They call this science?


What would you say if someone told you they could kill you, embalm your brain and upload its memories to a computer?

A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal”. Nectome will preserve your brain, but you have to be euthanized first.

You can find any number of articles on this subject. I’ll refer to this one. They propose killing you, embalming your brain and promise to upload its memories to a computer sometime in the future. I suppose you have to pay for this before you get turned into a stiff!

This next bit is straight out of Frankenstein, though I am also reminded of Dr Phibes as he lies in the tomb next to his beloved Victoria and has a machine suck out his blood and pump in embalming chemicals – and then he rises from the dead for the sequel of Dr Phibes Rises Again.

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia).

There’s even a waiting list for this procedure!

This “Frankenstein’s laboratory in the mountains of wherever” is getting Federal grants in America for doing this thing to a – – – pig. If your computer starts going “oink” and talking about troughs and all those lovely mud baths, and having nightmares about sausages and bacon, you’ll know where the virus has come from!

The trouble is that these people are going to have to prove that they can get memories from a dead brain onto a computer. Convincing? The deposit is $10,000, which is refundable if you change your mind. That’s nice to know…

This whole idea goes from the assumption that consciousness comes from the brain rather than using the brain as an “interface” with the body as we know it in this life. A dead brain is exactly that – dead. This whole idea is based on materialism and the mechanistic and deterministic nature of things as taught by men like Stephen Hawking. “Realist” materialism is a dinosaur! For an Idealist, this “experiment” is a fraud, and not only is it unnecessary but it is also impossible – just like bringing cadavers back to “life” using electricity. Mary Shelley knew that in 1816! It is also no less an abomination against human life and the spiritual soul.

We are all concerned as human beings to leave something to posterity, for the simple reason that we have no knowledge or experience of what lies on the “other side”. It is the old Pascal’s Wager. If consciousness precedes matter, then there is life / consciousness after death. There are medically attested cases of human beings with extremely damaged brains whose consciousness and life functions are completely normal. How can this be? There are many things we can do, like writing books, composing music, being remembered for our goodness, being creative, doing great things for other people.

The trouble with writing horror stories and making horror films nowadays is that “reality” is even more terrifying. To end on a light note:


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Stephen Hawking RIP

I have never really had much interest in Stephen Hawking, who has just died. He was an atheist and a materialist. For a scientist, I have often been surprised at his idea that humanity would find another planet to live on. I suppose that if this were to happen, there would have to be a kind of “Noah’s Ark” city in space that would arrive at light speed in several thousands (millions?) of years time. The remote descendents of those who left Earth would presumably arrive at the planet. The big question would be knowing whether the humans in question would be welcome on a planet already inhabited by the living beings already there.

There is also the question of artificial intelligence. I have to admit that this is quite frightening, giving rise to a scenario like in the Terminator movies. Obviously, such a scenario is unlikely with today’s technology, but things could develop…

What is of greater concern is a quote in Hawking’s book The Grand Design saying that human beings are merely “biological machines” “with no consciousness, no souls, no spirit, no mind and nothing but a collection of organised chemicals that run physical brains in a deterministic machine-like way”.

If this is so, there is no moral objection to what monstrous quacks like Dr Mengele were doing at Auschwitz during World War II: experimenting on human beings. If there is no life, consciousness or free will, then human beings are worth nothing. The Nazis were not the last to experiment of humans. There are indications that such practices have occurred in the USA and other countries since World War II. If we are machines, as Descartes said of non-human animals, then there is no reason for any empathy. Life can just be exploited for profit of the strongest.

I have no connection with scientific circles, and have no knowledge about whether such “Enlightenment” materialism still prevails in the scientific world, or whether theories like Dr Robert Lanza’s biocentrism are beginning to catch on, offering a pre-existing consciousness that would create matter, time and space and give it life.

