Monday, 12 February 2018

Lessons from Marx and Lenin

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, edited by Friedrich Engels, was published in English in 1888. The original document appeared in 1848 and went through a number of editions and translations. It inspired the Russian Revolution and attacked the rampant free-trade world economy which had already emerged, while the ruling class which grew wealthy through it was labelled the bourgeoisie.

Marx, a Jewish intellectual, was writing at a time of rapid de-Christianization of Germany by German Idealism, the Hegelian Dialectic and Friedrich Nietzsche, a nihilistic philosopher who was hostile to the very values emanating from Jesus Christ. The forces at work in the 19th century set the scene for both Nazi and Communistic totalitarianism.


To quote, Marx considered that

 the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles...freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word the oppressor and the oppressed.

 Each time the fight ended either in a re-constitution of society or in the common ruin of the warring classes. During the late nineteenth century, largely as a result of industrialization and global free trade, the opposing sections of society were the bourgeoisie (the oppressor) and the proletariat (the oppressed), and he maintained that the time was ripe for a new struggle that would lead to a new social order: communism. The proletariat would be victorious, religion would be exterminated and all would live in peace and harmony, a brotherhood of man.


 The Manifesto’s attack on the bourgeoisie reads like that of many a modern columnist on the global capitalist system of today, which again is based largely on free international trade, with little regard for the social costs of production moving according to market forces, be these of labour or goods or raw materials, and in which everything in life is reduced to a commodity or assigned a monetary value. Even debt itself has been made a commodity in the form of collateralised debt obligations and futures.


Christianity is attacked by Marx because it has allegedly colluded with the ruling classes in subjugating and exploiting the lower classes for monetary gain, while at the same time he implicitly recognises the reality of the sacred and holy – e.g. in talking about money and the way everything in life has been given a price he says 

...all that is solid melts away, all that is holy is profaned


Yet the means he proposes for providing what he must have been regarded as a more humanistically just way of organizing our affairs makes no appeal to the holy. Everything happens in a material world with no spiritual dimension and God either does not exist or is irrelevant, being replaced by man. Morality itself becomes meaningless other than as a set of man-made rules. It is impossible to declare anything morally wrong by any absolute standard if there is no holy source of morality.  Yet he obviously believed in the notion  of holiness without wondering where it came from or how it was to be sustained when its source was ignored. 'Without God anything is permissible' (Dostoevsky). Those who killed 100+ million  people for the sake of  Mao Zedong, Marx and Lenin were breaking laws  laid down on humanistic principles for the benefit and flourishing of human beings. It was all done for the good of humanity. Similarly with cruel and lethal medical experiments on pregnant mothers and disabled inmates of Nazi concentration camps, or even medical experiments in the UK, for example, in the wake of World War II. It was all done in the name of human flourishing.

  In attempting to sweep away all the church institutions, which undoubtedly did sometimes depart radically from the teachings of Jesus Christ, Marx ignores the provenance of Christian values, i.e. what happened during the life of Jesus and within a decade or so of His Crucifixion: the parables and commands of Jesus Christ recorded by His contemporaries, the empty tomb, the widely reported Resurrection appearances, the vision of Saul, the first conversions of gentiles, the Pentecost, the miracles of the apostles and the persecution by the authorities. The Romanized institutionalized  church and its ramifications, which Marx despised,  did not begin until almost three centuries later. Even then, with all its faults, you only have to take a look at the non-Christian world of the time to see the difference.


 Marx seems to be correct in seeing that every economic order grows to a state of maximum efficiency while simultaneously sowing the seeds of its own downfall. This probably applies to any system of organizing human affairs, since nothing in life is static: circumstances change. Even the societies which claimed to be working towards the communist ideal collapsed from within. But he failed to realize that although a society may wish to redistribute bread more fairly, it cannot live by bread alone. Reality is not a machine., an economy and society with no soul. Well over 100 million died in the last century (more than in all previous history) because of this mistake, this departure from basic divine wisdom, as human beings were systematically killed in the name of atheist values or the human gods which always fill the spiritual vacuum left behind when the real holy source of reality is ignored by society. 

What Marx and his disciples failed to realise is that no human being or group of humans  can decide what is good by reason alone apart from God: there must be humility, love and truth, and these do not come from genetically expressed protein molecules, which themselves ultimately originate from God,  but from submission to our Creator made incarnate in humanity through the Christ.  See also 1984 revisited: collective postmodernism


 Today, like Marx, we decry the folly and greed of bankers and borrowers. To the extent that a new system is needed perhaps it should lie somewhere between the unfettered market-based one of today and a modified socialism, more internationalised in some respects, more localised in others. Or maybe something we cannot even envisage. Whatever system emerges let’s not forget the lesson of history: every man, woman and child should treat each other in accord with this command from our Saviour: ‘...love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love each other.’ John 13:34. A command that must be held sacred in all the institutions of humankind as well as individuals. 

