Realistic Alternative to Green New Deal


Alex Berezow takes up the challenge from factually-challenged AOC in his article at American Council on Science and Health Okay, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Here’s An Alternative To Green New Deal Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Does all that sound ridiculously arrogant and scientifically illiterate? Of course it does. Yet, that’s basically how new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has responded to the critics of her Green New Deal. We’re all idiots. She’s a visionary.  

AOC’s remark to “come up with your own ambitious, on-scale proposal” is precisely the sort of uneducated statement a person who knows literally nothing about a topic says. It’s reminiscent of the anti-vaxxers who say, “If vaccines are so safe, show me the evidence!” There are entire research papers and books dedicated to energy policy. AOC just hasn’t bothered to read any of them.

As it turns out, the solution to climate change isn’t all that complicated. It won’t be accomplished in 12 years; we couldn’t even rebuild the World Trade Center in 12 years. But it can be done. I wrote a brief, 550-word article that gives a general outline. If even that’s too long, here’s the TL;DR version. [ I had to look it up; TL:DR means Too Long; Didn’t Read]

  1. Start building Generation IV nuclear power plants right now. Not next year. Not tomorrow. Right now. They are meltdown-proof and the best source of carbon-free energy on the planet. Research suggests that the entire world could be on nuclear power within 25 years.
  2. In the meantime, phase out coal while embracing natural gas. Natural gas burns cleaner than coal. If you object to this, then do #1 faster.
  3. Upgrade our energy infrastructure with a smart grid, smart meters, better capacitors, and better transmission lines. All of this is necessary if we want to rely at least in part on solar and wind. (But solar and wind aren’t really necessary; see #1.)
  4. Invest in solar and fusion power research. Current solar technology is too inefficient. The breakthrough we’ve been seeking in solar hasn’t happened yet, but it could. Similarly, fusion is theoretically the best source of energy (even better than nuclear), but scientists haven’t figured this one out yet. It turns out that recreating the sun on earth is kind of hard.
  5. As our energy infrastructure improves, electric car technology will improve along with it, making fossil fuels largely obsolete. (Airplanes might always need fossil fuels, though, much to AOC’s chagrin.)

That’s it. It’s not a sexy plan, but it’s a realistic one. We could actually accomplish this, but so far, there has been no political will whatsoever to do it. Oddly, the biggest opponents are environmentalists, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Climate Science: “Heads, We Win. Tails, You Lose.”

Another display of monotonic Climate Science is the uproar over a proposed White House panel of scientists to review and advise on statements about climate change appearing in various and sundry Federal Executive Branch organizations. Witness the sanctimonious John Kerry: Disband Your Climate Denial Panel, Mr. President.

Like spoiled children thwarted, warmists are throwing a tantrum at the prospect of being held accountable for parroting climate nostrums. After all, before now they have had no challenges to anything they say.  So they are outraged; Outraged, I say! Sen. Schumer says he pledges to defund the panel to silence them

Lost in the uproar over forming a red team to peer review climate science pronouncements on behalf of the WH is the existence of the Climate Blue Team operating uncontested for many years at NOAA Having had the field to themselves for so long, the idea of another viewpoint seems unthinkable and wrong.

Introducing the Climate Blue Team (formed in 2010)

The Leaders

The Team General Manager is Thomas Karl, infamous for his hurried adjustment of the NOAA sea surface temperature dataset in order to erase the inconvenient “pause” this century. For the background on his actions prior to retiring see Bob Tisdale’s Open Letter to Tom Karl of NOAA/NCEI Regarding “Hiatus Busting” Data

Karl is joined by Richard Rosen who pushed for a NOAA press release to challenge Chris Landsea’s study on the issue of hurricane intensity and climate change, since it “takes a position that is supportive of the Bush administration’s view on the issue.” He also published a paper The economics of mitigating climate change: What can we know?, which concluded:  “Because of these serious technical problems, policymakers should not base climate change mitigation policy on the estimated net economic impacts computed by integrated assessment models. Rather, mitigation policies must be forcefully implemented anyway given the actual physical climate change crisis, in spite of the many uncertainties involved in trying to predict the net economics of doing so.”

Wayne Higgins heads up NOAA’s Program Office and is on the record attributing extreme weather events to man-made global warming: “So where we’ve looked forward decades, even out to a century and using those climate models with scenarios in which we actually ramp up the levels of greenhouse gases, we are able to confirm that human-induced climate change is something that is occurring now and that is actually likely to continue in the future,” he said.

Eileen Shea led NOAA’s Climate Services program and sings from the same hymnbook:
“No scientist worth their salt will blame any individual event on climate change, but these storms are certainly being exacerbated by climate change, partly because hurricanes, especially, take their energy from the ocean, their energy and their moisture from the ocean, and the warm the water, the stronger the hurricane can grow. And the more expansive the warm water, the further the hurricane can go and stay strong.” Shea is one of the many climate scientists working in Asheville, sometimes referred to as “climate city.” For them, the debate over climate change has been long-settled.

Ko Barrett is Deputy Director of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Office and also a Vice Chair of the IPCC. In the latter role, she led the effort to produce SR15, the call to prevent 1.5C of warming. “This is the first time the IPCC has undertaken a focused report on the processes that drive change and the resulting impacts to oceans and the frozen parts of our planet,” said IPCC Vice-Chair Ko Barrett. “There is a huge volume of scientific information for us to assess, which can help policy makers to better understand the changes we are seeing and the risks to lives and livelihoods that may occur with future change.”

Louisa Koch is NOAA Director of Education. “Not only does such coordination minimize duplication among these programs, but the overall effort is enhanced also because each agency brings a complementary mission-driven focus to this complex, large-scale issue,” added Louisa Koch, director of education for NOAA. Why should the public care? Put simply, climate change affects everyone on Earth. Climate is “changing in ways that are going to impact society across the board,” said Louisa Koch, the director of NOAA’s Office of Education. “Communities need to understand what changes they are going to experience most intensely and how that’s going to impact them.”

The Blue Team Panel of Players

NOAA has a science panel comprising the players that review papers and articles, and ensure the warmist viewpoint is protected and reinforced. The Head Coach appears to be Wayne Higgins (above)

Jessica Blunden: Even though it was a relatively quiet hurricane year in the Atlantic, there were 36 major tropical cyclones worldwide – 15 more than average, said NOAA climate scientist Jessica Blunden, co-editor of the report published Tuesday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. And at the heart of the records is that all three major heat-trapping greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – hit record highs in 2015, Blunden said. “This impacts people. This is real life,” Blunden said.  ‘Earth’s fever rises’: New report shows many symptoms of climate change

Tim Boyer: “From this [study] we can better understand the effects of natural and man-made variability to the climate system,” said co-author Tim Boyer of NOAA’s Ocean Climate Laboratory. “Decision-makers can gauge what needs to be done to ameliorate the situation, or, if not that, to plan for the consequences of the excess heat.” The study was published in the journal Science Advances. The findings are important because the world’s oceans provide one of the best records of the excess energy trapped on Earth by increased greenhouse gases, largely from the burning of fossil fuels. As the seas heat up from climate change, the water expands and rises, causing coastal flooding and, in Antarctica, ice shelves to disintegrate.

Christopher Burt is a lucky man. As with others fascinated by weather records, his once obscure passion has been thrust into one of the central conversations of our time. Burt’s audience is surprisingly large. On average, 10,000 people a day read his postings on Weather Underground. Though he writes about all sorts of weather extremes, heat records are one of his greatest passions.

In 2010, two climate-change researchers using computer modeling and calculations of human cooling capacities predicted that large parts of the earth may become uninhabitable during heat waves in future centuries. The study was based on a scenario of rapid global warming and was probably a bit shrill in its view of the consequences—mass migrations and war—but the science was solid and easy to believe. After all, large parts of the planet are already uninhabitable, at least for some percentage of the population some percentage of the time. And the heat waves are hitting harder, and coming more frequently than ever before.

Leo Donner: Donner has also served as a reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose reports help world leaders make decisions on dealing with the issue. The research scientist will discuss some IPCC conclusions, such as how humans have increased greenhouse gases through agricultural activity, burning fossil fuels and decimating forests in the Amazon. “One conclusion of the IPCC is that most of the observed change in global temperature is the result of human activity,” Donner said.

NOAA Scientist David Fahey in Boulder: a Lead Author of National Climate Assessment: The government’s National Climate Assessment cited human influence as the “dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” The report affirms that climate change is driven almost entirely by human action, warns of a worst-case scenario where seas could rise as high as eight feet by the year 2100, and details climate-related damage across the United States that is already unfolding as a result of an average global temperature increase of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900. When it comes to rapidly escalating levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the report states, “there is no climate analog for this century at any time in at least the last 50 million years.”

Alarmist All Star Katharine Hayhoe is a professor in the department of political science at Texas Tech University and director of its Climate Science Center. She was a lead author on the Climate Science Special Report, part of the fourth US National Climate Assessment. She writes books, produces videos, documentaries and gives interviews to raise awareness of climate change concerns. Katherine Hayhoe: “The most important thing is to accelerate the realization that we have to act. This means connecting the dots to show that the impacts are not distant any more. They are here and they affect our lives. It means weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, which is challenged by the fact that the majority of the world’s richest companies have made their money from the fossil fuel economy, so the majority of the wealth and power remains in their hands.” “Climate change is a long term trend superimposed over natural variability. There will be good and bad years, just like there are for a patient with a long term illness, but it isn’t going away. To stabilize climate change, we have to eliminate our carbon emissions. And we’re still a long way away from that.”

Sarah Kapnick is a scientists at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
Global warming is going to steal away some of those postcard-perfect weather days in the future, according to a first-of-its-kind projection of nice weather. “The changes are more dramatic in parts of the developing world, where you have high concentrations of populations,” said NOAA climate scientist and co-author Sarah Kapnick.

Rick Lumpkin, director of NOAA’s Global Drifter Program: “Because the drifters provide a ground-truth of currents, they are great for combining with satellite observations to study climate-scale problems.” The oceans, the true keepers of climate change, may meet our grimmest estimates.

High Scoring Meteorologist Jeff Masters co-founded Weather Underground: “The Climate Has Shifted to a New State Capable of Delivering Rare & Unprecedented Weather Events.” Stronger hurricanes, bigger floods, more intense heat waves, and sea level rise have been getting many of the headlines with regards to potential climate change impacts, but drought should be our main concern. Drought is capable of crashing a civilization. We’ve set in motion a dangerous boulder of climate change that is rolling downhill, and it is too late to avoid major damage when it hits full-force several decades from now. However, we can reduce the ultimate severity of the damage with strong and rapid action.

Richard Rood is a Professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan where he teaches atmospheric science and climate dynamics.
If we stop our emissions today, we won’t go back to the past. The Earth will warm. And since the response to warming is more warming through feedbacks associated with melting ice and increased atmospheric water vapor, our job becomes one of limiting the warming. If greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated quickly enough, within a small number of decades, it will keep the warming manageable and the Paris Agreement goals could be met. It will slow the change – and allow us to adapt. Rather than trying to recover the past, we need to be thinking about best possible futures.”

Scott Weaver is a Research Meteorologist at NOAA.s Climate Prediction Center and member of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).  “Today’s Climate Science Special Report is our most comprehensive and definitive look yet at the massive amount of sound scientific research on climate change, and it’s conclusions are inescapable – climate change is happening right now, it’s hurting American families, and it will get worse unless we act,” said EDF Senior Climate Scientist Scott Weaver. “This report should put any doubts about the existence or the severity of climate change to rest. We cannot afford to ignore this threat.”

Kandis Wyatt, Designated Federal Officer for US Climate Change Impact Reports, eg. 2014:
“Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country.”


What hypocrisy to criticize skeptics for finally attempting to organize and claim a bit of airtime to tell the other side of the story. Apparently the case for man-made global warming is so weak, no objections can be allowed.

Not much of a game without an opponent.

See Also Kelly Craft Vs. Monotonic Climate Science

No “Gold Standard” Climate Science

Claims this week that climate scientists have “5-sigma” certainty for their findings are pure hype and extremely false adverrtising.  Lubos Motl explains at his website Reference Frame “Five-sigma proof” of man-made climate change is complete nonsense  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Notorious climate fearmonger Gavin Schmidt tweeted the following:

40 years since:
– the Charney report
– Hasselmann’s paper on detection & attribution
– the satellite era @NatureClimate

Put it together and what have you got?
Greater than 5σ detection of anthropogenic climate change.

Lubos Motl:

He picks about 3 scientific teams and praises them for reaching the “gold standard” of science (which is how the journalists hype it) – a five-sigma proof of man-made global warming. The signal-to-noise ratio has reached some critical threshold, it’s those five sigma, so the man-made climate change is proven at the same level at which we needed e.g. the Higgs boson to be discovered by CERN’s particle physicists.

It sounds great except it’s complete nonsense. When we discover something at five sigma, it means something that clearly cannot be the case in climatology. When we discover new physics at five sigma, it means that we experimentally rule out a well-defined null hypothesis at the p-level of 99.9999% or so. Note that a “well-defined null hypothesis” is always needed to talk about “five sigma”.

In the case of the man-made climate change discussion, there is clearly no such “well-defined null hypothesis”. In particular, when Schmidt and others discuss the “signal-to-noise ratio”, they don’t really know what part of the observed data is “noise” and how strong it should be. The assumption must be that the “noise” is some natural variability of the climate. But we don’t really have any precise enough and canonical enough model of the natural variability. The natural variability is undoubtedly very complex and has contributions from lots of natural and statistical phenomena and their mixtures. Cloud variations, irregular seasons, solar variability, volcanoes, even earthquakes, annual ocean cycles, decadal ocean cycles, centennial ocean cycles, 1500-year ocean cycles, irregularities in tropical cyclones, plants’ albedo variations, residuals from a way to compute the average, butterfly wings in China, and tons of other things.

So we can’t really separate the measured data to the “signal” and “noise”. Even if we knew the relevant definition of the natural noise, we just don’t know how large it was before the industrialization began. The arguments about the “hockey stick graph” are the greatest tangible proof of this statement. Some papers show the variability in 1000-1900 AD as 5 times larger than others – so “5 signa” could very well be “1 sigma” or something else.

Just like before Schmidt’s tweet, it is perfectly possible that all the data we observe may be labeled “noise” and attributed to some natural causes. There may obviously be natural causes whose effect n the global mean temperature and other quantities is virtually indistinguishable from the effected expected from the man-made global warming.

If the people observed some amazing high-frequency correlation between the changes of CO2 and the temperature, a great agreement between these two functions of time could become strong evidence of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. But it’s clearly impossible because we surely can’t measure the effect of the tiny seasonal variations of the CO2 concentration – these variations are just a few ppm while the observed changes, seasons, are hugely pronounced and affected mostly by other things than CO2 (especially by the Sun directly).

So the growth of the CO2 was almost monotonic – and in recent decades, almost precisely linear. Nature may also add lots of contributions that change almost monotonically or linearly for a few decades. So the summary is that Gavin Schmidt and his fellow fearmongers are trying to make the man-made climate science look like a hard science – perhaps even as particle physics – but it is not really possible for the climate science to be analogous to a hard science. The reason is that particle physics and hard sciences have nicely understood, unique, and unbelievably precise null hypotheses that may be supported by the data or refuted; while the climate science doesn’t have any very precise null hypotheses.

At most, the attribution of the climate change is as messy a problem as the attribution of the discrepancies between Hubble’s constant obtained from various sources. It’s just not possible to make any reliable enough attribution because the amount of parameters that we may adjust in our explanations is larger than the number of unequivalent values that are helpful for the attribution and that we may obtain from observations. In effect, the task to “attribute” is an underdetermined set of equations: the number of unknowns is larger than the number of known conditions or constraints that they obey (i.e. than the number of observed relevant data).

