Friday, 9 October 2009

I think therefore I question

For me, there are two difficulties with Descartes' ultimate truth "I think therefore I am". Leaving aside any translation issues because of the fact that the phrase was originally conceived in French, then later slightly reformulated when he wrote in Latin, my first difficulty is with the "I" component and my second is with the "thinking".

The "I" problem occurs because of Buddhist philosophy which suggests that the self is an illusion and that we all belong to one conscious whole. Whilst I have not personally undertaken the years of training in meditation that seems to be recommended to reach such a sublime revelation, nor had a Zen-like instantaneous insight to the truthfulness of the position, "I" doesn't need to be an immovable object. Why not just "something"? This would sidestep the issue of the self as an illusion, and depersonalise the content of my own truth.

The "thinking" problem can be put like this. Am I thinking that I exist, or do I just perceive it? In any case, to me, it is not the thinking which is the important element (from my own understanding, this may have been more so to Descartes), it is the existence.

So my own first certainty is: something exists.

Because I cannot conceive of a way that this could be false, I shall call it my ultimate truth.

Straight away a hurdle presents itself. Solipsism. Am I alone in my thinking or perception that something exists? Am I the only conscious being that exists, with everything else just going on in my mind? It is a desperately lonely position, awesome in its potential, and utterly frustrating in its execution. Essentially solipsists find themselves in the role of a diminished God. All seeing and all knowing, but with powers which are severely limited. Solipsism is a desperate position to take, and there may not be a rational way to escape it. It requires a leap of faith to escape the solitude. My first assumption is therefore to assume I am not alone. Not because it must be, but because it must be for my own sanity.

My first assumption is: I am not alone.

Because I need to assume this in order to lead a half-way decent life, I shall call it my leap of faith.

It is possible that I could enter into constructive dialogue about my certainty and my assumption, but I predict they will both be positions which it will be hard to drag me away from. I am sure, however, that a far more interesting dialogue could be achieved around the general form of my findings. I have one ultimate truth and one leap of faith. Is it possible that this could be a general formula which would hold for everyone? We might find that we vehemently disagree about the specifics of our truths and our assumptions, but do we all have exactly one of each?

To summarise my own position ...

Ultimate truth: something exists
Leap of faith: I am not alone

... and in explicit terms, my theory is this:

in order to live well, we each recognise one ultimate truth and one leap of faith.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Internet Karma

Tim Ireland's past is slowly catching up with him. Today he complains to Mr Power via Twitter:
Westminster = small village. Dale telling political/publishing mates I'm a stalker makes it hard for me to ask tough questions.
Where did the phrase "stalker" in relation to Ireland come from? Is he right to complain that Iain Dale has been spreading this around Westminster? Tim Ireland seems to have a short memory because between 2003 and 2007 he ran a blog which, as he puts it now, was:
formerly dedicated to the gentle stalking of one of our finest Conservative MPs
Note only gentle stalking though, that must be fine. That's not like true blue plain vanilla stalking at all, is it? Tim has never done anything more than a bit of soft, gentle, teasing stalking with a feather. No wonder he's outraged, this Dale fellow is assassinating his character.

Unfortunately for Tim, Google's cache tells a different story.
It says:
Tim Yeo - The Weblog
A weblog dedicated to the stalking of Tim Yeo, one of our finest public figures ...
Oh dear Tim, for four years you told Westminster, the world and his dog that you were "stalking" Tim Yeo MP. Now you are complaining that Iain Dale once used the word "stalker" about you, then thought better of it.

The political blogosphere does indeed have a "stalker" lurking amongst us. Tim, who loves nothing better than to use forensic techniques on the internet, has been hoisted by his own petard. There's nothing here that couldn't be checked with a few clicks or searches of your own. And by the way, it seems Tim Ireland is not beyond doing a little bit of gentle editing too, when it might suit his own version of events. Maybe there are a few tough questions that he should ask himself, before he is let loose on the luminaries of the Westminster village.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Idiot Watch: last update

We have been overwhelmed by the number of idiots out there, and so have decided to make this the last one. Enjoy!


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Big tent hots up as lovers entwine

Bit of a bloggers love-in going on as Tom Harris and Iain Dale blow each other kisses across the ether. Harris says Dale is honest, principled and speaks his mind. Dale says he's very touched. Both men have built up blog audiences where people from across the political spectrum are welcome to express their views.

I've always had my doubts about Dale in particular, often he seemed to hide his political allegiance until things got heated. However the defining moment for me was during the American presidential election in November when Dale hosted a live blog-in which attracted mostly McCain supporters, but a sizeable proportion of Obama supporters too. A similar event hosted by Liberal Conspiracy attracted Obama fans exclusively. As Dale mentions, politics on the web can be a very tribal thing.

My own experience in real life is that local politicians will be intensely partisan during an election campaign, but then build personal relationships with opposing councillors to make working life on the council pass more smoothly. I expect a very similar process goes on in the House of Commons too. So in the spirit comradeliness which seems to be breaking out across the blogosphere, I too welcome Dale's inclusion on the Bracknell Tory PPS shortlist. But please remember to vote in David Young as a Green MP at the next General Election.

