Life exists as a succession of identities

November 18, 2017

Life is an abstract concept manifested as living things. The thread of life has no discernible beginning.

Life – to be life – must be manifested in an entity capable of reproduction. The elements displaying life either continue or come to an end. The thread is carried as a possibility by every sperm and every egg but the sperm and egg cannot themselves reproduce. Most of these possibilities come to an end before the two combine. If – and only if – a sperm and egg do combine, then life continues as, and within, a unique identity created by that combination. It is the creation of the identity – at conception – which continues life. About one in 300 billion sperm survives to combine with about one in 200 eggs to create an identity. It is a unique genetic identity. That identity, first as a fetus may end before birth. Or it may continue after birth as a child. It may grow to be an adult human and give rise to further sperm or eggs before itself coming to an end. When that identity qualifies to be considered a human entity and protected by society is a choice for the societies and the individuals concerned. Most societies start assigning the identity some rights and protections before birth but only after about 20 weeks of life as a fetus.

There is little doubt, however, that a unique genetic identity is created at conception, whether in a test tube or in a womb. At what stage of development that identity achieves consciousness and then self-awareness is not certain but almost certainly only after a rudimentary brain has formed. That would be some weeks after conception but probably some little time before birth. At what point that identity is to be afforded legal “rights” is then a matter for the surrounding society to determine.

Until the identity reaches birth – whether by natural or by artificial means – it has no options and no choices to exercise. Whether self-aware or not, its existence is in the gift and the power of others. It starts acquiring choices and freedoms of action only after birth, as allowed or constrained by its own development and the rules of the society it finds itself in.

Life then only exists as a succession of identities.

To trace the beginning of life would require going back from identity to identity to the specific cells some 3.7 billion years ago. A collection of sperm and eggs may contain the elements for life to continue but do not in themselves constitute life. The beginning of an identity is not the beginning of life. But the act of conception brings a unique identity into being and it is surely the beginning of a specific new life.

Life may be continuous as a concept but can only be realised and manifested as a succession of unique, discrete identities.


 

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Japan coming out of the doldrums?

November 13, 2017

After 28 years of stagnation, the Japanese economy may be  getting to its feet again.

The Japanese real estate bubble burst at the end of December 1989 and interest rates sank to virtually zero. The Japanese economy struggled against Endaka

Coupled with gigantic savings accumulated over decades from overseas surpluses, and soaring yen, Japan tried a number of measures to weaken its currency. First it began to buy up properties overseas, such as the Rockefeller Center in New York City in 1990, as well as investing in US corporate bonds. After huge property losses, it gave that up. Another was state intervention BOJ in foreign exchange reserves, which it ultimately gave up in 2004 after accumulating nearly a trillion dollars. Japan also invested directly in Fannie Mae and other mortgage bonds, holding close to a trillion dollars in those bonds. Yet another measure was to loan out hoards of money to US and European banks at zero percent rates, which began in earnest in 2004, also known as the massive carry trade (via yen-denominated bank loans to overseas investors). US and European banks then loaned this money out to home owners in America, as well as big property investors in the Middle East. This effectively kept the yen at 120 or weaker levels to the dollar.

Endaka was tipped off again in 2008. The yen moved from the floating near 120 to floating near 90. This is thought to be the first time endaka contributed to a worldwide recession, instead of just a Japanese recession. While the proximate cause of the recession is widely thought to be an increase in credit defaults (largely outside Japan) causing a loss in confidence in the credit markets (a credit crisis), the yen was funding these investments through the carry trade, where loans were made at near zero interest rates in yen to finance the purchase of non-yen debts which had higher interest rates.

From a high of almost 38,000 in December 1989, the Nikkei Index dropped to a low of 9,000 in January 2009. At the end of last week the index had reached over 22,000. Abenomics has not led to any spectacular recoveries, but the mood is lightening.

(I made my first investments in Japanese stocks in 1990 – and Murphy’s Law came roaring into effect!)


 

Evolution is indifferent to species survival

November 11, 2017


 

The chains of freedom

November 8, 2017

We speak glibly about free will, about the four human freedoms of speech, of religion, from want and from fear. For any entity, living or otherwise, we can define “freedom” as being the “unconstrained power to do”. With that definition, there are no freedoms anywhere because nothing is unconstrained. Nothing, in this universe, has freedom. An electron is not free to be wherever it wishes to be. Even a “free” electron,  untethered to any atom, can only move in compliance with the gravitational and magnetic fields it is subject to, and never faster than the speed of light. The universe itself is inextricably chained to the arrow of time.