I find Lanza difficult to follow, but biocentrism does offer an explanation for life, order, value and everything that flows from living consciousness. All our Enlightenment scientific education we got at school is overturned, and we have the impression of having to re-learn everything and accept what seems to be nonsense. What really is nonsense is the idea of brute matter evolving into order and life over trillions of “years” and becoming human “machines”. Then, we are just going to have to re-learn and take a page from philosophical Idealism and Romanticism.

However, only about a month ago, according to Stephen Hawking admits intelligent design is ‘highly probable’, he surmised that “some form of intelligence” was actually behind the creation of the Universe. He even went as far as speaking of a God factor, whatever that means. His brother had a near-death experience in October 2017 after a heart attack, and that seemed to bring consciousness into the picture. That did not please the scientific community in Cambridge that one little bit!

In the article, we read:

Stephen Hawking has since published a rebuttal to his critics, insisting that “Intelligent design” doesn’t in any way prove that God exists, but only that a “God-like force” played a role in the creation of our Universe, approximately 13.8 billion years ago.

Perhaps God created the universe and conveniently died early on so that everything could evolve according to the dogmas of materialism. It doesn’t sound very scientific to me!

The man has now passed on and has certainly been very surprised to find himself conscious and freed from his crippled body. We should pray for him and learn from these scientific discussions.

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Owen Barfield

Some recent comments encouraged me to look up Owen Barfield, a long-standing friend of C.S. Lewis and partly behind Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity. I draw my readers’ attention to Owen Barfield (1898 – 1997).

My swallowing reflex comes into play as Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy are mentioned. I have not studied Steiner very much, but my attitude in regard to esotericism and New Age ideas as an Anglican Catholic is reserved. However, we should not stop there but rather see the important aspects of Barfield’s thought. I have just ordered Poetic Diction, and will probably then read Saving the Appearances and Romanticism Comes of Age. I will not be an unconditional fan of everyone I read, but this fellow seems to be of high importance in the school of thought I am working on.

On the very first page of this website, we read:

Barfield’s immediate relevance is profound; it is to solve the core problem of modern times – which is ‘alienation’: i.e. the deep sense of meaninglessness, purposelessness, and isolation from people and things.

This would depend on being able to explain theories of knowledge and consciousness in an accessible way. Many try to promote “being connected” and put over the idea that we function only as social beings. Many people need the corporate structure that gives motivation to an individual person’s work. I personally am quite the opposite. I do my best and most creative work alone, but that may be due in part to my Aspergers / autism. Alienation is a serious issue for us all, but we cannot eliminate it by forcing the person to be social and corporate, but rather to give meaning to that alienation. The Romantic’s alienation is such that meaning and purpose are found in the objects of Sehnsucht. In short, the meaning of our alienation from the “world” is found in God. If this meaning is found, then our hearts and minds begin to open up in empathy and mindfulness of other people and their thoughts, feelings and needs.

Post-modern isolation and nihilism go much further, and I find that many I meet just don’t care – Je m’en fous, as they say here in France. At least you can discuss with someone who is against you, engage debate and make progress. With the profoundly indifferent, nothing is possible. They cannot be evangelised or anything.

Back to Barfield, I need to go through this site and read the three books I mentioned. I would like to see the influence of both English and German Romantics on his thought and how he explains his theory of knowledge. I am extremely encouraged by these comments and the discoveries I am making.

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Postmodernist Bilgewater Generator

I have just discovered this hilarious computer programme, the Postmodern Essay Generator that generates anything a post-modernist student could ever want if he is late handing in an essay. Every time you renew this page, you get a completely different essay.

The language and jargon are meaningless, what the French call langue de bois. A friend of mine and fellow undergraduate at Fribourg called this stuff, even when written by humans, intellectual masturbation! It is tempting to react with Enlightenment rationalism and Yorkshire grit, but the response has to be a lot more subtle.

