September 12, 2007


Caption: This is him.

The guiding thread through this week's Goat Rope is the topic of determinism, which El Cabrero is writing about of necessity even though he doesn't quite buy it. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

When it comes to determinism, the French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827)was hardcore:

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

In other words, he thought it was possible for an intellect that had all the correct information about a given moment to completely reconstruct the past and predict the future.

Note: he didn't refer to the hypothetical intellect as a demon; that title was bestowed by later writers.

The story is also told of his interview with the Napoleon, where he presented him a copy of his work. The Emperor said, "M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator."

He replied, "I had no need of that hypothesis."

One wonders what Einstein or Spinoza would have said. All I can say is that I find it easier to believe in Zeus' merry band of Olympian immortals than in a completely mechanistic universe.

THIS HORRENDOUS West Virginia story about the abduction and weeklong sexual abuse and torture of an African-American woman has made national news. Six suspects, all white, have been arrested. The FBI is participating in the investigation at the Logan County Sheriff's Department request and is investigating this as a hate crime. Here's the latest from today's Gazette. AFSC staff and others here are working now on a local response.

MORE ON THE SHOCK DOCTRINE AND DISASTER CAPITALISM. Yesterday's post mentioned Naomi Klein's new book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Here's another review from the NY Times and a link to a short film from her website. WV's own right wing is attempting to "unleash" its own version here.

WHAT DO THEY KNOW? Here are the results of a new poll of Iraqis about their views of the situation:

Barely a quarter of Iraqis say their security has improved in the past six months, a negative assessment of the surge in U.S. forces that reflects worsening public attitudes across a range of measures, even as authorities report some progress curtailing violence...

More Iraqis say security in their local area has gotten worse in the last six months than say it’s gotten better, 31 percent to 24 percent, with the rest reporting no change. Far more, six in 10, say security in the country overall has worsened since the surge began, while just one in 10 sees improvement...

More directly assessing the surge itself – a measure that necessarily includes views of the United States, which are highly negative – 65 to 70 percent of Iraqis say it’s worsened rather than improved security, political stability and the pace of redevelopment alike.

The survey was conducted by ABC News, BBC, and Japanese broadcaster NHK.

REMEMBERING THE CCC. The Charleston Daily Mail had a good piece yesterday on a reunion of Civilian Conservation Corps workers. New Deal era programs like that build a great deal of WV's--and the USA's--infrastructure. They had a real president back then, too.


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