Gender is a classification and identity is not a choice

June 30, 2022

Identity is not a choice.

Our physical attributes are a consequence of our identity – not the determinants of identity. Being tall or short or fat or black or slant-eyed are descriptors which can be used to distinguish between humans, but they all follow, or are consequences of, identity. Our names are identifiers, but are not identity. Our professions – lawyer, teacher, murderer, thief – are descriptors of identity, not determinants. Some physical characteristics can change and be changed, but identity remains inviolate. You can eat more and become fat, or have surgery to thin your lips, but your identity remains unchanged. Physical attributes can be disguised. A white girl in California (where else) can pretend to be black to gain some perceived privileges, but identity does not change.

Gender is a classification. It can be used as a descriptor, but it is not identity. Among humans, gender is a bipolar classification, with overlap, in a continuum. There are only two classes – male and female. But being a classification and since the two classes overlap to some extent, there can be masculine females and feminine males. (There are only two classes with overlap. There is no 3rd class). Surgery or hormone treatment can help change a classification but identity remains untouchable. You can change your name from Kyle to Courtney or from Elliott to Ellen or from Maxine to Max, but that does nothing to identity.

I observe that some sports are now applying common sense and not allowing men, pretending to be women, to compete against women. (I also observe that there are never any women, pretending to be men, competing against men).

Identity – of anything – is not a choice in our universe. It is a consequence of existence.

Where numbers come from

To be discrete and unique give substance to identity. Existence (a Great Mystery) comes first, of course. To have identity is to have some distinguishing characteristic which enables the quality of “oneness”. Note that the quality of being identical (similar) does not disturb identity. Two, or many, things may be identical, but the identity of each remains inviolate. An atom of hydrogen here may be identical to an atom of hydrogen elsewhere, but the identity of each remains undisturbed. It is estimated that there are between 1078 to 1082 atoms existing in the observable universe. Each one distinct from all the others. Each one having identity.

We use the word identity in many contexts. In the philosophical sense, which includes the context of counting, my definition of identity is then:

identity – oneness; the distinguishing character of a thing that constitutes the objective reality of that thing

It is the discreteness and uniqueness contained in identity which gives rise to the concept of oneness as a quality of a thing which makes that thing countable. It is having the concept of oneness which allows us to define a concept of number, label it as “one” and give it a symbol (1). How the concept of identity (oneness) emerged in the species is another one of the Great Mysteries of life and consciousness.

With living things, uniqueness is conferred at the time of conception. The identity of any life-form is fixed when the existence of that life is conceived. It could be an egg or a seed or a zygote. Once fixed that identity persists till the death of that life. For humans that identity may be remembered long after its death. The identity of any living thing is never a choice.

Does life start when the egg is laid?

In the case of humans a fertilised egg is called a “zygote” until it has implanted itself (about 6 -10 days after conception) in the wall of the womb. It is then called an “embryo”. It is called a “fetus” only from 8 weeks after conception and remains a “fetus” till the birth of a “child”. Just as a “chick” only emerges after egg hatching, a human “child” only emerges after birth. But in both cases life, life has begun much earlier. By the time a hen lays an egg, the genetic identity of the embryo in the egg has already been fixed. The unique genetic identity whether for chicken or for human is actually fixed when conception occurs. ………

The time when a unique identity is established and life begins is quite simply defined and the Great Abortion Debate is actually about the ethics of terminating that life at different times during its existence. It is trying to make an ethical distinction between breaking an egg for a breakfast omelette or killing a chicken for a roast dinner. (But note also that many vegetarians eat eggs but a chicken eater is never considered a vegetarian). Abortion, infanticide, murder or euthanasia are just labels for different times at which life is to be terminated. Abortion always kills a fetus (not a child) and infanticide always kills a child (not a fetus). But whether it is a zygote which fails to implant itself, or a fetus which is aborted, or a child killed for being the wrong gender, or an aged person being assisted to die, it is the same life, the same identity, which is terminated. …..

A unique genetic identity and life are established with conception.


Related: Immortality of identity

A unique identity is recognisable first when an egg is fertilised. That identity cannot be foretold but it may be remembered long after the individual dies. It may in due course be forgotten. But whether or not it is forgotten, the fact of the creation of that identity remains. Forever. It is identity, once created, which remains unique and immortal.


An Act of God or is the EU just a 3rd world “country”?

June 20, 2022

Chaos across European airports.

Flights to Amsterdam, Schiphol cancelled because the “airport was too crowded”. Four hours to clear security at Stockholm, Arlanda.