In western society we are subconsciously aware of this command largely through habit. However, this awareness needs to be refreshed and kept alive to be kept alive by a nucleus of genuine, radical Christian believers. The Spirit needs to be consciously cultivated and encouraged throughout society in order to make it more like heaven on earth.

For this reason I believe that prayers and Christian symbols need to become part of public life. The values of the Sermon on the Mount are not likely to be adhered to rigorously but awareness of these through church going and the occasional media event can only be a good thing in re-establishing the trust and mutual respect needed for society to be viable at all. Recent problems with social media illustrate this.

Returning to the Soviet experiment I recently came across a quotation from V.I.Lenin made when he was close to death, in 1924. He recognizes too late that scientific atheism is unable to bring about net social progress:

I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.



Today it looks as though Christianity is returning to its true foundation of infinite redeeming love generated by the Trinity and flowing through the whole of creation, bringing about justice by restorative love rather then retribution. Franciscans are definitely in the ascendant and Christianity as a whole is spreading fast in the world as a whole and even beginning to revive in western countries corrupted by materialism and pagan influenced reward/punishment  models from medieval times. Hopefully it won't be too late to avert upheaval and collapse.

 John Sears
Author, 2077: Knights of Peace




Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Is the earth alive?



Until only the last decade or so there appeared to be a widespread belief among most biologists that life on earth was not really that mysterious. (Many physicists and most engineers did not share this view.)

Admittedly there was much to learn but ultimately it was just a matter of finding the mechanisms by which atoms and molecules had accidently arranged themselves into reproducing entities which by random genetic mutations and natural selection would evolve into a bewildering plethora of competing viable species of  bacteria, insects, reptiles, fish, birds and mammals.  It all started with 20 different kinds of amino acid molecules (19 of which had to be 'left handed' as opposed to their 'right handed' counterparts)  being thrown together by chance to produce the first organisms able to reproduce and with the potential to differentiate into future species in a way which would ultimately lead to the biosphere we know today. There was admittedly a growing recognition that cooperation between species, as in symbiosis, played a role but it was all driven by chance and selection pressure.

The widespread appearance of design was considered illusory - but not even neo-Darwinists ever suggested that design did not seem to be present.

Now this picture is beginning to be recognised by most scientists, even many neo-Darwinists, to be at best inadequate and probably fundamentally wrong.

1.SPECIATION. This is observed mainly in  bacteria and some insects but as far as I am aware (I only have the knowledge of the interested layman) no new bird or mammal species has occurred since humans appeared a few tens of thousands of years ago. One occasionally hears about a 'new' species but this always means 'newly discovered', unless it is a bacterium.'

2.MUTATIONS. The so called random mutations which give rise to new species of bacteria while intrinsically stochastic do not occur anywhere in the organism at random - they only happen where they lead to a viable variation of some kind that fits into and integrates with the overall architecture and functional scheme of the new organism, which at some level is 'known' in advance.

3.EPIGENETICS. Learned behaviour and acquired characteristics are passed on down the generations. The gene is not the master. What determines the behaviour and characteristics of an organism is what genes are turned on or off and the instructions for this somehow get passed on (by a by a fairly recently discovered process called methylation) to the offspring. What you learn now about how to cope with your environment can be passed on to future generations. How many generations is not known.  I saw one paper recently talking about 18 generations but I can't remember at this moment what kind of life it was.


4.COOPERATION betweeen species seems to be common throughout the ecosphere.This, as far as I am aware, occurs for all types of life, from bacteria to mammals, both within one type of life and between different kinds of life.

5.BIOLOGY AND GEOLOGY INTERACT. For instance, vegetation in prehistoric times lubricated the movements of rocks in a way which led to certain patterns of tectonic activity which indirectly affected earthquakes, volcanoes, vegetation, animal life and human settlements today.

6.INTELLIGENCE is ubiquitous in nature. New examples appear in the scientific press almost daily whether it is insects solving the 'travelling salesman problem' or crows using twigs as tools . A clue as to how this intelligence is achieved may lie in recent quantum biological investigations into photosynthesis and bird migration. Intelligence is being studied at the neurological level, leading to neural nets, deep learning and artificial intelligence.

7.PURPOSE.  Everything from an embryonic stem cell to the leader of a lion pack in some sense knows its purpose and behaves accordingly. In his book Improbable Planet the astrophysicist Hugh Ross cites a wealth of meticulously referenced evidence to support the thesis that the entire cosmic history is directed towards the realisation of human civilisation. New discoveries compatible with this hypothesis are appearing frequently in the literature without comment by the popular science media as far as I am aware.

