminal projects.)

Finally, for two different takes on the state of the American moral character, see The Need for Abstractions in Moral Self-understanding and Quietly Charitable or Quietly Murderous But Always Quietly American. That first essay discusses the moral insanity which was already well-developed in the New Englanders of the 17th century as they waged war against Indians, even those who had become Christians, because they hadn’t become English middle-class Christians of the Puritan sort. There were, of course, other issues and the native Americans had their own brutal criminals, but my broad-brush statement holds when properly qualified.

Traditional Morality is Dead, Long Live Traditional Morality: The Dangers of Understanding God’s Acts-of-being

Posted December 15th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Human nature, Moral issues, transitions of civilizations

I’m writing this essay to set up my responses to Claes Ryn’s essay describing how the moral teachings and traditions of the West could re-establish some sort of peace in our world: The Moral Path to Peace.

I’m planning for now to finish the set-up in this essay, following up on what I wrote in the first essay, Traditional Morality is Dead, Long Live Traditional Morality: A World of Evolution and Development. The theme of that first essay is what the title claims and I’m now going to try to discuss, very briefly, the difficult situation of those of us who believe we need a good understanding of the past and a deep respect for the knowledge and the wisdom of the past to guide us into the future.

We do live in a world of evolutionary and developmental processes. We human animals came to exist, as a species, by way of Darwinian evolution (understood in the modern sense to include Darwin’s solid achievements plus much he guessed at and much he didn’t even guess at), and, as individuals, by way of developmental processes. We are changed and become differently shaped, in emotional and cognitive and neuromuscular ways, by our responses to what lies inside and outside of us; this truth was taught by St Thomas Aquinas and rediscovered by modern neuroscientists as discussed in the book How Brains Make Up Their Minds by the neuroscientist and philosopher Walter J Freeman. A factual truth gained by honest observation and hard thought by a Dominican friar in the 13th century has withstood the test of time and scientific research.

There are other truths which are trickier to evaluate in light of new knowledge of the processes and structures and entities of Creation which is, after all, a manifestation of specific thoughts of God. It’s a little surprising to me, but only a little surprising, that viruses and bacteria and even fungi can manipulate us, changing some fundamental aspects of our feelings and our thinking processes—see The Demonology of Sexual Behaviors and Preferences. It adds a certain richness to modern understanding of what was once seen as demonic possession. Does it change at all our understanding that homosexuality and cross-sex behavior is disordered? It certainly should make us more tolerant of those who don’t meet traditional standards, but I’ve found that, at least in recent years, even clergymen and orthodox Christians who hold traditional views on sexuality are tolerant of those whose behaviors or desires are condemned by the Bible. So, I think it fair to say that new knowledge that, for example, there is a fungal infection which seems to turn women into obligatory Lesbians by way of even one experience, doesn’t force us to change our views on the moral rules of sexual behavior. But it does complicate the story of the human race and should make the self-righteous stop and wonder. If you believe, as I do, that this world is a work of God and then discover there are infections which can make you slower on some cognitive tasks, infections which can make you friendlier and more prone to serious schizophrenia, and others which can change your sexual desires, then we have to ponder the simpler understandings of good and evil and even of God’s relationships to us.

So there are ways in which modern empirical knowledge can be quite disturbing. It greatly damages our established understandings of the world and more—or rather, it forces those who see the world as composed of well-defined regions of light and dark to see something different from that, or forces them to blind themselves. All of Creation can be disturbing when we start to learn things which force us to confront the inadequacy of our existing understandings. Modern mathematicians have found that the old truths hold but the full truth is much greater and includes ways of thought, corresponding well to our physical world in many ways, which don’t obey Euclidean geometry. Infinity has proven to be a multi-headed beast rather than one unapproachable `point’. Randomness is an irreducible fact rather than a matter of magical chance.

The human race has been through changes so deep or extensive, or both, as to destroy the plausibility of the teachings of conservatives (in the true and not Trotskyite/Neocon sense) and traditionalists of other sorts. Augustine was forced to develop a historical viewpoint in which Christianity was separated from its historical environment of the Roman Empire; Rome was seen as yet another ephemeral work of men. In a more restricted domain of politics (and somewhat of economics), Edmund Burke was forced to both defend the political traditions of the British peoples and to reformulate them: the political situation of those British peoples was changing dramatically and the truths gained by hard experience could be saved only by transforming them. Something similar could be said of John Henry Newman’s transformed understanding of Christian thought as something which did change with the times. I make more general claims than Newman, considering changes in our knowledge of Creation or any part or aspect of Creation or, more radically, with the realization that we have seen emergence of new forms of created being. These latter events would be most likely to occur with human communal being though we now know that human individual being is changing rapidly, down to mundane physical matters encoded in simple and easily readable ways in our genes. In fact, anthropologists and geneticists claim we human beings are changing more rapidly than ever before.

It is most certainly true that none of this new empirical knowledge, nor even the new forms of human communal being, argue that the “old truths” are no longer such, but they do argue that we need new ways to live according to even the most absolute and lasting of truths, new ways to understand human nature and this world and even the nature of salvation, and new ways to understand our failures and our sins. Over the past few years, I’ve been working on a project to better describe and discuss the Body of Christ, each of the saved remains an individual and yet is fully the perfect and complete man which is Christ; I’m trying to derive appropriate concepts and words by abstracting from the (largely qualitative) forms of geometry used in the General Theory of Relativity but also in some fields such as the design of machinery.

This is disturbing, though also exciting in that it points to the need for creative thinkers and doers and even feelers and the corresponding possibilities to reach the greatness of Augustine of Hippo, Francis of Assisi, and others who responded—if reluctantly at times—to great change by producing new thought or behavior or institutions to meet the needs of human beings. They used their inherited tradition, added to it, and passed on an enriched and complexified tradition to us.

We need to face up to modern empirical knowledge and stop claiming that it has no effect whatsoever on moral or political or cultural issues. We need to admit the strangeness and dangers in the knowledge that bacterial or viral infections can change the functioning of our brains or other parts of our metabolisms or the realization, at least on my part, that none of the existing ideas on how governments and other centralized institutions can be formed work very well in our huge and hugely complex societies. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount remain as absolute truths but the political philosophies of Aristotle and the political forms in the American Constitution seem quite inadequate to our truly new world, not yet a brave world because we men of the West in particular haven’t shown the courage to deal honestly with God’s Creation. I begin to see a large number of contingently true ways of thought which no longer correspond to our particular contingencies in the 21st century.

As a final comment: I most strongly propose we should study even thought and behavior and institutions inadequate to our needs but once adequate to some group of human beings. There is much political and moral wisdom even in the parts of the Old Testament which advocate a sort of tribal localism (see 1 Samuel) and probably more wisdom of a political nature in the writings of Aristotle and Plato and Augustine and Dante and so on.

Traditional Morality is Dead, Long Live Traditional Morality: A World of Evolution and Development

Posted December 10th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Biological evolution, Body of Christ, civilization

I was inspired and frustrated by a discussion by Claes G Ryn of the traditional Western views of human moral nature: The Moral Path to Peace. I was inspired by such statements as: “In the end, only moral character, supported by general culture, can fortify the self in man that wants openness to argument and respect for others.” I was frustrated by still another effort to counter the wrongheaded teachings which have arisen and spread in the modern world by way of arguing against those wrongheaded teachings (Ryn concentrates upon Rousseau) instead of making the far more important effort to deal with the knowledge gained by modern men as they explored empirical reality; the failure to take on a task not so different from that of Augustine of Hippo: to build a new understanding of God’s Creation by dealing with knowledge both wondrous and dangerous.

In upcoming essays, I’ll deal a little more with some specifics of what is good and what is lacking in the efforts of serious and learned conservative thinkers such as Claes Ryn. In this essay, I’ll deal with some foundational matters about Creation as it can be understood in light of modern empirical knowledge. In particular, I’ll be dealing with some general aspects of man, individual and communal, as a result of evolutionary and development processes rather than man who came to be at one time with a stable and well-determined nature. I’ll be dealing with man as a creature whose substance and characteristics and aspects arise from relationships rather than a creature who is born with well-formed substance and characteristics and aspects and then enters into relationships. I don’t know enough of intellectual history to understand how it might have happened, but modern conservatives have an understanding of being not so much different from that which underlies the false teaching of libertarians that we are freestanding creatures who enter into relationships on a voluntary, or even `contractual’, basis.

Modern conservatives tend to avoid certain problems by assuming that men are born with well-determined moral and other social characteristics but somehow those characteristics allow the same man to be a villager in a tribal society or a citizen of a great civilization such as the one we’re destroying in the West. Man is seen as an all-purpose social creature, having appeared on the earth in a final state, whereas the evidence is growing that man has actually been evolving and developing rapidly over the past 50,000 years or so, evolving and developing so that he has the brain regions proper to develop minds capable of the abstract reasoning processes needed to live in a modern university community which is part of the United States, itself a somewhat reluctant part of Western, Christian Civilization. That this Civilization has at least one foot in the grave doesn’t matter in one sense—it lives in the minds of those such as Ryn who wish to keep alive what is good from the traditions and those such as I who wish that but also to rebuild Christian Civilization, the Body of Christ in this mortal realm, so that it corresponds more faithfully to God’s Creation as we can now understand it. And I contend that Civilization is fundamentally a great understanding of man and Creation, an understanding provisional in this mortal realm, but one which seems to have included some important core truths from its beginning thousands of years ago and seems to be adding more core truths as well as refining those we inherited.