And today it was Brussels.

But not to worry. It has been declared a Force Majeure event. So nobody is responsible except the Hand of God.

Force majeure

Any self-respecting third world country would be ashamed.


 

Vera Talerko wins

June 18, 2022

The Wilhelm Stenhammar final was last night and Vera Talerko won.

The winners in WSIMC 2022!

First Prize  Vera Talerko, 

Second Prize Rebecka Wallroth,

Third Prize Yohan John Ji, 

Stenhammar Prize Erica Back

Mozart Prize      Sarah Yang, 

Audience´s Prize  Vera Talerko 

My choice often does not match the verdict of more knowledgeable judges but on this occasion it did. Eight finalists and each sang two arias. Vera Talerko also won the audience prize on the day.

https://talerko.com/en/home

https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Talerko-Vera.htm


 

Stenhammar finals tonight

June 17, 2022

Something to look forward to. Hopefully parking will not be too difficult with all the summer roadworks in Norrköping.

After listening in awe some time ago to some Russian oktavists (basso profundo), I am glad to see two bass singers making it to the final.

8 singers to the Grand Finale!

Zaza Gagua, Bass, Georgia

Yohan John Ji, Baritone, South Korea

Abigail Levis, Mezzosoprano, USA

Clarke Ruth, Bass, Canada

Marie Dominique Ryckmanns, Soprano, Germany/France

Emma Sventelius, Mezzosoprano, Sweden

Vera Talerko, Soprano, Latvia

Rebecka Wallroth, Mezzosoprano, Sweden


Sanctions will not deter China from taking Taiwan

June 14, 2022

China is not Russia and Taiwan is not Ukraine but it is a foregone conclusion that China will take over Taiwan before too long.

It is only a matter of when. Chinese honour is already hurt by the fact that Taiwan has lasted for 110 years. Almost certainly by 2030. There is a small probability that it could happen in 2024. The two key questions are

  1. whether Chinese military superiority is sufficient to prevail in a conflict lasting less than 12 months, and
  2. whether the US will have the stomach to get involved militarily.

The likelihood of any other countries entering the fray is already very low and is zero if the US does no more than levy “stringent” sanctions which half the world will ignore. As a military presence the EU is of no significance. The most the EU can do is provide support (in material resources) for the US. 

The first question is probably what engages Chinese strategists the most. Taiwan’s military strength cannot be underestimated and judging the superiority of Chinese military capabilities for a mainly sea borne operation is quite chancy. The rapid neutralisation of the Taiwanese air force will be a critical requirement. In any event, the Chinese capability for accepting and absorbing losses is very much greater than Taiwan’s. However, even in a campaign of attrition the Chinese will probably be looking for the take-over to be completed within 12 months. It is known that this take-over is one of the strategic goals for equipment procurement and the current expansion of the Chinese military. Their provocative sea exercises are nearly all geared to testing the responses of potential opponents and training for Invasion Day.

The second critical question, whether the US will act or just rely on sanctions, will also be exercising the Chinese strategists. They will be studying the US rhetoric and its lack of response in the Russia/Ukraine story very closely. The Chinese probably believe that Invasion Day will occur only when a Democratic President is in the White House and during the second half of a Presidential term. The chances of the US making a lot of noise but doing little else is then very high. China is even less susceptible to US sanctions than Russia (and half the world is even now ignoring the US sanctions against Russia). The Chinese will also be looking for a period which is relatively quiet in US domestic politics to make their move. Turbulent politics at home could even lead to a reckless Democratic President. Action abroad may be seen by a weak President as a way of currying domestic favour.  

There is a small probability that the Chinese assessment of the current US administration’s fear of risks and their paralysis of action, is that timing is unlikely to be better (from their point of view) in the next decade. That creates the possibility – though small – that 2024 as the last year of the Biden administration is seen as a window of opportunity.


 

The Wilhelm Stenhammar Music competition – A welcome return

June 12, 2022

The pandemic put to a stop to our biennial visits to the Wilhelm Stenhammar Music competition. However they have resumed this week. The last one we attended was in 2018 since the 2020 competition was cancelled.

Wilhelm Stenhammar International Music Competition, or WSIMC, was inaugurated in June 2006 with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia as guests of honor. Since then the competition has been held every two years. The competition has an obligatory part where the contestants must perform a work by Wilhelm Stenhammar. Since 2012 there is given a special prize for the best Stenhammar interpretation.

