Critique of TSW Part 25a The Social Microcosm

Blog 20141231

Bill has trouble with jargon, microcosmic boundaries, and the significance of convergence for war and peace.

I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked “TSW: “are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".

The Social Microcosm (Part 1 of 7)

BW: This chapter is a messy jumble of ad-hoc commentary on a dozen topics, with no substantive point. Societies change, people move, there are wars, population and production rise and fall, gravity pulls, entropy pushes, etc., etc. I'll try to pick out some substantive statements, but they are mostly vague assemblies of jargon.

[GB: Jargon is defined as “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.” In other words, jargon acts like a separate dialect or language. As scientists, we run into this all the time. Read any scientific paper and you will see jargon in abundance. Mostly, jargon is shorthand for concepts that have been worked out in previous papers. Without jargon, papers would be filled with definitions and reviews of previous work, making them so long that they would be too expensive to publish. Electronic publishing now allows almost any length (see our most recent colossus at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960077914000472 ). Hopefully, electronic publishing will help reduce some of the problems involved with jargon.

Nonetheless, readers bring their own experiences with them when they try to understand the jargon common to a discipline. Because scientists deal with the real world, it is possible that we will eventually reach agreement on definitions and connotations. Where there is controversy, such as in philosophy, politics, and religion, folks may have opposing assumptions that prevent them from following the logical train of thought intended by the writer. That is why “The Scientific Worldview” starts out by firmly establishing the deterministic assumptions upon which it is based. Horse, water, drink… That does not automatically convert indeterminists to determinists, as you have demonstrated. Mental pathways developed over decades are unlikely to be abandoned overnight. Those confronted with opposing assumptions tend to automatically dismiss them, trying to forget them almost immediately. This removes the cognitive dissonance we all wish to avoid. The definitions that are necessarily part of a particular logical train of thought are then not understandable. They might even be labeled “mostly vague assemblies of jargon” as they fade from a memory not willing to accept the beginning assumptions in the first place. That is why determinists remain determinists and indeterminists remain indeterminists.

To switch from one track to another amounts to a revolution in thought, which rarely occurs for those sufficiently grounded in a particular discipline or philosophy. Thus, it might take decades for you to convince your theist friends to become atheists. It probably will take almost another half century to convince cosmologists to think outside the box and give up cosmogony ( http://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2013/02/sidetracking-big-bang-theory.html ).]

TSW:  "... each human microcosm is ... part of the Social Microcosm ... not influenced by free will or by anything other than matter in motion within and without."

BW: It goes without saying that each human is a part of humanity. Every person who believes in causality agrees that all effects are caused by the (collisions of) matter in motion. Throughout the chapter, you make disparaging comments about "free will", as though it were obviously impossible and irrelevant. You never discuss the idea, nor even ask the obvious question "Free of what?" You simply assume that it's inconsistent with determinism or causality.

[GB: You are correct that I “assume that [free will] is inconsistent with determinism or causality.” It should be clear by now that the "Free of what?" question means free of physical causality, that is, collisions that determine events. How can you possibly see free will as consistent with determinism or causality? There are either physical causes for all effects, or there are not. If you wish to continue in your belief in free will, then you will have to show us how that can be in view of that contradiction. It cannot be done, of course, because you cannot point to something nonphysical that could be responsible for your magical free will. The belief in free will is indeterminism, pure and simple. It should be disparaged at every turn. No book with the title “The Scientific Worldview” should have any smidgeon of a hint that it is founded on indeterminism. To do that would be a sellout like the typical mishmash that regularly hits the bestseller list.]

TSW:  "While capitalists benefited ..."

BW: Specious rhetoric with no analysis, explanation, or discussion.

[GB: The complete quote is: “While capitalists benefited from the increased efficiency gained by organizing workers in centralized workplaces, they systematically propagandized workers against forming social combinations that would produce a similar effect in obtaining labor’s share of the increased productivity.” This quote is still true today—in spades. While productivity per worker has increased dramatically in the US during the last 30 years, salaries have stagnated, and union membership has declined while CEO wages have sky-rocketed. Most educated folks know this, but if not, they can Google it easily (or check their own wallet).]

TSW:  "From Hugh Miller to Robert Ringer, the message is pretty much the same: 'joining a group to accomplish any purpose is irrational.'"

BW: I don't know Hugh Miller (Christian Apologist?), but have read Robert Ringer (Atheist Sociologist), who says nothing of the sort.

[GB: Hugh Miller was a self-helper from 1841 and the quote is directly (p. 132) from Ringer’s book “Looking out for #1.”]

