Friday 24 May 2024

Let’s Face It, Maybe Atheism Just Isn’t Very Interesting Anymore

Atheism, like many other beliefs, undergoes social and cultural selection pressure in a way that resembles biological evolution. If atheism is taken to simply mean a lack of belief in God, then there is little about it to hold external interest. So, a slightly more interesting version developed into a positive view that there is no God, and with all of the subsidiary counter-apologetics and Promethean fantasies about a semi-utopian post-faith world of science, reason and rationality (especially in the past 50 years, where technological advancements have given rise to unprecedented, improved living standards, and greater global connectivity).

But these are superficial anticipations based on shallow considerations – nothing of the sort has happened or will happen. Quite the opposite, in fact; the attempted erosion of the Christian faith has created a deeply unsatisfactory void; a kind of spiritual vacuum that has left people discontent and spiritually hungry, where substitutes brought in to fill the void have shown themselves to be intellectually hollow, spiritually empty, morally inadequate, and an assault on many of the long-standing metaphysical qualities (like truth, facts, knowledge, freedom, purpose, meaning and wisdom) that form the bedrock of our Judaeo-Christian-Aristotelian culture.

Consequently, because atheism fails to provide the solution to the deepest and most profound human needs and desires, it becomes less and less interesting the more it persists - to the point where, for most of its loudest and most strident commentators, it’s really become an ideological and spiritual wasteland left in the hands of cynical, myopic individuals who seek attention and validation, and whose primary way of making atheism seem compelling is to lash out at religious belief with dismissive resentment, mockery and scorn. And the more the atheists sense in desperation that what they have to offer is not very interesting anymore, the more resentful, mocking and scornful their comments become in order to grab the attention and conceal the mediocrity of their arguments, all in the service of trying to stay relevant and interesting.

Tuesday 21 May 2024

Why Otherwise Intelligent People Believe Nutty Things

I watched this fascinating discussion between James Delingpole (who I really like) and David Icke (who seems so far in his own crazy world that it's easy to write him off as a nutter). David Icke is one of these people who is clearly intelligent; and who is probably right about some things that a lot of people are wrong about. But in the stuff that he's wrong about, he is wrong in ways that make him look like a crazed conspiracy theorist wacko.

I find the same issue surrounding David Icke that I find about many people like him - why do intelligent, thoughtful individuals believe absurd things that make them look so foolish and ridiculous? It's not much of a mystery why so many young people are confused and hysterical about some of the more complex things in life (economics, politics, the environment, religious belief) - they've been severely led astray by what the surrounding deceitful forces have pathogenically implanted into their minds. But once people make it into greater maturity with more life experience, why do they still swallow some of the absurd beliefs they hold alongside an otherwise fairly competent mental artillery?

It ought to strike us as strange that, say, mature Christians with lots of life experience and thoughtful, intelligent minds swallow things like young earth creationism. And equally strange that academics, with similar life experience and thoughtful, intelligent minds, would succumb to the delusion that men can become women (or vice-versa) - or that they would block the traffic to protest about climate change because they believe in some kind of preposterous end time cult of doom. No one would have any trouble thinking of many other examples. But I don't think it's necessarily that obvious why these folk adopt such rash views, and are so blind to how thoughtless and daft they appear in doing so.

It's clear, then, believing nutty things doesn't necessarily make you a nutter, because smart people believe nutty things. So, what's really at play here? Well, commonalities often help draw clues - so what do they all have in common? One thing is that in virtually every case these people don't believe the absurd thing as an expert in the subject, or with any degree of competence - they believe it because others have told them that's what they should believe (although, strangely, this isn't self-evidently the case with David Icke). They've formulated those opinions by trusting others too much, and not applying enough of their own unique perspective and critical thinking to the matter. And this leads nicely to the second commonality; virtually none of them could incisively defend their nutty views against an intelligent critic who adequately understood the subject matter.

So, even intelligent, thoughtful people believe absurd things - and they seem to do so because it's what they've been told, and because they are not equipped to defend their position under intellectual scrutiny. Add to that the very powerful quadripartite driving forces of tribal affiliation, self-preservation, courting status and seeking attention, and it becomes even less of a mystery.

And, of course, this combination manifests itself differently among individuals. Some people prefer to keep their nutty beliefs close to their chest, and will deflect to avoid conflict; whereas others (like David Icke) will unabashedly parade them for everyone to see, risking mockery and ridicule as they do so. It's a funny old world, but at least it's never dull.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Intelligent Conversations About God


The following propositions are true.

P1: There are a lot of highly intelligent Christians.

P2: There are a lot of highly intelligent atheists.

P3: There are a lot of low intelligence Christians

P4: There are a lot of low intelligence atheists.

P5: Given P1 and P2, we know from experience that there are a lot of high quality conversations going on between highly intelligent Christians and highly intelligent atheists, where each party has given the matter serious depth of thought, and is capable of contributing to highly intelligent dialogue on the subject.

Conclusion: Given P1-5, any atheist out there disrespectfully rubbishing Christianity, not taking it seriously, and saying it’s only believed by foolish people, is usually just signalling to everyone that they are either a low intelligence atheist, or that they are too emotionally immature/damaged to apply the necessary intelligence and competence to the subject.  

Friday 17 May 2024

The Benefits Of Making Listening An Art Form

There are some well known imperatives for couples to adhere to in optimal marital communication – such as; ensure you connect beforehand if what you’re saying is important and requires attention; make contact with each other to establish mutual attention and deeper connectivity; allow each other to speak uninterrupted; whenever possible, use ‘I’ statements to express your thoughts, not “you” statement; avoid generalisations “You never”, “You always”, etc; and after your beloved has spoken, reflect back what your heard (this has the mutual benefit of confirming you have understood what was said, and helping you remember it too).

In addition to the basics, the psychologist Erich Fromm wrote a fine book called The Art of Listening, in which he lays out more psychologically profound methods to achieve an optimal listening relationship. The key principles he outlines are roughly this: 

1)    Listening is an art form that requires our full attention, in order to be present and empathetic. It is practicing the art of profound engagement, where you can connect with the speaker’s emotions and the subtext of their words. 

2)    Genuine attention, empathy, and presence. It involves much more than just hearing words; it's about deeply engaging with the person speaking and understanding their emotions and underlying messages. 

3)    Doing your best to engage with the words you hear in an open, non-judgemental way, to ensure your own critical faculties are optimally attuned. 

