Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Charles Darwin, 1881, photograph by Herbert Rose Barraud

Wednesday Morning EDT/
Wednesday Evening Japan Time
Hell in a Handbasket Update

Presented with the assistance of Charles Darwin, 
12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882
He was a thoughtful, intelligent and conflicted man. 
He was not an ogre out to disestablish God. 
He sought truth as he found it in the study of Nature.
If you find an error in his work, 
And there are many, 
That doesn't mean you have proved that the Bible is inerrant.

To sum up, I believe that species come to be tolerably well-defined objects, and do not at any one period present an inextricable chaos of varying and intermediate links: firstly, because new varieties are very slowly formed, for variation is a very slow process, and natural selection can do nothing until favourable variations chance to occur, and until a place in the natural polity of the country can be better filled by some modification of some one or more of its inhabitants. And such new places will depend on slow changes of climate, or on the occasional immigration of new inhabitants, and, probably, in a still more important degree, on some of the old inhabitants becoming slowly modified, with the new forms thus produced and the old ones acting and reacting on each other. So that, in any one region and at any one time, we ought only to see a few species presenting slight modifications of structure in some degree permanent; and this assuredly we do see. - On The Origin Of Species

The Wall Street Journal has a summing up of the first day of the events at Fukushima Daiichi and tells us what readers of this blog already know. The cascading disaster at the nuclear plants was much worse than presented by the authorities and their failures of action and their lack of truthfulness were numerous. 
Some highlights:
-It was thought they were unneeded so there were no filters on the vent pipes to remove nuclear materials when high pressure radioactive gas filled the reactor buildings. This delayed venting to allow time for  evacuation and ultimately caused explosions. 
-The emergency cooling system at the melted down reactor one didn't operate properly, probably because of a combination of human error and battery failure after the loss of electrical power. 
-The emergency response center fifteen miles from the plant lost power and all (satellite, cell, landline) telephone communication. The emergency power plant failed. 
-Authorities mistakenly thought reactor 2 was the problem when it was reactor 1 all along. This mistake allowed the meltdown of reactor 1 to occur.  

The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic. -Autobiography

The nuclear industry in the UK through the good graces and soothing words of nuclear chief inspector, Mike Weightman, has convinced the government that what happened in Japan could never happen there according to the Guardian UK. 

"The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima – the magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami – are not credible in the UK.
"We are 1,000 miles from the nearest fault line and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards.
"Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different from the type at the Fukushima plant.

As has been made clear, this is the same fallacious reasoning presented in the US to justify the continuation of the nuclear program. Each nuclear disaster is different. That is what is so dangerous about this kind of energy generation. It requires complicated and expensive systems that can fail in myriad ways, each of which a public relations flack could justifiably say: "That failure, well, it can't happen here."

In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.  -Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879

 The New York Times says today that Fukushima Daiichi had recently installed the same new more powerful and modern GE venting systems which American plants claimed would prevent the problems which occurred in Japan. These systems  failed to react properly when workers finally tried to use them in Japan. The nuclear industry can't get prevarication (lies) out of their system.

[In conversation with the atheist Edward Aveling, 1881] Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind? -from Edward Aveling, The religious views of Charles Darwin, 1883

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the corrupt Japanese government is now requesting their corrupt banks to assist the corrupt TEPCO by granting them loans which they probably never will repay without assistance extorted from the people by the corrupt government. 
This means the people of Japan, through taxes,  will be subsidizing a failed and criminal capitalist company which does not deserve to exist any longer. 

"The accident occurred on March 11. Accidents like this are factored into loans made prior to that. Naturally, I expect financial institutions to be asked for cooperation in light of Tokyo Electric's new financial standing," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a regular news conference.

My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design. - Letter to Joseph Hooker, July 12 1870

It is really funny that an establishment news outlet like NBC, which predictably mocks  all conspiracy theories, is giving a little credence to the notion that  Dominique Strauss-Kahn was set up. From The Wall Street Journal:

NBC touted the conspiracy theories surrounding the case as the news broke. On Monday's Today, Lauer talked to Newsweek's Paris bureau chief Christopher Dickey, and gave credibility to the bizarre claims: "Talk to me about the more conspiratorial aspect of this....there are some people speculating that this was more than just a chance encounter. That, in fact, Strauss-Kahn was set up. And some have even speculated...that Nicolas Sarkozy could have been behind something like this. Take me through it."
"Dickey went after Sarkozy: "He's seen as an absolutely ruthless, no-holds-barred politician. Some people even compare him to the gangster actor Joe Pesci, just in his manner. That's one of the reasons the French don't like him. They don't like his style." He then explained: "So the minute his main political rival falls into this bizarre situation, horrible situation, in New York and is accused of crimes and is taken on a perp walk, many people sort of automatically assume Sarkozy must have had something to do with this."

