Language follows economy: 150 years of US/English hegemony

June 25, 2017

The domination of English as a world language probably begins only about 200 years ago and 1820 is as good a starting time as any.

Language influence, I would suggest, follows economic influence. The predominance of English today is merely a consequence of growth and spread of the English speaking economies. And the role of the US has been decisive in the last 150 years. The Latin of 2,000 years ago which had gained dominance in Europe died during the dark ages, evolved into Italian at home and was replaced by a plethora of local dialects in the rest of Europe. Latin was possibly the first ever which could be considered a “world language”. As a language of international communication it was probably preceded by Greek and Egyptian before that. Perhaps Arabic came close to being an international language during the Middle Ages. As European countries colonised the Americas and parts of Asia, they took their local languages with them. But the key for English was that North America adopted English rather than Spanish (or French).

Harald Haarmann writes in his Mosaic of Languages:

Europe has far exceeded all other continents regarding the export of languages. There is no other continent from which so many languages have been spread around the world, taking root elsewhere in the world and giving rise to global language communities. Most world languages, i.e. languages with global communicative functions, are European in origin and belong to the Indo-European family of languages. The result of this language export from the 15th century onward is a vast increase in the numbers of speakers. Today, the majority of speakers of languages such as English, Spanish, Portuguese and French live in regions outside of Europe. The proportion of speakers in Europe compared to those in other continents varies considerably between the individual languages:

German and Russian are Europe-centred, with the vast majority of speakers of these languages living in Europe. Languages such as Portuguese, English and Spanish, on the other hand, have far more speakers overseas, and the speakers in the countries of origin constitute a minority of the total number of speakers.

The spread of language cannot be divorced from economic well-being. Angus Maddison’s important work on historical GDP’s is insightful and fascinating. In his Millenial Perspective of the World Economy he begins:

Maddison world economy Vol 1

Over the past millennium, world population rose 22–fold. Per capita income increased 13–fold, world GDP nearly 300–fold. This contrasts sharply with the preceding millennium, when world population grew by only a sixth, and there was no advance in per capita income. From the year 1000 to 1820 the advance in per capita income was a slow crawl — the world average rose about 50 per cent. Most of the growth went to accommodate a fourfold increase in population. Since 1820, world development has been much more dynamic. Per capita income rose more than eightfold, population more than fivefold. Per capita income growth is not the only indicator of welfare. Over the long run, there has been a dramatic increase in life expectation. In the year 1000, the average infant could expect to live about 24 years. A third would die in the first year of life, hunger and epidemic disease would ravage the survivors. There was an almost imperceptible rise up to 1820, mainly in Western Europe. Most of the improvement has occurred since then. Now the average infant can expect to survive 66 years. The growth process was uneven in space as well as time. The rise in life expectation and income has been most rapid in Western Europe, North America, Australasia and Japan. By 1820, this group had forged ahead to an income level twice that in the rest of the world. By 1998, the gap was 7:1. Between the United States (the present world leader) and Africa (the poorest region) the gap is now 20:1. This gap is still widening. Divergence is dominant but not inexorable. In the past half century, resurgent Asian countries have demonstrated that an important degree of catch–up is feasible. Nevertheless world economic growth has slowed substantially since 1973, and the Asian advance has been offset by stagnation or retrogression elsewhere.

What he writes about population and income applies as well to language

Advances in population and income over the past millennium have been sustained by three interactive processes:
a) Conquest or settlement of relatively empty areas which had fertile land, new biological resources, or a potential to accommodate transfers of population, crops and livestock;
b) international trade and capital movements;
c) technological and institutional innovation.

I would suggest that the spread of English during the colonial expansion (say 1650 – 1850), immediately followed by the economic dominance of the English-speaking US (1870 – present), led to English happening to be the dominant language at just the right time during the explosion of Maddison’s period of technological and institutional innovation. It is being adopted as the language of science and engineering and innovation which has given English the decisive penetration it now has.

