Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ask not for whom the frog sings



"I'm not there. I'm gone." - Bob Dylan

I'm sure there are better things to think about, but lately I've been thinking about that Chuck Jones cartoon, One Froggy Evening.

You know how it goes. A building is being demolished, and a worker crowbars open the cornerstone, dated 1892, finding a live frog who bursts into "Hello My Baby." Immediately he imagines exploiting the frog's uncanny talent, but the frog will only sing for him, and that quickly becomes his curse. He buries it in the cornerstone of a new building, where it's found 100 years later and the cycle repeats. And all in under seven minutes.

What's so important about this? First of all, that it's a true story.

The cartoon's premise is based upon a phenomenon "not only irrational but completely inexplicable":

There are more than 210 cases of frogs or toads found inside stones, lumps of coal, or within the trunks of large trees – from Europe, the United States, Canada, Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies. The earliest are from the late 15th century, the latest occurred in Australia and New Zealand in the early 1980s. On more than one occasion, the toads were seen by several independent witnesses. Sometimes these people were entirely ignorant that similar prodigies had ever been described. After a close study of some of the best attested cases of entombed toads, the immediate conclusion is that the legend of entombed toads cannot have been based on imagination alone. Certain remarkable details about the subterranean toads and frogs often recur: the mouth covered by a viscous membrane, the skin darker than usual, and the eyes shining brightly.

"Toads-in-the-hole" were seized upon by British clergymen in the mid-19th Century as living refutations of Darwinian Natural History. But like true anomalies - and true frogs - they proved squirmy things, and could not easily be plaster-castered into Victorian-era dogma. And when the demand exploded for entombed frogs, naturally hoaxes proliferated, which had the unintended and inevitable effect of subverting the doctrines for which the anomalies had been conscripted to illustrate. And this is a problem with attempting to exploit, or even simply explain, any supra-normal thing that falls into our lives.

In 1878 Esther Cox was 18 years old, described as plain and sullen, and lived with her family in Amherst, Nova Scotia. She had a nominal boyfriend named Bob McNeal, who invited her out for a buggy ride on August 28 and reportedly attempted to rape her at gunpoint. (The assault was interrupted when McNeal was panicked by an approaching vehicle.) He drove Esther home, petulantly with the top down in a driving rain, and left town that night. Several nights after that began the series of intense poltergeist activity that became known as the Amherst Mystery.

Having blown out the candle on the night of September 4 and retired to the bed she shared with her younger sister Jennie, Esther screamed that she felt a mouse rustling in the sheets. No mouse was found. The next night the same thing happened, except the rustling sound was heard to come from a box beneath the bed. Esther and Jennie pulled it out to the centre of the room, and were about to surprise the mouse when the box levitated a foot in the air. Their screams woke the house, and they were told they’d been dreaming.

Things quickly grew stranger. Esther had sudden, terrifying episodes of unaccountable swelling, accompanied by loud bangs that seemed to come from beneath the bed and bedding which floated across the room. A doctor was called for the following night, who witnessed the same manifestations as well as loud rappings all around the room, falling plaster, and a message scratched into the wall by an invisible hand: “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill.”

Colin Wilson, in Mysteries:

In December, the manifestations ceased when Esther became ill. But in January 1879, she told Jennie that a voice had warned her that the house would be set on fire by a ghost. The next morning, as the family laughed about the idea, a lighted match fell out of the air onto the bed. More lighted matches rained out of the air for the next ten minutes, but were all extinguished. That evening, a dress belonging to Esther was found burning under the bed. Three days later, a barrel of wood shavings in the cellar burst into flame and was extinguished with difficulty.

Paranormal endangerments began to follow Esther around the town. At her work in a neighbour’s restaurant a heavy box moved across the floor and a flying jackknife stabbed her in the back, and rappings echoed down the main street. News of the bizarre goings on had spread far enough that it drew a professional magician named Walter Hubbell to Amherst, and he moved into the family home to observe for himself. Hubbell was so impressed by what he witnessed – an umbrella moving furniture, for instance – that he saw immediately the potential to turn a fast buck. Having persuaded Esther to make a public demonstration, Hubbell rented an auditorium and filled every seat, like the construction worker did to showcase his frog. And just as in the Chuck Jones cartoon, nothing happened.

What’s interesting here is as much the nothing as the something. Whatever energies Esther's sexual trauma had unleashed, and however they were manifesting through her, they would not be commodified as a public amusement.

Imagine people keep saying to you, show me a sign, and you know you've seen it, but it's not by your conscious will that you can make the sign manifest for others. How long will it be before you start faking it; playing ventriloquist to your mercurial frog?

There is a famous, mid-70s case from North London called the Enfield poltergeist. (An excellent documentary can be viewed here). Over more than a year, the manifestations included heavy furniture being tossed about, objects materializing and dematerializing before witnesses, including police officers (and Lego bricks tossed in the face of an incredulous journalist), and the levitation of 11-year old Janet Hodgson. But Janet and her older sister were also mischievous, and bored by the routine of investigation, and so amused themselves by playing tricks. Like hiding the tape-recorder of one of the investigators, and claiming the poltergeist had taken it. (The recorder caught them plotting on tape.)

Asked about such pranks today, Janet explains that she and her sister did indeed play practical jokes - because they were so fed up of being tested all the time. They had become like animals trapped in a zoo, constantly being asked to perform tricks for gawping onlookers.

People would turn up expecting inexplicable things to happen, and when nothing happened, the girls decided to play the occasional prank.

But, crucially, Janet estimates that only about one or two per cent of the many hundreds of separate paranormal phenomena that took place in the house were faked by her and Margaret - and these were minor things like balancing a chair on top of a door and pretending that the poltergeist had done it. Besides, in many cases, it would have been physically impossible for the two young girls to have faked the evidence. How does a 12-year old girl rip out a fireplace, or make a chair levitate in front of police officers?


"I would have been more worried if they hadn't played around from time to time." said investigator Guy Lyon Playfair. "It means they were behaving like normal kids." But their adolescent play served as the easy out the so-called skeptic always looks for in such stories: the excuse to look no further.

A lot of what passes for UFO evidence these days is also bored play and fabrication, with Youtube the playground. For instance, the recent hoax supposedly shot on a Caribbean beach.

Sometimes when the frog sings, it sings only for you. You can try humming a few bars, but it won't sound the same.

63 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Bombay said...

Brenda,
I'm going frog hunting later..
care to join me?

8/28/2007 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

But....for whom does the Bell Toll?

8/28/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

What do you do when your frog is disguised as a Rabbit....as is often the case in the paranormal business?

8/28/2007 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger Computo aka Compute Oh said...

if you see a rabbit, its not paranormal activity...

Its an acid trip.

8/28/2007 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Qlipoth said...

The toad-in-the-hole phenomeon is one of the strangest I've ever heard of.

Coincidentally, I read an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung today about bacteria found in a dormant state in 500,000-year-old ice probes drilled from several hundred feet underground in the Arctic. When placed in a slightly warmer, more hospitable environment, they revived and flourished. The scientists were speculating that these bacteria must be capable of slowing their metabolism practically to a full stop, yet without actually dying.

8/28/2007 01:54:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Wonderful news about the bacteria. Yet another way we are going to perish due to Global warming, especially when you consider Pharmaceutical Companies have no replacement for Vancomycin (the traditional antibiotic of last resort to stop staph and other pesky infections is now the antibiotic of first resort) in the Pipeline. Even if they put a replacement in, it takes 20 years for it to make it from idea to market. Meanwhile, 500,000 year old bacteria will be making its way to our doorstep. Fasten your cellular seatbelts, folks, it's going to be one hell of a ride. So many ways to die....so little time.

You know what you need to stow away for that rainy, or not so rainy day coming soon to a theater near you? Drugs....that's right, plenty of drugs. Move to South America and start a Ayhuasca Plantation......you can use current and former CEO's as Slave Labor.....but not until you've had a cup of the magic tea.

8/28/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

…naturally hoaxes proliferated, which had the unintended and inevitable effect of subverting the doctrines for which the anomalies had been conscripted to illustrate. And this is a problem with attempting to exploit, or even simply explain, any supra-normal thing that falls into our lives.

The unspoken implication here, Jeff (and in the froggy film, come to think of it) is that these inexplicable phenomena seem to have a will of their own that informs their desire not to be explained away. This is an important distinction because it underscores further still the impossibility of the skeptic’s materialism; not only is there more to life than deadly discrete entities, there are even other entities (who are, apparently, having a good laugh at our acceptance of the “logic” of Fermi’s paradox )

Qlipoth’s story about the death-fakingly dormant bacteria reminds me of Jeff’s recent mention of the old Panspermia notion (great link, btw), which in turn makes me wonder, yet again, about the paradox hiding behind Dawkins’ strange embrace of memes.

I mean, the guy pretty much single-handedly gave birth (an unintentional pun on yet another immaculate conception) to the concept of memes in The Selfish Gene, which are said to be only interested in propogating (replicating) themselves, going to quite remarkable lengths to do so, including nudging cranial evolution along enough to develop speech centers capable of inventing language in order to have even better vehicles of dissemination (this last cake-icing theory from disciple Susan Blackmore’s Meme Machine)…and yet, Dawkins, out of whose head all this sprang, Athena-like, is so frightened of the teleology swinging its hairy organs of reproduction between the Good Doctor’s prim & properly materialistic legs that he can’t see any purpose in the purposiveness of the mind of the meme.

It’s a puzzle that won’t be muzzled...although you really shouldn’t let things you don’t understand frighten you—you’d never take a bath or eat yoghurt at that rate. (Phages will take care of those nasty, undesirable bugs, Shrub, you’ll see, not that I’m not a fierce proponent of [some] drugs, mind you. The only thing keeping phage therapy off the market right now is the market, controlled as it is by those Phat Pharmas and their nasty drug regimes. Good thing we're cutting down those rainforests faster than our brainiacs can figure our how all those medicines work, eh?)

Any deutsches link for that story, Qlipoth?

8/28/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger just_another_dick said...

The easily annoyed can begin scrolling now......


