Thursday, May 30, 2013

Could "Small is Beautiful" have topped 1930s bestseller lists ?

He is a brilliant young economist, regarded as one of the best of his generation--- educated at Berlin and Bonn and at the London School of Economics, given a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford and Columbia University, where he is hired as a lecturer.

He also has real world experience as an international investment banker.

No wonder then that this wunderkind's  PhD, "Small is Beautiful", is quickly published in 1938 upon his graduation at age 27, and soon climbs the bestseller lists and is translated into many languages and is regarded as a timeless classic and an epoch-making book.

Because most historians credit it for ending the then real possibility of a world-wide European War.

Must Progress inevitably get mightier and wiser ?

During the truly horrible and nasty 1930s and early 1940s, at the apogee of Reductionist Modernity, this idea was the overall global "meta-ideology".

So powerful a meta-ideology that it actually dominated all the ideologies we then took to be widely apart in their worldviews.

Minor variant ideologies we still call fascist/nazi style nationalism , communism, and mixed socialist/capitalist liberal democracy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Islands and WWII : did anything else important happen (yawn) ?

For hundreds of millions of avid newspaper readers during WWII, an atlas was essential to follow the conflict's global course.

Never more so because of the fact that most of the battles - yes, most of the battles - took place over, around and on islands - with some of the most heavily fought-over islands being almost incredibly tiny.

a Commensal history of WWII includes the small and the great, the hubristic and the nimble

To render the sprawling activities of WWII palatable to digestion (because even the most devoted of readers have their limits) the tendency of authors is to show the war as seen through the eyes of the Great Powers and the Great Men.

And as seen through the eyes of those wisest of Wise Men, the scientists.

A commensal history of 1939-1945 should also start with a war between a handful of Great Men and Great Powers, because that is the way it all began.

But, to be fully accurate, it should also end in a confused co-mingling of the actions of the decisive small as well as those of the chastened great.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Coalitions, not Combat, lost and won WWII

England and pre-1937 Germany definitely started and then attempted to direct World War Two throughout , but they certainly didn't win or lose this truly world-wide war,  not all on their tiny , tiny own.

Instead, two vast world-sized coalitions under their nominal direction - one truly commensal and the other just national imperialism by another name - won and lost the war.

Germany and Japan built far, far, far better fighting machines but lost out totally to the Anglo-led nations, simply because of the Axis inability to form genuine working partnerships with all the people worldwide who were initially willing to back Fascism back in 1939-1940.

In the beginning Japan and Germany seemed to have had 'Science' on their side : most of the educated world resignedly believed that Nature and Darwin had revealed that in the long run, bigger was always better, always beating down the small and the weak.

In other words, they had a baldly naive and a highly hubris-inflated sense of what the Science of Size actually told us.

If you don't know that there actually is a well founded Science of Size, then you won't be prepared for the upcoming mega-sized re-match of WWII, when popular Hubris again collides with unpopular Reality, this time over the question of climate.

Friday, May 24, 2013

WWII's the Mighty and the Wise "confounded" by bacteria and bazooka Resistance Movements

It is clear now that WWII's twin defeats of Sulfa drugs and Armoured tanks by the bacterial and bazooka "Resistance Movements" spelt the beginning of the end for prewar Reductionist cum Constructionist Modernity.

(Martin) Henry Dawson could publish endless articles on the commensality of reality till the end of time ,but they cut no ice with the Mighty and the Wise compared to the short sharp lessons they learned at the great university of real life that was WWII.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

WWII : Constructionists vs Commensalists

Reductionism, still the philosophy of today's Popular Science, has admittedly had a lot of glass-half-filled success in the last few centuries.

It has totally succeeded in burrowing down below the surface of reality to the tiny objects at the base of all energy and matter ; reducing big macro objects that we can directly see and touch down to zillions of incredibly tiny objects we can only assume exists by way of indirect evidence.

But while Reductionism can explain how these tiny objects interact, more or less, it has totally failed to fulfill the real purpose behind all of its efforts : to construct new , better-built, versions of macro reality based on what we have learned about the tiny building blocks that make it up.

It turns out, to use today's Net jargon, that the so called laws of physics do not actually 'scale up' ( or 'scale down') all that well.

