Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Over 100,000 dead in the UK from Covid-19

Yes, yet another post about the virus.  I know, I know, all very boring compared to my philosophical output, but I am perplexed, frustrated, angry and bemused by the (UK) Government and all the colossally bad decisions it's made regarding the virus. The official tally dead in the UK from the virus is now above 100,000.  And, I heard that the death rate from the virus is the worst in the world. Compare over 100,000 deaths with New Zealand's, which has seen only 25 deaths.

The insane decisions made by the UK Government regarding this virus are simply never-ending. 

1. Right from the off, ideally as early as January 2020, everyone arriving in the UK, including British people returning to the UK, should have been quarantined for at least 10 days.  But there were no border controls for months!  We just allowed anyone, even from China, to come in.  People weren't even tested, least of all quarantined.

2. As soon as the virus arrived in the UK and started to spread, a severe lockdown should have been imposed.  Not doing so allowed the virus to infiltrate everywhere. So, by the time the first lockdown was imposed in late March, it was already too late.

3.  Now the virus was established in the UK, the rate of infection R had to be driven right down.  In as much as the lockdown was relaxed, it couldn't be relaxed so much as to allow the R rate to go above 1.  That would simply ensure the virus would, once again, proliferate.  

So what did the Government do?  They relaxed the lockdown.  They allowed international and domestic travel, opened the schools, told students to attend University, implemented the Eat Out to Help Out policy, reopened pubs, cinemas etc, dropped the 2 metre social distancing rule, and employees were permitted to return to the office.  This was insane.  Such policies, at least as a collective whole, simply ensured that R would rise well above 1 leading inevitably to a further lockdown down the line.

4.  And now the latest news is that only those entering the UK from high risk countries, not all countries, will be quarantined.  See here.  I'm perplexed, what's to stop people from the high-risk countries simply travelling to the UK via another country first?

Presumably the motivation for all these staggering bad decisions was to save the economy.  But I'm not sure that simply continually imposing and relaxing these type of "lockdowns" is helpful in this regard.  Just one lockdown, but a radical one, was required in order to drive the R figure right down and control the virus.  Like what New Zealand and other countries did. 

My posts on the virus in chronological order spread across my 2 blogs:

The Coronavirus
Herd Immunity and the Coronavirus
Peoples' indifference to the coronavirus
Lockdowns to contain the Virus

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The Mantra "We don't have Free Will"

I'm sick of people claiming that free will is an illusion, that it is rational and scientific to hold this.  Yet, they seem extremely reluctant to specify what this actually means.  That my consciousness doesn't actually do anything? So, I'm typing out these words, but it's not my consciousness doing it?

Frequently they might say they believe in "determinism" but without specifying exactly what is meant by this term.   I guess they mean that the four forces in nature, (gravitation, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) represent true innate causes in the world and all change in the physical world is due exclusively to the interaction of these four forces?  Well, at least that's clear. So they really do mean my consciousness does absolutely nothing, not even in any train of thought I might entertain! Which it is very easy to refute as I do in the first three paragraphs of an essay I wrote.

But then they shift and obfuscate and claim we don't have free will as the environment influences our behaviour! Well, yes . . when I'm thirsty I'm more likely to drink water (or ribena at least). But no one in the history of the Universe has denied our bodily needs influence our behaviour! And even here, I can ignore my urge to drink.  

Or they say that we don't have free will as our behaviour is in principle predictable. Well gosh, people will stoop down and pick up a £50 note if they see one lying on the pavement outside. So they don't have free will as their behaviour was predictable!  But why does the predictability of peoples' behaviour entail we lack free will?  They never say! I address this issue in the same essay I linked to above under the heading Free Will and Determinism.

So this initial claim we don't have free will is watered down and down until it means nothing so far as I can tell. One would have to behave randomly to satisfy their apparent definition of "free will". But then, predictably enough, they say acting randomly isn't free will either.  Little wonder they reject it.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Commenting on a negative review of the Netflix series "Surviving Death"

As a preliminary, I should point out that I haven't watched this series of programmes, nor have I read the book that the series is based on. Since, though, there's plenty of reviews of this series of programmes, I am now sufficiently intrigued that I plan to watch both the series and read the book, and possibly review both. So, for the first time ever, I'll be subscribing to Netflix!

