lundi 29 juin 2009

On the Liberation War Monument

Got an e-mail from a foreigner living in Estonia. I quote a paragraph from it, as it expresses quite well what an European here feels about recent events. And many Estonians feel the same way, becoming more and more alienated from the official "kroonu" Estonia with its government and ideology.

"I have once again noticed that I am a bit too postmodern for Estonia. It's getting worse & worse here with all those grandiloquent commemoration events. Take that monstrous Võidusamba for instance. Depicting a symbol that was also used by the Eesti Leegion on that (German) cross is exactly what Russia wanted, a blessing for Russian media. And I don't think that the Russian minority in Estonia will feel attracted to that monument, to say the least."

samedi 27 juin 2009

Universe without a Devil

Have I discovered something? Had a really important idea? I think there is at least one: I found that belief in Devil leads to a logical impasse, it is similar to the existence of a contradiction in a logical system. If S is P, and S is non-P, then everything is possible, we have a system where no assertion is false.

The Devil is necessarily very smart, much smarter than we human beings. How then could we compete with him, discover his schemes, recognize him under every possible camouflage and mask? How can we be sure that he doesn't play the role of an angel, an evangelist, the Pope? How can be sure that what we consider to be divine is not diabolical, that the Bible is not written by the Devil? There is no reason that the world, the universe must be logical, non-contradictory, but we are incapable of living in, making sense of an illogical, contradictory universe. Clearly, not everything is possible in this universe, this means that most probably it is to a large extent logical, non-contradictory. And most probably there is no Devil in this universe, disguised or not. Things are more or less what they are, not opposites to themselves. Although they, as they change,
are always a little bit different from themselves. But this difference is not diabolical, a changing universe is not a degraded copy of the unchanging one as some Zoroastrians and Platonists seem to have believed.

mardi 23 juin 2009

Designed intelligence

The idea of a super-intellect designing and creating our Universe seems to me nearly stupid, it's hard to believe there are millions of people who want to believe and believe in such nonsense. Historically, they are inheritors of the antique tradition of considering human intellect something divine, glorifying the intellect at the expense of other human physical and psychological features. Such an idea was alien to some other traditions, e.g. to Judaism. But the Christian theology took it over from the Greek-Roman tradition, and we are conditioned to believe that our intellect, our I.Q. is something that makes us very special. We want to believe that our ability to reason, to calculate, to write poems and treatises, to discuss philosophical and scientific problems is something that we have in common with our Creator. It is quite easy to understand that any intellect, any neuro-computer, any living being has in its body, is a product of evolution, is a response to environmental challenges, although this response may well be enticingly complex and hard to understand. Still, our intellect is just a response to the specific environmental conditions here, on planet Earth. It is strange to suppose that there is an intellect, a brain capable of calculating such a structure as our Universe or Multiverse. If we believe in such a super-computer, we must ask how has it some into existence, who has created, designed it, what environmental conditions have been necessary to its birth. It is harder to imagine a self-emerging super-computer than a self-emerging universe. Of course, we can imagine a hierarchy, probably an infinite hierarchy of intellects where the lower one is designed by the higher one. But do we really need to believe in such things? Is it more logical, more satisfying than believing in the flying spaghetti monster?

Need to know more about Russia

The Estonian press writes a lot about Russia, but is too biased to give people, especially the younger generation not able to read Russian any more, a good picture of what is happening there. We are given reviews of very chauvinistic opinions and articles, and of the opinion columns of some voices of the radical opposition. I have several times urged our journalists to translate some opinion pages from RIAN and other publications, but so far without success. Thus our public probably doesn't know that even in the government-controlled websites there are articles discussing a potential power struggle between Putin and Medvedev, articles bashing the neo-Stalinists and the "derzhava-nostalgy". Russia is much more pluralistic than we want to acknowledge. On the shelves of our bookshops one can find books trying to prove that there existed a plot of generals against Stalin making the purges of the army in 1937-1938 inevitable, but also books trying to prove that there was no such plot. For some writers, Stalin was a great statesman, for some, a paranoic who nearly let Russia (aka Soviet Union) to be overrun by Hitler's divisions. Although Stalin seems still to be quite popular in the power structures, Solzhenitsyn is also popular and has become institutionalized as a classic. The students have to read history from some nationalistic textbooks, but at the same time they have to read Solzhenitsyn too. It means that they have to think with their own heads to find out where the truth lies. We must just wait and let this somewhat schizoid pluralism work. I hope that with every passing year, the chances of a neo-Stalinist takeover diminish, and even now they are negligeable. Russia is returning to its pre-revolution identity, an identity that is imperial and nationalistic, but not totalitarian.

dimanche 7 juin 2009

Money is one-dimensional

Money is not an adequate measure of human things. Money is one-dimensional, is just one number. But things that matter are nearly always multi-dimensional. They have colour, form, movement (in three dimensions), connections with other things... A society where many people judge themselves and other people according to their wealth is a very primitive society. It is a society that is trying to become one-dimensional. In fact, money as measure is not an objective one, it's very subjective, emotional. A substitute for real measures that science is painstakingly working out.

mardi 2 juin 2009

Human and Proud

We men like to think of ourselves as the crown of evolution or masterpiece of creation. Or at least powerful hunters, the lords of animal kingdom. Man the hunter -- this sounds proud. But this pride has been somewhat shaken by the idea that perhaps man was originally much more a hunted than a hunting animal. There's even a book: "Man the Hunted, Primates, Predators and Human Evolution" by Donna Hart and Robert Wald Sussman first published around 2005. An addition to the voluminous library on intriguing hypotheses on human evolution that includes some quite popular books as "The Naked Ape" by Desmond Morris or the Acquatic Ape hypothesis by Elaine Morgan. If I were young and enthusiastic enough, I would add one more book to this library: a book elaborating a hypothesis that, besides being both hunters and hunted, our ancestors were also quite skilful commensalists of big predators. Perhaps our babyface, the Lorenzian "Kindchengestalt" helped us, suppressing their predating instincts and stimulating their nurturing ones. Perhaps our ancestors even shared caves and other safe places with cave bears and other animals as do sparrows who often build their nests in the heap of branches that serves as foundation of a stork's nest. When the bear (lion, tiger) was hungry, the humans took refuge in some holes or crevasses hiding there until the danger was over and the boss had eaten or just stayed at safe distance.