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On Lectures Given in Grand Rapids
Posted: 14 March 2009 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Natural Selection on Groups

(Professor Carl Bajema speaks often at the Science Cafe events in Grand
Rapids. One of his favorite propositions is that group selection has no
foundation.)

Many biologists and other analysts have written on group selection. Some
biologists resist the concept. I propose to use the tools of careful
categorical analysis and nonlinear mathematics that transfer well to
this discussion.

V. C. Wynne-Edwards and Howard K. Bloom have written on different
aspects of group selection. Whereas Richard Dawkins and Professor Carl
Bajema speak against the notion.

Mathematical biologists have employed a simplified mathematical argument
to “disprove” group selection, but I, and some others according to
Wikipedia, object to the applicability of that mathematics. It seems to
me that the mathematics in question discounts the selection of
specialized behavior and capabilities for individuals - this selection
being based in part on the benefits of “economic trade” for mutual
“profit”. Trading, whether opportunistic or deriving from
specialization, can often be nonlinear in effect - not a zero sum game.
But inept mathematics can average over or not account for the effect.

So the specialization of individuals to the point of distinct bell
curves would be suggestive evidence for group selection. This sort of
evidence is abundant, it seems to me, going beyond the accidental
discreteness of genetic inheritance. Consider first of all the
“youthfulness” of offspring and the “elderlyness” of parents that has
existed since the age of bacteria. Think of the two specialized sexes
that are prevalent throughout the plant and animal kingdoms of life on
earth. Then there are symbioses, inter-species signaling and ecosystems
to be considered with careful categorical analysis.

I like to think that some of the variant temperaments exhibited by human
beings are selected to the point of distinct bell curves due to the
economic benefit of specialization. Consider the nature of these human
categories: male and female psychologies; The restless and footloose;
the gifted - excitable and independent; the flaky, impulsive and moody;
the anxious and ritualists; bullies and tribalists; and scavengers and
predators.

Howard K. Bloom wrote about a kind of command economy that is mandated
by instinct and selected for by the efficiency of specialization.
Wynne-Edwards wrote of selection due to the economic profit that comes
from efficiencies of scale and sharing of a minimum investment by a
group. Defense of territory and a shared mead hall are examples. (A
minimum investment is definitely nonlinear in effect.) There is the
mutual and nonlinear profit available from social insurance. Hunting
bands that share the food brought back to camp survive longer. There is
selection for individuals that are compatible with groups, and for those
who can specialize. There are economies of scale in language and lore.

Professor Bajema protests that kin selection is a covering concept that
cancels the notion of group selection, and that “helping behavior”
yields the only benefit for kin gathering into groups. But kin selection
is not an exclusion of group selection, nor is it orthogonally
independent. So, kin selection and group selection must overlap. And
isn’t there sufficient evidence of group selection that is not covered
by the rubric of kin selection?


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 30 March 2009 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The Economic Crisis

Professor John Nader spoke in February at a CFI Michigan lecture in
Grand Rapids. I think that his analysis of the current economic crisis
can be usefully discussed.

He compared the crisis in the Detroit automobile industry to a reduction
in farming one century ago. But there is a difference: the loss of a few
farming households had no deleterious effect on the viability of other
farms. But the automobile industry is an example for the phenomenon in
complex systems of multiple equilibria. And the industry palpably
needs a minimum investment for continued viability.

Professor Nader did mention cascade effects with regard to the financial
system. This is one cause of multiple equilibria. Another is the
existence of foreign competition. And another is the existence of
efficiency breakthroughs that come with scale. The phenomenon of
multiple equilibria is one justification for public intervention and
participation in investment.

Professor Nader understated the nature of education as a public good;
public safety may be the least of it. I saw an analysis that the end
customer gains the most benefit from an educated worker - more than the
employer or worker. There may even be a minimum national investment to
be made due to international competition.

