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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Car-of-the-Future Is a Better Analogy Than Behe's Mousetrap

Scientist Michael Behe has argued in a series of books that living organisms are too complex and organized to be the mere products of Darwinian evolution.  He argues that there must have been some intelligent agency driving the appearance of living things.  Much of Behe's reasoning is based on biochemistry, the complexities of which are over the heads of most people. 

But Behe has a nice simple analogy that he has used for many years  to advance his main argument.  He often evokes an analogy in which complex biological innovations are compared to a mousetrap.  Behe cites a mousetrap as an example of what he calls irreducible complexity.  He defines irreducible complexity as some functional innovation that requires all of its parts to exist and to be arranged in the right way.  According to Behe, a mousetrap is an example of irreducible complexity, because every one of its parts is needed for the mousetrap to work.  Behe reasons that there are very many components in organisms that are like mousetraps, in the sense that they require all of their parts to be functional. 

This analogy of a mousetrap is one that has received widespread attention, as has the phrase "irreducible complexity." But the mousetrap analogy is not a very good one, and the phrase "irreducible complexity" is a clumsy and ineffective way of describing the stupendous order, complexity and organization of living things. 

Let us look at some impressive characteristics of large living organisms:

(1) They are information rich.  Contrary to a widely circulated myth widely spread to serve the ideological purposes of Darwinists, it is absolutely untrue that living organisms carry around in their cells or DNA any blueprint or program or recipe for making such organisms. The DNA is cells merely contains low-level chemical information such as the amino sequences to make the polypeptide chains that are the starting points of protein molecules.  But while DNA does not contain any specification of anatomy, it is at least information-rich. The essence of information is the use of representational tokens, in which some individual tokens (low-level semantic units) stand for or represent some larger physical or conceptual thing.  DNA does qualify as information, because it is a series of nucleotide base pairs, and particular combinations of these base pairs stand for particular amino acids used to construct proteins.  A human DNA molecule has 3 billion nucleotide base pairs, and these 3 billion units qualify as both information and representational information. So because a human is carrying a huge amount of information in each of his cells, we can call a human information-rich. Other simpler organisms also carry very high levels of information in their DNA, so every organism is information-rich. 

(2)  They are enormously organized.  The degree of organization in large living organisms is greater than the organization of anything humans have constructed. A single cell is so organized that is has been compared in complexity to a factory or a city. 

(3) They have a hierarchical organization.  The organization of large organisms is extremely hierarchical.  Subatomic particles are organized into atoms, which are organized into amino acids, which are organized into protein molecules, which are organized into protein complexes, which are organized into organelles, which are organized into cells, which are organized into tissues, which are organized into organs, which are organized into organ systems, which are organized into organisms. 

(4) They are gigantically dynamic. Humans have known for centuries about two ways in which organisms are dynamic: first, the fact that organisms can move, and second that organisms grow from a small size to a large size.  In recent decades, scientists have come to understand a third way in which organisms are dynamic: the fact that internally organisms are enormously dynamic, both because of constant motion inside in the body, and also because of a constant activity inside the body involving cellular changes. Just one example of this enormously dynamic actvity is that fact that protein molecules in the brain are replaced at a rate of about 3% per day. A large organism is like some building that is constantly being rebuilt, with some fraction of it being torn down every day, and some other fraction of it being replaced every day.  The analogy comparing a cell to a factory gives us some idea of the gigantically dynamic nature of organisms. 

(5) They reproduce. Scientists understand how human females can become pregnant, but they do not at all understand how large organisms are able to reproduce. Scientists cannot even credibly explain how a single cell is able to reproduce. Scientists lack any credible explanation of how a speck-sized egg is able to progress to become the enormous organization of a large organism with so many different types of cells and organs. There is no truth to the claim that organisms reproduce because some blueprint or recipe for making the organism is read from the organism's genome or DNA.  No such blueprint or recipe exists in DNA, which merely contains low-level chemical information such as the amino acids sequences of a protein molecule.  Once you study all the very many types of incredibly dynamic and fine-tuned chemical and cellular choreography going on in the body, continuous intricate processes necessary for life, you may start to realize how childish is the very idea that an organism with such enormously dynamic internal activity could ever be specified by a blueprint (a plan for constructing static immobile things). We take for granted the miracle of reproduction because it almost always happens under a certain set of conditions. Similarly, if you could always conjure up a delicious 10-course meal by saying "Abracadabra," you might take such a thing for granted, and think it nothing very special.  Without resorting to misstatements such as false and childish claims that organisms reproduce by a reading of a DNA blueprint for making the organism, evolutionary biologists are unable to explain the reproduction of large organisms. 

There is an acronym we can use to remind us of some of these characteristics. The acronym is HIRDREOC, which stands for Hierarchical Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity.  Almost all large visible biological organisms are examples of HIRDREOC. To describe humans, we might use the acronym CHIRDREOC, which stands for Comprehending Hierarchical Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity.

Now, let us look at Michael Behe's analogy of the mousetrap. Does such an analogy describe most of the impressive HIRDREOC characteristics I have listed? No, the analogy fails to do that. Mousetraps do not contain any information, and no part of a mousetrap stands for or represents something else.  Mousetraps are slightly organized, but they are not at all enormously organized.  Mousetraps do not have any hierarchical organization. Mousetraps do not reproduce. Mousetraps are only very slightly dynamic. The only movement that occurs in a mousetrap is when the trap slams shut. Even when organisms are resting, there is an enormous amount of dynamic activity inside of the organisms. There is no such incessant activity for a mousetrap, which only moves once. 

So the mousetrap analogy does a bad job of suggesting the enormously impressive aspects of living organisms. Inside organisms are parts and systems a million times more impressive than the minimal functional organization of a mousetrap. But you might argue: at least the mousetrap explains the idea of irreducible complexity pretty well. But such a phrase of "irreducible complexity" is not a very good one to be using if you are trying to show the shortcomings of Darwinian explanations. 

There are two problems with the phrase "irreducible complexity." The first is that merely appealing to "complexity"  is not very convincing.  One defintion of "complexity" is "having many parts." But there are many natural things that accidentally appeared, and have many parts. A pile of rocks that arose from a landslide can be said to have complexity, in the sense of having many parts. But we know that such a thing can easily arise accidentally.  The mere word  "complexity" does a poor job of describing things that are functionally organized to achieve a particular result.   If you want to argue that organisms have characteristics that they could not have obtained through accidental processes, it is better to use more specific terms such as these:

  • functional complexity
  • organization 
  • highly organized complexity
  • fine-tuned complexity
  • IRDREOC (Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity)
  • HIRDREOC (Hierarchical Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity)

The second problem with the phrase "irreducible complexity" is that it is a mistake to put too much emphasis on a situation in which every part is needed for something to function. Systems that need every one of their parts to function seem to be pretty rare. But it is extremely common for there to exist some arrangement of parts too difficult to appear accidentally, with most but not all of the parts being necessary for function. 

Below are some categories of innovations. These categories are not mutually exclusive.




Type A Innovation

Innovation requires all of its parts to have any functional benefit

Mousetrap, probably some biological units

Type B Innovation

Innovation requires almost all of its parts before any functional benefit

Jet aircraft, many protein molecules. Suspension bridge. Television, digital computer.

Type C Innovation

Innovation requires most of its parts before any benefit

Cells, most protein molecules, an automobile (which doesn't need its roof, doors or seats or car hood or bumper to be functional), electric fan (which gives some benefit even if the cage and stand are missing), cardiovascular system

Type D Innovation

Innovation requires a series of sub-components, each of which is useless until mostly completed.

Office tower. Each floor provides a benefit. But the construction of each floor requires many new parts, and no floor is useful until mainly completed. Also porcupine barbs (each barb is useful).

Type E innovation

Innovation may have some use in a relatively simple fractional form, but then requires many more parts organized in the right way to achieve a higher level of usefulness

Vision systems (?)