Mandy: Decorating tomorrows chip paper

Click for bigger.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Idiot Watch: update

Ladies and Gentlemen. Please remain calm. Another idiot has been spotted. Remember if you seen an idiot in the street or at a public event like a picnic or party conference, please do not approach them. It is best to let the authorities deal with them.

If we get any further sightings of idiots we will let you know as soon as possible.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Idiot Watch

In these times of heightened security risks, please be on the lookout for idiots. They could be hiding anywhere, and threaten you with their signs. Here's what they might look like:

You have been warned!

Know me by my name

I got my nickname in the following way. I was a bit rolly-poly as a baby, so my mum called me Podgy. This was later shortened to Pog: pretty much all my childhood friends and acquaintances knew me as Pog, some still call me it. When I opened my first email account with AOL, Pog had already been taken. Everyone was talking about the new phenomenon of "surfing" at the time, so I added surf as a suffix. The rest is history.

There's a big difference between calling someone by a nickname, and calling them a name. It is one of intent. One is friendly, one is not so friendly. Yesterday I called Tim Ireland out on his use of the term "idiot". In fact you could say that he makes his intent all too clear. It's not nice.

Tim also has a little gang of acolytes who like to follow his bullying ways. Their mugshots or "work" can usually be found here. (I notice Tim's own entry has now disappeared, probably because he is at the centre of some sort of "terrorist" imbroglio.) Except one that is. Beau Bo D'Or makes a good joke by showing a man who has just written "Julie Moult is a genius" on a steamy window, shown from an outside perspective which inverts the inscription. Like any good satirist his work can be taken in more than one way, thereby preserving an ambiguity over his own position. I usually couch against explaining jokes, but I wanted to make clear here that I don't think Beau Bo is demeaning Ms Moult in any way, in fact he's drawing our intention to the importance of perspective.

Matt Buck understands perspective too. After all, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Someone regarded as a nutcase by some, could be seen as a genius by others. Over at Liberal Conspiracy I have been frequently labelled a "troll", and Tim Ireland loves to remind everyone that I am a "sock-puppet". The answer of course is to take ownership of these bits of petty nonsense, and embrace the terms. My trolling usually takes the form of asking awkward questions, my sock-puppetry seems to have taken on epic proportions until one breathless commentator exclaims "he's posting comments bloody everywhere".

It is a curious feature of the human condition that those who rail against flaws in others often display that same flaw themselves. So it is that those who seek to exploit others perceived weaknesses are often vulnerable to the same kind of attack. Tim Ireland for instance is most uncomfortable about references to his own nickname "Manic". At item 36 of this bizarre instance of replying to a spoof list of interview questions, Ireland says:
And now that you bring it up, the nickname also dates from a more innocent time on the web, when there were fewer people around wanting to be a cock about it.
That's OK then. Or perhaps it's about time you changed your nickname. In fact I can't make my mind up about this, or whether he is really calling for the return of an earlier age of bliss on the internet.

As well as addressing Tim by name, we can also now address him by post. I know this because he wrote:
my home address has been repeatedly published online
and Sunny Hundal wrote:
a shadowy bunch of operators who are publishing his name and home address all over the internet
and Justin McKeating wrote:
and finally his home address made public on the internet
It's not exactly a secret, is it? In fact it is so widely publicised I am beginning to wonder if he about organise some kind of mail order business. I wish him luck in his new venture. I hope it distracts him from his name-calling campaigns. Maybe he should adopt a new nickname for a complete change of image. No idea what this should be, perhaps you have an idea? Answers on a postcard, please!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Gang warfare

Yesterday I accused Tim Ireland of intellectual cowardice because he wouldn't debate the merits of sock-puppetry. On 26/11/08 [year corrected] I wrote in an email to him:
... Take a look at this picture Tim, and say what you see. If you really want to have a debate about sock puppetry, Hack's cartoon blog is exactly the right place to hold it.
The day after I had invited him to debate the issue, he wrote that I was:
... currently dashing from website to website making a variety of attempts to confuse the Gilligan issue and/or mock Gilligan's accusers, without declaring (never mind discussing or defending) his own position regarding the use of multiple false identities.
The rub is in the phrase never mind discussing or defending. That was exactly what I had proposed the day before, and which Ireland has avoided for ten months. So not only is he a coward, he also tells lies about me.

Aside from not being a very great custodian of the truth, I am aware that Tim was once accused of behaviour that "smacks of bullying". It was to do with his online campaign to have Julie Moult labelled as an "idiot". Not only did he want to abuse her himself, he encouraged others to do the same. The latest example follows an an article Ms Moult wrote about Sarah Brown and twittering. The concept of bullying is of course dependent on the power relationship between the two parties. In the world of print journalism, Moult's articles get a readership of millions. In the world of blogging, Ireland's articles get an audience of perhaps thousands. Moult herself is not being bullied, but it appears that the world of blogging is being led by a would-be bully boy.

I want to offer a simple formula to help resolve this:
Either: Julie Moult is an idiot OR Tim Ireland is an idiot
My own preference is strongly for Ireland as idiot for the following reason. Whilst it could be argued that Moult writes articles which are shown to be false, she manages to hold down her job and is thus valuable to her employer. However, it is demonstrably true that Ireland writes articles where he seeks to demean others, and he gains no reward for this other than his own self-gratification.

