2007 December 31
My holiday reading:
Colossus by Niall Ferguson
Jesus von Nazareth von
The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein
2007 December 30
Does God Exist?
American Jewish University presents best-selling authors
Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe in a debate about the existence of God and
the role of religion and faith in society. The debate is moderated by Los Angeles Times religion
editor Steve Padilla.
Jewish TV Network (almost 2 hours)
place to put our faith is in human conversation."
2007 December 27
Benazir Bhutto assassinated — the end of hope for Pakistan?
Consciousness: The Grudge Match
"This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the
merely bad," begins Colin McGinn's review of On Consciousness by Ted
Honderich. "It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's
reputation," says Honderich.
A rising tide of opinion in Israel believes that the recent U.S. National
Intelligence Estimate on Iran signals American retreat. The report concludes
with "high confidence" that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program, even
though Washington has concrete evidence of that program, and despite
Tehran's brazen pursuit of uranium enrichment.
2007 December 21
The Church of Google
Our Google, who art in cyberspace
Hallowed be thy domain
Thy search to come
Thy results be done
computer as it is in the Googleplex
Give us this day our daily searches
And forgive us our spam
As we forgive those who spam against us
lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from Microsoft
For thine is
the search engine
And the power
And the glory
Forever and ever
2007 December 19
Twilight of the books
2007 December 18
According to Edward Said, British and French imperial prejudice clouded
their understanding of those they conquered. He gave the Islamic world a
rationalization for a persisting status quo of medievalism and intellectual
poverty throughout the Mideast.
Ibn Warraq says Said contributed to
the Islamic ideology of victimization. "Ibn Warraq" is an Arabic pseudonym.
As a proud atheist and an anthologist of several books devoted to Muslim
apostasy and exegesis of the Koran, Warraq colored himself an Enlightenment
Warraq says Said misses two crucial points in
discussing relations between East and West. The first is that the offenders
are not always motivated by bigotry or grand imperial designs. The second is
that the institutions they erect are often more significant and enduring
than their venality and greed.
Warraq borrows a useful trisection
from Bernard Lewis: Islam One is the Koran, Islam Two is the hadith, and
Islam Three is Muslim civilization. One and two are incompatible with
democracy and human rights. As for three, only time will tell.
2007 December 17
Artificial life is on the way
2007 December 15
Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris talk about the public's
reaction to their recent books, their unexpected successes, criticisms and
misrepresentations, and tough questions about religion that face to world
2007 December 13
Kripke + Wittgenstein = Kripkenstein
2007 December 12
Saul Kripke fondly remembered
Kaplan on U.S. warriors
2007 December 11
Making Globalisation Work for All
When the need is urgent and our
responsibilities clear; and even when the path ahead is difficult, hard and
long, let us not lose hope but have the courage in our shared resolve to
find the will to act. And let us say to each other in the words of Isaiah,
"though you were wearied by the length of your way, you did not say it was
hopeless – you found new life in your strength."
Chancellor of the
Exchequer Gordon Brown, 2004
2007 December 10
Do we need a literary canon?
Mitt the Mormon's idea of freedom
2007 December 4
The exceptionally simple theory of Garrett Lisi
2007 December 3
The World of 2030
Technological development is accelerating
exponentially. Between 2030 and 2040 a milestone will be reached that will
cause a Singularity. Changes that will appear by then:
● An explosion in world population growth.
Today there are just under 7 billion people on the planet. By 2030 there
will be over 8 billion and by 2050 the figure will be up to 12 billion.
● Changing societal demographics. In 2006,
nearly 500 million people worldwide were 65 or older. By 2030 the total is
projected to double to one billion.
Climate change is going to wreak havoc all over the world as the weather
becomes more extreme. Urgent and decisive action must be taken.
● Oil extraction will peak and oil fuel for
transportation will become increasingly uneconomic. The world's energy needs
will double over the next 25 years.
Globalization has doubled world income since 1980, and almost 500 million
people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990. This offers the world a
great opportunity for peace.
revolution in healthcare will dramatically extend human life spans. A new
model of medical science will prevent disease and will offer significant
life extension and even rejuvenation.
Computer avatars will become our companions. As they become increasingly
clever, and as the platforms and networks become more capable, they will
migrate onto and into our bodies.
2030 all cars travelling on major roads will be under the control of
satellite and roadside control systems and many cars will be driving
● Robots in all shapes,
sizes, and forms will be ubiquitous by 2030. Robots will be our slaves,
manufacturing wealth, easing our lives, caring for our needs, and overseeing
● By 2030 we will be
connected constantly to a super-web. Perhaps some of us will have direct
neural connections between our own brains and the global networks.
● Our communications and entertainment will be
wholly immersory, multimedia, multisensory, 3D, holographic and fully
tactile, telekinetic and olfactory.
Life will be pursued within surveillance societies. By 2030, we too will be
part of Big Brother's surveillance team, for the purposes of personal and
● Utility shopping will
mostly be done on the networks and will, in some instances, become automated
as your smart home environment senses the need for everyday items.
● Within our societies inequality will continue
to increase. The poorest groups in developed societies have become better
off over the last 25 years, but the wealth of the richest is growing faster.