Type F innovation

Innovation requires an arrangement of several complex parts before becoming useful, with at least 25% of its part existing and well-arranged until functionality is achieved

Type G innovation

As each small simple part of the innovation is added, usefulness is slightly increased

Roof insulation, but almost nothing in the world of biology.

Most of the impressive innovations in biology seem to be Type B innovations or Type C innovations. Such innovations are not credibly explained as being the results of blind accidental processes, and are not credibly explained by any ideas of evolutionary biologists. But such Type B innovations and Type C innovations are not "irreducibly complex" in the sense of requiring all of their parts to be functional.  So such innovations are not appropriately described by an analogy of a mousetrap. 

The most common biological innovations are protein molecules, which consist of hundreds of amino acids arranged in the right way to achieve a functional end. Humans have more than 20,000 types of protein molecules, and in the animal kingdom there are billions of types of protein molecules. The average human protein molecule has about 480 amino acids, and some proteins have more than 700 amino acids. Most protein molecules have more than thirty times as many parts as a mousetrap. Most protein molecules require most or almost all of their amino acid parts to be functional, but probably can still function if one or two of those amino acids are missing.  So we should not be describing such molecules as "irreducibly complex," in the sense of requiring every one of their parts. But such molecules can be credibly described as "accidentally unachievable," for there is no credible scenario under which such molecules can arise because of random natural processes.  The boast that scientists have figured out the origin of species is one that arose long before scientists understood the complexity of protein molecules, and is a boast that should have been retracted as soon as the complexity of protein molecules was discovered in the middle of the twentieth century. 

Michael Behe's latest book is entitled "A Mousetrap for Darwin." By sticking to the lame and clumsy analogy of a mousetrap, Behe has made things too easy for his critics. We can imagine their thoughts:

"Why my job is not too hard -- all I have to do is explain how life could  accidentally get things as complex as a mousetrap. That shouldn't be too hard; mousetraps aren't very complex." 

Is there a better analogy we could use to replace this not-very-good analogy of a mousetrap? As I mentioned above, the impressive things about organisms is that they are examples of HIRDREOC, which stands for Hierarchical Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity.  A car of the future might be an example of such a thing. If we imagine a car of the future, we can get an analogy for something that is HIRDREOC. 

Let's consider each of the words in that acronym:

Hierarchical: Today a car has an organization that is somewhat hierarchical.  A car has two wheeled axles, each of which is composed of smaller components (a wheel and an axle). The engine of a car has a somewhat hierarchical organization. Each engine is composed of several pistons and several cam shafts.  Each seat unit consists of several parts, when we consider the position adjustment lever and the seat belt. We can imagine a car of the future that is even more hierarchical. Each window might be a complex unit consisting of many sub parts, such as parts that automatically cause the window to become visible despite rain or dust, and parts that automatically reduce the window's visibility when you yell "reduce my visibility to others" or "too much sun." Each seat in the car might consist of many different parts, including its own individual video screen and sound system, allowing three different passengers to enjoy three different movies while the car is driving.  

Information-Rich: In the 1960's a car would be information rich only in the sense that there would almost always be maps in its glove compartment. Nowadays there may be no such maps, but many cars are information-rich in the sense of having computerized components that use information.  We can imagine a car of the future being very information rich, with a built-in GPS and mapping system, so that your current location (on a map) is always displayed on a small screen on the car dashboard. Such a car might also have information that warns you of upcoming bad weather on the route you are driving, or information that warns you to slow down whenever you drive though some zone with a lower speed limit (such as a school zone). 

Dynamic: A car is dynamic in the sense of being very mobile, and in the sense of having engine parts such as pistons that are constantly in motion. We can imagine a car of the future that would be even more dynamic. It might, for example, have tires that automatically repair themselves when punctured.  Or it might have an automatic vacuuming system that cleans up food spills instantly. Or instead of just having air bags, the car of the future might have air balls that instantly inflate when a collision occurs, protecting you from both head-on collisions and side collisions.  We can also imagine a car of the future having many additional dynamic features, such as (1) automatically self-cleaning windows; (2) an ability to hook itself up automatically to a gas pump or a fueling unit, allowing the owner to refuel without getting his hands dirty, or (3) an ability for the car to contract and reduce its own size to fit into a smaller parking space, or (4) an ability to change itself into a convertible, so that the roof of the car slides out of view when you tell it do so.  

Reproducing: Cars currently lack the ability to reproduce, but we can imagine some super-fancy car of the future that might have the ability to reproduce. It might have the astonishing ability to split into two different cars, which would be useful when you and your wife want to drive in different directions. 

Enormously organized: Cars are enormously organized, consisting of a fine-tuned  arrangement of thousands of parts to achieve a particular functional end.  Nowadays there are some 30,000 parts that make up a car. We can imagine a car of the future with millions of parts. 

car of the future

Like someone saying that a Super Bowl victory requires a bit of effort here and there, you would be describing things rather poorly if you stated that an organism contains some innovations as hard to accidentally achieve as mousetraps. You would be describing things much better if you stated that a large organism contains fine-tuned functionality as accidentally unachievable as a car of the future,  functionality that is HIRDREOC (Hierarchical Information-Rich Dynamic Reproducing Enormously Organized Complexity).  The functionality in large organisms is trillions of times more impressive (and trillions of times harder to accidentally achieve) than the not-very-impressive functionality of a mousetrap. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

When Materialism Cannot Explain Medical and Bodily Effects in Adults

"The prejudices of science, however, are generally the most obstinate of all, just because they are conceived to be founded in reason ; and hence, even philosophers, who ought to be dispassionate and unbiased lovers of truth, are frequently disposed to make the most desperate struggles, before they can be brought to abate their pride, and to admit the reality of a natural fact, which they have once taught themselves to believe to be inconsistent with any of their preconceived opinions. Hence, too, the tardy reception of all new truths, which cannot be immediately and satisfactorily connected with our previous acquirements."

J. C. Colquhoun, Seven Lectures on Somnambulism

One of the biggest defects of materialism is that it cannot account for morphogenesis, the development of a human form from a mere speck-sized egg.  There is no truth to claims that morphogenesis occurs because the body reads some blueprint or recipe or algorithm in DNA specifying how to construct a human body. DNA contains only very low-level chemical information, and does not contrain any specification of human anatomy.  DNA does not even contain instructions for how build any of the 200 types of cells in a human body.  

Materialism also fails to explain various anomalous bodily effects and medical effects in full-grown adults. Such effects are documented in various books at www.archive.org, an invaluable site for finding important overlooked texts from previous decades and centuries, in a form where they can be easily read online.  Recently I was reading the very interesting 1891 book Mental Suggestion by Julian Ochorowicz.  The best way to use the book is to focus on its many discussions of anomalous cases, and not put too much stock in the opinions of the author, which sometimes are at odds with the cases he discusses. 

On page 109 the author begins to discuss evidence that certain people put under hypnosis could show astonishing diagnostic abilities after merely touching another person who was sick or in pain. Using the term "somnambules" to refer to hypnotized subjects, he quotes a Dr. Bertand as stating, "There is no one, I believe, who has made any little observation of a few somnambules, but that has often seen them by simple contact feel the pains of the patients with whom they have been put in rapport."

On page 110 the author quotes someone stating that certain hypnotized people have a "power whereby,  on touching a sick person presented to them, or on laying the hand upon him, even outside the clothes, they know what internal organ is affected, the part of the body that is ailing."  We are told that such people "give pretty correct advice as to the proper remedies." 

On page 111 we read more in the same vein:  "In August, 1825, Dr. Foissac addressed to the Paris Academy of Medicine a letter in which he announced in the following words the phenomenon of the transmission of aches : 'By placing the hand successively on the head, the chest, and the abdomen of an unknown patient, the somnambules discover instantly his complaints and aches, and the various symptoms these occasion.' " This academy did some experiments with a Celine Sauvage that are discussed on pages 113-115, which were moderately successful in corroborating such claims. 