WWII Brooklyn to be home to war's biggest killing machine or war's smallest life-saver ?

In the end, the Borough of Brooklyn (NYC) became home to both : the Iowa class of battleships and the home of most of the war's penicillin.

But it had been a near run thing ; this battle over the moral soul of Brooklyn.

After all, from the beginning of the war, the leaders of the Great Powers (Churchill, FDR,Tojo,Stalin and Hitler) were determined to show the world what the greatest entities on Earth could do, if they set their mind to it.

WWII is proof that they succeeded in spades .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

BAZOOKA, not A-Bomb or V-2, most important new weapon of WWII

Because the Great Imperial Powers who began and fought WWII had done so under the mantra that "bigger is better", they were hardly shaken by the emergence (near the war's end) of the A-Bomb and the V-2, surely two of the biggest, most expensive and complex weapons systems ever built up to then.

For the emergence of these style of  weapons merely supported their post-1945 expectations of eternal dominance over other smaller nations and over their own colonies and subservient satellites.

With 20/20 hindsight, they should have been much more worried about other much smaller, much cheaper, much simpler weapons that emerged out of WWII : like the bazooka , above all.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'A warm meal, a warm bed and a warm smile' : still the best medicine

"The hyssop and The Cedars" is a book about health during our past most recent man-made Apocalypse : occasionally it is about doctors and pharmaceuticals, but mostly it is not.

For the truth is that  *food* was the only medicine in really desperate short supply during WWII.

Truth is that 'a warm meal, a warm bed and a warm smile' is all most of us ever need to reach our three score and ten.

After that, we generally do need the help of hospital beds and the pharmaceutical firms.

But let us also never forget the warm smile.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

High School Science : 'Home of the Hubris' , STILL

Science (the resulting name for the 150 year old victory of Natural Philosophy over Natural History) is widely accepted to be primarily pedagogical in nature.

It exists as a subdivision of Philosophy and is designed primarily to do nothing more that to teach students (and the adult laity) formal and informal lessons in metaphysics and ethics, 'Drawn from Nature' as Science understands it.

Henry Dawson vs Newton, Dalton & Darwin...

During his brief life, (Martin) Henry Dawson managed to have three seemingly wildly different careers : in the Military during WWI, in Academic Science in the interwar years, and in Popular Science during WWII.

But these differences are only apparent , not real.

Friday, May 10, 2013

1945 : as apogee AND nadir of Modern Science

Hitler may have successfully convinced his most rabid followers that the murder of every last Jew in Europe was a fitting consolation prize for his failure to deliver up western Russia as the new frontier for the Aryan super race in 1941.

But the rest of humanity regarding Auschwitz as a particularly (and peculiarly)  modern and scientific crime made it particularly hard for modern scientists in the rest of the world to present their continuing support of eugenics as the public face of postwar biology.

Still Auschwitz in the end proved a godsend to Oswald Avery's 1944 reductionist claims that Free Will didn't really exist but was simply manipulated by the chemical workings of a simple molecule called DNA.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

WWII : From Manchuria Incident to Nagasaki, NEUTRALITY was majority position of world's sovereign nations

The idea that Hitler, Tojo, Stalin and Mussolini are among the most evil leaders of all time - and that people like them must be stopped at all costs - is a relatively recent idea.

It is an idea promoted by people like you and I, who statistically speaking,  weren't likely even alive when WWII ended.

Thus we never had to do the hard-lifting of deciding just what to actually do, or not do, about these obviously aggressive tyrants.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Modern "Bigger is Better" vs Post-modern "Small is Beautiful"

Kiddies, don't agonize about the complex differences between modernity and postmodernity when your prof poses the question at your next final exam ( trust me on this one - they will).

Just remind yourself that great-grandpa back in the 1930s was as unlikely to say "small is beautiful" as today's intellectuals on public broadcasting would ever proclaim "bigger is better" ....

WWII as apogee AND nadir of Modern Science....

The night 'the music died' began when the young pilot of the small plane that Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens were in, misread an instrument and thought he was climbing above a storm when he was really going full blast down into the ground.

Various Modern scientists (and their shills the science 'journalists' , ie editors) might be considered to have done something very similar to that unfortunate pilot.