I am presently trying to get my mind around the theory of knowledge in German Idealism and Romanticism. Fortunately, these notions are largely based on Plato and Aristotle, and can be approached by traditional means with enough work. Until I get much clearer in this domain, I would not dream of trying to write anything new on that subject. I am attracted by the late eighteenth-century reaction against materialism and determinism, the human being treated as a machine. God and consciousness precede matter, not the other way round. The fundamental intuitions of Idealism have attracted me, but the more I discover, the more study I have to do. That is quite different from post-modernism, because for me language has its limits, but it’s the only way we have to communicate with each other, to relate, to negotiate and learn from each other. Take the validity away from language and the world will become a shit-hole, literally!

I did wonder if there was a remote link between Romanticism and Post-modernism, a kind of Devil’s Advocate argument that I was treading in dangerous waters. I find no sign of it. The philosophical (if you want to abuse that noble word) roots of post-modernism come from post World War II Paris, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan in particular. This is an interesting article on Post-modernism, giving a humorous criticism of matters like identity politics and Islamic theocracies, which really amount to little more like the ideology of Chinese and North Korean Communism – and of Big Brother.

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Encouraging Liturgical Developments

There are three encouraging things to relate:

These are small developments. Fr Augustine Thompson OP runs a blog on the Dominican Rite which is very informative, and gave me valuable indications about interpreting some of the more ambiguous rubrics in the Sarum liturgy.  Solemn Mass in Prestigious Parisian Basilica of St. Clotilde tells us that the FSSP occasionally uses the Parisian Rite.

I made a video three years ago of myself celebrating a low Sarum Mass in Latin. My apologies for the poor quality.

For completeness, I made a training video to help any other priest who would like to learn Sarum:

For High Mass, videos were made at Merton College in Oxford and St Thomas in Toronto, Canada. The former was celebrated by Fr Sean Finnigan, a Roman Catholic priest, and the latter was in an Anglican parish.

These are encouraging signs for the diversity of the western liturgy and the beginnings of a revival of the pre 1955 Roman Holy Week, which is a very important step forward.

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Hannibal Dawkins?

Dawkins Wants to Eat Human ‘Meat’. We shouldn’t get carried away by our cinema-aided imagination and see him as a latter-day Hannibal Lecter or Albert Fish who ate children in the 1930’s and was dealt with by the law. At the same time, it is a matter of degree from the intention to the act.

To take the sensationalism out of what he actually said, he notes that manufactured meat (for want of a better term) from animal cells is already on the immediate horizon. He extrapolates from this and suggests using human genetic material. I could see a sarcastic reaction from his own revulsion in regard to “manufactured meat”, with a rhetorical question of whether we should start eating our own species to save the bother of breeding cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, etc. A comparative approach with his writings and interviews would be necessary.

If we suppose he is arguing from a hypothetical vegan point of view that if we eat animal meat, we might as well overcome our taboo against cannibalism, it writes volumes about his extreme cynicism and denial of life and consciousness – not only the existence of God and metaphysics but also our own life.

He may not yet be kidnapping children or planning the first slaughterhouse production plants, but he is talking about the technology of breeding human cells outside the formation of an embryo. This technique was originally thought up for medical purposes, for example to graft genetically compatible skin onto someone who had been badly burned. I’m not well informed about the progress of these techniques, whether it is possible to “grow” a heart, liver or kidney for transplants. I think that this purpose could be justified if it is possible, rather than waiting for someone else to die and have their organs transplanted when our own fail.

But, from that to breeding flesh for food. Animals have been bred for food for millennia, and more species can be bred in captivity, including fish, marine invertebrates and edible insects. That moves on to intensive and inhumane breeding and then to genetic manipulation. That makes me very frightened – but the increasing world population has to be fed with something. The same is done to crops, and it is not impossible that plants may also be sentient beings and are aware of being killed and eaten. Where does all this go? It is simply a matter of us or them, us or what we have to eat to live. The food chain is a part of fallen nature, and we humans are not always at the top of it. Sometimes, a shark or a crocodile gets a tasty snack from someone who gets too near the water!