Others may of course want to argue the balance the other way, but they have to overcome the passive-aggressive hurdle. This is that Ireland is using emotion to win his argument. Idiocy is not a current medical condition (it may have been once) so there is no objective test to determine that "Moult is an idiot", as Ireland claims. His argument is based on an objective view about the truthfulness of her articles, and a subjective opinion about Moult's corresponding worth as a human being. Moult has kept quiet about her opinion on Ireland. But her retort should of course be: "It takes one to know one!"

The case against Ireland is now mounting. In the last two days I have called him a pervert, a coward, a liar and an idiot. This is turning into an all out slanging match! Has he courage to face his accuser, or will he set his little gang of "liberal" friends onto me? I'm just about quaking in my socks!!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

On honesty

It's sometimes interesting to reflect on how other people see you, so I took a look back recently at a post Tim Ireland wrote last November.
Most of the biographical information is surprisingly accurate, but Tim gets into a complete muddle about how to spell my surname by the end. The various accusations he makes are mostly bonkers. Clearly I am an unapologetic user of sock puppets, but it now emerges that Tim maybe is too (see item 19. here). The picture Tim refers to as NSFW was taken by my wife whilst on holiday in Italy last year, and showed me lying on a bed, naked, but with my modesty covered by a paperback book. Jennie Rigg got the "no socks" joke, put poor old Tim didn't. Sorry if you want a peek, I took the picture down not long after Tim saw it, but at least several days before his post.

Tim refers to my ribbing of him as "bizarre". Here's an extract of an e-mail exchange that followed:
Tim: Oh, really? Got any more naked pictures that 'prove' how open you are about your identity? Rhetorical question. Please don't send me any.
Martin: Pervert!
I think I riled him. The following day Tim published his main post and demanded that I respond to it. I don't take kindly to people writing a lot of nonsense about me and then demanding answers, so I declined.

In the post, Tim calls me a coward and a bully. I can't really make sense of much of the "evidence" that Tim produces, so I took this as water off a duck's back. However the day before I had challenged Tim to debate the merits of sock-puppetry under a relevant post at Hack's Cartoon Diary.
Tim has never responded to this, and for this reason I accuse him of intellectual cowardice.

Having got my own accusation out of the way, I wanted to close by saying overall I find most of the exchanges between Tim and I as quite humorous. He seems so eager to cast me in a bad light he inflates his charges and lets his anger show through. Whether enjoying this is a good trait in myself is open to question. However, I won't let it worry me. I have no idea if Tim followed through with a threat to dob me in with the Green Party (I suspect they would have politely ignored his nutty accusations, as many others seem to do), but it does expose his tendency to expect others to fight his battles for him. If I get amusement by goading him along the way I suspect this is not an altogether bad thing.

Monday, 9 March 2009

A Short Poem



Cats are like humans, but just turned inside out.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Car Crash Watching

"Meanwhile, we can just watch this slow motion car crash continue to happen."
So says gossipologist Iain Dale about LabourList, whilst failing to provide a link because Derek Draper has said that Dale condones racism and won't apologise. Without the link, by what means does Dale think we shall be watching, or is he acknowledging that LabourList is already so well known it needs no introduction. In which case, why not link? Does he want us to watch, or is he suggesting we look away. Who knows, and even more aptly, who cares what Dale thinks?

Personally I would say Draper has done a great job getting "A" list Labour politicians to engage in a UK political blog, and seeking comments from as wide an audience as possible, whilst moderating the inevitable "monstering" that some right wing blogs feel is the correct way to address issues or bloggers of whom they don't approve. It doesn't make me want to vote Labour, or even to change my views on how Labour policies are being implemented, but it is clear that Draper's project is breaking new ground for a political weblog in the UK, and that Dale & Co are sore as hell about it. I've added LabourList to my blog list, if you are serious about bringing politics to the internet it is the way to go, and aren't all those nay-sayers just about as jealous as hell that they couldn't create something similar for themselves.

Filling In Time

Not sure quite what I am going to type here, as I am just filling in time, waiting for a cup of tea to brew. It's almost as if I feel I don't want to write something, because I don't want my inner feelings to be examined, I don't want a reader to know how I am feeling, at this moment in time. Which is absurd, because a) I don't feel that bad, and b) I couldn't ever get to the point of fully describing how I feel.

Must go now as that cup of tea beckons.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Two Forty: What a rip-off!

Woke up after tossing and turning in the bed for a while, and noticed the clock showed 02:40. Thought that I should try to get some of my thoughts down on the blog, as a way to bore myself back to sleep. Two people read this blog yesterday, so I fairly sure that Gordon Brown is not a reader. What a bastard, he can't even be bothered to read my blog.

The proper way to number prices in Britain is to keep the pence in multiples of five. £1.99 is just not on, £1.95 is far superior. The reason is quite simple, because for multiples of five, both you and the shopkeeper need only only handle silver. Imagine handing over two nuggetty pound coins, and getting back a single brown penny. How cheated you would feel.

The same goes for £2.40, of course. How much finer it is to demand 2 guineas, 7 shillings and sixpence, ha'penny, than two, thirty nine? My mum used to call the copper coins "black money" and Alison step grand father once told us a story about how he and the other kids in his neighbourhood would chase down the local squire in his horse and trap whilst shouting: "go on! throw us your mouldies!".