I did not foresee the current recession caused by a financial panic and
credit contraction. Even reading the Business Week edition about Bear
Stearns 13 months ago did not set off urgent alarms. If I were deputized
to guard against this sort of thing, I would have to turn in my badge.
Instead I was expecting a 1975 style recession in 2006 or 2007 due to
the increasing cost of imported oil. This did not happen due, it seems
to me, to the nonlinear resistance of a growing economy to a slowdown.
But an economy in recession has no such resistance, I suspect.

Professor Nader was certainly correct in comparing this economic crisis
to a perfect storm, with the cost of oil, a housing bubble, and a
financial crisis from excessive and unregulated leverage all adding
together and mutually tripping off the collapse of the various bubbles.
One cause was not enough.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 29 May 2009 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It is said now that the financial panic has been recently fixed. Indeed the LIBOR rate has recently returned to the normal range that was explained by experts last year.

It was my naive expectation in October that the financial panic could be repaired in two months. I also naively thought that simulative spending of the correct amount could be brought on line in the same two months. With this done, my thought was that the contraction of the economy would then halt about six months later, July perhaps. (This rough and ready thought process of mine is derived from my study of the recessions in the 1970s.)

The White House has announced an opinion that the contraction will halt in the third quarter. But this is excessively optimistic, my rule of thumb indicates the end of the year. It is much as when Ronald Reagan announced the end of that recession in the spring of 1982, But I knew perfectly well that the bottom would be about November.

Maybe, countermeasures to financial panics and economic contraction should be queued up in advance. A shorter recession is a less severe recession.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 03 July 2009 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Regards for the presentation on the Reasonable Doubts podcast given by the originators, Jeremy Beahan, Luke Galen and David Fletcher, in Grand Rapids on June 10, 2009.

A question on physics came up in the context of Christian apologetics. Namely, are there free parameters available in the theory of physics that could be tuned by a creator for the purpose of supporting life in the universe?

Indeed there are free parameters - the all but uncountable accidents of history - that can not be accounted for by first principle. Yes but are there initial conditions to account for all of the following accidents of history? No. Examples of chaotic divergence and the empirically acknowledged principles of quantum mechanics show the partial autonomy of historical events which thereby can not be predicted even with the maximum possible observation.

Does this leave scope for the action of a creator? No, because causality does not extend outside of classical physics with any reliability backed by mathematical proof. Metaphysics leaves behind the solid predictions of the mathematical system that constitutes mechanics. These accidents are even partially logically independent, as well as partially uncaused. Godel’s proof applies.

What is the number of principles and universal parameters? In nonclassical physics, the number is unlimited - Godel’s proof. What is the number of parameters in the main path of classical physics then? Planck relativity reduces the number of free parameters to a lower number than most physicists realize. But thinking of a hyperspacetime representation of the “Standard Model” yields many fixed cosmological lengths and relative angles with no immediate explanation of their magnitude, theorems of relativity and of the plenum not accounting for all of them. Michio Kaku in his book “Hyperspace” gives the conventional count of 19 free parameters in the “Standard Model”. The Professor then expresses hope that all variations decay to just one predictable set.

What Christian apologists should be advised to do is to give up, with consistency, the idea of God being a mechanical cause - that makes God part of the universe. They would then follow Spinoza in identifying their God with uncaused principle, ameliorating religious practice in the process of this rethinking.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 09 July 2009 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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So now the White House is admitting that the stimulus package is too small, and is hinting at too much political opposition for a second package. Professor Krugman gets a laurel for his criticism from the left.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.../paul-krugman-stimulus-too_n_167721.html


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 09 July 2009 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Professor Josef Gregory Mahoney spoke on Marxism, dialectics, and Chinese tradition for the gathering of CFI Michigan W in Grand Rapids on July 8, 2009.

Wow!

He thinks or implies that the non Western dialectic adopted in China will allow for the continuation of that regime. But he also admits that dialectics does not lead to science. I propose to state my angle on both propositions.