Anyway, here's a negative review of the series from The Daily Beast that I'll make a few comments on:

‘Surviving Death’: Netflix’s New Series on the Afterlife Is Crackpot Nonsense

First thing to say is that there aren't any detailed arguments here.  It adopts a flippant dismissive tone rather than a measured approach.  But, for what it's worth, let's look at what it has to say:

The article says:

[E]lderly hospice patients often state that they see, and speak to, their deceased relatives. Alas, Surviving Death ignores any non-supernatural explanation for these phenomena—say, that cultural programming inspires like-minded deathbed visions, or that aged men and women whose minds are deteriorating, and who’ve lost everyone they cherish, might naturally retreat into comforting family-reunion fantasies.

So, cultural programming or fantasy might make you see someone and talk to them.  My immediate reaction here is to ask why not prefer the more obvious and straightforward explanation that they are in actual communication with them?  From what I've read they certainly seem to be.  Of course, they might have retorted that the notion they are really in communication with dead people is an extraordinary claim.  But, in the review, they don't say that and no argument is presented to support that contention.   And besides, as I have extensively argued in my blog, for example here, I do not think the notion that it is an extraordinary claim can be justified.

The article also says:

Everyone spotlighted by Surviving Death agrees that grief is at the root of people’s desire to believe in the afterlife.

For many people that might well be so.  And, of course, having a desire that something is true doesn't make it any more likely to be true.  But, also, it doesn't make it any more likely to be false either.  In short, it doesn't matter that many people have a desire to believe in an afterlife. What are relevant are the reasons and evidence that can bear on this issue. 

The article also says:

Where are the bitter, angry ghosts who want to vent to those they left behind?

Communication, whether via mediumship or perceiving an apparition, will presumably be of a telepathic nature.  Are anger and bitterness conveyed in general telepathic communications? Of course, it might be that the anger has dissipated in the afterlife realm -- this is suggested by NDEs who often report feeling unconditional love from the beings they perceive.  

The article also says:
Surviving Death boasts an extremely limited view of the afterlife—one in which all ghosts communicate in the same indirect-clue fashion, and have the same unrevealing things to say.
I do agree that the "unrevealing things to say" accusation makes mediumship somewhat less convincing than it otherwise might have been.  Having said that, we need to remember that the alleged communication isn't conveyed by words, but rather telepathy.  Can telepathy convey the same information as a spoken language? Telepathy might be elicited via an emotional resonance between two or more beings, which primarily convey feelings rather than "cold" information.  So, a detailed description of the afterlife via telepathy might be difficult.

The article also says:

 And there’s also one woman’s extended tall tale about foreseeing her death at the moment of her child’s birth|.

I'm not sure that premonitions are completely impossible.  I have more to say on this issue in another blog post here.   But, even granting it's a "tall tale", it is not generally disputed there's a great deal of nonsense out there.  But, how does this negate the more convincing evidence, or the fundamental problem that if there is no afterlife how the brain somehow produces consciousness?

The article also says:

[I]n late passages about children who claim to be reincarnated souls, the show doesn’t cast a single sideways glance at the adults and kids making these assertions.

Not sure what this means? With Ian Stevenson and his successors, it's not as if children are simply believed, their claims are thoroughly investigated. If investigations reveal their memories match up to past events, and which couldn't have been obtained by any normal obvious manner, then we need to entertain the various hypotheses. Reincarnation is the most straightforward obvious one and that fits all the facts.  Of course, we should be extremely sceptical about anyone claiming to have been a famous person.

Well, that's it.  I need to watch these programmes!

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Lockdowns to contain the Virus

I keep reading people say that "lockdowns" to contain covid-19 don't work.  I'm not sure what they mean.  At least in England, lockdowns are a reactive policy.  The number of infected and R number goes up and up, and so, in a panic, the Government imposes a lockdown to stop the increase, which it does, but then when the lockdown ends the numbers obviously increase again.  So, effectively, lockdowns are a policy of desperation.  They do work as in keeping the numbers in check, but of course, they don't get rid of the virus!  