● A global brain of immense intelligence
and with instant access to the whole store of human knowledge will emerge
from Google or from similar search engines.
Machines will develop the
potential to become humanity's successors.
Defending the West
Edward Said viewed reality through the prism of
Muslim culture and applied this worldview to his study of history. He seemed
to think Western study of the East had no purpose but the further conquest
and humiliation of the East.
Said was unwilling to comprehend the
core of western thought. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is taken
for granted in western society. Yet this most basic aspect of western
civilization is continually miscomprehended by the Muslim world.
the Islamic mind, good is defined as what is good for Islam or good for the
Muslim community. Goodness as a concept apart from Islam does not exist,
much less as a transcendent value. So knowledge is only good if it advances
Islamic societal goals.
Ibn Warraq has dared to throw off the mental
shackles of Islam. His study of Islam is motivated by simple love of the
2007 December 2
Everything you need to know about
Moez Masoud is a Muslim televangelist
2007 December 1
Numerous robots in Iraq and Afghanistan are showing utility in warfare:
army robots are in development
2007 November 28
Blue Brain Project
Scientists in Switzerland working with IBM researchers
have shown that their computer simulation of the neocortical column,
arguably the most complex part of a mammal's brain, appears to behave like
its biological counterpart.
2007 November 26
AR Wirklich eine
großartige Lektüre, die meine Erwartungen weit übertroffen hat. Vilenkin hat
eine tiefes Verständnis von den hochfliegenden Ambitionen der Kosmologie,
weiß diese auch gut zu vermitteln. Hier lässt er seinen Ideen freien Lauf,
ohne dabei die Grenze des wissenschaftlich Vertretbaren zu überschreiten. Er
begleitet den Leser auf eine beschwingte Tour durch alle relevanten Themen:
die Relativitätstheorie, die Urknalltheorie, Inflation, Symmetriebrechung,
Vakuumzerfall, String Theorie, kosmische Zyklen usw. In die Erzählung bringt
er etliche persönliche Anekdoten ein, die dem Leser einige charmante
Vertreter der neueren Geschichte der Kosmologie vorstellen. Er fühlt sich
sehr zu Hause in diesem Mileu, und seine Freude, Ideen mit diesen
Zeitgenossen auszutauschen, kann man auf jeder Seite des Buches miterleben.
Insgesamt erzählt Vilenkin eine faszinierende Geschichte, besser als jeder
Science Fiction. Mich hat er oft zum Schmunzeln gebracht — mehr als Stephen
Hawking, der mit seiner 'Kurzen Geschichte der Zeit' als schärfster
Konkurrent in der Welt der großen Ideen für ein breites Publikum gelten mag.
2007 November 24
Freelance physicist A. Garrett Lisi may have figured out the most important
shape in the universe.
When we have a nice symmetric manifold, like
E8, we can mathematically describe how this shape twists and turns over the
four dimensional spacetime we live in. This description is called a
principal bundle, and the field describing the twists and turns is called a
connection, which determines the curvature. What I'm doing is identifying
all the standard model and gravitational fields (everything) as parts of an
E8 principal bundle connection, and it's working amazingly well. Each
symmetry of E8 is a different part of this connection, and each symmetry
manifests itself as a different type of elementary particle that we have in
our universe. When someone unifies gravity with the other fields like this,
it's called a Theory of Everything.
If we take seriously the idea
that fermions may be gauge theory ghosts, there is one gauge theory in
particular that stands out: that of a principal E8 bundle. The exceptional
group of rank 8 is the largest of the exceptional Lie groups, and perhaps
the richest in structure. The 248 dimensional Lie algebra of E8 is described
as the special orthogonal group (with 120 elements) acting on the space of
128 dimensional chiral spinors. ...
2007 November 18
A U.S. congressional committee estimated the cost so far of America's wars
in Afghanistan and Iraq at $1.6 trillion: $20,000 for every family of four
in the U.S.
"The Anglo-Judaic synthesis remains the despair of our
Walter Russell Mead
2007 November 16
The nuclear threat from Tehran must be taken with utmost caution and
strategic foresight. But not all in Israel are overmuch concerned by
Ahmadinejad's speeches. Professor Martin van Crevelt, one of Israel's most
prominent military historians, warns: "Jerusalem can quickly turn Tehran
into a radioactive desert". Efraim Halevi, former Mossad chief and Israel's
National Security Committee, states: "Israel cannot be destroyed for many
David Shulman's book is a record of his intense involvement
with Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews
2007 November 11
Disproof of Bell's Theorem
Oxford quantum theorist Joy Christian has
shown that Bell's theorem fails for the Clifford algebra valued local
realistic variables. This is made evident by exactly reproducing quantum
mechanical expectation value for the EPR-Bohm type spin correlations
observable by means of a local, deterministic, Clifford algebra valued
variable, without necessitating either remote contextuality or backward
PDF, 4 pages
2007 November 10
The Sydney Morning Herald — Pakistan's military dictator, Pervez Musharraf,
this week declared martial law, in effect mounting a coup against himself.