As for the stability of the regime, it never really occurred to me that the failure of fascism in the West would not apply to China. Fascists in the West that I considered were Freudian failures - neurotic after the prototype of Oedipus Rex - Hitler and Mussolini. Is Freud really not an invariant?

Physicists from the Far East are authoritarian and textually minded, it seems to me. Their rare innovations are just textual rather than insightful. They do not attempt a liberal post modern sort of science. Indeed, I do not know how to do a dialectical or post modern physics.

I write criticism of academic physics regarding its Freudian trend to dogmatic irrelevance - well advanced. I find a particular construction of physics to be necessary - one that is neither timelessly authoritarian and arbitrary, nor post modern and undefined or else determined by human fads. Actual contradictions do not survive in a successful assembly of physical theories, those are reserved for high metaphysics. There is a subjective appearance of a desperate finesse by the universe which is embodied in the experience of observers, all to avoid physical contradictions.

Of course, by Spinoza’s principle (as I call it), there can be no cosmic censor to actually perform any such finesse. No principle of causation is available for a would be cosmic censor to operate under. Instead, by Spinoza’s principle, different mathematical systems permissively coexist wherever and whenever they can. They compete on an a priori basis for the experience and attention of observers. The most competitive systems are simply and distinctly defined, so that they appear more in the random competition. Then again they should have the widest range of expression. Some mathematical systems are successful in capturing by theorem one kind or another of the experience of observers, so that those systems do not seem to be mere coincidence.

I have not thought that this would qualify as dialectic.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 17 July 2009 06:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Global Warming is Your Fault

Presented by Figen Mekik, PhD, Associate Professor of Geology , Grand Valley State University

December 10, 2008

This talk was presented in Grand Rapids last winter. It presented for me a bracing review of the geophysics of the green house effect.

But now, a new obfuscation of the issue has made it into the scientific literature. It is not trivial. It would be a serious project for me to refute it. I see blogs that attempt a refutation but they are mistaken. Look at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090713085248.htm

The claim there that the accumulated waste heat from civilization has caused most of the measured global warming is obviously bogus. Its implication that the green house effect of carbon dioxide accounts for a small amount is also immediately seen as bogus. They can not legitimately compare 80 years of waste heat to the heat from one year of the current accumulated green house effect. And they can not compare the waste heat from burning carbon to only one year of the resulting green house increment. The increment of the green house effect from burning carbon persists for thousands of years if I remember the authorities correctly. The article criticizes nuclear power for its waste heat, but that does not compare to the persisting green house effect from the equivalent burning of carbon.

I saw a blog that compared one year of waste heat to the heat from one year of the accumulated green house effect; it then concluded that waste heat is trivial. This is also a bad comparison. If I were to take on the project, I would need to show the waste heat from one year of power production, then add to it the heat from the thousands of years that the increment in green house warming creates, then show how long it takes for each yearly installment to be lost by radiation into space. Only then could I declare that waste heat is trivial.

The article points out that much heat goes into melting ice, which then is not radiated into space. More goes into heating the ground and ocean, which would not be radiated into space as quickly as that which remains in the air. The importance of waste heat depends on how long it remains. Of course it would be an extended project to calculate this.

Let’s do a quick calculation anyway. Let’s imagine that nuclear power production increases the rate of net heating on Earth by 1%. Then It follows from basic calculus that the temperature on Earth increases by .25% in the stratosphere to maintain the radiative power at 1% higher. So, maybe the temperature is less than 1 degree Celsius higher at equilibrium. But this means that an enormous amount of ice begins to melt. And the ground and ocean eventually increase in temperature by that amount.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 14 September 2009 09:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Doctor John Shook spoke at the CFI gathering in Grand Rapids on the second Wednesday of September. The talk was a little bit like the Baltimore Catechism, except that it provided preformulated arguments for atheism instead of Catholicism.

