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The End Is Nigh: Failed Stewardship of Planet Earth

Early this year Christian numerologist and astrologer David Meade proclaimed that April 23 would be the days of the second coming of Christ, the Rapture, the end of the world. It generated some media attention just prior to that date although, it must be said, not much after. Mind you, this was the second attempt of David Meade who also reported that end-times would occur on 23 September in 2017.

Some of you may remember that almost ten years ago, I an address gave at this church on the alleged prophecies of a 2012 destruction based on a destructive interpretation of the Mesoamerican long-count calendar and an associated science fiction disaster film. That address was entitled "2012 : From Ancient Brilliance to Modern Nonsense" [1], where I gave great credit to the Mesoamericans for developing a sophisticated calendar, and castigated contemporary (albeit fringe) interpretations for trying to make it something that it was not.

For this century alone there has been almost twenty-five major predictions of the end of the world that have passed, and several that are yet to come. Ronald Weinland, of the "Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God" has predicted the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus in 2011, in 2012, in 2013, and most recently June 9, 2019.

If we go back into the twentieth century there are of course many, many examples. The Jehovah's Witnesses made four such predictions. Herbert Armstrong, the leader of the Worldwide Church of God, also managed four. Some of these were quite tragic; on the 26th March 1997 thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide under the belief that the souls would join a UFO on the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet, escaping the "recycling" of Earth (their website is still kept in its 1997 glory [2]).

The Philosophy of Technology

Inverting A Common Assumption

It is common that technology is defined as "applied science", deriving from Jacob Bigelow's 1829 definition as "principles, processes, and nomenclatures of the more conspicuous arts, particularly those which involve applications of science". Webster's defines technology as "industrial science; the science of systematic knowledge of the industrial arts", Collins offers "the application of practical sciences to industry or commerce", and Oxford has "the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes". For what it's worth, the etymology of the word is from the Hellenic "tekhnelogia", tekhne art, creation, and -logia, explanation.

These contemporary definitions imply that science has priority over technology and precedes technology, and historically the philosophy of technology has been confined as a minor tangent to the philosophy of science, and occasionally touching on the history of technology. However, in the past forty years or so, various philosophers of technology invert this common assumption [1], claiming that it is an idealist view that places epistemology over ontology. Rather than technology being applied science, they have argued that science is applied technology. Once we are beyond our natural capacities of observation, all our empirical information is technologically mediated. Science is a rational abstraction of data gained from technology that predicts empirical results. But the empirical results have a priority, discoveries of fact trump the scientific theory, and the scientific theory must adapt to empirical truth or die (e.g., spontaneous generation, miasma theory of disease, phlogiston theory, luminiferous aether, classical physics, phrenology).

Remembering Martin Luther King, Jnr


1. Introduction

In the early evening of April 4, 1968, a shot rang out in Memphis sky that would be heard around the world [1]. The shot was an assassination of a Reverend who had travelled to the city in support of sanitation public works employees, who had been on strike over wages and conditions. The Reverend in question was, of course, Martin Luther King Jnr (often referred to as MLK), a Baptist minister and political activist for civil rights, for peace, and for economic justice. Described as "the conscience of his generation" by President Jimmy Carter [2], the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed just after his assassination. In his lifetime King was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and was a post-humous recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. In 1983 Martin Luther King Jr. Day was signed into U.S. law as am American federal holiday, which was finally recognised by all U.S. states in 2000.

Fifty years has passed since MLK's death, and almost ninety since his birth. It is opportune to remember this transformative leader, their works, their beliefs, and their hopes and to evaluate them. It is indeed true that people do make history, but they certainly do not choose the conditions [3]. People are not born leaders, but they may indeed develop the traits that provide effective leadership - responsibility, perseverance, innovation, confidence - and that they take account of the contingencies of the day developing a charisma which challenges existing authority and inspires followers, making their lives sublime. For most importantly, a leader must have followers; not everyone wants to be a leader, and behind every leader are their followers and the organisational infrastructure that delegates leadership to them. The footprints in the sands of time [4] that of a great leader are not theirs alone.

It is with this in mind that we can review the life of Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr, and the organisations that he was part of. We can then look at the role that the Christian religion played in his life, his ideas, and actions. As a practical person we can also review his political views to the dominant ideologies of the day, and especially the strategy of non-violent resistance and the inspiration by Mahatma Gandhi. Finally, before engaging in an evaluation of of MLK as a whole, a look at one of his challenging ideas in economics, an issue which of course the mainstream political establishment is yet to address, as it raises some various serious issues towards capitalist property rights. Whilst capitalism may drag its feet on issues of political equality, it can eventually accept it. It has far greater trouble accepting those ideas which are contrary to its own foundational principles. It is after all, a religion based on moral blame of their poor, rather than moral repentance by the rich [5].

The Philosophy of Quantum Physics

Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota monax materiam possit materiari?

1.0 Definition, Scope, and History

1.1 Quantum physics is a branch of physics which is the fundamental theory of nature at small scales and low energies of atoms and subatomic particles. An atom is defined as the smallest unit of matter that has the properties of a chemical unit. They consist of a nucleus of protons and neutrons (making up around 99.94% of the mass) and one or more electrons (hydrogen ion excepted). Protons, neutrons, and electrons are fermions, contrasted with bosons. Fermions obey the Pauli exclusion principle and includes all quarks and leptons (electrons, muons, tau, and neutrinos). Bosons include photons, gluons, guage bosons, and the Higgs boson.
1.2 Quarks are elementary subatomic particles for protons and neutrons, both of which have an internal structure. Electrons are elementary particles in their own right with no internal structure. There are six types of quarks, known as flavors: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom. Up and down quarks, found in protons and neutrons, have the lowest masses of all quarks. The heavier quarks rapidly change into up and down quarks through a process of particle decay. Gluons "glue" quarks together.
1.3 Quantum mechanics gradually arose from the wave nature of light began in the 17th and 18th centuries, when several scientists proposed a wave theory of light; in 1838, Michael Faraday discovered cathode rays, and in 1859 the statement of the black-body (thermal) radiation problem by Gustav Kirchhoff. Max Planck's provided a solution in 1900 to the black-body radiation problem, Albert Einstein in 1905 offered a quantum-based theory to explain the photoelectric effect, and Niels Bohr's a new model of the atom included quantized electron orbits in 1913.