For the powerful platoon in uniform, it's the best thing that has happened
since the last time General Musharraf mounted a coup in 1999. General
Musharraf's comrades in the military control 10—15 percent of the economy,
making them the biggest single stakeholder in Pakistan.
2007 November 4
John Polkinghorne, a former Cambridge professor of mathematical physics and
now a Church of England priest, has published a rather mild
review of two
recent books on religion.
2007 November 3
Musharraf Declares State of Emergency
Pakistani leader General Pervez
Musharraf has declared a state of emergency. Consider that India is
flourishing and Pakistan is in crisis. The only major difference between
India and Pakistan is that Pakistan is an Islamic state. For me, this is
evidence that Islam is a disaster. Since both countries are nuclear powers,
the disaster could drag us all into an abyss.
Robert Putnam on ethnic
2007 November 2
"Ancient Greek religion gives an account of the world that in many respects
is more plausible than that offered by the monotheistic traditions."
Lefkowitz on the Greek gods
2007 November 1, All Saints Day
A young man writes a naive but passionate book about the evils of religion
and is met with such a big response that he can hardly bear it. Fawning
sycophants, death threats, security guards, the works. What would you do?
I'd head straight for a meditative retreat to get some peace and quiet.
More on Sam Harris
2007 October 28
The problem with atheism: Sam Harris and his critics
2007 October 27
Has Martin Amis lost his marbles?
2007 October 22-25
Three-day workshop at the new SAP building in Berlin
2007 October 20
Mark Lilla on political theology, America and Islam
Can Benazir Bhutto
2007 October 19
The Deutsch-Wallace theorem adds new credibility to the Everett
interpretation of quantum mechanics by showing that reasonable subjective
probabilities for being in a branch reflect the usual Born probabilities.
Added abstracts and introduction to my Everett page
2007 October 18
Can we do physics with two time dimensions?
2007 October 17
"This president pursues a war without demanding of his generals either
success or victory and accepts the sacrifice of our brave young men and
women in uniform while asking nothing of our people or the nation at a time
of war. Sadly, this president has diminished a great nation and may diminish
Lou Dobbs, CNN
Has General Petraeus let us down?
2007 October 15
In his latest book, Rémi Brague contends that modern societies are made
possible only by the Christian experience of a divinity without law.
Christianity gave us natural law. Christianity conferred on us the idea of a
sovereign state. And Christianity furnished a powerful justification for
2007 October 10
"I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what
everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil."
2007 October 6
Pakistan at sixty
2007 October 5
A death in the family
2007 October 4
Happy anniversary Sputnik!
The European Patent Office tells me I am
cited as an inventor in European Patent 07015009-9-1225 "Business object
search using multi-join indexes and extended join indexes" filed by SAP AG
on July 31, 2007
2007 October 1
Can neuroscience pinpoint the error of fundamentalism?
2007 September 28
Key equations of quantum mechanics
arise from the mathematics of parallel universes
2007 September 25
Reading James Martin on the 21st century
2007 September 24
Baur au Lac Club, Zurich, Switzerland
Dinner with old boys from Exeter
2007 September 23
Viewed three Picasso exhibitions in Lucerne
Picasso Museum Lucerne
Museum of Art Lucerne
2007 September 19
My team's engine works in
SAP Business ByDesign
SAP tells me I am
cited as an inventor in U.S. Patent 7,263,520 "Fast Aggregation of
Compressed Data Using Full Table Scans" issued on August 28, 2007.
2007 September 18
Martin Heidegger wrote his Meisterwerk Sein und Zeit in a hut in the Black
2007 September 17
SAP's Very Big Small Biz
2007 September 16
"There is no effacing the intellectual distinction between political
theology, which appeals at some point to divine revelation, and a political
philosophy that tries to understand and attain the political good without
"I challenge the dominant
'master narrative' of secularization as the inevitable decline of religion
with advancing modernity."
2007 September 15
Ayn Rand as business guru
2007 September 14
Saudi Arabia: Aramco and Wahhabism
2007 September 12
The Once and Future Christendom
2007 September 11
The Singularity Summit — a report
Norman Podhoretz on World War IV
Gore and the assault on reason
2007 September 8-9
The Singularity Summit 2007
AI and the Future of Humanity
Fine Arts Theatre, San Francisco, CA
2007 September 8
Atonement is being
hailed as the best British film for years
2007 September 7
"How dare you call me a fundamentalist"
Richard Dawkins to his critics
+ the angels reply
2007 September 6
"A splendid, boisterously virile broadside of a book"
Richard Dawkins on
God Is Not Great
2D depiction of E8 symmetry, from
Matthew Chalmers, Physics World
2007 September 4
New book on Sigmund Freud +
footnote on Einstein
2007 September 2
My short take on prophecy, God and angels:
Futurologist Ray Kurzweil
prophesies an imminent dawn when robots overtake us. He sees exponential
growth in nanotechnology, genetic engineering and robotics. Nanotech
supercomputers will give robots superhuman brains. Genetic engineers will
build superhumans to achieve convergence with robots. Homo superior will
communicate brain to brain, via nanotech implants, in a global web
sustaining a collective consciousness. They will live in intelligent pods in
a Global Online Dominion and emerge from their pods in robotic exoskeletons.