"It is now clear that the poltergeist is a syndrome-a concurrence of symptoms, including a surplus of bioenergy, as(but not always) at menarche, and a climate of tension and frustration. And although neither I nor anybody else can explain how the furniture falls over, it is now possible to put forward a tentative model. Here goes:

When large amounts of energy are lost by humans, they can form a seperate physical entity that takes the shape of a kind of psychic football. This is spherical and very cold. It can move around on its own, it can wrap itself around objects and travel with them-not throw them, but 'envelop' them, as Allan Kardec put it twenty years before the SPR was founded.

Imagine a gang of kids wandering around the countryside. They suddenly come across a huge empty field with a nice football in the middle. So what do they do? They kick the ball around, of course, and have a good game until they get tired. Then they go home for their tea.

Something analogous seems to happen on poltergeist cases. A gang of discarnate consciousness-packets, spirits or whatever we want to call them, wander around and come across bioenergy 'footballs' which they start to play with. If the energy-ball is strong enough, the bigger boys, good and bad, also get hold of it, for the ball is a means of interacting between our dimension and theirs.

Occassionally, these balls become visible, though only those controlled by good entities. Sometimes they can be dispensed, whereupon they make an awful smell as they dissolve into pools of liquid on the floor.

Naturally, we need more evidence to support this model, and the problem is that poltergeists are not cooperative."

Guy Lyon Playfair, Autumn 1980 issue of Fortean Times


Well naturally Guy.

Like most explanations of paranormal shenanigans, this explanation sounds nearly as daft as the phenomena it seeks to explain. Although, I suppose, it would be good news to the legions of indolent & lazy chubbo sports addicts provided there's a nice comfy "discarnate consciousness-packet" Lazy-Boy for them to wile away their time in the afterlife watching poltergeist "football" on their "bioenergy" tvs.

Rah, fucking rah rah rah.


In keeping with the RI comment zeitgeist of creating a peaceful commune filled world of chummy interdependency without those alien thoughts of hate & violence that are only pawned off on humanity by greedy PTBs that fear our inherent goody-two-shoe-ness, I whole-heartedly recommend the film Invasion.

While it is a typically mediocre & unnecessary remake of a decent 1950's sci-fi film, it has one good bit that made me think fondly of the feel good hippy-ness of most discussions here.

The bit is actually just background to the main plot. At one point, after the alien invasion is very successfully underway, one of the "aliens" is watching a television newscast. The newscaster is discussing how peace is breaking out all over the globe. The terrorists have stopped IED-ing people, the US troops are being withdrawn from Iraq, and they even have one nifty scene of President Bush & President Chavez hugging as they joyfully rectify their differences.

Of course, once the aliens are defeated, humanity returns to its usual carnage filled ways.

Now we all know this is just more PTB propaganda whose only purpose is to keep us from realizing our true lovey-dovey ways, right?


Speaking of our lovey-dovey ways as angelic humans, an incident occurred last week about 10 blocks from my mom's house. One morning, a 58 year old man, on his way to work, was brutally beaten & robbed by a gang of teenagers. After soundly thrashing the old man, one PTB corrupted angel decided to pull out his hunting knife & slice chunks of flesh from assorted parts of the old man's body. Their monetary reward for this endeavor was $20.

Damn those PTBs that create these scenarios by hoarding all that money. We all know that poor people do this shit all the time solely because of their enforced poverty & none of these psychopathic & sociopathic impulses would exist in the human animal without the PTBs and their Machiavellian machinations, right? With just the right mix of community gardens & solar paneled housing these nasty & brutish tendencies would completely evaporate from the human genome like dew on a sunny day, right?


As far as the Haiti UFO video being a "hoax," I respectfully beg to differ. This little "film" was more along the lines of a viral marketing campaign by a gent looking to demonstrate his CGI talents. It only appears like a hoax because of the legion of gullible UFO fanatics, sick of staring themselves cross-eyed at amorphous blobs of light & blurry photos of hubcaps, who descended on it like flies on poop in order to validate all of the long hours they've spent staring at amorphous blobs of light & blurry photos of hubcaps.


Good day & remember, the PTB fear our natural God-given sweetie-pie-ness, so hug a urine stained & smelly homeless guy today & send a message of love to a nasty puppet-master fuck near you.

Also remember that love is life & life is love so love life like life loves you.

Hugs & kisses to all.

8/28/2007 05:57:00 PM  
Blogger Qlipoth said...

"Any deutsches link for that story, Qlipoth?"

I read it in a cafe, cuttlefish, in the print edition. It was only a three-or-four-paragraph story, and it doesn't appear to be in the online edition:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/

(Maybe it'll turn up later, or be reported elsewhere.)

That poltergeist documentary Jeff linked to is really disturbing. And the punchline about 'Bill' reporting the manner of his own death is just dumbfounding.

Also fascinating to hear the milkman and the lollipop lady reporting exactly the same astonishing sight - and to hear the Sceptical Scientist responding as if on cue: "Eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable." Well, what possible motive could those people have had to invent a story that would make them look insane? None, as far as I can see. And neither of the two grown-up sisters looked like happy women. The experience seems to have marked them for life.

Just a thought: The Exorcist was released in 1973, four years before these events took place. The girls were very small children, video hadn't been invented, and I'm not suggesting they could have seen that X-rated film. But I was 13 or 14 at the time, and I remember how the older kids told us about the creepiest scenes ("She floats in the air!") and mimicked the movie-poltergeist's obscenity-laden "death growl". Friedkin's (in many ways intensely ugly) movie was a huge popular phenomenon in the mid-70s, in Britain too. So it's strange that the true-life story seemed in some ways like an echo of it.

Again, I'm not suggesting that the Enfield girls were faking all those weird phenomena. (How could they possibly? And look at the number of witnesses there were.) I'm just thinking about Sheldrake, and about a point Jeff has made frequently: We used to have tales of fairies and leprechauns and the Virgin Mary; now we have reports of aliens and Greys and high-tech spacecraft. Maybe some things take on the only forms we can imagine for them.

P.S. The "Death growl":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_grunt

8/28/2007 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Richard,

You kill me every time.....I always laugh out loud when you go on one of your wonderful tirades.

The most startling thing about that jackass’s article was the tea part. What kind of kid goes home and has tea? Also, I wouldn't have played with the football when I was younger.....we would have found a way to burn it or blow it up. Pyrotechnics were so much more titillating. There, I fulfilled my quota of breast representative words for the day.

Now the hippies are going to get angry, vicious and judgmental because you pissed on their parade. Here it comes....get ready. Full Lotus....NOW!!!!

8/28/2007 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Thanks, anyway, Qlipoth. You ever read Current Concerns? It's a Swiss outfit with an anti-globalist slant that you don't find much over here. (Surprisingly.)

Richard,

Shrub was right--that was very funny. How old are you anyway? I always imagined you were younger than I am, but you're sounding so old-man crotchety these days, repeating all these rightwing O'Reilly-isms. Or is it Archie Bunker you're reminding me of more?

Of course cannibal capitalism never created any economic and/or social hardships, which in turn have obviously never had any correlation with crime. Problem there, Dick, is that if these sorts of explanations don't hold any water, then what are you left with to explain the difference in crime levels between, say, black neighborhoods and the lilly-white enclaves? Dare we say some sort of racial deficiency? Here's a link you might appreciate.

Remember back when I annoyed you so much with that quote about the old Indian guy reminiscing about the days when they didn't need to lock their doors? No starvation, no desperation, no cold-blooded killing? Must have been some sort of typical liberal bullshit, eh? More Noble Savage nonsense repackaged for those not savvy enough to know how the world really works.

The Owners had a perfect right to call out the Pinkertons and blast those damned anarchists right off their god-given mountains when the dirty immigrants crawled our of the mines and went on strike.

And when those sniveling Bonus Army marchers had the gall to camp out in plain view of the White House demanding what they had been promised when they went off to secure the war profits of the Robber Barons, what else could Hoover but call on MacArthur to sic Ike & Patton on those lazy sumbitches who didn't have the gumption pick themselves up by their boostraps like every other upstanding American? (It was good saber practice, anyway, which ended up playing such a big role in the Big One...)

You tell 'em, Archie: what's good for GM is good for America, regardless of whatever these goddam pinko fairies try to tell us. Isn't there some kind of little green football zone where real men can talk about the real world without having to put up with that kind of shit? Before you go, though, could you thrill us with your Pussy Theory of Black Behavior? My buddy over at Prometheus 6 was laughing about that one for weeks.

Keep it up, Pal. It's pure genius. We just don't get enough of that kind of clear thinking, what with the damned li'bral media 'n everthin'. Time was when a man could express himself openly...

Thing is, Richard & Shrub, there is a way (or many, actually) of pissing in the liberal punchbowl without sounding like Archie Bunker, but, shucks, that wouldn't be half as much fun, would it?

8/28/2007 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Derek said...

Richard,

I overheard the distinguished Guy Lyon Playfair's poltergeist theory being discussed at a high school pep rally back in 1981—except his bioenergy 'footballs' were mistakenly referred to as 'orgone monsters.' Since I happen to have near-perfect recall, I'm able to reproduce that discussion below, so you can see how poor Playfair's brilliant theory was so quickly garbled by thoughtless teens, less than a year after its publication:

The cheerleaders in their alluring green-and-gold uniforms shake their pom-poms and do a little warm-up cheer as everyone finds their seats:

“Two, four, six, eight! Who do we appreciate?”

“Joyce Carol Oates!” Gordon stands up and shouts.

“Mahatma Gandhi!” D.H. yelps, standing with him.

“Tricky Dick Nixon!” Skip shouts from a sitting position.

“Jerwo Biafah!” Hideous yells last and somewhat lamely. Jello Biafra is the lead singer of The Dead Kennedys, but Hideous sometimes has trouble pronouncing his L’s and R’s. He goes back to flicking at his nose ring again. He doesn’t realize until it’s too late that everyone in his immediate vicinity is staring at him as if he’s pulling long boogers from the depths of his nostrils.

“What happens if you get a cold, Hideous?” Skip asks him without irony.

“Yeah,” says D.H., sitting back down, “doesn’t the snot, like, get all balled up behind that thing?”

“I take out,” Hideous tells them. “Piercing is so awesome! I do scotum next.”

Skip and D.H. both grab their own crotches, aghast. “Oh, dude!” they exclaim. D.H., in particular, knows of what he speaks when he says: “That’s just sick and wrong!”