8.QUANTUM ENTANGLEMENT. Physicists since the mid 20th century have been aware that molecules, atoms and other particles are able to interact independently of separation. This interaction is instantaneous, and so independent of time. In principle it is possible for particles on opposite sides of the universe to interact regardless of future, present or past. The controversial reports by Sheldrake et al of  learning within a species being passed without human intervention to another in a different part of the world should be seen in the light of this and of the intergenerational information transfer proven in epigenetics (item 3 above).

While not inferring here  anything about the philosophical or theological implications of this emerging picture it worries me that many scientists, in particular biologists and cosmologists, are made uncomfortable by it. They also show great reluctance to accept, if not a fear of, the hyperfine tuning of the initial state of the universe for life  (e.g. gravitational constant, cosmic constant, dark energy, electromagnetic constant, initial mass and initial entropy, to name only a few, are finely balanced to permit living systems to function). Yet the scientist's role is to discover truths about the world, not pretend they don't exist when they are discovered.

Some cosmologists have been so nonplussed by the Big Bang model (first conceived by a Roman Catholic priest), the fine tuning and the teleological evolution of the universe that they resort to invoking chance under the auspices of parallel or multiple universes which by definition cannot be experimentally verified, rather than focus on understanding the real universe we live in, over 90% of which is a total mystery. Instead of looking for more powerful theories on how our universe operates they arbitrarily invoke new ones. It reminds me of medieval alchemy.

Many young people regard scientists as priests and expect them to be guardians of the search for truth. If humanity is to continue to progress the holding of truth as a sacred target is its most precious resource. Popular science, e.g. BBC's Horizon, or the Discovery Channel or science articles in the press, need to acknowledge and discuss these aspects of the world. Otherwise instead of a new generation of scientists respecting God and truth we risk a descent into alchemy and magi, hopefully not conducted at great public expense.

John Sears
author, 2077:Knights of Peace

Monday, 5 February 2018

Climate change checklist





My belief is that climate change is likely over the coming decades, as it always has been, and that we should prepare for it, both  by reducing emissions and taking measures to protect us from floods and extreme weather events. This is doubly important as the population grows and becomes concentrated in cities, which are more often than not either next to the sea or a lake or a river. However, we need to retain humility and recognize that effects known only to the Creator could occur (e.g.:  the influence  of dark matter or some cosmic connection via quantum entanglement. As a layman I have already seen references to this in the literature.).

The list below is a reminder of the complexity of the problem of predicting climate change. Please contact me (John Sears) via

cosmik.jo@gmail.com

if you think it needs modifying or have any information which might easily be added to the list.




Human activity. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning and methane from livestock farming are the main human source of global warming gases which appear to be tipping the global balance towards warming rather than the cooling we would expect according to the Milankovitch cycle (see below). However, the extent to which carbon dioxide is a major cause is obscured by the observation (this is what I understand as an interested layman) that the records over geological time show that CO2 levels lag behind rather than precede mean temperature trends upward.

Radiant energy output of sun. This has increased by around 25% since the sun was formed, i.e. over more than 4 billion years.  Very small variations occur over decades and centuries and bear some relationship to the number of sunspots (which is related to solar activity). The Little Ice Age  included  a period of low sunspot activity, with no sunspots observed over 1650-1700, when the mean temperature was lowest.

Milankovitch cycle. The amount of sunlight reaching the earth varies according to the changing shape of the earth’s orbit (eccentricity), the tilt of the N-S axis and the precession of this axis. The crucial factor appears to be the amount of sunlight falling on the northern hemisphere in any one year. Milankovitch (1970s, Serbia)  showed that the coming and going of ice ages over the last 600,000 years was due to these factors.  If there were no other factors we would expect to be entering another ice age now, instead of a warm period.

Heat from below the crust. The biosphere has more heat going into it than can be accounted for by the sun. The difference is believed to be due to  radioactive decay in the earth’s core. (see also Ocean Heat Sink below.)

Gravitational effects.There are  gravitational influences on climate which could become large in certain situations (chaos theory shows that very small events, like the fluttering of a butterfly, can potentially have dramatic effects, such as a storm on the other side of the world). The gravity exerted at the earth's surface varies very slightly with time and position due to inhomogeneities in the crust, mantle and core. Even small changes in these factors could potentially set off major changes not allowed for by present climate models. Even small changes in the orbit of the moon and planets would have huge effects (E.g. If a large asteroid caused a perurbation in the sun-moon system. Jupiter's motion is also crucial to the stabiity of Earth's orbit).

Atmospheric composition. The importance of this arises from the way it affects the absorption and reflection of radiation coming in from the sun or being reflected back upwards from the earth’s surface. Carbon is the main gas responsible fo the greenhouse effect – it acts like the glass in a greenhouse to trap in heat. Methane is also a greenhouse gas, much more powerful than CO2 but also much less prevalent.