4)    Paying attention to the context, tone and body language, as well as what is being said. 

5)    Encouraging the speaker to feel safe to express whatever they feel they need to. 

6)    Use the listening experience as a path to self-discovery, where you can gain insights into your own motivations, desires, and fears.

Art is perhaps the highest of all human creations, and I think we can profoundly enhance ourselves and our marriage if we treat the ability to listen and engage as an art form, in which the union of love is treated like an exciting adventure, ready to reveal more and more of its topographical secrets to those who pay close attention to its maps and landscapes.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Rational Irrationality


The economist Bryan Caplan popularised the idea of rational irrationality, based on two types of rationality; epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality. Epistemic rationality means doing your best to seek the truth and assent to facts, and instrumental rationality means adopting a strategy to achieve certain goals (some of which may make truthseeking appear inconvenient). Caplan’s rational irrationality posits the idea that an individual could be epistemologically irrational to achieve instrumental rationality. If holding a particular belief is convenient for your aims - perhaps for tribal, social, or cultural reasons, or for mere personal expedience - and the marginal cost of falsehood is low to you in this case, then you may have an incentive to be irrational on so-called rational grounds.

There is a demand curve for rationality and irrationality, and ascertaining the steepness of the demand curve is like asking whether incurring a cost for being wrong will be sufficiently bad to engender deeper personal negativity. Measuring the slope of the demand curve for irrationality is equivalent to measuring the deterrent effect of the cost of wrongness – and when the cost of wrongness is low, the individual has higher demand for it. If, for whatever personal reason, the cost of being wrong is especially low, then you can find yourself with an absurd demand for irrationality if it provides a social incentive or a cushion for areas of discomfort in your life.

There are many areas of life where rational irrationality is prominent, especially in some political and some religious beliefs. It appears so frequently in political and religious beliefs because they are the beliefs that often come with the most familial, cultural and tribal duress, and that impose the fewest costs on the individual if they lower their truthseeking and cognitive standards in order to minimise conflict and retain favour and acceptance in the in-group.

Let me be clear, I am explaining the cause of rational irrationality – I am certainly not advocating it, nor suggesting we let ourselves off lightly if we compromise truthseeking with decreased cognitive standards. In most cases, it will do us no good in the end.

Perhaps the viewpoint that best appeals to individuals for reasons other than epistemic rationality is socialism. I think it’s principally for three reasons:

1) Economics takes a lot of effort to learn and understand, and not putting in the time and effort to learn it is a much easier path, especially as being ignorant about it does not stem the flow of people’s willingness to opine about it. It is not really possible to become competent at economics, strive to tell the truth, and still say the things most of our politicians say on a daily basis.

2) Socialism enables people to channel their resentment of the rich into a virtue signalling charade to express consternation for the poor, and make themselves feel just, noble and virtuous. I suspect most socialists do not really care deeply about the poor, because if they did, they would not espouse so much ill-informed economics that makes the poor worst off of all (this is one of the big contradictions at the heart of socialism).

3) Being on the left tends to create deeper social bonds than on the right, because the proposed fight for justice and inequality, and being spokespeople for the underdog, is often quite a unifying phenomenon.

Consequently, then, I believe that being a socialist isn't really about championing redistributionist policies for the poor (if it were, the socialists would be espousing more market-friendliness) - it is about tribal affiliations and virtue signalling and envy against those who have qualities that the socialists lack.

It’s also the case, I think, that people don't tend to work out what they believe and join the political party that most closely identifies with those beliefs - the causality is usually the opposite of what people think: that is, the cart of party politics usually gets there before the horse of political beliefs. We do not live in a society full of ultra-rational agents. People prefer to believe what they think will enable them to fit into the particular group that will benefit them most.  

Sunday 12 May 2024

Two Kinds Of Miracle


When it comes to miracles, an open-minded agnostic has two sets of propositions to consider.

Here is the first set:

P1: If an event is impossible in naturalism, then it is a miracle.

P2: If a proposition is known to be impossible, it is near-certain to be disbelieved.

P3: Christians claim to have experienced miracles.

C: Therefore, there's a reasonable chance that miracles occur.

Here is the second set:

P1: If an event is impossible in naturalism, then it is a miracle.

P2: If a proposition is known to be impossible, it is near-certain to be disbelieved.

P3: Atheists claim to have experienced no miracles.

C: Therefore, there's a reasonable chance that miracles do not occur.

In my view, set 1 ought to seem more reasonable to an open-minded agnostic than set 2. Here's why. If miracles occur because God performs them for our benefit within the context of relationship, then you'd expect that in the vast majority of cases, Christians are the most frequent people to have experienced miracles in terms of God's providence. But equally, if miracles occur because God performs them for our benefit within the context of relationship, then it is to be expected that most atheists have not experienced a miracle that would convince them God exists. 

Therefore, given the astronomically high number of claims of the miraculous in the world, you'd expect set 1 to have a higher probability of being the right set of propositions than set 2. Much like, if there were a group of people in the world who couldn't see the colour red, you'd expect them to be the people claiming there are no such things as red experiences, even though a lot of other people are claiming to have had them.

Wednesday 1 May 2024

The Good Cop, Bad Cop Post-Covid Analysis


In 1963, a psychologist called Bob Rosenthal conducted an experiment in which his assistants placed rats in mazes, and then timed how long it takes the rats to find the exit. They were housed in two pens: one for the smartest rats and one for the ordinary rats - and when released, the assistants thought that the smartest rats found the exit more quickly than the ordinary rats. In reality, there was no difference between the two groups of rats – it was the assistants’ expectations that tricked them into believing smart rats solve mazes more quickly.

This plays out in many walks of life – we are surrounded by self-fulfilling prophecies in the making. A teacher who treats his pupils as though they are smarter than they are probably will observe them doing better than expected. A teacher who treats his pupils as though they are hopeless will likely see the opposite effect. If you treat your husband or wife as though they are the most valuable person in your life, you will see more of the value in them than if you treat them as though they are not your priority.

This is known in psychology as The Pygmalion Effect, after Ovid’s Greek myth, where a sculptor called Pygmalion regards his own statue as beautiful, falls in love with it, and it comes alive. When we have high standards and high expectations of others, we get better results; when we have low standards and low expectations, we get poorer results. People are inspired or uninspired by how we value them.