Must grab my cup of tea now, will write a little more in a moment.

£2.40 reminded me that our local Woolies lies empty. How do you get hold off one and open it back up? My local branch has been open my entire life, so its silly to think it could never make money again. My best bet is to run it as a small department store, something like Carrefour in France. You could even rip of the name and call it Crossroads.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Measuring Concepts

Take two straight lines, which are infinitely long, at right angles to each other, and do not intersect. These are "Time" and "Space". If an observer (ie a conscious being who exists in space and time) wishes to observe any other "Concept", then to the observer it is as if the concept is a dead-straight line observed along its length. In other words, the observer sees the concept as a singularity. Imagine that the line of concept is under tension, created by a twisting between space and time. The "straight" lines of space and time will become distorted by the concept into curves, and the concept under tension will exist at the closest intersection between the space and time lines.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Space the final frontier debunked

On concepts

Ever since 02 November 2001 16:25 I have been pondering upon the phrase "reallocating roadspace", which may seem like a very long time to contemplate two words, but this should never be seen as too long. In practice it first meant getting angry, then lashing out in a reply, then getting angry again and this second time trying to do something authentically creative with the pain in my brain. I created a fairy-tale to express my problem and to give it an airing to a wider public. I was once truthfully introduced to someones daughter as "an author" which made me feel very proud.

Letting go is the process of turning one idea into another. It is very fulfilling, worth encouraging and is the driving force behind all creative activity. In on sense it cannot be avoided, in another it always involves pain.

On first reading the phrase "if i can imagine it, it can happen" appears to lack sense. This is a common problem from readers who are not overly literal. Firstly the possibility of "if" is endless, "i" the observer, and "can" the enabler is equivalent to "if i can then anyone can", and secondly "it" means "can" is able "to create". Again avoid over literalism because even the pausing comma "," adds weight by waiting. Notice how I could also say adds wait by weighting. Therefore, a change of voice "is" a phase shift.

Any two concepts can be held in conjunction. The resulting tension is also a source of fascination. At this point (in time) I am imagining two infinitely long "curved and straight" lines, at right angles to one another, not intersecting, and curving towards each other due to the attractive force of a relating concept. The standard scientific model is to suggest that to measure something one needs a scale and a "fixed" point. In fact the point is nothing more than you the observer looking directly along one of the lines and observing movements of their subject upon a straight line. Both lines are curved because of the attractive force which happens to be a dead straight line connecting each curved line. Because of the symmetry of the design a "thinking being" can cause the necessary phase shift. If the two curves were to meet an annihilation would occur, because of the precise symmetry of the structure. When an observer fixes there attention onto any particular concept it is as though the direct line of sight is in itself causing a tension directly into the observer's eye. However because of perspective the tension to the observer is unobservable, the closer their attention the closer they are to observing a vanishing point. Other tensions in the structure cause the scale line to be observed as perfectly straight. The observer even believes that the observing line is intersecting the scale line, but this is almost always unlikely to be true.

Three concepts are needed, plus an "observer": one concept is unseen, but acts as the "sights" to line up the observation platform, one provides "tension" to draw the two curved lines together, and one provides the "scale" against which values can be measured.

The concept of time has been widely believed by humans for a very long time. The rotation of the earth, the sun and the "life" of the human provide the apparatus, the concept called "gravity" provides the tension. The concept of "earth" is curved because the tension with the sun drags it towards it. People assume the concept of time is "fixed", and so scientists use this as their line of observation. There is no reason why you could not look along a line of gravity, except the very difficulties of imaging you are at the centre of the sun, looking down on the earth, your observer becomes heat, your scale is angles and your measurement is quite tiring to think about.

To give two comparable examples, when a diver leaps from a high diving board and enters the water at vertical angle, his experience is very like a computer user "entering" a web page by clicking a button. The diver is not particularly aware of the moment of impact and is quickly immersed in a "new world" underwater. A web surfer can take part in the very same experience, but visually.

The key thing to do is to behave authentically. If you believe you have gone back in time by handling an ancient vase, you have. The qualia you experience are identical to those of a similar vase admirer from 2000 years ago. There is nothing "in time" which separates you in this case, the difference will only be one of environment. Reconstructed environments "feel like" the past, because that is exactly what the past "felt like" at the time, subject only to the usual problems of accuracy and measurement. If you literally want to live in the past you only have to take the trouble to construct your environment skillfully enough. This is by understanding that in pushing for something you will almost always make it less likely to happen, the only way to bring about a real change of environment is to have the patience to allow it to come to you.

The modern obsession with time is nothing but an obsession. If you obsess upon some other subject, then time itself dissolves as you increasingly look along it. To measure time you would just have to "set up" a platform from which observe something and be prepared to "dive in" to your subject. Darwin was fascinated by the concept of diversity, and he used the platform of time with which to observe it. Dawkins is fascinated by messaging, and so he watched messages over time, equally obsessed that time must be real. The concept of "now" can be both the now you experience in the mundanety of your everyday life, and the "now" which I hand to you by focusing in upon the topic I am trying to discuss and observing how other concepts behave, given the change of perspective.