The traditions of Western Civilization were magnificent. With a simplistic—but largely true—view, we can see Western Civilization as a grand synthesis of Jerusalem and Athens/Rome. There is also much truth in the related simplification by which we see Western Civilization as beginning with Augustine of Hippo, Pope Gregory the Great, and Benedict of Nursia and developing as Europe was invaded by barbarian peoples from mostly Indo-European stock—peoples closely related to the Latins and others already in Europe. Those Goths and Franks and Gaels and Britons joined the Latins and other Italians, the various peoples of the Middle East and the Near East—including North Africa, in an initially chaotic and always unplanned effort to make something of Hammurabi and Moses, Plato and Archimedes, Augustus Caesar and Virgil, as brought into the Christian cosmology constructed by Augustine of Hippo and many others. It is this effort I’m encouraging, an effort mounted with barbarian energies, to make the tradition as new as Augustine did.

Western Civilization looms larger if one accepts the view of Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) that Western Civilization was the house built for the Church by generations of Christians.

It looms still larger with my major extrapolation of that view: Christian Civilization, encompassing many cultures and a huge number of individuals, is the true Body of Christ with the Church being the central organ of the Body. Western Civilization is that Body in its most advanced stage to date.

The Body of Christ as I envision, in light of modern empirical knowledge—history as well as sociobiology, literature as well physics—is a bit different from Western Civilization as understood by Joseph Ratzinger; that Body of Christ as I envision it is a living dynamic being rather than structures built by individual dynamic beings and that Body develops in response to environments of contingent circumstances and random, or factual, events. As such, that Body is far more different from Western Civilization as understood by modern academicians in general—even those of Christian beliefs; that Body of Christ as I envision it is headed by Jesus Christ and Christian Civilization, most recently of the West but perhaps not for long, is the mortal manifestation of the true Body which exists in a completed and perfected form in the world of the resurrected.

Remember always that individual human being is also evolving and developing as well as communal human being.

Empirical knowledge, in the sense of structures built from facts, can’t get us to anything like my understanding of Creation, nor to the lesser cosmologies which have been the foundations of Western Civilization as well as the cosmologies of the Semitic and Greek and Roman civilizations, and others, from which Western Civilization has descended. On top of that sort of factual empirical knowledge, scientific and practical, we need speculative knowledge—often metaphysical reasoning disciplined by and abstracted from the best of mathematical reasoning in any given age.

Yet, we Christians are still not done, for all of this empirical knowledge and speculative knowledge has yet to be disciplined to the truths revealed to Moses and Isaiah and by Jesus Christ, true God born as the man Jesus of Nazareth.

This structure of human knowledge is developed in more detail in my freely downloadable book, Four Kinds of Knowledge.

Let me move on to discuss a matter of some sensitivity. Western Civilization has been starved to a state approaching death. As matters stand, Western Civilization is not likely to survive as the dominant part of Christian Civilization—if it survives at all. Yet, there is a certain magnificence to the frightening old boy. After all, he trekked through the Sinai with Moses, sailed the Mediterranean with Odysseus, watched Christ die alongside the Virgin Mother and St John the Apostle and not many others; he rode alongside the literate and noble St Alfred in the war to drive Vikings from England, traveled through Hell and Purgatory and Heaven with Dante and Virgil, and fought alongside Galileo to re-establish a respect for God’s Creation in light of what might be called a neo-Augustinian theology and reading of the Bible.

Grand old boy that Western Civilization, but he was never for real but rather a human understanding of the real Body of Christ as he develops in the story being told by God, a telling and a story in which men participate in such a way as to help shape that Body and, thus, their own future lives as shared with the Son of God in the world of the resurrected. The real Body of Christ, as he is in this mortal realm contains a lot more than Western Civilization, a lot more than the Christian churches and realms traditionally in union of some sort with Rome. And that Body is certainly a bit different than would appear to mortal eyes.

We can’t predict the future development of the Body of Christ with any confidence because it is a living entity, having its own communal being apart from the individual human being which exists inside the Body in a multitude. (This communal being isn’t really apart from individual human being but the converse is also true.) As is true of any living creature, it will grow and develop and even evolve in response to the contingencies it encounters; those contingencies include at least the events of the physical world. The individual human beings in this Body of Christ will also be growing and developing and, as a species, evolving. This is a view which can’t be handled by currently existing ways of understanding man as an individual or as community. New forms of thought are needed and I claim that at least a beginning in thinking afresh can be drawn from abstractions of modern knowledge of created being in its material form—including that form of knowledge we call mathematics.

We’ve traveled into realms where sophisticated thought is needed. Despite what determinists might think, `randomness’ (or unpredictable facts emerging) occurs at the interfaces where two or more systems interact even if those systems are fully deterministic in their internal events. The current environments of man, social and also `natural’, are made of some very complex systems indeed and there are very complex, `fact-ridden’, interactions at the interfaces of these systems.

Human being has changed and is currently changing rapidly. Geneticists and paleoanthropologists say that anatomically modern man came into existence more than 100,000 years ago, but cognitively and socially modern man seems to have come into existence over the past 40,000-60,000 years—we see more complex societies and technology developing slowly by the standards of a man’s life but showing clearly by 10,000 years ago or so. [Take the exact years with a small grain of salt; they might well change but a shift of decades of millenia wouldn’t affect my arguments.]

What happened? Why was it that there were human beings 100,000 years ago little different from us in matters such as bone structure and perhaps soft flesh but not forming complex human communities nor even developing more sophisticated tools than those of primitive hominids from a million years ago or more?

There are some emerging answers, and good reason to believe these will cause deep problems in modern societies increasingly committed to the proposition that there are no significant differences between the races or the smaller ethnic groups. Those anatomically modern human beings seem to have reached their final brain development at the beginning of adolescence—this because the genes for brain development during adolescence can be traced back to the populations which left Africa 40,000-60,000 years ago though some of those development genes flowed back into Africa and some might prove to have developed independently in Africa. In my terms—to which some scientists might object, abstract reasoning tends to develop during adolescence and those creatures which looked so much like us were practical-minded creatures able to handle small-group life and primitive technology but not capable of understanding even high school physics nor capable of reading a complex novel. They couldn’t develop, probably couldn’t have dealt with, the complexities of the relationships we think so natural—social, political, economic, and so forth.

Much happened after the human brain began to develop regions adapted for, or adaptable for, abstract reasoning. Human beings had lived for hundreds of thousands of years in relatively small groups, extended families to a large extent but not exclusively; so far as I understand matters, those groups were semi-nomadic and lived by both hunting and foraging. By 10,000 years ago or so, they seem to have formed larger communities which mostly made their living by agriculture including animal husbandry and supplemented by manufacturing of tools for internal use and perhaps external trading.

Over the next six or seven thousand years, progress continued and probably accelerated so that larger-scale manufacturing and truly dense communities developed, first in the Middle and Near East and then elsewhere. These people achieved high levels of accomplishment in such areas as architecture and organization of complex endeavors such as building and operating large-scale irrigation systems.

As I’ve noted in prior writings, we see signs that of truly abstract reasoning, and not just high levels of practical reasoning working its way out through trial and error, by the sixth century or so before the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the age of the Pre-Socratic philosophers, the later prophets of Israel and likely those who put the more ancient works of the Bible in more or less final form, and the founders of Hinduism.

I would contend that history, that of human thought as well as that of politics and that of technology, gives us no reason to think these processes of evolution and development have slowed down; in fact, it’s likely that human sociobiological evolution has accelerated. History speaks of the increased and increasing rate of interesting events and we can all see the ongoing emergence of more complex relationships and tools in our various communities right up to the global level.

To look into matters more deeply or to try to see the world more clearly leads to dangers to our personal selves and our communal selves.

That is where I’ll pick up in the next essay in this series.

Does the “Real Presence on the Altar” Make Sense or Is It a Mystery Beyond Human Thought?

Posted December 4th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Catholic theology, Christian in the universe of Einstein

An Overview of What I’m Up To

I’ve tried to concentrate on the general speculative, or `metaphysical’, task of making sense of created being, abstract as well as concrete, in light of Christian beliefs. I’ve tried to avoid too much in the way of theological speculation and certainly have and will avoid questioning the basic truths of Christianity—they are the basis of true human thought and of all possible true understandings of Creation. Since there are contexts in which histories and texts are understood, as well as languages and speculative systems in which those histories and texts are stated and then understood, this doesn’t mean a slavish acceptance of, for example, the traditional understanding of the Christmas story as being history in the same sense as the story of the missionary activities and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; the Christmas story seems, to this author, to have the literary feel of myth whereas even those stories of the mission of Jesus which raise questions of detail have an earthy, historical feel to them.

Since my work has led to much effort in understanding the Body of Christ, I’m being forced to deal with the Sacraments which are the most important human means of forming that Body and working toward salvation.

I’ve spoken often in sometimes vague terms of the need to understand the way in which we have both individual and communal human being, as images of the one God who is Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The Sacraments, as well as the sacramental relationships of mundane reality, would seem to be one of the glues by which the local (the individual) is bound into the global (human community and ultimately the Body of Christ) while continuing to exist as an individual.

Consider this essay as an effort to provide another part of the general framework by which Creation, at concrete and abstract levels, can be seen and understood as a work of the God of Jesus Christ.