Similarly, placebos (positive) and nocebos (negative) become self-fulfilling prophecies too. If you believe you’ve taken a pill that has a positive effect on your well-being, you might act as though it has. If you believe a pill has negative side effects, you may feel those side effects based more on your belief than on any real side effects. If you believe your bank is going to collapse, you might bring about a bank run, which then causes the bank to collapse. If the Prime Minister forewarns a recession, he might engender a recession, as people could become nervous about spending money, and be reluctant to invest in others.

Applying all that to Covid - over the past 4 years, just about everyone has wondered whether the government's policies to tackle Covid have been worth the cost. Those who say that Covid hasn’t been that serious for most people so we didn’t need all those government restrictions may be missing the point that it might be because of government restrictions that Covid hasn’t been that serious for most people. It could be fallacious to use the successes of the restrictions as an argument against the restrictions, just as it might be foolish to argue that the lack of nuclear warfare in the past 50 years is a good argument as to why we don’t need nuclear weapons (it may be that it’s because of nuclear weapons, and the deterrent effect, that there hasn’t been nuclear warfare in the past 50 years). 

But that said, there has been a book recently published by the Institute of Economic Affairs, containing research by Johns Hopkins and Lund University that casts quite a few aspersions on the efficacy of the lockdowns during Covid. The lockdowns appear to have reduced Covid deaths by a lot less than one might have hoped, given their astronomical costs.

Now, I’m not going to state the obvious cases for and against the government’s Covid policies. Anyone can work these out for themselves, and decide how they feel about the decisions based on their own personal preferences. But many people rightly insist that individuals are better equipped than the government to know their own individual risk calculi, and how much they value things like going to work, seeing family, socialising with friends, going to school, attending weddings and funerals, etc. For this reason, they argue that the government had no business making such life-changing decisions on the nation’s behalf. Many others seem quite glad that the government took control and made such bold decisions, and feel that things could have been a lot worse without the strict policies imposed on us. The best argument for the government’s decision seems to be that the NHS couldn’t have coped if everyone had remained free to undertake their own risk calculi.

On that basis, an argument that could be made in favour of that proposition is that we could be living an even more dismal reality had we not have lived through this strict regime. An argument against the proposition is that the reason we aren’t living an even more dismal reality is because we adjusted our behaviour accordingly to compensate for the increased risks, and could have done so without the government’s decision to impose such a massive financial and social cost to the nation. There’s no question that, for Britain, the NHS factor makes the matter much harder to resolve.

Aside from the stability of the NHS argument (which isn’t trivial), I really can’t think of a good argument that trumps the argument for the liberty of individual choices on how they behave during a pandemic. One counterpoint is that we didn’t know just how bad the virus was and how great the risks, so we needed the government to make that decision for us. But it’s not a very convincing argument. If your car has a squeaking sound on the morning you are about to drive across the country to see your family, you don’t know for sure whether you should risk the trip, stay at home, or pay extra and go on the train. It might not be an easy decision, but it certainly won’t be the case that outsourcing the problem to the government will make them better equipped to decide for you. No politician knows enough of the factors to act on your behalf on this matter.

This logic also applies in response to the other common objection - that without the government to impose restrictions, then by socialising you may well infect people who didn't want to be infected. But in the vast majority of cases, that argument doesn't hold. It's true that if I went to church, or to Frank's 60th birthday party, or to the snooker club, I might have infected others. But the people at those events also knew the risks of attending, but did so anyway, presumably because they took the benefit of attendance as being worth the risk in terms of their own personal utility. Besides, if your argument is that socialising during the pandemic is reckless because those who socialise do not bear all the costs of their decisions to socialise, then it may have slipped your notice that the politicians imposing all the restrictions on us, and decimating the UK economy in the process, bear virtually zero costs for their actions. When those politicians were caught breaking the rules they imposed on the rest of us, their actions suggested that they weren't especially bothered about the risks of catching Covid, and that they had little respect for the efficacy of the laws they imposed on everyone else.

Monday 29 April 2024

The Wrong Adam: Why Stories Are The Deepest Part Of The Text


Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for young earth creationists is the fact that St. Paul refers to Adam by name - so their reasoning goes something like this:

P1: Paul refers to Adam, so Adam must be a real historical figure.

P2: If Adam is a real historical figure, then he must be the first person.

P3: If Adam is the first person, then Genesis 1-3 must be taken as literal history.

P4: If Genesis 1-3 is taken as literal history, then the world must be about 6,000 years old.

C: Given premises 1-4, evolution over millions of years must be false.

Naturally, there are a lot of further things wrong with their reasoning, but we can preclude them by cutting to the chase and focusing on the base error, which is failing to understand that Paul referring to Adam is not merely a refence to a historical figure, it is a more powerful archetypical reference to Adam at a much deeper level (this may be why Jesus never referred to the name Adam at all, only to the Genesis account for its symbolic content on the template for marriage).

What you have to remember is that the story (or narrative) of almost any account is frequently the most powerful part of the text (where text here means anything that can be interpreted or analysed). When you think of the most profound teachings or events in history - whether that's one of Christ's parables, a Dostoevsky novel, the Battle of Waterloo, the death of Martin Luther King, the Cold War, the building of St. Paul's Cathedral, the painting of The Last Supper, and so on - the most powerful parts are the parts that are conveyed and analysed in narrative or symbolic form. What affects us most deeply is; what happened, the context and background, the cultural analysis, the characters (real or fiction) in the account, the message(s) being conveyed, the moral lessons, the impact it had thereafter, the symbols and imagery that carry deeper meanings within the account, and any other subtext that can be brought to bear on a deeper historical, ethical, psychological, philosophical and theological narrative, and applied to a present consideration.

When we apply this wisdom to Genesis 1-3, we ought to see it as folly to try to smuggle in a wholly literal, historical interpretation, at the expense of all other deeper elements I outlined above. In fact, it's actually impossible to read a text like Genesis 1-3 (or any Bible text for that matter) and not engage with it through the above mechanisms, even if one tries to deny them. The majority of the power is found in the story, because stories are the most powerful mode of communication we have. Some texts, like great works of literature, would contain almost no deeper power by being literal, historical events. Some texts, like the great works of poetry, would even be impoverished with an imposed literal interpretation. Some texts, like historical records, are accounts of real events, but their descriptive nature is expressed in narrative form to document what happened during the period, and some of the wider elements outlined above, that can be distilled from the studies.