“It’s perverted,” Skip agrees.

“Plus, it’ll hurt like hell.”

“Pain not so bad, I think,” says Hideous, staring between his legs.

“Dude—” says D.H. “—if you’re so into this whole punk rock Modern Primitive shit, why don’t you just go full-out and bore a hole through your skull?”

“Why the hell should he bore a hole through his skull, D.H.?” Gordon asks, appointing himself as Hideous’s defender.

“Because these holy monk dudes up in the Himalayas have been doing it for centuries. It’s called triptophantasia—”

“Trephination,” Gordon corrects him.

“Whatever…. Supposedly the hole lets out some of your cerebrospinal fluid, so more blood goes to your brain and you feel totally high and groovy all the time. Plus, it opens up your third eye, which makes you more sensitive to electromagnetic vibrations, so you can see auras and shit.”

“You make up. Tell Hideous lie,” says Hideous.

“I’m totally telling the truth, I swear!” D.H. lifts his eyebrows to reveal his blue-eyed innocence. “I saw this show about it on PBS. It’s been going on forever. They even found these old caveman skulls in Africa with holes drilled in their foreheads.”

“Waitta second, man!” Skip cuts in. “I think I saw that show! Wasn’t that the one where those Canadian research guys had the electromagnetic motorcycle helmet? And when they strapped it on their mailman, he hallucinated that he got abducted by aliens!”

“You’re talking about Michael Persinger’s experiments,” Gordon informs Skip.

“Dude, that was it!” D.H. claps his hands in recognition.

“Man, the poor guy thought they probed all his orifices and everything!”

“You guys foo-ah shit,” says Hideous, unconvinced.

“Dude, we are so not full of shit,” D.H. says. “This show explained everything. Check this out: There’s a part of our brains that hallucinates a classic alien abduction scenario whenever it’s exposed to intense electromagnetic waves—which can happen around geological fault lines and places like that. Mostly our skulls keep us protected from normal electromagnetic shit, but then there are these sort of sky creatures—”

“Orgone monsters,” Skip fills in.

“—that live at the upper end of the electromagnetic scale.”

“So they’re invisible,” Skip says, taking over. “But they look like giant amoebas when you take pictures of ‘em with infrared film. They live up in the sky like fishes in the ocean, but sometimes they get sick and heat up—and then guess what happens?”

“What?” Hideous asks. Gordon doesn’t know the answer to that one, either.

“They look just like UFOs!” Skip and D.H. both say at once.

“You’re right, Hideous,” Gordon says. “This is total bullshit.” But he can’t keep himself from smiling. He’s glad to have such oddball friends. They make him feel less odd in comparison.

“Dude, don’t you see how it’s all connected?” D.H. says, grabbing Gordon’s wrist. “Some guy is out walking around and suddenly he bumps into an orgone monster. The electromagnetic waves are so intense that he hallucinates he’s being abducted by aliens. But the orgone monster gets kind of freaked out by the experience, too—and it goes a little nuts. That explains all the crop circles and cattle mutilations.”

“Also,” adds Skip, “sometimes a guy will accidentally breathe in a baby orgone monster—and that’s what causes spontaneous human combustion.”

“How high were you guys when you watched this PBS show?” Gordon asks them.

“Very high.”

“Extremely.”

“I no suplized,” says Hideous, flicking his nose ring at them.

“God dang it, Hideous, that doesn’t matter!” D.H. says. “You have to bore a hole in your skull so you can see the orgone monsters and tell us what they’re up to!”

There's more at:
http://www.crashgordonbooks.com

8/28/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Clint Laskowski said...

The really strange thing is that I was reading the post and clicked on the link to watch the Froggy cartoon, when at the same time, my daughter was watching the movie, "The Son of the Mask," which features extensive clips of the same exact cartoon! What are the chances of that, and what does it mean? I will not open a box if I find one in some obscure enclosed space in my basement, that's for sure!

8/28/2007 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Hicks (regrooved) said...

Re the "show me a miracle ploy":

Those who know do not say.

Those who say do not know.

Lao tze, Tao te ching, 200+ B.C.

in other words (as Bush would say):

The tao that can be told (or shown) is not the eternal tao.

Muhammad's doubters demanded miracles too. The Qur'an was the miracle (well, that and men with boxcutters taking down the WTC....immaculate deception, I think it might be called).

Oh, and by the way, the prophet who said "Riiiiiiiiight!" was Noah.

Not Moses.



"Noah?!"

"Huh?!? Somebody call?!?"

"IT's the Lord, Noah."

"RIIIIIIIIIGHT."

"I want you to build an ark."

"Riiiiiiiiight.....What's an ark?"


But that material belongs to another comic..........

Knock yourselves out.

8/28/2007 10:30:00 PM  
Blogger ericswan said...

That's one of my favorite toons. Froggie goes a courtin...Uh huh.. I have no idea where yer headin with this Jeff. Sure, I've heard of raining cats and dogs and at least once in my life I experienced raining frogs but I didn't have to make up stuff. There was thousands of them and no pond to be seen. Maybe they were toads but toads aren't hatched in maple leaf litter. They must have come down with the rain. Or the rain just woke them up. All I know is there was hundreds of them. They were too small to walk from someplace else. They aren't supposed to be in a forest. They are supposed to be in the water. I don't know where they went cause when I went back they were gone. There was alot of them. I wonder where they went.

8/28/2007 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Bombay said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/29/2007 01:26:00 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

You know, I'm not unsympathetic to all this. It's just that I need evidence and I also have respect for the long history of rational investigation. I haven't been unfair, I have given the many theories that I have come across a fair hearing. I read what they wrote but I didn't stop there. I checked other sources and they made more sense.

We really did go to the moon and there are no shape-shifting reptilians and the planes that crashed were not holograms and no it most likely was not a controlled demolition and no a missile did not hit the pentagon and those objects really were tiny bits of junk floating in front of NASA's cameras and on and on and on and on and on it goes.

"The cartoon's premise is based upon a phenomenon "not only irrational but completely inexplicable"

Ummm no, it isn't. Nature is a wondrous thing and many amphibians and other species can indeed survive for long periods in a state of hibernation. We humans waste a lot of water but some desert mammals barely urinate at all their renal systems are so efficient. Many species of frogs and toads dig down in the mud and have been know to survive very long droughts. They have evolved these abilities over many millions of years so it's hardly a surprise. There is no mystery here.

As for Esther I feel for her. She must have been seething with rage. "In December, the manifestations ceased when Esther became ill." Gee, what a coincidence ya think? I think the "nothing" really is important. Do you think that maladjusted adolescents just might have the motive to prank their elders? I do and so do many others.

Finally, anecdotal accounts are just not considered valid scientific evidence and for good reason. Long experience has taught us that people are not reliable data recorders.

Imagine people keep saying to you, show me a sign, and you know you've seen it, but it's not by your conscious will that you can make the sign manifest for others.

That isn't my experience. My side is: "Imagine that people keep telling you there are signs but hey never check out. You look, you research and the facts are wrong, the reasoning non-existent or the witnesses are less than trustworthy. Imagine this keeps happening to you over and over and over." You might get a little bit frustrated and be short with people once in a while. Still, my baby brother many years ago said he saw a UFO over a tree on our farm. Was it real? I don't know. He might have been high (he was in treatment some time later) and seen the spotlights of the car dealers not too far away projected on some low clouds. Or maybe he really saw something. One thing is for sure, I will never know and neither will anyone else. That is how being rational works and it works a hell of a lot better than gossip and ghost stories. Because in the end that is all you have here.

8/29/2007 05:21:00 AM  
Blogger Qlipoth said...

Brenada wrote:

"That is how being rational works and it works a hell of a lot better than gossip and ghost stories. Because in the end that is all you have here."

Presumably you didn't watch the documentary Jeff linked to. What you have there is at least eight independent witnesses, including two police officers, two journalists and a solicitor (none of whom can have had any rational motive for telling lies or making things up - neither at the time nor 30 years after the fact - especially when they must know that most people will react just as contemptuously as you have done).

"Ummm no, it isn't."

From Mark Kaplan's occasional Notes on Rhetoric:

mimetic zeal: ummers

Just looking at the sitemetre for notes on rhetoric, I came across a comment about the trend for starting replies or posts with ‘um’ – as in (something like) ‘um, that’s precisely my point’. Used to suggest your opponent’s statement was puzzling obvious/ plain stupid. It’s interesting just how mimetically contagious these little tics can be, these lexical solidarities, as when people started using ‘redact’ to mean ‘withdraw’ or ‘delete’. A little micro-community of redactors sprang up, only to vanish shortly afterwards.

-'Is the much celebrated Spinozan imitatio afecti, the impersonal circulation of affects bypassing persons, not the very logic of publicity, of video clips..?'


http://charlotte-street.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.html

8/29/2007 05:59:00 AM  
Blogger ericswan said...

Thanks Qlipoth Your link to Charlotte Street comments field is awesome. I tried it at my blog and it installed in a matter of a couple minutes.

http://hakkor.blogspot.com/

8/29/2007 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Just got a few nice links from Dave West, the mind behind the most frequently linked link I’ve ever hyper-hypno-linked (The Low, Dishonest Decade) that I thought I’d pass along. As a necessary caution, given the apparent “lovey-dovey-ness” of the hippie love fest of Liberal Values we’ve been warned against by one of our most forward-thinking members, I’ll have to admit that these stories might contain items that run counter to the conventional wisdom, which as any idiot must realize, indicates that they couldn’t possibly be either true, rational or representative of the world of real men and God-fearing women.

That disclaimer out of the way (but wait—Qlipoth, you ever get down Vaihingen-way? Der Maulwurf [sign in Spiegelschrift, can’t miss it] was always one of my favorite old haunts, as well as the Umsonst & Draussen festivals ["Initiative zur Erhaltung und Entwicklung anarchistischen und radikaldemokratischen Kultur- und Gedankenguts sowie zur Förderung und Festigung"] down the road in the perpetual Schlamm of the Technische Uni…) but, yeah, that said, here’s just some of the reality-defying news you can find over at Dave’s NewHeadNews this week:

* Harper’s Weekly Review for August 28, 2007 (by Claire Gutierrex)

and, from the CIA-controlled MOCKINGBIRD press (okay, Rolling Stone, so sue someone), we’ve got this Great Iraq Swindle story, which is just begging to be quoted thusly:

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureaucracy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profiteering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.