They may see themselves as angelic beings who incarnate daily as robotic
cyborgs, and may see predawn humans as dinosaurs.
— new abstract for my
JCS 13(12), 97-104 (2006)
Magnetoencephalography for diagnostics
An amazing race for the clinically insane
2007 September 1
Your brain frees you from the everyday tasks of moving about in the world
around you, allowing you to concentrate on the things that are important to
you. However, the 'you' that is released into this social world is also a
construction of your brain.
The idea that
the brain constructs the mind is incomplete, and the quicker we realise
that, the quicker we will make progress in understanding both normal and
The birth rate for almost every
Western nation has fallen. A transformation in Western military strategy has
occurred alongside this demographic transformation. The prospect for greater
peace and tranquility abroad is connected to the prospect for greater
conflict and violence at home.
2007 August 31
SAP is investing a billion dollars in
2007 August 27
Henry Stapp argues for the quantum brain as a “collection of classically
conceived alternative possible states of the brain” all existing as parallel
parts of “a potentiality for future additions to a stream of consciousness”
2007 August 26
Qin Shi Huangdi comes to the British Museum
2007 August 25
Chris Hitchens preens in Vanity Fair —
2007 August 21
Some notes on the European malaise (Spengler et al.)
2007 August 19
"The current Big Bang paradigm has it that the cosmos is expanding out of an
initially dense state and that by looking outward into space, one can,
thanks to the finite speed of light, look back to much earlier epochs. ...
In its original form, an expanding Einstein model had an attractive,
economic elegance. Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties ..."
Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale?
2007 August 14
Today's atheist polemics ignore the main insight of the anthropology of
religion—that religion is not primarily about God, but about the human need
for the sacred.
Roger Scruton on René Girard
2007 August 13
"A childhood maths prodigy, Kagermann went on to forge a successful career
in both theoretical and practical physics ... Kagermann abandoned his
research into nuclear fusion and joined SAP ... Having turned 60 this year,
he was due to step down, but his contract was unexpectedly extended until
SAP CEO Henning Kagermann
"Hofstadter expresses disappointment that his 1979 masterpiece Gödel,
Escher, Bach was not recognized as explaining the true nature of
consciousness. I have to confess that it never occurred to me that it was
intended to do so."
What I missed in Las Vegas this summer
(PDF, 1 page, 111 KB)
2007 August 10
"Why is the Islamic world disengaged from science and the process of
creating new knowledge?
Let us seek to understand the state of science in
the contemporary Islamic world."
2007 August 8
Current debates about Israel's future indicate a growing rift between
liberalism and democracy.
2007 August 7
Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam has found that the greater the
diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer,
the less they give to charity and work on community projects.
The boston.com review
2007 August 3
This is your brain on love
2007 August 2
Article on biotech by the incomparable Freeman Dyson
2007 July 27
See my new literary celebrities page
2007 July 25
Tonight I could have been dining on the Danube with philosopher friends in a
2007 July 23-26
Toward a Science of Consciousness
Brain, Embodiment, Experience
Eötvös University, Budapest
2007 July 24
Another fine essay in the Hoover
Institution Policy Review, by Robert Kagan, on the return of national
rivalries in contemporary history and the looming struggle between democracy
2007 July 22
God is Not Great
better than I had feared, much better than my earlier wisecrack comments
(blog May 15) betrayed that I presumed, prematurely, on the basis of the
reviews. Maybe this is just because I knew his background and milieu
(Trotskyite Oxgrad, Fleet Street hack, literary friends like McEwan and Amis
and Rushdie ...) almost too well already, and mistrusted his globetrotter
glibness. Anyway, the book deserves an extended response, so I shall take my
time. Meanwhile, I can say it is more insightful in some respects and more
readable in all respects (for me, who knows too well and so on) than the
other recent atheist manifestos.
2007 July 19
Beyond Demonic Memes
David Sloane Wilson
Richard Dawkins and I share much in
common. We are both biologists by training who have written widely about
evolutionary theory. We share an interest in culture as an evolutionary
process in its own right. We are both atheists in our personal convictions
who have written books on religion. In Darwin's Cathedral I attempted to
contribute to the relatively new field of evolutionary religious studies.
When Dawkins' The God Delusion was published I naturally assumed that he was
basing his critique of religion on the scientific study of religion from an
evolutionary perspective. I regret to report otherwise. He has not done any
original work on the subject and he has not fairly represented the work of
his colleagues. Hence this critique.
2007 July 17
Reading Chris Hitchens' polemical bestseller about religion — good review of it in
2007 July 16
Reviewed my recent reading.
The Diana Chronicles by
Love on Campus (American Scholar)
Black Mass by John Gray
2007 July 1-15
Enjoyed a vacation with the family in Poole:
bathing and running on beach in wet windy weather
— Aerobatic display at
RNAS Yeovilton international air day
— Yoga massage by a gifted
— Eating out in good company at local restaurants
Watching some recent movies in a home cinema
— Philosophizing with old
friends in and around Oxford
— Attending an inspiring choral recital by a
2007 June 29
Granted full blogging rights on the SAP Developer Network.
