Sunday, November 5, 2017

Open letter to the new Governor General of Canada on her speech against astrology

Dear Ms Payette,

With great respect for your achievements and your position, I would like to offer a small criticism of your  Wednesday speech at the Canadian Science Policy Conference. I believe that the vast majority of Canadians would prefer the custom that, like Her Majesty the Queen of which you are representative, the GG remain non-controversial.  Even though I may agree with your sentiments regarding climate change and evolution, I don’t agree that political statements are appropriate for your office.

As a concerned Canadian, please let me help you with the facts and scientific understanding of astrology. The debate on astrology, of which you have now entered into, rarely reaches the level of scholarly peer-reviewed journals and academic discourse. At this point, there is only one evidence-based skeptical article, by the relentless astrology critics Geoffrey Dean (of Australia) and Ivan Kelly (of Canada), published in 2003, that has achieved that notability. The article summarizes the strongest available rhetorical and empirical arguments against astrology and has been highly influential throughout the scientific community, including your own skeptical views whether you realize it or not.

As you may wish to be better informed on the controversy of science and astrology, rather than making further statements based on intuition that can be highly biased, I suggest that you take the time to study Dean and Kelly’s well researched article. However, before you align yourself with the arguments of the authors, I suggest that you also study my counter-criticism, published in the same journal last year that examines the claims they make.

The little known fact is that there is no good evidence or argument against astrology that withstands critical scrutiny but there is some good evidence in favour. Both Dean and Kelly and myself have extended the discourse slightly through their more recent article and my posts added to their open access version, but these responses are basically repetition of the original arguments and do not add substance.

As a co-author, I am expecting to publish an important new peer-reviewed research article, currently in review, which uses the best available data, the Gauquelin samples, that demonstrates a very clear, predictable astrological effect that will be extremely hard to refute. As you might come to appreciate, Canada is in the forefront of the genuine scientific research and debate on astrology.

Payette takes on climate change deniers and horoscopes at science conference

Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and PSI?

Clearing the Logjam in Astrological Research: Commentary on Geoffrey Dean and Ivan Kelly's Article 'Is Astrology Relevant to Consciousness and Psi?'

Sincere regards,

Kenneth McRitchie

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is consciousness a process of co-evolutionary domestication?

A recent article, Geographic mosaics and changing rates of cereal domestication, on co-evolution between humans and cereal grains provides some intriguing insights. In co-evolution, each species evolves to adapt to the other in a mutual process of what we call 'domestication.' It has been argued for example, that dogs and humans domesticated each other through presenting and selecting desirable traits and behaviors.

The interesting question to me has to do with how much consciousness (including collective or 'swarm' consciousness--a powerful multiplier of consciousness), is involved in this adaptive transformation. Consciousness is most often regarded as being completely subjective and individual but typical discussions do not consider swarm (and possibly 'crop') consciousness. Concepts of consciousness as an adaptive co-evolutionary process are especially intriguing with regard to the domestication 'effort' made by cereals as a crop plant. Could co-evolution and domestication be explained as a form of conscious environmental synchronicity or entangled process symmetry?

When viewed as a process, domestication may be the 'reason' inferred by evolution and all evolution is essentially co-evolution. See The mathematics of mind-time.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Owning our body clock

The description of molecular feedback loops and protein oscillators appears to help explain circadian rhythms yet are still a type of black box on a par with astrology in terms of describing a "mechanism" for all the magical connections. There are potential exogenous oscillator models that looks like machines, for example, the planets. Orthodoxy seems to require looking mainly to the "nurture" environment of inner workings and the past, where there is an appearance that we can consciously influence what is expressed even if there is a lack of evidence for it. It is orthodoxy to think in terms of "owning" our genes and molecules. The unorthodox among us may look more towards the external environment and the future. To the orthodox, it may seem that we can never have conscious influence over what we experience that comes from "nature" outside.

To me, it is surprising that Dr Michael Hastings recognizes astrology as a black box! It suggests that he thinks the functionality of astrology can be researched. Much human learning is a black box and only later, when we develop hypotheses and theories, do we begin to understand the principles and mechanisms that drive the boxes. Natural selection is a black box. Machine learning is a black box that is experiencing accelerating growth. We are at the point now where, because of machine learning and AI, we will understand less about important underlying functions, processes, development patterns and decisions that affect our daily lives.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Gods, Metaphor, and Sacred Monarchy

I found the article (see link below) on sacred monarchies surviving in the post-modern world intriguing. Recently, I've been thinking about how ancient people used the metaphor of the planets moving across the sky as chariots of the gods. At the time, celestial chariots driven by the intelligent powers of gods was perfectly scientific. But how does this relate to sacred monarchies?

Naturally, there were no chariots, just as there were no celestial spheres responsible for Ptolemaic epicycles, no centripetal Newtonian rope holding planets in their orbits, and there is no rubber sheet of Einsteinian curved space-time surrounding bodies in space. All these are metaphors for natural principles and should not be taken literally.

To ancient people, the "gods" may have been more like what we today would call natural law. They were the eternal and unchanging rules of nature. The gods were each some aspect of intelligence but were not human. The Egyptians emphasized that gods were not human by illustrating them with the heads of species of animals, each representing a different intelligence. Each was a sort of unconcerned "dumb intelligence."

In Far Eastern monarchies, the king assumed the godlike role of the eternal and unchanging by leading a strictly regulated, ritualized, and politically uncontroversial life. The people treated these sacred kings with utmost respect, veneration and deference, provided the kings adhered to their strict regimen. A king provided a central, observable response to the natural principles of the universe that the people could potentially influence through limiting and changing the king's environment.

In the West, however, the gods (and hence their counterparts in Western monarchies) became far less eternal and unchanging and far more human, replete with all the appetites and failings of human beings. This resulted in extraordinary tales of capriciousness, retribution, and the strengths and limitations of power. The Greek poets may have made the gods human to glorify heroism (Homer) or to didactically illustrate hubris and the need for political and social justice (Hesiod). The planetary gods and celestial chariots were never intended to be like this.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Moving day freezing rain

On a rooftop balcony, there's such a deep, raspy rattle when I turn and see black-winged babel. Can there be any friendlier sound or any better omen? The rainy limb it leaves isn’t lifeless, though it seems. Walking on snow below, moving furniture in winter, Quebec, where all but one bird sleeps.