Why gravitational waves from the early universe are a big deal

Today, the BICEP2 team announced the detection of what they claim is an imprint of long wavelength gravitational waves in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.  If this holds up (a big if:  lots of exciting discoveries don’t hold up when some neglected systematic error turns up), it will be the most important discovery in cosmology since the first evidence for dark energy, and for physics in general I would rate it more important than the detection of the Higgs boson.

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Repost: No Evidence for God?

To piggyback on Bonald’s post below:

At his blog, our Proph recently reposted an item that linked to an essay of mine at the old Intellectual Conservative. Since the old IC was taken down by evil leftist (but I’m redundant) hackers, Proph’s link to my essay is dead. So here is my old IC essay.  Its basic thrust: When atheists claim there is no evidence for God, they are assuming atheism at the beginning, looking at life through atheist-colored glasses, and then seeing nothing but atheism. They are being supremely illogical.

 No Evidence for God?

Atheism now has a confession of faith. Christians say “Jesus is Lord.” Moslems say “There is no God but Allah.” And English-speaking atheists now say “There is no evidence for God.” But are they correct? Continue reading

The Argument from Definiteness

I often find the popular debate between Religion™ and Science™ intensely irritating, because almost everyone on both sides seems to take it for granted that if we have (or might someday have) a scientific explanation for something, then we don’t stand in need of a divine explanation for it; so that the only places where God might possibly play a role in our explanatory scheme is in the bits and pieces of the world that science has not yet explained. And this notion of the “God of the Gaps” presupposes that the merely scientific explanation is exhaustively adequate, at least in principle. But that means that the whole debate is skewed from the get go by an implicit presupposition in favor of naturalism, and is therefore founded upon begging the very question that it proposes to answer.

It’s dunderheaded.

God is not needed first as an explanation of this or that item in the natural order, but rather as an explanation of the fact that there is such a thing as nature in the first place, or that there exists anything at all that might have a nature. If God does not exist, then there can be no explanation of existence per se, or therefore of any of the things that do seem to us actually to exist. If God does not exist, then all we can say of things in the final analysis is that they are what they are, for no particular reason.

Or can we say even that?

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Article on Ancient Atomism

My article on ancient atomism appears at Angel Millar’s People of Shambhala website.  In particular, I undertake a reading of Lucretius’s great poem On the Nature of Things, a strange mixture of bold speculation that anticipates modern physics and cosmology more interesting perhaps for its fairly concerted critique of sacrificial religion.  I offer a sample –


Posterity knows only a little about Lucretius and much of what it knows it gleans from autobiographical references in his poem.  The poem itself is paradoxical.  Alleging to explicate, for the sake of a potential recruit, the scientific truths discovered by Epicurus, the truths that will redeem life for the one who accepts them, On the Nature of Things couches itself in the language of insistent evangelism, making of its intellectual hero, as George Santayana noted in his study of Lucretius in Three Philosophical Poets, a secular saint.  The poem attests a powerful experience on the part of its author, which can only be described as spiritual conversion, which he then wishes to foster in another.  Already in the generation just after Epicurus, his followers acquired the habit of referring to him under the honorific of soter or “savior,” an etiquette that imitated in turn a propaganda device of Alexander’s successors, the Ptolemaic and Seleucid dynasts.  Lucretius, whose time and place knew the afflictions of political breakdown, picks up this thus slightly tainted habit.

Cartesian meditations on the social sciences

I’ve already shared my complaints about the humanities and the natural sciences; now I’d like to turn to the social sciences.  As with these other disciplines, my “problem” with the social sciences has more to do with a general attitude I sense pervading the whole enterprise than with any particular result.  That attitude can be summed up in the following statement:  the correct way to understand a human being or a social system is to look at it from the point of view of a hostile outsider.  The hostile outsider has a privileged perspective.  The ways human beings and social organisms understand themselves are illusions; they are unscientific; they are masks behind which hide the reality of structures of oppression, unconscious desires, blind economic or sexual striving.  Thus, the skill college students are to learn above all else is critical thinking, which basically means learning to assume the perspective of the hostile outsider.  They are to critically question the assumptions of their upbringing (unless, of course, they are from urban Leftist homes).  And if the student decides his inherited religion and ethnic loyalties are defensible?  Well, then, he obviously hasn’t thought critically enough!  The “questioning” of gender roles and inherited tradition has a predetermined outcome.