Or is that too over-the-top, too CT?
Reasonable persons?

Real Men?

8/29/2007 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Where's the Love? I'm not feeling the Love!!

8/29/2007 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Here's what I don't get. IC claims that everyone is wonderful at heart and the only reason they backstab, torture and murder each other is because of the system that has been foisted upon them by the Big Bad Men. He then berates Richard for questioning his authority....yet Richard is clearly not one of the Big Bad Men....but rather, according to IC's logic, one of the preyed upon that can't help but be a meany because it's the Big Bad Men forcing him to do it. According to IC, Richard really has a good heart....yet you wouldn't know it from IC's disdain for Richard here.

Ironically, I know Richard has a good heart, which is more like what IC feigns to be, and IC is acting more like what he claims me to be.

Hmmmm....how interesting.

These ARGs are dopey, aren't they?

8/29/2007 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger Auer said...

Its not "big bad men" that do it. Its our collected culture and shared memory and subconscious, our strata of ways of living and dying that we have accumulated over some 100 000 years. Its the cancer we have become, all of us, collectively. Its the Empire that is the cancer, the Empire we all belong to. We "modern" "western" "civilized" humans are the cancer. or we humans are cancer cells living in the big tumour that is our "civilization". Leeching energy from the planet and from all other organisms, without giving back.

Ill have to post this link to a great book here, got it from some of you guys on the forums. It really does sum it all up very well, and I recommend as mandatory reading for understanding our present crisis situation.
http://www.rainbowbody.net/Finalempire/index.html
"THE FINAL EMPIRE: THE COLLAPSE OF CIVILIZATION AND THE SEED OF THE FUTURE" by William Kötke

8/29/2007 03:43:00 PM  
Blogger Sounder said...

I do not see IC saying "the only reason"...people do bad shit is because of the designs of the Big Bad Men. That would be silly, -the only reason. Like auer says; "Its our collected culture and shared memory and subconscious". The Big Bad Men simply have a bit of a better handle on how to take advantage of the condition of the common man.

Shrub, this "according to IC's logic thing, is a canard because it is YOU trying to speak words for him. Where do you get off?

8/29/2007 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger wwwdotnet said...

Well, i feel right at home with this post Jeff...

You know, i never knew the toad-in-the-hole phenomenon, and I have been brought up with toad-in-the-hole since I was a child. For those of you that don't know, it is a traditional English meal. It is basically sausages resting in a tray of batter which is then baked. The batter then rises all nice and golden like, with a crisp edge and your sausages are all juicy and crispy too. Then some gravy over the top, peas and roast potatoes on the side. I have been fed this since childhood, always wondering why it was called toad-in-the-hole. Turning a phenomenon like this into a traditional meal was certainly a way of "subverting the doctrines for which the anomalies had been conscripted to illustrate."

I feel lucky to have close family to whom hauntings have occured. My Uncles mother hears running on her stairs, and thinks nothing of it! I understand the skeptic mindset, but am glad I do not live within it. It's like growing up too fast maybe. I like to joke that skeptics were those kids who were told too early that Father Christmas (Santa) isn't real. So i will hang on to my toad-in-the-hole.

Brenda, i felt sad when you said "That is how being rational works and it works a hell of a lot better than gossip and ghost stories. Because in the end that is all you have here."

Not much to add to Qlipoth's extraordinary reply! Ummers...Damn. Anyway, as I was saying, i felt a bit sad. You are obviously reading these posts, despite your rationality, which in this case should help you come to terms with the reality of the topic raised, and so I think there is a part of you being stirred up with all this. If so, hold on to it darling, it's what has been hacked away at by this concrete womb we are shoved into. Time for mother earth to push with all her might.

8/29/2007 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

wwwdotnet, I have said before that I come here because I like having my world view challenged. Whatever idea or picture you have in your mind about who I am or what I believe is wrong. You don't know me.

I get frustrated that's all. I saw the poltergeist video and I have to say I was not convinced. But like one person said this case is very ambiguous. It certainly isn't proof one way or another.

Qlipoth, ummm... like d00d wtf?

8/29/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Like auer says; "Its our collected culture and shared memory and subconscious".

Funny that....it's what Shrubbery has said from day one since he's been here....but you only recognize it when this new guy, auer, says it. That's not a knock on you, auer, but keep in mind that what Sounder just did is as hypocritical as one can get. Sure, we're all hypocrits....it's really a matter of degree, I suppose, and Sounder's retort is on the egregious end of the spectrum.

Apparently Sounder wasn't following the conversation between Richard and IC. Richard gives an example of some street thugs killing and mutulating the corpse of some defenseless old man to assert that the PTB don't control such things and IC, instead of meeting half way, or conceding the point, goes on a diatribe about how the Capitalist, Imperialist Gangsters created a system that made the street thugs, and their ancestors, poor, thus setting the stage for their debauchery, thus removing any responsibility or accountability for the deed from those that dug out chunks of the dead man's flesh.

How stupid are these thugs? If they must kill, why the hell don't they kill those that IC claims have created their miserable existence? I know I'm not the only one to think that.

8/29/2007 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Belliosto said...

Remember William Shatner in his starring role on the T.V. show The Twilight Zone? He kept seeing this monster over again on the wing of the jet plane he was flying in. I really believe that the mind can play tricks on an individual. But what happens if monsters from another dimension are the tricksters? There is an over-abundance of testimonies coming from reputable SECULAR sources having to do with ghosts, angels, E.T.'s, etc... The religious may believe in angels but many secular unbelievers testified to the existence of them. Both the good and evil.

I guess we can only share these exceptionally weird experiences with a few people in our lives. If we do not I think only a few will believe anyway. The prophets prove that the Hebrew people usually went about their business as unbelievers on a creator god. In the long history of Jewish belief they mostly did not believe or care to. If I showed you living proof that angels existed does not mean you would care in the slightest. When all hope was lost unbelievers have prayed to a creator god. I'm sure the most beautiful and sincerest of prayers to God also came from unbelievers! So when the frog only sings for you should you think long and hard on whether it is a good or evil song? You can fool all of the people some of the time.

8/29/2007 11:01:00 PM  
Blogger the author said...

"Toads-in-the-hole" were seized upon by British clergymen in the mid-19th Century as living refutations of Darwinian Natural History.


Which, of course, they are. As are fossils in general. How do Darwinists think fossils came to be anyway? If you kill an animal or plant, leave it in place and then come back 4,000 years later to find fossils (skeletons or impresssions), you will find nothing because those will have been consumed by predators or worn away by the elements. The very existence of fossilized skeletons or imprints in sedimentary rocks -- formed by water-borne sediments which solidify -- and the existence of such fossils and sedimentary rocks worldwide, paints a picture of rapid burial of living things by flood. In fact, it looks very similar to that of a worldwide flood such as the one related in the book of Genesis.

-- africkinamerican

8/29/2007 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

Complete and utter bullshit "theAuthor". Try reading something other than the religious tracts other worthless propaganda you've been reading. There is plenty of information out there for you if you are willing. Stretch your mind and try to shake off the dull droning chant going on in your head. There really is a better way. Remember, the truth will set you free.

8/30/2007 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger ericswan said...

Brenda.. You were right. My remote viewing entity turns out to be something the lens on my digital camera imagines it sees.

The author.. Some of the best fossil locations in Canada are sedimentary for the most part but the origin of the sediment is volcanic ash that asphixiates all living things in air, water or land and buries them where they stand. One of the interesting spectres of the "mooneye" which is described as a cross between a salmon and a trout but that just rhetoric, is that their body parts blow up. Everything is disarticulated just like that other Canadian that "is all blowed up".

8/30/2007 01:18:00 AM  
Blogger Auer said...

I believe "change yourself and you change the world" to be true. Since we create our reality together, there is no way to make others change. Even being the change yourself is hard and swimming against the current of habit of billions over thousands of years.

Weve been taught the ways of civilization since being pushed out of our mothers wombs. Often beginning with the cold metal forceps pulling our heads out of the warm womb.

Buckminster Fuller referred to our civilized period of history as "Age of Robber Barons". Whole of civilization is based on the realization that we can steal. Steal from other humans, steal from animals and steal from the Earth, by farming practices, mining, using fossil fuels and so on. All our cities are built on stolen energy. We dont live and act in balance, meaning we would need to give as much as we take from any and all ecosystems. Also culturally our culture is one of violence and "might makes right". Capitalism and global empire are just the current point of this long trend away from balance. We consider ourselves to be members of society first and foremost, and the living Earth is an enemy to conquer for food and energy, it is to be tortured to reveal its secrets. There is, in my opinion, only one single problem. That is that we do not resonate in concert with our environment and all its living beings. Our minds do not resonate with those of other people and other beings. We have trapped our own psychic energies in a similar closed vortex as we have done to natural energies, flows of water, life energies and nutrients. Our intuitive link to existance is cut,
and what remains is constant fear, anxiety and the needless struggle against each other.

Repeating myself here somewhat, im sorry about that, just had to get it off my chest after a night of ghastly dreams. Need to go work for the man, assembling bicycles :)

8/30/2007 02:23:00 AM  
Blogger Sounder said...

shrub said;

"...thus removing any responsibility or accountability for the deed from those that dug out chunks of the dead man's flesh."

If IC's diatribe did this, then you are right to call him on it. But I think when you say things like “the only reason’, or “thus removing any responsibility”, that the statement is twisting what was said. Absolutist statements do that sort of thing.

Shrub, argument by personal attack works for politicians, but it generally does not make for communication or good will. But you probably already know this, no?

Good post auer, and if you already said this stuff shrub, good for you. hehehehe..yes shrub, go down to the corner store and buy yourself a sense of humor.

8/30/2007 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger ericswan said...

THE FROGS
Lampman, Archibald (1861-1899)

I

Breathers of wisdom won without a quest,
Quaint uncouth dreamers, voices high and strange;
Flutists of lands where beauty hath no change,
And wintry grief is a forgotten guest,
Sweet murmurers of everlasting rest,
For whom glad days have ever yet to run,
And moments are as aeons, and the sun
But ever sunken half-way toward the west.