Gavin Schmidt and everyone else who tries to paint hysterical climatology as a hard science analogous to particle physics is simply lying. Particle physics is a hard science and “five sigma proofs” are possible in it, climatology is a soft science and “five sigma proofs” in it are just marketing scams, and cosmology is somewhere in between. We all hope that cosmology will return closer to particle physics but we can’t be sure.

Update March 1, 2019

Ross Mckitrick posted at Climate Etc. Critique of the new Santer et al. (2019) paper
H/T Philip Dean

“I will discuss four aspects of this study which I think weaken the conclusions considerably: (a) the difference between the existence of a signal and the magnitude of the effect; (b) the confounded nature of their experimental design; (c) the invalid design of the natural-only comparator; and (d) problems relating “sigma” boundaries to probabilities.”

“The authors’ conclusions depend critically on the assumption that their “natural” model variability estimate is a plausible representation of what 1979-2018 would have looked like without greenhouse gases. The authors note the importance of this assumption in their Supplement.”

“Thus, it seems to me that the lines in Figure 1 are based on comparing an artificially exaggerated resemblance between observations and tuned models versus an artificially worsened counterfactual. This is not a gold standard of proof.”

“I’ll just point out that if time series data have unit roots they are nonstationary and you can’t use them in an autoregression because the t-statistics follow a nonstandard distribution and Gaussian (or even Student’s t) tables will give seriously biased probability values.”

“I ran Phillips-Perron unit root tests and found that anthro is nonstationary, while Temp and natural are stationary.  .  . A possible remedy is to construct the model in first differences.  .  .  The coefficient magnitudes remain comparable but—oh dear—the t-statistic on anthro has collapsed from 8.56 to 1.32, while those on natural and lagged temperature are now larger. “


“The fact that in my example the t-statistic on anthro falls to a low level does not “prove” that anthropogenic forcing has no effect on tropospheric temperatures. It does show that in the framework of my model the effects are not statistically significant.”

“In the same way, since I have reason to doubt the validity of the Santer et al. model I don’t accept their conclusions. They haven’t shown what they say they showed. In particular they have not identified a unique anthropogenic fingerprint, or provided a credible control for natural variability over the sample period. Nor have they justified the use of Gaussian p-values. Their claim to have attained a “gold standard” of proof are unwarranted, in part because statistical modeling can never do that, and in part because of the specific problems in their model.”


See also: The Limitations of Climate Science

Clouding the Climate Issue


The alarmist media are promoting a new scare this week: “OMG, the warmer it gets, the fewer clouds blocking the sunshine, still warmer it gets, ad infinitum.” That is the narrative beneath headlines like these from the usual suspects (in alphabetical order for Monday, Feb. 25, 2019)

A World Without Clouds Quanta Magazine11:08 Mon, 25 Feb

‘A World Without Clouds. Think About That a Minute’: New Study Details Possibility of Devastating Climate Feedback Loop Common Dreams17:11 Mon, 25 Feb

At High Enough CO2 Levels, Clouds Will Start to Physically Break Apart ScienceAlert01:40

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Could Make Clouds Vanish Newsweek11:28 Mon, 25 Feb

Low-level clouds that cover the oceans could disappear as a result of rising CO2 Daily Mail18:17 Mon,

Carbon dioxide ‘could destroy clouds’ and turn our planet into a ‘Hothouse Earth’ Yahoo! UK & Ireland07:15

Climate change kills off clouds over the ocean in new simulation TechCrunch18:16 Mon, 25 Feb

Climate Change Could Make These Super-Common Clouds Extinct, Which Would Scorch the Planet Live Science17:32 Mon, 25 Feb

Climate Change Is Eliminating Clouds. Without Them, Earth Burns Futurism16:32 Mon, 25 Feb

Cloud break-up linked to high CO2 levels (Nature Geoscience) Nature Asia04:53

Cloud Loss Due To High Carbon Dioxide Levels Could Make Earth 14 Degrees Hotter, Climate Change … Tech Times09:42

Cloudy, with a chance of fewer clouds Cosmos11:08 Mon, 25 Feb

Clouds’ cooling effect could vanish in a warmer world Nature.com15:32 Mon, 25 Feb

Extreme CO2 levels could trigger clouds ‘tipping point’ and 8C of global warming Carbon Brief11:11 Mon, 25 Feb

Fluffy clouds may disappear by 2100, causing 8 degree warming i News06:12

Global warming imperils clouds that deter hothouse Earth GMA News02:46

Global warming imperils stratocumulus clouds that deter hothouse Earth: scientists The Japan Times14:30 Mon, 25 Feb

High CO2 levels can destabilize marine layer clouds Phys.org11:01 Mon, 25 Feb

If climate change makes the clouds disappear, we’re screwed Grist Magazine19:07 Mon, 25 Feb

If Carbon Dioxide Levels Get High Enough, They’ll Break Up Planet-Cooling Clouds IFLScience11:05 Mon, 25 Feb

I’ve Got to Admit I Didn’t See the Death of Clouds Coming Esquire14:39 Mon, 25 Feb

Striking study finds a climate tipping point in clouds Ars Technica18:16 Mon, 25 Feb

Study finds increasing carbon dioxide levels threaten marine stratus clouds Slashgear09:13

The loss of clouds could add another 8°C to global warming MIT Technology Review07:43

Very high carbon dioxide could suppress cooling clouds, climate change model warns The Washington Post11:12 Mon, 25 Feb

We Could Be On The Verge Of Killing Off Clouds And Returning To A ‘Hothouse Earth’ Forbes16:24 Mon, 25 Feb

Isn’t it impressive how Climate Crisis Central can blanket the world with a scary message, with enough variety in titles to disguise the robotic repetition? Yet just reading the headlines already suggests to anyone with critical intelligence what is false about this alarm. Let me list some of the obvious flaws before digging into this issue.

1. It’s a projection from a climate model, not a finding from observations.

2. It is based on highly uncertain supposed mechanisms.

3. It presupposes CO2 concentrations 3 times the present level.

4. The possible effect will occur after almost all readers will be dead of natural causes.

5. It claims a runaway warming “tipping point” which the earth has suppressed until now.

6. It contradicts the logic of a warmer world increasing the hydrology cycle with more clouds and precipitation.

7. It stokes fear of “hothouse earth” when presently we are slowly emerging from “severe icehouse earth.”

The above image comes from esteemed paleoclimatologist Christopher Scotese.  It shows the range of earth’s climate history, and that we are presently slowly emerging from Severe Icehouse.  It also shows that the world warms by rising temperatures at higher latitudes toward the poles, while the equator remains the same, thus reducing the gradient.  Tossing around the word “Hothouse” is nonsensical in today’s situation. See also: Fact: Future Will be Flatter Not Hotter

As it happens, the first article in the list is the most informative: A World Without Clouds Excerpts in italics with my bolds

A state-of-the-art supercomputer simulation indicates that a feedback loop between global warming and cloud loss can push Earth’s climate past a disastrous tipping point in as little as a century.

Clouds currently cover about two-thirds of the planet at any moment. But computer simulations of clouds have begun to suggest that as the Earth warms, clouds become scarcer. With fewer white surfaces reflecting sunlight back to space, the Earth gets even warmer, leading to more cloud loss. This feedback loop causes warming to spiral out of control.

Climate physicists at the California Institute of Technology performed a state-of-the-art simulation of stratocumulus clouds, the low-lying, blankety kind that have by far the largest cooling effect on the planet. The simulation revealed a tipping point: a level of warming at which stratocumulus clouds break up altogether. The disappearance occurs when the concentration of CO2 in the simulated atmosphere reaches 1,200 parts per million — a level that fossil fuel burning could push us past in about a century, under “business-as-usual” emissions scenarios. In the simulation, when the tipping point is breached, Earth’s temperature soars 8 degrees Celsius, in addition to the 4 degrees of warming or more caused by the CO2 directly.

The huge range in the models’ predictions chiefly comes down to whether they see clouds blocking more or less sunlight in the future. As Marvel put it, “You can fairly confidently say that the model spread in climate sensitivity is basically just a model spread in what clouds are going to do.”

The problem is that, in computer simulations of the global climate, today’s supercomputers cannot resolve grid cells that are smaller than about 100 kilometers by 100 kilometers in area. But clouds are often no more than a few kilometers across. Physicists therefore have to simplify or “parameterize” clouds in their global models, assigning an overall level of cloudiness to each grid cell based on other properties, like temperature and humidity.

But clouds involve the interplay of so many mechanisms that it’s not obvious how best to parameterize them. The warming of the Earth and sky strengthens some mechanisms involved in cloud formation, while also fueling other forces that break clouds up. Global climate models that predict 2 degrees of warming in response to doubling CO2 generally also see little or no change in cloudiness. Models that project a rise of 4 or more degrees forecast fewer clouds in the coming decades.

But vastly more important and more challenging than high clouds are the low, thick, turbulent ones — especially the stratocumulus variety. Bright-white sheets of stratocumulus cover a quarter of the ocean, reflecting 30 to 70 percent of the sunlight that would otherwise be absorbed by the dark waves below. 

Suppositions:  First, when higher CO2 levels make Earth’s surface and sky hotter, the extra heat drives stronger turbulence inside the clouds. The turbulence mixes moist air near the top of the cloud, pushing it up and out through an important boundary layer that caps stratocumulus clouds, while drawing dry air in from above. Entrainment, as this is called, works to break up the cloud.

Secondly, as the greenhouse effect makes the upper atmosphere warmer and thus more humid, the cooling of the tops of stratocumulus clouds from above becomes less efficient. This cooling is essential, because it causes globs of cold, moist air at the top of the cloud to sink, making room for warm, moist air near Earth’s surface to rise into the cloud and become it. When cooling gets less effective, stratocumulus clouds grow thin.

On the Other Hand:

Joel Norris is one of the world experts in studying clouds in relation to climate, and he has published findings in partnerships with Martin Wild of ETH Zurich, where the global dimming and brightening database is located. See: Nature’s Sunscreen for background.

Norris provides an informative context in this pdf presentation Observed Cloud Cover Trends and Global Climate Change

He notes these Uncertainties in Feedbacks

• general theories do not exist for quantifying most individual climate feedbacks

• observations lack sufficient detail and comprehensiveness

• competing climate processes cannot be distinguished using observations

• global climate models have insufficient spatial resolution to simulate climate processes

From analyzing the data, Norris concludes that Total Cloud Cover has been Net Cooling:

• satellite radiation and surface cloud data have been combined to produce the first-ever multidecadal estimation of radiation variability due to clouds

• the role of clouds in the climate system is one of the biggest uncertainties in understanding future climate change

• upper-level cloud cover has decreased and outgoing LW radiation has increased over most of the global ocean

• low-level stratiform cloud cover and reflected SW radiation have increased over midlatitude oceans

• cloud changes since 1952 have had a net cooling effect on the Earth

See also: No GHG Warming Fingerprints in the Sky

Cosmic Rebirth: Peterson’s Pearls (5)

This is the fifth and final post in a series based upon Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning, published in 1999 after 17 years of research and writing. It is rich in description and insight with many references and quotations from original sources. Reading it I began to copy passages that struck me as especially lucid and pertinent. Those paragraphs of his text are provided below in italics as excerpts selected to explain five themes emerging in my reflections while pondering his book. Cosmic Dichotomy: Peterson’s Pearls (1) provides an overview explaining why this is important to me and perhaps to others.

[Note: I use the word “cosmic” since each individual’s world is at risk, and as we see in the agitation over climate change, entire social groups can also fear for their collective world.]

Jordan Peterson on Cosmic Rebirth (Excerpts from Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Title is link to pdf)

Ideologies may be regarded as incomplete myths—as partial stories, whose compelling nature is a consequence of the appropriation of mythological ideas. The philosophy attributing individual evil to the pathology of social force constitutes one such partial story. Although society, the Great Father, has a tyrannical aspect, he also shelters, protects, trains and disciplines the developing individual—and places necessary constraints on his thought, emotion and behavior.

Subjugation to lawful authority might more reasonably be considered in light of the metaphor of the apprenticeship. Childhood dependency must be replaced by group membership, prior to the development of full maturity. Such membership provides society with another individual to utilize as a “tool,” and provides the maturing but still vulnerable individual with necessary protection (with a group-fostered “identity”). The capacity to abide by social rules, regardless of the specifics of the discipline, can therefore be regarded as a necessary transitional stage in the movement from childhood to adulthood.

Discipline should therefore be regarded as a skill that may be developed through adherence to strict ritual, or by immersion within a strict belief system or hierarchy of values. Once such discipline has been attained, it may escape the bounds of its developmental precursor. It is in this manner that true freedom is attained.

Apprenticeship is necessary, but should not on that account be glamorized. Dogmatic systems make harsh and unreasonable masters. Systems of belief and moral action—and those people who are identified with them—are concerned above all with self-maintenance and preservation of predictability and order. The (necessarily) conservative tendencies of great systems makes them tyrannical, and more than willing to crush the spirit of those they “serve.” Apprenticeship is a precursor to freedom, however, and nothing necessary and worthwhile is without danger.

We are all familiar with the story of benevolent nature, threatened by the rapacious forces of the corrupt individual and the society of the machine. The plot is solid, the characters believable, but Mother Nature is also malarial mosquitoes, parasitical worms, cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The story of peaceful and orderly tradition, undermined by the incautious and decadent (with the ever-present threat of chaos lurking in the background) is also familiar, and compelling, and true—except that the forces of tradition, however protective, tend to be blind, and to concern themselves more with their own stability than with the well-being of those subject to them.

These stories are all ideologies (and there are many more of them). Ideologies are attractive, not least to the educated modern mind—credulous, despite its skepticism— particularly if those who embody or otherwise promote them allow the listener every opportunity to identify with the creative and positive characters of the story, and to deny their association with the negative. Ideologies are powerful and dangerous. Their power stems from their incomplete but effective appropriation of mythological ideas. Their danger stems from their attractiveness, in combination with their incompleteness. Ideologies tell only part of the story, but tell that part as if it were complete. This means that they do not take into account vast domains of the world. It is incautious to act in the world as if only a set of its constituent elements exist. The ignored elements conspire, so to speak, as a consequence of their repression, and make their existence known, inevitably, in some undesirable manner.

Anyway, the fervent hope of every undisciplined person (even an undisciplined genius) is that his current worthlessness and stupidity is someone else’s fault. If—in the best of cases—it is society’s fault, then society can be made to pay. This sleight-of-hand maneuver transforms the undisciplined into the admirable rebel, at least in his own eyes, and allows him to seek unjustified revenge in the disguise of the revolutionary hero. A more absurd parody of heroic behavior can hardly be imagined.

The maturing individual necessarily (tragically, heroically) expands past the domain of paradisal maternal protection, in the course of development; necessarily attains an apprehension whose desire for danger and need for life exceeds the capability of maternal shelter. This means that the growing child eventually comes to face problems—how to get along with peers in peer-only play groups; how to select a mate from among a myriad of potential mates—that cannot be solved (indeed, may be made more difficult) by involvement of the beneficial maternal.

A thirteen-year-old cannot use a seven-year-old’s personality—no matter how healthy—to solve the problems endemic to adolescence. The group steps in—most evidently, at the point of adolescence—and provides “permeable” protective shelter to the child too old for the mother but not old enough to stand alone. The universally disseminated rituals of initiation—induced “spiritual” death and subsequent rebirth—catalyzes the development of adult personality; follows the fundamental pattern of the cyclic, circular cosmogonic myth of the way.

