Wednesday 25 March 2015

Be careful before you wish for more geniuses: you might get what you ask for!

What makes you think you want more geniuses in the West; what makes you think they would improve matters?


Of course, only geniuses could save us from where we are now.

But reflect:

1. We do not want to be saved.

2. We will fight against anyone who offers credible hope of salvation.

3. We will try to corrupt and invert creative genius into destruction.


The genius is a person with a massively amplified and manifold impact - and this also applies to evil geniuses, and to the evil products of genius and the evil misapplication of genius. Thus one single person may generate vast misery, annihilation, demotivation and despair.

Geniuses led to the distinctively great achievements of Western Civilization - also to the bad stuff on a colossal scale: individuals like Rousseau, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao unleashed unprecedented wholesale horror.

And except for Hitler, all these are revered figures among our current ruling elites.


Outside of the politically neutral areas of mathematics and theoretical physics; modern geniuses (and near geniuses) mostly have been and are being systematically ignored (they are the lucky ones) or persecuted, tormented, crushed and corrupted - especially by mass media-generated celebrity culture, mob frenzies and hate-fests.


What makes you think a generous crop of future geniuses (assuming such things were possible; which seems doubtful) would fare any better, or yield any better results?

Are modern conditions better than those which led to the evil and destructive geniuses of the past couple of centuries?

Does our social treatment of recent and current genius lead you to be optimistic?


I do not want more recognized and empowered geniuses - indeed I fear the consequences if there were more high-impact geniuses.

Under prevailing conditions the only high-impact geniuses will be bad geniuses; or geniuses from whom the bad is abstracted and amplified.

First must come repentance - and only somewhere in the far-side of a Christian revival, might there come to exist a situation where genius might reasonably be expected to do more good than harm.


Monday 23 March 2015

Genius as a perfect storm of synergystic causal factors; golden ages triggered by a coincidence of synergystic geniuses triggering populaton growth

It is possible that genius may be a consequence of a 'perfect storm' of several independent causes coming together rarely. For example high ability (especially general intelligence), high creativity, and strong motivation directed in-line with ability and creativity - these are each relatively rare, and in combination very rare in indeed.

(Plus, there may need to be other factors.)

But the average sub-replacement fertility of geniuses (due to their relatively low interest in social and sexual gratification which is both the reciprocal of their high interest in 'their subject' and also the need to tolerate/ welcome considerable solitude and independence); means that the lineage of a one-off genius will most likely go extinct.


The existence of a single genius therefore probably (usually) does not create any greater chance of a genius to follow - since the number of copies of the causative genes (whatever they are) is no greater after the genius has died than before he was born.

However, when there are several geniuses that happen to be born at the same time, and in the same field - and when this field is one that increases the efficiency or effectiveness of the essentials of human survival and reproduction - e.g. breakthroughs in food production, industrial production, transport, weaponry, social organization... then these several geniuses may enable the total population to grow in such a way that there are more and more copies of the genes which (in rare combinations) lead to genius.


In these circumstances, the existence of several geniuses in a single generation number one may lead to even more geniuses in generation number two; and this amplification could continue if the population continues to expand (and if other factors remained constant).

It is possible that something of this kind happened through the 1700s and the early 1800s in the populations of Western and Central Europe - for example, several or many geniuses emerged in the domain of agriculture and food production from the 1700s in England; and in combination led to an increased productivity per worker and more than doubling the output of food by the mid 1800s - these changes freeing labour for industry and both enabling and kick-starting the industrial revolution.

The result was that the population of England doubled from about 1700 to 1820, which would mean that - all else being equal, there would be twice as many genes for genius in 1820 as there had been in 1700. This would tend to sustain the production of English geniuses, and maintain the 'golden age' of English high achievement.