Plants.  While alive these take in carbon dioxide from the air, thereby cooling it through the reduced greenhouse effect. But as they decay they give it out again,  but over a longer period. Large areas of trees affect the climate not only in this way but also by their moistening effect on the air.The Amazon rain forest appears to have a pivetol role in determining the global climate.

Animals . The main effect of these is due to the methane from  their defecated waste and rotting carcasses. Methane produced in this way is more of a problem than automobile greenhouse emissions as livestock herds grow in response to the westernization of diets in China, India etc.

Microscopic life. Bacteria and spores living in  land, sea and air sometimes affect rainfall. E.g. spores in the ocean can be whisked up into the atmosphere by strong winds and dispersed. Here they act as condensation nuclei for the formation of the water drops and thence clouds. Insects can reduce the balance of combustible debris in a forest and this in turn means fewer and smaller forest fires emitting CO2.




Clouds. The type of cloud and its coverage affect the amount of sunlight striking the earth’s surface and the amount of radiation reflected back to its surface instead of radiated away into space. They have been and still are a problem in creating climate models.

Aerosol pollution. Particles in the atmosphere from both natural and artificial sources can have a marked effect on the cooling or warming of the atmosphere. This can either be direct, by absorbing or reflecting incoming solar energy, or indirect by altering the type and distribution of clouds. The size, shape and colour of the particles affect the way they reflect, scatter or absorb radiant energy, Major sources of aerosols include volcanoes, forest fires, aircraft and large cities. See this NASA source 

Atmospheric convection.  Heat from the ground boils up the air and the convection currents (i.e. wind) produced distribute warm air over the planet and also affect the cloud type, amount and global distribution. This in turn affects temperature, rain and snow.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, gales and the jet stream are all driven by atmospheric convection.
Ocean currents. The bulk of the heat in the biosphere which we inhabit is stored in the ocean and it is the global currents in the sea (e.g. the Gulf  Stream) which determine the global patterns of temperature in the air over the sea.

Ocean heat sink. As the net amount of heat input to the planet from the sun and from the earth's core (the latter being due to the decay of radioactive isotopes, e.g. U and Th) changes some is absorbed by the atmosphere and some by the oceans and the relative magnitude of each type of absorption is not clear, making it difficult to predict the nature of the resultant climate change.

Methane and water vapour.  As the climate warms it releases large bubbles of methane trapped in fozen deposits under the ocean or in tundra.  This causes further warming. It is 21x as powerful as carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is produced by a certain kind of bacteria. Water vapour also has a larger effect than CO2 on global warming.

Polar ice caps. Both Arctic and Antarctic  ice sheets reflect large amounts of heat from the sun back into space. Small reductions in area cause significant increases in the amount of heat absorbed from the solar heat reaching the earth’s surface. Similarly, the greater the ice coverage  the more incident radiant heat will be reflected.

Snow cover. As with snow in the polar regions the snow settled on large mountain ranges like the Himalayas and the Alps affects the percentage of solar radiation reflected or absorbed by the earth’s surface.  

Melting glaciers.  When a glacier melts it not only leads to possible flooding but reduces the area of the planet which reflects incident sunlight away from the surface, i.e. the ground retains incident solar energy instead of reflecting it  back into space. When melt water flows into the sea it dilutes the concentration of salt in the seawater and this has a major effect on ocean currents which in turn affects the climate. (The more salt the denser the water.)

Sea ice. As with glaciers and snow, melting of sea ice (icebergs) reduces the % of sunlight reflected back into space. It also reduces the salinity and hence density of seawater, which affects ocean currents which themselves affect the distribution of heat in the oceans.  However, melting icebergs maks no difference to sea levels.

Volcanoes. Eruptions from these inject huge amounts of sulphur dioxide into the air and, like carbon dioxide and methane, this produces a greenhouse effect. The ash and dust from eruptions also affects cloud formation and directly blots out sunlight.

Carbon dioxide absorption by weathering of rocks. About 1 billion tons per annum of atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by weathering of silicate rocks. This compares to 30 billion tons emitted by civilisation. Such absorption is associated with the plate tectonic cycle which has been important in keeping air temperature constant over hundreds of millions of years.

Carbon dioxide absorption where ice has melted. Land and sea exposed by retreating ice is likely to be recolonized by plants and plankton which absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. The surface areas involved are large and this could be a major factor in offsetting the heating effect of the reduced albedo. Conceivably it could even cause global warming to come to a halt or even reverse. (I will try to find some data on this.)





Meteor  impacts. Hits by large meteors can have global repercussions including climate change. If a large enough object hit the earth it would of course cause a mass extinction event, like the one which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Cosmic rays.  These  can also affect cloud formation , since the particles which make up cosmic rays can cause nucleation of water drops.  There does seem to be some link between them and average temperature/rainfall.


John Sears
author
Reach me at
cosmik.jo@gmail.com