I surmise that had Dawkins talked of cultivating animal flesh, it would not agree with our culinary tastes and traditions, but it would not be so absolutely revolting as the idea of eating our own species, even if the meat was never a sentient human being. Taboos are necessary in our lives, because they are the outer limits of morality and humanity. In particular, we respect the dead and where they lie, and we don’t eat human flesh whatever the cause of death except in absolutely extreme circumstances like the football team in a plane crash. The furthest we go is dark humour like the above quip about sharks and crocodiles, or what we call in England gallows humour about executions. It is a way to relieve the taboo that prevents us from killing each other (unless we are criminals without a conscience).

We joke about cannibals, notably the theme of the missionary or explorer in the pots, and the native talking like a cook in a modern western kitchen about spices and cooking times. There is the old Irish joke about Paddy who goes to a TV quizz for 10 questions. “What do you call people who eat people?“. Paddy scratches his head, completely at sea, and shouts out “I canna! Balls!“. – “That’s right, Paddy, well done“. Back to serious things:

In the light of some of the ideas I have been reading about and expressing, the problem with Dawkins is his extreme materialism and “realism”. Like animals for Descartes, humans are no more than machines for Dawkins. Consciousness and life are a consequence of brute matter, taking billions of years to “evolve”. Independently of my Christian faith and penchant towards Romanticism and Idealism, I cannot give credibility to any idea so absurd that life came from randomness and chaos without the agency of the consciousness we believers call God and the Logos. Consciousness is seen in all matter, from crystals to tiny molecules of atoms and subatomic particles. Without consciousness, nothing would exist.

May Dawkins never get into a position of political power, preaching his diatribes in public houses and beer halls, befriending disillusioned Army officers, whipping up support for his party, writing a book of his “struggle” – – – and you know where this is going, even if he doesn’t grow a little moustache or start yelling in German that it is all the fault of the Jews! I joke about the Godwin’s Law bit, but human nature at its worst does not change. We have not learned from World War II – just to make the killing more clinical and justified by science. History will repeat itself, and God will die again…

I would have to read these outrageous ideas from Dawkins in their context. It would be very serious to accuse him of wanting to take Dr Mengele’s place, with modern technology but the same essential ideology. More than taboo, our fundamental instinct is empathy with other humans and also with animals, in such wise as that when we have to kill them (animals) for food, we do so using the least painful methods possible. We recognise in other humans the same degree of consciousness and life as ourselves. Without that consciousness, there is no reason to live at all. Every evil is committed in the world, from killing millions in the Holocaust to punching someone in the face (except in self-defence), is motivated by that refusal of the other’s humanity.

If Dawkins is advocating eating “dead” cultivated human flesh (to take the horror of slaughter out of the loop), it is either to be provocative in the extreme, or to say “Bugger you” to our entire Judeo-Christian culture. Either way, the slippery slope can go down a very long way. I cannot judge Dawkins without more objective information, but we all know about the Ideology!

Take this thing back to Baltimore!

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.

My attention has just been drawn to We Have Never Been Medieval.

As I read though this piece, I find myself ever more confirmed in my adhesion to philosophical Idealism, even though the details are as hard to understand as are contemporary scientific theories like Biocentrism. The arrogant idea according to which man has evolved from medieval obscurantism and brought about a good and human world is discredited as unscientific ideology.

This approach of this article is ambiguous, though I have found these last few days that the terms idealism and realism have fluid meanings, even in terms of neo-platonic metaphysics and epistemology. Is modern man so enlightened as is made out? I have always had my doubts. Appearances change but the essence of man and fallen nature remain the same. Even our science lacks the objectivity it claims, for example, in the question of global warming. One lot of results shows temperatures going up and another attests that they are descending. Someone’s thermometer needs to be calibrated! I suggest more science and less ideology! No one has ever been able to control nature, even with the most cutting-edge technology.