My latest SDN
How far can SAP go beyond the enterprise?
2007 June 27
Richard Rorty was not a philosopher for whom I had any special admiration as
a student, but his position is at least refreshingly different from that of
his Anglo-American analytic contemporaries, and therefore deserves a passing
My cut of an appreciation
2007 June 25
Delivered my annual guest lecture at the University of Trier:
Enterprise Service Oriented Architecture
nice review in the WSJ of a book enquiring into how to stem
the tide of girls gone wild.
My short take
"There are some things
that are so serious that you can only joke about them"
2007 June 22-25
ASSC11 — 11th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study
Palace Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
AR Sadly, I'm still at
home and not there — sorry, guys!
2007 June 16
News from the Middle East ... was historian Niall Ferguson right in the
article he published exactly 17 months ago?
The Origins of the Great War
2007 June 15
My work in the SAP NetWeaver EIM TREX team is still fun. This week I was
preparing lectures on our work for the Hasso Plattner Institute, University
2007 June 12
AR This review soundly reflects my own take on
Douglas Hofstadter's book. Strange loops are now
respectable entities, which they were not in my characterization in a book I
wrote exactly thirty years ago. I blame myself for not having clarified
their logic as far as Hofstadter did.
2007 June 10
Letter to a Christian Nation
"The letter that Harris claims is intended for a Christian
nation is in fact wholly uninterested in Christianity on any level, is
hugely ignorant, and essentially represents his own love letter to himself."
Mary Eberstadt has published a fine study in
religious anthropology arguing that instead of seeing religiosity as
determining family size and structure, we should see family values as
expressing themselves in religiosity. I find the case persuasive and well
supported. Nietzsche's madman saw only the tip of an anthropological
2007 Corpus Christi
Sunny day, went swimming ... herrlich!
2007 June 5
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan: a review and my verdict
2007 June 2
Review by Lee Smolin of Einstein's life and works
AR Bravo — Lee Smolin (blog 2006 September 17-20) has enlisted Einstein in
support of his own views on string theory and loop quantum gravity, and
quite rightly too. Anyone in physics now with the sort of temperament
Einstein displayed a hundred years ago should be looking at radical
approaches to quantum gravity — such as the
topoi approach of Isham and
Döring (blog 2007 April 16) and the twistor ideas of Roger Penrose. We need
to put Einstein the mythic clown aside and focus on the burning foundational
issue in physics before we leave Einstein's ghost to rest in peace.
2007 May 30
The novel The Islamist reviewed by
2007 May 27
Al Gore and reviews of his new book
2007 May 26
Elaine Pagels is doing pioneering academic work on the foundations of
Christianity. She talks about her recent book
Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity,
coauthored with Karen King, on the Edge website.
My edition of the talk
Is there a case for bombing Iran?
The opinion of Norman Podhoretz
2007 May 23
Well, will robots see humans as dinosaurs?
The opinion of Professor Zimmerman
2007 May 22
Read reviews of the pope's new book:
Jesus of Nazareth
2007 May 21
2007 May 19
Reduced to my customary short form a fine article on Islam published by the
2007 May 15
Read a suitably unimpressed review of Chris Hitchens' new book about
religion. As the latest in a series of books about religion started by Sam
Harris, Dan Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, the new polemic by Chris
represents a sad nadir in the art of topping all previous efforts. Chris
achieves rhetorical effects, sure enough, but not philosophical hits, or at
least not when I recall what I know about him and if I can trust what I read
in this review.
My edition of the review
2007 May 8
Created a summary page outlining my own philosophical views.
Ross's Integrative Philosophy
2007 May 7
Created a devotional page outlining Bede's philosophical views.
Bede's Perennial Philosophy
was regarded by many as a prophet, a sage, a mystic,
even a saint.
He was open to all paths by
which people might be said
to seek God.
2007 May 5
Read an interesting article comparing Islamism to Marxism.
My edition of the article
I need to cultivate inner peace about Islam. Perhaps a dose of
2007 May 4
Read a fine article on historian Niall Ferguson.
My teaser for the article
2007 May 1
Via the improbable activity of writing a comment in an On Faith blog on a
new target article by Sam Harris, and inspired by the works of Julian Jaynes
and Douglas Hofstadter, I have found:
A new way to imagine God
2007 April 23
Sexualizing Everyday Life
Scantily clad Australian women, complains Egyptian
sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly, go
around like "exposed meat" inviting rape.
The sheik was complaining about a process that has gone on
so long and so far that it has become the water we swim in
and the air we breathe: a sexually heightened moral environment far removed
from most normal human cultures in the past, where once forbidden instincts,
thoughts, and desires, along with grossly exhibitionistic behavior, are now
increasingly treated as routine.
A hundred years ago the German
author Thomas Mann made an interesting comment. Thinking about morality and
its relation to the world of art, he wrote that "as the
kingdom of art increases, that of health and innocence declines." Many
artists are estranged from life, he said, pursue goals hostile to life, and
work continually to destroy the bourgeois world.
artist's gift, wrote Thomas Mann in 1903,is a dubious affair and rests
upon extremely sinister foundations. Most artists are sick in mind
and spirit, a danger to decent people and heedless of the damage they cause.