All this should start to have more of a bearing on interpretations of texts like Genesis 1-3, and on the name Adam, under consideration. Once we engage with any text like this by giving it its due depth of consideration, we then uncover the pathways to its more powerful and profound meanings, like understanding how Adam refers to humanity in a general sense - and how, by tuning in to the allegorical or metaphorical representation of humanity, we can decipher the full suite of edification from the texts.

Footnote: I wrote this blog in part as a response to a friend who critiqued my last blog post with the following: "I still think you don't need to ditch the real person of Adam, as I pointed out before the recorded genealogy implies, whether you think the preceding stages were based on evolution or not, that at some point the person of Adam was real and selected by God as the 'first man". But if Adam is a symbolism for (hu)mankind, then he doesn't have to literally historically real, because the allegory is making a hyper-textual claim, a bit like how Paul's concept of Adam in Romans 5:12, as a representative figure whose sin had consequences for all humanity, is a hyper-textual claim. While the Biblical genealogies are incomplete, and are not structured like modern genealogies, it is still possible to decipher why Adam might appear in the historical lineage, especially if these genealogies were known by the Jewish scribes to represent a theological connection between original humanity and God's sovereignty and covenantal promises. In keeping with the rest of the allegory of early Genesis, the Adam archetype who is later referenced, can quite understandably be referenced through the same allegorical literary devices, that weave together a patterned Biblical structure that guides the reader through the coherent narrative of creation, fallenness, sin, redemption and salvation through Christ.

Sunday 28 April 2024

There's No Greater Abuse Of Knowledge In Christianity Than Young Earth Creationism


Excluding miraculous events that occur in the Bible, which are never claimed to be amenable to scientific examination, the following holds:

P1: If Christianity is true, then every verse of the Bible is true when interpreted correctly.

P2: Science is the only reliable tool we have for understanding facts about the physical world.

P3: Some Christians interpret the Bible in a way that their interpretation contradicts known scientific facts.

C: Biblical interpretations that contradict known scientific facts are incorrect interpretations.

Young earth creationists (YECs) of course distort this and get into a muddle, but how does their muddle materialise? They accept Premise 1 (although be careful, some YECs don’t even acknowledge that scripture needs interpreting). They accept Premise 2, because they depend on the scientific understanding of the world like everyone else. It’s Premise 3 where they stumble, because they assume that if scientific facts contradict their interpretation of scripture, then it must be the scientific facts that are wrong, not their interpretation of scripture.

There has probably never been a more conceited, deluded infestation in the whole of modern Christianity than the group that maintains that the prodigious hard work and achievements of the tens of thousands of scientists all over the world, in hundreds of diverse but mutually interconnected fields, across several centuries, are the ones that are wrong and can’t be trusted, and not themselves, with their empirical denialism and univariate focus on poorly executed Biblical exegesis.

Tuesday 23 April 2024

From The Archives: Writing From 2002 - My First Non-Christian Defence Of Christianity


I was intrigued to stumble upon this old piece of mine from 2002, from a folder I hadn’t opened in a very long time. I don’t recall much about its composition, but I do remember the road analogy, and I remember that it was written just before I became a Christian. In fact, I think this writing was a monumental point in my life - it's the point at which I argued theoretically for the truth of Christianity for the first time, while not quite being a Christian yet. Here it is:

“One of the long-standing roadblocks for atheists is that, before one adopts a belief in God, there needs to be some kind of reason to believe that the world we live in is created by a God, and some way of knowing which God. Unlike, say, a burglary, I have the sufficient experience to catalogue the empirical evidence it presents to me. I know the difference between a house that has been burgled and one that hasn't, and I can check for evidence of a break in and evidence that theft has occurred. 

But I cannot do this in quite the same way when it comes to God’s creative dispensation, because, at first glance, I have no way of distinguishing between a part of nature that is designed by God and a part of nature that is brought about by nature's physical laws. This is compounded by the fact that if God is the Creator, He no doubt uses the physical laws to do at least some of His creating - so for human beings not privy to the Divine blueprint, there really is no easy way to look at the material substate and distinguish between designed and not-designed by God. If all of creation is designed by God, then trying to look for design from within that nature is a bit like fishes swimming deep in the ocean all their lives looking for a thing called 'wetness'. For all we know, a universe that is designed by God would look exactly as this one does, and a universe that is not designed by God might also look exactly like this one does.

And from the outside, it may also seem that when religious man A tells religious man B that his religion has the wrong beliefs about God, there is not an easy way to justify the claim of rightness. If you give me two sets of items from the empirical world, and tell me one of those items is the authentic one, and the other is a fake, we have a theoretical and a practical way of knowing which is which. A fake gold watch can be distinguished from a real gold watch; a single glazed window can be distinguished from a double glazed window; an imposter of the UK Prime Minister can be distinguished from the real UK Prime Minister. We can do all this because we have real knowledge against which to measure the genuine objects of study from the fakes. 

With concepts of God, things are trickier. We only have experiences of others, and consequent opinions constructed by those people and passed on to other people throughout the centuries. That’s why third person perspectives of first person’s revelatory experiences of God have limited appeal to the intellect, because they remain rooted in the proprietary subjectivism of human construct. A Muslim’s claim that the Qur’an is the word of Allah has no more of a strong appeal to me than a man’s claim that Nostradamus visited him in a dream. If a holy book or revelation is from God, it could only be compelling to the sceptic if it purports to bring in something that does not depend solely on the definitions of the symbols it contains. That would be the only way to demonstrate that mere men probably couldn’t have invented it.

Let us think of religious belief systems by using an analogy of a set of complex, interweaving road networks. We can begin by separating aspects of belief into length of the road, width of the road and depth of the road. By length of the road, I mean the part of the belief systems which provide direction in moral, theological, philosophical, empirical and experiential analyses, and the universal search for purpose and meaning. By width of the road, I mean the parts of the belief systems which have rituals, traditions, artistic expressions and cultural attachments that cement themselves into the bedrock of any society in which that belief is influential. And by depth of the road, I mean the strength and solidity of its primary truth foundations - a belief system that has centre points in history around which the power of these truth claims are firmly representative. 

If one religion is going to claim itself to be the right one, it must have all three road qualities in abundance. It must be long enough, wide enough and deep enough to stand out as the only road on which we should be travelling if we are to know God. The belief system’s road must show itself to be long enough to offer a consistent route for guidance in moral, theological, philosophical, empirical and experiential examinations, as well as continual enlightenment in the universal quest for purpose and meaning. It must be wide enough to cement itself into the bedrock of any society that enables its influence, and expect to emerge and impact through its rituals, traditions, artistic expressions and cultural attachments. And finally, and most importantly, it must have enough depth and firmness of foundation to support everything that travels on it, by being based on truthful propositions.

