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.