Tag Archives: Modernism

The Belly of the Dragon

In days long past people actually believed in dragons. Today people that ‘believe’ in dragons are usually mindless hippie-mystics. However, the being of a dragon is a perfect analogy for many things. Imagine a giant green dragon. It lies like Smaug on its pile of spoils and stolen treasure. It breathes smoke and fire at anyone who approaches. This massive worm goes by many names, most of the soft and friendly sounding. Many of them sound responsible and good. This dragon masquerades as a great protecting spirit: Green energy, Renewable Fuel, Environmentalism, Sustainability… who wouldn’t want to be sustainable and responsible with the resources we have? It is an unbeatable question, and also a lie. It is a clever lie, one that hides and is not even spoken. The lie is that the only way to be responsible is complete submission to the dragon.

Smaug

The good (and in some ways bad) news is that the dragon, also like Smaug, has a soft underbelly.  There are actually a number of spots without scales and protection; they are just hidden through the incessant effort of the media leaving people uninformed and, unfortunately complicit scientists. Like I mentioned in ‘Modern Philosopher’s Stone’ scientists frequently do not discuss the actual feasibility of their research for a few reasons, some perfectly innocent. The major reason is that they need only mention the difficulties since other scientists already know. However, people (many of whom are supporting the research involuntarily through taxes and debt) have no idea how feasible or truly sustainable these government lead innovations are. A connection that I see made rather frequently in at least conservative media is the connection between bio-fuel and world hunger. This is very real, but almost never mentioned. In any given year, there is a finite amount of corn. The corn that America grows (and can grow) is more than we eat, however, the more we burn the more tortillas cost in Mexico, the less oil-poor Arab countries can eat, etc etc… all to feed the Green Dragon its bio-fuel.

However, here is another one that I look around for, trying to find people talking about rare earth metals. There are basically two things that make the modern world work. And work it does, we emit less pollution, are less devastated by natural disasters, we grow more food than we eat, the modern first world has many good things that environmentalists would like if they only looked. These two things are oil and rare earth metals. Out of oil comes most of your clothes, your car, all transportation, the soles of your shoes… that acetaminophen that you take for pain relief… comes from oil. Every fine chemical, you know the ones that make ‘miracle drugs’ almost invariably are made with oil derived starting materials. (I think someone should write a poem about oil, and the ease of modern life which is a direct result of oil…)

Rare earth metals make modern technology function.  According to Popular mechanics (for the actual amount) there is 10 pounds of lanthanum in a Prius. Also, absolutely everything seems to have neodymium magnets in it. For example: windmills. That’s right, every single ‘green energy’ windmill requires a large quantity of neodymium. (Also, I believe the Prius uses a large amount of this one too…) Anything that takes electricity and makes something spin (or the other way around for windmills) is almost guaranteed to have neodymium in it.

So, electric cars, windmills, the two current obsessions of the great dragon environmentalism require these rare earths. Where do they come from and how do we get them? Well, the second question helps to answer the first. They are mined in a nasty way, which as of now is the only way. The waste from a rare earth mine is full of cesium and strong acids and radioactive elements. That is because they are all chemically (atomically) very similar in interactions, so a deposit of rare earths is full of other things. Due to this, and the vociferous and strident insistence that nasty things never be done in ‘my backyard’ which for the worshipers of environmentalism is all of America, there is only one operating rare earth mine in America. Somewhere around 90+% of rare earths come from…. China. It is not that we don’t have deposits of rare earths, it is that the EPA will not let anyone open a mine for them.

re-consumer-products

So why is this the belly of the dragon? Just as the reports of windmills slaughtering migratory birds, the need to consume these metals shows the whole movement a farce. Wishing to actually take care of the earth (rather, the parts of it we can affect through electing our leaders) would lead people to try something, evaluate if it works, and if it does not work or is a net loss change how they do things. Instead I am very much afraid that environmentalism is one of the many disguises of totalitarianism: that disgusting philosophy that lets one set of people with the ‘right’ ideas to dominate everyone else. They pretend that these things like windmills are sustainable energy when, in fact, they are at least as unsustainable as oil and not a particularly stable energy supply. It calms the masses and gives the entitled elite something to shout about when rubes like me want to burn oil. (If you haven’t seen the newest news, US carbon emissions are going down… due to natural gas replacing coal since natural gas is cheap…. Due to fracking.) However this is even more a soft spot for environmentalism, since windmills killing birds has little geopolitical considerations. However China, no matter how stable they tried to make that country seem in you history classes, has a long history of horribly huge upheavals. Sure the Chinese have been around a very very long time, but if China decides to have to have another civil war, or Taiping rebellion or any war really, the global cost of rare earths will be so affected there is no real analogy to oil and war in the middle east. Those of us who believe that we should use resources (while protecting our rivers from burning…) should start thinking about the rare earth mining, and the EPA.