Is Pantheism an Atheism?


Etymology and History

The word 'pantheism' in popular translation means "all God". Which at least on an initial level, would seem to be the polar opposite of atheism. The Oxford dictionary defines the term as "A doctrine which identifies God with the universe, or regards the universe as a manifestation of God" and, interestingly, "The worship or tolerance of many gods." This does not sound very atheist at all. However as one digs a little deeper into the etymology some further understanding is gained in the history. The Ancient Hellenic "pan" is a relatively unproblematic translation of "all". But "theos" is alternatively "god" or "divine", derived from the Proto-Indo-European "to do, to put, to place". It is not related, despite similarity in form and meaning, to the Latin 'deus', whose Proto-Indo-European root, is "sky" or "heaven". In fact, in Latin, it is a lot closer to the words feriae ("festival days"), fanum ("temple"), and festus ("festive"). Immediately from the etymology once can see to core themes; simultaneous association with reverence and immanence.

Race conditions for the Human Species : A Global Perspective


1.0 What are Race Conditions?
1.1 Not be confused with "the human race" (French origin from Italian, razza); but rather a race of movement (Middle English from Old Norse, ras). It is an expression from electronics and programming which is applicable to other systemic environments. It refers to uncertainty in an output when there is a multiplicity of operations occurring concurrently in the same environment. The multiple signals or threads are in a "race" with each other often with disastrous consequences (e.g., Therac-25 radiation therapy machine).
1.2 Placing locks in a system with race conditions will enforce sequential behaviour (at a cost to parallelism and speed) but may also introduce "deadlocks" which bring signals to a halt (e.g., apocryphal Kansas railway statute) or "livelocks", where signals are active but cannot progress (e.g., polite corridor problem).
1.3 The interactions of human beings with their environment constitutes a massively system with parallel signals, feedback loops, and programmer intervention. Modern science had significantly reduced the degree that this system as a whole is unpredictable; evaluation in such circumstances is carried out in terms of risk evaluation (likelihood and consequences).

The Abolition of Crime: New Principles in Criminology and Justice

The Cost of Crime

Those who follow the pithy aphorism, "crime doesn't pay" should also be more attentive to the costs of crime. The Australian government's Institute of Criminology estimated that on 2005 figures, that crime costs Australia nearly $36 billion per annum - about 4.1% of the GDP. Forty per cent of this is the result of fraud, followed by burglary at ten per cent, then drug offenses at nine per cent, arson at eight per cent, and and assault at 7 per cent). The Australian Productivity Commission determined that on 2009 figures the Australian governments spent more than $10.7 billion on criminal services; police accounting taking up 66.7 per cent of the total cost, followed by corrective services at 22.7 per cent, criminal court administration at 5.7 per cent, and civil court administration at 4.9 per cent.

Free Will, Compatibilism, and Determinism: A Pseudo-problem

The debate between advocates of free-will, compatibilism, and determism is certainly on-going. Recently The Philosophy Forum had a meeting with Tim Harding of The Logical Place with his views on the subject (PDF attached of his presentation). Behind the walled garden of Facebook Alice Knight continued the discussion with contributions from Philosophy Forum regular Leslie Allan, Tim Harding, Stephen Lawrence, Trick Slattery, and others. Leslie Allan post a summary of his views, leading to the amusing possibility of a debate between "the logical place" and "the rational realm"!

Epistemology of Madness

1.0 Epistemology and Madness in Context
1.1 Epistemology, the study of the knowledge and scope of knowledge (intellectual and experiential), and the groundings and justifications of claims. It is differentiated from ontology (being, becoming, existence).
1.2 As an epistemological review it is not the reality of madness that is reviewed here (e.g., a review of causes); but rather how does one know whether a behaviour or person suffers from madness.
1.3 'Madness' has a number of definition; it can refer to insanity, folly, rage, or intense enthusiasm (as a proper noun, it can also refer to a 1970s/1980s popular ska band). It is mainly the former sense that is discussed in this presentation, although one could suggest that the definitions can be associated with the primary definition.
1.4 Note that 'insanity' derives from the Latin for 'not healthy' (sanus), a "sickness of the mind". Thus insanity can be considered a defective mental process.

A Modern Reconstruction of Buddhist Karma

Address to the Melbourne Unitarian Church, September 6, 2015

Introduction

This address comes with a number of caveats. I do not consider myself a Buddhist, although I have been an interested observer for some decades, and have skirted on the edges of being involved in the "three jewels" of community (sangha), the teachings (dharma), and hopefully the practise (Buddha). Personally I also have very fond memories of the pilgrimage my housemate and I took in 1996 to the Woolongong Nan Tien Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere. This pilgrimage included spending a night in a ditch on the road to Gundagai, meeting a self-identified friendly elf, a mind-reading radio engineer, and spending some time with an electronic music collective and an IT company named the "The Evil Brotherhood of Mutants, Inc" in a mafia-owned warehouse. Perhaps one day this very strange and wonderful journey may one day be an address in its own right. Alas, time will not permit an elaboration today.

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