All of mundane reality is ruled by Chaos. I've pieced together an incongruous montage dealing with chaos theory. Feel free to read from the top down or the bottom up:
Excerpts rom the "Opacity
" blog by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan
61 Aesthetics & Religion [Platonicity & Empiricisms]: Two Interesting Thinkers –In More than One Respect
Religion has very little to do with “belief”; it is an indivisible package of aesthetics, ethics, social-emotional commitments, and transmission of κηρύγμα, a set of customs and rituals inherited from the elders. Indeed the complication of “belief” is mostly a Western Christianity type of constructed problems, and a modern one at that: ask an Eastern Orthodox monk “what he believes”, and he will be puzzled: he would tell you what he practices. [I discussed the “amin” in an earlier note]. Orthodoxy is principally liturgy, fasting, practices, and tradition; it is an ornate religion that focuses on aesthetics and requires a very strong commitment. “Belief” is meaningless; practice is real. What we now translate by “veneration”, προσκυνει is literally bowing down to the ground a very physical act [Note that I am not partaking of the current debate on religion out of disrespect for almost all the participants: aside from being journalistic in the worst bildungsphilistinistic sense, particularly when they talk about “probability”, most are not even wrong].
Two thinkers stand out: the pagan apologist Libanius of Antioch (friend of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate) who attacked Christianity for the very same reasons he would defend it today against such philosophasters as Dawkins –its destruction of the old practices, the abandonment of the accumulated mysteries, it simplistic move away from classical erudition. And, mostly, its belief. Libanius was a formidable orator, the last Greek purist in Syria. More on him, later. The second one is Saint John Damascene one of the fathers of the Greek Church, the one who attacked the iconoclasts and to whom we owe the restoration of icons.
51 Distortions and Cultural Contagion
Peter Bevelin commented on the previous note linking it to the “fallacy of silent evidence” –survivorship bias [cf. glossary of The Black Swan]. He sees the compounding consequences of such distortions on cultural formation. Replication compounds distortions since new distortions will take place at every step; we lose track of the original and the true. Distortions have Fat Tails. [It resembles the distortions in Merton’s cumulative advantage].
Indeed things, Peter, are far worse. Dan Sperber’s model of contagion that I’ve tried to explain to anyone who could listen to me is that things do not replicate without an agenda. These are notes I took after a long Sunday afternoon conversation at Deux Magots.
The anthropologist, cognitive scientist, and philosopher Dan Sperber has proposed the following idea on the epidemiology of representations. What people call “memes,” ideas that spread and that compete with one another using people as carriers, are not truly like genes. Ideas spread because, alas, they have for carriers self-serving agents who are interested in them, and interested in distorting them in the replication process. You do not make a cake for the sake of merely replicating a recipe—you try to make your own cake, using ideas from others to improve it. We humans are not photocopiers.
The idea of Sperber (counter the ideas of Blackmore, Dawkins, and other people who wrote on this before him) is that memes don’t resemble genes. The comparison is naive, too naive –one of those naive analogies. Culture has no DNA; it does not replicate mechanically like genes –errors in replication are neither independent nor random: they are, I repeat, self-serving; self-serving! [Ref: See Sperber’s Explaining Culture. For Dawkins, see his foreword to Susan Blackmore’s book on memes. Luckily it seems that Dawkins and Blackmore have been cured of the meme theory].
49 How Can You Tell a Cultural Philistine?
I received plenty of questions about the Bildungsphilister in my Black Swan Glossary. Trivial: someone commoditized in his knowledge and tastes, lacking idiosyncratic traits. Say someone who likes Matisse because it is the thing to do and, when he travels, makes sure to visit Impressionist galleries arts museums in order to be sophisticated (true someone may be genuine in his love of Matisse but it should come from personal trial and error, after disliking the sculptures of the third floor, not because the vagaries of the auctioneer’s hammer. The same Bildungsphilister would have scorned Matisse before it penetrated our consciousness). Or someone who tells you that he “loves French literature” and then announces that his favorites are Flaubert, Sartre, Camus, literally authors commonly selected in a French literature class (there are thousands of French authors so you know that it is not his taste that is driving him, but that he is following a script and borrowing his selection from general accepted guidelines. It would be different is he said Modiano, Cesbron, Déon, Vian, Allais, Bove, Gary, and Elsa Triolet. No two people have the same tastes so why should someone be exactly lined-up to the common canon?). The Bildungsphilister has a pathological vulnerability to cultural constructions. The same applies to the philisto-academic: he just follows topics used by others, ranking them by importance, without a shade of intellectual independence. In fact in academia the great dominant majority of workers are Bildungsphilisters, with a small minority of persons in possession of a brain on their own. It is even more widespread among philosophers: In fact I am still looking for a philosopher who could explain to me why the problem of induction is called “Hume’s problem”, not Huet’s problem.
So I find it always suspicious when someone’s erudition matches the common culture, with minimal variations. Or when someone’s bookshelves match the Penguin classics section at Heathrow airport. Typically they a know a few things but they are not truly driven by intellectual hunger. They might do well in school because they focus on the curriculum, given that they have no taste of their own.A Scientific Approach to ChaosThe role of the mind in interaction with this world.
It works through analogy.
A Lorenz attractor:
"The I with which I see God is the I with which God sees me." - Meister Eckhart
Ask anybody what the physical world is made of, and you are likely to be told "matter and energy." Yet if we have learned anything from engineering, biology and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient. The robot at the automobile factory is supplied with metal and plastic but can make nothing useful without copious instructions telling it which part to weld to what and so on. A ribosome in a cell in your body is supplied with amino acid building blocks and is powered by energy released by the conversion of ATP to ADP, but it can synthesize no proteins without the information brought to it from the DNA in the cell's nucleus. Likewise, a century of developments in physics has taught us that information is a crucial player in physical systems and processes. Indeed, a current trend, initiated by John A. Wheeler of Princeton University, is to regard the physical world as made of information, with energy and matter as incidentals