The Real Presence in Light of Modern Knowledge of Creation

In a world where Christians respected God’s Creation, this should be a primary test of a particular form of theology: can the revealed truths of the Bible be stated in terms of that Creation and, in particular, in terms of what we know of the world in which we live, the world into which Jesus of Nazareth was born, the world in which that same Jesus spoke of His own divinity and spoke of the bread and wine He was sharing with the Apostles being His own Body and Blood.

Does it all make sense in Christian terms? Is Creation unified in its basic being or are there some truths for this mortal realm and other truths for the world of the resurrected? Could there then be an infinity of worlds with an infinity of different bodies of truth?

Maybe we should treat Christian revelations as fairy-tales which are somehow more true than the concreteness of this world? Or maybe we should be more consistent Modernists and treat those revelations as being fairy-tales in a more complete sense, communicating only some vague, abstract truths?

The path I’ve chosen is to respond to reality as revealed by modern empirical knowledge, that of physics and chemistry and biology and also that of history and creative fiction.

The Council of Trent taught (with some proper qualifications) the language of a substantialist transformation of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ—`transubstantiation’ was the term they approved. Apparently, Aquinas himself used such language while teaching that God isn’t substance but pure existence, a claim made even earlier thought not with the supporting network of ideas which Aquinas created in his Summas. There is a deep inconsistency which became a great problem when modern science, especially quantum physics, cast some doubt upon the understanding of matter as substance.

It can be said of the Summas of Aquinas that the Summa Contra Gentiles (or lesser Summa) was a system which began with created being and moved toward God while the Summa Theologicae (or greater Summa) began with God and worked its way down to created being. This isn’t a situation where we can envision a God who sits on a throne and looks down upon a world of substance which He rules externally, Zeus squeezed into a Biblical form. (See Proving the Existence of Zeus.) To move forward, we need to recognize that modern empirical sciences have provided views of spacetime and of matter which are fully consistent with the radical understanding of St John the Evangelist: the world exists because God first loved it. Or: relationships are primary and stuff (substance) comes from relationships.

Whatever happens when bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, it shouldn’t be described primarily as a change in substance, transubstantiation is the word chosen to bear such a heavy burden. What happens when bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ is a change in God’s chosen relationship to stuff in which the Son of God is already present. All things were made through that Son and, since relationships create stuff (in the sense of “creation from nothingness” and also in the sense of shaping some stuff already existing), then all things come into existence as the result of the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the relationships God chooses to have with contingent being—what He chose to create. We are told by St John that all things are made through the Son of God and are thus of God.

Creation is shaped from truths God manifested as the very abstract being which I often refer to as the `raw stuff’ of Creation and, as such, is something of an image of the Almighty. Seen as thoughts, these basic truths are an image of the mind of God though not the entire mind for sure; seen as love, these basic truths are an image of the heart of God though not the entire heart for sure; seen as acts of creation, these basic truths are an image of the hands of God though not encompassing the entirety of what His hands be capable of.

From the abstract realms of Creation, God created a world sufficient to be the home of a creature with which the Son of God could share a nature, emptying Himself to become one of us.

So, by the Holy Spirit, the Son of God was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

The Son of God was already, in a sense, the entirety of man, already the perfect man or Body of Christ—at least in the sense of `nature’ as used by Christian metaphysicians though not the entirety in that He chose to have, even to need, companions born into the mortal realm. In a similar sense, He had been that perfect man or Body of Christ before (ontologically or temporally) God laid the foundations of Creation. I write with some qualification, “in a sense,” to communicate that we are on dangerous grounds here. Some ways of writing and speaking will prove ever dangerous and some will prove to lead to outright heresies. We should not avoid dangers because following God’s thoughts through exploration and analysis of created being isn’t an activity for those seeking security and certainty—those can be found more readily in the over-simplified pietistic or heretical versions of Christian thought.

When Christ was conceived, “was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man,” He took on a particular nature, entering the strange state of being one Person but having two natures, divine and human.

Christ took on a particular nature and yet remained God and Creator, remained the Son of God and retained His divine nature; the manifested thoughts constituting the raw stuff of Creation were yet His thoughts as well as the thoughts of Father and Holy Spirit. Since God is a unity and so is each of Father and Son and Holy Spirit, the raw stuff of Creation is also divine heart and divine hands as well as divine thoughts.

We’re now in position, if somewhat a sketchy position, to describe the Real Presence of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine. In fact, under my understanding of knowledge as itself being an encapsulation of some greater or lesser part or aspect of reality, an `explanation’ isn’t possible and it isn’t desirable to be seeking such an illusion in this age when we know from modern neurosciences that St Thomas Aquinas was correct in saying that human nature in its higher form, mind or soul as you will, has innate properties and components but those are in a primitive state and need to be better shaped by responses to the external and internal realities in which we live. We are not born with immaterial organs named `mind’ or `soul possessing a grasp of mathematical truths and logical truths and moral truths.

The Real Presence is a more open communication between Christ as yet present in all of Creation including the bread and wine as offered by men to God. As Christ took up a human nature, so He takes up human food as His own, food already incorporated as His Body and Blood and to be shared with all those who come to His table, even those who come in faith and hope and love but can’t directly share because of one problem or another. We who receive communion as individuals are being bound more tightly into the Body of Christ; our communal human nature is being strengthened as we eat what we are becoming and what is increasingly us.

What Have I Accomplished?

The above is far from `radical’ or `modern’ enough to satisfy me as being a fully acceptable and plausible restatement of a modern Christian understanding of the Real Presence of Christ, yet it is a movement toward an understanding in terms of modern empirical knowledge and speculative understandings of at least this particular world, this concrete level of Creation. This is to say that the above explanation indicates something about some `glue’ which can bind the local (individual) to the global (communal or even ultimately Body of Christ) without obliterating or obscuring the local. Much more needs to be thought and said and done, but that will be the work of a multitude of thinkers, including poets and musicians and artists, over a number of years. When this work seems to be reasonably complete and when Creation seems to be simple after all, it will undoubtedly be time to start developing a still richer and more complex way of understanding Creation.

American Soldiers Who Enjoy Killing

Posted November 24th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: decay of civilization, Evil, Human nature

William R Polk has an impressive resume, summed up in the short bio published with his articles at

William R. Polk was a member of the Policy Planning Council, responsible for North Africa, the Middle East and West Asia, for four years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, He was a member of the three-men Crisis Management Committee during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During those years he wrote two proposed peace treaties for the American government and negotiated one major ceasefire between Israel and Egypt. Later he was Professor of History at the University of Chicago, founding director of the Middle Eastern Studies Center and President of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. He is the author of some 17 books on world affairs, including The United States and the Arab World; The Elusive Peace, the Middle East in the Twentieth Century; Understanding Iraq; Understanding Iran; Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency and Terrorism; Neighbors and Strangers: The Fundamentals of Foreign Affairs and numerous articles in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, Harpers, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Le Monde Diplomatique . He has lectured at many universities and at the Council on Foreign Relations, Chatham House, Sciences Po, the Soviet Academy of Sciences and has appeared frequently on NPR, the BBC, CBS and other networks. His most recent books, both available on Amazon, are Humpty Dumpty: The Fate of Regime Change and Blind Man’s Buff, a Novel.

A serious man, indeed. Polk is a highly-respected historian who falls into that small category of mainstream thinkers who can be highly critical of those in the mainstream, business leaders and cultural leaders as well as political leaders and intelligence or foreign service personnel. He writes in polite but straightforward terms about the incompetence and irresponsibility of the leaders of the West in a recent essay: Standing in an Adversary’s Shoes . This essay ends with these short and powerful paragraphs:

So it is not surprising that today we are moving away from coherent, well-reasoned and effective strategy and indulging in scattered, short-sighted and unsuccessful tactics. We jump from one crisis to the next with little thought on how we keep repeating our mistakes.

There is truth in the old saying that when one is in a hole, his first step ought to be to stop digging. We need to pause and take our bearings. We need to do this for our sakes as much as for “theirs.”

I end on a very personal demonstration of a proof for what I have written: when many years ago I was first visiting such Asian and African lands as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, both Sudans, Libya and Algeria, I was welcomed — as an American — with open arms. Today, I would be in danger of being shot.

Remember, many of those American responses to crises, often created by our leaders or allies, resulted in devastated countries with piles of bodies, hospitals and schools in rubble, and poisoned soils resulting in high rates of birth defects. If our leaders, and most of our citizens, fail to see that we wreak death and general havoc wherever we go in recent decades, then it is ignorance and blindness which is a form of evil.

I’ll leave it to the reader to explore Polk’s essay and maybe find other works by Polk on the Internet, in an accessible library, or in a bookstore. For now, I’m going to respond to one of his specific comments:

The Special Forces or Green Beret soldier apparently, in the words I have heard them say, positively delight in their power to inflict pain and death. What is the long-term effect of such experiences on our own society and culture? Surely, they cannot be beneficial.

Back in April of this year of 2014, I published an essay, The Moral Superiority of the Modern Military Over Modern Civilian Society, where I claimed “that communal being in the American military is better formed than is nearly any other communal being in the United States.” It could be said that this is a low standard and it has to be said that military communal being isn’t independent from the greater communal being of the societies or nations or empires in which those military men and military units serve. See Quietly Charitable or Quietly Murderous But Always Quietly American for a discussion of American moral character in light of the trigger-happy self-righteousness which shows in both our preferred entertainment and our foreign policy adventures.