TSW:  "Social microcosms, like all classes, are whatever we define them to be."

BW: In other words, superficial distinctions among humans tell us nothing. Correct.

[GB: Remember that social microcosms, like the “systems” in systems philosophy, are specific portions of the universe that we study. In univironmental determinism we concentrate on the relationship between the microcosm and its macrocosm. Sorry, but the distinctions among humans are seldom superficial. Thus, tribes that evolved in pastoral environments tend to survive on meat and have pastoral images for their gods, while those in the “concrete jungle” tend to survive on restaurants and may not have gods at all.]

TSW:  "Although the selection of univironmental boundaries, as always, is inherently subjective ..."

BW: Which means it has no relevance to any objective facts: it's purely arbitrary and subjective. Correct.

[GB: Not at all. Once we select a particular boundary for our microcosm of concern, we can study the relationship between that microcosm and its macrocosm. For instance, I can arbitrarily select a rock, pebble, or grain of sand for study. Once so defined, whatever I find out about any of those and their environments is as objective as the measurements I use to study them.]

TSW:  "Obviously, without a convergence of two or more microcosms, no new thing, no new microcosm can arise."

BW: If you're merely saying that different groups of people sometimes mix, that's obvious: humans migrate. If they don't mix, no new groups are formed ... by definition. However, this spatial fact is incidental and doesn't explain anything about convergence, competition, cooperation, or socialization.

[GB: The spatial fact is primary as well as obvious when studying microcosms and their combinations. That is one reason that I could not abide the Big Bangers’ claim that the whole universe came together by coming apart. Without convergence, there can be no competition, cooperation, or socialization.]

TSW:  "Convergence initially brings about competition: the struggle of microcosms for identical spatial positions."

BW: No two people can be in exactly the same place at exactly the same time, so I assume you're talking about groups of people "converging". But, you make no argument about any relationship between convergence and competition. Even in a totally isolated group of people, there is always "competition" for status, resources, and sexual companions. That doesn't change when two or more groups mix. Rarely does it have anything to do with occupying space.

[GB: On the contrary, a microcosm’s occupation of space and relation to its macrocosm is of the utmost importance. Convergence brings about a struggle over resources, often resulting in war, and finally, an exhaustion leading to the logical conclusion that cooperation is preferable. This idea helped me to understand how the US and Germany and Japan could now be such good friends and trading partners after the terrible carnage of world war.]

Next: The Social Microcosm (Part 2 of 7)

cotsw 057


Westmiller said...

GB: "It should be clear by now that the "Free of what?" question means free of physical causality, that is, collisions that determine events ..."

Except that isn't the primary meaning:

"1: voluntary choice or decision 'I do this of my own free will>'

Voluntary simply means absent external coercion. I haven't forced you to respond to (or even read) my critique of your ideas. You alone determined that my comments were worthy of consideration. Therefore, by the primary definition, you exercised free will.

That doesn't mean that your decision was "uncaused" by your own thoughts on the topic; they were caused by the configuration and lifelong conditioning of your neural pathways: your own ideas. You were free to ignore my comments and choose not to respond.

"2: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention."

By this secondary definition, which you use, humans have no free will.

Ignoring "divine intervention", that definition supposes that the only alternative is that we confront each choice with *nothing prior* to motivate the decision, which is obviously nonsense. When we chose to think, our choices are influenced by all the experiences, thoughts, and conclusions we've formed over our entire life. In that sense, there is no "proximate cause" of our act, as there are with inanimate objects or lower animals. Instead, there are zillions of "remote causes", including all those we have created ourselves. So, it isn't that our decisions are "uncaused", but that we have caused them.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Not possible. That is like Newton's body changing its own velocity.

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for your comment. Be sure to hit "Preview" to see if it will publish correctly. Then hit "Publish". Include your email address if you wish to receive copies of your comment as well as all other published comments to this Blog.

For those having trouble getting this comment section to work:

Nitecruzr writes:

[FAQ] Why can't people post comments on my blog?

The Blogger / Google login status, and the ability to post comments, is sensitive to both cookie and script filters. Your readers may need to enable (stop filtering) "third party cookies", in their browser and on their computer. The effects of the newly unavoidable CAPTCHA, and the Google "One account" login, requires third party cookies, even more than before.




Third party cookies filtering, in a browser setting, is the most common solution, overall - but your readers may have to search for other filter(s) that affect their use of Blogger / Google.

Any filters are subject to update, by the creator. If the problem started a few days ago, your readers may have to look on their computers, and find out what product or accessory was updated, a few days ago.