Ritual initiation, for example—a ubiquitous formal feature of pre-experimental culture—takes place at or about the onset of puberty, when it is critical for further psychological development and continued tribal security that boys transcend their dependency upon their mothers. This separation often takes place under purposefully frightening and violent conditions. In the general initation pattern, the men, acting as a unit (as the embodiment of social history), separate the initiates from their mothers, who offer a certain amount of more or less dramatized resistance and some genuine sorrow (at the “death” of their children).

When the rite is successfully completed, the initiated are no longer children, dependent upon the arbitrary beneficience of nature—in the guise of their mothers—but are members of the tribe of men, active standard-bearers of their particular culture, who have had their previously personality destroyed, so to speak, by fire. They have successfully faced the worst trial they are likely ever to encounter in their lives.

That new environment is the society of men, where women are sexual partners and equals instead of sources of dependent comfort; where the provision of food and shelter is a responsibility, and not a given; where security—final authority, in the form of parent—no longer exists. As the childhood “personality” is destroyed, the adult personality—a manifestation of transmitted culture—is inculcated.

Groups are individuals, uniform in their acceptance of a collective historically determined behavioral pattern and schema of value. Internalization of this pattern, and the description thereof (the myths—and philosophies, in more abstracted cultures—which accompany it), simultaneously produces ability to act in a given (social) environment, to predict the outcomes of such action, and to determine the meaning of general events (meaning inextricably associated with behavioral outcome). Such internalization culminates in the erection of implicit procedural and explicit declarable structures of “personality,” which are more or less isomorphic in nature, which simultaneously constitute habit and moral knowledge.

The group is the historical structure that humanity has erected between the individual and the terrible unknown. Intrapsychic representation of culture— establishment of group identity—protects individuals from overwhelming fear of their own experience; from contact with the a priori meaning of things and situations.

The historical structure “protects itself” and its structure in two related manners. First, it inhibits intrinsically rewarding but “antisocial” behaviors (those which might upset the stability of the group culture) by associating them with certain punishment (or at least with the threat thereof). This punishment might include actual application of undesirable penalties or, more “subtly”—removal of “right to serve as recognized representative of the social structure.”

University of Kentucky Graduating Dentists, Class of 2018

The culturally-determined historical structure protects and maintains itself secondly by actively promoting individual participation in behavioral strategies that satisfy individual demand, and that simultaneously increase the stability of the group. The socially constructed way of a profession, for example, allows the individual who incarnates that profession opportunity for meaningful activity in a manner that supports or at least does not undermine the stability of the historically determined structure which regulates the function of his or her threat-response system. Adoption of a socially sanctioned “professional personality” therefore provides the initiated and identified individual with peer-approved opportunity for intrinsic goal-derived pleasure, and with relative freedom from punishment, shame and guilt.

The construction of a successful group, the most difficult of feats, means establishment of a society composed of individuals who act in their own interest (at least enough to render their life bearable) and who, in doing so, simultaneously maintain and advance their culture. The “demand to satisfy, protect and adapt, individually and socially”—and to do so over vast and variable stretches of time—places severe intrinsic constraints on the manner in which successful human societies can operate. It might be said that such constraints provide universal boundaries for acceptable human morality.

Balinese Trance Dance performed by male choir.

A culture is, to a large degree, a shared moral code, and deviations from that code are generally easily identified, at least post-hoc. It is still the case, however, that description of the domain of morality tends to exceed the capability of declarative thought, and that the nature of much of what we think of as moral behavior is still, therefore, embedded in unconscious procedure. As a consequence, it is easy for us to become confused about the nature of morality, and to draw inappropriate, untimely and dangerous “fixed” conclusions.

The conservative worships his culture, appropriately, as the creation of that which deserves primary allegiance, remembrance and respect. This creation is the concrete solution to the problem of adaptation: “how to behave?” (and how can that be represented and communicated?). It is very easy, in consequence, to err in attribution of value, and to worship the specific solution itself, rather than the source of that solution.

As such, a given cultural structure necessarily must meet a number of stringent and severely constrained requirements: (1) it must be self-maintaining (in that it promotes activities that allow it to retain its central form); (2) it must be sufficiently flexible to allow for constant adaptation to constantly shifting environmental circumstances; and (3) it must acquire the allegiance of the individuals who compose it. . . The second requirement—flexibility—is more difficult to fulfill, particularly in combination with the first (self-maintenance). A culture must promote activity that supports itself, but must simultaneously allow for enough innovation so that essentially unpredictable alteration in “environmental” circumstance can be met with appropriate change in behavioral activity. Cultures that attempt to maintain themselves through promotion of absolute adherence to traditional principles tend rapidly to fail the second requirement, and to collapse precipitously. Cultures that allow for unrestricted change, by contrast, tend to fail the first, and collapse equally rapidly. The third requirement (allegiance of the populace) might be considered a prerequisite for the first two.

Freemasons celebrate 150th anniversary of the Grand Lodge in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Every culture maintains certain key beliefs that are centrally important to that culture, upon which all secondary beliefs are predicated. These key beliefs cannot be easily given up, because if they are, everything falls, and the unknown once again rules. Western morality and behavior, for example, are predicated on the assumption that every individual is sacred. This belief was already extant in its nascent form among the ancient Egyptians, and provides the very cornerstone of Judeo-Christian civilization. Successful challenge to this idea would invalidate the actions and goals of the Western individual; would destroy the Western dominance hierarchy, the social context for individual action. In the absence of this central assumption, the body of Western law—formalized myth, codified morality—erodes and falls. There are no individual rights, no individual value— and the foundation of the Western social (and psychological) structure dissolves. The Second World War and Cold War were fought largely to eliminate such a challenge.

The group provides the protective structure—conditional meaning and behavioral pattern—that enables the individual to cast off the dependence of childhood, to make the transition from the maternal to the social, patriarchal world. The group is not the individual, however. Psychological development that ceases with group identification—held up as the highest attainable good by every ideologue—severely constricts individual and social potential, and dooms the group, inevitably, to sudden and catastrophic dissolution. Failure to transcend group identification is, in the final analysis, as pathological as failure to leave childhood.

Movement from the group to the individual—like that from childhood to group—follows the archetypal transformative pattern of the heroic (paradise, breach, fall, redemption; stability, incorporation, dissolution, reconstruction). Such transformation must be undertaken voluntarily, through conscious exposure to the unknown—although it may be catalyzed by sufficiently unique or traumatic experience. Failure to initiate and/or successfully complete the process of secondary maturation heightens risk for intrapsychic and social decadence, and consequent experiential chaos, depression and anxiety (including suicidal ideation), or enhances tendency toward fanaticism, and consequent intrapsychic and group aggression.

The “third mode” of adaptation—alternative to decadence and fascism—is heroic. Heroism is comparatively rare, because it requires voluntary sacrifice of group-fostered certainty, and indefinite acceptance of consequent psychological chaos, attendant upon (re)exposure to the unknown. This is nonetheless the creative path, leading to new discovery or reconfiguration, comprising the living element of culture.

Christ’s replies signified transition of morality from reliance on tradition to reliance on individual conscience—from rule of law to rule of spirit—from prohibition to exhortation. To love God means to listen to the voice of truth and to act in accordance with its messages; to love thy neighbour, as thy self. This means, not merely to be pleasant, polite and friendly, but to attribute to the other a value equivalent to the value of the self—which, despite outward appearances, is a representative of God—and to act in consequence of this valuation.

What principle is rule of spirit, rather than law, predicated upon? Respect for the innately heroic nature of man. The “unconscious” archaic man mimics particular adaptive behaviors—integrated, however, into a procedural structure containing all other adaptive behaviors, capable of compelling imitation, and accompanied by episodic/semantic representation, in myth. Pre-experimental cultures regard the act of initial establishment of adaptive behavior as divine first because it follows an archetypal and therefore transpersonal pattern—that governing creative exploration—and second because it compels imitation, and therefore appears possessed of power. All behaviors that change history, and compel imitation, follow the same pattern—that of the divine hero, the embodiment of creative human potential.

Law is a necessary precondition to salvation, so to speak; necessary, but insufficient. Law provides the borders that limit chaos, and allows for the protected maturation of the individual. Law disciplines possibility, and allows the disciplined individual to bring his or her potentialities—those intrapsychic spirits—under voluntary control. The law allows for the application of such potentiality to the task of creative and courageous existence— allows spiritual water controlled flow into the valley of the shadow of death. Law held as absolute, however, puts man in the position of the eternal adolescent, dependent upon the father for every vital decision; removes the responsibility for action from the individual, and therefore prevents him or her from discovering the potential grandeur of the soul. Life without law remains chaotic, affectively intolerable. Life that is pure law becomes sterile, equally unbearable. The domination of chaos or sterility equally breeds murderous resentment and hatred.

Christ said, put truth and regard for the divine in humanity above all else, and everything you need will follow—not everything you think you need, as such thought is fallible, and cannot serve as an accurate guide, but everything actually necessary to render acutely (self) conscious life bearable, without protection of delusion and necessary recourse to deceit, avoidance or suppression, and violence.

Existence characterized by such essence takes place, from the Oriental viewpoint, on the path of meaning, in Tao, balanced on the razor’s edge between mythic masculine and mythic feminine—balanced between the potentially stultifying safety of order, and the inherently destructive possibility of chaos. Such existence allows for introduction of sufficiently bearable meaning into blessed security; makes every individual a stalwart guardian of tradition and an intrepid explorer of the unknown; ensures simultaneous advancement and maintenance of stable, dynamic social existence; and places the individual firmly on the path to intrapsychic integrity and spiritual peace.

The late physicist, Professor Wolfgang Pauli, frequently demonstrated the extent to which modern physical sciences are in a way rooted in archetypal ideas. For instance, the idea of causality as formulated by Descartes is responsible for enormous progress in the investigation of light, of biological phenomena, and so on, but that thing which promotes knowledge becomes its prison. Great discoveries in natural sciences are generally due to the appearance of a new archetypal model by which reality can be described; that usually precedes big developments, for there is now a model which enables a much fuller explanation than was hitherto possible.

So science has progressed, but still, any model becomes a cage, for if one comes across phenomena difficult to explain, then instead of being adaptable and saying that the phenomena do not conform to the model and that a new hypothesis must be found, one clings to one’s hypotheses with a kind of emotional conviction, and cannot be objective.

The idea of projection—that is, the idea that systems of thought have “unconscious” axioms—is clearly related to the notion of “paradigmatic thinking,” as outlined by Kuhn, to wide general acclaim. Jung described the psychological consequences of paradigmatic thinking in great detail as well.

Acceptance of anomalous information brings terror and possibility, revolution and transformation. Rejection of unbearable fact stifles adaptation and strangles life. We choose one path or another at every decision point in our lives, and emerge as the sum total of our choices. In rejecting our errors, we gain short-term security—but throw away our identity with the process that allows us to transcend our weaknesses and tolerate our painfully limited lives.

Our psychology and psychiatry—our “sciences of the mind“—are devoted, at least in theory, to “empirical” evaluation and treatment of mental “disorders.” But this is mostly smoke and screen. We are aiming, always, at an ideal. We currently prefer to leave the nature of that ideal “implicit,” because that helps us sidestep any number of issues that would immediately become of overwhelming difficulty, if they were clearly apprehended. So we “define” health as that state consisting of an absence of “diseases” or “disorders” and leave it at that—as if the notion of disease or disorder (or of the absence thereof) is not by necessity a medieval concatenation of moral philosophy and empirical description. It is our implicit theory that a state of “non-anxiety” is possible, however—and desirable— that leads us to define dominance by that state as “disordered.” The same might be said for depression, for schizophrenia, for personality “disorders,” and so on. Lurking in the background is an “implicit” (that is, unconscious) ideal, against which all “insufficient” present states are necessarily and detrimentally compared. We do not know how to make that ideal explicit, either methodologically or practically (that is, without causing immense dissent in the ranks); we know, however, that we must have a concept of “not ideal” in order to begin and to justify “necessary” treatment. Sooner or later, however, we will have to come to terms with the fact that we are in fact attempting to produce the ideal man—and will have to define explicitly what that means. It would be surprising, indeed, if the ideal we come to posit bore no relationship to those constructed painstakingly, over the course of centuries of effort, in the past.

It took thousands of years of cultural development to formulate the twin notions that empirical reality existed (independent of the motivational significance of things) and that it should be systematically studied (and these ideas only emerged, initially, in the complex societies of the Orient and Europe).

The purpose of scientific methodology is, in large part, to separate the empirical facts from the motivational presumption. In the absence of such methodology, the intermingling of the two domains is inevitable.

It is thus that awareness of death, the grim reaper—the terrible face of God—compels us inexorably upwards, toward a consciousness sufficiently heightened to bear the thought of death. The point of our limitations is not suffering; it is existence itself. We have been granted the capacity to voluntarily bear the terrible weight of our mortality. We turn from that capacity and degrade ourselves because we are afraid of responsibility. In this manner, the necessarily tragic preconditions of existence are made intolerable.

It seems to me that it is not the earthquake, the flood or the cancer that makes life unbearable, horrible as those events appear. We seem capable of withstanding natural disaster, even of responding to that disaster in an honorable and decent manner. It is rather the pointless suffering that we inflict upon each other—our evil—that makes life appear corrupt beyond acceptability; that undermines our ability to manifest faith in our central natures.

The truth seems painfully simple—so simple that it is a miracle, of sorts, that it can every be forgotten. Love God, with all thy mind, and all thy acts, and all thy heart. This means, serve truth above all else, and treat your fellow man as if he were yourself—not with the pity that undermines his self-respect, and not with the justice that elevates you above him, but as a divinity, heavily burdened, who could yet see the light.

Who can believe that it is the little choices we make, every day, between good and evil, that turn the world to waste and hope to despair? But it is the case. We see our immense capacity for evil, constantly realized before us, in great things and in small, but can never seem to realize our infinite capacity for good. Who can argue with a Solzhenitsyn when he states: “One man who stops lying can bring down a tyranny”?

Christ said, the kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth, but men do not see it. What if it was nothing but our self-deceit, our cowardice, hatred and fear, that pollutes our experience and turns the world into hell? This is a hypothesis, at least—as good as any other, admirable and capable of generating hope. Why can’t we make the experiment, and find out if it is true?

It has been almost twelve years since I first grasped the essence of the paradox that lies at the bottom of human motivation for evil: People need their group identification, because that identification protects them, literally, from the terrible forces of the unknown. It is for this reason that every individual who is not decadent will strive to protect his territory, actual and psychological. But the tendency to protect means hatred of the other, and the inevitability of war—and we are now too technologically powerful to engage in war. To allow victory to the other, however—or even continued existence, on his terms—means subjugation, dissolution of protective structure, and exposure to that which is most feared. For me, this meant “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”: belief systems regulate affect, but conflict between belief systems is inevitable.

The great myths of Christianity—the great myths of the past, in general—no longer speak to the majority of Westerners, who regard themselves as educated. The mythic view of history cannot be credited with reality, from the material, empirical point of view. It is nonetheless the case that all of Western ethics, including those explicitly formalized in Western law, are predicated upon a mythological worldview, which specifically attributes divine status to the individual. The modern individual is therefore in a unique position: he no longer believes that the principles upon which all his behaviors are predicated are valid. This might be considered a second fall, in that the destruction of the Western mythological barrier has re-exposed the essential tragedy of individual existence to view.

It is not the pursuit of empirical truth, however, that has wreaked havoc upon the Christian worldview. It is confusion of empirical fact with moral truth that has proved of great detriment to the latter. This has produced what might be described as a secondary gain, which has played an important role in maintaining the confusion. That gain is abdication of the absolute personal responsibility imposed in consequence of recognition of the divine in man. This responsibility means acceptance of the trials and tribulations associated with expression of unique individuality, as well as respect for such expression in others. Such acceptance, expression and respect requires courage in the absence of certainty, and discipline in the smallest matters.

