Archive for February, 2017

Reevaluate Basic Assumptions

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Feb. 27, 2017

In my college days at Antioch we had a jokey high-fog phrase that was sprinkled through late night bull sessions—Reevaluate Your Basic Assumptions. Heavy, but not a bad idea.

As a child (and through my high school years) my basic assumptions were simple. I believed a God, his son Jesus, and my personal guardian angel were always watching over me, judging, protecting, and loving me; I believed the United States was the greatest country in the world; I thought that my city, Dayton Ohio, was the best; in short I thought I was blessed with the greatest family, school, religion, and life style ever. All that was missing was that my family was not rich enough (jeepers, I was after all a Great Depression child).

In college (and for many years thereafter) I doubted all of these assumptions. I replaced them with what I considered liberal progressive beliefs. God, his son, and guardian angels are myths inherited from the medieval past; science, common sense, and Enlightenment philosophy are better guides today; we live on a small spaceship and we should do everything we can to conserve and enhance our environment; prejudices against Blacks, Jews, Gays, and all minorities and majorities are wrong.

I still believe all of these assumptions.

The substitutes did not stop there. For years I was convinced that business and corporations were suspect if not evil; I thought the USA was one of many exceptional countries in a multi-cultural world; the ideal would be a world government without borders (the UN and the European Union are flawed but decent starts). It would abolish wars and bring peace and prosperity to all and it would include some form of socialism that guaranteed jobs, income, health care, and happiness for all. It would abolish greed, corporate folly and violence. It would also foster altruism, green ideals for the environment, and get rid of profit making forever. Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society were flawed but decent starts.

I don’t believe any of these assumptions now. After reading more history in my mature years, especially the history of science, I came to different conclusions and opted for different assumptions.

I take seriously now the division of human history into three parts: (1) the Hunting/Gathering Age (the longest, over 100,000 years) which includes the evolution of Homo sapiens; (2) the Agricultural Age (10,00 years) that saw a population surge, an increase in life expectancy, the birth of many colorful civilizations and religions, literacy, and the beginnings of arts and sciences; and (3) the Modern Age (a shade over 200 years), founded and led by an idea-based country, the USA, and featuring a large population surge, an impressive expansion of resources, wealth, life expectancy, technology and freedom.

I think the USA made a good start on the Modern Age with our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. Now we should build on these solid foundations.

We have inherited genes and memes from all previous Ages. The genes we can’t much about, yet. The memes (assumptions, traditions, ideas, beliefs, religions, prejudices, songs, poems, stories, and trivia) are in our power to change, though not without pain.

One of the most powerful—and antiquated—of these memes is that resources and wealth depend on how much land, gold, and workers you control (in past Ages workers meant slaves, serfs, or peasants). This meme applies to individuals as well as countries. In all past Ages it was only too true. In the Modern Age it is not true.

Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Osama bin Laden, and Kim Jong Un seemed to think it was true today but they were and are tragically mistaken. WW1, WW2, the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq wars—and the many many imperialist wars that European, Asian, and American nations fought to gain “living space” (more land, resources, and workers) are sad examples. Leaders assumed they were running out of natural resources to support their rapidly growing populations. A more rational view would tell them that the keys to wealth in the Modern Age are the creative products of the human mind (and free trade), not land or other resources. Many modern countries are now struggling with this meme.

China, for example, is making fast progress to wealth now that it has adopted a market system (capitalism), but it is still handicapped by top-down communist rule; India too is making fast progress now with a market system, but is handicapped by an inherited rigid caste system; African and Muslim countries are lagging, but as they allow more freedom for creative minds and discard outdated religious memes, we may be surprised how soon they enter the Modern Age; South America is also handicapped by antiquated religious memes but is showing signs of Enlightenment and progress. The handicaps are all memes from past Ages but they are changing now. And fast.

Subsidiary and deeply reactionary memes follow logically from this wealth meme: racism, sexism, imperialism, larceny, war, and quirks like male honor, violence, heroes, dependency, victimhood, drug addiction, tattoos, body jewelry, celebrity worship, green hypocrisy, and progressive bias.

This all leads to my assumptions today: the USA is indeed exceptional, not because we are better than other countries, but because we got there first, are idea-based, and are leaders in the Modern Age; capitalism is superior to socialism in every practical way except public image and propaganda; profits and corporations are vital for progress; genuine science and technology are superior to religion in every way except public image and tradition; prejudice against all members of any group is always wrong but some idea-groupings of human beings are indeed harmful to all and deserve to be banned or subject to immigration restrictions (ex. Nazis, Communists, radical Muslims, Mafia criminals, and indeed true believers of any and all religious, racial, and ethnic groups.)