The preliminary rounds do not have all the glitz and glamour of the finals (which we will attend on Friday) but in some ways are more nerve-wracking for the aspirants and more intense for the audience. Round 1 is over and 65 singers have been cut down to 27. We shall be at some of the second round performances over the next 3 days when the 8-10 finalists emerge.

Of course, to satisfy political correctness and reserve a place in heaven, no Russian singers are permitted this year. S Korea is extremely well represented – as usual (perhaps over-represented).

We have been starved of concerts during the pandemic and this is a very welcome return to normalcy.

More later as the competition progresses.

Round 1 – 12th June 2022

Where numbers come from

June 6, 2022

Of course it all depends on what numbers are taken to be. Numbers are not real. You cannot see or touch or smell them. They are labels (words) with associated symbols (numerals). They are neither nouns nor adjectives though, in some contexts, they can be used as nouns. Philosophy calls them abstract objects. They are perceived as abstractions in the real world of existence. But they are abstractions which display relationships and patterns among themselves quite independent of the applications from which they are discerned. What lies at the source of numbers? How did they come to be? I see numbers as a means, a language, for describing the underlying patterns connecting countable things in the existing universe.

It starts with one. 

There are four abstract concepts, I suggest, which lie at the source not only of all numbers and numbering systems but of mathematics in general (beginning with arithmetic and geometry). It seems to me that these four concepts are necessary and sufficient.

    1. Oneness (1)
    2. Set
    3. Sum
    4. Arithmetical addition (+)


If there were nothing to count, we would not have numbers.

Of things that exist, even abstract things, human cognition distinguishes between countable things and uncountable things. The necessary and required conditions for things to be considered countable are, first that they exist, and second that each has a unique, discrete identity. Things that are uncountable are those perceived as being part of a continuum and therefore not discrete or unique. (The word uncountable is also used for countable things which are too numerous for the human mind to contemplate but it is not that meaning that I use here). Thus apples, oranges, grains of sand, people and atoms are all countable. Things and concepts that cannot be divided into discrete elements are uncountable. Space, sky, water, air, fire, and earth are all perceptions of continua which are uncountable. Nouns for generalisations are uncountable (furniture, music, art, ….). The distinction applies to abstract things as well. Discrete thoughts or specific ideas can be counted. But abstractions (shapes, information, news, advice, ….) which lack a discrete, unique identity are within the ranks of the uncountable. Types of emotions are countable, but emotion is not.

To be discrete and unique give substance to identity. Existence (a Great Mystery) comes first, of course. To have identity is to have some distinguishing characteristic which enables the quality of “oneness”. Note that the quality of being identical (similar) does not disturb identity. Two, or many, things may be identical, but the identity of each remains inviolate. An atom of hydrogen here may be identical to an atom of hydrogen elsewhere, but the identity of each remains undisturbed. It is estimated that there are between 1078 to 1082 atoms existing in the observable universe. Each one distinct from all the others. Each one having identity.

We use the word identity in many contexts. In the philosophical sense, which includes the context of counting, my definition of identity is then:

identityoneness; the distinguishing character of a thing that constitutes the objective reality of that thing

It is the discreteness and uniqueness contained in identity which gives rise to the concept of oneness as a quality of a thing which makes that thing countable. It is having the concept of oneness which allows us to define a concept of number, label it as “one” and give it a symbol (1). How the concept of identity (oneness) emerged in the species is another one of the Great Mysteries of life and consciousness.

But the concept of identity alone is not sufficient to generate the need to count and the invention of numbers. Having defined one (1), something else is still needed to generate a number system. A social, behavioural component is also required; It is cooperation and interaction with others which leads to the need to count. It probably emerged when humans created social groupings and things were accumulated for rainy days. The notion of addition as the accumulation of things belonging to a set is also needed. An ancient human may have gathered an apple an orange and a goat and accumulated many things but would probably not have thought of those things as belonging to the set of things. If he had gathered only apples and oranges, he may well have recognised that he had accumulated a set of things identified as fruit. And someone at sometime in our prehistory did note that his accumulation of individual goats all belonged to the set of things identified as goats. We cannot now know how our ancestors first came to a numbering system and the concept of addition with numbers, but it must certainly have been at around the same time that the need for counting emerged.

To get from just observing the accumulation of things in the real world to the concept of arithmetical addition was a major intellectual leap.  That journey also needed that the concepts of a set and of a sum were in place. We can only speculate on how that emergence and conjunction of the necessary concepts took place. It would surely have been noticed that there was a common, underlying pattern (rule) which applied with the accumulation – separately – of, say, apples and / or goats. But it would also have been noticed that the pattern did not apply when dealing with mixtures of apples and goats together. Accumulating an apple and an apple exhibits the same underlying pattern as accumulating a goat and a goat. But a goat and an apple followed the same rule only when they were considered, not as goats or apples, but as things belonging to a greater class (set) of things.