Often to me who heard you in your day,
With close rapt ears, it could not choose but seem
That earth, our mother, searching in what way
Men's hearts might know her spirit's inmost dream;
Ever at rest beneath life's change and stir,
Made you her soul, and bade you pipe for her.

II

In those mute days when spring was in her glee,
And hope was strong, we knew not why or how,
And earth, the mother, dreamed with brooding
brow,
Musing on life, and what the hours might be,
When love should ripen to maternity,
Then like high flutes in silvery interchange
Ye piped with voices still and sweet and strange,
And ever as ye piped, on every tree

The great buds swelled; among the pensive woods
The spirits of first flowers awoke and flung
From buried faces the close-fitting hoods,
And listened to your piping till they fell,
The frail spring-beauty with her perfumed bell,
The wind-flower, and the spotted adder-tongue.

III

All the day long, wherever pools might be
Among the golden meadows, where the air
Stood in a dream, as it were moorèd there
For ever in a noon-tide reverie,
Or where the birds made riot of their glee
In the still woods, and the hot sun shone down,
Crossed with warm lucent shadows on the brown
Leaf-paven pools, that bubbled dreamily,

Or far away in whispering river meads
And watery marshes where the brooding noon,
Full with the wonder of its own sweet boon,
Nestled and slept among the noiseless reeds,
Ye sat and murmured, motionless as they,
With eyes that dreamed beyond the night and day.

IV

And when day passed and over heaven's height,
Thin with the many stars and cool with dew,
The fingers of the deep hours slowly drew
The wonder of the ever-healing night,
No grief or loneliness or rapt delight
Or weight of silence ever brought to you
Slumber or rest; only your voices grew
More high and solemn; slowly with hushed flight

Ye saw the echoing hours go by, long-drawn,
Nor ever stirred, watching with fathomless eyes,
And with your countless clear antiphonies
Filling the earth and heaven, even till dawn,
Last-risen, found you with its first pale gleam,
Still with soft throats unaltered in your dream.

V

And slowly as we heard you, day by day,
The stillness of enchanted reveries
Bound brain and spirit and half-closèd eyes,
In some divine sweet wonder-dream astray;
To us no sorrow or upreared dismay
Nor any discord came, but evermore
The voices of mankind, the outer roar,
Grew strange and murmurous, faint and far away.

Morning and noon and midnight exquisitely,
Rapt with your voices, this alone we knew,
Cities might change and fall, and men might die,
Secure were we, content to dream with you
That change and pain are shadows faint and fleet,
And dreams are real, and life is only sweet.

8/30/2007 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger CuriosityShop said...

My oh my, frogs and things that go bump in the night.

Why have frogs been a symbol of evil, wicked creatures of the devil and gasp, witches?

Or hiding princes that can only be released from their magic spells by a kiss?

Could it simply be that religious dogma is frightened of frogs?

Why would that be?

Maybe transformation or metamorphosis?

Amphibians including frogs and toads are unusual in that they are vertebrates – animals with backbones- that undergo metamorphosis. Metamorphosis is the dramatic change from one form to another and frogs epitomize this change. Their immature form, the tappole, does not in the least resemble a mature frog. The adult frog in contrast is equally at home in or out of water. Breathing air through it’s lungs and although gill less absorbing oxygen through it’s skin.

Pretty damn amazing. Mother Nature is full of tricks.

Brenda, nice to see you again.

Weren’t you the lady intrigued with language? Hope I don’t have you confused with someone else. Old silverbirds like me tend to get confused a lot.

But I found this interesting –
The word Courage comes from the Latin root cor, which means "heart." The word itself is of French origin,

Agressiveness does not equal courage. One of the most courageous things is to be kind and loving.

To this day, inner strength is often referred to as "heart."

When someone is considered brave or courageous, they are said to have Coeur de Lyon, or Heart of a Lion.

And language is wonderful is it not – it’s one of the reasons we all gravitate to Rigorous Intuition, because Jeff is gifted with it.

Some fun language
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patronus_Charm#Known_Patronuses
The Patronus Charm conjures an incarnation of the caster's innermost positive feelings, such as joy, hope, or the desire to survive, known as a Patronus. A Patronus can be viewed as the exact opposite of a Dementor. Even though it embodies all the positive emotions that a Dementor feeds on, a Patronus is conjured as a protector, and is a weapon rather than a predator of souls: Patronuses shield their conjurors from Dementors, and even drive them away. A Patronus "cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so Dementors can't hurt it."[1] The conjured Patronus protects the witch or wizard that summoned it, obeys his or her commands, and fades away shortly after it is no longer required.

When conjured, a Patronus appears silvery, ethereal, and semi-transparent. Improperly formed Patronuses range from momentary formless bursts of silvery mist, to poorly-defined forms which are easily defeated or quickly dissipate on their own. A full-fledged (or corporeal) Patronus takes on a solid (if somewhat ethereal) fixed animal form that is of great significance to the witch or wizard casting the charm, as it reflects their personality/character. Finally, Patronuses summoned by a particular person have been known to change due to life-altering events, such as personal tragedy or falling in love, as expressed by Nymphadora Tonks when she fell in love with Remus Lupin, although it is insinuated that Remus Lupin's rejection of Tonks causes her Patronus to change form, not her love.

8/30/2007 08:33:00 AM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Here's what I don't get. IC claims that everyone is wonderful at heart and the only reason they backstab, torture and murder each other is because of the system that has been foisted upon them by the Big Bad Men. He then berates Richard for questioning his authority....yet Richard is clearly not one of the Big Bad Men....but rather, according to IC's logic, one of the preyed upon that can't help but be a meany because it's the Big Bad Men forcing him to do it. According to IC, Richard really has a good heart....yet you wouldn't know it from IC's disdain for Richard here.

Actually, Shrub, you’ve got it just about backwards. Richard’s the one who claims that humans are vile & nasty by nature, that given the chance they’ll Lord-of-the-Flies all over each other, and that the system set up and run by the PTB has nothing to do with this inherent nastiness. He then “backs this up” with quotes from establishment sources (look back at our many Nature of Man & Nature dialogues), his own personal experiences with human cruelty and, in this thread, the same kind of stories that are the bread & butter of the 6 O’ Clock News, which are designed and broadcast to perpetuate this myth in order to justify all the Law & Order.

My position is that we are infinitely adaptable, vulnerable to any propaganda & susceptible to any worldview sold to us by those in control of the media of transmission. This goes all the way back to our first discussions of the real meaning if the infamous Milgram study: Richard (and the conventional wisdom) declare this proves our inherent baseness, while I (and a much smaller segment of public opinion) say it only demonstrates the ease with which we can be imprinted, some would say programmed.

Neurologically speaking, it is a curious fact that there are 10 times as many neural pathways going from “top to bottom” as there are from sensory inputs to the interpretive centers of the brain. We are hardwired for culture, which quite unfortunately means that we’re also very easily exploited & manipulated. Why else would it be that Cialdini’s techniques work so well?

I will admit that I have said that given a choice between attending a barn-raising or a lynching, most folks would choose the former (if they were given the choice, which they're not), and I still believe this is true, for much the same reasons that Frans de Waal talks about the evolution of altruism as an advantageous characteristic (it helps to ensure the survival of the species, as opposed to the individual.)

Now, this flies right in the face of the conventional wisdom again, because the Owners defend the depredations of the Empire by trotting out this “survival of the fittest” model with which we’ve been beaten over the head for the past century. This is where Kötke’s argument has its deepest relevance. Everyone already knows that the current set up is hierarchical by design, that just as it took a thousand serfs to support one aristocrat in the feudal system, so too is there a similar number of wage slaves supporting some fat-ass who thinks he owns the place in every corporate hive.

The relevant section from Final Empire is in that wonderfully concise Chapter 13 (and Brenda, you'll find some interesting stuff on your independent scientists here, too):

Balance is the Foundation of Life

In a social sense maturity is seen as self-regulation, that point at which we are not dependent upon parents or others to conduct our affairs. In the organic world beings also exhibit self-regulation. It is the self-regulation of each species that gives the eco-system its balance. Because each being lives according to its nature, the whole functions in resonance. The balance of the human population in a forager/hunter band is self-regulating. This ecological maturity is fundamental. The cosmos exists in balance; the life of the earth exists in balance.

Within this we see by contrast that the theorists of empire culture invented ideologies of linear increase, ideologies of imbalance. When the new edition of the myth of linear increase was being formulated in Darwin's time, the rationalist philosophers searched for a motivating dynamic in the natural world. They looked for a cause of change, which they could hold up as the force for linear increase. Darwin and Malthus found the motor in population increase.

For Darwin, the balance of species is maintained mechanically by predators and starvation. As this flood of population continues it is the "survival of the fittest" that culls out the weak and selects the strong, whose descendants then become the new "evolutionary waves." Imbedded in this perspective is a total irresponsibility, a complete immaturity. No being is responsible to the whole. Each being is only obligated to fight others for its own survival. This pattern is in fact reflected in the culture in which we live. This is why we face planetary suicide. No one is responsible for the life of the earth. One simply struggles for the "individualist" power and wealth held out by the culture.

This scheme fit in with the theories of "free markets" propounded by Adam Smith in his tome, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). In Smith's theory, all people were completely rational. With many sellers and buyers in a free market, they would choose the best product at the least cost, thus constantly moving efficiency and social benefit forward as the inefficient died off. In this scheme, no one is responsible, "the natural order," "the hidden hand of the market," brings the "good things" to society.

No society was ever configured this way. Powerful social forces, cartels and monopolies set prices and control supply, but Smith was creating a myth not describing reality. This is similar to Darwin's myth of the population motor. The claim is made that it is not human directed, that it fits the pattern of the cosmos.

As this mythos expanded, "Social Darwinism" then became welded onto it. In the myth of Social Darwinism, human societies such as the imperial society of Britain rise to the top and humans within societies rise to the top because of their evolutionary superiority. Obviously there is no "top" to rise to in a cooperative forager/hunter band but in an imperial culture based in hierarchy this can seem to be "just common sense." We see the financial aristocracy born with the best medical care, fed with the best diets, tutored with the finest master teachers and finished at the best schools. Given the widest experiences of travel, entertainment, and sport because of inherited wealth and the mental reinforcement since birth that they are destined to rule, we can understand how they would readily adopt a social Darwinist perspective. They could easily be persuaded that their kind was superior, while they stand on the necks of those who never had their advantages. In fact their class actively prevents others from having those advantages.