However. we know that other factors were operating from about 1800 which would tend to reduce the proportion of geniuses in the English population; notably the decline of general intelligence ('g' which is implied by the slowing in reaction times measurable through the twentieth century). These adverse trends were probably due to a combination of differential reproduction against intelligence (an inverse correlation between intelligence and fertility) plus, and probably more importantly, a dysgenic accumulation of deleterious mutations caused by the relation of mutation filtering mostly caused by the sharp decline in child mortality rates.

So, the first effect of the perfect storm of English geniuses was to expand the population and thereby increase the number of English geniuses; but as the generations went by, the adverse selection factors and mutation accumulation would have 'sabotaged' the expansion of geniuses by reducing the average intelligence in the population - and firstly the proportion and then the actual number of people of very high intelligence, so that the number of new geniuses occurring dwindled into again being extremely rare and 'one off'.


Friday 20 March 2015

What can we, should we, do without geniuses?

World historical geniuses have all-but disappeared from Western civilization - that is is simply a factual observation.

Either we can consider the disappearance due to a decline in intelligence and or creativity and or motivation; or we can consider that the deity has withdrawn genius from the West (because we have so often corrupted and misused it); or both.

But what could we, what should we, do about it?


The problem is that the problems of Western civilization are large, yet we have not enough geniuses to solve them (or else the geniuses are still there; but now unknown, un-empowered, ignored and/or suppressed).

In other words: the problems are significant and multiple, the problems need to be solved - but they cannot be solved at a large scale because we lack the people to do it.

Therefore it seems that the problems can only be solved partially, for instance, melioration and damage limitation rather than cure; or genuine solutions but only on a local and restricted scale.  

In a major-genius-free world, then those who are put forward (hyped and trumpeted), or put themselves forward, as world historical geniuses will be fakes of one sort or another.


The lesson may be analogous or akin to the Small is Beautiful, or 'intermediate technology' message of EF Schumacher: awareness of the need for a smaller scale, a more human scale: more local, more understandable... a preference for the partial and piecemeal.

And a rejection of gigantism and always-growing institutions; the massiveness of media; the world of master narratives, international panaceas, globalization of attitudes; the winner-take-all economy of cash, fame and kudos; and the strategic interconnection, interdependence and mutual subordination of everything.

In a world without genius; either we cultivate our gardens, or else nobody will cultivate any gardens; hence gardens will not be cultivated.


Thursday 19 March 2015

The incidence of genius from a Christian perspective - when geniuses are just too dangerous to be risked

Since God is good and mortal life has a purpose, it seems reasonable to assume that the disposition of souls into bodies is not a random process; but that on the contrary part of some divine plan.

Therefore, the occurrence of genius is purposive - and this accounts for the destiny of each genius (the direction or path through life he ought to follow - whether or not he chooses to do so, or is prevented by circumstances and the choices of others).

Genius is not hereditary - or hardly-ever so. Rather, genius tends to be born into a family environment of high intelligence and abilities; presumably to provide sufficient nurturance of the necessary type.

The type of genius which God might be presumed to concern himself with, would be those Philosophical or Theological geniuses whose contribution is concerned with ultimate questions of the Human Condition:

In other words, the genius philosophers, theologians, prophets, mystics and saints: those who are intended (by God) to influence Man to (try to) work and live in accordance with God's hopes.

Yet all geniuses are also agents with free will and the capacity to choose; therefore they may (like Saruman) be sent to do a job which they themselves had volunteered and sworn to do - yet (like Saruman) become corrupted away from that job, and instead employ their great gifts against that job.

Thus, there is always the possibility of producing an evil genius instead of what was intended to be a good genius: the philosopher or theologian, the prophet or mystic gone-bad.

Such men are extremely dangerous - since the genius has manifold greater influence than ordinary men; and so we get the likes of Rousseau, Marx, Hitler, Lenin and Mao.


Or, a corrupt society may tend to take the output of a genius whose work included both good and bad - and may select and amplify the bad while neglecting the good.

And so we get the likes of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Wittgenstein; and also the pioneer 'liberal' biblical scholars and theologians over the past couple of centuries (but I am unsure of who are the major names in this field that are likely geniuses; probably Schleiermacher, David Friedrich Strauss, WE Channing; Charles Gore...).