World GDP by country 1 – 2008AD (Maddison)

The US became the country with the largest GDP in about 1872. By 1918 (after World War 1) the US economy exceeded that of the UK, France and Germany combined. By 1942 the US economy was larger than that of all of Western Europe. China and India are rising though their per capita GDP is diluted by their large populations.

GDP rising

Within 20 years the Chinese economy will be larger than that of the United States.

GDP 2030 projection

The question is whether another language will replace English in time to reflect the economic realities of the age. I suspect it will not happen for another 200 years – if ever. The position of English as the language of innovation and science and now as the language of the internet presents an inertial barrier that Mandarin Chinese may not be able to overcome. Hindi and Tamil are the only Indian languages that could even be remotely considered, but either becoming a dominating language is in the realm of fantasy. It is the same type of inertial barrier which will also keep English predominant in Europe, even after BREXIT. In fact, English may have an added strength in a Europe without the UK, as a non-French, non-German, “neutral” language. There are those who name Spanish or Arabic as potential world languages but I find the case for them replacing English less than convincing. The adoption of Spanish would require that the economies of South and Central America (without Brazil but including Mexico) to become dominant in the global economy and that is a very remote possibility. German and Russian are too Euro-centric to be considered. The case for French rests entirely – and implausibly – on the economic dominance of France and French-speaking Africa.

Unless the world shifts from the economic growth model that has served us for over 8,000 years (at least) – and I cannot imagine what that paradigm shift could be – I cannot see any language replacing an English (which will of course mutate and change and evolve) as the dominant world language for at least a few hundred years.



Compliments never match complements

June 24, 2017

Language is ultimately a matter of usage for the purpose of communication. Grammar is never “right” or “wrong” but it can be “correct usage” or “incorrect usage” or “effective” or “ineffective”. New forms of usage always override existing “rules”. The point of language is communication and if that is achieved – to the communicator’s satisfaction – then whatever manner language is used – whether following current usage or not – is a successful use of language.

Chapter 3: Essence of a Manager

Communication: Hearing what isn’t said

Where a communication is intended, the responsibility for what has been understood lies always with the communicator, not with the receiver. It is why the statement “He did not understand what I meant!” actually reflects poorly on the speaker. The intending communicator cannot escape from the consequences of what has been finally understood by the receiver. 

A European in Japan cannot blame the Japanese for not understanding his English. A grandfather cannot blame his grandchild for not understanding his archaic usage of language. The onus lies with the person intending to communicate. It is the communicator who has the freedom – even the prerogative – to comply with or deviate from conventional usage, or to even invent words. The only test is whether the intended communication was achieved.

Language changes and, in itself, the change should not be a matter of regret. If the change helps to achieve better communication then it can only be a good thing. However not all change does help. It is not also just the generational effect. Usage does change with each generation and generally it improves communication within the new generation. (The abbreviations used on Twitter or Snapchat being a case in point). But not always. Sometimes the generational change is to bring in an increase in sloppiness and a loss of precision in the communication. But the responsibility always lies with the communicator. So when misunderstandings arise between people or across generations, the fault always lies with the communicator.

All this because someone used the word “matching” to describe 4 people in a photograph. (The four were dressed similarly in various shades of blue). I couldn’t quite see what the “matching” referred to and in explanation I was offered “complimentary”. Remarkably, it was actually the misuse of “complimentary”, instead of (I think) “complementary” (which itself would have been a misuse), which did succeed in getting me to understand what the “matching” referred to. A case of two wrongs making a right.

A “compliment” may well be flattering but rarely ever “matches” the “complement” which completes. And not to forget that when it comes to colours, the objective of complementary colours is to finally achieve white or black.

If someone takes offense at an intended insult then that is a case of a successful communication. But, an intended insult delivered by swearing in an incomprehensible language fails miserably as a communication.


“Solidarity” is overrated (and brainless)

June 22, 2017

One trade union supports another in a conflict in which it has no part to show solidarity with the other union.