He was rightly asked afterwards about one of his checklist assertions, namely that causation is the centerpiece of reasoned thought. “What about quantum mechanics?” was the question. He could only say that quantum mechanics was a special exception, and he appealed to the unknown. He was forced to break his own criteria of reason.

No, causality is not a centerpoint of reason; instead there are mathematical systems where causation is a theorem, or at least an axiom. Einstein-Davis theory and thermodynamics are two distinct and independent examples of this. Other mathematical systems appear in physics that are not centered on causation at all, and these do not need to be thought of as exceptional. Consider how Professor Joseph Jauch renders quantum mechanics: Quantum states, as he poses them, are categorical propositions that are related by a probability of transition between them (as well as by logic). Causation is not of the essence here, though the matter is fundamental to physics.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 15 September 2009 07:37 AM by mburns ]
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Posted: 10 January 2010 01:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I have received notice today that there is now another place for announcements of meetings in Grand Rapids:

http://groups.google.com/a/centerforinquiry.net/group/cfimicafeinquirygr

These Cafe Inquiry meetings are less of a lecture and much more of a discussion group. For instance, I was fortunate to have given a talk there on Spinoza and his peril as a free thinker in the 17th Century. The audience paid close attention and pursued excellent questions.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 10 January 2010 02:05 PM by mburns ]
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Posted: 10 January 2010 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The Sin of Free Thinking

Benedict de Spinoza: November 1632 – February 1677
Milieu, life events, and ideas

There was an underground fringe in Amsterdam of deists, alchemists, and scoffers at scripture and clergy. And Republicans and Cartesian thinkers were actually an important force. In early modern times, fueled by trade and the printing press, there was more scope for heterodoxy, perhaps suppression was not so affordable, or commerce encouraged some implicit rationality. The Prince, the corporate monopolies, and the Calvinists were allied in their bid for authority, but were unable to suppress much of the ferment. A brilliant and friendly young man such as Spinoza could find and learn from the fringe element. And so he did. His Latin teacher was a deist and indulged in satire of the clergy – Francis Van Den Ende was later killed in France.
Spinoza, I think,was an autodidact powered by a variant temperament. It took only a measure of stimulus from his diverse surroundings, and the permission of a political environment that was barely survivable, to launch him on his solitary studies.

Earlier, Spinoza studied at the Yeshiva of the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam, then worked as a partner in his father’s import firm until it went bust from war with England and assumption of an insolvent estate’s debts. On his parents’ deaths, Spinoza took shelter from creditors with the Orphan Chamber. This was contrary to Jewish Law and contributed to his excommunication from the Jewish community. He also began speaking out publicly against essential Jewish doctrines, as well as the kind of anti-intellectualism displayed in the study of the Cabala. He was excommunicated and cursed at age 24, this in part to demonstrate to to the authorities that the Jewish community was trustworthy in legal and commercial affairs.

He soon moved to a town outside of the University of Leiden. He ground microscope lens, participated in a liberal Christian group, and probably held tutorial sessions for university students as well, in geometry and the Cartesian system of knowledge.

On leaving that area for The Hague, he quickly wrote and published a text book on the Cartesian system that immediately became well regarded. Faithful by hypothesis in the main, it was subversive on the edge, not suppressing indications of Spinoza’s project of a thorough-going reformulation of the new rationalist system.

But Descartes was becoming the new dogmatic style at this University. Cartesianism was a try at a unified rationalism, but it was deficient in many details. Spinoza was able to to demolish those deficiencies, targeting in particular the doctrine of dualism and the deference to Christian orthodoxy.

Spinoza probably took up his practice of tutorials, this time for the elite intellectuals at the capital city. A later critic complained of his covert influence there that persisted for decades. His increasing reputation required progressively more privacy for his teaching. His book of Scriptural criticism, The Tractatus ... , was published with a fictitious publisher and identified by his initials, B. D. S., but it was traced to his authorship anyway. If it had been written in Dutch, he could have been imprisoned and starved, as two other free thinkers were.