At the most fundamental level, the chains of the “natural laws” thus imprison all matter and energy. All living things are then held by the further chains of their genes. Their physical form and attributes and behaviour must lie within the envelopes of possibility fixed by their genes. These chains ensure that a birch tree can never be an oak or a zebra a lion. From the time a seed is planted, it merely reacts to its environment and the changes to that environment. It chooses nothing. In fact, there are no choices to be made.

But humans have free will, it is said. Humans have choices available, it is said. They can choose how they will behave. But I am no longer sure if this is true. Certainly each one of the seven+ billion humans can imagine violating what we understand to be the “natural laws” but not a single one can actually do so. I can imagine myself running faster than Usain Bolt, but it never does, and never will, come to pass. All the chains connecting me to my past are unbreakable. All my possible future states of being are anchored to my current state by another unbreakable chain. All human actions are constrained by

  1. the starting conditions,
  2. what a mind can envisage,
  3. what is physically possible, and
  4. the forces driving the action

Free will, if it exists, is involved in imagining the action and in providing the driving forces for action. Causal Determinism of course allows of no free will. All future events are determined by past events and so on ad infinitum. Some forms of philosophical determinism allow some freedom of choice within a narrow envelope of possible behaviours, though others suggest that the choice of actual behaviour made is, in fact, also predetermined.

I think we need to distinguish between thought and action even if thinking itself is an action. The exercise of free will requires an action. But thinking itself is constrained. Thinking about violating the laws of nature is clearly an act which does not, itself, violate the laws of nature. Thinking about travelling backwards in time itself moves forward in time. Moreover, thinking has its own unbreakable chains. I cannot think, for example, in a language I do not know. What I cannot imagine I cannot even think about. What I cannot imagine is what, to my mind, is unknowable. What is knowable for any mind is a consequence of its capacity, its speed of learning and its knowledge base (experience). Even our possible thoughts then are limited and thus a constraint on our subsequent actions (if any).

image STAR

Every single human is in fact condemned to a life sentence on a prison planet called Earth from which there is no escape. We are in fact prisoners of

  1. what we understand to be the natural laws,
  2. our genes,
  3. the surrounding environment,
  4. our experience, and
  5. our current state

These chains are not susceptible to being broken. Each one of us is so enmeshed in constraining chains that we have few, if any, real freedoms of action.

I am about to make myself a cup of coffee. That was probably determined long before I was born. But I have the illusion that it is a choice I am making freely.


 

 

Political Dyslexia

November 7, 2017


 

Good laws are made to be broken

November 5, 2017

A bad law is one with which nobody complies.

A law which everybody complies with, without any coercion of pain or penalty, is superfluous.

(All natural laws are superfluous in that it is not possible not to comply with them).

Therefore good laws can only exist in the space between bad laws (zero compliance) and superfluous laws (complete compliance), in the space of partial compliance.

Good laws are therefore made to be broken.


 

Will recognition of “fake news” be followed by “fake science”

November 3, 2017

Collins Dictionary has chosen “fake news” as its word for 2017.

When a partisan publication exaggerates – even wildly – in favour of its own cause, it causes no great surprise.  It is not even too astonishing when it fabricates news or omits news to further its own agenda. The insidious nature of “fake news” is worst when it is a supposedly objective publication which indulges in fake news to further a hidden agenda. So when Breitbart or the Daily Mail or Huffington Post produce much of their nonsense it causes no great surprise and hardly merits the sobriquet of “fake news”, even if much of the “news” is slanted or exaggerated or skewed or just plain lies. It is when a publication, having a reputation for objectivity, misuses that reputation to push its own agenda, that “fake news” takes on a life of its own.

It is not that this is anything new but certainly the US Presidential Election has brought “fake news” to a head. “Fake News” applies though to much more than just US politics. Of course CNN heads the list of purveyors of “fake news”. CNN has never been objective but they once generally checked their facts and used to separate straight reporting from opinion. I used to find them, at least, fairly reliable for factual reporting. But they have abandoned that approach and I find that they not just unreliable but also intentionally misleading. Their “journalists” have all become lobbyists and “CNN” has become synonymous with “Fake News”.

I once was a regular reader of the Washington Post. They were biased but were not unreliable as to the facts. It was quite easy to just discount for bias and get what I thought was a “true” picture. But they, too, have degenerated swiftly in the last 2 years. Stories are not just distorted, they are even fabricated. But the real disappointments for me in the last 24 months has been the New York Times. Not just in the space of US politics. The NYT has its own definitions of what is politically correct in politics, in science and even in the arts. Somewhere along the way they have made a conscious decision that they are “lobbyists” rather than reporters. They have decided that, for what they have defined as being “politically correct”, pushing that view justifies omission, exaggeration, “spinning” and even fabrication. Straight reporting has become extinct.