1 apple + 1 apple follows the same abstract, underlying pattern as 1 goat + 1 goat or 1 thing + 1 thing, but the rule breaks down at 1 apple + 1 goat.

A set of thingsis a multiplicity of similar countable things which together can assume a separate identity (unique and discrete)

It is likely that it was then that they realised that the accumulation of things could be represented by abstract rules (patterns) which were independent of the set of things being accumulated. The rule of arithmetical addition (+), they would have found, applied in a like manner to accumulations of members of any set, and that a common name could be given to the result (sum) of the accumulation.

Sumthe result of an accumulation

But they would also have found that the rule (pattern) of accumulation and counting broke down when dealing with mixed sets of things. Whereas one apple and one apple gave the same sum as one goat and one goat, that sum had no meaning if one apple was accumulated with one goat. However, the summation rule reasserts itself when considering the sum of things with the accumulation of one thing (apple) and one thing (goat). This general, but abstract, rule of the summation operation was arithmetical addition.

Arithmetical addition (+) the accumulation of one number to another number giving a sum as the result

Maintaining identity remained crucial. They would have noted that the abstract rule did not apply if the things being accumulated lost identity (their oneness) during the operation. One goat and one lion gave one lion. One bubble and one bubble could merge to give one bubble. But they would also have noted that uncountable things were not capable of being accumulated.

Given the abstract concepts of identity (oneness, 1) and arithmetical addition (+), all natural numbers inevitably follow. With a 1 and with a +, and the concept of a set and a sum, all the natural numbers can be generated.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1 ……

Having invented a label and a symbol for oneness (one, 1), new labels and symbols were then invented for the abstract sums. The chosen base (binary, decimal, hexagesimal, vigesimal, ….) determines the number of labels and symbols to be invented.

1 + 1 gave 2, 1+ 2 gave 3, ….. and so on

And all the natural numbers were born.

The reverse of accumulation, the giving away or lessening of things, led to the abstraction of arithmetical subtraction (-) and that gave us zero and all the negative integers. Note that oneness and one (1) must come first before the concept of zero (0) makes any sense. Zero is a very specific quality of nothingness, but zero is not nothingness. In the observed world an absence of apples (0 apples) is not quite the same thing as an absence of goats (0 goats), but the number abstraction (0) from both is the same. As a number, zero is special and does not follow all the rules discovered connecting, and applying to, the other numbers. (Zero also functions as a placeholder in our notations but that is a different matter to its properties as a number). Zero added to another number does not create a new number as every other number does. Division is allowed by any number but not by zero. Division by zero is undefined. One (1), not zero (0), is where numbers start from. Zero is merely a consequence of removing (subtracting) one (1) from one (1).

Multiplication is just recursive addition. Recursive subtraction leads to division and that generates irrational numbers. Applying numbers to shapes (geometry) led to the discovery of transcendental numbers. Number theory is about studying and discovering relationships between numbers. But all these discovered relationships exist only because numbers exist as they do. All the relationships exist as soon as the concepts of oneness (1) and addition (+) are fixed together with the concepts of a set and a sum. Discoveries of the relationships can come much later. Numbers depend on counting and number theory depends upon the numbers.

Numbers start with one (1), and without a one (1) there can be no numbers.

Numbers, ultimately, rest on the concept of identity (oneness).


All my heresies

May 28, 2022

A heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox doctrine.

I find that a great many of my beliefs and opinions are diametrically opposed to modern fashionable doctrines. 