The root of social and individual psychopathology, the “denial,” the “repression” is the lie. The most dangerous lie of all is devoted to denial of individual responsibility—denial of individual divinity.  The idea of the divine individual took thousands of years to fully develop, and is still constantly threatened by direct attack and insidious counter-movement. It is based upon realization that the individual is the locus of experience. All that we can know about reality we know through experience. It is therefore simplest to assume that all there is of reality is experience—its being and progressive unfolding. Furthermore, it is the subjective aspect of individuality—of experience—that is divine, not the objective. Man is an animal, from the objective viewpoint, worthy of no more consideration than the opinion and opportunities of the moment dictate. From the mythic viewpoint, however, every individual is unique—is a new set of experiences, a new universe; has been granted the ability to bring something new into being; is capable of participating in the act of creation itself. It is the expression of this capacity for creative action that makes the tragic conditions of life tolerable, bearable—remarkable, miraculous.


The seminal work on the struggle of individuals to rise above mass delusions was the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds by Charles MacKay 1841.  Title is link to full pdf text.  Excerpts below with my bolds.

In the present state of civilization, society has often shown itself very prone to run a career of folly from the last-mentioned cases. This infatuation has seized upon whole nations in a most extraordinary manner. France, with her Mississippi madness, set the first great example, and was very soon imitated by England with her South Sea Bubble. At an earlier period, Holland made herself still more ridiculous in the eyes of the world, by the frenzy which came over her people for the love of Tulips. Melancholy as all these delusions were in their ultimate results, their history is most amusing. A more ludicrous and yet painful spectacle, than that which Holland presented in the years 1635 and 1636, or France in 1719 and 1720, can hardly be imagined.

Some delusions, though notorious to all the world, have subsisted for ages, flourishing as widely among civilized and polished nations as among the early barbarians with whom they originated, — that of duelling, for instance, and the belief in omens and divination of the future, which seem to defy the progress of knowledge to eradicate entirely from the popular mind. Money, again, has often been a cause of the delusion of multitudes. Sober nations have all at once become desperate gamblers, and risked almost their existence upon the turn of a piece of paper. To trace the history of the most prominent of these delusions is the object of the present pages. Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

MacKay’s study was exhaustive for its time, comprising three volumes;

VOL I. Considered National Delusions, including:

VOL. II described Peculiar Follies, including:

VOL. III compiled more general popular madnesses under three categories:
BOOK I: Philosophical Delusions, down through history with particular recent attention to Alchemists
BOOK II: Fortune Telling
BOOK III: The Magnetisers, a fad only subsiding when the book was written.

Kelly Craft Vs. Monotonic Climate Science

Update February 24, 2019

Now that Kelly Craft, US Ambassador to Canada is Trump’s nominee for UN Ambassador, let’s return to the interview for which she will again be persecuted by climate alarmists/activists.

The Greek word for “one tone” is monotonia, which is the root for both monotone and the closely-related word monotonous, which means “dull and tedious.” Monotone is a droning, unchanging tone. A continuous sound, especially someone’s voice, that doesn’t rise and fall in pitch, is a monotone. Nothing can put you to sleep quite as effectively as a teacher talking in a monotone.

Monotonic climate science was on full display as journalists, pundits and tweeters freaked out over a comment by the new US ambassador to Canada.  Her offense:  saying there were two sides on the climate issue and she respects them both.

The story from CBC:  The new U.S. ambassador to Canada said Monday that she believes “both sides” of climate change science.

In an interview with Canada’s CBC News, Kelly Knight Craft said that she believes there is “accurate” science on “both sides” but did not specify what sides she was referring to.

“I believe there are sciences on both sides that are accurate,” Craft said. “Both sides have their own results from their studies, and I appreciate and respect both sides of the science.”

President Trump appointed Craft, a prominent GOP fundraiser, to the ambassadorship earlier this year.

Craft told CBC that even though Trump has pledged to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, she thinks the U.S. can “absolutely” fight climate climate change.

“We all have the same goal, and that is to better our environment and to maintain the environment,” she said. “I feel like our administration has been on top of this regardless of whether or not they’d be pulling out.”

It is true Ambassador Craft had the look of a deer in the headlights.  She is from Kentucky where one doesn’t encounter sanctimonious warmists as frequently as in Ottawa, and especially not ones determined to get a “gotcha” quote from her.

All the comments at alarmist websites dissed her for thinking the issue could have two differing points of view. Going further, they repeatedly claim “science” does not have two sides, not now, not ever. And, of course, she offends them by saying she respects people on both sides of the matter. As an Ambassador, she sought common ground by pointedly not mentioning the specifics of how the US is actually reducing its CO2 emissions while Canada has not.

The damage here goes beyond climate science to the degradation of all scientific disciplines.  These smug journalists and their audiences know that on all kinds of issues reasonable people can disagree.  But somehow they have been brainwashed with the notion that science is a catechism with only one right answer.  That idea is false and a threat to modern civilization.

They hear only about Jim Hansen, Al Gore, Mike Mann and their ilk, and think their pronouncements are universally and eternally true.  Many, many scientists see things differently. Hard as it is to go from simplicity to complexity, let us enlighten these folks to some of the other sides of climate science .  First, meet Richard Muller who shares some concerns and not others.  Below in italics is his answer to a question raised on Quora:   What are some widely cited studies in the news that are false?

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley.

That 97% of all climate scientists accept that climate change is real, large, and a threat to the future of humanity. That 97% basically concur with the vast majority of claims made by Vice President Al Gore in his Nobel Peace Prize winning film, An Inconvenient Truth.

The question asked in typical surveys is neither of those. It is this: “Do you believe that humans are affecting climate?” My answer would be yes. Humans are responsible for about a 1 degree Celsius rise in the average temperature in the last 100 years. So I would be included as one of the 97% who believe.

Yet the observed changes that are scientifically established, in my vast survey of the science, are confined to temperature rise and the resulting small (4-inch) rise in sea level. (The huge “sea level rise” seen in Florida is actually subsidence of the land mass, and is not related to global warming.) There is no significant change in the rate of storms, or of violent storms, including hurricanes and volcanoes. The temperature variability is not increasing. There is no scientifically significant increase in floods or droughts. Even the widely reported warming of Alaska (“the canary in the mine”) doesn’t match the pattern of carbon dioxide increase–it may have an explanation in terms of changes in the northern Pacific and Atlantic currents. Moreover, the standard climate models have done a very poor job of predicting the temperature rise in Antarctica, so we must be cautious about the danger of confirmation bias.

My friend Will Happer believes that humans do affect the climate, particularly in cities where concrete and energy use cause what is called the “urban heat island effect.” So he would be included in the 97% who believe that humans affect climate, even though he is usually included among the more intense skeptics of the IPCC. He also feels that humans cause a small amount of global warming (he isn’t convinced it is as large as 1 degree), but he does not think it is heading towards a disaster; he has concluded that the increase in carbon dioxide is good for food production, and has helped mitigate global hunger. Yet he would be included in the 97%.

The problem is not with the survey, which asked a very general question. The problem is that many writers (and scientists!) look at that number and mischaracterize it. The 97% number is typically interpreted to mean that 97% accept the conclusions presented in An Inconvenient Truth by former Vice President Al Gore. That’s certainly not true; even many scientists who are deeply concerned by the small global warming (such as me) reject over 70% of the claims made by Mr. Gore in that movie (as did a judge in the UK; see the following link: Gore climate film’s nine ‘errors‘).

The pollsters aren’t to blame. Well, some of them are; they too can do a good poll and then misrepresent what it means. The real problem is that many people who fear global warming (include me) feel that it is necessary to exaggerate the meaning of the polls in order to get action from the public (don’t include me).

There is another way to misrepresent the results of the polls. Yes, 97% of those polled believe that there is human caused climate change. How did they reach that decision? Was it based on a careful reading of the IPCC report? Was it based on their knowledge of the potential systematic uncertainties inherent in the data? Or was it based on their fear that opponents to action are anti-science, so we scientists have to get together and support each other. There is a real danger in people with Ph.D.s joining a consensus that they haven’t vetted professionally.

I like to ask scientists who “believe” in global warming what they think of the data. Do they believe hurricanes are increasing? Almost never do I get the answer “Yes, I looked at that, and they are.” Of course they don’t say that, because if they did I would show them the actual data! Do they say, “I’ve looked at the temperature record, and I agree that the variability is going up”? No. Sometimes they will say, “There was a paper by Jim Hansen that showed the variability was increasing.” To which I reply, “I’ve written to Jim Hansen about that paper, and he agrees with me that it shows no such thing. He even expressed surprise that his paper has been so misinterpreted.”

A really good question would be: “Have you studied climate change enough that you would put your scientific credentials on the line that most of what is said in An Inconvenient Truth is based on accurate scientific results? My guess is that a large majority of the climate scientists would answer no to that question, and the true percentage of scientists who support the statement I made in the opening paragraph of this comment, that true percentage would be under 30%. That is an unscientific guestimate, based on my experience in asking many scientists about the claims of Al Gore.

Then esteemed climate scientist Richard Lindzen, in a short video introduces you to more sides to the climate change issue:


Science in general, and climate science in particular is not monotonic, but polyphonic.  There are and have always been differing voices and tones in the search for objective truth.  Only the illiterate think otherwise.

Cosmic Evil: Peterson’s Pearls (4)

This is the fourth in a series of five posts based upon Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning, published in 1999 after 17 years of research and writing. It is rich in description and insight with many references and quotations from original sources. Reading it I began to copy passages that struck me as especially lucid and pertinent. Those paragraphs of his text are provided below in italics as excerpts selected to explain five themes emerging in my reflections while pondering his book. Cosmic Dichotomy: Peterson’s Pearls (1) provides an overview explaining why this is important to me and perhaps to others.

[Note: I use the word “cosmic” since each individual’s world is at risk, and as we see in the agitation over climate change, entire social groups can also fear for their collective world.]

Jordan Peterson on Cosmic Evil (Excerpts from Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Title is link to pdf)

No discussion of the architecture of belief can possibly be considered complete, in the absence of reference to evil. Evil is no longer a popular word, so to speak—the term is generally considered old-fashioned, not applicable in a society that has theoretically dispensed with its religious preoccupations. Acts once defined as evil are now merely considered the consequence of unjust familial, social or economic structures (although this view is not as widespread as it once was). Alternatively, the commission of incomprehensible acts of cruelty and destruction are viewed as symptomatic of some physiological weakness or disease. Seldom are acts of evil considered voluntary or purposeful—committed by someone possessed by an aesthetic that makes art of terror and pain.

Evil, like good, is not something static: it does not merely mean breaking the rules, for example, and is not simply aggression, anger, force, pain, disappointment, anxiety or horror. Life is of course endlessly complicated by the fact that what is bad in one circumstance is positively necessary in the next.

Evil is rejection of and sworn opposition to the process of creative exploration. Evil is proud repudiation of the unknown, and willful failure to understand, transcend and transform the social world. Evil is, in addition—and in consequence—hatred of the virtuous and courageous, precisely on account of their virtue and courage. Evil is the desire to disseminate darkness, for the love of darkness, where there could be light. The spirit of evil underlies all actions that speed along the decrepitude of the world, that foster God’s desire to inundate and destroy everything that exists.

Many kings are tyrants, or moral decadents, because they are people—and many people are tyrants, or moral decadents. We cannot say “never again” as a consequence of the memory of the Holocaust, because we do not understand the Holocaust, and it is impossible to remember what has not been understood. We do not understand the Holocaust because we do not comprehend ourselves. Human beings, very much like ourselves, produced the moral catastrophes of the Second World War (and of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and of Pol Pot’s Cambodia…). “Never forget” means “know thyself”: recognize and understand that evil twin, that mortal enemy, who is part and parcel of every individual.

The heroic tendency—the archetypal savior—is an eternal spirit, which is to say, a central and permanent aspect of human being. The same is true, precisely, of the “adversarial” tendency: the capacity for endless denial, and the desire to make everything suffer for the outrage of its existence, is an ineradicable intrapsychic element of the individual. The great dramatists and religious thinkers of the world have been able to grasp this fact, at least implicitly, and to transmit it in story and image; modern analytic thinkers and existential theorists have attempted to abstract these ideas upward into “higher consciousness,” and to present them in logical and purely semantic form. Sufficient material has been gathered to present a compelling portrait of evil.


The image of the devil is the form that the idea of evil has taken, for better or worse, at least in the West. We have not yet developed an explicit model of evil that would allow us to forget, transcend or otherwise dispense with this mythological representation. We rationalize our lack of such understanding by presuming that the very notion of evil is archaic. This is a truly ridiculous presumption, in this century of indescribable horror. In our ignorance and complacency, we deride ancient stories about the nature of evil, equating them half-consciously with childish things best put away. This is an exceedingly arrogant position. There is no evidence whatsoever that we understand the nature of evil any better than our forebears, despite our psychology, even though our expanded technological power has made us much more dangerous when we are possessed.

It is reason’s belief in its own omniscience—manifest in procedure and image, if not in word—that “unconsciously” underlies totalitarianism in its many destructive guises. . . It is not that easy to understand why the act of presuming omniscience is reasonably construed as precisely opposite to the act of creative exploration (as the adversary is opposite to the hero). What “knowing everything” means, however—at least in practice—is that the unknown no longer exists, and that further exploration has therefore been rendered superfluous (even treacherous).

Rally organized for Nicolae Ceausescu in 1978. Photo source:

The arrogance of the totalitarian stance is ineradicably opposed to the “humility” of creative exploration. [Humility—it is only constant admission of error and capacity for error (admission of “sinful and ignorant nature”) that allows for recognition of the unknown, and then for update of knowledge and adaptation in behavior. Such humility is, somewhat paradoxically, courageous—as admission of error and possibility for error constitutes the necessary precondition for confrontation with the unknown. This makes genuine cowardice the “underground” motivation for the totalitarian presumption: the true authoritarian wants everything unpredictable to vanish. The authoritarian protects himself from knowledge of this cowardice by a show of patriotic advocacy, often at apparent cost to himself.]

It has taken mankind thousands of years of work to develop dawning awareness of the nature of evil—to produce a detailed dramatic representation of the process that makes up the core of human maladaptation and voluntarily produced misery. It seems premature to throw away the fruit of that labor or to presume that it is something other than what it appears before we understand what it signifies.

Unabomber Time

The fact of mortal vulnerability—that defining characteristic of the individual, and the “reason” for his emergent disgust with life—may be rendered even more “unjust” and “intolerable” by the specific manifestations of such vulnerability. Some are poorer than others, some weaker, some unsightlier—all less able, in some regard (and some apparently less able in all regards). Recognition of the seemingly arbitrary distribution of skill and advantage adds additional rationally “justifiable” grounds for the development of a philosophy based on resentment and antipathy—sometimes, “on behalf” of an entire class, other times, sheerly for the purposes of a specific individual. Under such circumstances, the desire for revenge on life itself may become paramount above all else, particularly for the “unfairly oppressed.”

Riots in Watts, Los Angeles 1965.

Evil is voluntary rejection of the process that makes life tolerable, justified by observation of life’s terrible difficulty. This rejection is presumptious, premature, because it is based on acceptance of a provisional judgment as final: “everything is insufficient, and is therefore without worth, and nothing whatsoever can be done to rectify the situation.” Judgment of this sort precludes all hope of cure.

The development of the adversary therefore follows a predictable path, from pride (“Pride and worse Ambition threw me down”), through envy, to revenge—to the ultimate construction of a character possessed by infinite hatred and envy.