Some, including W. Patrick Lang who runs the blog at Sic Semper Tyrannis , have spoken differently, based upon experience that might not be fully relevant to current American conditions, cultural and military. Lang, who is “a commentator on the Middle East, a retired US Army officer [Colonel] and private intelligence analyst, and an author[,]” has spoken of an earlier generation of Green Berets as being men who could kill when they had to but were inclined to try and understand those in other cultures and to treat them with respect. Another retired Green Beret who blogs on Lang’s site under the user-name of “The Twisted Genius” refers to himself as a hard-hearted empath.

Let’s consider such men, able to kill with detachment of their feelings—in a manner of speaking, but under the overall control of… What?

Under my way of understanding, men have both individual and communal nature. We human beings are images of the one God who is three Persons; we human beings are each individuals but will be saved as one perfect man (in St Paul’s terms) and yet will remain our individual selves. I also have a more complex view of that one perfect man, the Body of Christ, than can be derived directly from St Paul’s letters. We are imperfect versions in this world of what we can be if we are resurrected to share Christ’s life. We will not live as individual, freestanding creatures even in this world as is the dominant belief in the modern world, especially in the United States. We are members of a variety of communities and share being in each of those communities with all the other members. This is all quite consistent with modern understandings of man from genetics and from evolutionary biology, especially sociobiology. See Social and Biological: Being Honest About the Basics of Human Nature for some background.

Americans, even in the Colonial period, have shown a streak of self-righteousness which borders on, or crosses into, moral insanity. I discussed this with respect to a brutal war waged on New England Amerinds in The Need for Abstractions in Moral Self-understanding. Note that men capable of moral detachment might well be more capable of this sort of higher moral reasoning than the most of us—particularly if they are raised in a morally well-ordered society.

I’m going to assume those Green Berets discussed by Polk were from a younger generation than Colonel Lang or The Twisted Genius, though my discussion linked to in the above paragraph covers Americans from earlier generations. Parents and other adults in recent decades thought it proper to sit children in front of violent cartoons and then Rambo and The Terminator and a lot of movies and TV shows about drug gangsters and undercover cops shooting up Miami or Los Angeles. A few decades ago, I remember reading about less elegant gangsters in New Haven who held their gun battles in the hallways of the projects. The walls and doors weren’t built to stop bullets and a few children and other innocent people stopped those bullets instead.

These youngsters, even some just a few years younger than me—I was in the last Vietnam era draft in 1973, also grew up with war-mongering governments and news media who had learned not to televise images of frightened young girls running down the road trying to escape the napalm burning into their backs. They grew up seeing the fireworks of Baghdad being destroyed and it all seemed so clean and so righteous. And they grew up hearing about American Exceptionalism. They grew up seeing gangsters glorified on television and George Washington debunked at school.

In short, anyone born after 1965 or so grew up in an age of serious moral disorder which had even penetrated to the small towns and farmlands by way of television and the movies. Even most of those who were guided by wise parents and clergymen and neighbors still grew up in an age of malformed moral nature in their larger-scale communities, including the malformed moral nature of the American state and its citizens as a body. We are a morally disordered people and even our seemingly good individuals have a share of that disorder. It takes a positive effort and a willingness to be `un-American’ to retain a clear vision, a willingness to just leave when it’s not possible to correct errors. There are some who will listen if you try to tell them it’s the United States and its vassals who are causing the trouble in Ukraine and are among the ultimate sources of trouble in the Near East and Middle East. There are some who simply stare at them if you try to argue that Putin might well be a bastard, but he’s the sort of bastard that good Christian men sometimes have to be to protect their country.

I’ll repeat the quotation from Polk’s essay:

The Special Forces or Green Beret soldier apparently, in the words I have heard them say, positively delight in their power to inflict pain and death. What is the long-term effect of such experiences on our own society and culture? Surely, they cannot be beneficial.

What I said is, “They went there with disordered communal moral natures and often with disordered individual moral natures.” And I could add, “Polk is right that their experiences further damage their moral natures, individual and communal. Even the ones who partly or largely pull out of it do so by way of dealing with horrible memories of the evil they found themselves able and willing to do—if only willing during the period of blood-lust or fear.”

The Demonology of Sexual Behaviors and Preferences

Posted November 19th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Body of Christ, Christian theology, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, Human nature

The world is what it is and we Christians, of all human beings, have to accept it and work with it. For example, against the various do-gooders including those who think themselves Christians, I believe the Body of Christ has to be built of the human material which is us, the material created by God through some evolutionary and developmental processes which can be ugly even when things go well and can be quite ugly when things go wrong. In the way of this world, some of those processes can seem pretty when things go very badly—Baudelaire was not entirely wrong in claiming to see a certain sort of beauty in some evil things and evil acts. A pretty face truly can hide an evil mind or heart.

I’m less concerned about evil in my writings, including this one, than I am about the need to make peace with empirical reality, the one created by God, and not to pursue dreams of a world designed according to our desires or ideals or dreams. If evil exists or threatens to come into existence, then we need to deal with it. (It’s not a problem of theodicy: I have no problem at all with the suggestion of Martin Buber, Jewish scholar, that God can create a world in which evil exists without at all affecting God’s all-goodness. Satan isn’t needed.)

So, what are we to make of a free-thinking paleoanthropologist who tells us Yes, Demons Do Exist? What does Frost mean by `demons’? We can find out in the first paragraph of his article:

Are we being manipulated by microbes? The idea is not so wacky. We know that a wide range of microscopic parasites have evolved the ability to manipulate their hosts, even to the point of making the host behave in strange ways. A well-known example is Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan whose life cycle begins inside a cat. After being excreted in the cat’s feces, it is picked up by a mouse and enters the new host’s brain, where it neutralizes the fear response to the smell of cat urine. The mouse lets itself be eaten by a cat, and the protozoan returns to a cat’s gut—the only place where it can reproduce (Flegr, 2013). [Links for this and other references can be found in the original article.]

T. gondii can also infect us and alter our behavior. Infected individuals have longer reaction times, higher testosterone levels, and a greater risk of developing severe forms of schizophrenia (Flegr, 2013). But there is no reason to believe that T. gondii is the only such parasite we need to worry about. We study it in humans simply because we already know what it does in a non-human species.

Recently, there has been some joking, as well as serious commentary, on the Internet about a “dumb virus”. This isn’t a cognitively impaired microbe but rather one which can alter our intelligence levels. See this abstract, Chlorovirus ATCV-1 is part of the human oropharyngeal virome and is associated with changes in cognitive functions in humans and mice , where we can read:

Human mucosal surfaces contain a wide range of microorganisms. The biological effects of these organisms are largely unknown. Large-scale metagenomic sequencing is emerging as a method to identify novel microbes. Unexpectedly, we identified DNA sequences homologous to virus ATCV-1, an algal virus not previously known to infect humans, in oropharyngeal samples obtained from healthy adults. The presence of ATCV-1 was associated with a modest but measurable decrease in cognitive functioning. A relationship between ATCV-1 and cognitive functioning was confirmed in a mouse model, which also indicated that exposure to ATCV-1 resulted in changes in gene expression within the brain. Our study indicates that viruses in the environment not thought to infect humans can have biological effects.

Frost also talks about the sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis:

Chlamydia is a major cause of infertility, and this effect seems to be no accident. Its outer membrane contains a heat shock protein that induces cell death (apoptosis) in placenta cells that are vital for normal fetal development. The same protein exists in other bacteria but is located within the cytoplasm, where it can less easily affect the host’s tissues. Furthermore, via this protein, Chlamydia triggers an autoimmune response that can damage the fallopian tubes and induce abortion. This response is not triggered by the common bacterium Escherichia coli. Finally, Chlamydia selectively up-regulates the expression of this protein while down-regulating the expression of most other proteins. (Apari et al., 2014).

But how would infertility benefit Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted pathogens? Apari et al. (2011) argue that infertility causes the host and her partner to break up and seek new partners, thus multiplying the opportunities for the pathogen to spread to other hosts. A barren woman may pair up with a succession of partners in a desperate attempt to prove her fertility and, eventually, turn to prostitution as a means to support herself (Caldwell et al., 1989). This is not a minor phenomenon. STI-induced infertility has exceeded 40% in parts of sub-Saharan Africa (Apari et al., 2011).

As it turns out, pathogens might also be able to change human sexual habits and sexual orientation. After a couple of disturbing paragraphs—when understood in the context of human moral freedom, Frost tells us: “Both male and female homosexuality seem to have multiple causes, but it’s likely that various pathogens have exploited this means [changing sexual preference] of spreading to other hosts.”

In his conclusion, Frost writes:

This is a fun subject when it concerns silly mice or zombie ants. But now it concerns us. And that’s not so funny. Can microbes really develop such demonic abilities to change our private thoughts and feelings?

It surprised me a little when I read that conclusion and its concern for privacy and then I remembered yet again that I live in a world in which even our most fundamental understandings of Creation have been restated in terms compatible with a radical individualism—even when that restatement is so much at odds with Christian doctrines.

A Christian believes in a Trinitarian God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit in one God. Three Persons sharing one nature. Human beings are an image of this God. But how could that be? Certainly, a modern individualist, even if Christian, should recoil at the deep conflicts between such views and their belief in their own individual, private selves. Human beings, to modern liberals—including both collectivists and libertarians, are freestanding entities which engage in contractual, voluntary relationships. We exist as fully-formed human entities and then choose to form friendships and political or economic or cultural relationships. Even collectivists have no concept of communal being, only that of entities being connected in the way of cogs in a machine.