  1. I believe in “good” behaviour but I find the invented, artificial concept of entitlements labeled as “human rights” to be a false god which undermines “good” behaviour. People do not refrain from killing or maiming or harming others because of their “human rights”. They refrain because their own code of behaviour does not allow them to behave that way. There are no entitlements which flow from the laws of nature.
  2. Humans are not born equal nor are they equal in ability or performance through their lives.
  3. A human life has no intrinsic value. The value of any individual to others is a subjective judgement made by those others. Being born creates no value. Subsequent behaviour does. Whether an individual life matters depends upon the behaviour of that individual.
  4. Race is the classification of humans by visible physical attributes which are primarily a consequence of ancestry. The classification is dynamic but only changes slowly over generational time. Skin colour is, and has been, the overwhelmingly dominant attribute used for this classification.
  5. Parents are partially responsible for the behaviour of any young they have nurtured, but not for any genes they have unwittingly provided to their biological offspring. Genetic makeup may provide an explanation for behaviour but is never an excuse.
  6. Descendants cannot claim credit, or assign blame, for the fame or shame or misery of ancestors.
  7. Genetic variation among humans is continuous but, by definition, the species has two genders as given by the reality of the bimodal clustering apparent on the scale of human genetic variation. Parthenogenesis is not a characteristic of the species. Where an individual falls on the scale is not a matter of choice. It is, therefore, neither a matter of pride or shame – it just is.
  8. Cultural appropriation is a measure of a culture with features worth appropriating. A culture without any features worth appropriating eventually dies out – as it should.
  9. Victimhood does not confer any state of grace. Victimhood of distant ancestors is no excuse for bad behaviour in the present.
  10. Being gay is not as genetically inevitable as being short or being tall. It may well be partially genetic but it is also partially a behavioural choice. “Gay pride” is as praiseworthy, or not, as “short pride” or “tall pride” or “rich pride”.
  11. Not to discriminate against what you think is “bad” is just stupid. “Positive discrimination” to compensate for some unjust discrimination elsewhere is inevitably, and unavoidably, always unjust.
  12. An open mind is a mind devoid of bias. Knowledge creates bias. Only an empty mind is devoid of bias. A learned judge is inevitably a biased judge. 
  13. Justice is about doing future harm to compensate for perceived harm done. Institutional justice is about exercising discrimination and doing harm to those judged against. Institutional justice always bows to force majeure.
  14. A Google search is not “research”. The ability to carry out a Google search does not make a scientist. Bean counting (like counting the number of articles for and against) is not science.
  15. Democracy is not about what is good or what is correct or what is just. It is about the majority view prevailing, even if bad or incorrect or unjust. “Goodness” is an individual moral judgement. A “democratic”, majority decision is silent about the goodness, correctness or truth value of that decision.
  16. A lie shared by all 7.5 billion humans remains a lie.
  17. “Freedom of speech” does not exist and has never existed. 
  18. Journalism is a sub-set of advocacy. There is no journalist who is not also a lobbyist.
  19. In armed conflict, a superior argument is always trumped by superior force. (It is best to have both).
  20. On workmen and their tools. A superior brush does not make a morally superior painter. An expensive bat does not make the good batsman. A killer is not absolved because it was easy or cheap to get a gun.
  21. ………

The list of my heresies seems to go on and on and on.

I can only conclude that I am not in tune with these times. I am old enough now not to care very much or be bothered enough to have to do anything about it. Heresy and skepticism, though, are the only antidotes to gullibility and indoctrination.

A few hundred years ago I would probably have been burned at the stake.

 

Heretic burning (image from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Or3eUymcEA)

What evolution does not do

May 17, 2022

Of course evolution does not actually do anything.

Evolution is not causative. It is a label for the effects we see of other factors which effect survival and reproduction. I dislike the description of evolution being as a result of natural selection. Strictly, it is never about selection but always a result of deselection of those not able to survive. The primary “force” which gives evolution is the dying of the unfit. It is not the survival of the fittest but the survival of the good enough. When it is said that some creature is perfectly suited to its environment what is actually meant is that all others not suited to that environment failed to survive. More than 99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct. We cannot, I think, apply value judgements of “good” or “bad” to the result. It is not correct to even apply the terms “natural” or “unnatural” or “artificial” about the word evolution. The evolution of species in general or any species in particular has always been without direction and without purpose. But it could be that the human species is the first which may be able to introduce an element of purpose and direction to its own future course. Whether this direction can encompass “good” behaviour is still in the realm of fantasy.

It seems to me that the human definition of “good behaviour” has not changed very much in the last 10,000 years. The golden rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) probably became a golden rule whenever it was that our ancestors began cooperating in a serious way and built societies which were larger than the immediate family group. It seems plausible that this value judgement for “good behaviour” begins with the first establishment of clans or tribes. That takes us back at least 50,000 years and maybe even longer. Certainly it goes back to long before the first establishment of permanent settlements and cities (c. 10,000 years ago). But whenever it was that humans developed this value judgement for “good behaviour”, it does not seem to have been much favoured by the forces resulting in evolution.