Tolstoy’s nihilism—disgust with the individual and human society, combined with the desire for the eradication of existence—is one logical “evil” consequence of heightened self-consciousness. It is not, however, the only consequence, and may not even be the most subtle. Far more efficient—far more hidden from the perpetrator himself, and from his closest observers—is heightened identification with tradition and custom. This is envelopment in the guise of patriotism, to facilitate the turning of state power toward destruction.

Group membership, social being, represents a necessary advance over childish dependence, but the spirit of the group requires its pound of flesh. Absolute identification with the group means rejection of individual difference: means rejection of “deviation,” even “weakness,” from the group viewpoint; means repression of individuality, sacrifice of the mythic fool; means abandonment of the simple and insufficient “younger brother.” The group, of course, merely feels that it is doing its duty by insisting upon such sacrifice; it believes, with sufficient justification, that it is merely protecting its structure.

Denial of unique individuality turns the wise traditions of the past into the blind ruts of the present. Application of the letter of the law when the spirit of the law is necessary makes a mockery of culture. Following in the footsteps of others seems safe, and requires no thought—but it is useless to follow a well-trodden trail when the terrain itself has changed. The individual who fails to modify his habits and presumptions as a consequence of change is deluding himself—is denying the world—is trying to replace reality itself with his own feeble wish. By pretending things are other than they are, he undermines his own stability, destabilizes his future, and transforms the past from shelter to prison.

The Mausoleum of Dead Presidents in Pyongyang.

The individual embodiment of collective past wisdom is turned into the personification of inflexible stupidity by means of the lie. The lie is straightforward, voluntary rejection of what is currently known to be true. Nobody knows what is finally true, by definition, but honest people make the best possible use of their experience. The moral theories of the truthful, however incomplete from some hypothetical transcendent perspective, account for what they have seen and for who they are, insofar as that has been determined in the course of diligent effort.

This is to say, merely, that the truth of children and adults differs, because their experience—their reality—differs. The truthful child does not think like an adult: he thinks like a child, with his eyes open. The adult, however, who still uses the morality of the child—despite his adult capacities—he is lying, and he knows it.

The lie is willful adherence to a previously functional schema of action and interpretation—a moral paradigm—despite new experience that cannot be comprehended in terms of that schema; despite new desire, which cannot find fulfillment within that framework. The lie is willful rejection of information apprehended as anomalous on terms defined and valued by the individual doing the rejecting. That is to say: the liar chooses his own game, sets his own rules and then cheats. This cheating is failure to grow, to mature; it is rejection of the process of consciousness itself.

The unknown has to be “mined” for precise significance, before it can be said to have been experienced, let alone comprehended; has to be transformed, laboriously, from pure affect into revision of presumption and action (into “psyche” or “personality”). “Not doing” is therefore the simplest and most common lie: the individual can just “not act,” “not investigate,” and the pitfalls of error will remain unmanifest, at least temporarily. This rejection of the process of creative exploration means lack of effortful update of procedural and declarative memory, adaptation to the present as if it still were the past, refusal to think.

The identity of the individual with his culture protects him from the terrible unknown, and allows him to function as an acceptable member of society. This slavish function strengthens the group. But the group states that certain ways of thinking and acting are all that are acceptable, and these particular ways do not exhaust the unknown and necessary capabilities of the human being. The rigid, grinning social mask is the individual’s pretence that he is “the same person” as everyone else (that is, the same dead person)— that he is not a natural disaster, not a stranger, not strange—that he is not deviant, weak, cowardly, inferior and vengeful. The true individual, however—the honest fool—stands outside the protective enclave of acceptance, unredeemed—the personification of weakness, inferiority, vengefulness, cowardice, difference. He cannot make the cut, and because he cannot make the cut, he is the target of the tyranny of the group (and of his own judgment, insofar as he is that group). But man as a fool, weak, ignorant and vulnerable, is what the group is not: a true individual, truly existing, truly experiencing, truly suffering (if it could only be admitted).

The adversarial position, deceit, is predicated on the belief that the knowledge of the present comprises all necessary knowledge—is predicated on the belief that the unknown has finally been conquered. This belief is equivalent to denial of vulnerability, equivalent to the adoption of omniscience—“what I do is all there is to do, what I know is all there is to know.” Inextricably associated with the adoption of such a stance is denial, implicit or explicit, of the existence, the possibility, and the necessity of the heroic—as everything worthwhile has already been done, as all problems have been solved, as paradise has already been spread before us.

Denial of the heroic promotes fascism, absolute identification with the cultural canon. Everything that is known, is known within a particular historically determined framework, predicated upon mythologically expressed assumptions. Denial or avoidance of the unknown therefore concomitantly necessitates deification of a particular previously established viewpoint.

Denial of the heroic promotes decadence, equally—absolute rejection of the order of tradition; absolute rejection of order itself. This pattern of apprehension and behavior seems far removed from that of the fascist, but the decadent is just as arrogant as his evidently more rigid peer. He has merely identified himself absolutely with no thing, rather than with one thing. He is rigidly convinced of the belief that nothing matters— convinced that nothing is of value, despite the opinions of (clearly deluded, weak and despicable) others; convinced that nothing is worth the effort. The decadent functions in this manner like an anti-Midas—everything he touches turns to ashes.

Imelda Marcos in Manila among her 3000 pairs of shoes.

The normal individual solves his problem of adaptation to the unknown by joining a group. A group, by definition, is composed of those who have adopted a central structure of value, and who therefore behave, in the presence of other group members, identically—and if not identically, at least predictably. The fascist adapts to the group with a vengeance. He builds stronger and stronger walls around himself and those who are “like him,” in an ever more futile attempt to keep the threatening unknown at bay. He does this because his worldview is incomplete.

The decadent, by contrast, sees nothing but the tyranny of the state. Since the adversarial aspect of the individual remains conveniently hidden from his view, he cannot perceive that his “rebellion” is nothing but avoidance of discipline. He views chaos as a beneficial home, seeing the source of human evil in social regulation. . . The decadent looks to subvert the process of maturation—looks for a “way out” of group affiliation. Group membership requires adoption of at least adolescent responsibility, and this burden may seem too much to bear, as a consequence of prolonged immaturity of outlook.

The fascist and the decadent regard each other as opposites, as mortal enemies. They are in actuality two sides of the same bent coin.

This “theory of the genesis of social psychopathology”—this theory of a direct relationship obtaining between personal choice and fascistic or decadent personality and social movement—finds its precise echo in Taoist philosophy, and can be more thoroughly comprehended through application of that perspective. . . Much of ancient Chinese philosophy (cosmology, medicine, political theory, religious thinking) is predicated on the idea that pathology is caused by a relative excess of one primordial “substance” or the other. The goal of the Chinese sage—physician, spiritual leader or social administrator—is to establish or re-establish harmony between the fundamental “feminine” and “masculine” principles, and to diagnose and cure the faulty action or irresponsible inactions that led to their original discord. The schematic representation of Yin and Yang, portrayed below, utilizes the image of a circle to represent totality; the paisleys that make up that circle are opposed but balanced.

The fascist, who will not face the reality and necessity of the unknown, hides his vulnerable face in a “pathological excess of order.” The decadent, who refuses to see that existence is not possible without order, hides his immaturity from himself and others in a “pathological excess of chaos.” The fascist is willing to sacrifice painful freedom for order, and to pretend that his unredeemed misery is meaningless, so that he does not have to do anything for himself. The decadent believes that freedom can be attained without discipline and responsibility, because he is ignorant of the terrible nature of “the undifferentiated ground of reality” and is unwilling to bear the burden of order. When he starts to suffer, as he certainly will, he will not allow the reality of his suffering to prove to him that some things are real, because acceptance of that proof would force him to believe and to act (would force him as well toward painful realization of the counterproductive and wasteful stupidity of his previous position).

The decadent says, “there is no such thing as to know”—and never attempts to accomplish anything. Like his authoritarian counterpart, he makes himself “immune from error,” since mistakes are always made with regard to some valued, fixed and desired end. The decadent says, “look, here is something new, something inexplicable; that is evidence, is it not, that everything that I have been told is wrong. History is unreliable; rules are arbitrary; accomplishment is illusory. Why do anything, under such circumstances?” But he is living on borrowed time—feeding, like a parasite, on the uncomprehended body of the past.

The invention, establishment and perfection of the concentration camp, the efficient genocidal machine, might be regarded as the crowning achievement of human technological and cultural endeavor, motivated by resentment and loathing for life. Invented by the English, rendered efficient by the Germans, applied on a massive scale by the Soviets and the Chinese, revivified by the Balkan conflict—perfection of the factory whose sole product is death has required truly multinational enterprise. Such enterprise constitutes, perhaps, the prime accomplishment of the cooperative bureaucratization of hatred, cowardice and deceit.  Tens of millions of innocent people have been dehumanized, enslaved and sacrificed in these efficient disassembly lines, in the course of the last century, to help their oppressors maintain pathological stability and consistency of moral presumption, enforced through terror, motivated by adherence to the lie.

The Rwandan massacres, the killing fields in Cambodia, the tens of millions dead (by Solzhenitsyn’s estimate) as a consequence of internal repression in the Soviet Union, the untold legions butchered during China‘s Cultural Revolution [the Great Leap Forward (!), another black joke, accompanied upon occasion, in the particular, by devouring of the victim], the planned humiliation and rape of hundreds of Muslim women in Yugoslavia, the holocaust of the Nazis, the carnage perpetrated by the Japanese in mainland China— such events are not attributable to human kinship with the animal, the innocent animal, or even by the desire to protect territory, interpersonal and intrapsychic, but by a deep-rooted spiritual sickness, endemic to mankind, the consequence of unbearable self-consciousness, apprehension of destiny in suffering and limitation, and pathological refusal to face the consequences thereof.

The fact, regardless of content, is not evil; it is mere (terrible) actuality. It is the attitude to the fact that has a moral or immoral nature. There are no evil facts—although there are facts about evil; it is denial of the unacceptable fact that constitutes evil—at least insofar as human control extends. The suppression of unbearable fact transforms the conservative tendency to preserve into the authoritarian tendency to crush; transforms the liberal wish to transform into the decadent desire to subvert. Confusing evil with the unbearable fact, rather than with the tendency to deny the fact, is like equating the good with the static product of heroism, rather than with the dynamic act of heroism itself. Confusion of evil with the fact—the act of blaming the messenger—merely provides rationale for the act of denial, justification for savage repression, and mask of morality for decadence and authoritarianism.

The highest value toward which effort is devoted determines what will become elevated, and what subjugated, in the course of individual and social existence. If security or power is valued above all else, then all will become subject to the philosophy of expedience. In the long term, adoption of such a policy leads to development of rigid, weak personality (or social environment) or intrapsychic dissociation and social chaos.

The personality of this adversary comes in two forms, so to speak—although these two forms are inseparably linked. The fascist sacrifices his soul, which would enable him to confront change on his own, to the group, which promises to protect him from everything unknown. The decadent, by contrast, refuses to join the social world, and clings rigidly to his own ideas—merely because he is too undisciplined to serve as an apprentice. The fascist wants to crush everything different, and then everything; the decadent immolates himself, and builds the fascist from his ashes. The bloody excesses of the twentieth century, manifest most evidently in the culture of the concentration camp, stand as testimony to the desires of the adversary and as monument to his power.

Trotsky refers to the old principle which St. Paul states in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3:10 “We gave you this rule: if a man will not work, he shall not eat.” And before that Deuteronomy 25:4: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.”

The pitfalls of fascism and decadence may be avoided through identification with the hero, the true individual. The hero organizes the demands of social being and the responsibilities of his own soul into a coherent, hierarchically arranged unit. He stands on the border between order and chaos, and serves the group as creator and agent of renewal. The hero’s voluntary contact with the unknown transforms it into something benevolent—into the eternal source, in fact, of strength and ability. Development of such strength—attendant upon faith in the conditions of experience— enables him to stand outside the group, when necessary, and to use it as a tool, rather than as armor. The hero rejects identification with the group as the ideal of life, preferring to follow the dictates of his conscience and his heart. His identification with meaning—and his refusal to sacrifice meaning for security—renders existence acceptable, despite its tragedy.

Cosmic Heroes: Peterson’s Pearls (3)

This is the third in a series of posts based upon Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning, published in 1999 after 17 years of research and writing. It is rich in description and insight with many references and quotations from original sources. Reading it I began to copy passages that struck me as especially lucid and pertinent. Those paragraphs of his text are provided below in italics as excerpts selected to explain five themes emerging in my reflections while pondering his book. Cosmic Dichotomy: Peterson’s Pearls (1) provides an overview explaining why this is important to me and perhaps to others.

[Note: I use the word “cosmic” since each individual’s world is at risk, and as we see in the agitation over climate change, entire social groups can also fear for their collective world.]

Jordan Peterson on Cosmic Heroes (Excerpts from Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Title is link to pdf)

Before the emergence of empirical methodology, which allowed for methodical separation of subject and object in description, the world-model contained abstracted inferences about the nature of existence, derived primarily from observations of human behavior. This means, in essence, that pre-experimental man observed “morality” in his behavior and inferred (through the process described previously) the existence of a source or rationale for that morality in the structure of the “universe” itself. Of course, this “universe” is the experiential field—affect, imagination and all—and not the “objective” world constructed by the post-empirical mind. This prescientific “model of reality” primarily consisted of narrative representations of behavioral patterns (and of the contexts that surround them), and was concerned primarily with the motivational significance of events and processes. As this model became more abstract—as the semantic system analyzed the information presented in narrative format, but not understood—man generated imaginative hypotheses about the nature of the ideal human behavior, in the archetypal environment.

The phenomena that we would now describe as emotions or motive forces, from the perspective of our modern, comparatively differentiated and acute self-consciousness, do not appear to have been experienced precisely as “internal” in their original form. Rather, they made their appearance as part and parcel of the experience (the event, or sequence of events) that gave rise to them, and adopted initial representational form in imaginative embodiment. The modern idea of the “stimulus” might be regarded as a vestigial remnant of this form of thinking—a form that grants the power of affective and behavioral control to the object (or which cannot distinguish between that which elicits a response, and the response itself). We no longer think “animistically” as adults, except in our weaker or more playful moments, because we attribute motivation and emotion to our own agency, and not (generally) to the stimulus that gives proximal rise to them. We can separate the thing from the implication of the thing, because we are students and beneficiaries of empirical thinking and experimental method. We can remove attribution of motive and affective power from the “object,” and leave it standing in its purely sensory and consensual aspect; can distinguish between what is us and what is world. The pre-experimental mind could not (cannot) do this, at least not consistently; could not reliably discriminate between the object and its effect on behavior. It is that object and effect which, in totality, constitute a god (more accurately, it is a class of objects and their effects that constitute a god).

Transpersonal motive forces do wage war with one another over vast spans of time; are each forced to come to terms with their powerful “opponents” in the intrapsychic hierarchy. The battles between the different “ways of life” (or different philosophies) that eternally characterize human societies can usefully be visualized as combat undertaken by different standards of value (and, therefore, by different hierarchies of motivation). The “forces” involved in such wars do not die, as they are “immortal”: the human beings acting as “pawns of the gods” during such times are not so fortunate.

Everything we know, we know because someone explored something they did not understand—explored something they were afraid of, in awe of. Everything we know, we know because someone generated something valuable in the course of an encounter with the unexpected. . . “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” All things that we know no longer demand our attention. To know something is to do it automatically, without thinking, to categorize it at a glance (or less than a glance), or to ignore it entirely.

