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  • The Age of Magical Thinking

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 18th, 2018 (All posts by )

    A couple of different blogs that I follow have linked to one or more of these essays in recent days. Not being mystically-inclined, I don’t know about the magic-working aspects, but I think the sociological observations are spot on. Herewith for your consideration – The Kek Wars, from the Ecosophia blog.

    Part One: Aristocracy and Its Discontents

    Part Two: In the Shadow of the Cathedral

    Part Three: Triumph of the Frog God

    Part Four: What Moves in Darkness

    Your thoughts?


    10 Responses to “The Age of Magical Thinking”

    1. James the lesser Says:

      The sociological observations do seem pretty good. I know nothing significant about the “chans.” My views on magic might be summed up by noting that “The Great God Pan is dead.” But his description of how physicists gave up on the “ether” is simply wrong.

    2. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Neither do I know anything about the chans … but his analysis seemed very on-point, from the upthrusts that I have been able to see. There’s a lot of talk here and there of late about weaponized autism in the various science-fiction writers circles that I follow. And it makes sense to me. Part Two really resonates…

    3. David Foster Says:

      Very interesting, requires some contemplating.

    4. Grurray Says:

      Sgt Mom, I appreciate your thoughtful posts, so I am willing to give this odd fellow the benefit of the doubt.

      His belief in the magical frog makes me think of this old Italian saying – ‘Se non è vero, è ben trovato’- it’s not true, but nevertheless it makes for a good story.

    5. Mike-SMO Says:

      There always has to be a narrative and an inevitable force driving history, society, etc. This eco-waco is sort of Marxism with pretty butterflies.

      The whole Frog/KEK is derived from a (too) long cascade of puns from college-educated on-line inter-national internet game players. The cartoon frog is a handy “populist” logo for those opposed to “socialist, progressive, globalist, totalitarian, corruptocracy” that has no inherent ideological mandates that would serve to separate the “right”, “nationalists”, the “Alt-right”, etc. factions. The Soros/Koch influence are a focal point of the “enemy”.

      The leftie, libtard, socialists always denounce opponents as racist, Nazi, X-ophobic, or whatever. There are probably a dozen “real” KKK left in the United States and half of those are probably on the FBI payroll. The uniformed Nazis are great fun when they stir up the leftie children for Halloween. LARP [Live Action Role Players], but if they are resisting the socialist totalitarians,so be it, sayeth Kek. “Nazi” is always good for a laugh since all who oppose the socialist totalitarians are “Nazi”. “Nazi”, of course refers to “National Socialist” [of Germany] who made common cause with the “National Socialists” [of Russia, Stalinists, Communism in One Country, Bonapartists] to exterminate the European Trotskyites and Anarchists who survive today only in the New World in a mutated, sexually confused form. [Yeah, snark.] “White Supremacy” is another myth for the children. “Muricans” are the effective, hardworking, and accomplished people of Murica [United States of America], an identity that has nothing to do with the various similarly accomplished tribes of Europe. We do stuff. If you can’ do, don’t blame the rest of us.

      The cartoon Kek is a sublime symbol since the socialist, progressive, libtards have no sense of humor or irony. Alexandra Occasional-Cortex said that she would reduce the cost of her “free” health care by providing “free” funerals/burials. My, Kek! Mass burials is the only thing that socialists can actually accomplish [over 100 million during the 20th Century].

      Love dat froggy…..

    6. Helian Says:

      This guy rambles on, spraying out hypotheses like a firehose, and expects his readers to swallow each hypothesis as if it were an established fact. None of them are established facts, and unfortunately the author doesn’t helpfully supply testable predictions with any of them, so they’re basically useless from a scientific point of view. We humans aren’t nearly as smart as this guy seems to think he is. Once we start wandering off the straight and narrow path of facts that can be demonstrated with repeatable experiments, we tend to end up in intellectual swamps. What you’re looking at is someone who’s already in up to his neck. Trying to follow him in doesn’t make much sense to me.

      Some of his ramblings deal with things I happen to know something about. JTL noticed the same thing I did about his comments on the ether. He wrote,

      “In the nineteenth century, for example, physicists theorized that light consisted of wave patterns in the ether, a hypothetical substance filling the universe. Occultists jumped on the label “ether” and borrowed it as a label for the subtle omnipresent life force of magical theory—by the way, that’s spelled qi in Chinese, ki in Japanese, prana in Sanskrit, and so on through the roster of the world’s languages. (As far as I know, the only languages on Earth that don’t have a word for this commonly recognized reality are the dominant languages of the industrial nations of the West. Is that accidental? Not a chance.)

      “In response to the borrowing of their term by occultists, scientists dropped the ether like a hot rock. Instead, light became probability waves moving through four-dimensional spacetime. What differentiates “four-dimensional spacetime” from “the ether”? Purely that the former enables scientists to place the familiar distance between their disciplines and the occult. I’m quite certain that if occultists started making a big deal of the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun, scientists would rediscover the joys of a geocentric cosmos.”