If we have to shed our certitudes that we are so “modern” and enlightened, were people in the past so medieval in the meaning of being irrational and cruel? We are fascinated with those centuries before the sixteenth, with their cathedrals and art. It would seem to be that the answer is that we are not all globalist winner-take-all bankers or jihadist terrorists or football hooligans in England. Some of us are idealists and others are “realists”, pragmatists, philistines and cynics. So it was in 1890’s London when Oscar Wilde was the old queen about town, now in 2018 – and in the days when Friedrich von Hardenberg’s mother and servants were throwing bedsheets and shirts out of the windows on washing day!

We look at encroaching Islam like a steer contemplates the slaughterhouse. Are many of us in modern Europe more cultivated or courteous than the mobs of young men with beards and fanatical eyes entering our countries from the Middle-East? Are we as critical of ourselves as of them? That being said, I am not for opening all frontiers…

If we analyse present-day politics and economics, we will see quite clearly how we are regressing towards a kind of feudalism through the extreme power of private and state capitalism and collectivism. Our nature as humans is exactly the same as five hundred years ago: when we get technology, we use it as a weapon of war! We have regressed from the middle-ages, because we no longer have the Faith or the culture.

Then, what are the “middle ages”? Actually, it was a vast period between the fall of the Roman Empire to the Reformation, a thousand years. I remember my church history at university when our professor told us not to judge the Inquisition by the Declaration of Human Rights. People in those days didn’t call themselves “medieval” any more than Novalis would call himself a “German Idealist” or a “Romantic”. The label was attached to the poor fellow long after his death. We call ourselves “modern”, when we can’t accurately define the word. Labels are so dangerous and devoid of meaning. It is one thing I have discovered about autism – it is a word that encourages others from calling me a jerk or an arsehole, but it would also label me as something of interest to medicine and psychiatry, an Untermensch. I have to realise in my more reflective moments of the night that I am not modern or anything, just a human being in via.

The article is more sceptical of Idealism and Romanticism than I am. We will never know the reality, even of the period of our childhood like the 1950’s or 60’s. I have my memories, but I have certainly forgotten most of the “realities”, and I cannot do justice to them with my present experience. When I was 15 (in 1974), did I miss the laptop computer and the mobile phone? Of course not, but I used the word “modern” all the same! The article has a typically Roman Catholic misunderstanding of Hegel. I am sure his version of Idealism did not imagine what we call “progress” today. Again, it is the historian’s mortal sin of anachronism!

I was quite severely criticised for encouraging readers to examine Novalis’ Christenheit oder Europa and keep a straight face whilst reading a travesty of history. It is the same when the Rationalist of materialism singles out that period for condemnation or when Protestants look to a pristine primitive Christianity. We all need a myth to define a sense of identity and hope. That is the role of Romanticism and Idealism. But, the cruel reality is that we are always the same, oscillating between sublimity and depravity, all the way through history from Judas to ourselves in our potential treachery.

The article is quite lucid in its examination of things. Vatican II is no longer a golden calf of orthodoxy but another vicissitude of history that has produced both intuitions and failed promises. Renewal by embracing the Enlightenment never happened. One thing that has done me a lot of good is to realise that the Church has never been out of dark days and crisis. We will only find the Kingdom within, whilst we are incarnate and need the sacramental presence of Christ in our communion. This idea of exposing the programmed reform on the basis of bureaucracy and groupthink is central in this article and my own mind.

The time has come to return to the Word, the Idea which is Christ, the universal man and Son of God. Plato’s metaphysics will help us a lot more than Aristotle’s, and we see there the response of the Gentiles to the fulness of Revelation. The article finds it sad that neo-scholasticism has been discarded. I am not so sad, since it formed a part of what became the extreme Enlightenment of the seventeenth century. I would certainly prefer St Thomas Aquinas to Suarez! The article has some intuitions for which we can be grateful.

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