The nervous system is “designed” to eliminate predictability from consideration, and to focus limited analytical resources where focus would produce useful results. We attend to the places where change is occurring; where something is happening that has not yet been modeled, where something is happening that has not yet had behaviors erected around it—where something is happening that is not yet understood. Consciousness itself might be considered as that organ which specializes in the analysis and classification of unpredictable events. Attention and concentration naturally gravitate to those elements in the experiential field that contain the highest concentration of novelty, or that are the least expected, prior to what might normally be considered higher cognitive processing. The nervous system responds to irregular change and eliminates regularity. There is limited information, positive and negative, in the predictable. The novel occurrence, by contrast, might be considered a window into the “transcendent space” where reward and punishment exist in eternal and unlimited potential.

Empirical (classical) “objects” are either one thing or another. Nature, by contrast— the great unknown—is one thing and its (affective) opposite at the same time, and in the same place. The novel, primeval experience was (and remains) much too complex to be gripped, initially, by rational understanding, as understood in the present day. Mythic imagination, “willing” to sacrifice discriminatory clarity for inclusive phenomenological accuracy, provided the necessary developmental bridge. The earliest embodiments of nature are therefore symbolic combinations of rationally irreconcilable attributes; monsters, essentially feminine, who represent animal and human, creation and destruction, birth and cessation of experience.

In the case of broader society: the “meaning” of an object—that is, the significance of that object for emotional regulation and behavioral output—is determined by the social consequences of behaviors undertaken and inferences drawn in its presence. Thus internal motivational forces vie for predominance under the influence of social control. The valence of erotic advances made by a given woman, for example—which is to say, whether her behavior invokes the “goddess of love” or the “god of fear”—will depend on her current position in a given social hierarchy. If she is single and acting in context, she may be considered desirable; if she is the intoxicated wife of a large and dangerous man, by contrast, she may be placed in the category of “something best run away from quickly.”

The culturally determined meaning of an object—apprehended, originally, as an aspect of the object—is in fact in large part implicit information about the nature of the current dominance hierarchy, which has been partially transformed into an abstract hypothesis about the relative value of things (including the self and others). Who owns what, for example, determines what things signify, and who owns what is dominance-hierarchy dependent. What an object signifies is determined by the value placed upon it, manifested in terms of the (socially determined) system of promises, rewards, threats and punishments associated with exposure to, contact with, and use or misuse of that object. This is in turn determined by the affective significance of the object (its relevance, or lack thereof, to the attainment of a particular goal), in combination with its scarcity or prevalence, and the power (or lack thereof) of those who judge its nature.

The (necessary) meaning-constraint typical of a given culture is a consequence of uniformity of behavior, imposed by that culture, toward objects and situations. The push toward uniformity is a primary characteristic of the “patriarchal” state (as everyone who acts in the same situation-specific manner has been rendered comfortably “predictable”). The state becomes increasingly tyrannical, however, as the pressure for uniformity increases. As the drive toward similarity becomes extreme, everyone becomes the “same” person—that is, imitation of the past becomes total. All behavioral and conceptual variability is thereby forced from the body politic. The state then becomes truly static: paralyzed or deadened, turned to stone, in mythological language. Lack of variability in action and ideation renders society and the individuals who compose it increasingly vulnerable to precipitous “environmental” transformation (that is, to an involuntary influx of “chaotic” changes). It is possible to engender a complete social collapse by constantly resisting incremental change. It is in this manner that the gods become displeased with their creation, man—and his willful stupidity—and wash away the world. The necessity for interchange of information between “known” and “unknown” means that the state risks its own death by requiring an excess of uniformity.

The story is making a point: when you don’t know where you are going, it is counterproductive to assume that you know how to get there. This point is a specific example of a more general moral: Arrogant (“prideful”) individuals presume they know who and what is important. This makes them too haughty to pay attention when they are in trouble—too haughty, in particular, to attend to those things or people whom they habitually hold in contempt. The “drying up of the environment” or the “senescence of the king” is a consequence of a too rigid, too arrogant value hierarchy. (“What or who can reasonably be ignored” is as much a part of such a hierarchy as “who or what must be attended too.”) When trouble arrives, the traditional value hierarchy must be revised. This means that the formerly humble and despised may suddenly hold the secret to continued life—and that those who refuse to admit to their error, like the “elder brothers,” will inevitably encounter trouble.

Anything that protects and fosters (and that is therefore predictable and powerful) necessarily has the capacity to smother and oppress (and may manifest those capacities, unpredictably, in any given situation). No static political utopia is therefore possible—and the kingdom of God remains spiritual, not worldly. Recognition of the essentially ambivalent nature of the predictable—stultifying but secure—means discarding simplistic theories which attribute the existence of human suffering and evil purely to the state, or which presume that the state is all that is good, and that the individual should exist merely as subordinate or slave.

The unknown never disappears; it is a permanent constituent element of experience. The ability to represent the terrible aspects of the unknown allow us to conceptualize what has not yet been encountered, and to practice adopting the proper attitude toward what we do not understand.

Redemptive knowledge itself springs from the generative encounter with the unknown, from exploration of aspects of novel things and novel situations; is part of the potential of things, implicit in them, intrinsic to their nature. This redemptive knowledge is wisdom, knowledge of how to act, generated as a consequence of proper relationship established with the positive aspect of the unknown, the source of all things.

Wisdom may be personified as a spirit who eternally gives, who provides to her adherents unfailing riches. She is to be valued higher than status or material possessions, as the source of all things. With the categorical inexactitude characteristic of metaphoric thought and its attendant richness of connotation, the act of valuing this spirit is also Wisdom. So the matrix itself becomes conflated with—that is, grouped into the same category as—the attitude that makes of that matrix something beneficial. This conflation occurs because primal generative capacity characterizes both the “source of all things” and the exploratory/hopeful attitudes and actions that make of that source determinate things. We would only regard the latter—the “subjective stance”—as something clearly psychological (as something akin to “wisdom” in the modern sense). The former is more likely to be considered “external,” from our perspective—something beyond subjective intervention. But it is the case that without the appropriate attitude (Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” [Matthew 7:7–8].) the unknown is a sterile wasteland.

If the unknown is approached voluntarily (which is to say, “as if” it is beneficial), then its promising aspect is likely to appear more salient. If the unknown makes its appearance despite our desire, then it is likely to appear more purely in its aspect of threat. This means that if we are willing to admit to the existence of those things that we do not understand, those things are more likely to adopt a positive face. Rejection of the unknown, conversely, increases the likelihood that it will wear a terrifying visage when it inevitably manifests itself. It seems to me that this is one of the essential messages of the New Testament, with its express (although difficult-to-interpret) insistence that God should be regarded as all-good.

The beneficial aspect of the unknown is something unavailable to the “unworthy,” something eternal and pure; something that enters into relationship with those who are willing, from age to age; and something that makes friends of God.

The terrible unknown compels representation; likewise, the beneficial unknown. We are driven to represent the fact that possibility resides in every uncertain event, that promise beckons from the depths of every mystery. Transformation, attendant upon the emergence of change, means the death of everything old and decayed—means the death of everything whose continued existence would merely mean additional suffering on the part of those still striving to survive. The terrible unknown, which paralyzes when it appears, is also succour for the suffering, calm for the troubled, peace for the warrior, insight and discovery for the perplexed and curious.

Modern treatment for disorders of anxiety, to take a specific example— “desensitization”—involves exposing an individual, “ritualistically” (that is, under circumstances rendered predictable by authority), to novel or otherwise threatening stimuli (with appropriate reaction modeled by that authority. Such desensitization theoretically induces “habituation”; what is actually happening is that guided exploration, in the course of behavior therapy, produces reclassification and behavioral adjustment [such that the once terrifying thing or once again terrifying thing is turned (back) into something controllable, familiar, and known]. Voluntary exposure additionally teaches the previously anxiety-ridden individual the nontrivial lesson that he or she is capable of facing the “place of fear” and prevailing. The process of guided voluntary exposure appears to produce therapeutic benefits even when the “thing being avoided” is traumatic—when it might appear cruel, from a superficially “empathic” perspective, to insist upon exposure and “processing.”

“Fearless Felix” Baumgartner ascended to the stratosphere and stepped into the void from 24.2 miles above the Earth. His speed during the fall reached Mach 1.24, and the Austrian adventurer nailed the landing. October 14, 2012

Analysis of the much more dramatic, very widespread, but metaphorically equivalent phenomena of the sacrifical ritual—a rite whose very existence compelled one insightful author to argue for the essential insanity of man— provides additional insight into the nature of the ability to transform threat into promise. We have already discussed the fact that the valence of an object switches with context of interpretation. It is knowledge of this idea that allows for comprehension of the meaning of the sacrificial attitude. The beautiful countenance of the beneficial mother is the face the unknown adopts when approached from the proper perspective. Everything unknown is simultaneously horrifying and promising; it is courage and genius (and the grace of God) that determines which aspect dominates.

Primary religious rituals, serving a key adaptive purpose, “predicated” upon knowledge of proper approach mechanisms, evolved to suit the space surrounding the primary deity, embodiment of the unknown. The ubiquitous drama of human sacrifice, (proto)typical of primordial religious practice, enacted the idea that the essence of man was something to be offered up voluntarily to the ravages of nature—something to be juxtaposed into creative encounter with the terrible unknown. The offering, in ritual, was often devoured, in reality or symbolically, as aid to embodiment of the immortal human spirit, as aid to incorporation of the heroic process. Such rituals were abstracted and altered, as they developed—with the nature of the sacrificial entity changing (with constancy of underlying “ideation”).

The mysterious and seemingly irrational “sacrificial” ritual actually dramatizes or acts out two critically important and related ideas: first, that the essence of man—that is, the divine aspect—must constantly be “offered up” to the unknown, must present itself voluntarily to the destructive/creative power that constitutes the Great Mother, incarnation of the unpredictable (as we have seen); and second, that the “thing that is loved best” must be destroyed—that is, sacrificed—in order for the positive aspect of the unknown to manifest itself.

The former idea is “predicated” on the notion that the unknown must be encountered, voluntarily, for new information to be generated, for new behavioral patterns to be constructed; the latter idea is “predicated” on the observation that an improper or outdated or otherwise invalid attachment—such as the attachment to an inappropriate pattern of behavior or belief—turns the world into waste, by interfering with the process of adaptation itself. Rigid, inflexible attachment to “inappropriate things of value”— indicative of dominance by a pathological hierarchy of values (a “dead god”)—is tantamount to denial of the hero. Someone miserable and useless in the midst of plenty— just for the sake of illustration—is unhappy because of his or her attachments to the wrong “things.”

Unhappiness is frequently the consequence of immature or rigid thinking—a consequence of the overvaluation of phenomena that are in fact trivial. The neurotic clings to the things that make her unhappy, while devaluing the processes, opportunities and ideas that would free her, if she adopted them. The sacrifice of the “thing loved best” to “appease the gods” is the embodiment in procedure of the idea that the benevolent aspect of the unknown will return if the present schema of adaptation (the “ruling king”) is sufficiently altered (that is, destroyed and regenerated). An individual stripped of his “identification” with what he previously valued is simultaneously someone facing the unknown—and is, therefore, someone “unconsciously” imitating the hero.

The intimate relationship between clinging to the past, rejection of heroism, and denial of the unknown is most frequently explicated in narrative form (perhaps because the association is so complex that it has not yet been made explicit).

The spirit forever willing to risk personal (more abstractly, intrapsychic) destruction to gain redemptive knowledge might be considered the archetypal representative of the adaptive process as such. The pre-experimental mind considered traumatic union of this “masculine” representative with the destructive and procreative feminine unknown a necessary precedent to continual renewal and rebirth of the individual and community. This is an idea precisely as magnificent as that contained in the Osiris/Horus myth; an idea which adds additional depth to the brilliant “moral hypotheses” contained in that myth. The exploratory hero, divine son of the known and unknown, courageously faces the unknown, unites with it creatively—abandoning all pretence of pre-existent “absolute knowledge”—garners new information, returns to the community, and revitalizes his tradition.

The fundamental act of creativity in the human realm, in the concrete case, is the construction of a pattern of behavior which produces emotionally desirable results in a situation that previously reeked of unpredictability, danger and promise. Creative acts, despite their unique particulars, have an eternally identifiable structure, because they always takes place under the same conditions: what is known is “extracted,” eternally, from the unknown. In consequence, it is perpetually possible to derive and re-derive the central features of the metapattern of behavior which always and necessarily means human advancement.

During exploration, behavior and representational schema are modified in an experimental fashion, in the hopes of bringing about by ingenious means whatever outcome is currently envisioned. Such exploration also produces alteration of the sensory world—since that world changes with shift in motor output and physical locale. Exploration produces transformation in assumption guiding behavior, and in expectation of behavioral outcome: produces learning in knowing how and knowing what mode. Most generally, new learning means the application of a new means to the same end, which means that the pattern of presumptions underlying the internal model of the present and the desired future remain essentially intact. This form of readaptation might be described as normal creativity, and constitutes the bulk of human thought. However, on rare occasions, ongoing activity (specifically goal-directed or exploratory) produces more profound and unsettling mismatch. This is more stressful (and more promising), and necessitates more radical update of modeling—necessitates exploration-guided reprogramming of fundamental behavioral assumption and associated episodic or semantic representation. Such reprogramming also constitutes creativity, but of the revolutionary type, generally associated with genius. Exploration is therefore creation and re-creation of the world.

Every unmapped territory—that is, every place where what to do has not been specified—also constitutes the battleground for ancestral kings. The learned patterns of action and interpretation that vie for application when a new situation arises can be usefully regarded, metaphorically, as the current embodiments of adaptive strategies formulated as a consequence of past exploratory behavior—as adaptive strategies invented and constructed by the heroes of the past, “unconsciously” mimicked and duplicated by those currently alive.

Adaptation to new territory—that is, to the unexpected—therefore also means successful mediation of archaic or habitual strategies competing, in the new situation, for dominance over behavioral output.

We act appropriately before we understand how we act—just as children learn to behave before they can describe the reasons for their behavior. It is only through the observation of our actions, accumulated and distilled over centuries, that we come to understand our own motivations, and the patterns of behavior that characterize our cultures (and these are changing as we model them). Active adaptation precedes abstracted comprehension of the basis for such adaptation. This is necessarily the case, because we are more complex than we can understand, as is the world to which we must adjust ourselves.

First we act. Afterward, we envision the pattern that constitutes our actions. Then we use that pattern to guide our actions. It is establishment of conscious (declarative) connection between behavior and consequences of that behavior (which means establishment of a new feedback process) that enables us to abstractly posit a desired future, to act in such a way as to bring that future about, and to judge the relevance of emergent phenomena themselves on the basis of their apparent relevance to that future.

The myth of the hero has come to represent the essential nature of human possibility, as manifested in adaptive behavior, as a consequence of observation and rerepresentation of such behavior, conducted cumulatively over the course of thousands of years. The hero myth provides the structure that governs, but does not determine, the general course of history; expresses one fundamental preconception in a thousand different ways. This idea (analogous in structure to the modern hypothesis, although not explicitly formulated, nor rationally constructed in the same manner) renders individual creativity socially acceptable and provides the precondition for change. The most fundamental presumption of the myth of the hero is that the nature of human experience can be (should be) improved by voluntary alteration in individual human attitude and action. This statement—the historical hypothesis—is an expression of faith in human possibility itself and constitutes the truly revolutionary idea of historical man.

All specific adaptive behaviors (which are acts that restrict the destructive or enhance the beneficial potential of the unknown) follow a general pattern. This “pattern”—which at least produces the results intended (and therefore desired)—inevitably attracts social interest. “Interesting” or “admirable” behaviors engender imitation and description. Such imitation and description might first be of an interesting or admirable behavior, but is later of the class of interesting and admirable behaviors. The class is then imitated as a general guide to specific actions; is redescribed, redistilled and imitated once again. The image of the hero, step by step, becomes ever clearer, and ever more broadly applicable. The pattern of behavior characteristic of the hero—that is, voluntary advance in the face of the dangerous and promising unknown, generation of something of value as a consequence and, simultaneously, dissolution and reconstruction of current knowledge, of current morality—comes to form the kernel for the good story, cross-culturally. That story—which is what to do, when you no longer know what to do—defines the central pattern of behavior embedded in all genuinely religious systems (furthermore, provides the basis for the “respect due the individual” undergirding our conception of natural rights).