So goes the modern liberal worldview and the strange belief that privacy should, or even could, be of primary importance in a world in which entities penetrate each other or live inside each other in various ways, including the way in which human and non-human entities exist in our all-too human empathetic and sympathetic faculties.

Can freedom exist without privacy? To orthodox Christians, Father and Son and Holy Spirit can be free despite having no `privacy’. They share all thoughts, all feelings, all actions. Yet, each is God; each is free.

I’m not presenting arguments but rather conclusions forced by the basic assumptions of orthodox Christianity, Trinitarian Christianity true to its traditions and its historical descriptions.

To be sure, we aren’t God though maybe, by the mercy of the Almighty, destined to share in His life. In this world, we develop by processes which can be damaged without some significant amount of privacy. Loss of this privacy would lead to a failure of development of our individual human natures as improper social development, or genetic problems—including any introduced by microbes, would lead to a failure of our communal human natures. We need some significant amount of freedom for either individual or communal human natures to develop properly. I’m not upset about my privacy being violated by infectious agents and, in principle, I’m not even upset about my privacy being violated by my fellow Christians because the nature of the Body of Christ, if He is to share the life of God and to be as God, tells us we won’t have privacy in the modern sense if we are resurrected by God to share the life of Jesus Christ.

The implication that infectious agents can remove a significant amount of our moral freedom is more disturbing and will require some serious research and contemplation by Christian moral thinkers. Freedom is entangled with privacy in this mortal realm but is ultimately something quite different from privacy—if not, then we orthodox Christians are wrong either in our understanding of God as Triune or else wrong in our belief that we are, somehow, the image of God and we are part of one perfect Man—the Body of Christ.

I’m holding on to my belief in orthodox Christianity and am working to understand the world, as known to us through modern empirical sciences including all disciplined human studies.

So freedom remains a problem. How can we have any true freedom, even if limited, if a stray virus thought to have been adapted to infecting pond algae can make us dumber, if a bacterium can force some women to lead disordered lives by sterilizing them, if other microbes (discovered or only conjectured) can change us from heterosexuals to homosexuals or from bisexual women to obligatory lesbians? True it is that a `heroic’ effort can help us to remain within the boundaries of Christian moral teachings but calls to such efforts on the part of parents and clergymen and teachers have failed and such failures have motivated many Catholics and Baptists and others to join in the call for changes in what they were taught to be absolute and unchangeable truths. More fundamentally, we still need to understand why it is that some need to put forth a `heroic’ effort to behave as demanded by Christian tradition and, indeed, by any straightforward reading of the Bible. We still need to understand why it is that some will never feel as they are told they should feel, even with a `heroic’ effort.

Will we go to Hell because we caught a flu-like illness that has a side-effect of changing our sexual preference? A seemingly silly question but what’s truly silly is that Christian moral thinkers, and moral thinkers of other dispositions, have no way of answering this question outside of perhaps a blanket dismissal any sort of normality, a trivialization of sexuality and of any other particular aspect of human being. The previous statement covers those who advocate tolerance of homosexuality and other forms of sexual practice condemned by Christian teachings.

What does all of this mean? It means that Christian moral thinkers (including artists) and teachers are standing upon shifting sand which is almost washed out from beneath their feet. This is not to predetermine what the results would be of refounding Christian teachings of human nature, including sexuality, upon more solid ground. I’m strongly inclined to believe the old rules will be mostly reconfirmed but that is a matter beyond human certainty until we go through the process of examining our mountains of empirical knowledge of human nature and bravely, with faith in the Almighty, asking the appropriate questions—no matter how difficult or uncomfortable. When we know a little better what a human being is, we can better understand claims about what a human being should be. And we can better understand why there is a significant difference between `is’ and `should’ in many areas.

This doesn’t mean that Christian moral teachings are suddenly wrong; it means that explanations of those teachings not stated in terms of acknowledged reality are implausible and cast doubt upon the teachings, even those which seem to be clearly stated in the Bible. It means young people, and many not so young, who are trying to form or recover an understanding of the world or their own human being or the human being of their children will find tales of a special creation of human beings and a fall from grace at the same time Christians have been forced to acknowledge the truth of the evolution of human beings from creatures which were also the ancestors of chimpanzees. Yet, Christian moral teachings are founded upon the misunderstanding of the story of Adam and Eve: we have an identifiable pair of ancestors who were created in a state of grace and fell by way of a freely made decision.

Is it any wonder that young men and women raised as Christians often conclude that Christian leaders are just being mean to homosexuals or to men or women who married and then fell in love with someone not their spouse or grew bored with their spouse after their children grew up? Is it any wonder Christianity has lost so much credibility as a guide to human conduct?

Reality, the reality created by the God of Jesus Christ, is biting back and the leaders and teachers of Christianity can do no better than to back up claims that they are the teachers of the great truths with absurd discussions based upon superstitions which are the decay products of scientific knowledge and philosophical speculations which were once valid. A lot has changed in the human understanding of empirical reality, that is, of the provisional human understanding of the thoughts God manifested in His Creation.

Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Failing to See the Future

Posted November 7th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Mathematical models, Mind, Unity of knowledge

In my last three essays I posted, Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Parts and Wholes, Mathematical Models of Human Communities: We Live in Narratives, Not in Models, and Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Randomness, I acknowledged the usefulness and potential truthfulness of mathematical models but claimed we need to consider wider aspects of this world and of all of Creation; mathematical models have to be put into a greater context, a belief also seemingly held by Weidlich, the author of the book I was responding to. In particular, I discussed in the first of those essays, very briefly, the ways in which many complex systems, those of physical spacetime and—with near certainty—those of human social relationships, have global properties which don’t fully come from summing up local properties. In the second essay, I discussed, with equal brevity, the nature of one of those global aspects of complex systems and especially human communities—they are stories or narratives with the properties which we expect in novels or tales and which don’t come from mathematical models as such. In the third essay, I presented a very preliminary discussion of the true nature of randomness (more or less—factuality) in this context of mathematical models.

In this essay, fourth and last in this series, I’ll respond to the same quote that I responded to in the third essay. In Sociodynamics: A Systematic Approach to Mathematical Modelling in the Social Sciences (Wolfgang Weidlich, Dover Publications, 2006), the author writes on page 155:

Historical and/or social phase-transitions are by definition revolutionary events in which the macrovariables of the system change their whole dynamical mode. A necessary concomitant circumstance of such a phase-transition is the appearance of critical fluctuations. These critical fluctuations are crucial for deciding the question which direction the path of the system will take at the cross-roads. In our case they are decisive for the question whether the political system will remain a liberal democratic one or whether it tumbles into the new totalitarian phase.

However—and this is the essential argument—the critical fluctuations are of random nature and are neither predictable by the research of historians, nor by the macroequations of any mathematical model! At best the full set of macrovariables and (not predictable) fluctuating microvariables which both together are causative for the concrete course of historical events at a phase-transition can be recognized by historians only retrospectively.

Therefor the general conclusion must be: In the rare cases of historical phase-transitions fluctuations become decisive (in contrast to smoothly and continuously evolving situations). These fluctuations consist of thoughts, decisions and activities of one or a few persons in key-positions in a global situation on the verge of a possible phase-transition.

This does of course not mean, that the continuous—to a high degree “calculable” and therefore predictable—macrovariables would be unimportant. In the contrary! They lead to the “revolutionary situation”, i.e. into the vicinity of a destabilizable situation where “everything can happen“. However, at the phase-transition these macrovariables are insufficient to make the further course of events predictable!

It’s hardly surprising that we can’t predict which of, say, five major paths a country might follow as a crisis approaches. I’d claim, and perhaps Weidlich would agree, that it’s worse than that—we can’t really even lay out the landscape in which possible paths lie.

As Weidlich says: “the concrete course of historical events at a phase-transition can be recognized by historians only retrospectively“. I’m currently reading a mainstream and apparently well-regarded book: A History of Russia by Nicholas V Riasanovsky. It reminds me of what I’ve read before: even Lenin, a remarkably competent actor in real-time whatever we might think of his ideas and actions, was improvising and adjusting his ideas to justify those ad-hoc responses to a rapidly changing situation. Ahead of us lies the fog of war and of other crises, ongoing or concentrated in a short period of time.

When I was younger and playing regularly in pickup basketball games, I also couldn’t see the position of all the players on the court let alone see their positions a second later the way that Larry Bird and a few other great playmakers could. They have mental skills, talents for geometric imaging, which are not found in many; they are inborn but highly developed by way of doing.

Suppose that there are also mental skills, cognitive and imaginative, which could allow us to see the possible futures ahead of us; this form of seeing would be abstract; it wouldn’t be likely we could visualize these possible futures in terms of discrete possibilities as is true on a basketball court. These would be high level mental skills, more like the highly developed skills of a mathematical physicist than those of a great playmaker on the basketball court.

But, as John Polkinghorne—theoretical physicist and then Anglican priest—pointed out: physicists haven’t learned how to think in this way. (See Shaping Our Minds to Reality.) As a one-time professor of physics at Cambridge University, he wrote of the difficulty in convincing (presumably elite) physics students that a vector is simply a mathematical object which obeys certain rules of transformation. It took about a year for the students to accept what they were told by Professor Polkinghorne and then they apparently couldn’t imagine they’d ever believed anything different. Polkinghorne also noted, in my terms, that physicists were still trying to make quantum physics conform to the preconceptions of reality they had brought to the study of advanced physics. We are all still, in a strong but constrained sense, opponents of Galileo. Galileo himself was not so flexible of thought as some renderings of his story would have it. A human being fully flexible of thought would be forever chasing will-o’-the-wisps.

