Monday, June 21, 2010

More or Less Open Letter

To Russ Douthat, Paul Krugman, Rachel Madow and Keith Obermann,

I want to thank you all: Rachel and Keith for your programs, Paul for his opinions and Ross for his occasionally brilliant insights into reality. Together you have solved a problem that has puzzled me: why Hitler emerged from the liberal decadence of the Weimar Republic. Russ' oped today provided the key; the liberals call for dictatorial action because they want to fail.

Not that I fault you. It is considerably more pleasant listening to left-leaning folk than right-leaning folk who would as soon see me ground up for fuel for their limousines as not. You may not have thought through the consequences of what you say any more deeply than your rightwing counterparts, but at least you are much less likely to advocate anything that will cause us harm. Sally and I don't have much money and less status so we have little to lose from anything you are likely to advocate.

We do have a house in the Caribbean in which we spend most of the year, but it is an island which is not easily accessed (yet) so it has few US tourists. (See

When you do disappoint me, what causes the disappointment is the failure of my own expectations. And that isn't fair to you. I shouldn't expect you to be more perceptive than your listeners/readers and, as Ross pointed out, I certainly shouldn't expect you to be more perceptive than your colleagues.

I particularly noticed that Keith seemed to feel that Obama should have blustered like Il Duce (remember him?), and acted like Hitler. But that's just because you didn't think about the unanticipated consequences. I had sometimes wondered why a liberal populace like Weimar Germany chose Hitler. But they forgot that dictators are dangerous because they are always on their own side, even if they seem to be on your side once in a while. But it is one of the things that might happen. Not with Obama, of course, but with the left wing guy after the next right-wing guy. It will seem like the important thing is to solve the problem, not to have a democratic infrastructure.

But I have been thinking about these matters for quite a while. I have been thinking seriously for the last 50 years, and trying out left wing positions for a
number of years before that, and I can definitely say that while I can't make a precise short-range prediction I can expect us to evolve into a globally egalitarian, ecologically responsible and creative civilization. We have been progressing in that direction at least since the neolithic, and you could argue that it was inevitable once we started using mouth-noises to communicate abstract ideas. We don't even know when that was.

But the thread isn't obvious. It took me 50 years to figure it out, starting with a Ph. D. in Physics, and it will probably take longer for anyone who doesn't start with some feeling for the mathematics used in quantum physics.

If the geekyness of that turns you on, the argument is contained in (

But it isn't going to be painless.

The key to the present is that by 1950 we had evolved to the point where
the senior bureaucrats were the elite. The government bureaucrats were represented by the Democratic Party and the corporate bureaucrats were represented by the Republican Party. Since 1950 they have alternated
being in control of Western Civilization and their main unconscious ambition is to maintain the status quo.

The reason is that since around 1500 the certification of upward mobility has been the conspicuous expenditure of resources. There aren't enough resources for the rest of our species to waste resources to the degree that the upper levels of western civilization does.

The net result is that the elite (both Democrats and Republicans) have to hold social evolution to a standstill, so that the lower classes ( sma folk, in swedish), mostly people of color, have to be prevented from experiencing upward mobility and the fringes of the elite (like the people in Dilbert) have to be forced to be downwardly mobile. These fringe people are more aware of what is happening to them, which provides the anger in the tea-party and left-blogger groups. They have a right to be angry, they just don't know who they ought to be angry at.

Obama is trying to get our system working again, but he doesn't understand that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want him to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. For instance he was the only one in the White House who wanted the health care bill. Probably even he doesn't understand how very revolutionary it is.

Remember that the best medicine for many chronic diseases of the poor is to have good nutrition and shelter, and imagine what will happen when the doctors learn to prescribe that and the bean counters learn it is cost effective. That will set economics on its ear. But neither Democrats nor Republicans would either anticipate nor desire those results.

So in one sense it may not be a good idea for you to become infected with my concepts. If you took them seriously you might lose your audience. But as we get deeper into the crisis knowing about the "unintended consequences" might help you survive. The next decades are going to be hard to predict.

Karl Eklund, Ph.D.
Myricks, MA and
Villa, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Questions about Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Question 2: Why is Homo Sapiens Sapiens found in so much variety of appearance?