Students rampage in the streets in solidarity with striking workers to show support in a conflict in which they have no direct involvement.

The EU president wants to impose sanctions on some EU members who are not showing solidarity by accepting EU immigration rules which they do not wish to follow.

“Solidarity” has been reduced to being support for one party in a conflict by a third party for reasons of “belonging to a group” but which disregards and downgrades independent thought. It is an appeal to class and is what pits “class” against “class”. “Sympathetic strikes” are not only – by definition – brainless, they demand that a “class consciousness” override thought. The fourth title of the EU Charter of Human Rights is labelled “Solidarity” but is really concerned about workers rights. Solidarity as it is used today, either as an excuse for actions committed or as a demand for actions to be taken, is always to defend actions or demand actions of a third party in favour of one of two parties in a conflict. The defence or the demand is based on group association and not on thought.

Brainless solidarity is what produces movements such as “White Supremacy” or “Black Lives Matter” or “Occupy”.

Solidarity has become a dirty word for me. But worst is that it denies sapience.



Full emancipation

June 19, 2017

In a certain country, it eventually came to pass, that women gained equal rights to men.

Every man was still allowed up to 4 wives, but now each woman was also allowed up to 4 husbands.

This led to some complex situations arising and a few additional rules had to be introduced.

Marriage was defined as between men and women. Men could not be wives and women were not eligible as husbands. Same-sex relationships were perfectly acceptable but did not constitute a formal marriage.

In each marriage the parties had to be designated in hierarchy (first wife, second husband, third husband, fourth wife and so on). Spousal points were introduced. Being first spouse gave 4 points to the partner, being second spouse loaded the partner with 3 points, being third gave 2 points and being a fourth spouse gave 1 point. No person could have more than 4 spouses and no person could accrue more than 10 spousal points. A person’s spouses took their spousal hierarchies in sequence. (A person could not take a third spouse without first taking spouses one and two). No person could have two partners having the same spousal hierarchy (having two first husbands or two third wives was not permitted). But a man could be first husband to two different women and fourth husband to two others. Similarly, a wife could be first wife to two different men but then could not be greater than a third wife to just one other husband or a fourth wife to two more.  A man could be second husband to three women or, third or fourth husband to four women, if he (and they) so chose.

Monogamous relationships were permitted but considered mildly anti-social. Generally having two spouses or less was considered a sign of eccentricity or social failure.

On the demise of a spouse, changes to the hierarchy of the surviving spouses was permitted – provided there was consent from all affected parties. In practice, such consent was impossible to obtain and hierarchy changes rarely took place. For example, suppose that a first husband to one woman died or was divorced.  In theory she could then elevate her second husband (or fourth, for that matter) to be her new first husband. However, such an elevation could (would), in turn, affect the hierarchy of that husband’s wives and their husbands. Such elevations could lead to the spousal points exceeding ten. Exceeding the 10 spousal-point rule required the shedding (by divorce) of a spouse (also by consent of all affected parties) for compliance. The lowest ranked spouse usually had to be shed first but this was not obligatory. Shedding by murder was not permitted.

Divorce was, of course, permitted as the right of every person on demand and whenever spouse-shedding had to be exercised.

A household was required to be registered to an individual (joint ownership was not permitted). However while every individual could only be responsible for one household, he or she could also belong to a household registered to his or her spouse. Each person’s assets or liabilities devolved first to surviving spouses in proportion to their spousal points (a death then leaving 40% of assets or liabilities to the first spouse, 30% to the second spouse and so on) and to surviving offspring only if no spouses were surviving and in the very rare cases they could be unambiguously identified.

While the mothers of children could generally be identified, determining the father was a little more difficult. All children were therefor made wards of the State and were transferred to State custody at the age of 12 months. Naming of children after their parents or relatives became impossible so the State allocated numbers to all people. This was a simple 16 digit, unique identification number (an 8 digit gene-scan id and 8 digits for the date of birth).

