Heinlein on Murphy's Law


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You all know Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong

Heinlein said "Murphy was an optimist"

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  • 4 years later...

On 2/5/2015 at 7:34 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

You all know Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong

Heinlein said "Murphy was an optimist"

Time for a replay of Heinlein? Ba'al / Robert I wish there was one decent “hard” scifi writer still inhabiting the earth. Peter

THE WITCH'S DAUGHTERS by Robert A. Heinlein

Have no truck with the daughters of Lilith.

Pay no mind the red-headed creatures.

Man, be warned by their sharp, white teeth;

Consider their skulls, and their other queer features.

They're not of our tribe, with their flame-colored hair;

They're no sib to us, with their pale, white skins;

There's no soul behind those wild green eyes.

Man, when you meet one walk widdershins!

When they die, they pop, like burst soap-bubble

(Eight hundred years is their usual span).

Loving such beings leads only to trouble.

By Heaven, be warned, you rash young man!

(He failed to follow his own advice.) Carl E. Mullin visionary artist and entrepreneur homo asteralis.

The more you love, the more you can love-and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of the majority who are decent and just. -Robert A. Heinlein (Time Enough For Love)

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I saw an advertisement for the TV show Young Shelden and in it he says he must turn Jewish and you see him wearing a beanie. Ba’al mentioned that Rand was a non-observant Jew, but she was a Jew culturally. Interesting take. Does the following analysis fall under Jewish philosophy or culture?    

From: "William Dwyer" Reply-To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Objectivism's critique of Descartes Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 22:03:12 -0700

Jason Alexander wrote, “...I want to jump ahead to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which historians denominate, The Age of Reason. Some hold that Rene Descartes (1596-1650) set the Age of Reason with his famous credo: I think, therefore I am. This belief (that's what credo means, I believe) prevailed until Ayn Rand pointed out that it is bassackwards. The correct formulation is: I am, therefore I think."

Not exactly.  Rand's formulation appears in the following passage from Galt's speech:

"Whoever you are -- you are alone with my words in this moment, with nothing but your honesty to help you understand -- the choice is still open to be a human being, but the price is to start from scratch, to stand naked in the face of reality and, reversing a costly historical error, to declare:  'I am; therefore I'll think.' [I.e., "I am; therefore, I ~will~ think."]

"Accept the irrevocable fact that your life depends upon your mind.  Admit that the whole of your struggle, your doubts, your fakes, your evasions, was a desperate quest for escape from the responsibility of a volitional consciousness -- a quest for automatic knowledge, for instinctive action, for intuitive certainty -- and while you called it a longing for the state of an angel, what you were seeking was the state of an animal.  Accept, as your moral ideal, the task of becoming a man." [Atlas Shrugged, p. 1058, HB

Although I'm not sure about the relevance of Rand's allusion to Decartes' cogito, it seems clear from this passage that her statement, "I am; therefore, I'll think," is ethical rather than epistemological. She is telling us to recognize who we are and to act accordingly, i.e., to accept volitional responsibility for lives.

Jason continues:  "These formulations [viz., "I think; therefore, I am" versus "I am; therefore, I think"] are opposite and hostile; they represent the difference between Understanding and Overstanding. Before I elaborate, let me give you some examples. After the Berlin Wall fell an awful lot of Eastern Europeans, using Cartesian reasoning, thought: 'I believe I'll be a capitalist, therefore I'll get rich.' Or take another credo:  'I'm alive and in America, so I'm entitled.'"

In response to the above, George Smith asked Mark Lewis (who was defending Jason) the following question:  "Mark, you seem to be a well-read person. Can you keep a straight face while telling me that Jason's characterization of Descartes' 'cogito' is even remotely accurate?"

It is true that Jason misrepresents Descartes' "cogito."  But since Jason brought it up, it may be worth noting why it is that Rand rejects Cartesianism ~epistemologically~.  Objectivism views Cartesian doubt as an acceptance of "the prior certainty of consciousness" -- which, as I understand it, is the view that that consciousness is our epistemological starting point from which we must then ~deduce~ the existence of the external world.

Rand rejects this view, because she regards the external world as self-evident, and not something to be deduced from consciousness.  In her essay "For the New Intellectual," she writes:    "Descartes began with the basic epistemological premise of every Witch Doctor (a premise he shared explicitly with Augustine): 'the prior certainty of consciousness,' the belief that the ~existence~ of an external world is not self-evident, but must be proved by deduction from the contents of one's consciousness -- which means: the concept of consciousness as some faculty other than the faculty of perception -- which means: the indiscriminate contents of one's consciousness as the irreducible primary and absolute, to which reality ~has to~ conform. What followed was the grotesquely tragic spectacle of philosophers struggling to ~prove~ the existence of an external world by staring, with the Witch Doctor's blind, inward stare, at the random twists of their conceptions -- then of perceptions -- then of sensations."  (_For the New Intellectual_, p. 28)

In his lectures on the "History of Modern Philosophy," Leonard Peikoff says that, according to Descartes, I can know I'm conscious in spite of the fact that I have not established the existence of an external world.  Peikoff then asks rhetorically, "But how can you deduce the existence of the external world from consciousness, if consciousness does not ~by definition~ imply the existence of an external world?"