The observation of Einstein's that space curves is not particularly special because everything else can curve too. The words and letters that you see in front of you are curved over time to bring into being a concept called language. Look along the line of a language and you dive in to culture. Dive into books and you experience the concept of reason. Dive into the concept of fishing and you experience the concept of waiting. The tension is created by not seeing the fish and not knowing when they will bit. Waiting provides the stillness that convinces the fish that the bait on the end of the line is safe to eat. By diving into the task of writing this down, I observe our cat now takes more notice of me. The stillness provided by the tension between wanting to get the content out, and trying to understand the concepts as they appear (through phase shifting) means that I become a source of fascination for our cat.

The anger produced by the authenticity of the Maze prisoners confinement with their own sense of experiencing injustice allowed them to experience life as a prisoner and not to be overly disturbed by the sensory experience of living with faceas. Contrast this with the very flimsy material nature of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the implication is that there was an ease at which the inmates were led to the gas chambers. The chambers themselves would become objects of fascination, the experience of being gassed a relief from the deprivation of confinement. It is not that holocausts can be avoided, it is that they provide the fascination to attract people into them.

Living well means to accept that all living beings are making the same types of choices that you are, and to try to reconcile the difference between living in the world, authenticity, and living for the world, trying to improve it. Phase shift means that these amount to almost exactly the same things, and free-will gives you the option to choose which you will be at any particular point in time. When you shift the emphasis, you create a moment in time, and others can reference it. Yesterdays inauguration of Barack Obama was not so much his moment in time, the authenticity of the crowds, of experiencing euphoria and joy created, at the same time was counter-pointed by Obamas coolness under pressure and his ignoring the crowd to put on a performance. The fascination of Obama's stillness brought the crowd to him, the phase shift of the tiredness of standing forcing the crowd into the weariness of returning home. Probably only at the last minute was the stillness of home enough to bring them through the door.

The failure of liberalism is the same as the failure of a species to survive or a message to arrive. It is no big deal. Being tolerant is fine, but would you die for tolerance? Tolerance is the ability to phase-shift into another dimension, to make a choice. Intolerance is the ability to resist, to be willing to die for something, a real skill that adds colour to the world. Whatever we do we cannot escape from creating patterns of fascination and pools of intolerance, they are same thing but just authentically witnessed from different perspectives.

The arrow of time works both ways because evolutionary changes mean we create our own environments. Only authentic values such as love, hope, change, honesty, integrity, knowing ones sense of purpose are creating the world we live in, and destroying it again through tension overloading. Dignified indifference has a lot to be said for it, avoiding the annihilation of overbearing fascination.

Cloakroom Ticket Giveaway

I love stamps!

Whilst out walking with my wife the other Sunday, and we came across a margarine tub full of stamps, so I have decided to become a stamp dealer. In order to further build up my own collection, I would like you to write to me in a hand addressed envelope, containing a return address. I shall endeavour to send by return mail a single cloakroom ticket, I have just 500 to give away.

In return for your kindness at sending me 1 used stamp, I shall become proficient in the following skills:
  1. addressing envelopes
  2. walking to the post office
  3. purchasing the correct return stamp
  4. affixing stamps accurately to the top right-hand corner of an envelope
  5. walking home
There is no specific time limit for applying for this offer, but I would prefer that most of you wrote in before 22.06.2009. I firmly believe that someone in time will be daft enough to offer you money for your raffle ticket, or even offer a prize draw. If no one else comes forward, well I will just have to do it myself. I have deliberately not made my address public, so that adds to your burden. I make no apologies for this strange course of action.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Wishful Thinking

It is unusual to write a review of a book before you have read it, but the world is full of strange and wonderful things, so there is no reason not to try. I tried eating a date today, but it was so sickly sweet it repulsed me. The world is a far better place for me giving it a go though.

Time and space travel have been freely available for a number of years now, thanks to the works of Terry Nation and the Hollywood blockbuster phenomena of action movies. But no one ever thought before that our historical philosophers like Berkeley, Mathers and Figgerson needed to trim their ideas down a bit, and put on a bit more muscle in their reasoning, until Stephen Law came along and wrote "The Philosophy Gym". Basically the technique is quite simple, pit these guys one on one in the hot, sweaty confines of a philosophical gym, and you can measure the success of their ideas by who manages to slough off the most pounds.

I recently bought Stephen's book because something was niggling me about the nature of time. For all the talk about evolution and Creationism, Dawkins always looked a bit uncomfortable on tv, and the religionists always look serene. How were we rationalists going to pack a bit more punch, and wipe the smile off their smug faces?

As an aside, the only religious leader I have ever observed in a rush is the magnificent Dalia Lama. Buddhists always have a great smile on their face, they are the only bunch I could honestly team up with. Without giving too much away, the ideas of random acts of kindness and endless re-birth have far more appeal to me, then the sanctimonious nonsense the rest of them peddle. Don't be too dismissive though, many Christian churches offer tea, cakes and jumble sales at knock down prices, and even Muslims suggest they are prepared to submit on most things. The Jewish faith offers a wealth of humour, and some contradictory arguments about whether Rabbis believe in God or not. The last religious festival that I seriously took part in was a Druid one at one of the Avebury stone circles a year or two ago. It was meant to be for the Spring Equinox, but as you know that came a little bit early that year. Sorry, what I meant to say was that due to unforeseen circumstances, our ceremony was a little bit late. However it is fantastic to meet with real people from history, such as Arthur Pendragon and Merlin. Don't get too close though as you'll find they carry a bloody big sword. Something to do with the Human Rights Act, I guess. Anyway, it's not surprise the Dalia Lama spends all his time rushing around, it is because all the other Patronisers get such an easy ride.