Needless to say, social scientists–psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists–are, by and large, my political enemies.  However, my ultimate objection is philosophical.  I don’t disagree that one can study human beings in terms of their psychic desires, or that one can study societies in terms of economic forces and structures of coercion.  Nor do I deny that some insights can be drawn from this.  What I do deny is that this gives us the ultimate truth about men or communities.  It is an exercise in abstraction, of systematically ignoring aspects of the subject in order to more clearly focus on some particular structure of interest.  The most important thing about a social practice is how it is experienced and understood by its participants.  Even when the things critics claim to find “beneath the surface” are really there, it’s the “surface”–the lived conscious reality–that is most fundamental and most real.

This is even more true when it comes to the study of the individual human being.  I myself have had two types of encounters with psychology.  (My experiences with the psychiatric profession I’ll save for another post.)  First, as a teacher I’ve been exposed to some of the results of research on how people learn.  Overall, this work is empirically grounded and consistent with common sense and my own experience.  The studies of memory, cognition, visual perception–basically of any type of mental activity that we humans are conscious of performing–also seem relatively healthy by soft science standards (although I am here speaking without much knowledge).  On the other hand, as a reactionary I am also exposed to psychological claims purporting to explain my authoritarian, homophobic pathologies.  That I might actually have reasons for my beliefs is dismissed out of hand.  This type of psychology demands that human behavior have explanations rather than reasons.  The explanations involve my unconscious fear of new experiences, my unconscious fear of my father, my unconscious homosexual urges, or some other such unconscious prompting.  None of these claims has any credible evidence behind them, and they all clash with the evidence of direct introspection–hence the recurring need for “unconscious” qualifiers.

“The unconscious mind” is one of those things that people are afraid to question for fear of being thought “unscientific”; I’m sure I’ll shock some readers with even the basic observation that “unconscious mind” is a contradiction in terms.  

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Rene Girard on a Cause of Homosexuality

From Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World (1978; English translation, 1987); Book III, Chapter 3, “Mimesis and Sexuality” (Pages 337 – 338)

“If we recognize that the sexual appetite can be affected by the interplay of mimetic interferences, we have no reason to stop at ‘sadism’ and ‘masochism’ in our critique of false psychiatric labels. Let us grant that the subject can no longer obtain sexual satisfaction without involving the violence of the model or a simulation of that violence – and that the instinctual structures we have inherited from the animals, in the sexual domain, can allow themselves to be inflected by the mimetic game. We then have to ask ourselves [whether] these cases of interference are not likely to have a still more decisive effect and give rise to at least some of the forms of homosexuality.

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Repost: Evolution 101

[Here is another of my essays originally posted at Intellectual Conservative and destroyed by leftist hackers. In it, I refer to the evolution in which contemporary atheistic science believes as “Darwinism” or “Darwinian evolution.” This is not the term that most scientists use, but since the word “evolution” has many meanings, and since most scientific enthusiasts of the evolutionary theory originated by Darwin wish to obscure its anti-Christian nature, I have chosen to use a more clear-cut term. Keep in mind also that this essay was written for the general public, not the typical Orthosphere reader.]


Ben Stein’s movie Expelled shines the spotlight on the dispute between Darwinian evolution and its opponents. Although both sides marshal a large array of technical facts, this dispute is really a clash between two fundamentally differing worldviews, that is, basic philosophical systems that people use to interpret all of reality. In fact, the dispute can most accurately be summed up by saying: It’s all about God.

That is, if you can be sure there is no miracle-working God, then something like Darwinian evolution must be correct. But if there is even a chance that such a God exists, then basic intellectual integrity demands that you take seriously the criticisms directed against Darwinism. Continue reading

Looking for primary matter in fermions, bosons, and angels

Let us continue with our exercise of trying to infer natural philosophy conclusions from general features of the laws of physics.  Again, our method will be to assume that a symmetry in physical laws indicates that some of the states we conceptually distinguish don’t represent real differences, and that this is telling us something about the underlying objects.

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Reductionism vs Galilean invariance

Reading Edward Feser’s article on inertia and how it should be reconciled with Aristotelian natural philosophy got me thinking.  What does Newtonian kinematics really mean?  Let’s pretend that Newtonian physics is the exact truth and ask what that would imply about the nature of reality.  As we know, the rise of quantitative sciences was accompanied by the rise of a reductionistic atomism which the new science was thought to imply.  Even today, it is thought a “scientific” way of thinking to suppose

  1. The only thing that really exists are particles whose only properties are position, velocity, mass, and maybe some other quantities like that.
  2. Composite bodies are just combinations of these particles, and the particles themselves have some sort of ontological priority over their arrangement.  They are “more real” than the forms of composite bodies, which are just consequences of the particles’ positions.

Feser and others have done good work arguing that neither Newtonian physics nor any other conceivable empirical scientific theory prove the above postulates.  I think we can go farther and say that they are actually incompatible with Newtonian physics.

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