Joseph W. Haddock M. D. stated the following about hypnotized subjects acting as a kind of "X-ray before X-rays were discovered": "The human body seems as if transparent to the truly lucid subject ; and I have frequently availed myself of this faculty of lucidity, to discover the nature of obscure disease, using my subject as a living stethescope, to assist my own judgment, just as the astronomer uses his telescope." Haddock cites in detail a case (published in 1844) of a hypnotized subject (Madame Lagrande) who exactly described the internal bodily problems of her mother, in a remote location, and who predicted that her mother would die in two days. The prediction was accurate, and an autopsy revealed that the description of her internal bodily problems was correct. 

Haddock reports the following about "clairvoyant diagnosis" using a person named Emma (and what he reports is only one of very many accounts he told of this person's paranormal powers):  "When patients apply personally for clairvoyant diagnosis, I generally desire them not to inform me of their complaints, until the clairvoyant has made an examination, and described the internal appearances and symptoms ; and, not unfrequently, they have expressed their surprise at hearing their symptoms so accurately described, and the locality of pains correctly pointed out, or the time of the day at which periodical pains set in, stated, without a word being said to either myself or Emma on the subject."

On page 120 of the Mental Suggestion book the author makes a very interesting claim regarding medicinal touch effects:

"I have relieved hundreds of persons of headache by simple imposition of hands....Two things are certain: 1, that by this method (which is as old as the world) I remove the headache in 60 cases out of 100 within a few minutes ; and 2, that very often I can tell the precise instant at which the pain grows less and disappears under my hand. And this is how I notice the change : The aching head may be hot or cool, and everybody knows that headache may be produced by several different causes. But independently of these differences, one character, perceptible only to him who holds his hand upon the head, and who is in the habit of observing, is almost constant, to wit, a sensation of increased warmth under the hands if the pain is disappearing, but a lack of this sensation if the ache continues." 

The possibility of helping headaches by the mere touch of someone on the head was investigaged by a  1986 scientific paper "Effects of Therapeutic Touch On Tension Headache Pain." The paper reported findings agreeing with what Ochorowicz reported, and even reported something better than the 60% effectiveness he reported: 

"Therapeutic touch (TT) is a modern derivative of the laying on of hands that involves touching with the intent to help or heal. This study investigated the effects of TT on tension headache pain in comparison with a placebo simulation of TT. Sixty volunteer subjects with tension headaches were randomly divided into treatment and placebo groups. The McGill-Melzack Pain Questionnaire was used to measure headache pain levels before each intervention, immediately afterward, and 4 hours later. A Wilcoxon signed rank test for differences indicated that 90% of the subjects exposed to TT experienced a sustained reduction in headache pain, p < .0001. An average 70% pain reduction was sustained over the 4 hours following TT, which was twice the average pain reduction following the placebo touch."

On pages 247-249 of the previously mentioned Mental Suggestion book, the author begins discussing something more remarkable than inexplicable medicinal effects arising from mere touch: cases in which medicinal effects seem to arise merely from the will or intention of a physician or hypnotist trying to produce a healing effect.  We read the following:

"Mr. Liebeault cites forty-five similar observations, and, like an honest man and one that knows how to observe, he concludes thus : 'In view of the curative effects we have just recounted, we are led to admit...a direct action transmitted from man to man, and possessing this essential, irreducible,  sui-generis character, that it can re-establish the physiological functionment of organs.' "

A large class of medical and bodily effects that are currently inexplicable are effects in which a person's mind seems to have an inexplicable influence on his body.  The most general effect of this type is what is commonly called the placebo effect.  It has been very well-documented that a person may tend to heal or improve unexpectedly when he is given a mere sugar pill, as long as the person believes that the pill is some effective medicine for his condition. 

In the first volume of his massive two-volume work Reincarnation and Biology by Ian Stevenson MD, we have a revealing chapter that does not specifically relate to the hypothesis of reincarnation, except in a tangential sense. The long chapter is entitled "Bodily Changes Corresponding to Mental Images in the Person Affected."  Below are some of the astonishing things discussed and documented, all suggesting some mysterious ability of the mind to inexplicably influence the body:

  • Very many reported cases of stigmata, in which people interested in reliving the crucifixion experience of Jesus got inexplicable marks and wounds corresponding to such crucifixion wounds. 
  • Wounds arising on someone's head after a hypnotic suggestion that a crown of thorns had been put on her head. 
  • A Russian civilian trapped in an alley where a Russian fought a Frenchman with swords was not wounded in the fight, but merely terrified; and upon returning home, he found inexplicable bleeding wounds similar to those he saw inflicted in the other person. 
  • A woman horrified to watch her child lose three fingers in an accident had to be treated on the same day for three inexplicable injuries to her own fingers.
  • When a hypnotized man was told his heart rate was increasing, it increased from 78 beats a minute to 135 beats a minute. 
  • "LeCron (1969) obtained breast growth in all but 3 of 20 women to whom he gave hypnotic suggestions that this would happen."
  • "Since the last quarter of the 19th century hypnotists have reported the production of blisters on the skin through hypnotic suggestions."
  • 14 patients with warts on both sides of the body were given hypnotic suggestions the warts would disappear on one side, and in 9 out of the 10 deeply hypnotized patients the warts disppeared on only the suggested side. 
  • "Beilis (1966) inadvertently produced a sunbumlike reaction in the skin of a woman to whom he gave the suggestion, during a procedure for hypnotic induction, that she imagine herself at a beach on a sunny day."
  • "Moody observed bodily changes on at least 30 occasions when this patient relived traumatic events of her earlier life. The remembrance of an accident when the patient had fractured her wrist was followed by swelling and hyperemia of the wrist."
  • After recalling under hypnosis a severe belt whipping his father inflicted on his buttocks, a patient inexplicably developed blue marks on his buttocks. 
Below is a photo from Stevenson's book illustrating one such effect:

mind over matter

Below is another photo from Stevenson's book illustrating another of these effects:

mind over matter

Regarding the creation of blisters by mere hypnotic suggestion, we read the following:

"One of the earliest experiments, that reported by Beaunis (1886), included excellent control of the subject, and there were also several competent witnesses to the events...Podiapolskii (1909) reported the production of a blister through suggestion in a subject who was kept continuously under observation between the time of receiving the suggestion and that of developing blisters at two sites on her back about 18 hours later....Smirnoff (1912) produced blisters with hypnotic suggestions in an unusually short time. In one experiment a blister developed within 30 minutes, and in a second one it developed after about 2 hours. Smirnoff was particularly pleased with his second experiment, when, he stated, the 'whole process took place under our eyes.'  He had two other persons present as witnesses....After two imperfectly controlled although successful experiments, Hadfield conducted another one during which he kept the patient under constant surveillance from the time of giving him the suggestion of developing a blister until the blister actually occurred, about 24 hours later."

A medical effect that is totally inexplicable under materialist explanations is the complete elimination of pain under mere hypnotism. There are countless documented cases of such a thing. For example, in a 19th-century work, we read of a woman in 1829 who had her breast removed to treat cancer. The woman had no anaesthesia, but was merely hypnotized. The account says the woman "did not betray the least symptoms of pain...she talked tranquilly, during the whole time." Pages 65-67 of the same work describes another similar case of a younger hypnotized woman in 1854 who showed no signs of pain as her breast was surgically removed, as she smiled through the surgery.  On this page of another book, which uses the term "mesmeric sleep" for a hypnotized state, we have a description of a painless extraction of teeth from a hypnotized woman.  

Using the word "somnambulists" to refer to those hypnotized, an 1831 report by a committee of French medical authorities, under the auspices of the Royal Academy of Medicine, stated the following:

"The greater number of the somnambulists whom we have seen, were completely insensible. We might tickle their feet, their nostrils, and the angle of the eyes, with a feather—we might pinch their skin, so as to leave a mark, prick them with pins under the nails, &c. without producing any pain, without even their perceiving it. Finally, we saw one who was insensible to one of the most painful operations in surgery, and who did not manifest the slightest emotion in her countenance, her pulse, or her respiration."