In Part 1 of it says: But fission and migration doesn't always work. When we were surrounded by other tribes just far enough away that we know they are there, we couldn't easily fission and move apart. We had solve the population problem another way. We had to control our population without moving, in a more direct manner.

The only technology we had for that was infanticide. If we wanted to use abortion, even if we knew a method safe for the mother, we wouldn't know that it was the undesirable infant we killed. And there was little point in waiting until we had a lot invested in a person, and then killing them and wasting all that effort. So we had no choice but infanticide to keep the tribe a stable size.

The problem is that infanticide requires us to choose which infants to kill, and there aren't enough babies like Oedipus (with swollen feet) who was born with a visually obvious disability.

The only easy choice was to kill those infants who didn't look like the rest of us.

The result of that practice is that while the individuals of our species in different places might look quite different, in any one locality we pretty much look alike.

We refer to that global variety and local uniformity of appearance and language as "race".

We evolved the characteristics we call "racial" not by "natural selection" based on the laws of evolution but by the same kind of artificial selection we use in breeding show animals. The important conclusion is that no "race" is more likely to be better at survival than any other, because the selection for "race" was simply based on appearance. And that remains the case: no "race" is better or worse than any other, we just look different."

A special case should be mentioned. Some anthropologists, with more good intentions than common sense, have argued that because Africans who live close to the equator have darker skins than Scots or Swedes, skin color was determined by the latitude in which one grew up. Unfortunately the Lapps and the Innuit, both of whom live at a greater latitude than, say the English or Swedes, also have a darker complexion.

This corresponds to another phenomenon. Research on grave sies in Britain and Scandinavia have found that when grain agriculture was introduced to the region around the Baltic Sea, the residents stopped eating fish. That meant that they were unlikely to get enough vitamin D except through sunlight exposure, which tends to fall short in that region. That meant that people with a pigmented skin were also likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency and, thus, from rickets.

Life was not gentle during the mesolithic-neolithic transition, and rickets would not have been a positive factor for survival. Thus the evolution of "the White Race" was most likely a by-product of an Anglo-scandinavian boredom with fish as opposed to bread.

In any case, the lightness of skin color among the anglo-scandinavian population is not in any way related to any kind ohf virtue. If our ancestors hadn't lost their taste for fish we'd probably be as dark as the other people who live in our latitude.

Questions about Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Question 1.: Why is Homo Sapiens Sapiens widely distributed around the earth, even in places that are hard to live in, like the Arctic, or hard to get to, like Easter Island.

In Part 1 it says: "If the tribe found an ecological niche that allowed it to be successful, it naturally expanded and developed tensions. If it had the opportunity, it fissioned and the two parts moved away from one another to reduce the stress. If it was just a matter of getting too big to exploit the ecological niche properly, we wouldn't have to move that far. But we have to move far enough so we aren't affected by being aware of the people in the other tribe who aren't like us.

When we settle down again, if the place is reasonably fertile our tribe will expand again and fission again, and migrate apart. This repeated fission caused us to spread all over the globe even without the attraction of looking for a better environment. If the environment had been the motivation the whole tribe would move together.

The need to fission to control population is why we are distributed all over the globe in a manner unlike any other primate."

This is not only an unusual phenomenon, because not many other animals are as widely distributed over the earth as Homo Sapiens Sapiens is, but it is a unique phenomenon because the wide distribution is associated with a wide variety of appearance that does not correspond to a variety of species. All the varieties of Homo Sapiens Sapiens are of one species as we occasionally demonstrate by interbreeding of appearance varieties. That is undoubtedly unique.

Chinese Proverb

At my request, Akira Tonomura sent me a copy (shown below) of a calligraphic scroll displayed at the Hitachi Research Facility. It was mentioned in his essay about Professor Yang Chen-Ning, who had mentored him. I read it because I had been a colleague of Frank Yang's at Stony Brook, and had been a student of "TD" Lee's at Columbia when Lee and Yang won the Nobel Prize.

The proverb in the calligraphy could be considered the motif of my essay at That essay was inspired by Lee's and Yang's attitude toward statistical mechanics and mathematical physics, two of the subjects I heard "TD" lecture on in the late '50s.