The hero’s quest or journey has been represented in mythology and ritual in numerous ways, but the manifold representations appear in accordance with the myth of the way, as previously described: a harmonious community or way of life, predictable and stable in structure and function, is unexpectedly threatened by the emergence of (previously harnessed) unknown and dangerous forces. An individual of humble and princely origins rises, by free choice, to counter this threat. This individual is exposed to great personal trials and risks or experiences physical and psychological dissolution. Nonetheless, he overcomes the threat, is magically restored (frequently improved) and receives a great reward, in consequence. He returns to his community with the reward, and (re)establishes social order (sometimes after a crisis engendered by his return).

We use stories to regulate our emotions and govern our behavior. They provide the present we inhabit with a determinate point of reference—the desired future. The optimal “desired future” is not a state, however, but a process: the (intrinsically compelling) process of mediating between order and chaos; the process of the incarnation of Logos—the Word— which is the world-creating principle. Identification with this process, rather than with any of its determinate outcomes (that is, with any “idols” or fixed frames of reference or ideologies) ensures that emotion will stay optimally regulated and action remain possible no matter how the environment shifts, and no matter when. In consequence of such identification, respect for belief comes to take second place to respect for the process by which belief is generated.

The “stories” by which individuals live (which comprise their schemas of interpretation, which guide their actions, which regulate their emotions) are therefore emergent structures shaped by the necessity of organizing competing internal biological demands, over variable spans of time, in the presence of others, faced with the same fate. This similarity of demand (constrained by physiological structure) and context (constrained by social reality) produces similarity of response. It is this similarity of response, in turn, that is at the base of the emergent “shared moral viewpoint” that accounts for cross-cultural similarity in myth. This means, by the way, that such “shared viewpoints” refer to something real, at least insofar as emergent properties are granted reality (and most of the things that we regard without question as real are precisely such emergent properties).

The reactions of a hypothetical firstborn child to his or her newborn sibling may serve as concrete illustration of the interactions between the individual, the interpersonal and the social. The elder sibling may be drawn positively to the newborn by natural affiliative tendencies and curiosity. At the same time, however, the new arrival may be receiving a substantial amount of parental attention, sometimes in preference to the older child.

How is the child to resolve his conflicts? He must build himself a personality to deal with his new sibling (must become a proper big brother). This means that he might subordinate his aggression to the fear, guilt and shame produced by parental adjudication on behalf of the baby. This will mean that he will at least “act like a human being” around the baby, in the direct presence of his parents. He might also learn to act as if the aggressive reaction motivated by his shift in status is less desirable, in total, than the affiliative response. His as if stance may easily be bolstered by intelligent shift in interpretation: he may reasonably gain from his younger sibling some of the attention he is no longer paid by parents—if he is diligent and genuine in his attempts to be friendly. He might also develop some more independent interests, suitable to his new position as relatively mature family member.


Although the “battle for predominance” that characterizes exchange of morally relevant information can easily be imagined as a war (and is often fought out in the guise of genuine war), it is more frequently the case that it manifests itself as a struggle between “beliefs.” In the latter case, it loss of faith, rather than life, that determines the outcome of the battle. Human beings can substitute loss of faith for death partly because they are capable of abstractly constructing their “territories” (making beliefs out of them) and of abstractly abandoning those territories once they are no longer tenable. Animals, less capable of abstraction, are also able to lose face, rather than life, although they “act out” this loss, in behavioral routines, rather than in verbal or imagistic battles (rather than through argument). It is the capacity to “symbolically capitulate” and to “symbolically destroy” that in large part underlies the ability of individual animals to organize themselves into social groups (which require a hierarchical organization) and to maintain and update those groups once established. Much the same can be said for human beings (who also engage in abstract war, at the procedural level, as well as in real war and argumentation).

The capacity to maintain territorial position when challenged is therefore indicative of the degree to which intrapsychic state is integrated with regard to current motivation (which means, indicative of how “convinced” a given animal is that it can [should] hold its ground). This integration constitutes power—charisma, in the human realm—made most evident in behavioral display. The certainty with which a position is held (whether it is a territorial position, dominance hierarchy niche, or abstract notion)— insofar as this can be inferred from observable behavior, such as absence of fear— constitutes a valid indication of the potential integrative potency of that position. . . Hence the power of the martyr, and the unwillingness of even modern totalitarians to allow their enemies to make public sacrifices of themselves.

Over the course of centuries, the actions of ancestral heroes, imitated directly and then represented in myth, become transformed, simplified, streamlined and quickened— reduced as it were ever more precisely to their “Platonic” forms. Culture is therefore the sum total of surviving historically determined hierarchically arranged behaviors and second- and third-order abstract representations, and more: it is the integration of these, in the course of endless social and intrapsychic conflict, into a single pattern of behavior—a single system of morality, simultaneously governing personal conduct, interpersonal interaction and imagistic/semantic description of such.

This pattern is the “corporeal ideal” of the culture, its mode of transforming the unbearable present into the desired future, its guiding force, its central personality. This personality, expressed in behavior, is first embodied in the king or emperor, socially (where it forms the basis for “sovereignty”). Abstractly represented—imitated, played, ritualized, and storied—it becomes something ever more psychological. This embodied and represented “cultural character” is transmitted through the generations, transmuting in form, but not in essence—transmitted by direct instruction, through imitation, and as a consequence of the human ability to incorporate personality features temporarily disembodied in narrative.

Footnote: The point about “doing things without thinking about them” reminded me of this:

On Sea Ice Thickness

ice Charts from AARI showing ice extents by duration. Appearing in brown is Multi-year ice (surviving at least one melt season).

At the recent post Arctic Ice Surpasses 2018 Maximum, I was asked about measures of sea ice thickness and estimates of volume, combining extents (or concentrations) with thickness.  My response:

Agencies like DMI produce model-driven estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness. I limit my analysis to extents because they are observation-driven.

DMI says this:  “The figures are based on calculations using the DMI operational coupled ocean- and sea-ice model HYCOM-CICE. The total sea-ice volume is a product of the sea-ice concentration and its thickness.”

“Today, the sea-ice concentration is in general well estimated using satellite products, while the sea-ice thickness is poorly known. The model gives a realistic estimate of the total amount of sea-ice within the Arctic.” (concentration means extent). FWIW, DMI estimates of Arctic thickness have increased over the last decade.

It’s a complicated business to get remote signals of thickness, which varies with drifting and compaction from storms and currents.  Another way to get at the issue appears in the animation above with AARI ice charts.  They are derived from satellite imagery, configured so that the brown color represents multi-year ice that survived at least one melt season.   The animation shows the last 11 years had some low years, especially 2008, 2009 and 2013, with higher years since.  And obviously the locations of older ice are variable.

Of course there are other sea ice volume modelled products such PIOMAS.  For an insight into how complicated is estimating sea ice thickness from remote sensors see this article Estimating Arctic sea ice thickness and volume using CryoSat-2 radar altimeter data

Cosmic Arena: Peterson’s Pearls (2)

This is the second in a series of posts based upon Jordan Peterson’s book Maps of Meaning, published in 1999 after 17 years of research and writing. It is rich in description and insight with many references and quotations from original sources. Reading it I began to copy passages that struck me as especially lucid and pertinent. Those paragraphs of his text are provided below in italics as excerpts selected to explain five themes emerging in my reflections while pondering his book. Cosmic Dichotomy: Peterson’s Pearls (1) provides an overview explaining why this is important to me and perhaps to others.

[Note: I use the word “cosmic” since each individual’s world is at risk, and as we see in the agitation over climate change, entire social groups can also fear for their collective world.]

Jordan Peterson on the Cosmic Arena (Excerpts from Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief Title is link to pdf)

Along with our animal cousins, we devote ourselves to fundamentals: will this (new) thing eat me? Can I eat it? Will it chase me? Should I chase it? Can I mate with it? We may construct models of “objective reality,” and it is no doubt useful to do so. We must model meanings, however, in order to survive. Our most fundamental maps of meaning—maps which have a narrative structure—portray the motivational value of our current state, conceived of in contrast to a hypothetical ideal, accompanied by plans of action, which are our pragmatic notions about how to get what we want.

Description of these three elements—current state, ideal future state, and means of active mediation—constitute the necessary and sufficient preconditions for the weaving of the most simple narrative, which is a means for describing the valence of a given environment, in reference to a temporally and spatially bounded set of action patterns. Getting to point “b” presupposes that you are at point “a”—you can’t plan movement in the absence of an initial position. The fact that point “b” constitutes the end goal means that it is valenced more highly than point “a”—that it is a place more desirable, when considered against the necessary contrast of the current position. It is the perceived improvement of point “b” that makes the whole map meaningful or affect-laden; it is the capacity to construct hypothetical or abstract end points, such as “b”—and to contrast them against “the present”—that makes human beings capable of using their cognitive systems to modulate their affective reactions.

We know how to act in some places, and not in others. The plans we put into action sometimes work, and sometimes do not work. The experiential domains we inhabit—our “environments,” so to speak—are therefore permanently characterized by the fact of the predictable and controllable, in juxtaposition with the unpredictable and uncontrollable. The universe is composed of “order” and “chaos”—at least from the metaphorical perspective. Oddly enough, however, it is to this “metaphorical” universe that our nervous system appears to have adapted.

The unknown is, of course, defined in contradistinction to the known. Everything not understood or not explored is unknown. The relationship between the oft- (and unfairly) separated domains of “cognition” and “emotion” can be more clearly comprehended in light of this rather obvious fact. It is the absence of an expected satisfaction, for example, that is punishing, hurtful—the emotion is generated as a default response to sudden and unpredictable alteration in the theoretically comprehended structure of the world. It is the man expecting a raise because of his outstanding work—the man configuring a desired future on the basis of his understanding of the present—who is hurt when someone “less deserving” is promoted before him (“one is best punished,” after all, “for one’s virtues”). The man whose expectations have been dashed—who has been threatened and hurt—is likely to work less hard in the future, with more resentment and anger. Conversely, the child who has not completed her homework is thrilled when the bell signaling class end rings, before she is called upon. The bell signals the absence of an expected punishment, and therefore induces positive affect, relief, happiness.

The maps that configure our motivated behavior have a certain comprehensible structure. They contain two fundamental and mutually interdependent poles, one present, the other future. The present is sensory experience as it is currently manifested to us—as we currently understand it—granted motivational significance according to our current knowledge and desires. The future is an image or partial image of perfection, to which we compare the present, insofar as we understand its significance. Wherever there exists a mismatch between the two, the unexpected or novel occurs (by definition), grips our attention, and activates the intrapsychic systems that govern fear and hope.

We strive to bring novel occurrences back into the realm of predictability or to exploit them for previously unconsidered potential by altering our behavior or our patterns of representation. We conceive of a path connecting present to future. This path is “composed” of the behaviors required to produce the transformations we desire— required to turn the (eternally) insufficient present into the (ever-receding) paradisal future. This path is normally conceived of as linear, so to speak, as something analogous to Thomas Kuhn’s notion of normal science, wherein known patterns of behavior operate.

What is the a priori motivational significance of the unknown? Can such a question even be asked? After all, the unknown by definition has not yet been explored. Nothing can be said, by the dictates of standard logic, about something that has not yet been encountered. We are not concerned with sensory information, however—nor with particular material attributes—but with valence. Valence, in and of itself, might be most simply considered as bipolar: negative or positive (or, of course, as neither). We are familiar enough with the ultimate potential range of valence, negative and positive, to place provisional borders around possibility. The worst the unknown could be, in general, is death (or, perhaps, lengthy suffering followed by death); the fact of our vulnerable mortality provides the limiting case. The best the unknown could be is more difficult to specify, but some generalizations might prove acceptable. We would like to be wealthy (or at least free from want), possessed of good health, wise and well-loved. The greatest good the unknown might confer, then, might be regarded as that which would allow us to transcend our innate limitations (poverty, ignorance, vulnerability), rather than to remain miserably subject to them. The emotional “area” covered by the unknown is therefore very large, ranging from that which we fear most to that which we desire most intently.

It appears, therefore, that the image of a goal (a fantasy about the nature of the desired future, conceived of in relationship to a model of the significance of the present) provides much of the framework determining the motivational significance of ongoing current events. The individual uses his or her knowledge to construct a hypothetical state of affairs, where the motivational balance of ongoing events is optimized: where there is sufficient satisfaction, minimal punishment, tolerable threat and abundant hope, all balanced together properly over the short and longer terms. This optimal state of affairs might be conceptualized as a pattern of career advancement, with a long-term state in mind, signifying perfection, as it might be attained profanely (richest drug dealer, happily married matron, chief executive officer of a large corporation, tenured Harvard professor).

Alternatively, perfection might be regarded as the absence of all unnecessary things, and the pleasures of an ascetic life. The point is that some desirable future state of affairs is conceptualized in fantasy and used as a target point for operation in the present. Such operations may be conceived of as links in a chain (with the end of the chain anchored to the desirable future state).

[Imagine this predicament] Your encounter with the terrible unknown has shaken the foundations of your worldview. You have been exposed, involuntarily, to the unexpected and revolutionary. Chaos has eaten your soul. This means that your long-term goals have to be reconstructed, and the motivational significance of events in your current environment reevaluated—literally revalued. This capacity for complete revaluation, in the light of new information, is even more particularly human than the aforementioned capability for exploration of the unknown and generation of new information. Sometimes, in the course of our actions, we elicit phenomena whose very existence is impossible, according to our standard methods of construal (which are at base a mode of attributing motivational significance to events). Exploration of these new phenomena, and integration of our findings into our knowledge, occasionally means reconceptualization of that knowledge (and consequent re-exposure to the unknown, no longer inhibited by our mode of classification). This means that simple movement from present to future is occasionally interrupted by a complete breakdown and reformulation, a reconstitution of what the present is and what the future should be. The ascent of the individual, so to speak, is punctuated by periods of dissolution and rebirth. The more general model of human adaptation—conceptualized most simply as steady state, breach, crisis, redress—therefore ends up looking like Figure 4: Revolutionary Adaptation.

It is reasonable to regard the world, as forum for action, as a “place”—a place made up of the familiar, and the unfamiliar, in eternal juxtaposition. The brain is actually composed, in large part, of two subsystems, adapted for action in that place. The right hemisphere, broadly speaking, responds to novelty with caution, and rapid, global hypothesis formation. The left hemisphere, by contrast, tends to remain in charge when things—that is, explicitly categorized things—are unfolding according to plan. The right hemisphere draws rapid, global, valence-based, metaphorical pictures of novel things; the left, with its greater capacity for detail, makes such pictures explicit and verbal. Thus the exploratory capacity of the brain “builds” the world of the familiar (the known), from the world of the unfamiliar (the unknown).

When the world remains known and familiar—that is, when our beliefs maintain their validity—our emotions remain under control. When the world suddenly transforms itself into something new, however, our emotions are dysregulated, in keeping with the relative novelty of that transformation, and we are forced to retreat or to explore once again.