      Well, no, scientists dropped the ether because the Michelson-Morley experiment demonstrated that the concept was no longer plausible, and Einstein proposed an alternative theory that did make falsifiable predictions. None of them have been falsified to date. Light did not “become probability waves.” Here the author is conflating a mathematical model that nicely predicts what light does with the nature of light itself. One could just as plausibly say that light became little particles called photons.

      In other words, it would be better to keep your feet firmly on the ground than to drift off into the ether with this guy.

    7. William Newman Says:

      It is interesting that mystical thinkers like Greer and Scott Adams called Trump’s strength early, and I am motivated to pay attention to their claimed patterns in case something checks out with more conventional tests, more or less in the spirit of chasing leads from witch doctors who mix nonsense and empty showmanship with nuggets of usefully-better-than-random knowledge of herbs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find various ways to grate on me.

      I concur with James and Helian about Greer’s authoritative bogus claims about the ether in the history of science. Also, I would observe that thermodynamic entropy and quantum mechanical comprehensive weirdness both seem to be even more tempting jumping-off points for people who want to aggressively paraphrase the results to argue that SCIENCE supports their favorite woo intuitions. (Sometimes their favorite woo intuitions are operational magic and polytheistic/animistic paganism like Greer’s foreground agenda, or the ascetic or we-are-not-worthy environmentalism that might be behind his peak oil remarks, but other intuitions also indulge in creating talking points by aggressively paraphrasing science, e.g. monotheistic religion, and chosen-people comprehensive superiority ideologies.) Since that temptation doesn’t seem to have driven scientists to play down thermo and QM, if Greer were more intellectually serious instead of merely indulging in Colbert-so-clever sneering potshots, he might want to do some more work on his mental model of the sociology of science.

      America as an empire seems like a stretch, too. It’s hard for me to avoid the impression that it’s more motivated by considerations like “what would be a handy talking point here” than “does it cut reality at the joints”. It’s perhaps partially excusable because we don’t have a nice standard terminology for dominant sphere of influence as opposed to actual imperial provinces … but still, the more useful understanding of “empire” is more nearly the places where the capital actually installs a governor, levies taxes, and raises troops (e.g., the Philippines in the first half of the 20th century, for the US empire, or various SSRs for the Russian empire in the middle of the 20th century). For places that are merely dominated in important but less thorough ways, we can say things like “client state” and (various levels of) “sphere of influence”. E.g., various mideast countries since the Industrial revolution — not only various of the clients of the US and clients of the USSR before it closed up shop, but more idiosyncratic examples such as the deep backing of the Turks by the Germans in the Gallipoli campaign. It is not really useful to blur the distinction between that relationship and the Philippines-1933 or Ukraine-1953 imperial-province relationship. Classic empires like Rome and China and Spain and Austria-Hungary had clients too, and AFAIK it is not normal practice to refer to them part of the empire, so when people like Greer loudly and proudly do it differently for the USA, it seems like Orwellian axegrinding and/or a long-march-through-the-institutions shoot-me-last shibboleth, rather than truthtelling.

      FWIW, actually with general relativity (and particularly its dynamic effects like gravity waves, as opposed to its more static effects like black holes or the slight time dilation that affects GPS satellite clocks compared to earth clocks) science reintroduced something at least a little bit like the old idea of the ether. GR spacetime still has some properties that torpedo the classic ether picture below the waterline, so that in particular the straightforward effect that the Michaelson-Morley experiment naturally chose to look for is perfectly nonexistent. But the spacetime disturbances sloshing outward from one superheavy body orbiting another do have some resemblance to old handwaving guesses about how ether might be dragged along and swirl around a body like the Earth as it orbits. For comparison, they seem to have no resemblance to Newton’s tidy instantaneous gravitational action at a distance, except in the limit of weak effects on slow-moving bodies. (But this limiting case is quite important, because “weak” means not close to superconcentrated mass such as a neutron star, and “slow” means not close to the speed of light, so that for all practical purposes this year, everything is weak and slow.) That kind of distant resemblance should still be a good enough jumping-off point for people who want to aggressively paraphrase it to try to justify their favorite woo, but I don’t see scientists slinking away from it, and I don’t expect to. (At least not for that reason. Maybe for other reasons, like “science” organizations being increasingly grant funded or otherwise creatures of the state, and QM and GR being largely inaccessible to people who somehow never get around to acquiring a facility with partial differential equations, and thus being an impediment and embarrassment to the long march through the institutions…)

    8. Helian Says:

      It wouldn’t be fair of you to assign us all to an extra month of KP for panning this guy, Sarge. Nobody’s saying that he’s all bad. I personally wouldn’t be surprised if he likes puppies and little kids.

    9. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Eh … I thought his analysis of the “Cathedral” thinking was on-point. And the explanation of where Pepe the Frog meme came from was interesting.
      The internet is deep and wide, and the ripples come from far and exotic places…

    10. Helian Says:

      I think it’s definitely useful to have some insights out there about what things like the “Cathedral” and the Pepe the Frog meme were and what they meant to different people, and especially ones that are alternatives to the “correct” interpretation of the establishment media. They were part of the fight by marginalized people on the right to find a voice. Obviously that fight wasn’t entirely futile, as demonstrated by the recent coordinated efforts by the owners of the “social means of expression,” as Marx might have put it, to screw the lid back firmly in place.