The Government needed and needs to apply pro-active policies, and should have done so from the off back last January.  I suggested at that time the banning of all international flights (see a blog post of mine here). Certainly, something should have been done.  Perhaps the isolation for 2 weeks of all arrivals to the UK and which was strictly enforced, including those coming back from holiday.  If not implemented in January, then February or, at the very latest, early March.  Moreover, the Government have continued to make the wrong decisions throughout.  For example, back in September, why on earth were schools allowed to be re-opened and students told to go back to University?  Of course, the numbers of infected were low then -- 1 in every 900 people in the UK compared to 1 in 50 now -- but that was the very time to drive the numbers and the R rate even lower.  Not allow the R number and the number of infected people to rise again!  It was a deeply foolish policy.

New Zealand  implemented the correct policies from the off and life is pretty much normal there now and has been for months with a mere 25 people having died from the virus (see this article).  Contrast that to the U.K where around 75,000 are dead and counting, approximately 1 person in every 50 people is infected, and we're currently in our 3rd lockdown with no end in sight.

So, I really just don't get it.  The Government has scientific advisors, so they will have been aware of the dangers of the virus.  Of course, there would have been a lot of opposition to implementing the correct policies.  But objections such as the negative economic impact were always ludicrous given that those who are asymptomatic can spread the virus.  Hence a global pandemic was always on the cards.  As I said on Facebook back on the 31st January 2020: "The one worrying thing [about this virus] is the claim that people can pass it on when displaying no symptoms themselves".

Then there is the somewhat silly objection of border controls, forced quarantine etc impacting on our freedoms.  The problem here is that freedom to do what we want shouldn't be universal.  In particular, freedoms need to be curtailed where they impact on other peoples' freedoms (have any of these people read John Stuart Mill's On Liberty?  I surmise not!).  It was surely better for New Zealand to encroach upon "freedoms" and implement the policies they did, so that New Zealanders now enjoy normal lives free of the fear of getting the virus, then simply to have done nothing and allow the virus to spread throughout the population with all the negative consequences this entails.

So, why on earth was absolutely nothing done in the UK?  Yes yes yes, I'm aware that Governments have to pander to the electorate and avoid, as much as possible, unpopular policies. Slip and slither, slide around every issue to make sure the voters keep on voting them back into office. But this often results in very bad decisions that are highly detrimental to society as a whole.  In the case of the virus, the death of many thousands of people and hundreds of billions of pounds!

The whole problem with democracy and why it's such a bad system of Government is that leaders are incentivised to make bad decisions because the general populace have only a very superficial understanding of political issues and vote due to crude sentiments or a misplaced notion of the party that will most benefit them.

We need leaders who paradoxically do not want to be leaders, who do not crave the power.  Who are rational, think in the long term, who are above all pro-active.  Plato had the best idea.

Monday, 4 January 2021

More on Autonomous Cars

I've just read the following article:

'Peak hype': why the driverless car revolution has stalled 

It says:

[E]xperts admit the autonomous vehicle challenge is bigger than anticipated.

And goes on to say:

By 2021, according to various Silicon Valley luminaries, bandwagoning politicians and leading cab firms in recent years, self-driving cars would have long been crossing the US, started filing along Britain’s motorways and be all set to provide robotaxis in London.


And:

Prof Nick Reed, a transport consultant who ran UK self-driving trials, says: “The perspectives have changed since 2015, when it was probably peak hype. Reality is setting in about the challenges and complexity.”

Back in June 2014 I predicted that by 2060 fully self-driving cars will have taken over the world.  I mentioned back then the formidable problems of having a mixture of both self-driving and human driven cars on the same roads.  I subsequently concluded that not only are the problems formidable, they are insurmountable.

I wonder why most "experts" failed to realise what I realised?     

After death will we be subsumed into a universal soup of consciousness?

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