Since, in Descartes' view, consciousness is not ~by definition~ a faculty for perceiving the external world; in order to know that there is an external world, we must know that there is a God who is good and who would not deceive us into thinking that there is.

In short, we must start with our own consciousness, go to God's consciousness, and last of all, proceed to the external world.  We don't yet know there is an external world, you see, but Descartes thinks he is justified in talking about ethics, an evil demon and a good God. Obviously, he is putting the cart before the horse. ;-)

This, in a nutshell, is the Objectivist critique of Cartesian doubt, but I doubt that it is what Jason had in mind when he characterized Cartesianism as the view that "I believe I'll be a capitalist, therefore I'll get rich," or "I'm alive and in America, so I'm entitled."  The latter have little, if anything, to do with Descartes' epistemology. Bill

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ob·jec·tiv·ism [əbˈjektəˌvizəm, äbˈjektəˌvizəm] NOUN the tendency to lay stress on what is external to or independent of the mind. Philosophy. The belief that certain things, especially moral truths, exist independently of human knowledge or perception of them.

Slick Willie and the Tin Man are mentioned below. Ha! More odd science. I remember the videos mentioned and I am sure the babies were holding their breathes . . .  and swimming instinctually without being taught. And of course they swam to the surface for air after being tossed into a pool. Talk about animal cruelty! Peter

From: owner-atlantis on behalf of TeQuest@aol.com <TeQuest Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2000 9:11 PM Subject: ATL: The Abyss (another story about people with gills) I simply could not resist following this thread. To Barbara and the rest of you out there, thanks for adding smiles to an already great day! Here's a wrinkle that may obliquely support Barbara's claim of under-water-breathing-babies.

When I was in the navy I worked for a guy who was a salvage diver qualified with heliox and other exotic breathing mixtures. These mixtures are used to overcome various physiological problems associated with deep diving, most notably the bends. The furthest this individual had ever been down was something like six hundred feet (the actual depth eludes me).  That was about six hundred feet more that any of us had ever been down, so he was our resident "subject matter expert".

A bunch of us had just seen James Cameron's film "The Abyss", an exciting sci-fi yarn about  a group of divers trying to save an underwater alien civilization from nuclear attack. During the climax of the story the hero (played by Ed Harris) has to descend to some unimaginable depth in order to rescue the benevolent but endangered ETs from their crispy critter fate.  Ed uses a fluid breathing apparatus to accomplish his mission.  The obvious question we posed to our hairy-chested, fearless commander was "would this work?"

The story he told us was a bit odd, but we checked it out and sure enough it's all true.  In the 1970's Cousteau and a few other innovators on the cutting edge of deep sea exploration had experimented with fluid breathing chemistry with the idea of extending dive times and the depths accessible to free breathing (non-tethered) divers. The concept behind all of this was not about breathing water, but filling the lungs with a substance that radically enhances the diver's ability to extract oxygen directly from seawater. The theory behind the idea says that, in duress, your body remembers how to breath fluid. Given the proper technological boost, you simply have to relearn, and then you're a whole lot smarter than Flipper.

The experiments worked with animals up to and including medium sized dogs. The animals were able to swim and breath underwater. After being yanked from the briny blue sea and "drained" (which honestly folks is the only word I can think of to describe the process) the animals were once again able to breath air normally.

The problem came with lung volumes. Bottom line  - any mammal with a lung capacity exceeding our famed medium-sized dog could not expel all of the fluid, caught pneumonia and died.  Sorry, the rhino would definitely have had a bad day :-))

Barbara claims to have seen babies breathing underwater (B,  help me out here, is this correct?) This is very possible if you think a bit outside the box . The babies were breathing in a fluid medium because they were young enough to remember how to do it.  We all breath fluid for nine months. However, they probably (I wasn't there to see for myself) were not "breathing" in the sense that their lungs were processing the volume of O2 necessary to sustain life. More than a few seconds of this sort of horseplay would probably ruin their whole day.  The babies can theoretically come out of their experience none the worse for wear because their lung volumes are inside the critical threshold.  No pneumonia.

Barbara - what happened after the babies came out of the pool? What did the parents and instructors do with them?

Truth is, after all, stranger than fiction. Just think, we have Slick Willie and the Tin Man running the country, statists galore waiting in the wings to strip our liberty away in the blink of an eye, and here we are out here on the net talking the way we do - and their ain't a damn thing that any of them can do about it.  😉 Yours from Bellingham, K

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  • 7 months later...

I was thinking about Robert Heinlein and spookily, up pops this in my documents . . . automatically. Joke. “Laissez-faire, Andrew Taranto.” That’s how he ended his letters. Michael Hardy taught math at MIT. How cool is that? Peter

From: "Andrew Taranto" To: <atlantis Subject: Starship Troopers (was Re: ATL: collectivized ethics and US intervention) Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 16:37:54 -0500

Ellen L replying to Sandra M: >Joey, you have the great benefit of living in the freest country in the world. I agree with Robert Heinlein's view that citizens should do something to *earn* that citizenship? Ayn Rand earned her citizenship by writing a book that gave an ethical underpinning to laissez-faire capitalism (THE FOUNTAINHEAD) by writing another book that exposed the horrors of life under communism (WE THE LIVING) and by writing ATLAS SHRUGGED and numerous essays that greatly clarified the political and economic thinking of the generations that followed.  >Robert Heinlein wrote over a period of at least 30 years. I haven't read Starship Troopers but I doubt seriously if he ever really believed that citizenship was to be earned, and if he did I doubt he kept that view.  You might read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for what was probably more his real view point.  I suspect the character of Prof de la Paz was his role in the book.