Much the same applies to geniuses of the arts and sciences whose general cultural influence is (or is made) malign; the likes of James Joyce, Picasso, Schoenberg, Samuel Beckett...


It may well be that the rapid decline, and almost complete disappearance, of genius from the second half of the twentieth century was ultimately due to Western society becoming too hazardous a place for geniuses; a place where geniuses are too likely to go bad, to run off the rails.

What applies to geniuses of philosophy and theology applies even more powerfully to geniuses of art, science, politics and the rest of it - because when Man is aiming in the wrong direction then he cannot help but misuse his tools - and the more powerful the tools, the greater the potential for misuse.

So our civilisation stopped being allocated souls of genius.

For our own good.


Where is memory located? Not (just) in our brains

For Christians and some other religious people, memory cannot be in the brain - or more precisely, not primarily so.


The brain dies and rots along with the rest of the body; but the self endures until after death; indeed for Christians the self is restored in eternal union with its now-perfected body (i.e. resurrected).

Memory cannot therefore be lost at death. At least, important memories - those essential to the eternal self - are not lost at death.

Therefore memory must be elsewhere than the brain - or, at least backed-up elsewhere.


Indeed, it would be truer to say that those memories 'in our brain' are at most merely an incomplete and fragile back-up for the real, enduring memories which are elsewhere.

It could be, it is perhaps even likely, that memories are stored elsewhere and the brain only accesses them. And therefore that the memory losses of ageing, trauma and disease are therefore primarily a loss of access to memories, rather than a destruction of memories.


Where might memories therefore be?

One constraining fact may be that our memories are our memories, that is our private memories - that is, they are not (or not typically) accessible to others.

This suggests that memories are stored in some part of us, some extension of our-selves, some place not in our mortal bodies - presumably in that which survives death, variously called the soul or spirit.

Since the soul is not detectable, then neither are our memories. e can, it seems, only detect the machinery which gives our mortal bodies temporary access to these permanent soul-stored memories.


When we 'forget, or when memories are 'destroyed' by age, trauma, disease then this is because the method for access has been damaged.

This is significant, even tragic, from the perspective of mortal life; however, in terms of our life in eternity we need not be so worried, need not despair: memories are indelible, permanent, as eternal as we are.

This also highlights the real problem about memory - which is not the forgetting of good things but the never-forgetting of bad things; and when the reality of what this means has sunk-in; then this fact points us at the necessity for the atonement of Jesus Christ in the time-frame of eternity.


Wednesday 18 March 2015

Peeling-off the layers of genius

There are many layers to genius - although typically only those nearest the surface are considered.Some of the main layers are:

1. Sociological - Impact on history
2. Biological - differential - Reproductive Success
3. Biological - ideal - Fitness
4. Philosophical - Fitness for what?
5. Theological - in relation to Ultimate Purpose


1. Sociological - this is the usual level of analysis, the usual definition of a genius.

A genius is seen as a person who has made a disproportionately large impact on human history. This can be measured more-or-less objectively.


2. Biological - Differential. A genius is seen in biological terms as one who makes an disproportionately large impact on human reproduction.This is measured in terms of reproductive success, which is measured in terms of the number of descendants of a genius and/or the group to which he he belongs.

By this measure, a genius is one who causes a measurable increase in the number or proportion of his society (by some measure) - such geniuses would be those who created the technical breakthroughs leading to the agrarian and industrial revolutions.

(And an anti-genius would be one who did the opposite: caused a decline in the number or proportion of descendants. These would include those who invented or promoted liberal Christianity, atheism, socialism, feminism and the sexual revolution.)


3. Biological - Ideal. This takes account of the objective, not differential, effect of fitness (as best this may be estimated) by estimating organismal functionality.

For example, a lineage may increase in its numbers or proportion of the population; even though there is an accumulation of deleterious mutations which damage basic functionality.