Inherited wealth virtually disappeared.

It soon became established practice for young people to begin married life as the third or fourth spouse of a much older partner and progress, with experience, to be higher ranked spouses of other partners.


The inherent logic of the universe – but not language – was established by the Big Bang

June 16, 2017

You could call this the First Law of Everything.

Logic is embedded in the universe.

At the Big Bang we have no idea what the prevailing laws were. Physicists merely call it a singularity where the known laws of physics did not apply. It was just another Creation Event. But thereafter – after the Big Bang – everything we observe in the universe is logical. We take logic to be inherent in the Universe around us. We discover facets of this embedded logic empirically and intuitively (and intuition is merely the synthesis of empiricism). We do not invent logic – we discover it. If logic was ever created it was created at the time of the Big Bang.

Language, on the other hand, is invented by man to describe and communicate the world around us. We build into the framework of our languages, rules of logic such that the use of language is consistent with the embedded logic of the universe. But language is not always equal to the task of describing the universe around us. “I have not the words to describe ….”. And then we imbue old words with new meanings or invent new words, or new grammar. But we never make changes which are not consistent with the logic of the universe.

Reasoning with language is then constrained to lie within the logical framework so constructed and therefore, also always consistent with our empirical observations of the universe around us. Given certain assumptions – as expressed by language – always lead to the same logical inferences – also as described by that language. Such inferring, or reasoning, works and – within our observable universe – is a powerful way of extrapolating from the known to the not-yet-known. The logical framework itself ensures that the inferences drawn remain consistent with the logic of the universe.

In the sentence “If A is bigger than B, and if B is bigger than C, then A is bigger than C”, it is the logic framework of the language which constrains if, then and bigger to have meanings which are consistent with what we can observe. The logic framework is not the grammar of the language. Grammar would allow me to say: “If A is bigger than B, and if B is bigger than C, then A is smaller/louder/faster/heavier than C”, but the embedded logic framework of the language is what makes it ridiculous. The validity of the reasoning or of inferring requires that the logic framework of the language not be infringed. “If A is bigger than B, and if B is bigger than C, then A is smaller than C” is grammatically correct but logically invalid (incorrect). However, the statement “If A is bigger than B, and if B is bigger than C, then A is heavier than C” is grammatically correct, logically invalid but not necessarily incorrect.

Mathematics (including Symbolic Logic) also contains many languages which provide a better means of describing facets of the universe which other languages cannot. But they all contain a logic framework consistent with the embedded logic of the universe. That 1 + 1 =2 is a discovery – not an invention. That 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O is also a discovery, not an invention. The rules for mathematical operations in the different branches of mathematics must always remain consistent with the embedded logic of the universe – even if the language invented has still to find actual application. Imaginary numbers and the square root of -1 were triggered by the needs of the electrical engineers. Set theory, however, was only used in physics and computing long after it was “invented”.

Languages (including mathematics) are invented but each must have a logical framework which itself is consistent with the inherent logic of the universe.


Number theory was probably more dependent upon live goats than on raindrops

June 14, 2017

It used to be called arithmetic but it sounds so much more modern and scientific when it is called number theory. It is the branch of mathematics which deals with the integers and the relationships between them. Its origins (whether one wants to call it a discovery or an invention) lie with the invention of counting itself. It is from where all the various branches of mathematics derive. The origin of counting can be said to be with the naming of the integers, and is intimately tied to the development of language and of writing and perhaps goes back some 50,000 years (since the oldest known tally sticks date from some 30,000 years ago).

How and why did the naming of the integers come about?  Why were they found necessary (necessity being the cause of the invention)? Integers are whole numbers, indivisible, complete in themselves. Integers don’t recognise a continuum between themselves. There are no partials allowed here. They are separate and discrete and number theory could as well be called quantum counting.