The one true God would be expected to be found on the only road that met these preconditions. And if we are to have a relationship with Him, He must be accessible through the prism of our daily phenomenological experiences, and His revelations must be explicable and receivable in the cognisance of everyone, irrespective of their background, their nationality, their status, their heredity, their culture, and their physical and mental abilities.

I believe that Christianity is the only religion that gives us a road of sufficient length, width and depth to claim itself to be the one true religion. The roads of some of the most influential belief systems are long and wide but shallow in depth (Hinduism, Islam), whereas Judaism is deep and wide, but its natural path turns the road into Christianity at the beginning of the first century, as Christ is the fulfilment of the Old Testament laws and prophecies. The pantheistic religions (of which Hinduism is the strongest) fail to solve the problem of Aseity; Islam (along with its superfluous subsidiaries) is only the most propagated of the Christian heresies (of which there are many); and Buddhism (along with its many subsidiaries) is only the most propagated of the Eastern heresies (of which there are many). Authentic Paganism has long since ceased to exist, and all that pertains to truth in Judaism and Greek Philosophy survives in Christianity.

The only revelations with God being a tangible presence beyond ordinary human ideas are the ones found in Christ: He went beyond mere private and subjective ideas about Divinity – He actually showed us God Himself. The Incarnation is not just about God bringing Himself to us to die for mankind’s salvation; it is also the response to a genuine epistemological problem that humankind could never solve without some help; without God becoming the focal point in our earthly existence, we would have no hope of knowing we are on the right road towards Him, and we would only be left with humankind’s distant conjectures about the true nature of God ("If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him." says Jesus in John 14:7)

Here we are beginning to understand a bit more of what Christ is in relation to other religions. His specialness is as far above the other religions as man is above the other apes. His truth is the one found in the Christian gospel, and all the false religions grow by virtue of the truths they borrow from Christianity, and the falsehoods they rivet on to their doctrines. To quote Chesterton “A novel in which a number of separate characters all turned out to be the same character would certainly be a sensational novel” – well, what Christianity does to the other religions is rather like what an author would do with those characters. Christ shows that all the previous religions (and ones not even founded yet) are all separate characters that, when stripped of all their false and extraneous bits, will be seen to have been Christ all along – the need to worship, to be loved, to communicate with the Divine – they are all human traits that too comfortably find their way into spurious belief systems

Here is where the length, width and depth of the strongest road combines in force to reveal the one true God; the power of grace takes an evil man and tells Him that if accepts the living God he can have salvation and be washed and cleansed. It takes an African tribesman, whose mind has been inculcated with spurious local customs about sea gods and animal worshipping, and it tells him seek revelation in Jesus Christ. It tells an oppressed woman in Iran or North Korea or Syria whose distressed mind has been impressed upon with fanatical teaching that the situation is not hopeless - that Christ is the way, the truth and the life - that hope can be found in Him because God chose to take a personal sharing in the human condition. It tells lost souls scattered all over the world - from Devon to Darfur, from South Yemen to South Korea, from East Brooklyn to East Timor - that their lives can have direction and meaning because the one and only God, the Creator of the universe, loves us enough to be born a man so that He could die on the cross and wipe out all our sins to bring us salvation.” 

Monday 22 April 2024

Letters To Troubled Youth - Excerpt 3: Climate Extremism: A Waste of Energy

One of my little ‘work in progress’ side projects is an epistolary called Letters To Troubled Youth. It’s a mix of good cop, bad cop letter writing, aimed at the younger generation, warning them about all the highly damaging nonsense they are letting in to their souls, and encouraging them of the greater rewards found in more rigorous truthseeking. I might share the occasional excerpt as a blog post on its own stranding.

Excerpt 3 - taken from Letter 17: Climate Extremism: A Waste of Energy:

“My definition of a climate extremist is someone who doesn’t understand the straightforward cost-benefit analyses associated with climate change. These days there are probably more climate extremists than not. My definition of a climate alarmist is someone who does the selfish, immoral and ridiculous things we see associated with groups like Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil. Under the above definitions, all climate alarmists are climate extremists, but not all climate extremists are climate alarmists.

The cost-benefit analyses associated with climate change are easy to comprehend from an economist’s perspective. There are costs and benefits to our industrial activity, and there are costs of both action and inaction to climate change. It’s only by assessing these costs and benefits that we should decide the right balance between action and inaction. Alas, as far as I can see, almost nobody in politics, in the media or in the general populace is doing this properly.

What makes this neglect even worse is that, a lot of the time, people calling for climate action seem to confuse costs with benefits and benefits with costs. For example, cheap energy should be seen as a benefit, not as cost; and green jobs should be seen as a cost not a benefit. Green taxes are more of a cost than a benefit, and most of our use of carbon energy up to the present day has been a benefit not a cost. Virtually all taxpayer-funded or public climate action is a cost not a benefit, and virtually all climate inaction is a benefit not a cost. In economics, calling something a cost does not mean we think it shouldn’t happen. But confusing a cost with a benefit (and vice-versa) only confuses the problems we are attempting to solve – a problem that’s exacerbated when groups involved in the discussion begin with perverse and skewed incentives.

I’ve never believed that the majority of people who are extremists on a particular matter really care about that matter deep down; the cause, I believe, is merely a proxy for other incentives around group identity, a sense of purpose and belonging, and the self-congratulation associated with virtue signalling. For example, proclaimed socialists tend to overlook the economic principles that do most for poor people; proclaimed feminists tend to remain silent on things in society (like Islam) that oppress women most strongly; and climate extremists are uninterested in almost everything that doesn’t involve the absurd train wreck of net zero.

If climate extremists really did care about reducing carbon emissions in a way that wasn’t catastrophic for the global economy, they would have much more regard for the rapidly expanding technological innovations (like AI, digital, carbon capturing, ambient air capture, ocean fertilisation, afforestation, space reflectors, etc) that are helping solve carbon problems, more regard for current alternative energy options (like nuclear and gas), and more concern about the carbon footprint of the renewable technologies they purport to advocate. Geoengineering is still in its relative infancy, and that, and numerous other technological and scientific advancements, are going to do more to solve the problems of climate change than any of us can currently foresee.

People who are willing to cause harm and misery to citizens going about their business on a daily basis, but who are wholly uninterested in the above, show you everything you need to know about their real motives, I would humbly suggest.”