Update: China Prepares for War The writer is usually quite glum about the state of the world affairs… but still, There is frequent unsettling news from China.

The War of The Cliche

There are so many cliches in our lives, idioms, and standard responses that go unconsidered; they are said without thought, and often they are evil. I know, it is perhaps considered incendiary to call something as simple as a cliche evil. But when good people repeat over and over little phrases or aphorisms that are kernels of bad thoughts and wicked philosophies, I think they are propagandizing themselves without even realizing it. They are teaching themselves to accept a certain set of ideas, that in its completion, is evil. For every evil saying however, I think there ought to be a good one. In many cases they already exist, it is just that in the modern world only a few old people still say the good ones. Here are the ones that brought this subject to mind.

Let us start with a stupid one: ‘That worked like a charm.’ Well, it just sat there making you feel psychologically better and perhaps a little smug? Did it have no effect, purpose or utility beyond merely placebo? Then it worked like a charm… as in, it did nothing. Even in this merely stupid idiom, there is a hint of the perverse. Superstition causes all manner of issues, and to speak as if charms work is for barbarians, not for either Christians nor atheists. Perhaps we could replace it with something like ‘Well that worked like gas chromatography!’…

220px-Gaschromatograph

Gas Chromatography… it really works!

Here is another questionable cliche: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ I could make a double case for this. In the short term, the desire to see someone or something makes a person fonder of that someone. However, in actuality, absence leads to, well more absence. Separation generally tends to making people grow apart. So… absence makes the heart grow… absent?

Ok, I said evil before, and now I will deliver. The cliche ‘The ends justify the means.’ and all of its counterparts, variations and modulations should be cut out of the vocabulary of every person and sent to hell. The belief that is the end is good enough, or desirable enough that it can justify any means is perhaps the leading excuse of all evil ever. For instance, communism claims to have a way to building a utopia, an earthly paradise. They just have to reorganize society, by force. And if you happen to be a kulak, well, ‘you have to break some eggs to make an omelet’.  Or if you are a Maoist, recall the 18-45 (Wikipedia numbers) million people who died in the ‘Great Leap Forward‘ to reorganize society. Or perhaps another example would be good. ‘You should have wisdom and understand good and evil (desirable end) so rebel against God (unjustifiable means).’ The opposite side of this cliche battle is perhaps ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’ However, no one really says that, and it isn’t a terribly pithy saying. I think something like ‘evil means breed evil ends’ is better… but I don’t get to just make up sayings, its not like I am Ben Franklin.

Another evil one is used mainly by simpering fools who have never either physically or intellectually encountered any real violence. They say that violence begets violence. (A plethora of variants exist like: ‘War is not the answer.’ ‘stop the cycle of violence’) The constant harping on this from shows like Dr. Who makes me almost ready to give up the show entirely. In the episode ‘A Town Called Mercy’ the Doctor almost realizes his tragic flaw: his simpering inability to be Just. For the few people who may stumble upon this and not know Dr. Who, the Doctor has several enemies but I will just mention the Master. Over and over the Doctor spares the Master’s life, and over and over the Master commits genocide, slaughter, and all sorts of wicked crimes. (Which in a TV show, the villain should do bad things, that’s not the problem.) The problem is that the Doctor is culpable for letting a pure evil entity go, simply because he thinks that violence breeds violence. In reality, human nature breeds violence. I read an article recently about the warring in Congo. The author seemed utterly at a loss as to why the roving bands of men committed such horrific rapes: they serve no tactical purpose… The answer is simply that they do such things because there is no one to stop them. In reality, the only thing ever proven to stop a violent evil man is a good one willing to also commit violence. Think of the Waynes. (Dr. Who, the Congo, and now Batman? Deal with it, it’s a blog 🙂 )