Quite possibly the need came from counting their livestock or their prey. If arithmetic took off in the fertile crescent it well may have been the need for trading their live goats among themselves (integral goats for integral numbers of wives or beads or whatever else they traded) which generated the need for counting integers. Counting would have come about to fit their empirical observations. Live goats rather than carcasses, I think, because a carcass can be cut into bits and is not quite so dependent upon integers.  Quanta of live goat, however, would not permit fractions. It might have been that they needed integers to count living people (number of children, number of wives …..) where fractions of a person were not politically correct.

The rules of arithmetic – the logic – could only be discovered after the integers had been named and counting could go forth. The commutative, associative and distributive properties of integers inevitably followed. And the rest is history.

But I wonder how mathematics would have developed if the need had been to count raindrops.

After all:

2 goats + 2 goats = 4 goats, and it then follows that

2 short people + 2 short people = 4 short people.

But if instead counting had been inspired by counting raindrops, they would have observed that

2 little raindrops + 2 little raindrops = 1 big raindrop.

They might then have concluded that

2 short people + 2 short people = one tall person

and history would then have been very different.


Conservation denies tigers a future as a species

June 13, 2017

There are, it is thought, around 4,000 tigers still living in the “wild”. There may be as many as 8 – 9,000 in captivity (3,000 in China and perhaps 5,000 in the US). The tigers in captivity are in zoos and parks and are, in the US, often bred for “hunting”. Very few (< 100 perhaps) of those in captivity are returned to the “wild” every year. Breeding hybrid tigons and ligers once used to be very popular in zoos but less so now though it is still prevalent for entertainment purposes. The numbers are not very significant.

Tigers are magnificent animals and a cultural icon for humans. No doubt the sabre-toothed tiger was an even more magnificent creature. It is surely a matter of regret that they became extinct a long time ago. As a species they were replaced by others which were more suited to the changing world. If present-day tigers (considered endangered) were to become extinct, it would also be a matter of much regret. But I find the rationale for “conservation” efforts flawed and illogical. The WWF (which is close to being one of my least favourite organisations) writes in a typical woolly-headed, gushing style:

Yet they are more than just a magnificent animal – they are also crucial for the ecosystems in which they live. As top predators of the food chain, tigers keep populations of prey species in check, which in turn maintains the balance between herbivores and the vegetation upon which they feed. Balanced ecosystems are not only important for wildlife, but for people too – both locally, nationally and globally. People rely on forests, whether it is directly for their livelihoods or indirectly for food and products used in our daily lives. ……… Tigers not only protect the forest by maintaining ecological integrity, but also by bringing the highest levels of protection and investment to an area. Tigers are an “umbrella species” – meaning their conservation also conserves many other species in the same area. They are long-ranging and require vast amounts of habitat to survive; an adult male’s home range varies from 150 km2 – 1000 km2.

Tigers are endangered because their habitats are disappearing. That habitat loss is fundamentally irreversible. As a species they already have no significant role to play in the ecosystem prevailing. They have already become a redundant species biologically even if the concept of majestic tigers roaming wild forests still has a massive emotional impact on the selfish human psyche. Creating new tiger reserves – constrained in area by various means –  is little more than creating glorified zoos. They are just parks where the cages are a little bigger.  The tigers themselves are “frozen” into their current, unsuccessful, unsuitable, failed genetic state. They are doomed to continue unchanged and unchanging in a shrinking and ever more unsuitable habitat. There are no natural selection pressures (or artificial selection measures) in play which would make their descendants more capable of surviving in the new habitats due to changes that have already happened and have yet to come. This “conservation” is not about helping the tiger to survive by evolving but is only about freezing them into an increasingly untenable form. It is backwards looking and all about preserving failure.

I am even more convinced that traditional “conservation” is misguided and is done just to satisfy the emotional needs of humans, and not, in any way, forward-looking to help endangered species to adapt and survive into the future.