More importantly for now, we need to recognize that scientists and philosophers aren’t so progressive as they claim to be; that is to say, they haven’t really reshaped their thoughts to conform to a coherent understanding of reality. Even the last sentence is inadequate, not nearly radical enough, as could be probably said of Polkinghorne’s ways of expressing the problem.

We don’t need new thoughts for our existing minds. We need new minds, that is, new relationships to reality. We need to encapsulate our best knowledge of Creation, the best knowledge from physics and mathematics and evolutionary biology and neuroscience and engineering and history; we need to encapsulate that knowledge in our brains as understandings capable of holding this knowledge in a coherent way. Even better: we need to encapsulate that knowledge in our brains as images of reality, in its concrete and abstract levels. We need minds which are mirrors of Creation, that is: mirrors of certain thoughts the Creator manifested as created being.

If we succeed in such a task, or more plausibly—succeed in helping future generations to form minds proper to our world, even all of Creation, as we now know it, then we will no longer feel obliged to pour our new knowledge into an inherited understanding of the world, though perhaps patched-up. We’ll be at peace with the world, until something happens to bring to light some major aspects or levels of Creation which are new to us—and thus seem to be alien to the purposes of our God.

I’m most certainly not claiming we’ll be able to see the future in the sense of knowing what will happen or even to be able to propose, in all cases, a set of all possibilities along with a probability of each of those possibilities being realized. What we will be able to see is some overlapping possibilities somewhat like a collection of quantum wavefunctions. From there we can get to work by returning to the forms of reasoning more appropriate to the concrete world. I wrote of my own efforts to work toward a better understanding of Creation, way back in 2009, in the essay: Defining Landscapes and Possible Paths, Not Determining Paths. This is the sort of general analysis which applies in the small as well as the large, applies to our efforts to understand the emerging relationships between East and West in our period as well as to our efforts to understand the emerging relationships of Creation at its fundamental levels—the emerging relationships which will allow richer and more complex understandings of rocks and stars and our own human natures. And also richer and more complex understandings of algebraic relationships and of transfinite numbers.

In the previous entry in this short series ended by the current essay, Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Randomness, I wrote: “[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 cost $25.”

There are other transitions in history, one perhaps being the birth of the mind in the sense of an entity which can deal with abstract forms of being as well as concrete forms of being. Many there are who seem bright but see “true being” as the single level of concrete, thing-like being. Many there are who can use formalisms, such as those of mathematics or logic or common-sense of various types, in trying to see the “rules” of concrete being. Few there seem to be who can see abstract being as being such. It takes certain developments of the cognitive and imaginative regions of their minds; many there might be who are capable of such but few seem to have developed such.

Back in 2008 and 2009, I wrote some early essays on the issue of the human mind as being an encapsulation of what lies around it, in the sense of what can be perceived and conceived and imagined in a particular cultural and physical setting: What is the Role of Philosophy in an Age of Science?, What is Mind?: Can Inadequate Formation Mimic Mental Diseases?, and Preliminary Thoughts on the Evolution of the Human Mind.

Since that time, I have not concentrated on this issue—in this particular explicit form. As it turned out, my early feelings seem more and more correct: the human mind in a particular place and at a particular time reaches its peak, and then most noticeably in its communal form, when it accurately encapsulates as much of Creation as can be `reached’ at that place and time. We expand our individual and communal minds, enriching and complexifying, by using our existing minds to do this reaching. We explore. We measure and build quantitative models. We struggle to reach greater qualitative understandings. We reason and we imagine. We enlarge and complexify our own minds to some extent and those of our children to a greater extent.

In this sense, we modern men, including Christians, have poorly developed minds. We can’t see the cloudy futures because we don’t have a good understanding of spacetime, of matter, of human nature. Our weak understandings of Creation, of particular forms or aspects of created being, are sometimes good enough to see the past in an intelligible and intelligent way, but seeing possible futures for, say, the United States is even harder than trying to see what it was that the Founding Fathers really did. Even our vision of past and present will clarify and provide for more intelligible and intelligent understandings if we simply come to a better understanding of the world, including the evolutionary and developmental aspects of human nature and also including the somewhat similar aspects of the nature of brute matter and energy.

Back to seeing future possibilities: we need to truly understand blurriness as it shows up in complex statistical situations and in quantum physics—with an underlying measure-theoretic understanding of probability, these are similar problems and problems of a world which generates facts rather than a world generated by some pseudo-mystical mathemagic. I can’t even say what it might mean to visualize such aspects of reality, just as the greatest of ancient mathematicians, Greek and Indian and Arabic, couldn’t say what it might mean to visualize the quantitative aspects of shapes or movements in symbolic forms. Yet, they worked, however unknowingly, toward algebra and it’s now taught in most high schools and some higher-quality elementary schools. Some precocious youngsters even learn it at an age before most are learning to read or write.

Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Randomness

Posted October 14th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, Magical ways of thought, Mathematical models, Narratives and truth

In my last two essays I posted, Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Parts and Wholes and Mathematical Models of Human Communities: We Live in Narratives, Not in Models, I acknowledged the usefulness and potential truthfulness of mathematical models but claimed we need to consider wider aspects of this world and of all of Creation. In particular, I discussed in the first of those essays, very briefly, the ways in which many complex systems, those of physical spacetime and—with near certainty—those of human social relationships, have global properties which don’t fully come from summing up local properties. In the second essay, I discussed, with equal brevity, the nature of one of those global aspects of complex systems and especially human communities—they are stories or narratives with the properties which we expect in novels or tales and which don’t come from mathematical models as such.

At the same time, the reader should keep in mind that I believe our `mathematical’ understanding of this world can be expanded greatly by further use of the proper mathematical fields and ways of thought such as those fields of geometry which deal in qualities rather than quantities. There are also the fields of geometry, such as differential geometry, which have the power to deal separately with local and global properties.

I’ll continue to respond to specific quotes from a book, Sociodynamics: A Systematic Approach to Mathematical Modelling in the Social Sciences (Wolfgang Weidlich, Dover Publications, 2006), which does a good job of dealing with the power and limitations of mathematical modeling in the `social sciences’.

On page 155, the author writes:

Historical and/or social phase-transitions are by definition revolutionary events in which the macrovariables of the system change their whole dynamical mode. A necessary concomitant circumstance of such a phase-transition is the appearance of critical fluctuations. These critical fluctuations are crucial for deciding the question which direction the path of the system will take at the cross-roads. In our case they are decisive for the question whether the political system will remain a liberal democratic one or whether it tumbles into the new totalitarian phase.

However—and this is the essential argument—the critical fluctuations are of random nature and are neither predictable by the research of historians, nor by the macroequations of any mathematical model! At best the full set of macrovariables and (not predictable) fluctuating microvariables which both together are causative for the concrete course of historical events at a phase-transition can be recognized by historians only retrospectively.

Therefor the general conclusion must be: In the rare cases of historical phase-transitions fluctuations become decisive (in contrast to smoothly and continuously evolving situations). These fluctuations consist of thoughts, decisions and activities of one or a few persons in key-positions in a global situation on the verge of a possible phase-transition.

This does of course not mean, that the continuous—to a high degree “calculable” and therefore predictable—macrovariables would be unimportant. In the contrary! They lead to the “revolutionary situation”, i.e. into the vicinity of a destabilizable situation where “everything can happen“. However, at the phase-transition these macrovariables are insufficient to make the further course of events predictable!

Weidlich tells us, “the critical fluctuations are of random nature.” True enough, but what is random nature? I’ve dealt with this issue before and have claimed in various ways that the usual definition of such terms seems to smell a bit of the occult, even of outright superstition.

In February of 2010, I published a slightly updated post I had first published on my other blog, Randomness as a Sign of God’s Presence, in September of 2007. In the updated post, Randomness as a Sign of God’s Presence, Prior Post Updated to 2010, I wrote:

One of the most important, if little noticed, intellectual events of modern times is the development of a rational understanding of randomness to potentially replace an ancient understanding which is surprising mystical for such an important concept in modern mathematics and other fields of modern science. Based on that rational understanding, I made the following claims in my first published book, To See a World in a Grain of Sand:

  • Only God can make a truly random number, and
  • Only God can act in a truly random way

What is this all about? The short story is:

Algorithmic information theory, deals with degrees of randomness more than with perfect randomness because we can’t produce a random number. Nor do we have the slightest reason to believe that nature can produce a random number or any movement or change that corresponds to pure randomness — unless God interjects that randomness. It seems to me to be an open question whether God could even do that without violating the integrity of His own Creation. See the ending to the story of Noah in the book of Genesis for an early discussion into God’s promise to honor His Creation. I’d say that promise was inherent in the sort of Creation He chose to bring into being.

In any case, Chaitin’s major result in many ways was a surprisingly simple proof — by the standards of modern mathematics — that every number is random. No number has a pattern. This doesn’t mean that 1.22222… or 1.25 are random nor does it mean that they aren’t numbers. It means that those numbers and similar finitely describable numbers represent a vanishingly small point on the number line. It turns out that all numbers with patterns, all the numbers of our elegant and well-ordered mathematics, add up to a vanishingly small length on the number line. It also means we can’t generate a truly random number yet there are so many random numbers that the infinities of numbers with some patterns are overwhelmed. In the sense of that field of modern mathematics called ‘measure theory’, there are essentially no numbers with patterns in relation to the totality of numbers, ‘all’ of which are true random numbers.