Remember too that there are bell curves in nature for all living things and traits. Thus, as Martin Luther King Jr. advised, we should always judge individuals by their character and not by any so-called group traits.

Other assumptions of mine may qualify for reevaluation tomorrow: there is intense left-liberal bias in the current media, university, bureaucratic, celebrity, and educational establishment (what I call the clergy); suspicion of labels like natural, organic, no chemicals, non GMO; suspicion of evidence claimed for climate change, radiation, nuclear, and lead-in-water damage, of many pollution claims of asbestos, alar, and lead paint harm; fossil fuel hatred and panic over energy, natural resource scarcity, along with excessive solar energy enthusiasm; support and praise for cost/benefit analysis and fewer regulations for safety and environment. I also include solid rejection of the Pope’s advice that we need to “significantly lower our consumption.” The truth is few are likely to follow this advice. If they did it would lead us into a deep depression. Now it simply leads to widespread green hypocrisy.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. I realize this blog is a bit longer. Sorry about that. The subject is important. For readers interested in more details I suggest you buy and read carefully my latest book, Bill’s Blogs.

The Seasons … Yes!

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

Feb. 20, 2017

I spent a year in Hawaii (1945-46) courtesy of the US Navy. It was great duty. We sailors worked 8 hours on 8 hours off to keep our Haiku radio station on Oahu humming. It was very low frequency transmitting messages to our submarines in the Pacific. It was hard sleeping on this work schedule but then every third day then we had 24 hours off. Some went down to nearby Kailua beach (the same beautiful beach Obama goes to for his vacations). Some climbed the “stairway to heaven.” Once I too climbed, alone, those 3922 stairs to the top of Koolau, the mountain the base was built on. It was scary, but the reward was great views of the valley, Kaneohe Bay, the marine base there, and the fabled Pacific Ocean.

I still wander how I managed to get such good duty. In high school I scored high on IQ tests, graduated at the top of my class, and was valedictorian. I doubt whether that had anything to do with my good fortune in WW2. I volunteered for the Navy V-12 (an Naval Officer Training Program) in my senior year when I was 17. The Navy sent me to college, Notre Dame, to get my degree before getting a commission and going on active duty. Studying in college, while many of my high school friends were drafted and dodging bullets in Europe or the Pacific, didn’t seem fair or right. (In those days I was not that unusual in my patriotic notions.) So I decided to drop out of college and go the way of a simpler draftee. The Navy obliged and sent me to Boot Camp. Great Lakes Boot Camp sent me to more schools in Illinois and California to learn to be an Electronic Technician’s Mate Third Class. Which I did successfully—hence my assignment to Haiku in Hawaii.

That summarizes the bare facts of my good fortune, but leaves out the Navy motives. As my troop ship went under the Golden Gate Bridge the war in Europe ended. The war in the Pacific, which relied on the Marines and Navy, was far from over. I never knew why I was dropped off the ship in Hawaii to spend a fun year in Hawaii while many of my Navy buddies went to watery graves before the atom bomb ended the war against Japan in 1945.

Great as it was in Hawaii, I missed the seasons. I still can remember the day I was lolling on the beach at Kailua when I saw a picture taken at the height of the fall season of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine—with leaves in full color and scholars walking past old campus buildings. I think it was printed in an old Life magazine I found on the beach.

I also remember vividly the aching feeling that I was missing something rare and priceless in this tropical paradise where I was stuck in a perpetual summer. The temperature in Hawaii, as I recall, never went above 85 F. or dipped below 60. At suppertime you could also count on a gentle sprinkle of rain.

I always thought thereafter I would enroll at Bowdoin but I never did.

Some climate activists think the whole world may eventually end up like Hawaii. I hope not. I think the present climate system in the north and south hemispheres is swell. Seasonal weather can be a pain (sometimes a deadly one) but too much sun and sand in perpetual summer can also get deadly boring.

Now, as I approach the end of a long and interesting life, I do have a few regrets. Maybe I really should have gone to Bowdoin in Maine, or Harvard in Massachusetts, or Yale in Connecticut. Who knows, I might have become a charter member, or even a Cardinal, of that liberal clergy I am always criticizing! At least I could have lived a life free of money worries.

I also regret it took me so long to appreciate the frigid joys of December, January, and February. To learn better how to ski, ice boat, skate, and participate more in the simpler joys of sledding, making snowmen, and snow forts with children and grandchildren. I did a few of these things but not nearly enough in my 90 years on earth.

Then there are the joys of spring¬—March, April, and May. Here, like the poet A. E. Housman, the delights can be subtler.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten, 5
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow

Alas, long ago I passed the “three score years and ten” and I have hardly been out of the house for months on end.

All this does means I (may—or may not) have the joys of spring, summer, and fall to look forward to. Mind you, I don’t look forward to a perpetual summer of sun and sand in Hawaii, or anywhere else.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. The habit continues of shorter blogs!

Why I Am Not Rich or Famous???

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

Feb. 13, 2017

I, along with a few billion others, just watched the Super Bowl. It was an exciting game. I was rooting for the Patriots so I was delighted to see their amazing comeback. Softie that I am though, I can’t help feeling a little sorry for Matt Ryan, the Atlanta team, and the many Falcon fans crushed in the wake of that ferocious Patriot comeback.

I am a contrarian again in not liking much the ads or the halftime show of Lady Gaga and company. The pop star displayed a ton of youthful energy and organization but to my ancient ears and eyes not much real class or talent. How much class or talent does it take to repeat over and over again “caught in a bad romance… oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera” while dancing with a crowd of frenetic worshipping fans?

Which catapults me to the title of this effort—why I am not rich or famous?

I’ll answer my own question—because I am a man who treasures ideas, not entertainment. I’ll explain.

The most read sections are of the daily newspaper an the Internet are the comics, puzzles, sports, and entertainment pages. The least read parts are the opinion and editorial pages that are chock full of ideas. Even more significant are the headlines and content of the news articles often neglected by readers.

“Scientists Are Now Mad About Trump’s Policies and Taking Action” reads one headline in a recent story on Google news by Maggie Fox. Ms. Fox, a senior writer for NBC, is a very successful journalist who I’m sure makes a lot of money. Her point of view is shown clearly in quotes from people like Azadeh Paksa, an Iranian-born researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School—two employers who no doubt, like Azadeh, don’t much like Donald Trump.

Anecdotal evidence like this to my mind is equivalent to no evidence at all.

As most are aware this is extremely common practice among news and television reporters today—right as well as left—picking people who believe the same things as you to bolster your ideological point of view. It does add interest as editors and publishers no doubt realize. But using anecdotes (stories) as evidence for ideas is a classic error in science and in philosophy, my specialty.

I try hard to avoid that error which makes my blogs idea-rich—but to some that means cold and boring. As a wag movie director recently said, “I prefer fiction because it is closer to reality.”

Many people would agree, including that most ideology-prone of writers—Ayn Rand. She has written many philosophy books but prefers her own fiction that includes Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The public seems to agree since Atlas Shrugged was a best-selling book, almost as many as the Bible itself (the best-selling book of all time). The liberal clergy of course takes a different view.

Corey Robin in the left-leaning Nation summarized this as, “Petersburg in revolt gave us Vladimir Nabokov, Isaiah Berlin and Ayn Rand. The first was a novelist, the second a philosopher, the third was neither but thought she was both.”

The characters in Atlas Shrugged and in The Fountainhead are cartoon-like and not that believable. Her philosophy though gives left-liberals fits since she is death on altruism (charitable welfare). When a reporter asked Obama whether he had ever read Ayn Rand who was one of Paul Ryan’s favorite authors, “Sure. Ayn Rand is one of those things we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up,”

This distinction of fiction (which is popular) versus science and philosophy (which is not) comes to mind in my own life now. When I might prefer some dreary news show or even a C-span talk, I bow (not totally without interest myself) to my wife’s Jane preference for fiction. Thus we end up watching after dinner The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Borgias or some old chestnut on TCM (Turner’s Classic Movies). Instead of seeing real-world riots in California or boring predictable comments by Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity on Fox News we are entertained by more interesting fiction.

My conclusion: the awful truth is that I think that I deserve more fame and fortune for my contribution to the world. (Doesn’t everybody?). For instance Fidel Castro got much fame and fortune for leading a communist revolution on the small island country of Cuba—before he died at just my age.