Fighting against species extinction is to deny evolution   – (ktwop – 2013)

So what then is the objection to – say – tigers becoming extinct which is not just an emotional reaction to the disappearance of a magnificent but anachronistic creature?  The bio-diversity argument is not very convincing and is of little relevance. To artificially keep an unsuccessful species alive in a specially protected environment has no genetic value. It increases the mis-match between the existing environment and the genetic profile needed to survive in that environment. In fact the biodiversity argument is only relevant for “life” in general and never for any particular species or group of species.  It can serve to maintain a very wide range of genetic material in the event of a catastrophe such that some form of life has a chance of continuing. But given a particular environment biodiversity in itself is of little value. …

…. All those species which succeed into the future will be those which continue to “evolve” and have the characteristics necessary to thrive within the world as it is being shaped and changed by the most successful species that ever lived (though we cannot be sure how far some particular species of dinosaur may have advanced). Putting a tiger into a zoo or a “protected” environment actually only preserves the tiger in an “unsuccessful” form in an artificial environment. Does this really count as “saving the species”? We might be of more use to the future of the tiger species if we intentionally bred them to find a new space in a changed world  – perhaps as urban tigers which can co-exist with man.

Smilodon image

I’ll still make a donation to Project Tiger but that is about helping individuals to survive and has nothing to do with saving the species.

First nothingness was not, then came the Big Bang and the Gods came later

June 12, 2017

The Rig Veda was probably written between 1500 and 1200 BC and consists of 10 mandalas (books). The first and tenth books were probably written last. The 129th verse of the tenth mandala contains what is called The Hymn of Creation. Nasadiya sukta

It begins:

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

It is not difficult to equate this “then” to “before” the Big Bang and the “it” to all the compressed matter which participated in the Big Bang. (Accepting, of course, that “before” is meaningless when time does not flow).

Then there was neither death nor immortality
Nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.

At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.

arose at last, born of the power of heat” sounds very like a modern description of the Big BangEven though the Rig Veda’s main 8 mandalas are in praise of various deities, the first and tenth books take a much more agnostic position – perhaps written to bring some balance. The plethora of gods are effectively made subservient to an unknowable, unfathomable creation event. “An atheist interpretation sees the Creation Hymn as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism”.

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came later, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?”

First even nothingness was not and existence was not. Then came the creation of the Universe whether by Big Bang or otherwise. And the Gods came later (made by man in the image of man).


The Big Bang singularity is indistinguishable from an Act of Creation

June 11, 2017

Most modern physicists and cosmologists who believe (note – believe) in the Big Bang theory of the Universe believe implicitly in an Act of Creation (the Big Bang Singularity) but then usually ignore the question of how and why the singularity occurred. They focus on the Act of Creation and after but do not address the cause of the singularity or a Creator. Religions of all kinds have their own Creation myths but focus on the presumed Creator much more than on the Act(s) of Creation.

(My own belief is that all religions live in the space of ignorance and physics – like all religions – is ultimately dependent upon Magic).

Stephen Hawking describes the Big Bang Singularity thus:

The situation was different, however, when it was realised that the universe is not static, but expanding. Galaxies are moving steadily apart from each other. This means that they were closer together in the past. One can plot the separation of two galaxies, as a function of time. If there were no acceleration due to gravity, the graph would be a straight line. It would go down to zero separation, about twenty billion years ago. One would expect gravity, to cause the galaxies to accelerate towards each other. This will mean that the graph of the separation of two galaxies will bend downwards, below the straight line. So the time of zero separation, would have been less than twenty billion years ago. 

At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang. The universe will evolve from the Big Bang, completely independently of what it was like before. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang, as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang. 

Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency.

He goes on, however, to make an unsupportable conclusion.

There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system can not be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside. 

Genesis requires time to begin at 4004 BC and the Big Bang is no different in concept. It too defines the start of time and takes us back to 13.8 (give or take a few) billion years ago. Time is not defined before the Act of Creation – whether by the Big Bang or by the hand of God.