Plumbers and carpenters and other tradesmen are reliable friends. But
artists are not.
Today the debate is more likely to concern the acceptability of
public copulation or pubic display. If it's okay for Paris Hilton to make a
video of herself having sex and to share it about in cyberspace, why
shouldn't Susie and Jim make one too? A glance at any newspaper shows how
each libertine advance ratchets up another without anyone knowing where to
Sheik al-Hilaly is a boor and a pest. He undeniably has a wider
political agenda. But getting the balance right between the animal and the civil has been a
problem since civilization began. There has been a
perpetual strain between the puritan tendency and the libertine, in China,
in Japan, in India, and in the West as well, some cultures and some eras
veered to the voluptuary.
A burly sheik in a nightshirt may seem an
improbable source of moral guidance, yet he's calling the shots as he sees
2007 April 22
I Am a Strange Loop by
Douglas Hofstadter. Looking good — a worthy successor to
2007 April 19
Looking over some old papers, I found a sci-fi story I wrote in early 1999 —
2007 April 16
A Topos Foundation for Theories of Physics
Andreas Döring and
This paper is the first in a series whose goal is
to develop a fundamentally new way of constructing theories of physics. The
motivation comes from a desire to address certain deep issues that arise
when contemplating quantum theories of space and time. Our basic contention
is that constructing a theory of physics is equivalent to finding a
representation in a topos of a certain formal language that is attached to
the system. Classical physics arises when the topos is the category of sets.
Other types of theory employ a different topos.
In this paper we discuss two different types of language that can be
attached to a system, S. The first is a propositional language, PL(S); the
second is a higher-order, typed language L(S). Both languages provide
deductive systems with an intuitionistic logic. The reason for introducing
PL(S) is that, as shown in paper II of the series, it is the easiest way of
understanding, and expanding on, the earlier work on topos theory and
quantum physics. However, the main thrust of our programme utilises the more
powerful language L(S) and its representation in an appropriate topos.
AR Physics without the continuum,
generalized metatheory to cover classical and quantum physics, and set
theory generalized in topos theory to allow nonclassical logic: these are
the issues that exceeded my mental powers as a graduate student who would
like to have solved just this set of problems.
2007 April 14
The History at the End of History
In my 1992 book
The End of History and the Last Man I argued that, if a society wanted
to be modern, there was no alternative to a market economy and a democratic
The desire to live in a modern society and to be
free of tyranny is universal. This is demonstrated by the efforts of
millions of people each year to move from the developing to the developed
world, where they hope to find the political stability, job opportunities,
health care, and education that they lack at home. But this is different
from saying that there is a universal desire to live in a liberal society,
or an ability to actually do so.
I believe that the European Union
more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history
than the contemporary United States.
2007 April 5
Europe and Islam
Muslims perceive a cosmic struggle for world domination between
Christianity and Islam.
The Muslim attack on Christendom has gone through
three phases. The first dates from the very beginning of Islam, when the new
faith spilled out of the Arabian Peninsula. After a long and bitter
struggle, the Christians managed to retake the territory they had lost in
In 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople. They conquered a
large part of the Balkans, and for a while ruled half of Hungary. Twice they
reached as far as Vienna. The European counterattack began a new phase which
brought the European attack into the very heart of the Middle East. In our
own time, we have seen the end of the resulting domination.
bin Laden saw it, the millennial struggle between the true believers and the
unbelievers had gone through successive phases. The world of the infidels
was divided and disputed between the United States and the Soviet Union. In
his perception, the Muslims have destroyed the more dangerous of the two
infidel superpowers. Dealing with the Americans would be easy. This was the
perceived sequence leading up to 9/11.
The third wave of attack on
Europe has begun. This time it is taking the forms of terror and migration.
The danger of Islamic radicalism or of radical terrorism is far greater in
Europe and America than it is in the Middle East and North Africa. The
distinction of church and state is a Christian distinction which has no
place in Islamic history.
In Europe, as in the United States, a
frequent response is what is variously known as multiculturalism and
political correctness. We have seen in our own day the extraordinary
spectacle of a pope apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades. The Islamic
radicals have even been able to find some allies in Europe.
in Europe do not have their own social and legal life in the modern state.
2007 March 30
Lyra Goes To Hollywood
I didn't want to write the screenplay for the
film to be called The Golden Compass. It isn't a complete story in itself;
it's the first part of a long story published in three volumes. The whole
thing took me seven years to write, and the last thing I wanted to do when
the film rights were sold, quite early on, was to take it all apart and put
it together differently. I was happy to let someone else do it.
Far From Narnia
Philip Pullman is fervently admired for his
sophisticated trilogy of children's novels called, collectively,
Dark Materials. Pullman is one of England's most outspoken atheists. In the
trilogy, a young girl, Lyra Belacqua, becomes enmeshed in an epic struggle
against a nefarious Church.
Pullman's books have been likened to
those of J. R. R. Tolkien, but he scoffs at the notion of any resemblance:
"The Lord of the Rings is fundamentally an infantile work."