A nineteenth century work says this about hypnotized patients, using the word "magnetizer" for a hypnotist and "somnambule"  for the hypnotized person:

"Sensitiveness is entirely abolished. The patient hears only the voice of the magnetizer and that of the person whom the latter places en rapport with him. His deafness is absolute for all noises that occur, of whatsoever intensity. In an experiment made at Paris, a sceptic fired a pistol near the ear of a somnambule. The latter heard nothing. The insensibility is not less complete in other parts of the body. We may bury needles in the flesh without the patient feeling the least pain. He suffers only when he awakes. The most painful surgical operations have been performed on magnetized subjects, and they had only learned what had happened after they had come out of their sleep."

The author of this work tells us of his personal observations on this topic, using "mesmeric" to mean "hypnotic":

"In the first experiment I ever tried to assure myself of the reality of mesmeric anathsesia, a young woman was put to sleep and eight bad teeth were extracted from her ulcerated gums without her having any consciousness of it. But her inner consciousness being at the same time aroused, she was able to tell me the time by a clock in a house eight miles away, as I verified the next day by comparison with my watch."

The report here combines two inexplicable aspects of a hypnotic trance, an insensitivity to pain, and also clairvoyance during a hypnotized state, which is abundantly attested to in other reports discussed here and here and here.  In one nineteenth century text, we read the following statement by Dr. J. B. Parker, resident surgeon, who uses the term "Mesmerism" for hypnotism:  "I have performed over two hundred surgical operations without the patient's feeling the pain whilst under the influence of Mesmerism, including twenty most painful operations on the eye, tying the radial artery, more than one hundred bleedings, cutting off a very painful wart, and the extraction of upwards of forty teeth. "

In his book "The introduction of mesmerism, as an anaesthetic and curative agent, into the hospitals of India," Dr. James Esdaile tells how he started to use hypnotism to treat patients in India. In his first attempt, he tried for 30 minutes to hypnotize someone, without any apparent success. But persisent effort paid off, and he was able to put someone into a deep sleep in which he was insensible to pain. Eventually Esdaile found he could produce such a state very quickly, with a few movements of his hands (called "passes") above a body.  On pages 18-20 a witness describes how Esdaile performed major surgeries on patients who had received no anesthesia, but had only been hypnotized by Esdaile's subordinates, who had been trained to hypnotize people into unconsciousness or a pain insensitivity. 

On pages 27-28 of the book, Esdaile lists a host of dramatic pain-free surgeries he performed without using chemical or physical anesthesia, but only hypnosis on patients. The list includes about 20 amputations, and 200 removals of scrotal tumors ranging from 10 pounds in weight to more than 100 pounds in weight. Another book on this topic by Esdaile can be read here

In the following quote from a nineteenth century work, we learn of a great irony: that physicians took up a chemical method of anesthesia, one which would often kill people, rather than using hypnotic methods of anesthesia that were proving very safe and effective:

"In Dr. Brown Sequard's lectures upon 'Nervous Force,' delivered in Boston in 1874, he speaks of this form of anaesthesia as follows : 

'As regards the power of producing anaesthesia, it seems to me unfortunate that the discovery of ether was made just when it was. It was, as you well know, in 1846 or 1847 that the use of ether as an anaesthetic was begun. It started from this city (Boston). At that time in England, Dr. Forbes was trying to show from facts observed in England, and especially in India, from the practice of Dr. Esdaile, that something which was called Mesmerism, but which, after all, was nothing but a peculiar state of somnambulism induced in patients, gave to them the idea that they were deprived of feeling ; so that they were in reality under the influence of their imagination, and operations were performed that were quite painless. I say that it was a pity that ether was introduced just then, as it prevented the progress of our knowledge as to this method of producing anaesthesia. My friend Dr. Broca took it up in 1857-8 and pushed it very far; and for a time it was the fashion in Paris to have amputations performed after having been anaesthetized by the influence of Braidism or Hypnotism. A great many operations were performed in that way that were quite painless. But it was a process that was long and tedious, and surgeons were in a hurry and gave it up. I regret it very much, as there has never been a case of death from that method of producing anesthesia, while you well know that a great many cases of death have been produced by other methods.' "

A modern paper reports a similar result: hypnosis producing dramatic reduction in headache pains (as measured when the patient is out of the hypnotic state). We read this:

"Symptoms of headache and vertigo were treated using direct hypnotic suggestions of symptom relief in 155 consecutive skull injured patients. Posttraumatic headache and vertigo were completely relieved after an average observation period of 1 year 10 months in 50% and 58% of the patients, and partially relieved in 20% and 16% respectively."

A psychology paper reports that after a brain-damaged woman was hypnotized and told that she could fix her cognitive problems, she "had major improvements in the cognitive tests," and "her Working Memory Index improved from the 0.17 % percentile to the 10% percentile." Another paper testing 49 brain-damaged subjects reports a dramatic improvement in working memory for the subjects.  Group 1 with 27 subjects improved from an average score of 81.74 (well below average) to an average score of 107.44 (well above average).  Group 2 with 22 subjects improved from an average score of 80.36 (well below average) to an average score of 103.95 (substantially above average). 

The writer Colin Wilson tells us the following, mentioning in part evidence presented in this book:

"A German doctor named Justinus Kerner spent three years studying a ‘psychic’ lady called Friederike Hauffe and had no doubt whatever that she could read a book that was placed, face downwards, against her bare stomach....It was observed many times by nineteenth-century investigators. Professor Cesare Lombroso, a confirmed scientific ‘materialist’, studied a girl who could see through her ear and smell through her chin. The possibility that she was cheating vanished entirely when her sense of smell transferred itself to the back of her foot: if pleasant smells were brought close to her heel, she smiled, while unpleasant ones made her react with disgust. Lombroso also came across the case of a girl who developed X-ray vision and asserted that she could see worms in her intestines — she counted thirty-three. Under treatment she excreted exactly thirty-three worms."

In a remarkable 1967 book entitled Breakthrough to Creativity that you can read online here, Shafica Karagulla MD discusses some conversations she had with other doctors who seemed to use paranormal methods in additional to traditional medical techniques. Describing one doctor, she says, "On many occasions he has been able to relieve acutely ill patients sufficiently to bring them through a crisis, by bringing his hands close to the body in the areas affected." Describing another doctor, she says, "Through the years when routine tests and methods had failed to give him a clue about obscure difficulties he was able to gain accurate information about a patient by using this sensitivity in his hands."  Corroborating statements earlier in this post, she says of the same doctor, "He told me he found out quite accidentally when his children were young that he could relieve colic or headache by putting his hand on the painful area." She mentions that the same doctor "told me that on occasion he could see an energy field interpenetrating and surrounding the human body."   She says another doctor "knew when any of his patients were ill or in need of help before they got in touch with him." Corroborating accounts earlier in this post of clairvoyants who could see inside the body, we read this about a doctor:

"Dr. Philip could see any organ in the patient’s body and observe its function and any pathology that might be present. He knew the complete condition of his patient in the first few minutes as the person sat before him in his office."

During much of my life, Life Magazine was one of the principal mainstream sources of information, along with magazines such as Time and Newsweek. An average person in my teenage years  thought that if you read something in Life Magazine, it was as trustworthy as reading it in the New York Times. On page 102 of the June 12, 1964 edition of Life Magazine, there was a long story entitled "Seeing Colors with the Fingers." You can read the story by using the link here, and scrolling down to page 102. The story discussed at great length the scientific investigation of clairvoyants such as Rosa Kuleshova. We read at great length quite a few scientific authorities attesting that Rosa could read while blindfolded, and we read at length about similar paranormal abilities in other people.  The fact that discussions of such important evidence is now rather taboo in the mainstream makes zero scientific sense, and is purely a sociological conformist effect. 

