Fear of Death Drives Belief in Religion

Fear of death drives belief in religion.  This is a main point in Tom Stoppard’s new play, “The Hard Problem”, which I’ve reviewed on Amazon.  Here’s the review, with a link to a related study, as well as comments about “love” and “hate”.

Tom Stoppard’s The Hard Problem is a thespian presentation of the debate between materialists who affirm the scientific/biological/genetic foundation of all things human—including feelings (love), hopes, beliefs—and those who, because they don’t understand and fear death, posit a non-materialist reality:
Hilary (non-materialist) “But you need something for it [things we believe are right or wrong, say cruelty] to be true, some kind of overall moral intelligence. . . .[S]omewhere between apemen and the beginning of religion, we became aware of an enormous fact we didn’t understand.”
Spike (materialist) “We did. Its name was death.” (p. 51)For a complete statement of the scientific/biological foundations of all things human, see Anthony Walsh, Biosociology, Biosociology: Bridging the Biology-Sociology Divide which I’ve also reviewed on Amazon.

I’ve given both books 4 stars rather than 5 because, consistent with the scientific/biological foundations of all things human, only mothers “love” their children. No one else “loves” anybody or anything else.  No one actually “loves” a book. Thus, “love” should be removed from Amazon’s book rating scale

“Hate” should also be removed from Amazon’s book rating scale. No one should “hate” anything, or anybody. No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems.


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Does Having Sex Boost Work Performance?

According to survey researchers in The Journal of Management, married people who have sexual intercourse at night have increase work performance at their offices the next day.  This may or may not be true because the research is based on self-reports (in this case 2 week daily diaries) and when all you have is what people say there’s no way–absolutely no way!–to know if what is said is correct or incorrect.  All that can be concluded from these diaries is that people who say they had sexual intercourse at night also say they had increased work performance the following day.  And as everyone knows, what people say may, or may not, correspond to what they actually do.  Soooo, if you want to find out what’s really going on in the bedroom, office, or anywhere else, DON’T ASK.  That’s the theme of my book, The Problem with Survey Research, in which I also discuss in Part Six proper methods of data collection and proper research designs, such as observation, experiments, and so on.

See also my post: Survey Research and Sex.

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Internet Effects: Declining Significance of Nation-State and Government

The 21st century—certainly since 2007 with the emergence of the smartphone and cloud computing—is the Internet+ Age; a time in which the Internet, with attendant hardware (e.g., computers, smartphones, and sensors) and software (e.g., the cloud, Google, and  apps), dominates all aspects of human life and activity, including the nation-state and government. Internet+ prevails because its omnipresence and effects make it the most efficient way to acquire, increase, improve, and use information which, in contrast to previous times, is a more important resource for solving problems in production, retail, journalism, banking and finance, healthcare, education, communication, governance, as well as for solving problems in science, mathematics, sports, human relations, and in any other activity.  As Werk, updating Marx, phrases it: “first land, then capital, now information”.

The nation-state, said to be sovereign, and usually revered (“god bless America” comes to mind) is, in fact, not sovereign.  Its power within its own territory is, and has always been, less than total, secondary in many matters, and less in the remainder is shocking—and, even scary—only to those (a declining number, thankfully) deluded by the Westphalian fiction of nation-state sovereignty, initially concocted in 1648 by Henri II d’Orléans, duc de Longueville, and other no-longer-eminences in the Treaty of Westphalia. The non-duped know that nation-states never have unlimited power—but always depend on, and share power with, other institutions, organized interests, and individuals inside and outside the nation’s specified geographical area.

Even more than a thousand years before Henri and friends phrased the Westphalian fantasy, it was understood that the state’s power was curtailed by, often reliant on and, in some circumstances, overwhelmed by the power of the institutional church. It’s also documented and acknowledged that the power of the nation-state is usually significantly reduced when not superseded by economic factors, conditions, and developments.

Today, the nation-state is known to be a mixture, not of any two powers, but of many and that production processes (e.g., manufacturing) and institutions, such as corporations and banks, within the state’s borders, as well as numerous other internal non-state actors (interest groups, thirty-one types of 501 organizations, professional associations, and so on) restrict their actions. In addition, external forces, such as globalization, external non-state actors—for instance, transnational corporations—and most significantly, technological developments, such as computers and the Internet, make the nation-state an obstacle to solving problems, vulnerable, contribute to its collapse and, in many important matters, reduce it to irrelevancy.

The manifestation and actor of the nation-state, government—traditionally relied on for problem solving (and much more)—is another institution in the Internet Age as irrelevant as the nation-state. Its power and, thus, actual significance, are reduced by the same sorts of developments that preclude nation-state sovereignty, including, and most recently, the Internet. Government is at odds with our electronic, global, reality and has become an obsolete “horse and buggy” institution.

More specifically, government processes, structures, and personnel are not suited to obtain the amount and type of information required for problem-solving. The information that’s need is online but  because governments can acquire, at best, only a part of it, they suffer from information deficit.