AR Like me, Pullman matriculated at Exeter
College, Oxford, where earlier Tolkien had been a professor. He's in the
2003 college gaudy picture with me.
So the movie means a lot to me.
2007 March 27
Read an excellent
John Updike of a biography by
Walter Isaacson of Albert Einstein.
My edition of the review
2007 March 26
Today there are an estimated 15 million to 17
million Muslims living in Europe. Their national origins vary dramatically
from country to country. Maladapted youth whom the integration process has
failed and who feel torn between two worlds are attracted to Islamism.
The rise of Islamism in Europe has everything to do with the failures of
integration. Official government policy toward Muslim immigrants has also
differed vastly from nation to nation.
Britain and Holland have for
the most part embraced a multicultural approach. Dutch patience with
multiculturalism seems to have reached a tipping point. A similar
disillusionment with multiculturalism has suffused Britain.
republican ideology is studiously tone-deaf to considerations of
difference.Firm lines of separation between church and state ensure that
public education remains in the hands of state officials. Republicans are
not about to cede to Muslim immigrants the gains made in the struggle
2007 March 25
The Pea and the Sun
Leonard M. Wapner
AR The book presents the
Banach-Tarski theorem. This says a ball can be cut
into a finite number of pieces, which can be reassembled to create two
balls, each as big as the original, or just as easily to create a vastly
bigger ball. The theorem is based on some point set theory I studied many
years ago, and requires the
axiom of choice. This says that for any
collection of nonempty sets, a choice set can be created that contains just
one set from each set in the collection. This is trivial in finite domains,
but for uncountable collections it is highly non-constructive, and hence
suspect. The book proves the theorem and adds some entertaining background.
Image © The M.C. Escher Company, Baarn, Holland
Circle Limit IV
(Angels and Devils)
This graphic presents the Poincaré disk model of the hyperbolic plane, which
can be used to illustrate a version of
the Hausdorff paradox, which
in turn is closely related to
the Banach-Tarski result, as Leonard Wapner explains.
2007 March 24
Mark Steyn on the Islamist threat to the West:
European establishment regards its electorate as children.
— The nanny
state infantilized Europeans and feminized the males.
rates plummeted, leaving too few workers to pay for the state.
demographic collapse is the start of a population death spiral.
collapse of confidence has bred civilizational exhaustion.
— To keep the
economic machine running meant accepting foreign workers.
— Muslims are
changing Europe: Premodern Islam beats post-modern Christianity.
is too enfeebled to resist transformation into Eurabia.
— America will
emerge as the lonely survivor.
His advice to Americans:
the state and promote self-reliance and individual innovation.
Forget Fortress America, destroy Islamic militants and reform Islam.
Failing that, expect a new Dark Ages.
Direct military confrontation is precisely the wrong way to defeat
Islamism. A global bloodbath would be worse than the disease. Islamism is
primitive and disgusting but many Muslims see this too. Western decadence is
also disgusting, and many post-Christians see this too. A reasonable
conclusion is possible. American fundamentalism is more likely to start a
nuclear war that spoils the environment for everyone than "save" the world
for traditional Christian values.
The Gelded Age
Mark Steyn says many European countries will
have Muslim majorities in future. The low birth rates of the native
populations are caused by the welfare state. The laughably weak pieties of
multiculturalism render the native population incapable of resisting
Alarmist predictions of Islamization presuppose that
the populations of Islamic origin in Europe will not change in their
allegiance to Islam. This is debatable.
Islamic fundamentalism is a
response to an awareness that, if the methods of intellectual inquiry that
were used to challenge Christianity were permitted in the Muslim world,
Islam would soon fall apart. But if Islam fell apart in the Islamic world,
what source of self-respect would be left?
There has been a decline
of cultural confidence in the West. Without a notion that there is something
in human life worth striving for, no great thing is ever achieved.
Dinesh D'Souza argues that American licentiousness is fostering radical
Islamic anti-Americanism. He is surely correct that many Muslims are
disgusted by the American spectacle, just as many are fascinated,
titillated, and enticed by it. But he fails to find a defensible middle
2007 March 23
Dinesh D'Souza believes there is a moral order in
the universe, which establishes an enduring standard of right and wrong:
"All the major religions of the world agree on the existence of this moral
Theoconservatism demands that individual autonomy be
sacrificed for obedience to the external moral order. It refuses to accept
the notion that government can be neutral with respect to morality.
For D'Souza, America has become a country dedicated to the values of
secularism, feminism, homosexuality, prostitution, and pornography. He
praises Islamism as a global ideology: "Islam is best understood not in
terms of obedience but rather in terms of voluntary submission to a divinely
established moral order."
D'Souza sees traditional Islamic societies
as paragons of social meaning and cohesion: Women know their place,
homosexuals are invisible, blasphemy is illegal, pornography is banned, and
modesty is enforced.
Khaled Abou El Fadl: "A case for democracy
presented from within Islam must accept the idea of God's sovereignty. It
cannot substitute popular sovereignty for divine sovereignty but must
instead show how popular sovereignty .. expresses God's authority, properly
2007 March 18
Read Prime Obsession to the end
— utterly wonderful and fascinating. Real
and serious math presented with both care and passion, plus useful
historical background. Five stars.