So reproductive success(absolute or relative) can increase even as the underlying functionality or fitness declines. 

This can happen when the environment is less harsh, inflicts a lower mortality rate (as with animals in a zoo, or human in modern society).


4. Philosophical - Fitness for what? If an ideal, not actual, concept of fitness is to be used, then it is not clear what is the environment against which fitness/ functionality should be measured.

This creates a need for, opens space for, a philosophical discourse about what Man's fitness ought to be.

By this account, a genius is one who enhances his group's fitness for (or functionality-in) the kind of environment which Man is aiming-for, or wants to have. One version of this would be a genius tending to create Men fitted for utopia.

This definition would include philosophers in the broad sense of the word; artists, painters, poets, literary authors etc.


5. Theological. Finally, and ultimately, this relates to the idea of a genius being one who promotes the ultimate purpose of Life, of divinity.

This definition would include prophets and saints; and also some artists, poets, and thinkers.


It can be seen that these various definitions of genius dissociate. For example, a genius who promotes theological ultimate purpose may damage reproductive success (if a good new religious group is exterminated). A genius who promotes reproductive success, may damage ideal fitness (i.e. population increases but so does the deleterious mutation load).


Tuesday 17 March 2015

The altruism of genius - from an evolutionary perspective

In biological, that is evolutionary, terms; genius is an altruistic trait.

This means that - on average, in the environment where and when genius evolved, being a genius will tend to reduce the genius's own personal reproductive success, while substantially enhancing the reproductive success of the group of which the genius is a member.

Biological altruism does not (or not necessarily) correspond with social altruism, or an altruistic personality- i.e. 'helping people' - because the genius's contribution to his community is via his work.

Indeed, it is characteristic of the behaviour of a genius that he will protect the conditions necessary for his work, even when this goes against usual and expected socially altruistic behaviour.

The genius may therefore be solitary - may indeed be selfish, may not marry or have a family, may not be a good neighbour. But selfish not really for his own benefit - not for money or status - but primarily for the work: selfish to enable him better to do (or to do at all) what it is he does.

Some geniuses are nice, some are nasty - that is not the point; the point is that the genius feels his first (or a very high) responsibility is to do his utmost to create and sustain the best conditions he needs for his work.

Thus it is quite possible, quite normal, for biological altruism at the group level to go with personal selfishness; and for personal un-selfishness to be anti-altruistic, and to damage the reporductive interests of the group.

Altruism and being nice: two very different things.


Thursday 12 March 2015

Where is there hope for England?

It is an interesting question.

Although there is no obvious place or cause for hope in any place of power or prestige, and no realistic cause for optimism with respect to Christianity of any type; it is not acceptable for us simply to say "nowhere" - because there is always hope, did we but know its location.

One source may be in the kind of educational experience of primary school (up to age 11) - where I think many children have had considerable exposure to good imaginative 'fantasy' literature (of the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson type, as well as older classics) and movies (of the Pixar and DreamWorks type).

My feeling is that this exposure to imaginative fantasy may have considerable long term significance - even if its effects tend to get buried and go-underground during the teenage and early adult years - at least, that was how it was for me with respect to Tolkien.


The fundamental nature of creativity - creativity as the operation of free will and the true self

It is hard to define creativity; indeed I have never seen a satisfactory definition. We recognise exceptional creativity, and exceptionally creative people - but nonetheless it is hard to say what creativity might be.

That suggests to me that creativity is a very fundamental attribute. My understanding is that creativity is the action of free will.

In other words, there is a backdrop of events that follow a cause and effect logic - but creativity is when these chains and webs of quasi-mechanical unfolding are qualitatively changed by the operation of autonomous choice from a being with free will.

As further clarification, many or most or perhaps sometimes all f a person's choices are not made by their true self using free will; but are automatic, conditioned, quasi-mechanical responses due to 'false selves' such as the public personality. The real self in an adult is typically a hidden and enfeebled thing; buried under habits, socialisation, instincts and much else.