What does this mean? As the mathematician Marc Kac (pronounced ‘cats’) said in the early 1970s when the ideas of Chaitin and Kolmogorov were becoming known: “Now we know what a random number is. It’s a fact.” I quote from memory.

This is the basic insight lying behind my claim that God created the truths of Creation, the truths from which our physical universe is shaped. The number line is a set of facts rather than a construction as Pythagoras and his successors have thought. Elegance in the Pythagorean sense, order in the sense of the theorist of Intelligent design, and randomness in the mystical sense of a typical Darwinist philosopher, play no part in rational mathematics.

One of my college professors put it in a slightly different way. He told us that all of probability theory can be enfolded into a fully deterministic Measure Theory without losing any content. Still another way to express this insight is: probability theory is useful mostly as an introduction to measure theory, though many don’t really go beyond the simple applications which can be taught using decks of cards or pairs of dice or bins of colored balls. A naive and pseudo-rational version of mystical randomness remains valid as a teaching tool. What is remarkable is the number of people who learn their probability and statistics from this viewpoint, never move on from the mystical viewpoint, and yet advocate a fully deterministic understanding of our complex world.

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.

The main point is that a shift from a `mystical’ or `irrational’ understanding, or misunderstanding, of probability theory to a more rational understanding of measure theory changes little except to clear our minds of rubbish and to allow us to move on. The famous distributions of probability theory (Poisson and binomial and so on) remain as does the remarkable tendency for disorder, mystical randomness or factuality, to produce patterns. Those who see a Creation and those who see a Universe barren of divine presence can continue their debates, perhaps on a somewhat more rational level. The various arguments remain equally strong or weak.

Moreover, most scientists including physicists such as Weidlich and many evolutionary biologists and certainly most geneticists use the term `random’ without qualification but seem to be using that term in the more modern sense—that of algorithmic complexity theory. And, to be quite fair, I think many philosophers and historians and scientists and engineers have always interpreted `randomness’ in terms of factuality or even some sort of complexity. After all, there is nothing non-deterministic about those standards teaching tools in probability theory, cards and dice and bins of colored balls.

We’ve allowed our thinking to be constrained and distorted by popular misunderstandings of such terms as `random’ and `deterministic’ and `non-deterministic’. To a certain extent, this deep confusion has even spread into our understandings of `factuality’ and `causality’.

Mathematical Models of Human Communities: We Live in Narratives, Not in Models

Posted October 9th, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: Christian in the universe of Einstein, Freedom and Structure in Human Life, Narratives and truth

In the last essay I posted, Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Local and Global Processes, I discussed briefly my oft-stated opinion that we need to model human nature, personal and communal, by a model (qualitative and quantitative) which is much like those of the theory of general relativity where local regions of space and time are, so to speak, Euclidean and Newtonian, while larger regions of space and time (with great mass also being a form of `larger’) are curved into some non-Euclidean and relativistic geometry. Even such a model doesn’t do the `whole’ job. That model of human nature must be seen as a general model of particular entities interacting in what we might call narratives or stories and much of what is important is found in those narratives or stories.

That prior posting was written as a response to specific comments by the physicist Wolfgang Weidlich in his book, Sociodynamics: A Systematic Approach to Mathematical Modelling in the Social Sciences (Dover Publications, 2006), which was an effort to develop a model of some aspects of human communities. I’ll continue responding to specific comments made by Weidlich in that book. As is my custom, I’ll be playing off a work worthy of respect in order to take a discussion in the direction of my worldview, a sort-of Thomistic philosophy expanded to explicitly consider modern empirical knowledge, including both the ways in which the ideas of St Thomas Aquinas on human nature are enriched and complexified by drawing upon the insights of modern evolutionary biology and brain sciences and also the ways in which the ideas of St John the Evangelist on the primacy of relationships over stuff are enriched and complexified by drawing upon the insights of quantum physics and modern mathematics.

In this short essay, I’ll move on to deal with narratives, stories, which aren’t even parts of this world so much as they are the world and certainly even our human lives, individual and communal.

On page 149, Weidlich writes:

These large scale transitions in societies [such as that from the liberal Wiemar republic system to the totalitarian Nazi system] are mostly of a tragic nature. They include the breakdown of a whole political system, the liquidation of its established institutions etc, and for the people involved as witnesses and/or active or passive participants it means a break in their personal biography, and in the worst case of the arisal of a violent totalitarian regime it can mean concentration camp and death for its victims.

Each of such large scale phase-transitions is of course a unique event in so far as it will never recur in exactly the same form. however, in each event of this kind there appear universal structures of human character and social behaviour which play an essential role in enabling political phase-transitions.

“[U]nique event[.]” Indeed. I emphasize this is Weidlich’s term and I’ll claim without qualification he is right to use such a term. We’re dealing with unique events in a story moving forward. Whatever might be the truth or legend of tales, sometimes egomaniacal boasts, of genocidal brutality in the Hebraic books of the Bible, none of those ruthless men were Hitler. Nor were the Mongols under Genghis Khan and his descendants much the Nazis though they did share a brutal attitude toward other human beings. Ruthless killers they were, but they followed different ways of killing, different ways of being cruel to survivors. And the brutality of the Medieval Mongols was differently motivated from that of the 20th century Nazis.

The title of this essay says much: We live in narratives, not models. Models, whether those of modern physics or social sciences, can tell us much about some specific aspects or specific types of flows of events in a narrative of a human life, whether that of an individual or a community. Models, as they are generally understood and are generally built, can’t reproduce the richness and complexity, the “uniqueness” and “randomness” of our human lives. So far, no one has even managed to built a model true to the more quantitative narrative of the physical universe. Such will likely occur and maybe soon, but the point is the difficulty of even a `straightforward’ model of physical processes of a more complex sort.

There is such a thing as reality. Some would wish to override reality with selected pieces or aspects of reality from which they would construct all that exists or at least pretend to do so. In reality, in the universe as human beings know it and as it can reliably be described to truly be, narratives exist and are not limited to what can be found in the algorithms of human models. Those narratives include “unique events” and also “random events” (sometimes, but not always being the same events). Sometimes those events are such that they can be used to enrich a model going forward. Sometimes not; sometimes they are of a nature beyond the mainstream discipline of modeling. I’m arguing for the expansion of our understanding of reality to include what might be called the qualitative tools of mathematics and some of those can be added to models, but only at the expense of making those models at least somewhat indeterminate and at least somewhat non-quantitative. And, even then, we don’t know if our knowledge of being, abstract and concrete, is great enough for us to produce a proper encapsulation of this universe, of this world which is this universe seen in light of God’s purposes for it, and of all of Creation.

I have used the word `encapsulation’ as I often do in my discussions of the nature of the human mind and how it forms. “What do we know?” “What is knowledge?”

What we know is not some sort of rules, axiomatic knowledge independent of Creation and to be applied to Creation to bring it into order. What we know is what is, though that is a simplistic description of a very complex process of shaping our minds to created being and its various processes and—most importantly—its relationships. We encapsulate reality and then can sometimes enter into a recursive process of understanding more complex parts of reality by building them up from simpler parts. This secondary process can be taken seriously only when it matches our encapsulation of reality, that is—our minds, and then perhaps adds to the richness and complexity of that encapsulation.

Our most basic knowledge, common sense and intuition, is what is put into our heads by the evolutionary processes which selected our ancestors for their ability to respond properly to their immediate environments and more. These selection processes resulted in a brain that assumes much that is useful about our environments and more—as we began to see the abstract forms of being from which those environments are shaped. Some of those assumptions are true only in qualified ways and some at least point to greater truths, though I think we know not enough to be sure what is an absolute truth.

Knowledge is some sort of model, qualitative and quantitative, of reality, of created being. Knowledge, true knowledge, is drawn from reality and encapsulates that reality in various ways and in various realms of created being. Sometimes, as I stated above, this process of drawing and encapsulating has occurred in the evolution of our species and sometimes it occurs in our individual lives or our communal lives, though many individuals and communities can be said to more truly mis-know reality and not just in the sense of being in an early stage of development and learning.

I’ve spoken of different realms of being, ranging from this highly concrete world of things which is being shaped from a more abstract realm of being, which is itself being shaped from a still more abstract realm of being, right back to the most abstract realm of being I can conjecture—the realm of truths which God manifested as the raw stuff of Creation. Our world, this concrete realm of things and thing-like relationships, is also the realm of narratives. There are the narratives sketched by cosmologists and evolutionary biologists and all sorts of historians, from those specializing in prehistory to those specializing in last week’s events. There are far greater narratives, some even having or hinting of moral purposes.

We’ve crossed over to realms where God’s presence is more personal in a meaningful sense; the Almighty is no longer some sort of mathematician or physicist or engineer who might well be the Deity of many Enlightenment thinkers. The basic structure of spacetime has been shaped, the other stuffs of thing-like being have been made—protons and electrons and all that. When our universe came into being, God began to show Himself a story-teller and a participant in the stories He tells. I’ve already mentioned the truths God manifested as the raw stuff of this Creation, but what is the purpose of it all? So far as we can currently see, Creation relentlessly moves toward the concrete, the particular and even the peculiar. The power which drives this story and its many stories might well come from the Enlightenment Deity or the Godhead of a higher pagan, but stories move toward particularity and even the potential of personhood, toward a meeting with the Triune God, three Persons in one divine Nature. The possibility of persons in the form of mortal creatures and the possibility of stories with moral meanings arise during this process, the process by which Christ and His Father and Their Spirit are revealed as the true Creator.