If you want sort out your ideas about time, trim off a bit off flabby reasoning, and buy a book that will really look good on your shelf, Stephen Law has definitely come up with the business. A word of warning though, leading existentialist Sartre only contributes by the lack off his ideas, although I guess Law is spot on with his (1905-80) estimate for Sartre's lifespan. Again as an aside, you should not infer from this that Sartre was -1,825 years old. In fact exactly the opposite! My copy of Law's excellent wikipedia of thought in action is soon going to get very well thumbed and battered. Friedrich Nietzsche, as well as sharing a middle name with my Dad, is missing from Law's book. I don't know if this is a problem, I can only presume he is still talking to that horse.

My actual problem is this: I have a copy of his book, but I don't really know if Law the person actually exists. I want to get it signed, as this baby is going stratospheric, but I cannot rely on the post, especially the Watford sorting office. Should I wrap it in a parcel and send it by DHL? How can I be certain it will be delivered, and more importantly that I get it back as well. I can't really afford to let it go, as to be without such an important document for more than one second would, literally, wrench my heart out. How on earth does the book get signed and thereby authenticated by its author, without tearing the fabric of the Universe apart to do it?

The day the internet fell silent

20.12.2009 - where were you that day? I know I am here, but where the Hell were you?

At last a bit of peace and quiet, sometime to knock together the final chart for my true love's thesis for identifying the best way to measure the effectiveness of neurological restoration for the people who are sadly afflicted with the condition named multiple sclerosis. Maybe her work is not currently as well known as, say, Ramachandran, with his bold claim of having only two selves, but evident lack of knowledge about the pantheon of Hindu gods, or even Dawkins, who is thoroughly enlightened, but at the same time is fighting the paradox that he has described the way that evolution began, but he has no prophecy for its eventual end.

Of course with my background in IT I find it easy to pit two scientists, one against the other, but someone with a lot more skill than I would be looking to answer the eternal central theological paradoxes: like was Christ really such an exhibitionist, addicted to pain and from where did Hilter learn the skill to choose the exact moment of his death? Maybe little maddie does live on, in the memories we take forward into our next re-incarnation?

Half mythical freedom-loving mystical bloody gay time-travelling eco-political liberal illiberal humanist scientists, who has ever heard of such a bunch of scaredy cats? This is the sort of thing people fight wars over! I was reminded of a joke I once heard:
"Knock, knock?
Who's there?
Nobody! Answer the bloody door yourself, you lazy fool!"
By way of a diversion, does anyone know if the placebo effect wears off? It is a widely held belief, but search as I can, the author of the thesis cannot be located. Sometimes I think you are all nothing but a bunch of time-junkies, with your continuous questioning of whether now is discrete or continuous. I know that everyone is a fan of Dr Who, Obama and Iron Man these days, but I am the sort of two-sides of the back of an envelope guy, who just sorts everything out with string and pencils (I know they exist, at least).

Here's a new qualia, as a gift to your brain. Don't send me one back, I'm never hungry until someone has made me very, very, cross.


Sound of one hand clapping? Don't make me laugh!
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's ma's a giraffe.
Because the Bishop was pissed,
And most other evidence finally de-glissed,
Our local Virgin service was chopped right in half!

Conflict resolution

The Dalia Lama says we should trust in trust. What he means is that by being trusting, we are likely, but not definitely, to engender a reciprocal feeling of trust from our opposer.

Barack Obama's motto is "Yes we can". It has motivated millions of his supporters, so it surely has great effectiveness, but it can also appear trite.

The conflict in Gaza is a long running sore in international diplomacy. Any right thinking person would like to see it come to a peaceful conclusion. I would.

I trust you transcends the "we" of "yes we can". It reminds us that "we" can mean my enemy and I. So my message of peace to all the people caught up in the Gazan crisis is: I trust that we will all see a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Gaza. Don't forget that you and I, we all have a role to play in building trust. Please don't assume that I will make the first move, because our task is far too important for that.

Liberty fieldwork: effective use of swearing in a social context

I have decided to close down the Guido Fawkes blog because the owners' cowardice offends me. Whilst Paul Staines declares he is a libertarian, this is a long way from his own philosophical position. If he were libertarian in his outlook he would be as keen to preserve my liberty, as I would be for his. Even the most simple interaction with Staines will show he is a guilt ridden coward, who lacks the courage to contribute to the political process.

I am always interested to hear other peoples views, and will of course modify my behaviour should others suggest fine tuning. If you would like to join in these sewerage operations, I suggest a light boiler suit, big boots and rubber gloves. You are likely to get filthy, but you can always contemplate a future hot bath.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Ireland v. Milton: Seconds out, round one

News from t'internets: has anyone else noticed that Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads has accused Ann Milton MP of "fraud"? No idea why he should want to be so bold, but one hopes he has the necessary evidence to back up his claim (true, he's always got tons).