Sunday 21 April 2024

Truth Nuggets 1#

Our intellectual pursuits play out a bit like a series of game theory transactions - much like the hawk-dove game, which refers to a scenario in which there is a competition for a shared resource and the agents can either contest or back down. Hawks tend to contest well against doves but with mixed results against other hawks - so, in equilibrium, there are just enough hawks in the population whereby the gains from hawk-dove conflicts are offset by the losses from hawk-hawk conflicts (this extends more broadly in the animal kingdom with what's called the Lotka-Volterra competition model).

Similarly, in economic terms, good discussions and high quality analytical scrutiny should help people see the intellectual costs and benefits of their beliefs, when played out against competing agents. That is why I am always going on about the qualities of rigorous truthseeking, because without it, agents find it ever more difficult to determine whether they are playing a healthy game or not. Players who try to dominate with power, distortion and dishonesty instead of competence are likely to give themselves a false sense of security about the quality of their arguments, which is why it's important that highly competent people are involved in the discussions.

Think of hawks and doves applied here. If there is a dominant hawk who adopts an aggressive strategy with no competition, the strategy pays - and it keeps becoming a profitable strategy for more and more hawks, until the point at which an aggressive strategy comes with the cost of being defeated by a stronger opponent. In equilibrium, there will be just enough aggressors so that the gain from encounters with doves who back down just balances the loss from encountering another hawk who doesn't.

Whatever the debating landscape - theism vs. atheism, capitalism vs. socialism, etc - it is healthier when competence become the dominant quality over unearned power, where both sides would begin to see more clearly the intellectual costs and benefits of their beliefs, and how those costs were brought to bear on the reputation and credibility of the group

Thursday 18 April 2024

How Politicians Distort Language


George Orwell's Politics and the English Language is one of the best essays ever written on how the distortion and abuse of language in politics helps politicians get away with bad ideas that would be more obviously bad if the language was simplified. Cunning political language is designed to "make lies sound truthful", Orwell said - and that truth has become more and more evident, and has reached a new nadir since the Blair years and beyond.

Take many political policies or ideas, and translate the language into the most truthful and simplistic form, and you'll see all sorts of things about them that seem far less attractive. Consider the absurd initiative politicians call "Levelling Up". The Department of ‘Levelling Up’ is one of the most disingenuous things the government has ever created – so it’s probably fitting that Michael Gove is the Minister for Levelling Up, as his character almost perfectly fits the profile. Here is how the government describes it:

"Levelling Up supports communities across the UK to thrive, making them great places to live and work, and aims to reduce the imbalances, primarily economic, between areas and social groups across the United Kingdom".

And here is a less attractive but more truthful way we could describe it. Levelling Up distorts the more prudent use of capital, where instead of investors risking their own money in areas they think will get the most fruitful returns, politicians spend other people's money where they believe it will be beneficial for securing votes and popularity. Whether people like the Levelling Up policy or not, we should at least ensure that it is described correctly.

The same with small business subsidies. Taxpayers are forced to give money to business owners the politicians choose to favour instead of spending their own money on businesses they prefer. A lot of the most elusive policymaking is sold with shadowy language that evades this core truth - that the government claims an entitlement to the fruits of other people's labour in order to spend it in ways that will make politicians more popular (or less unpopular), and further their own careers by continually increasing the size of the state beyond our approval.

Political language is full of making lies and half-truths sound palatable. Things that are costs are routinely referred to by politicians as 'investments'; initiatives that are sold as benefits are really only benefits for a small subset of the population, where the costs are greater and spread thinly across the nation; rules, regulations and redistributive measures routinely throw up negative unintended consequences and costly spillover effects that are habitually ignored in the discourse; policies purported to be introduced to help the wages of the poor actually end up costing the poor more at the point of consuming goods and services; political ideas sold for our benefit or for some pretext of moral good almost never get backed up by evidence, and never come with a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of both sides of the argument - the list goes on.

Ambiguity and spin are woven into the prose of politicians, because when ideas and policies are stated in plain English, the things we might like less about them become more transparent.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Sunday Faith Series: God On Trial Again - Atheists’ Psychological Tricks

The only people who go on about religious faith more than believers are the unbelievers who seem utterly obsessed with convincing everyone else that God doesn’t exist. Of course, the arguments against Christianity have been so weak or so ill-conceived for so long that even the atheists themselves have probably lost confidence in them deep down. But they can’t let it lie, so they had to find a way to carry on dismissing Christianity while carrying the internal burden of not being persuaded by the strength of their arguments.

If you’re no longer persuaded by your own arguments, and you’re honest enough to not be in denial about how weak they are, and you want to carry on having the conversations, then you have two options: you can either come up with better arguments, or you can employ some psychological trickery to conceal the inadequacy of your position. The first one hasn’t happened – the arguments are ages old, and despite contemporary online atheist keyboard warriors speaking as though they have interesting and original contributions to make to the debate, the reality is, they are only rehashing old arguments that have long ago been shown to be deficient. This leaves the option of psychological trickery, which I’ve noticed is the approach most contemporary atheists have chosen, and it usually comes in one of two forms.

The first and the most squalid psychological trick is to simply dismiss anything to do with religious faith and the believers who have it as idiotic, thoughtless and without reason – thereby rendering it unworthy of any further consideration, and only deserving of mockery and hostility. That way, the atheist who employs this method gets to conceal all their own insufficiencies, intellectual defects, and personal ethical shortcomings, and erects the walls and places themselves captive in their own cognitive prison cell, never having to seriously engage with anything profound or meaningful.

The second kind of psychological trick is a level above the first, and does at least involve some superficial engagement, and even occasionally some thoughtful attempts to undermine Christianity - but it is to arraign God on the grounds that if He existed He would be morally inferior to the person condemning Him. Whether it’s God’s character in the Bible, the concept of hell, or the evil and suffering in the world, the psychological trick is to declare that He is consequently not worthy of praise and worship, but of moral judgement and condemnation, and therefore probably doesn’t exist.

Now, for the Christian, I do think there are elements to this line of thought that deserve honest consideration and deep contemplation, but it’s not like Christians haven’t been doing this for centuries, and it’s not like the atheists are coming up with anything new with this ‘God in the dock’ mentality. Dismiss God as cruel, tyrannical and unjust, and as being moral inferior to yourself, and you never have to engage with proper consideration regarding the profundity of the subject.