Bruce’s parents were murdered because his dad was either unwilling or incapable of anything other than talk. Violence (shooting the criminal or just attacking him physically) might or would have stopped this violent act.Compare that ‘Throw me your wallet’ scene with the one from The Shootist (about 0:45 into this clip)

The only way to stop the horrors in the Congo is if large numbers of decent men (preferable an army) hunt down the bands of barbaric wicked ones, and do violence. I think this cliche was invented to make cowardice fashionable. Something I seem to recall Lewis talking about in The Screwtape Letters, how they (the devils) had not yet succeeded in making cowardice acceptable. I think, though the world view that gives up such idioms as ‘violence begets violence’, they (the devils again) rather have. As for the other side in this little battle, there is the cliche often attributed to Edmund Burk. ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ Again, not very pithy is it? I don’t have any suggestions for alternates though.

Well, my rant is over, and I only talked about four cliches. Oh well, feel free to bring up good or evil cliches in the comments.

The Edge: Sonnet Duel

Well, I am sorry to say that this is not a terribly good poem, but I claim jet-lag as an excuse. However the event that I describe was quite striking. As my plane took off out of Chicago, we went right up over the lake. On this particular day, at that particular time, the foggy day and the grey lake were the exact same color, and there was no visible line between them. So as we went rushing toward the shore of the lake, one thought involuntarily ran through my head: ‘So, this is the edge of the world.’

The Edge:

Firmly ensconced in the airplanes belly,
Of modern man’s invention a marvel,
A creature of steel serving our whimsy,
Laughing at distances that made kings tremble.
The airplane is humble, despite its power
And with little regard for weather or rain
The machine flies above every tower
Far into the sky it extends man’s reign.
Though awe inspired at flight’s beginning
While the foggy heavens us received
Out of the window my eyes were peering
And an ancient mystery perceived.
The edge of the world rushed up to greet us
And briefly within me, Wonder arose.

Sonnet Duel: Disappointed Alchemist

So, with great sadness, I am using my back-up sonnet in the sonnet duel. Being sick for some time left me no time to write sonnets (or do much more than sleep). So here is a sonnet I wrote for the Thompson family annual Chesterton poetry party. The background is that everything I make and use in my research is white…. while everyone else in Inorganic Chemistry is doing stuff with green, red and many colored compounds… Recently though this has changed, and I have started working with a molybdenum and vanadium based catalyst which is orange, and changes to red-brown and then to green upon adding the reaction is catalyzes…. So somewhat sated in my desire for pretty colors at work, I nevertheless post here ‘The Disappointed Alchemist’. I hope you enjoy it. I will link to my competition when it appears. Porcine Transgression

I becams’t an inorganic chemist
Haphazardly, by promises seduc’d
(Spoken softly, by Sybil who liest)
Of brilliant colours to essence reduc’d.
I had thought to create sanguine, azure
Sable, verdant compounds, myster’ous, whole,
As hoary Alchemist of old, hunch’d o’er
Sought full transmutation of leaden soul,
I had thought to find mystery and subtlety.
Recalcitrance, instead, and thoughtless perfidy
In great supply I find. Now, my soul sees.
Lo! Mankind hath lost all but rational
Deceit, which, as Circe kept Ulysses
Does captivate and mesmerize the soul.

‘Settled’ Science

In these days of constant discussion of global warming (or ‘climate change’) or whatever is the fancy new term used to misdirect, I thought it would be good to discuss a little the very notion of ‘settled science’ and question why, when anyone wishes to discuss or hypothesize against these assumed cornerstones of modern thought they are instantly, and ruthlessly, labeled a Neanderthal, and immediately presumed irrelevant.

Now, I actually have no intention of discussing the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory. Instead, let us look at another, much more deeply rooted theory that even a whisper against gets one labeled an unscientific, backwater idiot. Let us think for now about the theory of evolution. Not the theory of natural selection, which is commonly and purposefully conflated with the idea of macro-evolution. Natural selection, namely the theory that certain genetic traits can be more favorable to certain environments, and this leads over time to different subspeicies, is actually observable. However, the idea to discuss, the idea I will call evolution from now on, is the idea that this process can yield a gain in genetic information, and ultimately lead from some initial ‘life’ to everything form of life if given enough time.

This theory, expounded by nearly every academic and scientist, is treated as settled science. Every single new discovery is forced into the evolution mold, every single scientific thought is forced, by academics, by editors, by the international mockery machine, to comply with and never question the theory of evolution.