I think that this may be a relatively rare occurrence in the lives of most people, and that high levels of creativity are therefore rare. Geniuses are among the rare people who seem to have a greater access to their true selves, are in frequent communication with their true selves: this is the integrity of genius, which shines out from so many biographies of geniuses.

Good or bad, nice or nasty; a genius is an integrated personality; highly autonomous from other people is his views and motivations; one aware-of and dominated-by inner drives; one whose decisions, evaluations, choices are distinctive and highly independent.

Geniuses are 'inner' people; and this innerness is, I suggest, the source of their creativity. It could be said that geniuses are made (are born) such that they are connected with inner sources of thinking, including being connected with the real self.

Of course, geniuses have free will just like everybody else - and the born genius may choose to reject his destiny, and not to use his special abilities. But in this respect the genius is just an extreme of the universal situation.

If creativity happens when free will intervenes in reality, then geniuses are simply those who combine a high awareness of the operations of their free will, with exceptional ability. Presumably anybody and everybody can and sometimes does 'tap-into' and use their real self in making autonomous choices; but the non-genus does this seldom and easily ignores or rejects the consequences - also the non-genius may have merely average (or below average) abilities; so that the fruits of their creativity is of little interest to other people.

But, whether or not it is impressive or influential, actual creativity is simply this process of using free will of the real self to choose. Creativity 'has happened' if this has happened - whether or not we know about it, whether or not it has a measurable effect on human affairs.

(Conversely, what may appear to be a 'creative act', impressive, influential, widely admired or useful, is not truly creativity if it is not a product of free will, if it does not eventuate from free will; if it is merely the product of quasi-mechanical unfolding of cause-and-effect processes.)


Friday 6 March 2015

It was "Agintrans" geniuses of enhanced productivity that made the industrial revolution

My thesis here is that English (and some Scottish) geniuses specifically in Agriculture, Industrial production and Transport (for which I have coined the word Agintrans) - but primarily in agriculture - were the crucial factor in driving the industrial revolution.

And that the people who make this type of breakthrough should be assumed to be geniuses - even when they have traditionally a lower status than other types of genius (in science, philosophy, literature, art, architecture, music etc), and despite that some of the names of the people who made some of the breakthroughs seem to have been lost.


The two most significant transitions in the history of mankind were the invention of agriculture - which happened before history, independently in several times and places and spread rather gradually; and the industrial revolution - which was lavishly documented, happened in England and spread very rapidly.

My understanding is that such revolutions are made from breakthroughs that are the product of creative geniuses, of individual and specially gifted men. Without the geniuses, there is only incremental improvement of existing methods.

But geniuses come in many types. Clearly, genius in painting and literature does not make an industrial revolution. So, the question is what kind of geniuses made the industrial revolution?


Before the industrial revolution, nations could only rapidly increase production (and grow population) by conquest (and to a lesser extent by trade) - so growth of a nation was at the expense of decline of another nation.

For instance, Empires were built on military innovations which led to conquest, looting, enslavement etc. Or there were cohesion innovations (religion, ideologies, forms of job specialisation and hierarchical organisation, even the arts and literature) which kept the population motivated and cooperating.

What made the industrial revolution different was geniuses who enabled increased productivity - specifically, whose breakthroughs increased the extraction of useful resources from a unit area.


So the relevant English geniuses were probably those in areas such as agriculture, transport, energy, industrial machinery, building and human organisation.

In particular, the industrial revolution was made possible by the preceding agrarian (or agricultural) revolution from about 1700. That increase in agricultural productivity without which the population could not have increased. By about 1700 the English population seems to have risen to near the Malthusian limit of traditional agriculture and technology - yet by 1850 the population had trebled.


The agrarian revolution in England was characterised by a multitude of major and swiftly cumulative breakthroughs, such as selective animal breeding for more desirable traits; improved understanding of crop rotation, manuring and liming; and a many improved tools.