Lobby groups such as Huff Post and Daily Kos and Red State are full of blatant falsifications but have no news reputation of any significance at stake. They are not, therefore, included in my take on the top purveyors of fake new.

If 2017 has seen the recognition of the widespread use of fake news, I am looking to 2018 to recognise the proliferation of fake science. There is fake science being disseminated every day in big physics (CERN funding), pharmaceuticals, “climate science”, behavioural studies, sociology, psychology and economics. Much of fake science follows funding. Perhaps there will be greater recognition that “good science” is neither decided by nor subject to a poll.


 

 

The one or the many

October 31, 2017

It is the classic dilemma of our age which shows up everywhere.

I nearly always tend towards prioritising the one primarily because without the one there cannot be the many, without the local you cannot get to global, without the national there is no international and without the excellence of the few you cannot get the good of the herd. I prefer the highest multiple possible to the lowest common factor. It colours my politics. I prefer the search for excellence rather than the common mediocrity of socialism. I prefer the the internationalism which comes as a consequence of strong nationalism to the bullying of the UN or the EU.

I side with “to each as he deserves” rather than to “each as he desires”. Freedoms flow bottom up from the individual to the group rather than privileges and sanctions flowing from the group down to the oppressed individual.


 

Eugenics is already being practiced

October 31, 2017

In a survey published in 2008 of the 18 (now 20) countries in EUROCAT, 88% of neural tube defects were detected prenatally and 88% of these were aborted. Of  Downs Syndrome cases, 68% were detected prenatally and 88% of these too were aborted.

Iceland (population of 330,000) has virtually eliminated Downs Syndrome births though in such a small population there are only one or two cases every year. However in Denmark around 98% of Downs Syndrome fetuses are aborted , in France around 77% and even in the US around 67% are aborted.

In Sweden

The mother chose to terminate the pregnancy in 88 percent of cases when the child had anencaphaly, when part of the child’s brain is missing. They also chose abortion in 75 percent of cases where doctors detected bilateral renal agenesis – when the child is missing both kidneys.

Artificial selection

As technology develops, and more fetal abnormalities can be detected, and as abortion becomes less stigmatised, it is not only serious abnormalities which lead to abortion. With abortion on demand, even conditions which are eminently treatable (cleft palate for example) are leading to the choice to abort. The availability and practice of abortion is itself becoming the main vehicle of artificial selection. Correction of fetal defects is usually not possible. Even if genetic “tailoring” for designer babies is not quite there yet, the incidence of fetuses being born with even minor defects is inevitably declining.

Selective abortion is artificial selection, and that is, after all, just eugenics.

Related:

On birth rates, abortions and “eugenics by default”


 

The universe shouldn’t exist

October 28, 2017

Even if the Standard Model is right and an equal amount of matter and anti-matter was produced at the Big Bang, it still does not explain why the matter and anti-matter did not exterminate each other with a huge flash of energy. Why a huge amount of energy was first triggered to be absorbed to create matter and anti-matter at the Big Bang is brushed aside as being at a singularity, before the laws of physics existed and maybe before even time existed.

CERN has a new press release showing that apart from sign – as the standard model requires – no difference can be detected between a proton and an antiproton.

It is not the new measurements which say the universe should not exist. It is in fact the standard model which says that the universe should not exist. Maybe the standard model has to be modified.

Riddle of matter remains unsolved: Proton and antiproton share fundamental properties

Scientists are still in search of a difference between protons and antiprotons which would help to potentially explain the existence of matter in our universe. However, physicists in the BASE collaboration at the CERN research center have been able to measure the magnetic force of antiprotons with almost unbelievable precision. Nevertheless, the data do not provide any information about how matter formed in the early universe as particles and antiparticles would have had to completely destroy one another. The most recent BASE measurements revealed instead a large overlap between protons and antiprotons, thus confirming the Standard Model of particle physics. Around the world, scientists are using a variety of methods to find some difference, regardless of how small. The matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe is one of the hot topics of modern physics. …….. 

The BASE collaboration published high-precision measurements of the antiproton g-factor back in January 2017 but the current ones are far more precise. The current high-precision measurement determined the g-factor down to nine significant digits. This is the equivalent of measuring the circumference of the earth to a precision of four centimeters. The value of 2.7928473441(42) is 350 times more precise than the results published in January. “This tremenduous increase in such a short period of time was only possible thanks to completely new methods,” said Ulmer. The process involved scientists using two antiprotons for the first time and analyzing them with two Penning traps.

We have to bear in mind  that CERN has a massive confirmation bias. Their primary reason for existence is to confirm the standard model.


 


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