(Note that if the flow of time has a beginning then the concept of a before or an after has no meaning before the beginning of time.  The magical speed of an inconstant time).

Hawking concludes:

The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago. The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, if the universe satisfied the no boundary condition. This says that in the imaginary time direction, space-time is finite in extent, but doesn’t have any boundary or edge. The predictions of the no boundary proposal seem to agree with observation. The no boundary hypothesis also predicts that the universe will eventually collapse again. However, the contracting phase, will not have the opposite arrow of time, to the expanding phase. So we will keep on getting older, and we won’t return to our youth. Because time is not going to go backwards, I think I better stop now. 

It seems to me that he contradicts himself when he says “The beginning of real time, would have been a singularity, at which the laws of physics would have broken down. Nevertheless, the way the universe began would have been determined by the laws of physics, …..” 

The Big Bang singularity where the laws of physics do not apply is just another Act of Creation. If the laws of physics do not apply at the singularity then, which laws or whose laws do? Or do the laws of physics change? Do they vary in different universes such as that which may have existed before the Big Bang?

Even a singularity must follow some laws. It is disingenuous of physicists and cosmologists to claim that the laws of physics break down at the Big Bang singularity and not address which or whose laws apply at the singularity. If, however, no laws apply at the singularity then the Singularity is Omnipotent (or Magic or God or whatever other label suits you).

I prefer to think it’s Magic.

The fundamentals of physics are just magic.


Would religions survive if children were not brainwashed into them?

May 25, 2017

Whether “indoctrination” of an empty child’s mind is less reprehensible than the “brainwashing” of an adult mind that has existing beliefs is not the point.  At issue is whether beliefs, which, by definition, exist outside the realm of knowledge, can be force-fed. No religion allows its followers to develop their own beliefs. All religions presume to instill their standard beliefs onto their own adherents and onto potential converts. Can beliefs be externally imposed or must they be developed internally? My own “belief” is that an idea, which is not the result of an individual’s own cognitive processes but is externally imposed, cannot be a true “belief”. All societies permit, and most approve, the indoctrination of children into the religions of their parents (or guardians). Apart from coerced conversions (which are still going on), I would guess that over 95% (and perhaps 99%) of all those who follow a religion, follow that of their parents.

Human behaviour has effectively made religion hereditary. Religion is not controlled by our genes except in that our genes may determine how susceptible we are to indoctrination. Yet our religious beliefs are determined by who our parents are. Unfortunately parents have not succeeded as well in indoctrinating children away from other undesirable behaviour. The growth or decline of religions across the world simply mirrors fertility on the one hand and the coercive conversion of peoples into the religion.

If a group of children were brought up in isolation on a desert island, by robotic instructors confined to teach only in the area of knowledge, and to answer any question in the space of ignorance with a “don’t know”, some of the children may well develop “religious” beliefs with divine power being attributed to the sun and the moon and the winds and the waves. But for there to be war between the sun-worshipers and the wind-worshipers there would first need to be those arrogant enough to anoint themselves as priests. There would be no organised religions without priests appointing themselves as special messengers of the divine powers. There would be no religious wars without “turbulent priests” bent on religious expansion. If every child was allowed, as it felt necessary,  to develop its own religious beliefs, organised religions would never catch hold. And if organised religions did exist they would merely wither and die without a continuous stream of new adherents in the form of brain-washed children growing up.

The problem lies not in whether one believes in gods or not, but in that organised religions exist and that they compete. They compete by claiming that one set of beliefs in the space of ignorance are superior or better than another set, also in the space of ignorance. The claims for the one or for the other are made by turbulent priests. It has been so ever since organised religions came into being. It is still so today, whether it is a mad mullah pronouncing a fatwa or a Hindu God-man calling for the destruction of a mosque or a Buddhist monk attacking unbelievers or a “celibate” Pope pronouncing on family values.

Who will rid us of these turbulent priests?


%d bloggers like this: