Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jail for Me for Being Uninsured?!?

Think my previous post was hyperbole? Well, consider this article, which points out that if I don't buy health insurance, I could get a year in jail. And if I refuse?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Killing in the Name Of

When we say that the government should do this or that: is it worth killing someone over? Because, in the end, that's what we're talking about. That is what we're always talking about when we say the government should or should not do something. If you don't comply, you die. As George Washington said, government is not reason, it is force.

Another way of thinking about it: what actions can another take that you can legitimately kill them over? If someone tries to murder, rape, or steal from you, you can kill them, and you will find few who think you can't. But should you be able to kill me if I refuse to help you help someone else? Yet, we agree to let out governments act that way.

If Baucus' bill passes, I would get a fine if I didn't buy insurance (I currently am uninsured). Now, if I didn't have the money to either buy insurance or pay the fine -- or if I justly refused to pay the fine -- then what? Defenders of his plan have to agree that the government can then come and arrest and threaten to kill me in my own home, in front of my wife and children, because I don't want to buy insurance -- or because I can't. To support something like that is evil. Pure and simple.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Daniel the Darwinian Survivalist

This is Daniel Jesus Camplin. Today he is 7 days old. This is mostly how we see him. Well, if you go get sleep-deprived for a few days, then come back and look at his picture, then you would see how we mostly see him. When he's crying at 4 in the morning (after having slept the entire day during daylight hours), his cuteness acts as a natural defense mechanism.

My wife wondered today why babies stay up all night and sleep all day. I surmised that it makes sense as an evolved trait. During the day, people are awake, which protects the baby. But during the night, if everyone were asleep, including the babies, jackals, hyenas and African wild dogs would drag those sleeping babies away. The babies that didn't sleep through the night -- thus keeping their caretakers awake -- would thus have had an evolutionary advantage. There being no particular reason for this trait to go away, it's still with us thousands of years after it's no longer needed by most babies in most places. So now we're stuck with it. Try as you might to explain to Daniel that it's not necessary in the contemporary world, he still insists on sticking to his instinctual traits. You just can't reason with them at this age!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Leadership: A Poem

I cannot write about our Caesar –
Napoleon, we’ve never had –
We’ve lacked a Hitler, Stalin, Castro,
And such a loss makes many sad.
Democracy can never give us
Great leaders such as these, and so
We fight to tear it down, implode it –
No leaders rise, so it must go.
The awful people we’ve elected
Won’t be as bad, so we feel spurned –
Instead, our leaders rot so slowly,
And from the swamp, the swamp’s returned.
Our greatest heroes? Just pathetic –
Jack Kennedy could never be
An Alexander or Augustus –
That’s why we’re still just barely free.
And that is why each poet, artist
Loves dictators and praises them –
A poem praising complex systems? –
Too many facets in that gem.
Each poet wants to be Propertius
And praising Caesar endlessly –
Pathetic politicians are not
Worth lines of valiant poetry.
But what the poets lost, the people
Have gained, so keep great men at bay,
For order made by law brings freedom,
Makes possible the dawn of day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daniel Jesus Camplin

Today my son, Daniel Jesus Camplin, was born. He was 19 inches long and 6 lbs 10 oz. and has black hair.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Why do humans enjoy bird songs? We do, after all, describe many bird songs as beautiful. Why would we find songs produced by another species, meant to announce their territorial boundaries and attract their mates, when those boundaries and mates mean nothing at all to us, attractive? One answer, perhaps, is that birds -- especially songbirds -- sing when it is safe to sing. If there are no predators around, it is safe for the bird to sing. But if a predator -- or any other large animal that could be a predator -- enters the bird's territory, they stop singing. It seems that a species that paid attention to bird song -- and especially its cessation -- would be able to use that as a signal to beware of the possibility of a predator. Those individuals that did pay attention to song and its cessation would be more likely to avoid predators than one that did not. And even the tiniest selective advantage spreads rapidly through the population. Further, the brain has mechanisms that result in its rewarding itself for beneficial activities. Thus, pleasure associated with bird song would result in the individual paying even more attention to bird song, making the individual even more aware of the song's cessation. Of course, now that we are no longer in many dangerous situations, where we have to worry about predators, we can mostly sit back and enjoy the songs we hear. Perhaps even transform that enjoyment into a poem for others to enjoy. And where does poetry come from? The unification of music and language. And where does language come from? My guess is: the bifurcation of territorial/mating calls into music and language. Another reason, then, that we love bird song: the remind us of us, of our distant, ancient past.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Obama's Hoover Move

In 1930, Herbert Hoover signed into law the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which essentially sealed the fate of the U.S. entering the Great Depression. Today we learn that Obama just signed into law a tariff against China. To placate the unions, apparently Obama is willing to throw this economy deeper into depression and start a trade war with China. Will someone please send Obama an economic historian?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lamarckianism Strikes Back

Is Lamarck making a comeback? The French biologist Lamarck argued that traits acquired by parents in their interactions with the environment were passed on to their offspring. Darwin argued, rather, that changes in heritable traits were what were passed on, and those changes came about via mutations, which were selected for in the environment. There was no direct influence from the environment in the Lamarckian sense. While cultural memes could be argued to follow Lamarckian evolution, certainly biological traits do not.

And then epigenetics was discovered. It turns out that patterns of gene regulation can be established based on the organism's interactions with the environment, and that those patterns of regulation can be passed on. This seems to have been a recent discovery -- but, as it turns out, it is not. In the early 20th Century, a Lamarckian biologist, Paul Kammerer, did experiments with midwife toads that made them become aquatic within a generation or two by placing the first generation in constant aquatic conditions. According to Darwinian theory, that should not happen.

Of course, this is not at all inconsistent with Darwin, if you understand gene regulation. Entire genes can be turned off if not necessary. This is hardly inconsistent with Darwin -- but it is also consistent with Lamarckianism. With the combination of digital Darwinism (mutations changing genes) and analog Lamarckianism (passing on of epigenetic traits acquired in the environment), it seems that we have digital-analog genetic inheritance and evolution. Which is what we would expect in a digital-analog world (I argue that the world is precisely such in both my dissertation and in my book "Diaphysics").

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

On Political Non-Support of the Arts

If my interest in politics were ego-drive in the least, I would have abandoned libertarianism a long time ago. With a few exceptions (you know who you are), I have found little support from libertarians for anything. And over half the time I can't even volunteer my services. You would think libertarians would welcome someone who can write and speak, but apparently not.

As a writer, my world view necessarily come out in whatever I write. One way or the other. So you would expect libertarians to be excited about there being a libertarian playwright who has a work getting a stage reading. But, no. Some Leftist has a new work out, and people from the Left flock to the theater, making sure he gets all the support he needs. Have to support one's comrades, after all. Have to support any and all Leftists, especially if there is a chance that they will portray a Leftist world view. Can't count on libertarians for that. Or conservatives, for that matter, who seem to think that all art is supported by the NEA and that it's all nonsense, anyway.

Want to know why the Left is winning the culture war. Come to my stage reading Sept. 8 and count the libertarians and conservatives, and you'll see why.