Archive for the ‘human knowledge limited’ Category

False Predictions based on accurate knowledge

August 21, 2012

In 1960…a best-selling book said that the United States had only a 13-year supply of domestic petroleum at the existing rate of usage. At that time, the known petroleum reserves of the United States were not quite 32 billion barrels. At the end of the 13 years, the known petroleum reserves of the United States were more than 36 billion barrels. Yet the original statistics and the arithmetic based on them were both accurate. Why then did the United States not run out of oil by 1973? Was it just dumb luck that more oil was discovered—or were there more fundamental economic reasons?

Just as shortages and surpluses are not simply a matter of how much physical stuff there is, either absolutely or relative to the population, so known reserves of natural resources are not simply a matter of how much physical stuff there is underground. For natural resources as well, prices are crucial. So are present values.

Sowell, Thomas, Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy (Basic Books, 2004) p.205

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You never know when you’ll go

August 21, 2012

A news story some years ago told of a speculator who made a deal with an elderly woman who needed money. In exchange for her making him the heir to her house, he agreed to pay her a fixed sum every month as long as she lived. However, this one-to-one deal did not work out as planned because she lived far longer than anyone expected and the speculator died before she did. An insurance company not only has the advantage of large numbers, it has the further advantage that its existence is not limited to the human lifespan.

Sowell, Thomas, Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy (Basic Books, 2004) p.205

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all

June 5, 2010

Know Thyself

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is Man. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state A being darkly wise and rudely great: With too much knowledge for the sceptic side, With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride, He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest, In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast, In doubt his mind or body to prefer; Born but to die, and reasoning but to err; Alike in ignorance, his reason such Whether he thinks too little or too much: Chaos of thought and passion, all confused; Still by himself abused, or disabused; Created half to rise and half to fall; Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all; Sole judge of truth, in endless errors hurled; The glory, jest and riddle of the world!

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

Pope captures beautifully the contradiction that man is: the riddle of the world!

40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed to ‘prevent’ the spread of the 1665 Plague

December 8, 2009

During the Plague of London, 1665, the death toll peaked in September at 7,265, Daniel Defoe..reports that 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats were killed, as it was feared that these domestic animals might be carrying the disease. In fact this was the worst possible action to take, for the real culprits were the fleas carried by the black rats. In the absence of their natural predators, these rats multiplied and the plague spread.

Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press, 2008, p.245

Human solutions are not always beneficial.

I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me

October 8, 2009

I don’t know what I may seem to the world. But as to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than the ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton, last words d.1727

A man that sets himself to reason without divine light is like a man that goes in the dark into a garden full of the most beautiful plants

September 24, 2009

Ratiocination, without·spiritual light, never will give one such an advantage to see things in their true relations and respects to other things, and to things in general. A man that sets himself to reason without divine light is like a man that goes in the dark into a garden full of the most beautiful plants, and most artfully ordered, and compares things together by going from one thing to another to feel of them all, to perceive their beauty.

Jonathan Edwards, “Miscellanies #408,” 249

Finding bad reasons for what we already be lieve on instinct

September 16, 2009

…metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we already believe upon instinct.

F. H. Bradley, philosopher

Nietzsche’s Perspectivalism

September 15, 2009

From now on, my philosophical gentlemen, let us protect ourselves better from the dangerous old conceptual fantasy which posits a “pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of cognition”; let’s guard ourselves against the tentacles of such contradictory ideas as “pure reason,” “absolute spirituality,” “knowledge in itself”—those things which demand that we think of an eye which simply cannot be imagined, an eye which is to have no direction at all, in which the active and interpretative forces are supposed to stop or be absent—the very things through which seeing first becomes seeing something. Hence, these things always demand from the eye something conceptually absurd and incomprehensible. The only seeing we have is seeing from a perspective; the only knowledge we have is knowledge from a perspective; and the more emotions we allow to be expressed  in words concerning something, the more eyes, different eyes, we know how to train on the same thing, the more complete our “idea” of this thing, our “objectivity,” will be. But to eliminate the will in general, to suspend all our emotions without exception—even if we were capable of that—what would that be? Wouldn’t we call that castrating the intellect?

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals, Third Essay, 12

This statement is the death blow to the Enlightenment and the door to relativism. Only the Christian worldview can avoid the pitfalls of both these errors. On the one hand it gives The Perspective (God’s) any and all humans lack, providing certain, absolute truth. On the other hand, this revelation is limited and requires the kind of humility Enlightenment man is incapable of, to receive it.

Nietzsche is right at least this far, man is not a pure reasoning machine as if he had no emtions or pre-commitments looking at any subject.

The loss of God and human personality

September 10, 2009

I believe that with the loss of God, man has lost a kind of absolute and universal system of coordinates, to which he could always relate anything, chiefly himself. His world and his personality gradually began to break up into separate, incoherent fragments corresponding to different, relative, coordinates.

Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright, dissident, later President

No age has known less than ours of what man is

September 8, 2009

“No age,” writes Heidegger in his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, “has known so much, and so many different things, about man as ours…And no age has known less than ours of what man is.”

Martin Buber, Between man and Man, p.219