An effect totally inexplicable under materialist assumptions is what is called "community of sensations" under hypnosis. It has been very frequently reported that a hypnotized person may instantly feel sensations felt by the person who hypnotized him. A set of experiments on this effect is reported in the "First Report of the Committee on Mesmerism" pages 225-229 of Volume 1 of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (April, 1883), a committee including the illustrious names of Frederic Myers,  Edmund Gurney, Frank Podmore, George Wyld M.D. and the eventually knighted physicist W.F. Barrett.  We read this on page 226: "Thus out of a total of 24 experiments in transference of pains, the exact spot.was correctly indicated by the subject no less than 20 times."  These were experiments in which the hypnotized subject was asked whether he felt anything, after the hypnotizer had been given some type of pain or sensation while in another room where the hypnotized person could not see him.  Similar results were obtained by Dr. Edmund Gurney and reported in his paper "An Account of Some Experiments in Mesmerism," published on page 201 of Volume II of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research ( June 1884). As reported on page 205, a hypnotized subject identified with high accuracy tactile and taste sensations occurring in a hypnotizer sitting behind him. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Gene Engineers Keep Up Their Risky Tinkering, Unfazed by Pandemic Suspicions

The COVID-19 virus has created horrendous worldwide damage, which comes in many forms: long term injuries, deaths, and enormous economic damage. An important question to one day answer is: exactly how did the virus originate? No one in the West currently knows the answer to this question. The main relevant facts are these:

  • COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. 
  • The first known cases of the virus were reported in December, 2019, in the city of Wuhan, China.
  • In this city there are two large virus research labs, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The first of these is one of only two BSL-4 labs in China (a lab certified to do the most risky type of work on viruses).
  • An outgoing US secretary of state declared in January, 2021 that the US had intelligence that  lab workers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were infected with symptoms like that of COVID-19 or common seasonal illnesses as early as the fall of 2019, but no specific evidence was released to support these claims. 
  • The genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is about 95% similar to a Bat CoV RaTG13 virus found in bats. There is a difference of more than 1000 nucleotides between the two viruses (three thousand according to a source cited below). 
  • This  Bat CoV RaTG13 virus was known to have previously existed in the Tongguan Mine Shaft in Mojiang, China,  940 miles from Wuhan.
  • Researchers transported such a virus (or fragments of it)  from Mojiang to the Wuhan Institute of Virology around 2013.
  • In Wuhan not far from the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention there was a Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a "wet market" that some suspected of involvement in the virus origin, although no bats were sold there. Many of the earliest people infected with COVID-19 had some contact with this market, although many other of the earliest people infected with COVID-19 had no contact with the market.  An article says, "Scientists also said the virus was unusually 'pre-adapted' for rapid human transmission, making it unlikely that the first human contact was made at the seafood market." 

Many say that the SARS-CoV-2 had a purely natural origin. They hypothesize that maybe it arose from the Bat CoV RaTG13 virus, through some kind of unlikely event in which the virus combined with some other virus. 

Others suggest that such an origin would have been too unlikely, and argue that it was probably not just a coincidence that the virus was first reported in a city with two large virus labs.  Some suggest the virus may have arisen from an accidental lab leak. It is known that scientists have sometimes done "gain-of-function" experiments, in which a microbe was genetically altered to make it more infectious.  Some speculate that perhaps well-intentioned scientists may have altered the genome of the Bat CoV RaTG13 virus, to make it more transmissable.  The goal may not have been to create some killer germ, but to learn more about bat viruses or how to make vaccines for them.  A recent article on the US News and World Report site says, "Some researchers still do not rule out the possibility that the virus was released accidentally by a specialist lab." One paper stated that in addition to natural origins the virus "probably originated in a laboratory," and some writers agree; but many experts disagree. 

Plausibly accounting for how a SARS-CoV-2 could have naturally arisen from a Bat CoV RaTG13 with only about 95% similarity is very difficult, and perhaps impossible. There is a difference of more than a thousand nucleotides between the two,  with this being "just right" biological information that makes COVID-19 so transmissible.  Referring to nucleotide base pairs, a scientist claims, "The difference between Chinese bat coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 is more than 3,000 base pairs." Such a substantial difference would have been very unlikely to have arisen through any random mutations occurring in a few years before humans started getting COVID-19. 

Right now we are seeing some random mutations that may increase the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19). Such mutations (which involve variations in only a few nucleotides) are what we might expect, given the virus being present in many millions of people (there are currently 95 million with COVID-19). But before the appearance of SARS-CoV-2, it seems only a  small number of bats had the Bat CoV RaTG13 virus, making it very unlikely that such a virus would have naturally made some sudden leap in lethality because of random mutations, a leap seemingly requiring at least 1000 or more lucky nucleotide changes.  Similarly, a small number of typing monkeys will be very unlikely to produce any meaningful content, but with 100 million typing monkeys, one might occasionally produce by chance a little bit of meaningful content. 

So proponents of a purely natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are forced to appeal to speculative and rather hard-to-believe theories of some kind of blending or "recombination" between two different viruses.  Skeptics think this is rather like thinking that a mouse mated with a rat to make a mouse-rat.  In order to substantiate this  idea of a long-shot natural chance blending of two viruses, you would presumably need to find some other virus that is not the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and that has most of the 1000+ nucleotides that are in the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but not in the Bat CoV RaTG13 virus. Such a set of nucleotides has not been found in any other virus. You would also need to have some plausible account of how so much genetic material could have moved from one virus to another, which is another big explanatory difficulty. 

There is also the difficulty of explaining how a bat with the virus could ever naturally have got to Wuhan, so far from any place where bats existed.  Because of such explanatory difficulties, there does not currently exist any plausible detailed theory of a purely natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

When trying to explain the origin of the AIDS virus, scientists were able to come up with a natural origins theory that did not sound too far-fetched. The theory was that the AIDS virus (or a predecessor) had arisen in chimpanzees, and had spread to humans.  That doesn't sound very unbelievable, for we know that chimpanzees are genetically very similar to humans. But it's an entirely different affair if you try to suggest some virus spread naturally from bats to humans. It's rather hard to imagine organisms more dissimilar than a bat and a human. A science news story entitled "Bats cannot directly infect humans with Covid-19" says this: "Sixty-four scientists have said bats do not spread Covid-19."

A team of experts has recently arrived in China to investigate the origin of the virus that causes COVID-19.  Two committees have been organized to investigate the origin of COVID-19, one formed by the WHO and another by the journal The Lancet. If they ever issue a report, we should ask a question before having any trust in their conclusions. That question is: to what extent are such experts vested interests that are stakeholders having a lot to lose if they don't conclude COVID-19 had a purely natural origin? Referring to these two investigations, a story in Wired says, "It’s already clear, however, that both are compromised by a lack of clear procedures to manage conflicts of interest and questionable independence."

Let us consider the very strong self-interest that certain scientists have in COVID-19 being declared to be of purely natural origin. If it were to be discovered that the virus causing COVID-19 arose from a lab leak, that would be a very bad day for any scientist connected with genetic engineering. The consequences might be like this:

  • People would become much more distrustful of all gene-splicing research.
  • There would probably be all kinds of new restrictions of all types of gene-splicing research, lots of new red tape that scientists would have to wade through.
  • There might well be reduced funding of any project involving gene splicing or gene manipulation, and some types of gene-splicing activity that are now allowed might be banned. 
  • The credibility of all those who have been cautioning about genetically modified food (GMOs) would probably be increased (fairly or unfairly), and the credibility of all those who have dismissed such people as misguided alarmists would be decreased (fairly or unfairly). 
This would all be very bad for quite a few scientists. So unless they present some compelling proof for purely natural origins, we should tend to distrust the conclusions of any such scientists involved in an investigation into the origins of COVID-19. Putting some scientist involved in gene-splicing on a committee investigating the origin of a virus that may have come from a lab leak is rather like putting the brother of a person being tried for a crime on the jury judging his innocence or guilt. 