The way they justify this inherently unequal distribution of wealth & power is by claiming that the “free” market just naturally evolved, that it is in fact a perfect reflection of how Nature is “structured.” Except that even though very few of us really understand that niche and adaptation (even, God forbid, cooperation!) are far more important in the dynamic process that is evolution than the static dominance hierarchy that fills the biology textbooks, folks still aren’t quite so docile that they’re willing to accept the social Darwinist platform in all its ugly, racial superiority-based “splendor.”

So, in order to make it more palatable, they found their “democracies” on the most egalitarian sounding principles imaginable—all men are created equal, freedom & justice for all, “Liberté, Fraternité, Equalité,” etc, etc. Fine words engraved on every courthouse…that mean exactly nothing as soon as you walk in with your public defender with his taped-together horn rims looking around like he’d never seen the place before, while the factory owner’s silk-tied attorney sidles over the judge and makes small talk about Hizzoner’s golf handicap…

And Richard’s point is that none of that matters, that the widening gap between rich & poor has nothing whatsoever to do with the desperation & despair of the downtrodden. (I do wonder how he explains the absence of suicide, murder, addiction and disparities in wealth & power in tribal societies...oh, yeah, it's probably just more Liberal bullshit.)

Not content with defending the status quo, even though he knows that the higher ups in his own mental health facility don’t give a shit about the inmates as long as they get serviced under the desk by the pharmaceutical reps or over the table (if that's too far-fetched) by getting so much more money & respect than the grunts who actually see those unfortunates, Richard goes on to attack the Left (that sad, hypocritical cadre of collaborators & Quislings) with the tired old clichés of the Right!

Remember when he told us that the reason that kids misbehave is because their alfalfa-eating, do-gooder parents didn’t have the balls to hit their kids? (Is he going to quote Glenn Beck next?)

No, Shrub, I don’t “berate Richard for questioning (my) authority;” I call him on his own hypocrisy. He knows damn well that governments lie (look back at what he wrote when we were talking Gladio), that the system is set up for the benefit of the Owners to the detriment of the serfs, and yet he keeps repeating the lies of the Owners. Now he’s playing Skeptic™, pretending that the loonies chasing irrelevant conspiracy theories that amount to nothing more than spook gossip are somehow representative of the growing ranks of those who don’t believe the bullshit they’re told by the official mouth organs of the State. He’s even quoting those sources to back up his "keen insights" into human nature.

I don’t have any authority; for an anti-authoritarian that would be…let’s see, hypocritical, wouldn’t it? The point of using asinine screen names in an ethereal blogosphere is that, unlike the world in which we live, it truly is egalitarian. It doesn’t matter that I’m poor or that I have no power or position of influence—my opinions matter just as much or little as yours and everybody else’s. Which also means that Richard is free to say whatever he wants.

The thing that I don’t understand is why he cares to express an opinion here anymore. I asked him recently what relevance Jeff’s masthead still has for him—what you don’t know can’t hurt them—when he believes there are no deceptions worth investigating and no suppressed alternatives to the current paradigm that might provide a better way to live (since we’re so irredeemably awful that we’d just fuck up whatever innovation we stumbled upon anyway.)

I’m not saying that he shouldn’t comment here anymore—we are perhaps too insulated from the stupidity and compliance of the larger world—but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to challenge his rightwing posturing. After all, I’m no defender of the so-called "Left" myself. While socialism is probably preferable to this free market fundamentalism in which we live—what wouldn’t be?—it’s still based on scarcity economics, which invites manipulation…and hierarchy…and we’re still not free and we’re still raping the world.

Too bad we don’t have any intuition anymore. We might even come up with some other way to do things...

8/30/2007 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Very well said, IC.

Respect.....I mean that.

I guess I don't see Richard the same way you do....just as I don't see you the same way Mojo does. I think you're both good guys with good hearts.

8/30/2007 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Sounder said...

auer said;

"Our culture is one of violence and "might makes right". Capitalism and global empire are just the current point of this long trend away from balance. We consider ourselves to be members of society first and foremost, and the living Earth is an enemy to conquer for food and energy, it is to be tortured to reveal its secrets."

To continue an earlier theme, is this condition a result of human nature, or it caused by human habit? If it is human nature well then, signs will always be used to twist the meaning of the signified, ...and we are screwed. If on the other hand, we miss seeing our potential because of poor habits; this we can change.

As one looks back at the history of ideas, we see an institutional push for a common doctrine. This has the effect of making 'enthusiasts' be careful about the things they may want to talk about. Now the common doctrine people may let a bit of 'enthusiasm' into their ranks, but they don't like it, because it makes them look stupid.

How is it that really smart people do not see that an incorrectly chosen initial premise will corrupt all later efforts? Want to get back to the garden? We must retrace our steps.

8/30/2007 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Auer said...

Id say I agree with Iridescent Cuttlefish. Humans have a biological wetware brain of huge programming and reprogramming potential. Most of our skills are learned, also most of our behavioural patterns are learned, and can also be unlearned to a degree and replaced with new sets. The problem is that it takes conscious effort and practice to do this, and the second problem is that we are social beings and like to go along with the predominant conditioning / programming (cultural values, traditions, fashion, peer pressure and so on). So it takes some courage and some independence at start for a human to want to change. Or some positive reasons to do so from those around us - or the plain old "do or die". But there IS also an inbuilt kind of personality type, or spirit, in humans. Which is maybe what drives some people to question and shed their conditioning? But then were partly back at the same question, innate or not?

This sociability of humans is what enables the current hierarchical system of abuse of mankind and earth. Its both self-supporting and coercive. Each one of us (when unaware!) acts like one of the Little Black Mages of the "masters"..Mirroring the whole system in our own actions.

Maybe, figuratively speaking, we got infected with the idea that we are superior to other life, that we are individual, and we have no responsibility..And this idea got hold of much of us humans, and spread virally, strengthening as it spread? The more humans started acting like presently, the harder it was for other ways of living to persist - they were destroyed by the advance of this monstrosity.

A good example of the adaptation of the brain wetware is a young child - after birth any child could learn to recognize any sound of any spoken language, likely also animal sounds. At age 2-3 most of the neuronal connections (some 2/3s) have vanished as the pathways are optimized to the language the child hears spoken around it. Thats adaptation, thats learning.
People who have experimented with psychedelics know that its possible to change and reroute neuronal pathways in different ways - psychedelics being one of the more dangerous, fast ways. Meditation is one of the safer and gentler ones. When using mindfully methods like these (there are others sure) its possible to see your own conditioning and come to understand what, why, where and change it hopefully for the better. Human mind has the built-in function of self-analysis and self-regulation - but most humans never use these functions much but simply go along with the flow of the mass of humans, and goes along with the prevalent conditioning.

8/30/2007 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Auer said...

I forgot to mention one thing..
In our present culture, especially christian religion, theres the concept of sin and "original sin" that tells us that its impossible to change for the better, since we are originally somehow broken, sinners. This kind of an idea, if you believe in it, is a powerful motivator against self-improvement and self-analysis. It tells us theres nothing you can do, you are broken and evil and you must simply accept it and pray for deliverance from some god. This to me makes major religions such good tools of control. They tell us were deficient, and only by surrendering to the religion is there any hope of our salvation from hell. Not a healthy idea at all. It also gives us a reason to give up responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Which is good if you want us to stay where we are, up to our necks in the mire ;) But then again, religions also are our creations, and subject to change.

8/30/2007 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger the author said...

By the way, I don't mean to sound as if I am delivering THE Answer to the toads-in-the-hole mystery. I am pointing out the possibility that these have a similar origin to other intact fossils discovered over the decades. (Jeff's account says "entombed," so I assume the little guys were found dead. If they'd been found living, then all bets are off as to explanations ...)


Says the rather friendly and winsome Brenda:

Complete and utter bullshit "theAuthor". Try reading something other than the religious tracts other worthless propaganda you've been reading. There is plenty of information out there for you if you are willing. Stretch your mind and try to shake off the dull droning chant going on in your head. There really is a better way. Remember, the truth will set you free.


So you have "The Truth" but those who disagree with you don't, simply because you say so?

What sort of Fundamentalist are you? Or are you the Pope of something, perhaps?



Ericswan said:
The author.. Some of the best fossil locations in Canada are sedimentary for the most part but the origin of the sediment is volcanic ash that asphixiates all living things in air, water or land and buries them where they stand.


Of course, that occurs too. (By the way, among scientists who believe in a worldwide Flood(s) it's also widely accepted that this was accompanied, or possibly even triggered, by widespread volcanic activity.) Yet the entire world -- volcanic, non-volcanic -- is covered in sedimentary layers with fossils within which must have been quickly trapped and buried, most likely in moving water (which experiements show will produce exactly this effect). The sedimentary layers are so universal that they form the basis of the Darwinian myth. Yet the Darwinian explanation that they formed gradually through normal, uniform processess over hundreds of millions of years just doesn't -- pardon the pun -- hold water.

Short of toads being paranormally transported into rocks (even for God, this would seem to be a miracle of dubious value), their presence would point to extremely fast burial at the very least and perhaps some other process which would preserve them whole, such as a quick freeze. We have other examples of animals or plants fossilized intact, which must have involved the same sort of process.

Now toads in trees -- that would be tough to explain by any means. Magic, maybe?

If so, it would be no more magical an explanation than Darwinism -- which is essentially billions of years worth of Magical Miracles of absolutely zero probability. Which conveniently have left no unchallenged evidence of their occurrence! That's my whole point in this thread.

For the curious: Geology consistent with global Flood. Hours of reading for those who are suitably inquisitive.

Maybe the reason why many cultures worldwide have worldwide (or at least huge) Deluge legends is because .... (shock, horror) ... it actually happened!

BTW, IC posted about "social Darwinism." Social Darwinism is just Darwinism applied -- as it damn well ought to be, if it is true. It can't be fenced off into its own category. It is not a heresy of Darwinism; it is Darwinism, and Darwin himself believed it (though on the down low). Of course! He at least had the integrity to have carried his own theory to its logical conclusion.