The Washington Post has posted a discussion with establishment conspiracy experts, the so very cautious and reasonable debunkers, Ilan Shrira and George Johnson on  the DSK affair and other myths today. An example: 

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way."
Q: Was FDR, whose quotation this is, a conspiracy theorist? And, in light of the Bay of Tonkin, the US-condoned attack on the spy ship USS Liberty by Israel in the '67 war, Project Northwoods, MK-Ultra, Iran-Contra, the creation of the Federal Reserve (from Jekyll Island to its Christmas Eve 1913 Senate vote and Wilson's later lament, "I've ruined my country!" ), and a host of other thoroughly documented conspiracy facts, many quite horrific, why do you present this Q&A session regarding the DSK affair--about which surely FDR would have had some private words to share--as an opportunity to use a social psychologist and a slayer of conspiracy strawmen to further paint those who agree with our 32nd president as abberants?
May 17, 2011 1:13 PM
I don't know the FDR quote, but I doubt that he meant that everything, down to the finest detail, is planned -- that nothing happens accidentally. (Some conspiracy theorists have actually called that view "accident theory.") And of course there are real conspiracies -- just not the overarching, almost supernatural ones that some people are so eager to invent and believe.
– May 17, 2011 1:43 PM
Can we really say that FDR was a conspiracy theorist just from this quote? Imagine if George W. Bush had said the same thing--Would you still interpret it as conspiracy-minded?
But you bring up a good point. That there have been conspiracies uncovered in US history (things that almost anyone would agree constitutes a conspiracy--something like the Tuskegee experiment). But just because they have happened in the past, this doesn't not necessarily lend credibility to conspiracy theorizing on any given issue.
– May 17, 2011 1:43 PM

The establishment would want us to take seriously the possibility that a rich privileged man like DSK could be the victim of a conspiracy with a Ghanaian maid at the center while we are expected to accept that John F. Kennedy, or his brother, or Martin Luther King, or George Wallace, or Malcolm X could never have been victims of  conspiracies of the rich and privileged who give orders to governments.

There can be no doubt that the difference between the mind of the lowest man and that of the highest animal is immense. An anthropomorphous ape, if he could take a dispassionate view of his own case, would admit that though he could form an artful plan to plunder a garden--though he could use stones for fighting or for breaking open nuts, yet that the thought of fashioning a stone into a tool was quite beyond his scope. Still less, as he would admit, could he follow out a train of metaphysical reasoning, or solve a mathematical problem, or reflect on God, or admire a grand natural scene. Some apes, however, would probably declare that they could and did admire the beauty of the coloured skin and fur of their partners in marriage. They would admit, that though they could make other apes understand by cries some of their perceptions and simpler wants, the notion of expressing definite ideas by definite sounds had never crossed their minds. They might insist that they were ready to aid their fellow-apes of the same troop in many ways, to risk their lives for them, and to take charge of their orphans; but they would be forced to acknowledge that disinterested love for all living creatures, the most noble attribute of man, was quite beyond their comprehension. - The Descent of Man

The Pharyngula blog posts today on the subject "Evolution is a Jewish Conspiracy" in which PZ Myers tells us  that Karl Marx did not dedicate Das Kapital to Charles Darwin as many creationists believe. He outlines some of the attempts by creationists to prove their point by linking evolution, Darwin, Communists, Karl Marx and Jews. [The guilt by association fallacy.]

With savages, for instance, the Australians, the women are the constant cause of war both between members of the same tribe and between distinct tribes. So no doubt it was in ancient times; "nam fuit ante Helenam mulier teterrima belli causa." [ Darwin has cleaned up the original of Horace: Nam fuit ante Helenam cunnus taeterrima belli causa. which can be translated roughly as: For even before Helen's time many a hideous cunt was the cause of war. -JB] With some of the North American Indians, the contest is reduced to a system. That excellent observer, Hearne (22. 'A Journey from Prince of Wales Fort,' 8vo. ed. Dublin, 1796, p. 104. Sir J. Lubbock ('Origin of Civilisation,' 1870, p. 69) gives other and similar cases in North America. For the Guanas of South America see Azara, 'Voyages,' etc. tom. ii. p. 94.), says:--"It has ever been the custom among these people for the men to wrestle for any woman to whom they are attached; and, of course, the strongest party always carries off the prize. A weak man, unless he be a good hunter, and well-beloved, is seldom permitted to keep a wife that a stronger man thinks worth his notice. This custom prevails throughout all the tribes, and causes a great spirit of emulation among their youth, who are upon all occasions, from their childhood, trying their strength and skill in wrestling." With the Guanas of South America, Azara states that the men rarely marry till twenty years old or more, as before that age they cannot conquer their rivals. - The Descent of Man
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1 comment:

Jeff said...

I have a degree in anthropology, too, and I've recently re-visited the topic of conspiracy theories. I've read Fenster's Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture and have on order Timothy Melley's Empire of Conspiracy. I found Fenster's book a bit dense at times (it's published by U Minnesota) but very, very interesting in its explanation of why people believe in conspiracy theories. I look forward to Melley's ideas about agency panic. If you are interested, you might read this article: