History of Electrotherapy Wednesday, Oct 31 2007 


The usefulness of literature Monday, Oct 29 2007 

There seems to be an unfortunate chasm between the humanities and the hard sciences. The first is the domain of limp-wristed sissies that never quite grew out of that “I’m a tortured artist” stage of middle-school/high-school, and only the tough-minded skeptics interested in a pursuit of truth can make it where it really matters- the lab and the field. As one associates himself with these people- in college, coffee shops or at work- we find that these distinctions are rarely accurate. In fact, if history tells us anything, it is that such distinctions are false. The greatest minds in history, from Plato and Aristotle, to Anselm and Aquinas, through the age of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau, down to Darwin, Maxwell, Einsten, Heisenberg and Watson/Crick, have all had a penchant for the romantic side of humanity usually portrayed best by those individuals worshiped in humanities departments. I think there is a very good reason for that- it is because they are scientists that such great literary (and artistic works in general) feats are ruminated on. Let’s consider this a bit.

If there is anything that we are familiar with most, it is our own mind. David Hume rightly shewed that any investigation into the world must begin with the investigator himself- that is, psychology must precede metaphysics. Therefore it is the human mind that takes precedence over the rest of the worlds mysteries, and must remain so until it is solved.

What, then, is the status of the science of the mind in the appropriate fields over the recent years? Actually, it is both troubling and soothing at the same time. We are finding out that the mind is a perpetual black box, fending off all reductive attacks from all quarters. Now, that does not mean that we have no compiled an impressive list of data- certainly, we have more data than we know what to do with-but rather that there is yet to be found an actual explanation of many facets of our mental life. What is experience? What is consciousness? Why does red look the way it does? Why does heat feel the way it does? It seems in theory impossible to solve these questions. Any scientific explanation will take the following (rough) form:

Whenever patient reports mental state m, physical state p attends. At best this could bundle together certain events with each other, hardly a satisfying explanation. But perhaps the human mind is unable to be broken into? Perhaps, as a growing number of academics are beginning to “feel”, the psychological features of the mind are on their way to being exhausted while the phenomenal remains forever out of reach?

Hence the popularity of literature. If there can be no objective, 3rd person look into the human mind, we must rely on 1st person reports of that individual to make any progress in mind sciences. Who is the best at that? Well, it is the person able to report his own mental state with the most clarity and precision. Sounds like Shakespeare to me. He needs to be able to recreate in our minds the feel of love. Sounds like Goethe to me. The agony of dying? Try out Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych.

The way I see it, if the mind really is something irreducible or non-physical, literature will provide immense usefulness for eternity necessarily.

I’m sick of baseball Thursday, Oct 25 2007 

Yeah yeah, the Yankees are the bad guys with a 200 million dollar payroll. Years of bitching by the Red Sox and God finally alleviated their misery (no one likes picking on the retarded kid for long). Now guess what, the little ‘ol BoSox with their bloated budget are about to steamroll a fairy NL team that miraculously made it into the playoffs. Sorry to tell you this Red Sox Nation, but this is the reason MLB is losing fans to football- it just isn’t that cool to buy yourself a World Series. I pray to God that the Sox win it just so it becomes that much more pathetic that they went so long without winning it. They should have been winning it.

Reason #873 that football is better than baseball.

Stephen King’s "Cell" Thursday, Oct 25 2007 

I found this book in a bargain bin, so Nagel is going to have to wait a few more days. Frankly, I had never read a King book before so I thought I’d give it a try. Zombies absolutely terrify me, but this book, at least through the first 150 pages, has been kind of boring. Maybe I’m desensitized from me recent mental scarring- that scene in 28 Weeks Later where the husband kills his wife by beating the hell out of her and then pushing his fingers into her eyes is still burned into my psyche- but the violence has been kind of blah. I hear that Eli Roth of Hostel fame is going to make this into a movie, so that should be brutal.

In any case, this has been a trippy read. Not too scary, though. If you want to know what scares me the most check out Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych. I could barely sleep after reading that one.