The result was an increased extraction of food per unit area - and an increase in the amount of area usable for food (e.g. by drainage of wet areas).


Following rapidly on, and necessary for food distribution, were improvements in transportation such as much better road surfaces allowing wheeled vehicles in all weathers, new canals and the invention of railways - first with horse power, then later coal powered.

All this required new technologies and forms of organisation for coal and other forms of mining, and production of iron, steel and so on. Industrial production entailed invention of factory production and many new types of manufacture.

The end result was to increase greatly the amount of useful stuff that could be extracted or otherwise produced per man-hour.


My point is that it is easy to be distracted away from this type of Agintrans innovation, when at the same time there was an efflorescence of English genius in so many other areas such as philosophy, science, literature, art, architecture, religion and all the rest - and when the geniuses in these areas are so much better known than the Agintrans geniuses.

Especially neglected are the (presumed) geniuses of the agrarian revolution upon whom everything which came later depended: the likes of Robert Bakewell, Jethro Tull, Coke of Norfolk, Turnip Townsend... these men probably ought to be honoured as the primary enablers of the modern world and of the second great transformative transition of the human species. 



Wednesday 4 March 2015

WD Hamilton describes the rise and demise of creative genius as first a group selected, then individually-selected, phenomenon - 1975

From WD Hamilton, Innate social aptitudes of man. In Robin Fox (ed.). ASA Studies 4 : Biosocial Anthropology. Malaby Press: London, 1975. pp133-53.


The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilisations less harmin the long run than one might expect...

It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of the pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress that tends to die-out in a large panmictic [randomly mating - i.e. not restrictive or assortative] population...

I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the Renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and culture (...) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals when then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. 

Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness,such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. 

Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity.


Spengler on the demographic trends leading to mutation accumulation?

Mutation accumulation, tending toward mutational meltdown and extinction events, comes from declining population size and the cumulative failure of natural selection mechanisms (including sexual selection) to purge the generation-by-generation spontaneous-occurrence of deleterious mutations. 

Selected and edited from The Hour of Decision by Oswald Spengler 1933. Bold emphasis added.


The decay of the white family, the inevitable outcome of megalopolitan existence, is spreading, and it is devouring the “race” of nations. The meaning of man and wife, the will to perpetuity, is being lost. People live for themselves alone, not for future generations.

The nation as society, once the organic web of families, threatens to dissolve, from the city outwards, into a sum of private atoms, of which each is intent on extracting from his own and other lives the maximum of amusement — panem et circenses.

The women’s emancipation of Ibsen’s time wanted, not freedom from the husband, but freedom from the child, from the burden of children, just as men’s emancipation in the same period signified freedom from the duties towards family, nation, and State. The whole of Liberal-Socialistic problem-literature revolves about this suicide of the white race. It has been the same in all other Civilizations.

The apparent increase of the white population all over the world, little as it is in comparison with the volume of the colored increase, rests upon a temporary illusion: the number of children grows ever smaller, and only the number of adults increases, not because there are more of them, but because they live longer.

But a strong race requires not only an inexhaustible birth-rate, but also a severe selection process, which is provided by the resistances to living represented by misfortune, sickness, and war.

Nineteenth-century medicine, a true product of Rationalism, is from this point of view also a phenomenon of age. It prolongs each life whether this is desirable or no. It prolongs even death. It replaces the number of children by the number of greybeards.

It promotes the world outlook of panem et circenses by estimating the value of life by the number of its days, not by their usefulness.

It prevents the natural process of selection and thereby accentuates the decay of the race.

Also there are the terrible numbers of abnormal people of every description, mental, spiritual, and physical, the hysterical, moral, and nerve cases who can neither beget nor bear healthy children. Their number is unobtainable, but we can gauge it by the number of doctors who live by them and the mass of books that are written about them.

From this degenerate crop comes the revolutionary proletariat, with its hatred born of grievances, and the drawing-room Bolshevism of the aesthetes and literary folk, who enjoy and advertise the attractiveness of such states of mind.