-- africkinamerican

8/30/2007 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger ruprecht said...

IC,

You haven't read your Dawkins perhaps? De Waals "for the good of the species" is so 1968.

As the parent of two little ones, it seems fairly apparent that self-centered behavior is innate, to be trained out by repetitive reminders of the golden rule. (at least for most...)

From my understanding of behavioral psychology, altruism between unrelated individuals occurs mainly where there is potential for some reciprocity. Shorter Dawkins: If there is no consequence to screwing you over, why not?

8/31/2007 01:21:00 AM  
Blogger Auer said...

Yeah, the flood stories are interesting..The same story is found in so many different cultures around the world, in such a similar shape that Id wager that its based on an actual event that caused worldwide turmoil.

" H.S. Bellamy in Moons, Myths and Men estimates that altogether there are over 500 Flood legends worldwide. Ancient civilizations such as (China, Babylonia, Wales, Russia, India, America, Hawaii, Scandinavia, Sumatra, Peru, and Polynesia) all have their own versions of a giant flood."
-http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html
(thou that site comes to the conclusion that this is irrefutable proof of Gods handiwork, which I disagree with ;)

Perhaps a close call by a meteor or other large planetary body causing seas of the Earth to momentarily rise and drown out large areas of land? Or maybe even a meteor hit on some deep part of the sea.. Throwing mud and frogs all over the place!

8/31/2007 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Auer said...

From the comment on reciprocity, man, brings to my mind a good site I once stumbled upon..

www.reciprocality.org
The whole site as PDF here:
http://www.reciprocality.org/pdf/reciprocality.pdf

"This project began as a bit of practical industrial psychology, and ended up unfolding into an understanding of how most people in most human societies have a consistently distorted view of everything. Not everyone is caught in the confusion, and as the picture emerged, an alternative model of relationships between observable phenomena that seems to be experienced by creative programmers in software engineering, star diagnosticians in medicine, great physicists and mathematicians, so-called ADHD children, people who "Know Quality" in industry, poets, painters, sculptors and mystics became describable - but only in its own terms. The alternative picture is wholly rational, but not reductionistic. Best of all, it is scientifically grounded and experimentally testable. If the experiments fail we can junk it. If they work, we've learned something important. " - Alan G Carter

They talk about the same thing weve been discussing here, but in the terms of programmers. A recommended read!

8/31/2007 02:12:00 AM  
Blogger Auer said...

Cont...From the Reciprocality site: "By watching creative software engineers I learned how to teach the necessary state of mind to people who thought they couldn't do it. Then the similarity between creative engineers and children diagnosed as ADHD led to a remarkable idea. Important features of our culture put most people into a state where their brain chemistry is out of balance by age six, and this actually turns part of their awareness off. Get a whole society in this state, and they create a powerful logical blindspot that stops anyone seeing what is happening. The two effects protect each other and cause an awful lot of trouble.

I tested the blindspot idea by applying it to some profound mysteries in current physics, and answers came rolling out! The sums remain the same, but the underlying assumptions are different. This is all about awareness, so I applied the new physical model to the question of what consciousness is, and got an answer quite different to anything suggested to date. Bundle it all up, and I got a concrete picture of how the physical processes in the universe - including consciousness - fit together, and how they look from our point of view. "

"Artificial Discipline: Neurochemistry

M0 is a previously unsuspected public health problem. It is ancient and vast, and only fragments of information regarding its origins and the psychological state of humans prior to its instantiation have passed down to us. It consists of a neurochemical effect induced by boring social conditions that people get addicted to like some athletes get addicted to their own adrenaline and end up B. A. S. E. jumping.

People so hooked on their own boredom products lose access to a whole layer of cognitive abilities based on the use of precisely tuned feedback loops in the brain. The trouble is, they don't even notice anything is wrong, firstly because they can't see what they can no longer see, and secondly because they experience an artificial sense of well-being and see repetitive behaviour as an inherent good. They are also distressed by novelty, because it induces a physiological withdrawal. There is a cultural distortion produced by having a majority of people in this state, which makes it difficult to ask the questions that would expose it. There is natural immunity, and natural immunes have their own interesting strengths (and weaknesses, in the circumstances). It's why some people are more "with it" than others. They just aren't sick in this sense, and so they can perceive and then dynamically replan to include, the implicit. "

Thats the teaser to get you checking it out, sorry for the long posts. Ill sit back now and let you flood for a while :)

8/31/2007 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

the author said...
By the way, I don't mean to sound as if I am delivering THE Answer to the toads-in-the-hole mystery.


Well actually, you did just that and you are trying to continue doing it even though you know nothing about what you're talking about. I have debated creationist loons like you for years.

So you have "The Truth" but those who disagree with you don't, simply because you say so?

It was a joke. You see, there is a real difference between religion and science. Not that it is worth my time to even try to debate you on it.

The universal flood myth has been throughly debunked by real geologists. Creationist nutcases like Henry Morris and the rest do not know what they claim to know. They are fools just like you are a fool.

Toads have been known to survive up to I believe 56 years encased in mud. Lungfish I think can live for about three but I'd have to look it up to be sure. Nature is a wonderful thing to be sure.

8/31/2007 03:17:00 AM  
Blogger tridentblue said...

http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/pics10/IMBJR-collection/imbjr1/dead_frog_day.jpg

8/31/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger tridentblue said...

http://www.subgenius.com/bigfist/pics10/IMBJR-collection/imbjr1/dead_frog_day.jpg

8/31/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Sounder said...

Auer, thanks for that Robert White link. He sure is a cracker.

Like he says; "People so hooked on their own boredom products lose access to a whole layer of cognitive abilities based on the use of precisely tuned feedback loops in the brain. The trouble is, they don't even notice any thing is wrong, firstly because they can't see what they can no linger see, and secondly because they experience an artificial sense of well-being and see repetitive behavior as an inherent good. They are also distressed by novelty, because it induces physiological withdrawal. There is a cultural distortion produced by having a majority of people in this state, which makes it difficult to ask the questions that expose it. There is a natural immunity, and natural immunes have their own interesting strength (and weaknesses in the circumstances). It's why some people are more "with it" than others. They just aren't sick in this sense, and so they can perceive and then dynamically replan to include, the implicit.”

Auer, I deal with some similar material in my own way over at my blogspot. I would be honored if you were to check it out, and tell me what you think about it. They were written, on the quick, after twenty years gestation.

8/31/2007 07:07:00 AM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8/31/2007 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Auer said...

Sounder: Yes, i've actually read Guerrilla Ontology already quite some time ago.. Just like i've been stalking RI for years never saying a thing ;) Got the urge to post just now..

8/31/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger surrender said...

Shrub: I do not no why but somehow I thought of you and IC when I read this today:

"An enormous spider web has been found at Lake Tawakoni State Park, Texas, US.

It is not the work of one giant spider - rather, millions of small ones have been spinning away and now it is twice the size of a football field.

Park rangers are not sure why the spiders have joined forces - they describe it as a rare occurrence.
Texas A&M University entomologist Professor John Jackman told Associated Press that there were reports of similar webs every couple of years.

The web covers a 180m (650ft) stretch of trees and shrubs in the park.

Although it was initially described as "fairy-tale" white, it has turned brown from all the mosquitoes caught in its trap.
Experts say the web is either the work of social cobweb spiders that work together, or it has been created by spiders spreading out from a central point.

The park superintendent, Donna Garde, has invited arachnid and insect specialists to the park to study it first-hand.

Rangers said they expected the web to last until the autumn, when the spiders will start dying off."



And this bit of info to remind us about man's current relationship to FROGS:

"Pollutants such as pesticides and toxins damage the ecosystem and cause a variety of damaging ailments in humans. One particular herbicide, Atrazine, has now been found to turn male frogs into hermaphrodites, rendering them impotent by causing their gonads to produce eggs.

A subject of great scientific and political controversy, Atrazine was first introduced in 1958 and today is one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It is a potential carcinogen and has a half-life in soil of anywhere from 15 to 100 days. This time allows for Atrazine biodegration, during which the chemical is dechlorinated until it produces a an end product of cyanuric acid, a toxic compound.

Atrazine is also used throughout the world in the production of maize, sorghum, sugar cane, pineapples, chemical fallows, grassland, macadamia nuts, conifers forestry, roses and grassland. Its most common application is for use in conservation tillage systems to prevent soil erosion and runoff, and to prevent weeds from growing in major crops. As a result, a good deal of the Atrazine applied to crops is washed into rivers, streams, lakes and municipal drinking water supplies.

A scientific study revealed the truth
In 2002, a breakthrough study on the environmental effects of Atrazine was led by Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California at Berkeley. The research revealed that Atrazine not only contaminates ground and surface water, but also is an endocrine disruptor -- chemically castrating all male amphibians by stripping them of a key hormone. This appears to have had a major impact on wild amphibians and is likely to be an important contributor to this species' global decline.

"What struck us as unbelievable was that Atrazine could cause such dramatic effects at such low levels," said Hayes. "If you take five grains of salt, divide this weight by five thousand, that is the amount of Atrazine that causes these abnormalities. Atrazine-exposed frogs don't have normal reproductive systems. The males have ovaries in their testes and much smaller vocal organs."


ps. Love you, too EVE

8/31/2007 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Surrender,

Are you saying I don't have balls?

8/31/2007 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger surrender said...

OH MY GOD!!!!

SHRUB Shrub

NO NO NO NOT WHAT YOU THINK!!!!




"Experts say the web is either the
work of social cobweb spiders that work together, or it has been created by spiders spreading out from a central point."


SO SORRY

I AM SURE YOU HAVE BALLS AND GONADS AND ALL THAT STUFF and your posts are as "ballsy" as anyone's.

JEEZ how did you think???

OH well.... just hang in there and refer to Eve if you have more questions...

(I'm Sorry, I love you, I'm Sorry I love you......................)

8/31/2007 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Shrubageddon said...

Surrender,

I was just joking....Sounder told me to go down to the corner store and get a sense of humor....and so I did, even if it is a bit dry.

Here's what prompted my Obtuse Satire.

The males have ovaries in their testes and much smaller vocal organs.

I love you too, Surrender.