PS: I had mentioned elsewhere that I should be able to run a demonstration about 2 new kinds of counting on Tuesday 19th January. Apologies in advance because reality has impinged, and I am now due to go for a long walk in Abbots Langley, with my brother who is recovering from a back operation. We are expecting to investigate the footpaths that go near the intersection of the M1 and the M25 (toot if you go past!). I hope to be able to now do my demonstration on Wednesday instead.


Insight is the process of rolling your eyeballs back round through 180° and staring directly into your brain. It is at once very painful, extremely difficult, and very frustrating; mostly due to the total absence of light in the area of your rear inner eye-ball socket.

Once you can do it you will probably realise that exactly the same effect can be achieved by moving your eyes about in the forward field of vision, and recording notable occurrences in your neural network. It doesn't hurt as much, until someone lands you with a very hard punch, simply for staring too long, or stretch the optic nerve beyond its natural limits.

Either way, thinking should be done at the time when the pain becomes unbearable.

Faith in time

One of the reasons religious writers sound far more sane than the current crop of ultra-rational evangelical atheist scientists is that theological writers have a better handle on the concept of time than their scientific counter-parts. Time is used in such an entirely practical and sensible fashion within our everyday lives, that we are liable to forget that time in itself is a concept, and one which almost certainly pre-dates the concept of science and may even pre-date the ultra useful human concept of counting.

Take this example from The Guardian 31 May 1986, p28:
"I wouldn't wish the last two years on anyone." said Debbie Moore, chairwoman of Pineapple Dance Studios. "My daughter was totally paralysed for some months. My marriage broke up. There was a lot of criticism because the New York studios were nine months late and over budget. Fortunately that's all behind us now. The company is full of life and opportunities."
Most ordinary English speaking people would have little difficulty understanding the time concepts which were being referred to here. There are indicators of time in almost every sentence, except the last. I shall try and list them below:
  1. last two years
  2. some months
  3. nine months late
  4. behind us now
However, it appears there might be a few more subtle indicators of time, which have not been listed already:

5. I wouldn't wish
6. My daughter was
7. broke up
8. There was

In fact I am not even sure I have found all the more obvious ones yet. Now we have to overlay another time concept, which is that, by default, the entire statement was made in a "now" some time before the paper was printed.

9. sometime before 31 May 1986

Already one problem has occurred. I have had to refer to a time concept "now" which was not in the original statement, but has to be implied as existing. I have no definition for "now", except I know that I am here now writing this, and you will read this at some time in the future.

Now is such an obvious concept, that we rarely trouble ourselves to think about it. But when we do we have a great deal of trouble talking about it with any certainty. Are you reading this in the same "now" as I am writing this? Or are there lots of distinct "nows" which separate you from me? We tend to think of "now" in terms of my latter question, but if so we need to ask how we get from one "now" to another? And from that a very fundamental question arises: How many "nows" have just passed between my writing this sentence and the last? We ought to able to count them, surely.

I am not going to try to answer those questions, for now. I am still here now, typing out this blog post. I want to move on to what a scientist could say about all those identified time concepts which I have listed. Scientists like to talk about evidence, so say, what lengths of time or dates would a scientist say the above statement represents.

  1. a period roughly approximate to two years, some time before 31/5/86
  2. probably more than one month, most likely less than a year, but possibly greater. No greater than two years
  3. nine months after the originally expected date
  4. in the past
Another problem occurs here. "In the past" is neither a length of time, nor a date. I could have said "some time before 31/5/86", but "some time" seems like a very vague way to talk about time, particularly if that is the very subject of this piece. Can I define "in the past" without getting into the same problems which I fell into when talking about "now"? "In the past" is the thing which has allowed now to come about. I still don't know if I am living in one long now, or whether I pass between discrete uncountable "nows" to get from the past to now, but certainly all I experience is just being in one long now. Similarly, "the future" is the thing which occurs as a result of now. Does the future really exist? It doesn't just yet, but it will in time. Yet another problem, I can't talk about the future, without referring back to time, my subject. And when I get to "the future", it will become "now", certainly as I experience it.

I am going to set aside looking at the other items listed for now, because I want to go back to why theologians can talk about time with much greater ease than scientists. Here's a very famous first line from a book:
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
Three major religions, in all their varieties use this text, and so the knowledge of the phrase is very widely known and spoken with great authority. Some scientists and some people known as creationists argue about the literal worth of the text found within the Bible. In essence the scientists accuse the theologians of being "overly literal" and theologians accuse the scientists of not being able to interpret "the meaning" of the text. Because I am writing as neither a scientist nor a theologian, I shall introduce an even more literal reading of the line above, to try to take a look to see if there is actually an even deeper meaning hidden within.

The standard interpretation of the line seems to be that God came first, then he created two places called heaven and earth. I am deliberately going to over-interpret the meaning of the line, to see where it might go.

The first thing is an "in": by implication there must also be an out.
The second thing is a "the": by implication there must also be an "a".
The third thing is a "beginning": by implication there must also be an "end".
Then came "God".

In my "ultra-rational, ultra-orthodox scientific-theology" there are actually six things which preceded God, and we might also infer there was also some "space", so that would possibly make seven things before God. God no longer comes first, God comes sixth or seventh. I am not going to count any further, because it becomes quite hard. But I would just like to observe that "beginning" precedes God. Beginning is of course a central concept of time, it is the arising of the start of something over time.