Besides, it just won’t do to write off God in this way, because the idea that He is unworthy or morally inferior to us doesn’t stack up. Some will tell us that the God in the Old Testament seems like a barbaric God. But yet in the New Testament we see God in the form of Jesus - as someone all-loving who takes our sins to the cross, and while suffering the most intense agony, asks God the Father for their forgiveness. That is not just a stupendous act of love and goodness, it is also a stupendous act of grace and mercy. The kind of God who did that for us, and who treated people as well as Jesus did (and encouraged everyone else to do the same) is clearly demonstrating the qualities of a God of supreme love and benevolence, in spite of some of the difficult things we experience in the Old Testament and in the hardships experienced in creation.

It would also be foolish to hold on to any idea that God somehow changes during the time from Old Testament to New. If we are to consider God under the terms He asks to be considered, then we must think only in terms of His being a perfect and good God. Therefore, understanding Him through the lens of the New Testament accounts of Jesus only increases the likelihood that those callow impressions of His being 'barbaric', 'genocidal' and 'maniacal' are examples of erroneous human-constructed conceptions of Him.

The Salvation Christ bought for us on the cross is intended to be a joy that offers hope to rescue the hopeless. But the atheist trickery is to turn it on its head and claim it to be immorally absolvent. Instead, they treat the cross as being morally repugnant, and as something that should elicit our disapproval, not our grateful response. At this point, the greatest act of love the world has ever seen, and the greatest evidence of God’s goodness that we have, is one of the main things being used against God.


Thursday 11 April 2024

Socialists Are As Capitalist As Capitalists

One of the preposterous things about the anti-capitalist brigade is that, whatever form of leftism is being espoused, they still get to enjoy all the benefits of capitalism that the capitalists enjoy. The anti-capitalists are capitalists in virtually every way imaginable, except, ironically, when they tell us they want to help kill the capitalism that has bestowed such an enriched way of life upon them. Leftists who claim to hate capitalism are like swimmers who claim to hate buoyancy.

So, on what basis do I claim that leftists are really capitalists? Partly on the observation that the incentives and the rules of growth and progress that govern the free market also govern their consumption habits, their value structure, their logic and their revealed preferences. Partly on the basis that they strive to make their lives better and more secure and more materially prosperous in the way that resembles the market system. Partly on the basis that they seem more content being better off than worse off. Partly on the basis that they act in ways that make their lives better off in the same way that capitalism is the aggregation of people acting in ways that make their lives better off. Partly because most of them bemoan the wealth of the rich, yet exhibit consumption habits that increase the wealth of the rich. Partly because almost no leftist has ever protested against the rich capitalist country they live in by leaving and moving to a poorer socialist country. The list goes on.

When I see people working hard, trying to provide for their families, tying to innovate, trying to beat the competition (for jobs, for goods, for services), enjoying the fruits of their labour, undertaking mutually beneficial transactions with people of different skills, knowledge, backgrounds, ethnicity, culture and education - all of which reflect the fundamental benefits of capitalism over the past few thousand years, and especially the past few hundred - I can feel pretty confident that we can take their actions as indication of their values and their priorities. However, when I see people shouting in the streets with leftist placards, or blocking the roads, or spilling orange paint during sports events, it's much less obvious whether they are motivated by a genuine desire to do good, or by perverse incentives, personal malice, or as victims of a mass social contagion that brainwashes their young minds.

Moreover, the person actively engaged in the realities of the market is much more likely to have a balanced view of the arguments than the person who just sees bad in capitalism wherever they go. And the person with the greater stake in the success of the market's qualities is likely to have more self-determination than the person who just wants to protest its existence from the outside - and is therefore far more likely to have weighed up the realities of trade and competition. The anti-capitalists want to have their cake while telling everyone else how much they hate cake; whereas the capitalists know that if they eat a slice of cake, producers in the market will have to work to produce more cake, and consumers will have to work hard to purchase that cake. I know which group I'd trust to offer a reliable critique of the situation.

Not only are socialists way more capitalist than they are socialist - in fact, they are only socialist because they are capitalist (because capitalism provides all the resources for socialism).

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Why Vegetarianism Might Be More Problematic Than Meat-Eating & Veganism

I have a lot of respect and admiration for vegans. In fact, if you oppose the meat industry on ethical grounds, then as far as I can see, you should be a vegan, not a vegetarian. Being a vegetarian doesn't appear to satisfy the dual aim of opposing the meat industry on ethical grounds and avoiding hypocrisy. This analysis, of course, precludes people who are vegetarian on non-ethical grounds, but merely on the grounds that they do not like the taste of meat. This analysis also assumes that it is right to keep and kill animals humanely to cause the least amount of pain and discomfort.

Generally, then, as far as I can tell, there are two contrasting positions that one can take on this matter.

1) Meat-Eating
One is to eat meat, on the basis of several arguments one could make in favour of it using a cost-benefit analysis. Everyone knows the costs of meat-eating, but those costs can be measured up against the benefits - the strongest of which are, in my view; that we've evolved for hundreds of thousands of years on a meat-based diet, meaning there are likely to be some physical optimisations based on such a diet; that the meat industry provides lots of social utility in terms of pleasure, jobs and many other associative benefits; and that most animals wouldn't get the chance to be born at all without the meat industry (that's a complex philosophical consideration that is too large in scope for this post, but you get the gist). Whether you agree with these arguments or not, these (and other arguments) are generally put forward by those who choose to eat meat.

2) Veganism
Vegans have an almost opposite approach; they not only refuse to eat meat, they also refuse to eat anything related to animal products at all. Their argument for doing so is to oppose the animal industry on ethical grounds, due to the amount of animal suffering caused by the practice of meat eating.

As far as I'm concerned, both positions deserve respect, and it's up to the individual's conscience and reasoning in deciding their position. Perhaps with Omniscience we'd be able to comprehensively justify the meat-eating industry by weighing up all the benefits against the costs. On the other hand, perhaps the vegans are the only ones making the most profound moral advancements, especially in the context of contemporary innovation and viable alternatives. I'm open to both propositions.

However, what does seem to me to be problematic is the vegetarian position - it seems like a weak and inadequate objection to the ethics of the meat industry. Vegetarians reason that in not eating meat directly, but still enjoying animal products (like eggs, milk, etc), they are trying to take an ethical position, but not going as far as denying themselves many of the foods that vegans are forgoing. They appear to me to be trying to have their free-range-egg-cake and eat it. But here's the problem; continuing the example with eggs, the egg industry isn't just about not eating meat - around 7 billion male chicks are culled each year worldwide, because obviously only female chicks are beneficial in the egg-laying industry, and because these male chicks are a different breed to the ones used for chicken meat.