Shrubbery the Balless

8/31/2007 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Not sure why I'm still adding comments on this thread that has been so lightly abandoned--how are those other topics that catch our collective eye more intersting or vital?--but I guess it's just another opportunity to clear up some things in my head in a public forum...maybe someone will even read it and respond.

I'm also not sure how to respond to the very scientific (or was it unconnected anecdotal?) analysis of the person who attributed the selfishness of his young children to the old Hobbesian savage Nature model, but to his “de Waal is so 1968!” I do have a sound response: No, it is so 1491. And the 3 million years of human existence prior to that. Your world-according-to-Hobbes is the “newcomer” (although it’s obviously overstayed its welcome in the 500 years it’s taken to bring the world to the very brink of the sort of savagery that Hobbes thought he saw in Nature all along.)

The main thing about altruism in this discussion, whether it’s an innate characteristic or an “evolved” or simply learned social behavior, is it’s practicability—whether or not it can work in any future societal arrangement. While it might be interesting to discover its historical origins (and there is that recent, verified and repeatable study to consider, if that’s what you’re after, where chimpanzees—not anywhere near as peaceful a species as de Waal’s bonobos—actually gave up food to prevent other, unrelated chimps from receiving electrical shocks), this is entirely secondary to its applicability for us.

And when we tack on “reciprocal,” this doesn’t somehow cheapen it or reduce it to our modern concept of enlightened self-interest, either. In a society where there is altruism, there will also be reciprocity, without either some sort of strict accounting of favors rendered or even conscious intent. Within Amish communities, farmer Schneider doesn’t haggle with farmer Rodenkirch over the balance of barns raised before he brings the tools and the potato salad and rolls up his sleeves.

The thing that’s difficult for us in the dominant culture to overcome when looking at how “primitive” cultures used to function is the tremendous arrogance with which our culture views itself and its place in the world. We all know the story of how the native peoples couldn’t “see” Magellan’s ships because they were so completely outside their frame of reference—that top-heavy cultural imprinting that tends to deny the evidence of the senses if it contradicts what is known—but how many of us know the story of the blindness of the conquerors when viewing the cultures of the vanquished?

When Darwin first saw the Yanama people of Tierra del Fuego, he had great difficulty in even describing them as human. As Paul Hawken writes in Blessed Unrest (which, btw, is a beautifully written book that accomplishes far more then Paul even let on when I asked him to look at my hobbit house stuff last year):

Although Darwin could be jubilant about the quirky prance of the native guanaco (a close relative of the llama and the vicuna), his interest in the local human inhabitants was more guarded and puzzled. His powers of observation failed him with the Fuegians, as he was flummoxed by many elements of their culture, including their use of language. On one hand he was surprised by their ability to perfectly mimic English speakers, repeating entire sentences, right down to their accompanying facial expressions, coughs, tics and accents.

But because he could not easily distinguish words in their own native language, he concluded that they were merely repeating a few simple phrases and thus had a very small vocabulary: “Their language does not deserve to be called articulate: Capt Cook says it is like a man clearing his throat; to which may be added another very hoarse man trying to shout & a third encouraging a horse with that peculiar noise which is made in one side of the mouth. Imagine these sounds and a few gutturals mingled with them, & there will be as near an approximation to their language as any European may expect to obtain…I believe if the world was searched, no lower grade of man could be found.”

The word barbarian derives from the Greek “barbarus,” meaning someone who babbles in another tongue; people who didn’t speak Greek were considered “barbaric.” What Darwin and no one (else) knew at that time was that these “barbaric savages” dwelled in the spoken word and spent nights in their pit houses in animated and nuanced conversations.


Hawken goes on to tell us that a very unusual man named Thomas Bridges proceeded to spend 21 years learning the Yanama language and compiling a dictionary which, though still unfinished at the time of his death, already contained 32,430 commonly used words, as compared with Samuel Johnson’s English 1755 dictionary, which had 42,773 but also included thousands of technical terms which laymen did not know or use. Shakespeare is said to have used no more than 20,000 distinct words; the average American teenager about 80 in the course of a week…

So, who’s the “savage”?

Darwin’s conception of evolution was certainly informed by his worldview, and not the other way around, as the story of the “ground-breaking” and “revolutionary” appearance of On the Origin of Species is told in our story of ourselves. Sure, evolution supplants Bishop Ussher’s infantile 4004 BC creation date, but by the mid-19th century most folks weren’t really buying that fairy tale anyway. The only question with Darwin is that of intent & honesty. Was it just a rationale for murdering “savages,” or were his perceptions of the “natural order” with regard to the superiority of the white man honest mistakes arising from his twisted worldview?

In the section from his diary on Tierra del Fuego, Darwin seems to be at least an honest racist when he writes:

An European labours under great disadvantages when treating with savages like these…nor is it easy to teach them our superiority except by striking a fatal blow. Like wild beasts, they do not appear to compare numbers; for each individual, if attacked, instead of retiring, will endeavour to dash your brains out with a stone, as certainly as a tiger under similar circumstances would tear you.

A little further on he summarizes the whole problem, which is, of course, the exact same problem that the natives peoples had in “seeing” Magellan’s ships (not to mention the danger they represented):

We can hardly put ourselves in the position of these savages, and understand their actions.

It’s only now, when it’s almost too late, that we are beginning to be able to understand the perceptions of other humans who differ from us only in very superficial senses after all. And we presume to speak of the nature of Nature when we are so blinded by our lenses?

Here’s a last example in this Darwin & the Savages business. We tell ourselves nowadays that when Whitey “discovered” America (a concept that depends on viewing the inhabitants already there for thousands of years as either not being human or at the very least not making any proper use of the land), he stumbled upon a pristine environment, untouched forests, etc, etc. As it only now turns out, the Americas had been intensively, if very differently cultivated for a very, very long time.

In 1491, there were 100 million people living in the Americas. Their “system” was a vast spectrum of bioregional arrangements with Nature. The Inka Empire, for example, was the sort of pyramidal hierarchy we know only too well today, although it did manage to “out-do” the Europeans in some very interesting ways. It was larger than any other empire in history; its capital—Tenochtitlan—was “larger than the biggest city in Europe and featured markets, causeways, broad avenues, botanical gardens, temples and an immaculate sanitation system” (BU) that the Spaniards didn’t begin to understand. They also practiced a form of agricultural sustainability that was resilient, broad-based and far beyond anything we’ve ever been able to accomplish.

In North America, the Haudenosaunee had a representative parliament, including citizen referendums, that dated back to 1142. Let’s see now, what were the Euros up to at that point in time? Oh, yeah, the same thing they’re still up to: feudalism. (If free market fundamentalism isn’t exactly feudalism, it’s only because loyalty has now become a one-way street, when in Ye Olden Days there was at least noblesse oblige and the protection of the vassals by their Lord. For those who think things were crueler then, that the aristocracy would piss on the poor for sport, consider the implications of “trickle-down” economics.)

I could go on about the silvicultural gardens that were the Amazonian rainforests ("a dynamic and enduring relationship that supplied a year-round crop of medicines, fibers, fruits and animals”) or the maintenance of the Buffalo Commons, (“the most fertile savanna in the world”), but you get the idea. As Hawkens concludes, “there were civilizational failures, such as the Anasazi, which were primarily drought and weather related, but on the whole, the pattern of interaction with the environment increased the productivity and biodiversity of natural systems without causing concomitant losses.”

Conclusion

When I talk about sustainability and altruism, about pulling a survivable future out of the study of the past, I don’t mean to advocate turning the clock back (or even to suggest that the indigenous past was perfectly idyllic), but instead that there is a way forward that is rooted in the past. It just happens not to be the past of the dominant culture, which is a tricky proposition at best, as it entails all sorts of introspection and, well, honesty.

Still, it seems an easy enough choice: we either begin building alternative models--Bucky’s Law: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete"—or we accept the Bagdad-ification of the world—a corporate hegemony based “green zone” surrounded by a red zone of poverty, violence, injustice and environmental collapse.

If we choose the latter course, we could even justify the choice we’ve made by saying that it’s just human nature or Nature herself manifesting our Manifest Destiny. The Hegemonistas are no more to blame than Dawkins’ selfish memes—who are we to stand in the way of History, after all?

9/01/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger the author said...

Brenda fulminates:

“Well actually, you did just that and you are trying to continue doing it even though you know nothing about what you're talking about. I have debated creationist loons like you for years….”


That’s funny. What you are doing doesn’t even resemble debate and it only confirms to me that Darwinist/atheist types are just on their own kind of religious fundamentalist trip!


“…Not that it is worth my time to even try to debate you on it. …”


Interestingly enough, I have concluded the same thing regarding you. But do enjoy your religion and try to get the most out of it as it limps along to its inevitable dinosaur-like extinction.

9/01/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger the author said...

Since I got us off on the tangent about biblical creationism and the Flood, and since it so upset at least one reader, I thought I would leave one more little gift in the form of a column by Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail -- who with a dispatch and concision greater than mine, skewers the colossal arrogance of the Richard Dawkins, militant-atheism-posing-as-science crowd, showing that this arrogance "is turning the clock back to a pre-modern age of obscurantism, dogma and secular witch-hunts." Enjoy!

9/02/2007 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger the author said...

The above was a link to an excerpt of Phillips' column at Evolution News & Views, but here is the full version at Phillips' own site. It's too bad she begins the column by bashing conspiracy theories. But on the main point, which is the irrationality of the rising atheist Taliban, she's right on the mark.

9/02/2007 03:45:00 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

"What you are doing doesn’t even resemble debate"

Of course not, never said we were. I'm laughing at you, you moron. Your appeal to an article at the Discovery Inst. only makes me laugh all the harder.

9/02/2007 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Qlipoth said...

"I saw the poltergeist video and I have to say I was not convinced."

Ummm, Brenda, I have to say that "I am not convinced" is not an argument. (I am not convinced by your unconvincedness.) And what the poltergeist video did undeniably demonstrate was the that your original claim is untrue:

"gossip and ghost stories. ... in the end that is all you have here."

In fact, you have at least eight witnesses, including two police officers, a TV journalist, a TV cameraman and a solicitor. And those tape recordings. And the testimony of the dead man's son. It is simply misrepresenting the facts to assert that all this constitutes nothing more than "gossip and ghost stories".

9/02/2007 01:43:00 PM  
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