Another type of person we should distrust on such a committee is anyone who is a evolutionary biologist. Evolutionary biologists have a long history of telling very far-fetched "just so" stories to avoid having to conclude that some biological innovation involved design. We may assume that in any "chance or design" origins question involving COVID-19, an evolutionary biologist will always come down on the side of chance.  

Preliminary signs offer very little hope that a proper investigation will be done. The China-approved WHO agenda for the investigation of the origin of COVID-19 makes no mention of the major biological research centers in Wuhan, China, just as if no consideration will be given to the hypothesis of a lab leak.  So it will be kind of like an investigation of the mysterious death of a wife in which the husband is ignored as a suspect. 

It is astonishing how oblivious the scientific community seems to be to the not-extremely-unlikely possibility that genetic engineering or reckless viral fiddling might be to blame for a devastating global pandemic.  A prudent precautionary measure would have been for every genetic engineering lab in the world to double their security measures and safety measures as soon as we knew what we knew by March, 2020.  But nothing of the sort seems to have happened.  Astonishingly, a Nobel prize in Chemistry was given in December 2020 to someone chiefly for her work in developing the CRISPR tool that makes gene splicing much easier. Would it not have been a good idea to have figured out the origin of COVID-19 before giving an award that would inevitably be interpreted as an encouragement for gene splicing?

In the New Yorker magazine  in January 2021 there is a long article enthusing about CRISPR and its ability to enable easy gene splicing.  In the frightening words below, the author gets real pleased about her ability to easily create some dangerous novel microbial life form in her kitchen using some gene-editing tool similar to CRISPR, stating the following:

"I have almost no experience in genetics and have not done hands-on lab work since high school. Still, by following the instructions that came in the box from the Odin, in the course of a weekend I was able to create a novel organism. First I grew a colony of E. coli in one of the petri dishes. Then I doused it with the various proteins and bits of designer DNA I’d stored in the freezer. The process swapped out one 'letter' of the bacteria’s genome, replacing an 'A' (adenine) with a 'C' (cytosine). Thanks to this emendation, my new and improved E. coli could, in effect, thumb its nose at streptomycin, a powerful antibiotic. Although it felt a little creepy engineering a drug-resistant strain of E. coli in my kitchen, there was also a definite sense of achievement, so much so that I decided to move on to the second project in the kit: inserting a jellyfish gene into yeast in order to make it glow."

We seem to see in this article a blindness to the dangers of genetic engineering that is truly staggering. We are in the deepest of deep trouble if professional gene splicers have so lax and reckless an attitude. 

No one should be surprised if it turns out that biology research has put mankind at great risk. The chemists gave us such horrors as the  gas weapons used to kill 90,000 in World War I, the Zyklon B gas that killed so many in the Holocaust, the napalm used to kill or disfigure hundreds of  thousands during the Vietnam War, and the addictive synthetic opioids that led to more than a million global deaths by drug overdose. The physicists gave us the nuclear bombs that killed hundreds of thousands either at the end of World War II or through atomic testing that gave countless people cancer. Ever since the invention of the hydrogen bomb, a loaded gun has been held to mankind's head, thanks to the research of the nuclear physicists. So why should we be surprised if we learn that biologists may have created a great risk through unwise research? 

In a USA Today article a professor makes some comments suggesting an indifferent attitude about the origin of COVID-19:

"In some ways, it doesn't matter where the virus came from, said Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. What matters is how to deal with the crisis in the USA. 'When the house is burning down is not the time to start looking for where the matches were,' he said."

I have a much better analogy. If your child's school is on fire, and you think the fire may have started because a certain child was playing with matches, and you know that the child has ten friends that also like to play with matches, then after you see that the fire department has arrived to put out the fire, you should phone the parents of those ten children, and tell them you think the fire may have been started by a child playing with matches, and suggest that they have a long talk with their children about the danger of playing with matches. Nowadays there are many scientists doing work that is like playing with matches. 

We do not yet know exactly how COVID-19 originated, and we do not know whether its origin was purely natural. But it will be  unsurprising if some devastating global pandemic arises one day from some virus accidentally escaping from a laboratory of gene splicers. Here is a relevant song you can sing to yourself, using the catchy melody from the classic rock song "Secret Agent Man."

There's a man whose work creates real danger

He's a splicing "play God" gene arranger

With every splice he makes

Another risk he takes

You might get real sick because of his work

Secret gene lab man

Secret gene lab man

They set him up to play God

And to mess with viral genes

Next time you lunch at a cafeteria

You may catch his gene-spliced bacteria

The gene-spliced germs he gave

May send you to your grave

Tons of us may die because of his work

Secret gene lab man

Secret gene lab man

They set him up to play God

And to mess with viral genes

Postscript: I have noticed a trend in the mainstream media that the the lab leak hypothesis of COVID-19 origin is recently being discussed more and more as a not-extremely-unlikely possibility.  An example is the recent long CNET article here, which states that the lab leak hypothesis "has become increasingly difficult to ignore."  The article quotes an evolutionary biologist as saying, "I think it is plausible that either SARS-CoV-2 emerged 'naturally' from some sort of interaction between humans and animals, or that it was an accidental release from a lab."  The Washington Post recently published an editorial calling the lab leak hypothesis "plausible," but I prefer the more cautious term "not extremely unlikely" to describe such a hypothesis. 

A recent sign of the reckless enthusiasm of gene engineers is the publication of a publicly accessible Nature Protocols paper devoted to telling us in great detail exactly how to genetically engineer variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, which is rather like publishing a publicly accessible paper on exactly how to manufacture different types of nuclear bombs.  

In February 2021 we saw headlines saying the WHO had said that a lab leak was "extremely unlikely." That statement came not as some official WHO proclamation, but was merely made by Peter Embarek, the head of a WHO team investigating COVID-19 origins. A biosecurity expert says the following about the WHO team (voicing concerns shared by several other experts in the same article):

"'The mission's messaging was clearly political – not scientific – and aligned very closely with Beijing's narrative of a possible origin source outside China's borders. They provided no credible evidence for why they do not feel the lab-leak hypothesis should remain on the table or why other explanations were seen as more likely."

Later the director-general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated this:

"Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded. 'Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and studies."

Former CDC director Robert Redfield (a virologist) stated in late March 2021 that he suspected that COVID-19 came from a lab leak.  He cited no proof for such a claim, which many scientists dispute. But I think everyone should be concerned about his description of how most lab virologists behave. He stated this"Most of us in a lab, when trying to grow a virus, we try to help make it grow better, and better, and better, and better, and better, and better so we can do experiments and figure out about it."

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Sociological Dynamics of Ideological Regimes

An individual authority such as a scientist or preacher or a priest or a politician is like a link in a big chain link fence, and that "chain link fence" is the social structure that he is part of. There is no very good understanding of why certain authorities say the things they say without some insight into the sociology of belief systems. Let me make a rather crude sketch of the sociology of belief systems, a topic of great complexity.  

Ideological Regimes

To describe a particular system of belief that gained some ascendancy,  we may use the term "ideological regime."  An ideological regime is some structure of belief and related social structures and habits that have become popular in a particular place.  In a particular country there may exist more than one ideological regime.  For example, in the United States there are currently multiple ideological regimes, such as these:

(1) the belief tradition and social structure of Catholicism;

(2) the belief tradition and social structures of Protestantism, taking several different forms;

(3) the belief tradition and social structures of Darwinist materialism;

(4) the belief tradition and social structures of what we may call money-centered consumerist capitalism.

In some countries,  there may be fewer ideological regimes: three, two, or rarely a single one. Looking at medieval or ancient history, we can probably find some cases in which religious beliefs were throughly entangled with political and economic beliefs, and in such countries there may have existed as few as only one ideological regime. 