In the Starship Troopers ethos, citizenship was "earned" by ~voluntary~ military service; and one could opt out of one's service at any point. Citizenship then gave one the right to vote and hold public offices. It makes some sense: if one wants political power, one must lay one's life on the line. Conversely, force someone to lay his life on the line, and he becomes a thorn in the government's side when he assumes his rightful position in public office. Also note that non-citizenship did not relegate people to second class status: they were simply barred from voting or holding political offices. Besides the slight enmity between citizens and non-citizens in the book, I really don't think it displayed a caste society in any meaningful sense.

I have no idea if Heinlein ~believed~ in this form of polity; but _Starship Troopers_ made a very compelling (and entertaining) thought experiment. If anything, I think Heinlein provided a viable (or at least semi-viable) alternative to the kind of political order we have now, or at least an interesting principle upon which to base such an alternative (i.e., voluntary citizenship, with full individual rights retained by non-citizens). Laissez-faire, Andrew Taranto

From: Michael Hardy To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Starship Troopers Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2001 18:13:32 -0500 (EST) Andrew Taranto attributed the following to Ellen Lewit: >Robert Heinlein wrote over a period of at least 30 years.

*Only* 30?  Well, it said "at least" 30, but it still seems like a ridiculously small number to assign to this.  Heinlein was diagnosed terminally ill in 1935 (and therefore kicked out of the navy) and died in 1988.  He wrote fiction from 1939 until shortly before his death in 1988, two months before his 81st birthday (he was born on 7/7/07).

>I haven't read Starship Troopers but I doubt seriously if he ever really believed that citizenship was to be earned, and if he did I doubt he kept that view.  You might read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for what was probably more his real view point.  I suspect the character of Prof de la Paz was his role in the book.

Heinlein did play Devil's advocate a lot.

But ferchrissake: Heinlein was no good at non-fiction or philosophy.  I've outgrown the stuff he wrote for primarily adult audiences.  The stuff he wrote for 14-year-olds was GREAT, and I recommend it to adults and to everyone else.  It's unfortunate that crap like _Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land_ gets so much publicity and turns people off to Heinlein, and then they never read his "juvenile novels" that were originally serialized in the boy scout magazines during the '50's.  Even _Stranger_in_a_Strange_Land_ was written in an entertaining way, but the plot as a whole has too much silliness that adults will see through.  Not so his "juveniles."  (Yes, they have implausibilities that you can poke holes in if you like pointing out others' imperfections, but they're not important to the value of the stories.)

Here are some very good ones:

Have Space Suit, Will Travel.

Starman Jones.

The Sky Beast.

Farmer in the Sky.

The protagonist of this last one is perhaps 11 or 12 years old   --- younger than most protagonists of Heinlein's "juveniles."  Here's a very interesting tidbit from it: Bill, the protagonist, is the only child of a widower.  He and his father are going to emigrate to a planet being newly colonized, to which emigration is restricted to married couples with children.  The father will marry a widow with a daughter before their departure.  To the son the prospect of colonizing this primitive place is a great adventure, and of course that's why he wants to go.  One day the father is astonished to learn that the son thinks the father is getting married so that he can emigrate.  And then the son is surprised when the father says that's not how it is.  The father explains that he is emigrating so that he can re-marry.  He wants to make a kind of complete break with his past life and career for emotional reasons.

In the '50's there were some silly movies about monsters attacking cities, and I don't think they dealt with the lawsuits that would ensue.  Clearly if a monster attacks a city then somebody's going to sue somebody, right?  That's a major part of what _The_Sky_ _Beast_ is about.  But it's even more complicated: The monster turns out to have relatives in high political offices, and diplomatic hassles turn out to be most of what the story's about.

In _Starman_Jones_, Max Jones starts out as a subsistence farmer. Getting from there to being a respected professional is a matter of using your head.  That's the story.  What goes on in Max's head – the workings of his intellect and of his conscience -- are followed, but it's not overly, and certainly not explicitly,  psychological.  When I read it at the age of 15, I was totally surprised by a climactic event, which I only much later realized was, like most of Heinlein's fiction, inspired by Heinlein's own biography.  A hint: Heinlein graduated from the Naval Academy.

_Have_Space_Suit,_Will_Travel_ is delightful and anyone who is not delighted by it is a member of the Taliban and is hereby scheduled to be an organ-donor for heart- lung- and liver-patients tomorrow morning. Everyone here is ordered to read the first chapter of it tonight. You'll love Kip Russell's father.  (It's also the book from which, at the age of 11, I first heard of MIT.) Mike Hardy

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