They mis-read the Atomic Energy fire-bombing of civilians, the mass production of cheap Natural Penicillin and Auschwitz's gas chambers and frugal use of the resulting dead humans as furnace fuel and for soap as triumphs - rather than failures - of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

WWII : began with "Bigger is Better - Inevitably" and ended up in "Global Commensality"

At the 1939 New York's World Fair , it seemed only common sense that life started out as tiny simple-minded microbes and inevitably ended up both bigger and smarter, with beings like us being the prime example.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Henry Dawson never changed his mind about the Overdogs, but the World did ...

The idea that Nature favours the ubermenschs and overdogs,  that 'Might is Right' , were pretty well universally accepted, albeit sometimes resignedly, in 1939.

Henry Dawson, drawing much different conclusions from his decade long study of the constantly varying battles of Human-Bacteria Commensality, certainly didn't agree.

He gave at least equal odds to all the untermenschs and the underdogs of our natural slash human world.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Civilization, regarded as a "Cartwright Machine"

A "Cartwright Machine" is a powerful and unique way, created by famed philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright,  of looking again at all of Humanity's machines , mental as well as physical.

Cartwright's central insight is to realize that the real beauty of a machine is literally 'only skin deep'.

This is in very sharp contrast to received opinion on machines up until now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Divided Selves of Nova Scotia's Henrys ....

Thirty years ago, I started researching and writing about the divided mind (to use William James' famous term) of a man named Henry from Nova Scotia.

I still am.

my 1984 Henry Alline poster
But I started off writing and thinking about Henry Alline, a man from New England stock living in Falmouth Nova Scotia , who  very much considered himself a Christian.

Admittedly most see him professing a quite unorthodox variety of the Christian faith.

By contrast, for the last eight years I have been researching, writing and thinking (much, much thinking) about (Martin) Henry  Dawson.

(Martin) Henry Dawson
While this Henry had been raised in a very committed Presbyterian family in Truro Nova Scotia, (with one side of his family reflecting similar New England roots),  he always claimed in adulthood not to be a believer in the Christian God but rather in the new religion of Modern Science.

Modernity dies in an Adorno Moment : 1939-1945

Between  April 30th 1939 (when the New York's World Fair opened) and the November 20th 1945 (when the Nuremberg Trials opened) a lot of water (together with a lot of blood and brains) flowed under one of Modern civilization's few remaining un-bombed bridges :  call it WWII.

If  to the bemused Theodor Adorno, New York's fair was Modernity's bizarre apogee , he also saw Nuremberg's trials as Modernity's appalling nadir.

But I doubt that even Adorno and his co-conspirator Max Horkheimer had really expected Modernity to soar , burn and crash just that quickly.

Militant atheists object not to Jesus's EXISTENCE, but to his ETHICS

Is God really dead...... or just really annoying ?

I think for most modern militant atheists (aka the ones without the gutteral accent and the thick mustache ) it is the ethics of Christianity that they find most offensive.

Civilization can fire Guns OR eat Butter, but not both....

The Cold War is always pointed-to-with-pride as a time when Civilization had guns and butter.

Had guns, yes, but never fired them.

Its all quite different from actual war,( shout out to WWII) , when guns get fired and their shells destroy the butter factories and people are left too hungry to build another shell or churn more butter.

Civilizations like Germany, Japan and Russia then quickly end up with their citizens turning to cannibalism to survive : true they don't eat their guns, but they do definitely eat their leather gun straps before turning on each other as a food source.....

WWII : Science finds, Man applies, Nature confounds ...

Yes indeed, the Universe is just like some giant man-made clockworks, albeit one taken out of its 'shielding' case and left out in Nature's harsh elements, exposed years in years out to blazing sun, wind, rain, snow, dust and mould.

How much our vaunted Civilization rests upon the thin security provided by the shielding roofs over our man-made "Cartwright Machines" is made particularly clear during war.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

WWII:began optimistically as Science, ended tragically as Engineering..

WWII, in other words, began in Modernism and ended in post-Modernism.

It should be understood at the onset that Science's task is strictly pedagogical and that it doesn't have to provide answers that are true, in any realistic sense, merely ones that are correct.

In other words, an excellent science experiment also is an excellent exam question.