An ideological regime consists of  both a system of belief and a social structure that supports such a system, making sure that it preserves its ascendancy, along with rules, traditions, customs or laws that help propagate the ideological regime. 

Regime Authorities

An ideological regime almost invariably has authorities that profess its belief doctrines. In some ideological regimes, such authorities may exist in a hierarchical order. In the Catholic Church there is a pope ruling over cardinals ruling over bishops ruling over priests.  In the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, there is not a very formal hierarchical structure of authorities. But informally there is such a hierarchy, consisting of four levels:

(1) Nobel Prize laureates at the top of the hierarchy;

(2) professors from the most prestigious universities on the second level;

(3) professors from less prestigious colleges or universities at the third level;

(4) mere PhD holders who are not yet professors at the lowest level of authority. 

There are also related authorities such as deceased scientists who have been aggrandized as great teachers or men of profound insight. 

In the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism, there is a less clear-cut structure of authority, but the authorities may include people such as politicians, influential very rich celebrities and high-prestige business leaders such as prominent CEO's.  The ideological regime of Protestantism has human authorities such as ministers as its authorities, and under such a regime the Bible is emphasized as an authority to be followed.  Under the ideological regime of Marxist-Leninism, there existed various authorities such as politburo members and the party officials known as commissars. 

Regime Dogmas

The dogmas of an ideological regime are the debatable beliefs that the regime perpetuates. Under some ideological regimes, particularly openly religious ones, there may be a frank admission that articles of faith are being taught by the regime, and that an act of faith is required to accept such doctrines.  Under other ideological regimes,  there may be claims or pretentions that the dogmas of the regime are facts that any reasonable and well-educated person should accept. For example, under the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, various unproven claims about human origins or human brains may be sold as "facts of science."  Under the ideological regime of Marxist-Leninism, various unproven dogmas about communism and class struggle were not described as dogmas or tenets, but were instead described as "facts of history" or "facts of economic science" that required belief from any reasonable scholar.  Under the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism, various assumptions may simply be taken for granted as rather obvious truths, such as the assumption that working 50 or 60 hour weeks at a job you don't like is well worth it if this allows you to buy some larger-than-you-need house that will cause your friends to be envious.  But under conflicting ideological regimes, such assumptions may seem very far from obvious truths. 

Regime Enforcers and Regime Enablers

The maintenance and preservation of an ideological regime requires the participation of many agents acting to perpetuate the regime.  The existence of esteemed regime authorities is not sufficient to achieve such an end. There usually must be various less prestigious  individuals who act to promulgate the teachings of the ideological regime, and possibly help punish and diminish any who dare to oppose its teachings. In the Catholic Church an example of such regime enforcers are nuns, deacons and Sunday school teachers, who lack the authority of priests, but do a great deal of the low-level indoctrination that helps to enforce the ideological regime. 

In the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, skeptics act as regime enforcers. The skeptics act to defame and disparage any of the very many people who report observations contrary to the reigning dogmas of Darwinist materialism, such as those who report inexplicable psychic experiences or apparition sightings.  In this regime other low-level regime enforcers or regime enablers are people such as high school biology teachers, who make sure that children are indoctrinated in the belief tenets of the ideological regime, and science journalists. In the modern landscape of Darwinist materialism, science journalists tend to uncritically parrot whatever claims or speculations come down from professors in support of their belief dogmas, even when they are far-fetched claims such as monkeys rafting across the Atlantic ocean millions of years ago.  Such journalists are also careful to write articles that restate the belief doctrines of the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, and are careful to write little or nothing about observations in conflict with the teachings of such an ideological regime.  

In the ideological regime of Marxist-Leninism, there were innumerable low-level enforcers, such as censors, local informers who snitched on dissident thinkers, and the gulag guards who helped to keep dissidents locked up in prison camps.  In the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism,  regime enablers include a host of pitchmen and social media sources that try to make you feel unworthy or second-class if you are are not consuming and purchasing as expensively as more high-spending people of a similar age. 

Regime Outcasts and the Expunging or Deprecation of Outcasts

A culturally successful ideological regime may achieve almost total dominance in a particular geographical area. But usually there will exist some people who oppose the ideological program the regime is advancing.  To maintain its position of dominance, the ideological regime will usually attempt to expunge or deprecate its opponents, who will be branded as outcasts.  Historically there have been cases of expunging through violence or imprisonment.  The medieval Catholic Church expunged opponents by using tools of violence such as the Inquisition, or by declaring crusades against heretics,  leading to their violent destruction in events such as the Albigensian Crusade. During the long and very bloody Thirty Years War, both Protestant groups and Catholics would try to expunge their opponents through open military conflict. Equally harsh events occurred when the ideological regime of Marxism-Leninism violently eliminated vast numbers of suspected opponents though events such as mass trials and purges.  During the Cold War, minor regimes defying the ideology of consumerist capitalism might face various attempts to destroy them or their leaders. 

An ideological regime may engage in more moderate efforts against its opponents. A common strategy is to simply use some deprecatory description designed to label the opponents as people not to be taken seriously. Different ideological regimes have different terms designed to brand opponents as outcasts whose thoughts are undeserving of serious consideration. In the Catholic Church, the term "heretic" was once a very powerful epithet that could be used to effectively demonize anyone teaching contrarian doctrines. In other Christian groups, it is enough to use the word "unchristian" or "anti-Christian" or "anti-scriptural" to brand someone as an outcast not to be taken seriously. Under Marxist-Leninism, a potential opponent could be branded as an outcast by simply calling him a "counter-revolutionary" or a "capitalist-roader."

In the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, there are various techniques for branding opponents as outcasts whose thought is unworthy of attention.  Someone may loosely be called a "mystic" or a "spiritualist" or a "creationist" as a way of branding them as outcasts to be ignored. Those terms are typically thrown around inaccurately by careless mudslingers.  Being rooted in the fundamentalist idea of biblical creationism, the word "creationist" should only be used for those objecting to Darwinism on biblical grounds.  Most of the people called "creationists" by Darwinists are no such thing, and make objections because of biological reasons, such as the inadequacy of Darwinism to explain very high levels of hierarchical organization and functional complexity. 

But this type of careless use of deprecatory labels is extremely common when regime outcasts are branded.  Just as people called "mystics" or "creationists" by materialists are usually not such a thing, most of the people labeled as "capitalist-roaders" or "counter-revolutionary" by Marxists were not such a thing, and very many of the people called "unchristian" by Christian zealots were actually Christians. 

Under the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism,  those not following the recommended high-spending or capitalist way of life might be deprecated through various terms of abuse such as "beatniks," "hippies," "low achievers," "low-class," "losers," "socialists," or "commies."

Regime Canonization

A very important tool for the propagation of an ideological regime is the promotion of some individual to a state of almost-superhuman status.  We may call this regime canonization.  Very obvious examples are found in Catholicism, where very many holy men and women were officially canonized as saints, and referred thereafter with names such as Saint Peter or Saint Theresa.  Almost equally obvious examples occurred under Marxism-Leninism, which made all-but-saints out of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Other examples can be found in the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism,  which has effectively canonized Charles Darwin as a kind of saint of science. Under Chinese communism, Chairman Mao was consecrated as a kind of secular saint. 

idolized figures

Legends usually grow around those canonized as saints. A thousand legends have grown around the saints of Catholicism, such as abundant medieval legends that their bones had almost magical healing powers. In the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism, the principle legend is the legend that Charles Darwin explained the origin of species or the origin of biological innovations.  Since Darwin's time innumerable stunning examples of biological organization and fine-tuning have been discovered that Darwin knew nothing about, such as the enormously intricate functional complexity of cells and protein molecules. But even though claiming Darwin explained the origin of species is rather like claiming that the ancient philosopher Plato explained smartphones or digital computers, the legend that Darwin explained the origin of species continues to be told endlessly by the proponents of Darwinist materialism.  Similarly, under Marxist-Leninism people were endlessly told the legend that Vladimir Lenin had established a worker's paradise, which many people believed contrary to the evidence of their eyes. 