We human beings must ask: “What sort of Creation, Cosmos if you prefer, has the abstract stuff of personhood and stories?” and we Christians answer: “A Creation of a Personal Creator.”

I’ll freely admit that there is no way to prove my answer in the way of an experiment in physics or chemistry but that matters little because we can’t prove the universe or the world which arises from it. We can only accept it on its own terms and try to understand. We need to also explain stories and persons on their own terms and not reduce them to the physical stuff and physical relationships in which they are truly embodied but to which they aren’t limited. I’m certainly not arguing fora supernatural souls but rather for what might be called natural souls: much that is so important about human nature, individual and communal, and also important about even the physical universe in its greater scope is to be found in the totality of created being, abstract and concrete. We understand not by trying to reduce the world in terms of scientific myths created by those who would explain by biology or physics what must be explained by first accepting reality, Creation, on its own terms, encapsulating it in our own minds and as our own minds, and then realizing that the encapsulation (of, for example, human nature) is the understanding, is the explanation. But it is an encapsulation which makes sense only as part of far greater encapsulations which consider all that we can discover about created being and all that is built into the very physical stuff of our brains and our entire bodies.

The ultimate in particularity is a person, an entity which is self-aware and seems to hint, however lightly, of a greater sustainability and even one without any necessary end. Death intrudes, casting doubt upon our hopes or pretenses of possessing true life, life without end even if it had a beginning. We must remember that `death’ as a human concept is a result of our self-awareness, the very self-awareness that brings the possibility of being images of our Creator and even of sharing His life. Our awareness of death also raises the possibility of the greatest of blessings, a sharing of the life of God.

Let me restate my position in even more explicitly Christian terms. From God comes terribly abstract truths manifested as the raw stuff of Creation, of created being of all forms and all combinations. This is somewhat analogous to God in His divine nature, that is—Creation viewed as stuff is somewhat the image of God’s Nature. But the Lord set in motion processes by which abstract being becomes particularized, eventually becoming thing-like being of a somewhat abstract sort, muons and baryons and leptons and so forth, which develops and evolves toward concrete forms.

We can imagine, in a highly disciplined way, what might be the stage just one step more abstract than the thing-like being of this universe. That is, we can speak of the strange and abstract form of being which is described in the works of Schrodinger and Heisenberg and their successors, abstract and mathematical being which `collapses’ to thing-like being. More than `described’, I think there is a strong sense in which those mathematical formalisms are that being from which the physical stuff of this universe is shaped.

One product of the particularization of abstract being to concrete being, followed by the processes of concrete being evolving and developing, is the human animal which has some of the properties of a person and the potential to become more truly a person. At this point, what was analogous to the divine nature of God has produced biological beings analogous to the Son of God, a divine Person. This is the ultimate goal of these processes of shaping more particular forms of being—to produce a world and a species into which the Son could be incarnated, emptying Himself, learning the discipline appropriate to a mere human creature, and offering His own Self back to the Father. This theological analogy would imply a situation discussed, in an aphoristic style, by Wittgenstein: if we succeed in penetrating to the smallest components of this universe, we might find that foundational level is supported by the whole of the universe. From that extremely abstract stuff which is the raw stuff of created being and which is analogous to the nature of God arises the possibility of person-like creatures, creatures which can maybe become true persons by way of sharing the life of God.

There are those who examine human life, communal or personal, from the viewpoint of an empirical scientist recognizing the validity of only knowledge which can be validated by the standards of physics or biology or perhaps history. Some will claim that only this bottom-up knowledge can be accepted, denying in the process much knowledge of the global nature of processes not yet completed. There are also parallel misconceptions among Christian thinkers, including those who deny the validity of natural theology just because they think of nature only as this thing-like stuff and these processes which arise from matter and its self-interactions. In realizing that greater sophistication and complexity is needed in our understanding of Creation—even in the restricted sense of `Nature’ in its traditional sense, we pass by the limiting idea that the whole is but a complicated assemblage of parts and thus not capable of coherence or unity or completeness. Under the limiting and non-Christian viewpoint, the universe is not capable of being a world; a human animal is not capable of being a human person

This is to say that a reductionistic form of respect for empirical reality will fail to see a world forming from a universe, a human person forming from a human animal, a morally meaningful narrative forming from interactions of the entities of thing-like being. Neither a universe nor a human animal can achieve, even in principle, the coherence and unity and completeness toward which they seemingly strive.

The world does form from the universe, itself a rather remarkable entity. A human being does form from a human animal, itself a rather remarkable entity. Greater stories, stories with deep meanings, arise from mere tales—themselves remarkable—of interacting entities reducible to `mere’ physical processes.

We live those stories and live in those stories; we seem not only wrong but also rather silly when we deny such to be the case.

Mathematical Models of Human Communities: Parts and Wholes

Posted October 1st, 2014 by Loyd L Fueston
Categories: communal human being, Mathematical models, mathematics, Narratives and truth

In Sociodynamics: A Systematic Approach to Mathematical Modelling in the Social Sciences (Dover Publications, 2006), the physicist Wolfgang Weidlich develops a model of some aspects of human communities; his model is developed bottom-up in a manner similar to the development of a model of an industrial process or of (allegedly) well-defined human activities. Weidlich is wise enough to qualify his efforts by acknowledging that there are aspects of human communities which can’t be modeled in a quantitative manner.

Weidlich engages in what I would consider traditional modeling, an activity running pretty much parallel to the modeling of an industrial process such as the mixing of gases or liquids or even the modeling of a more complex system where multiple processes are involved as well as human workers. It is also a form of modeling which assumes the whole is the sum of its parts, though undoubtedly many `emergent’ properties can arise in a complex, sophisticated model. Again, Weidlich freely admits and intelligently discusses some of the ways in which the whole is greater than and different from the sum of its parts, but this type of methodology tends to separate a complex entity into sorts of being which are hard to again see as one entity. Sometimes, this will be a matter of separating the local (such as the individuals) and the global (the communities). In fact, in some of the somewhat successful models of economies of or other aspects of complex human communities, the individual disappears. In other somewhat successful models, such as that of Weidlich, the individuals are summed up in an additive way that isn’t quite convincing.

I’m advocating the use of models in which the local and the global are somewhat separate but are part of one coherent model, as in a Riemannian manifold where the geometry in a small region of a point is Euclidean, that of a Euclidean plane tangent to the point, but the manifold has a global geometry which might be very complex and very much non-Euclidean. There is nothing in Weidlich’s model which can truly be labeled as `global’ and this is true also of other models I’ve discussed in recently published essays.

I’m not advocating a direct use of the differential geometrical techniques which have worked so well in science and engineering—most famously in the general theory of relativity. I’m advocating rather a step towards the realm of the most abstract form of created being, the truths which the Almighty manifested as the raw stuff of Creation. Since these realms of being have complicated relationships in themselves and with other realms, then we have to work in a manner largely empirical. learning about reality from reality, learning how to think by observing how the objects of our thought actually behave. Let me take a situation, that of the American people and the United States. In a recent essay, Do We Need Conflict to “Drive the Rise of Ultrasociality”?, I wrote:

A people can be nonviolent and well-meaning in the small but, in the large, as a people, can be murderous and thieving war-mongerers. In recent centuries, some of the most violent nations have been those with populations made up of individuals who are law-abiding and even somewhat gentle by historical standards: Germany in 1914-1945, Japan in the 1920s through the 1940s, Great Britain during the years of Empire and a bit beyond, the United States through much of its existence as loosely connected colonies up to now and still going strong though maybe about to run out of gas.

The global (national) properties of Americans in the form of the American people are much different from the local (personal) properties. This difference between, say, the individual and the community is perhaps necessary and likely to be a good thing in many cases, but not in this case. More importantly for now, we should recognize that a qualitative (think of traditional historical or political analysis) or quantitative model of a complex human community can’t be built up by simply summing up the behavior of the individual members of the community. On the other hand, models such as that of Turchin and colleagues (which I discussed in Mathematical Models of Human History: Are They Plausible? and Do We Need Conflict to “Drive the Rise of Ultrasociality”?q) succeed in exploring specific aspects of human communities by modeling those human communities as independent entities with no relationship to the individual members of those communities. In the end, much is missing. The model of Turchin as his colleagues can tell us Central Asian nomadic warriors had a great effect on the development of complex societies in the Fertile Crescent and then upon the expansion of such complexity into other regions. They don’t tell us, aren’t set up to tell us, what qualities separate the barbarians who destroy and leave from those who conquer and stay as successful rulers. There is much else they can’t tell about many important matters different from, perhaps at a finer-grain, than the geographical spread of civilizations and military technology.

Again: I’m advocating that we try to develop models of human being, individual and communal, by abstracting from the more sophisticated models of physical science such as that used in the general theory of relativity where local regions of space are Euclidean and larger regions are curved in non-Euclidean ways. There might be a model in the state-space (undefined as yet in any authoritative way) in which regions around a single state (of a single entity?) are Euclidean and larger regions might have a non-Euclidean geometry. As is true of the general theory of relativity, large might include larger mass as well as larger distance. Other possibilities will likely arise.