I believe that a Buddhist theologian would not necessarily accept that time itself has a beginning. But I firmly believe that when Jews, Christians and Muslims assert "In the beginning God ..." they are laying out the foundations of the concept of time. I am fairly certain that Buddhists speak about consciousness not arising, meaning that there is no beginning or end to consciousness. I am beginning to wonder if a universe without consciousness could even exist. In a direct comparison to the Buddhist paradox of what is the sound of one hand clapping, what could a universe without some consciousness to be aware of it look like?

The scientists' problem is this: what evidence have you got for the fundamentals of time, or is it just something which you have always assumed existed in it's own right? Theologians might consider what meaning we have, if we are nothing more than consciousness arising from a profound sense of "I"; and did time pre-exist God, or did God invent time?

As a philosopher I am going to ponder on the question of why counting is not quite as easy as it seems at first glance, and as a mathematician is shall enquire as to whether true/false really counts as three.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sick minded comment of the day

Field Work: Free Speech on the Blogosphere

Quick blog round-up

Currently banned at Liberal Conspiracy, Chicken Yoghurt and Bloggerheads. I suspect the usual issues with liberals. Semi banned at Guido Fawkes. Never quite sure what he's hiding, but he's hiding something. Donal Blaney seems to be talking to me again. He is sensitive to claims about misogyny.

Out of all of them Iain Dale has never actually banned me, even though I try as hard I can to be rude about him.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Iain Dale's Diary: When the Left Falls Out

Via Iain Dale's Diary: When the Left Falls Out

and via Tim Ireland at Bloggerheads, I learn that Derek Draper has said to Tim "i am not accountable to you". Outrageous! Who the hell does he think he is accountable to? God?

Two Jokes Nailed

Congratulations to Robert Marquand Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor. Referring to the inclusion of the word "probably" in the Atheist Bus campaign, he says:
"This led to amusement by atheists and believers alike ..."
Marquand is nailing on the head the very essence of a good joke, showing how atheists and believers were both stoking the runaway success of Ariane Sherine's advertising campaign.

I can't help contrasting the light-hearted, up-beat tone of Sherine's atheist campaign, with the pointed, hectoring tone of Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation". Maybe he has surveyed how many Christians have actually read his book, and finding the results a bit disappointing, he needs other means to prove his point. He is currently working on a True Lie Detection machine. Back in the Letter, Harris sets up a classic dichotomy in his opening pages, but then flunks it when he says:
"So let us be honest with ourselves: in the fullness of time, one side is really going to win this argument, and the other side is really going to lose."
I wonder if his machine will be able to us if his statement above is the truth, a lie, or maybe just a prophecy? Harris fits the role of a modern day Cassandra - fated to always tell the truth, but never to be believed. There must be a powerful moral in all this somewhere, but nothing is coming to the fore. Never thought though, that the best discussion of the whole subject was going to be found in Christian Science Monitor, wonders will never cease.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Sauce of Humour Detected

Ah, poor sweet lamb, I seem to have upset Sunny Hundal. He says:
Furthermore, just to let you know all your further comments will be deleted, as they were in the past.
Looks like I have tested free speech to its very limits at Liberal Conspiracy. Afraid to name me or even say what I have done wrong, he's just cross with me. I had the temerity to argue the case that LibCon was both unconsciously humorous and unable to defend itself from a counter-charge of smugness. Never mind, I expect he'll get over it.

Friday, 9 January 2009

There's Probably No God: Now prove it!

Stephen Law reports that a complaint has been raised to the Advertising Standards Authority about a current bus advertising slogan: "There's Probably No God."

Law is hoping for "fun". As a contributor to the campaign, which was mostly funded by private donations, I'm hoping my £10 will pay for a new bit of philosophy.

If the ASA decides the complaint may have legs, the question will settle around whether the sponsors of the advert, the British Humanist Association, can substantiate the "probably no god" claim with evidence, and so prove its truthfulness. Unfortunately for the BHA, philosophers have long argued that you cannot produce evidence to prove that something doesn't exist. In this case the BHA may need to go just one step further and provide evidence on the probability of something not existing.

In a wonderful inversion of Bertrand Russell's Flying Teapot problem, Stephen Green of Christian Voice's complaint about the ads has challenged humanists to prove to the ASA that a purported non-existent thing not existing is more likely than it actually existing. In doing so, he has unleashed the invisible pink unicorn, let his dragon out of the garage and is preparing to monster the humanists with spaghetti.

In my last post:

I sloganised that:
God is 5 per cent do-good-ism, and 95 per cent comfort blanket.
and I have previously mentioned that I have a problem with the BHA on the grounds that it pre-judges its own activities as "good":

So I suppose I can modify my slogan thus:
Humanism is 5 per cent do-good-ism, and 95 per cent comfort blanket.
How rude am I about people who claim to be doing good as a pre-condition for their own activities? I'm almost saying that humanists are just as misguided in their thinking as religionists.

If the ASA calls for it, in order to save the campaign, what will be needed from the BHA is an advanced piece of technical philosophy on why in fact there could be evidence for the non-existence of god, and then of course the evidence itself. Good luck humanists, I think you are going to need it.