But I figured out, in my seventies and eighties, how the world’s Modern Age was born and gave workable hints on how we can preserve and enhance it. These ideas alone are worth quite a bit of fame and fortune. I also authored three “Bill’s Laws” (mostly with tongue in cheek—see Bill’s Blogs, page 9). Surprisingly all three are proving to be valid after being tested in all countries and all ages.

Alas, these are breakthroughs though in the world of ideas, not entertainment (or sports, games, or business—the same things really). I remain relatively poor and unknown.

Next question?

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. This is getting to be a habit—significantly shorter blogs! Objections?

Sadness at Friend and Family’s Ignorance

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Feb. 6, 2017

Still another puzzle. Why do dear friends (and close family) read my blogs and remain unconvinced? My blogs are brilliant and true. My friends and family are not stupid or perverse. On the contrary, they are without exception fine people with good intentions. My conclusion: they have been cruelly and massively misled.

What misleads them in my opinion is what I call the left-liberal clergy, which believe it or not, includes many if not most scientists (as well as most writers and editors in the media) today. These misled and misleading scientists—admittedly outside of their fields—as well as writers, and editors who are like the ones who in the early 20th century supported racist and sexist views (among other bad science ideas like spontaneous generation, eugenics, caloric, and phrenology). Even that most famous of all scientists, Albert Einstein, is not immune. For instance he was quoted in 1934 that, “There is not the slightest inclination that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”

Then there is my young friend and promising in-law, Kryn Dykema, today. He got his college degree in Environmental Sciences from a university in Colorado a few years ago. Kryn judges my blogs to be “alienated from reality,” and further claims that I have “alienated myself from the very fabric of our planet—science.” I am guessing that harsh judgment comes from my criticism of Green dogma, especially my contrarian view of climate change.

As evidence Kryn cites a professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado, Konrad Steffen. I am guessing too that he has discussed some of my blogs with him (probably the ones on climate change). Dr. Steffen, an environmental expert on Arctic and Greenland Ice, claims in a website, “Greenland might lose all its ice in 10,000 years, but Antarctica would take considerably longer, since it is so much bigger.”

My guess this time is that this is meant to be scary and profound—a little like the climate alarmists saying the world will be 0.2 of a degree warmer 100 years from now and that would be catastrophic.

The truth is that it is not far from Paul Ehrlich predicting millions of Americans will starve to death in the 20th century due to overpopulation and having the media and the public agreeing with him (his book, The Population Bomb was a runaway best seller in 1968 and he himself was a frequent guest on the popular Johnny Carson show).

Or the prediction of his fellow left liberal in the clergy, Obama’s science guru John Holdren (as well as other Green scientists), who were going to run out of oil and most other natural resources by the end of the 20th century (see The 2000 Global Report to the President written in 1997-1980).

Or, Lord help us, even the recent riots at UC-Berkeley when the faculty, including presumably many distinguished scientists, would not protect free speech. Instead I understand some students and faculty joined or even led the rioters.

With regard to the climate change scare, Nobel winning physicist Ivan Glaever points out, ”if true it means to me that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and prosperity have improved in this ‘warming’ period.”

With respect to overpopulation and resource scarcity—well you don’t hear much about these scares now that gas is so cheap and China is so rich. In fact both scares seem to follow closely Bill’s Law #1—a bad idea in science has a half-life of about ten years. (If you want to refresh your memory on Bill’s Laws, overpopulation, and resource scarcity, see my new book, Bill’s Blogs: pages 8, 53, and 97. And I beg of you—read it carefully with as open a mind as you can muster. As my young friend Kryn claims, “Bottom line, science does not lie, does not brainwash, does not align with political sectors.” I wholeheartedly agree, but it does sometimes depend on what “political sectors” you mean.)

Science is not immune to politics. For instance the overwhelming opinion of “scientists,” “the media,” and the “public” in Galileo’s, Pasteur’s, and Darwin’s times was that Galileo, Pasteur, and Darwin were barking up the wrong tree. They were not only wrong in their science, but also wrong in their politics!

Similarly the overwhelming majority of scientists a few decades ago were convinced that overpopulation and resource scarcity were the world’s most serious challenges. Today these issues have taken a back seat to the challenge of the decade—climate change. Anyone who thinks otherwise has his or her head in the sand. He or she is reactionary, alienated from real science, and very wrong!

As Kurt Vonnegut (or Perry Como) might say, ”so it goes.”

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P.S. This blog is also significantly shorter. Truth is always shorter and less foggy than error.