A warning note to anyone who hasn’t fucked up already- DO NOT WATCH MULHOLLAND DRIVE

Reading Antony Flew Wednesday, Oct 24 2007 

There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind

Antony Flew is no one’s bitch. In spite of a career composed of his vocal rejection of religion, in spite of famous essays arguing the contrary, and in spite of public debates denying God’s existence, Flew has switched sides and now believes in a God. He has huge balls. I remember a few weeks ago how proud people were of Sam Harris when he took all that flack for saying nothing of consequence, but imagine multiplying Harris’ intelligence by negative 10 (because Harris actually makes people dumber), add 50 some years of dedicated atheistic work and stamp it all with your name, and you have what Antony Flew did.

In any case, the book actually isn’t that impressive. At least, if you are interested in a book that gives a detailed case of why he was an atheist and why he converted (deconverted?) you are in for a bore. Nothing much for anyone with a mediocre background in philosophy. It reads a bit like a biography- some history, some anecdotes, some surprising confessions- and finishes with a smattering of design-type arguments of shallow substance.

This isn’t to say that it is a bad book by any stretch. It simply isn’t what I expected. Further, the inclusion of a question and answer period with N.T. Wright was interesting in the way any authority on some topic should be, but seems out of place. Flew isn’t a Christian, and merely sketches his path from atheism to theism. So why N.T. Wright? Who cares, though, it was an appendix anyway. Skip it if you would find resurrection stuff boring.

Next on the list: The Last Word by Thomas Nagel.

Richard Dawkins is a retard Wednesday, Oct 24 2007 

I used to just think of the guy as that poor scientist that keeps wandering into things beyond his field of study. But now that Christians began the “body-count game” with atheists (Hitchens in particular) Dawkins complains about it? Here’s a clue, Dick: YOU STARTED IT. Maybe you forgot about the majority of the content in New Atheism books? What an idiot.
Here is the way I see it-

Men are mean.
Both Atheists and Christians are men.
Atheists and Christians are mean.

That’s why this is such a bullshit debate. We’ve evolved to be dicks to one another. It is not that people were angels before religion came about. Nah, we were ripping and biting and hitting way before some wrinkled old fart sat himself down on some make-believe throne of power.
If anything, Dawkins, ye olde lover of things memetic, should see religion as a useful way of exploiting the weak to further the the devious plans of the strong. Seriously man, you are ruining it for the rest of us.
Stop being a bitch.

On books I will never read Wednesday, Oct 24 2007 

I love to read a good book. However, there are some pieces of trash that I will never pick up, even if everyone around me poops their pants over this author. Guess what Michael Connolly? I know absolutely nothing about your books, but when I see:

“Michael Connolly is one of those masters…who can keep driving the story forward in runaway locomotive style.”

“Connolly puts his foot on the gas and doesn’t let up.”

“High-voltage adventure…”

That means that automatically, your works are scratched off my possibility list. Did you notice something about all those descriptions? I don’t want him to get me to work on time in rush-hour traffic, I want a good book. How about actually telling me something about the style of writing that will lead to some kind of useful idea about what I’m about to read?
Critics of this sort are useless.
I swear that they recycle the same damn cliches over and over again. Hell, I sincerely doubt that they even read the book before writing those blurbs. They might as well not, as they are indistinguishable between Mystery/Thriller books. Take a look at the “rave” reviews given to a second Connolly author, Jonathan:

“In the crowded killing fields of crime fiction, John Connolly is a unique voice.”

Thanks asshole, I now know nothing about this book. What is unique supposed to mean? Does he use sentences in a way never seen before? Doubt it. Does he provide radically new storylines that have never been explored before? Impossible. Why, then, should I look at such a short description and actually think that I know something about what I’m about to plunk 10 dollars of my own money on?

So, here is a list of words/phrases that set off my shit-book alarm:

*Doesn’t let go
*”Murder never felt so good”
*New levels of excitement

This list is sure to grow daily, but those are a few I can pull off the top of my head.