Spinoza’s Tractatus was, with only informal precedents, fully modern in the art of Scriptural criticism. And it also did not refrain from explicitly using for enlightenment his own philosophical system – one which broke out of the boundaries of deism, as well as theism and the lesser superstitions. The work was reconcilable with religious belief only by way of an initial proforma hypothesis. And it openly implied that orthodoxy should not be imposed on philosophers. Locke preceded Spinoza in arguing for freedom of speech, but The Tractatus is very moving in its version of the argument.

His Ethics manuscript was a labor of decades. When it was finished, reactionary theologians complained to the Prince that Spinoza had in press a book which proved atheism. Spinoza retreated to his garret in The Hague for the remaining two years of his life.

In The Ethics, Spinoza took up his uniquely radical positions, for realism, rationalist determinism, and the unification of knowledge. Metaphysics, physics, anthropology, and psychology were all posed as cumulative prerequisites for the formation of ethics – knowing what to do, and how to manage to actually do it. His metaphysics is astonishing, his physics is flawed, and his psychology and ethics are still admired by academics.

Spinoza took Nature and God as synonyms in his Ethics. But he denied the charges of atheism and pantheism. No enumeration of events ever amounts to an approximation of Nature itself. And he wrote that a miracle would only persuade him of atheism.

Spinoza’s God is not a deity which designed creation. A-priori, there is only the potential of Nature which could not go unfulfilled. It is logical determinism of a scope and comprehensiveness that is just boggling. Sublime was the 19th Century term for it.
He held that the pursuit of philosophy is the only unmitigated good, that it allows for a chance that the emotions of the philosopher could organize a plurality in favor of rational action.

Spinoza’s physics contains a major error, the premature conflation of the force of logic with the force of inertia. The problem was left to Einstein. He was the physicist who was uniquely able to implement in large part the physics of Spinoza in his theory of general relativity. Einstein then defended his result against the mysticism and empiricism that were yoked together by Niels Bohr.

Spinoza’s Ethics is corrected in part by the observations of Sigmund Freud, and by the accumulation of empirical evidence on human psychology by academics.

And his metaphysics can not evade the need to be profoundly corrected by the implications of Gödel’s proof, and by the empirical evidence for quantum mechanics, as I understand the issue.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 20 January 2010 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Ibn Warraq’s seminar on Thursday

This event should not go without notice.

I see the extraordinary generosity of providing all of this content without charge. Indeed there were more than 110 pages of handout provided. And the hours of earnestly given instruction were a match for it. The quantity, scholarly quality, and cogency of the information freely offered there must be acknowledged.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 06 February 2010 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Natural Selection on Groups Again

Professor Carl Bajema will speak in Grand Rapids again at the Cafe Inquiry, Feb. 14 2010, on a subject related to natural selection on groups, namely the evolution of morality.

Let me add to my commentary on groups, that is shown above, in anticipation of his talk. After all, morality could be by its definition nothing other than the modification of behavior that facilitates life in the presence of a group. Spinoza knew this.

An important addition to my comments above is to note that the mathematics that was used in the 1980s to criticize the initial discussion of the evolution of groups uses averaging in its simulation of groups and individuals. But averaging smooths over the very essence of natural selection. Natural selection is mostly not at all about average environments, average times, and average objects of selection.

Averaging could be applied to the vicissitudes of the natural environment, to the modifications of the environment by groups, to the effects over individuals, to the effects on an individual over time, as well as to the capabilities of groups or individuals, whether between the objects of selection over time, or over all. So the mathematics of averaging, that was used back in the 1980s, merely shows that nonaverage events, nonaverage groups, and nonaverage individuals are critical to understanding the evolution of groups.

Fluctuations over time of experience and capability greatly increase the utility of both market activity and group social insurance. And differences in individual capability, even to the point of different bell curves, also increase the utility of markets and social insurance within a group.