Some ideological regimes may kind of canonize individuals rather loosely and carelessly. For example, under the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism, certain very wealthy and high-consuming figures may undergo a kind of canonization, and may be painted as some kind of supermen; but no great virtue may be expected from them.  But such figures are still constantly upheld as role models which we should aspire to be like, if fate and fortune permit.  

Regime Information Control

For an ideological regime to persist in a dominant manner, it is very important that information be carefully controlled. There are various techniques used to insure control. One technique is the publication of impressive-looking volumes or sets of volumes teaching no viewpoint other than the ideology and belief traditions of the ideological regime. For example, the ideological regime of Catholicism published the 15-volume Catholic Encyclopedia which was followed many years later by the 15-volume New Catholic Encyclopedia; and the ideological regime of Marxist-Leninsim published an equally impressive-looking 65-volume set called the Great Soviet Encylcopedia. For decades the ideological regime of Darwinist materialism was promoted by the many volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and the World Book encyclopedia, which would describe many unproven claims as if they were facts. Nowadays wikipedia.org has largely replaced such encyclopedias, and serves as the chief party organ of Darwinist materialism.  Similar to such encyclopedias are subject textbooks and journals in which you are indoctrinated in strict accordance to some ideological regime.  

In such encyclopedias and textbooks and journals there is almost always a rigorous filtration and control of information, so that the reader gets no information that might disturb his faith in the ideological regime served by the encyclopedia or textbook or journal.  So, for example, you will read nothing in the Catholic Encyclopedia that might shake your faith in Catholicism, and there was nothing in the Great Soviet Encyclopedia that would shake your faith in Marxism-Leninism.  And on wikipedia.org, you will almost never read anything that shakes your faith in the belief doctrines of Darwinist materialism.  When such information sources discuss phenomena or viewpoints that conflict with the ideological regime they serve, any discussion will be carefully controlled so that mainly  negative information will be served up about the opposing viewpoint or the inconvenient phenomena.   

Historically, the most rigid ideological regimes have controlled information by out-and-out censorship, in which the publication of opposing viewpoints was legally forbidden. Under medieval Catholicism,  opposing viewpoints might have been forbidden by laws prohibiting heresy or blasphemy, or edicts banning specific works.  Under less rigid ideological regimes, there is no censorship in the form of absolute prevention of any form of publication. But under such ideological regimes, various forms of near-censorship can occur. For example, during the 1950's you would have found it all but impossible to get published in an American newspaper an editorial challenging the basic premises of money-centered consumerist capitalism. 

One such technique is to constantly claim that nothing can have observational validity unless it is published in a peer-reviewed journal, and then to have a system wherein secret votes of anonymous peer reviewers can prevent publication in such journals.  This can make sure that the journals act as biased information silos that only present findings in accordance with the belief traditions of the ideological regime. 

Explanatory Ingestion

It often happens that phenomena will appear that seemingly cannot be well-explained within the context of an ideological regime's ideology.  Below are some examples:

(1) People may report seeing apparitions of the dead, or having dramatic near-death experiences in which they float out of their bodies, contrary to the ideology of Darwinist materialism.

(2) Dissidents may arise in a Marxist-Leninist regime, complaining about their lack of rights and the poor quality of their living conditions.

(3) Mediums may report contact with deceased people, contrary to the beliefs of some religious group that the dead are silent and unconscious, waiting for some moment of physical resurrection following apocalyptic events. 

(4) Many people may report being very happy even though living in small living quarters and consuming little, contrary to the constant encouragements of those upholding the regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism. 

In such cases, there may occur a process by which an ideological regime may try to explain the troubling phenomenon by using explanations consistent within its own ideology. We may call this "explanatory ingestion." For example:

(1) One of the authorities of Darwinist materialism may try to explain apparition sightings and near-death experiences as mere neural hallucinations, conveniently ignoring the fact that near-death experiences often occur during cardiac arrest in which there is no neural activity, the fact that apparition sightings often occur suddenly to those with no history of hallucinations, and the fact that there are many cases of multiple witnesses reporting a sighting of the same apparition. 

(2) A Marxist-Leninist regime may try to explain the speech of dissidents as "sluggish schizophrenia," or perhaps some speech provoked by those taking money from foreign agents in capitalist countries. 

(3) A religious group believing that the dead are silent and unconscious may try to explain messages reported by psychic mediums as being caused not by the deceased on some Other Side but by demons trying to deceive humans. 

(4) People living very happily with low incomes and small living quarters may be explained away by consumerist capitalists as being drug users or lost-in-their-own-heads "losers" or low achievers with "bad taste"  or people with a lack of "culture" or "high style" claimed to be found in more high-spending people that are applauded for their financial success, no matter what mental or personal or moral price they paid to obtain their gaudy glamorous lifestyle. 

Regime Icons

An ideological regime will be more successful if it has some visual images it can use to remind people of its belief system. Catholicism has a rich tradition of such iconic visuals, many of them centered around images of the Virgin Mary.  Protestantism favors many visual depictions of Jesus.  In Darwinist materialism there is a constant use of a visual showing a line of progression from monkeys to men. In Marxism-Leninism there were frequent visuals of workers gazing upward, the left hand holding a tool, and the right hand raised in a clenched fist to symbolize revolutionary fervor. In the ideological regime of money-centered consumerist capitalism, a favored visual is some multi-millionaire relaxing in front of the huge pool in his mansion, or maybe leaning against his fancy car parked in front of his mansion. 

Ideological Regimes Tend to Be Long-Lasting

In general, ideological regimes tend to persist for long times, often for centuries.  The iron chains of conformist peer pressure are very hard for humans to shake. But in my lifetime I have seen one major ideological regime collapse, that of Marxism-Leninism.  In the 1970's I would have predicted that such a regime would persist throughout my life.  What is amazing is the speed with which Marxism-Leninism fell in Russia, despite having so many seemingly zealous supporters.  The lesson from this is that something hailed as a universal consensus in a large part of the globe may rather quickly end up being discarded by most of its supporters.  Apparently the hypnotic spell of groupthink can rather quickly be broken, once people on the bandwagon begin to notice that lots of other people are jumping off of the bandwagon. 

Postscript: A very interesting book making observations similar to that of this post is the 1966 book The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann.  You can read the book online here.  While I found many of the book's observations to be perceptive, I thought its terminology was a bit confusing. The book uses the term "universe" in the same way that I used the term "ideological regime." I much prefer the latter term, since people are too likely to think of the physical universe when hearing the term "universe."  Below is a quote from the book, describing a clash of two ideological regimes (called "universes"), in which one threatens the dominance of another:

"The alternative universe presented by the other society must be met with the best possible reasons for the superiority of one’s own. This necessity requires a conceptual machinery of considerable sophistication. The appearance of an alternative symbolic universe poses a threat because its very existence demonstrates empirically that one’s own universe is less than inevitable.... Individuals or groups within one’s own society might be tempted to ‘emigrate’ from the traditional universe or, even more serious a danger, to change the old order in the image of the new....It is important to stress that the conceptual machineries of universe-maintenance are themselves products of social activity, as are all forms of legitimation, and can only rarely be understood apart from the other activities of the collectivity in question. Specifically, the success of particular conceptual machineries is related to the power possessed by those who operate them. The confrontation of alternative symbolic universes implies a problem of power - which of the conflicting definitions of reality will be ‘made to stick’ in the society. Two societies confronting each other with conflicting universes will both develop conceptual machineries designed to maintain their respective universes. From the point of view of intrinsic plausibility the two forms of conceptualization may seem to the outside observer to offer little choice. Which of the two will win, however, will depend more on the power than on the theoretical ingenuity of the respective legitimators."