Clearly some behavioural patterns do impact survival and reproduction and therefore must have some impact on the evolutionary result. Tribes and clans not inclined to cooperate went extinct long ago. Cultures where members did not specialise and cooperate, stagnated and gradually disappeared. The levels of specialisation and cooperation in today’s global society have reached unprecedented levels. If behaviour is to be selected/deselected for then it can only happen to the extent that behaviour is an inherited trait. Moreover, it can only be implemented by the continuous deselection of unwanted behaviour and selection of desired behaviour. That behaviour does have a genetic component is almost certain and that genes are mainly inherited is also certain. Breeding for emotional or behavioural traits is still a very chancy business. Domesticated animals, and even wolves and foxes, have been artificially bred for traits other than the purely physiological. This has involved “deselection” for some emotional traits (aggression for example) or to “select” for others (courage, tolerance of humans, ….). Individuals having desired traits are allowed to breed and those having undesirable traits are not allowed to reproduce. This ensures the passing on of genes. But from genes to behaviour is a very fuzzy step.

“Bad behaviour” is as prevalent today as it was in pre-history. “Bad behaviour” clearly is not deselected by “natural” evolutionary forces. “Good behaviour” is not selected for either. The propensity for violence, aggression and, generally, doing harm to others – albeit by a minority – has not changed much since ancient times. The only possible conclusion is that being “good” or “bad” does not lead to the evolutionary selection – or deselection – of a behavioural trait. What evolution certainly does not do is to choose between “good” and “bad”.

The persistence of bad behaviour through the ages suggests that it may even have some survival value.


Taking credit for your ancestors

May 14, 2022

I am always rather amused when people in the now try and bask in the past glories (usually exaggerated and always presumed) of their ancestors. Especially when someone claims descent from some very famous person. As if they chose them. To be proud of a famous father or grandfather is perfectly reasonable but to claim credit in the now for their deeds in the past is illogical. To claim credit for ancestors even further back in time verges on the ridiculous.

I find it especially silly when someone proudly declaims an ancestor’s presumed qualities or famous deeds and misses that they themselves suffer by comparison. I am equally unimpressed when someone proudly claims a long line of descent. Every single one of the 7.3 billion alive today (poor-man, rich-man, beggar-man, thief) has exactly the same number of ancestors as everyone else. One can now bask not only in famous ancestors but even in their past shame or misery. Nowadays it has  become fashionable to try and gain “victimhood credits” for the sufferings and failings of long-gone ancestors. Entitlement culture has now given us “victimhood privilege” as a new phenomenon of the 21st century.

Nationalist groups in many countries who are insecure about their own identities often bask in the presumed past glories of ancient civilizations. The one common feature of all these “great civilizations is, of course, that they all failed. It applies to all the classical “great civilizations” in Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome. Some lasted much longer than others but they all eventually collapsed. Civilizations and societies which succumbed to others gives rise to claims of current victimhood credits for the sufferings and the failings of their ancestors. To be descended from the Phoenicians or the Mayans or Aztecs is now creditable in the now. To be descended from slaves of 200 years ago or from the colonised 500 years ago allows victimhood credits to be claimed in the present. Nowadays, in India, the Hindu right tries to take credit for the exaggerated, and often quite dubious, wonders of past “golden ages”, some two or five (or even ten!) thousand years ago. Never mind that the “golden ages” collapsed due to their own stresses, faults and imperfections. Never mind that the “golden ages” were always followed by millennia of “dark and dismal ages”. Never mind that glorious ages were followed by inglorious times because the glorious ages all led to decadence and depravity. Never mind that the “dark ages” and their misery were a direct consequence of the preceding “golden ages”,

Every person alive today had some ancestor who was a thief, a murderer, a cheat, a ruler or a slave. That includes every claimed descendant of Genghis Khan (40 generations) or Confucius (80 generations), and every current member of any “aristocracy” or “royal lineage” (the Norwegian House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg from 1106 CE is probably the oldest recorded). There is nobody alive today who can even presume to trace a direct line of descent for more than about 40 generations. Even the most detailed line of descent leaves out more ancestors than are included. In practice nobody has a record of all their ancestors for more than about 10 generations and very few for more than 5. And if we want to go back to the heyday of ancient Greece (500 BCE) we would need 125 generations. And to reach back to the first cities ever we would need 500 – 600 generations. Modern humans started around 10,000 generations ago.

Every person alive today has more ancestors who were quite ordinary and forgettable than famous ones. There are more villains in each person’s ancestry than there are “good guys”. Basking in the fame or the shame of ancestors is about as silly as the human mind allows. There is no person alive today who does not have an ancestor who was an illiterate, speechless, murderous, selfish, tree-swinging ape.



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