I would say that many sports and games constitute evidence for the utility of groups. Kinship is not the only justification for their existence.

Groups based only on kinship would imply a morality far different from that implied by the existence of groups that derive their advantage from nonaverage effects and capabilities.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 06 February 2010 02:58 PM by mburns ]
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Posted: 10 May 2010 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Corporations Can Not Be Allowed To Electioneer.

The legal existence of corporations is, in its origin and current purpose, a concession to the interests of stock holders so that they might invest at a rate that is sufficient to support private commercial activity at its full potential. It may be that more or fewer concessions to the interests of investors might be necessary to sustain a full level of commerce depending on circumstance.

But this necessity does not extend to the allowing of electioneering by corporations. It is sufficient for their purpose of existence to allow them due process rights before government functionaries, and to allow corporations the right to represent themselves on issues important to their operation to the public in a way that is not electioneering. This must be done in a fashion that does not drown out individuals, and does not beat out organizations that are designed for the purpose of electioneering by their natural right. Corporations do not possess this natural right by the nature of their design.

A natural right is, of the first type, that which can be successfully defended over the long term - the existence of which is compatible with a peaceable and sophisticated civilization. A natural right of the second type is that which must be defended by government and other organizations in order to conserve civilization.

Electioneering by corporations does not qualify, instead it is a public nuisance. Government powers to regulate nuisances are not weak at all when natural rights are not at stake. And the principle of tolerance does not seem to apply here, since the level of nuisance is quite significant, and the government is not at all lacking in practical power to restrict this behavior.

It seems to me that the commerce clause can be applied here. It is legitimate to mandate that commercial revenues not be diverted to political purposes. The property and political interests of even a majority of stock holders might be violated by revenues spent on electioneering, customers also.

I do not see a small or incrementally changeable distinction here. It seems, by natural right, that organizations for electioneering should be funded by taxable personal income, and that they should be governed by representatives elected by all of the would-be members of the group. So corporations, churches, labor unions and universities are among the entities of civilization that do not really qualify for participation in public elections.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 14 May 2010 08:38 AM by mburns ]
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Posted: 05 June 2010 12:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Proper Kudos to Sigmund Freud

The recent lecture on “The God Virus”, by Darrel W. Ray, described, to great effect, many or most of the germane properties of religion. Sigmund Freud really has academic priority here with his great but flawed book “Totem and Taboo”, but he was not mentioned in the lecture. I can understand the avoidance of unnecessary controversy in a self-help group, but CFI Michigan, as a para-academic organization, really ought to defy taboo and grant well-earned credit even to controversial figures such as Sigmund Freud.

Then Professor Galen, in a notable surprise to me, broke taboo by displaying Sigmund Freud’s image on the screen during his recent lecture. But he then observed taboo, as I see it, by deprecating Freud’s work. Professor Galen upheld two lesser figures, who resisted Freud’s work, as superior successors. It is perplexing to me to see Adler’s moral preaching and Carl Jung’s founding of a new superstitious religion held up as preferable to Sigmund Freud’s psychotherapy and analytical work.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 16 July 2010 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Double Dip Recession

There has been a remarkable discussion of a double dip in the economy by the media recently. Ordinarily I see no discussion of upcoming recessions.

What does the rule of thumb that I have been using say? It is simple but does take account of nonlinearity in the economy.

Look at the money supply. http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/M1SL The rough rule states that the money supply must remain flat for one year before the economy dips.

Look at the end of the stimulus package spending. http://www.input.com/corp/economic-stimulus.cfm It is not tapering off much just yet. The rough rule states that this sort of spending on the margin must decline for six months to slow the economy. Discontinued spending might make for a slowing of the economy of double the amount if the upward bias for growth is overcome.

So it looks like no dip until next summer at least.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 26 August 2010 03:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100825131437.htm

Natural Selection Alone Can Explain Eusociality, Scientists Say

Let’s see how well Richard Dawkins can take evidence to the contrary.


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