Governments are also deficient because they are losing capacity—e.g., sufficiently qualified personnel—to perform. They contract out, privatize, and join with other organizations for functions and programs they formerly performed mostly by themselves. Although governments do less than they used to, they’ve never acted alone, never had the capacity to adequately deal with issues and problems. What’s new today is that the universal scope and penetration of the Internet have made the ineffectiveness of governments more extensive and more clearly recognized.

Even governments based on popular elections and representation cannot do what needs to be done, for example concerning environmental destruction. “The atmosphere has no vote in the next US election” depicts government’s inadequacy on this issue. Representative institutions, such as the US Congress, are  “out of business”.  Actually. it’s been known for years that “the era of representative [government] was drawing to a close”. (Kavanagh, Times Literary Supplement, 2001)  Nor can representative governments increase taxes to fund needed environmental or other programs because they’ll be voted out of office if they try. No taxation without representation has been replaced by no taxation. Intakes from user fees, lotteries, bake sales, and online philanthropy make up for some budget losses, but are always short for problem solving.

Also waning are voting and electoral systems that determine membership in legislatures, chief executive offices, and numerous courts. Voting is, at best “anemic” and, actually, superfluous in reference to problem solving; it’s just playing in the electoral sandbox, and, as Jaffe editorializes, “[w]ith each day, it is harder to see how the vote of a citizen—or an elected official—makes much of a difference”.  Many agree and now habitually do not vote. Political parties join the ranks of the mostly irrelevant, in part because of rampant nonvoting, but also because the Internet has become the more effective way for politicos to garner votes and money.

Government laws and regulations, court decisions, executive orders, and all other official pronouncements, edicts, and rules decline in effectiveness. They can’t keep up with technological developments: “Talented engineers [technologists]”, says Rusbridger, “will always be ahead of the laws”. The same is true for government oversight. Governments can’t effectively oversee even when they want to (which, in many cases, they don’t) because they lack sufficient and relevant information, as well as technological understanding.

In the Internet+ Age, all aspects of government and everything associated with politics, including protest and activism, are of declining significance for problem-solving. “Politics”, McLuhan points out, “offers yesterday’s answers to today’s questions” and although some “answers” generated by political processes and governments result in modicums of amelioration, politics is about power and the rewards of office; including, of course, money, and government–we need to remember–is not primarily about solving problems but, rather, promoting policies that generate support for government officials.

We shouldn’t rely on government, elections, demonstrations, and the like to solve problems.  Rather, we need to build open Internet networks that focus on solving the problems we’re interested in.  A few examples of open Internet problem-solving networks are: Wikipedia, Peer-to Patent, Zooniverse, and, InnoCentive.

As the Stones tuned, You Gotta Move–to the Internet–if you’re going to solve problems.




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Internet Effects: They Have, Right Now, Another You

The Internet and attendant hardware and software allows companies/platforms to collect data on Internet users and via algorithms reconstruct who we, in many respects, are. Moreover, we’re not able to access, modify, and/or delete our reconstructed selves. “Facebook”, Sue Halpern informs us, “may have ninety-eight points on each user, but the data brokerage Axiom has 1,500, and they are all for sale to be aggregated and diced and tossed into formulas beyond our reach.”

See, also, my post: Internet Effects: Defined by the Internet.

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INTERNET EFFECTS: Facebook Collects, Follows, Stalks, Buys

Facebook collects ninety-eight data points on each its nearly two billion users.”

Facebook also follows users across the Internet, disregarding their `do not track’ settings as it stalks them.”

[Facebook] also buys personnel information from some of the five thousand data brokers worldwide. . . .”

These quotes are from Sue Halpern, “They Have, Right Now, Another You“, New York Review of Books, 12/22/2016, p. 32.

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Internet Effects: Defined by the Internet

We are in the Internet Age and that means the Internet shapes everything, including humans and their relationships with each other and with everything else.  Here’s Bill McKibben’s comment on this point: “Our accelerating disappearance into the digital ether now defines us–we are the mediated people, whose contact with one another and the world around us is now mostly veiled by a screen.  We threaten to rebel, just as we threaten to move to Canada after an election.  But we don’t; the current is too fierce to swim to shore.”

Don’t swim against the Internet current!  Accept the Internet and its effects!  Find solutions to problems via the Internet, specifically by building open Internet problem-solving networks.  Scientists are doing this, and so did the US Patent Office.

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Music, Listeners, and Silence

This seems to me an insightful comment about music: “[John] Cage reminded us that what music communicates `is always going to be largely dependent on the subjectivity of the listener irrespective of the presentation and intention of the composer.  That’s where the beauty of music/sound lies.’  Perhaps this is the hardest lesson that Cage taught classical music.  Strip away the mythology of great composers and the stories their music told and all that’s left is sound.  Then listening becomes a proactive responsibility.  Music is no longer entertainment.  You must sit, sometimes in silence, and listen hard.” (London Review of Books, 12/15/16)

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