My literary agent was at first skeptical ...
I announced, "I'd like to write a book about a great unsolved
problem ... the Riemann Hypothesis."
"I see. And what does it say, this Riemann Hypothesis?"
"It asserts that all the nontrivial zeros of the Zeta function have
My agent looked at me in silence ...
2007 March 17
Took delivery of three books from Amazon:
Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in
by John Derbyshire
Brain Science and Human Knowledge
by Gerald M. Edelman
Programming the Universe
A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
2007 March 11
Wider Than The Sky
AR Good book — I should read it
again to be sure I got it. Edelman is the inventor of neural Darwinism,
which is the idea that neurons in the brains compete with each other to set
up the infrastructure of thought. I liked his earlier books enough to read
this one. His views are worth taking the time to understand.
2007 February 25
House of Meetings
AR An impressive piece of
work, as good a modern British take on a Russian novel as one could hope
for. Why we should want a British Russian novel will be obvious to anyone
who reads it. The Russian experience in the twentieth century was remarkable
and astonishing, and well worth the depth of feeling Amis brings to the
Finished reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Not his best book by
any means but a good and useful contribution to a necessary debate. Contra
Terry Eagleton, he is quite sufficiently qualified to hold forth as he does.
2007 February 22
Philosophy professor David J. Chalmers attended an ontology conference in
Tucson, Arizona in January. His
fragments blog reports he presented a 50-page paper:
From his introduction: "The basic question of ontology is: What exists? The
basic question of metaontology is: Are there objective answers to the basic
question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological
anti-realists say no."
2007 February 21
Posted comment on Sally Quinn page:
Eroticism and Celibacy in Hinduism
A strange loop is a phenomenon in which, whenever movement is made upward or
downward through the levels of some hierarchical system, the system
unexpectedly arrives back where it started. Douglas Hofstadter uses strange
loops as a paradigm to interpret paradoxes in logic. His
new book has just
2007 February 19
Posted comment on Jon Meacham page:
Faith In the Public Square
2007 February 13-14
Posted comments on William and Janet Cohen page:
Love Is a Force That Pulls Hearts Together
Also posted on Mohammad Khatami pages:
Prayer Offers Humans Tranquility
Absolute Truth Manifests Itself in Diverse Ways
2007 February 11
Read "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris and "Why I Am Not a
Christian" and "What I Believe" by Bertrand Russell, and started reading
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.
Oxford theologian Richard Swinburne: "Theism claims that every other
object which exists is caused to exist and kept in existence by just one
(Quoted by Richard Dawkins)
2007 February 9
Posted comment on Dan Dennett page:
'God' or 'Allah'?
2007 February 6
Raw draft for next paper:
God and Sam Harris
Abstract: Popular discussions of religion are often dismayingly bereft of
logical rigor or scientific clarity, but the recent attack on organized
religion spearheaded by Sam Harris has ignited a radical debate that sets
new standards of quality. I offer my own logical and scientific perspective
on the main points.
2007 February 4
Posted comments on Jon Meacham page:
Believing In Things Unseen Is Not Delusion
2007 January 31
Reorganized my Sam Harris blog
2007 January 21
As the founder of the German company
SAP, the world's third largest software maker after Microsoft and Oracle,
Hasso Plattner has been every bit as influential as peers like Bill
Gates or Steve Jobs. ... Most technology companies have only one
great idea. SAP's genius was to bring the power of the mainframe to the
desktop. Whether it can repeat that in the Internet age remains to be seen.
2007 January 13-20
Added yet more to my comments.
Sam has now posted a new blog:
Sam is hitting the hot buttons here but I want to give Dan Dennett a
Dan's On Faith blogs
2007 January 13-14
Read the report on the
Beyond Belief conference on the
"I find it fascinating that brilliant scientists and philosophers have no
clue how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society
other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be
rational and evidence based."
2007 January 9
Added yet more to my comments.
The second target article has changed its name:
Selfless Consciousness Without Faith
2007 January 7
Still adding forum comments, including one to a new On Faith target article
by Sam Harris:
Consciousness Without Faith
2007 January 5
Will Robots See Humans As
Michael E. Zimmerman
This is the best short summary that I've
read having to do with a (from the current dinosaur human perspective)
dystopian vision of the techno-future. Perhaps to our cyborg descendents we
will seem like seriously deficient Untermenschen, or outright vermin, worthy
Andy Ross unashamedly endorses Ray Kurzweil's vision, which in turn
unashamedly promotes the most mindless view of the capabilities of AI,
conceived as the future replicator of human perception and cognition, ever
espoused on the planet.
A theory of cognition is ultimately dependent
on a theory of perception. Without solving the problem of perception, there
is no solid basis for the theory of memory. A solution will imply a new
theory of memory and cognition and a new global view on the function and
purpose of the brain.
2007 January 1
Started adding comments to a Washington Post online
forum based on a target article by Sam Harris:
God’s Enemies Are More Honest Than His Friends