Even so-called ethical egg consumption involves the killing of billions of new born chicks - so, as far as I can see, there are only two reasonable positions to take. One is to renounce the whole industry of animal products, and become a vegan; the other is to accept that animal consumption comes with both costs and benefits, and make a case for meat-eating when weighing up everything positive and negative about the industry. I just cannot make an ethical case for vegetarianism - it seems morally inferior to veganism, and only a half-hearted attempt to make an ethical stand against the animal industry.

Perhaps the vegetarian would argue that their food consumption policy is based on a matter of gradation, in that there are some actions they won't justify and some they will. Perhaps they reason that killing cattle is not acceptable, but culling chicks is permissible, in order to enable egg consumption. Clearly vegetarians must endorse some animal products that vegans wouldn't, otherwise those vegetarians would presumably also be vegans. But I don't think most vegetarians would consider that culling chicks is permissible, which may mean there is some inconsistency and ethical defect in vegetarianism that isn't found in meat-eating or veganism.


Sunday 7 April 2024

Science Like Never Before

If my book The Genius of the Invisible God ever gets published, and if you ever acquire a copy, you’ll come across a section about what I call ‘cognitive effigies’, which amount to:

“A repertoire of mental activity we use to orient ourselves in a world too complex for simple apprehensions, but in which we can distil higher meaning and purpose than we can find in its material constituent parts.”

I go into detail in the book about how the physical world out there resembles a useful fiction, and note in this passage:

“Take any of the following ideas; volume, heat, texture, fast, slow, particle, wave and light – each of these is a mental simulation of something related to external nature, but equally, each is human-centred too, and remains only a partially accurate simulacrum of reality ‘out there’. This is the 'cognitive effigy'. This book may be the first time you’ve considered the idea of the brilliant illusion of the 'cognitive effigy', and it must in some way shock, because the thought that things like gravity and weight and mass and energy are simulacra based on a kind of anthropocentric fiction of ideas seems alien to many.”

Once we apprehend reality out there in more depth, we understand that science is also a kind of useful fiction too. The main difference between science and other useful fictions is that science has the most practical (and predictive) empirical utility, but ultimately it still only relates to one kind of relation to reality, namely an implicitly physical one. 

Consider for example Newton's law of gravity and Einstein's equivalence of mass and energy – they are both observations in physics, whereby the latter superseded the former. But from this standpoint, we do not say that Einstein showed Newton to be false, rather that Einstein's selected system of geometry, Riemannian Geometry, describes the observed phenomenon better than the Euclidean system employed by Newton, but neither is considered singularly true and neither is anything like a full explanation either - they are only one prong on Hume's fork.

I think this taps into the idea of scientific disciplines as a kind of useful fiction, and how our minds relate to reality. Even though mathematics has an existence more primary than physics, the mathematical symbols we use for deciphering laws in physics are very much part of the language we create. But if we could get a proper sense of the true reality, we’d actually understand that it’s the physics we use as a map to decipher the landscape of mathematical reality. And that is a big part of why we have to embody these cognitive effigies – there is no proper sense of the world except by way of symbolising, analogising, metaphorising, allegorising and narrativising those discrete packages of information to create meaning and purpose from our physical map reading. 

Consider the geometry allusion above, by way of illustration. Geometries change according to which map of physical reality we are using. Euclidean geometry maps the base of geometry (lines, flat space), whereas hyperbolic geometry and elliptic geometry go beyond the Euclidian base, into the realms of curved space, geodesics, differentiable manifolds, and what have you. Riemann's geometry moves us into the field of geodesics, differentiable manifolds and the generalised principle of dealing with higher dimensions (Einstein's General Relativity emerges from Riemannian geometry, for example).

If you consider any space of dimension N, you can select a curvature giving it a Euclidean, elliptic or hyperbolic nature - just upping the number of dimensions doesn't make any fundamental difference at all. But a Euclidian shape is still an ideal shape, which means it falls within the category of ideation (an idea). But Euclidian geometry and Riemannian geometry are not at odds, of course - just different lenses through which we map physical reality. Our future science will probably consist of maps that go beyond Euclidian and Riemannian geometry - it's just that we need further experience and discovery before we can say what lies ahead.

This taps into Kant's conditions for understanding things (such as an awareness of space and time - that he called "forms of intuition" in his Critique of Pure Reason) and how they are derived from the structure of the mind itself. In other words, they are phenomenal, and transcendentally ideal because they are presupposed by our experience as concepts of our mind (recall his distinction too in the same work between phenomena, the world as it appears to us, and noumena, the world as it is in itself).

Here's another example. When Maxwell proved that light consists of electromagnet waves, we might picture the analogous image of water waves or sound waves when trying to apprehend this. Well, bearing in mind that waves are really a physical metaphor expressed as an equation, something very interesting followed. Einstein analogised the situation with two models – one of ideal gas, and one of a black body. The former had bouncing molecules and the latter had bouncing light waves – and he returned the same equations for each, except for one difference. With the ideal gas, the exponent was the number of molecules, whereas with the black body was the total energy divided by n energy, where n is a fraction of the total. From these equations, Einstein forecasted that the energy of the molecules of light would be analogically linked to the number of gas molecules, and he turned out to be right, and it was from this that our concept of the photon (a quantum of light) emerged. 

These are interesting examples of how humans, often without thinking of reality this way, extract from physical observations, and use symbolism and metaphor to describe reality in a way that draws a map-like representation of the territory of mathematics, and feeds into a narrative that enables us to link our segments together to make a giant, complex three dimensional story of physical reality – a story that only exists in that way because of the cognitive effigies we construct by virtue of being physical beings.

That is the ultimate useful fiction of science - our cognitive effigies provide utility because they enable us to tap into a system of pattern deciphering related to the physical world. And I think the only reason why anyone would confuse the map (physics) and the territory (mathematics) is because, being physical beings in a physical universe, we cannot easily escape the first person physical perspective and conceive of more primary realities beyond the physical – a bit like if the characters in Hamlet could come alive enough to realise they are confined to the acts and scenes on the pages, but also that their creator lives in Shakespeare-land, in a higher dimension of reality than the one in which their plots and dialogue exist.