This is preposterous. The very nature of science is sold out entirely when scientists are not allowed to ever propose different theories, competing ideas, and exert their full scientific abilities to try and prove or disprove any theories they like. As soon as a theory becomes ‘settled’ and embedded with no dissent allowed, it is effectively, religion. Any scientist who tries to silence anyone with an opposing idea of the origin of life immediately surrenders his right to call himself a scientist. Instead, he is become a priest of the modern religion.

As for the theory of evolution itself, no one can accurately gage its merits for one simple reason. No one has either had the motivation, the money or the ability to actually inspect it with skepticism and modern scientific technology. Since everything affected by the theory (biology, anthropology, biochemistry etc.) is forced to start with a 19th century theory based on 19th century technology, the theory itself has not been tested.

Aha, one might say. (Indeed, aha!) The idea of God creating life is even older, and certainly impossible to study. But this is a pointless argument, since religion is not bound by the rules of science. Science cannot, must not, make pronouncements on what cannot be observed with the eye (or some awesome instrument) or deduced from those observations. Religion by its very nature, discusses what cannot be seen or observed. So for now, let’s focus on the claims made by those who pretend to be discussing what is observed and incontrovertible, but in reality has never been tested or tried, especially not with modern scientific techniques.

So, settled though the world might want to believe evolution is, all the persistence in forcing every scientist, every public person, into going along with the theory, only perverts the true aim of science, to test every idea that is testable with skepticism, and makes it into a pseudo-religion that oppresses the thoughts and actions of its adherents without so much as a whisper of a benefit. Congratulations evolutionists, you have made the ultimate nihilistic religion out of a scientific theory without even testing it.

Update:  Read Darwin’s Black Box for more about the biochemical challenges to evolution.

The City and the Stars: Arthur C. Clarke

This is the story of a mankind that has given up. A human race dominated by a tyranny of immutability, of diversion, and of fear. Set in the future like most science fiction, The City and the Stars deals with the hollowness of modernity in the far reaches of time. Simply put, in the last remaining city, not only on earth but everywhere in the universe, (known as Diaspar) every human being is a re-fabrication of an existing person. The book presumes ‘eternity circuits’ in which the whole life and memories of each person who existed at the city’s founding is stored. The seemingly omniscient computer that runs the city, and all the people, ‘randomly’ remakes them at different times and in different combinations so that in theory society does not stagnate. These people are controlled and contained within the city by the two prongs of endless and stimulating diversions, and fear of the very idea outside put in their minds by the computer and vicariously, the cities designers eons in the past. The main character, Alvin, is the anomaly. Alvin is completely new, he longs for the outside, and the outside he finds.

He finds another human city on the planet called Lys wherein people are still born, live, and die. In a very real sense, Lys is a city run by philosophers, they work because it is good the human soul, they tame animals, the age (something that the people in Diaspar do not) and when they die, they are gone. Initially, it begins to feel like an over romantic vision of pastoral life. However, it soon becomes apparent, both to Alvin and the reader that here in the twin cities of Diaspar and Lys, are two pieces of Man. Diaspar, full of engineering and technological prowess, and Lys full of philosophy and mental ability, but even if they were combined they would lack for something; and the reader knows it, and Alvin knows it. I will not discuss the adventures of Alvin any further. I will say this, the story evokes such a strong longing, a weltschmerz, a wistfulness for earth, that defies the very smell of the grass and rain that came in my window while I read this book.

The story of the great receding of mankind from the furthest reaches of the universe all the way back to two cities on earth tells the tale of mankind without one thing: hope. And lacking hope, they lack youth (A similar theme is found in the Asimov book of the same name.), and vigor, and the desire to do better and be freer and create. This book shows the dead-end of society that has replaced its Raison d’être with diversions and pleasures. The book ends with hope for mankind, through man himself. Unfortunately, the putting mankind’s hope in man (or the super-man) is what has lead, in our own times, to the collective death of cultures Raison d’être.

This book sings the song of a man-made savior; it shows us not his doom, which is to fail. This adds another layer to the melancholy felt from reading the book. Because of all this, the book is certainly recommended to read, and discuss with any friends who have inclination for discussing ideas and their effects (philosophy).

Short stories with a similar theme: Youth, Isaac Asimov; A Discovery in the Woods, Graham Greene