The essential similarities of our judgments of meaning can easily lead us to conclude that the goodness or badness of things or situations is something more or less fixed. However, the fact of subjective interpretation—and its effects on evaluation and behavior—complicate this simple picture. We will work, expend energy and overcome obstacles to gain a good (or to avoid something bad). But we won’t work for food, at least not very hard, if we have enough food; we won’t work for sex, if we are satisfied with our present levels of sexual activity; and we might be very pleased to go hungry, if that means our enemy will starve. Our predictions, expectations and desires condition our evaluations to a finally unspecifiable degree. Things have no absolutely fixed significance, despite our ability to generalize about their value. It is our personal preferences, therefore, that determine the import of the world (but these preferences have constraints!).

It is not possible to finally determine how or whether something is meaningful by observing the objective features of that thing. Value is not invariant, in contrast to objective reality; furthermore, it is not possible to derive an ought from an is (this is the “naturalistic fallacy” of David Hume). It is possible, however, to determine the conditional meaning of something, by observing how behavior (one’s own behavior, or someone else’s) is conducted in the presence of that thing (or in its absence). “Things” (objects, processes) emerge—into subjective experience, at least—as a consequence of behaviors.

Past experience—learning—does not merely condition; rather, such experience determines the precise nature of the framework of reference or context that will be brought to bear on the analysis of a given situation. This cognitive frame of reference acts as the intermediary between past learning, present experience and future desire. This intermediary is a valid object of scientific exploration—a phenomenon as real as anything abstracted is real—and is far more parsimonious and accessible, as such a phenomenon, than the simple noninterpreted (and nonmeasurable, in any case) sum total of reinforcement history. Frameworks of reference, influenced in their structure by learning, specify the valence of ongoing experience; determine what might be regarded, in a given time and place, as good, bad or indifferent. Furthermore, inferences about the nature of the framework of reference governing the behavior of others (that is, looking at the world through the eyes of another) may produce results that are more useful, more broadly generalizable (as “insights” into the “personality” of another), and less demanding of cognitive resources than attempts to understand the details of a given reinforcement history.

Our actual situations, however, are almost always more complex. If things or situations were straightforwardly or simply positive or negative, good or bad, we would not have to make judgments regarding them, would not have to think about our behavior, and how and when it should be modified—indeed, would not have to think at all. We are faced, however, with the constant problem of ambivalence in meaning, which is to say that a thing or situation might be bad and good simultaneously (or good in two conflicting manners; or bad, in two conflicting manners).

Nothing comes without a cost, and the cost has to be factored in, when the meaning of something is evaluated. Meaning depends on context; contexts—stories, in a word—constitute goals, desires, wishes. It is unfortunate, from the perspective of conflict-free adaptation, that we have many goals—many stories, many visions of the ideal future—and that the pursuit of one often interferes with our chances (or someone else’s chances) of obtaining another.

The plans we formulate are mechanisms designed to bring the envisioned perfect future into being. Once formulated, plans govern our behavior—until we make a mistake. A mistake, which is the appearance of a thing or situation not envisioned, provides evidence for the incomplete nature of our plans—indicates that those plans and the presumptions upon which they are erected are in error and must be updated (or, heaven forbid, abandoned). As long as everything is proceeding according to plan, we remain on familiar ground—but when we err, we enter unexplored territory.

Deviations from desired outcome constitute (relatively) novel events, indicative of errors in presumption, either at the level of analysis of current state, process or ideal future. Such mismatches—unpredictable, nonredundant or novel occurrences—constantly comprise the most intrinsically meaningful, interesting elements of the human experiential field. This interest and meaning signifies the presence of new information and constitutes a prepotent stimulus for human (and animal) action. It is where the unpredictable emerges that the possibility for all new and useful information exists. It is during the process of exploration of the unpredictable or unexpected that all knowledge and wisdom is generated, all boundaries of adaptive competence extended, all foreign territory explored, mapped and mastered.

St. George slaying the dragon.

Everything presently known to each, everything rendered predictable, was at one time unknown to all, and had to be rendered predictable—beneficial at best, irrelevant at worst—as a consequence of active exploration-driven adaptation. The matrix is of indeterminable breadth: despite our great storehouse of culture, despite the wisdom bequeathed to us by our ancestors, we are still fundamentally ignorant, and will remain so, no matter how much we learn. The domain of the unknown surrounds us like an ocean surrounds an island. We can increase the area of the island, but we never take away much from the sea.

The constant and universal presence of the incomprehensible in the world has elicited adaptive response from us and from all other creatures with highly developed nervous systems. We have evolved to operate successfully in a world eternally composed of the predictable, in paradoxical juxtaposition with the unpredictable. The combination of what we have explored and what we have still to evaluate actually comprises our environment, insofar as its nature can be broadly specified—and it is to that environment that our physiological structure has become matched. One set of the systems that comprise our brain and mind governs activity, when we are guided by our plans—when we are in the domain of the known. Another appears to operate when we face something unexpected— when we have entered the realm of the unknown.

The consequence of exploration that allows for emotional regulation (that generates security, essentially) is not objective description, as the scientist might have it, but categorization of the implications of an unexpected occurrence for specification of means and ends. Such categorization is what an object “is,” from the perspective of archaic affect and subjective experience. The orienting reflex, and the exploratory behavior following its manifestation, also allows for the differentiation of the unknown into the familiar categories of objective reality. However, this ability is a late development, emerging only four hundred years ago, and cannot be considered basic to “thinking.”

The “higher” cortex controls behavior until the unknown emerges—until it makes a mistake in judgment, until memory no longer serves—until the activity it governs produces a mismatch between what is desired and what actually occurs. When such a mismatch occurs, appropriate affect (fear and curiosity) emerges.

It is the amygdala, at bottom, that appears responsible for the (disinhibited) generation of this a priori meaning—terror and curiosity. The amygdala appears to automatically respond to all things or situations, unless told not to. It is told not to—is functionally inhibited—when ongoing goal-directed behaviors produce the desired (intended) results. When an error occurs, however—indicating that current memory-guided motivated plans and goals are insufficient—the amygdala is released from inhibition and labels the unpredictable occurrence with meaning. Anything unknown is dangerous and promising, simultaneously: evokes anxiety, curiosity, excitement and hope automatically and prior to what we would normally regard as exploration or as (more context-specific) classification. The operations of the amygdala are responsible for ensuring that the unknown is regarded with respect, as the default decision.

The desired output of behavior (what should be) is initially posited; if the current strategy fails, the approach and exploration system is activated, although it remains under the governance of anxiety.

Classical behavioral psychology is wrong in the same manner our folk presumptions are wrong: fear is not secondary, not learned; security is secondary, learned. Everything not explored is tainted, a priori, with apprehension. Any thing or situation that undermines the foundations of the familiar and secure is therefore to be feared.

It might be said, with a certain amount of justification, that we devote our entire lives to making sure that we never have to face anything unknown, in the revolutionary sense—at least not accidentally. Our success in doing so deludes us about the true nature, power and intensity of our potential emotional responses. As civilized people, we are secure. We can predict the behaviors of others (that is, if they share our stories); furthermore, we can control our environments well enough to ensure that our subjection to threat and punishment remains at a minimum. It is the cumulative consequences of our adaptive struggle—our cultures—which enable this prediction and control. The existence of our cultures, however, blinds us to the nature of our true (emotional) natures—at least to the range of that nature, and to the consequences of its emergence.

Our emotional regulation depends as much (or more) on the stability and predictability of the social environment (on the maintenance of our cultures) as on “interior” processes, classically related to the strength of the ego or the personality. Social order is a necessary precondition for psychological stability: it is primarily our companions and their actions (or inactions) that stabilize or destabilize our emotions.

Modern experimental psychologists have begun to examine the response of animals to natural sources of mystery and threat. They allow the animals to set up their own environments, realistic environments, and then expose them to the kinds of surprising circumstances they might encounter in real life. The appearance of a predator in previously safe space (space previously explored, that is, and mapped as useful or irrelevant) constitutes one type of realistic surprise.

It is just as illuminating to consider the responses of rats to their kin, who constitute “explored territory,” in contrast to their attitude toward “strangers,” whose behavior is not predictable. Rats are highly social animals, perfectly capable of living with their familiar compatriots in peace. They do not like members of other kin groups, however; they will hunt them down and kill them. Accidental or purposeful intruders are dealt with in the same manner. Rats identify one another by smell. If an experimenter removes a well-loved rat from its familial surroundings, scrubs it down, provides it with a new odor, and returns it to its peers, it will be promptly dispatched by those who once loved it. The “new” rat constitutes “unexplored territory”; his presence is regarded as a threat (not unreasonably) to everything currently secure.

Chimpanzees, perfectly capable of killing “foreign devils” (even those who were once familiar), act in much the same manner.

More sophistication in development of the prefrontal centers means, in part, heightened capability for abstract exploration, which means investigation in the absence of actual movement, which means the capacity to learn from the observation of others and through consideration of potential actions before they emerge in behavior. This means increasing capability for thought, considered as abstracted action and representation. Action and thought produce phenomena. Novel acts and thoughts necessarily produce new phenomena. Creative exploration, concrete and abstract, is therefore linked in a direct sense to being. Increased capacity for exploration means existence in a qualitatively different—even new—world. This entire argument implies, of course, that more complex and behaviorally flexible animals inhabit (“construct,” if you will) a more complex universe.

Combination of hand and eye enabled Homo sapiens to manipulate things in ways qualitatively different from those of any other animal. The individual can discover what things are like under various, voluntarily produced or accidentally encountered (yet considered) conditions— upside down, flying through the air, hit against other things, broken into pieces, heated in fire, and so on. The combination of hand and eye allowed human beings to experience and analyze the (emergent) nature of things. This ability, revolutionary as it was, was dramatically extended by application of hand-mediated, spoken (and written) language.

Simple animals perform simple operations and inhabit a world whose properties are equally constrained (a world where most “information” remains “latent”). Human beings can manipulate—take apart and put together—with far more facility than any other creature. Furthermore, our capacity for communication, both verbal and nonverbal, has meant almost unbelievable facilitation of exploration, and subsequent diversity of adaptation.

Thinking might in many cases be regarded as the abstracted form of exploration—as the capacity to investigate, without the necessity of direct motoric action. Abstract analysis (verbal and nonverbal) of the unexpected or novel plays a much greater role for humans than for animals—a role that generally takes primacy over action. It is only when this capacity fails partially or completely in humans—or when it plays a paradoxical role (amplifying the significance or potential danger of the unknown through definitive but “false” negative labeling)—that active exploration (or active avoidance), with its limitations and dangers, becomes necessary.

The capacity to create novel behaviors and categories of interpretation in response to the emergence of the unknown might be regarded as the primary hallmark of human consciousness—indeed, of human being. Our engagement in this process literally allows us to carve the world out of the undifferentiated mass of unobserved and unencountered “existence” (a form of existence that exists only hypothetically, as a necessary fiction; a form about which nothing can be experienced, and less accurately stated).

It is certainly the case that many of our skills and our automatized strategies of classification are “opaque” to explicit consciousness. The fact of our multiple memory systems, and their qualitatively different modes of representation—described later— ensures that such is the case. This opaqueness means, essentially, that we “understand” more than we “know”; it is for this reason that psychologists continue to depend on notions of the “unconscious” to provide explanations for behavior. This unconsciousness—the psychoanalytic god—is our capacity for the implicit storage of information about the nature and valence of things. This information is generated in the course of active exploration, and modified, often unrecognizably, by constant, multigenerational, interpersonal communication.

We know that the right hemisphere—at least its frontal portion—is specialized for response to punishment and threat. We also know that damage to the right hemisphere impairs our ability to detect patterns and to understand the meaning of stories. Is it too much to suggest that the emotional, imagistic and narrative capabilities of the right hemisphere play a key role in the initial stages of transforming something novel and complex, such as the behaviors of others (or ourselves) and the valence of new things, into something thoroughly understood?

The uniquely specialized capacities of the right hemisphere appear to allow it to derive from repeated observations of behavior images of action patterns that the verbal left can arrange, with increasingly logic and detail, into stories. A story is a map of meaning, a “strategy” for emotional regulation and behavioral output—a description of how to act in a circumstance, to ensure that the circumstance retains its positive motivational salience (or at least has its negative qualities reduced to the greatest possible degree).

The right hemisphere has the ability to decode the nonverbal and melodic aspects of speech, to empathize (or to engage, more generally, in interpersonal relationships), and the capacity to comprehend imagery, metaphor and analogy. The left-hemisphere “linguistic” systems “finish” the story, adding logic, proper temporal order, internal consistency, verbal representation, and possibility for rapid abstract explicit communication. In this way, our explicit knowledge of value is expanded, through the analysis of our own “dreams.” Interpretations that “work”—that is, that improve our capacity to regulate our own emotions (to turn the current world into the desired world, to say it differently)— qualify as valid. It is in this manner that we verify the accuracy of our increasingly abstracted presumptions.

Knowing-how information, described alternatively as procedural, habitual, dispositional, or skilled, and knowing-what information, described alternatively as declarative, episodic, factual, autobiographical, or representational, appear physiologically distinct in their material basis, and separable in course of phylo- and ontogenetic development.

Procedural knowledge develops long before declarative knowledge, in evolution and individual development, and appears represented in “unconscious” form, expressible purely in performance. Declarative knowledge, by contrast—knowledge of what—simultaneously constitutes consciously accessible and communicable episodic imagination (the world in fantasy) and subsumes even more recently developed semantic (linguistically mediated) knowledge, whose operations, in large part, allow for abstract representation and communication of the contents of the imagination.

It is only after behavioral (procedural) wisdom has become “represented” in episodic memory and portrayed in drama and narrative that it becomes accessible to “conscious” verbal formulation and potential modification in abstraction. Procedural knowledge is not representational, in its basic form. Knowing-how information, generated in the course of exploratory activity, can nonetheless be transferred from individual to individual, in the social community, through means of imitation.

Explicit (moral) philosophy arises from the mythos of culture, grounded in procedure, rendered progressively more abstract and episodic through ritual action and observation of that action. The process of increasing abstraction has allowed the knowing what “system” to generate a representation, in imagination, of the “implicit predicates” of behavior governed by the knowing how this faith.


Kabuki performance in Japan.

Each developmental “stage”—action, imitation, play, ritual, drama, narrative, myth, religion, philosophy, rationality—offers an increasingly abstracted, generalized and detailed representation of the behavioral wisdom embedded in and established during the previous stage.

The fact that the many “stories” we live by can be coded and transmitted at different levels of “abstraction,” ranging from the purely motoric or procedural (transmitted through imitation) to the more purely semantic (transmitted through the medium of explicit ethical philosophy, say) makes comprehension of their structure and interrelationships conceptually difficult. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that different stories have different spatial-temporal “resolutions”—that is, we may be governed at one moment by short-term, simple considerations and at the next by longer term, more complex considerations.

Our stories are nested (one thing leads to another) and hierarchically arranged [pursuit “a” is superordinate to pursuit “b” (love is more important than money)]. Within this nested hierarchy, our consciousness—our apperception—appears to have a “natural” level of resolution, or categorization. This default resolution is reflected in the fact, as alluded to previously, of the basic object level. We “see” some things naturally; that is, in Roger Brown’s terminology, at a level that gives us “maximal information with minimal cognitive effort.” I don’t know what drives the mechanism that determines the appropriate level of analysis. Elements of probability and predictability must play a role. It is, after all, increasingly useless to speculate over increasingly large spatial-temporal areas, as the number of variables that must be considered increases rapidly, even exponentially (and the probability of accurate prediction, therefore, decreases). Perhaps the answer is something along the lines of “the simplest solution that does not generate additional evident problems wins,” which I suppose is a variant of Occam’s razor. So the simplest cognitive/exploratory maneuver that renders an unpredictable occurrence conditionally predictable or familiar is most likely to be adopted. This is another example of proof through utility—if a solution “works” (serves to further progress toward a given goal), then it is “right.”

Footnote:  The discussion about rats and chimps reminded me of this.