Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Duck & Dog.

No, its not a new pub. The Tavern has many visitors: It or rather I was until recently host each evening to possums and wallabys;  They have been featured here before. Well, the possums have.

But we have never had a duck.

Other pubs in colder climes have though.  We were told about one just the other day.  But first......

A duck walks into a bar around lunchtime, sits down and orders a beer and a sandwich.The bartender looks at him and says, "By the Lord Harry, a talking duck! What are you doing here?" 

The duck replies, "I'm dry-walling the building across the street. I'll be in town for a few days."

The barman pulled him a pint and made a sandwich.

The next day, the duck walks back into the bar and the bartender says, "Hey duck, I was telling someone about you last night. They're really interested in meeting with you!"

"Is that so?", said the duck.

"There's a travelling circus in town," the bartender explained. "The ringmaster was in here last night and thought you'd be a star attraction for them!"

The duck looked puzzled and says, "Why the heck would a circus need a dry-waller?"

OK, that was a tall tale and very likely quite untrue. But this one isn't.
Duck walks into pub, drinks pint, fights dog, loses. Maintains bow tie. Not a joke
BRITAIN'S booziest duck that became a celebrity for downing pints in his local pub has been seriously injured - in a brawl with a DOG. 
The bird - called Star - is well known for waddling around his favourite inns wearing a bow tie and swigging ale from a glass. 
The booze-loving duck and his handler Barrie Hayman are a regular sight in their local taverns - some of which even give Star his own stool.
But Star's drinking days could be over after an altercation with a dog after returning from his favourite watering-hole The Old Courthouse Inn. 
Star came to blows and lost out to pooch Meggie - which also belongs to Star's owner Barrie. 
They had a Mexican stand-off and stared each other out before the hound pounced - leaving the duck with his bottom beak split down the middle.
Barrie, 69, says that .....
the dog tired of the Indian Runner duck's drunken antics and Star finally ''pushed his luck too far''
He rushed the beer-loving avian to the vets where he was put on painkillers and said he was praying his beloved duck would make a full recovery. 
Barrie, of Chulmleigh, Devon, said: "Star pushed his luck too far and Meggie snapped - splitting Star's bottom beak right down the middle.
"He gave her a stare, then promptly stood on her back. It was not pretty and not nice. We were so scared we would lose Star." 
Grandfather-of-one Barrie, a former scuba diving instructor in Australia, lives with wife Sue, and plucked Star from the incubator in 2011 when he was just days old. 
As a chick Barrie walked round with Star in his top pocket but after he grew up he developed a taste for real ale and now often goes down to the local with his owner. 
But Barrie said Star's drinking days were almost numbered. 
He said: "He had to be rushed to the vets and go under anaesthetic, which is always risky and could go either way with ducks and other small animals. 
"Thankfully our Star is a tough cookie and it looks like he came out okay, not sure we came out quite as well.
"We had hours and hours of stress and waiting around.The vets are really pleased with his progress. He seems to be bouncing back nicely which is good." 
Barrie was concerned the injury would leave Star with a lisp that would put his performance career in jeopardy - as the duo regularly team up to raise hundreds of pounds for charity with their unique street double act. 
But vets have reassured Barrie that Star should be able to take to the stage again and the injury will not affect the duck's dulcet tones. 
He said: "He just won't leave me and so we go everywhere together. I've not trained him to follow me. He just seems to like it and he is one fantastic duck. 
"He loves to come to the pub, where everyone loves him. He is such a personality and attracts so much attention." 
Hmmmm. We get a few Trolls here occasionally but the Bouncer takes care of them. But we haven't had a duck. Yet. 

But we do have some tall stories.

A duck walks into a bar and asks, "Got any grapes?"

The bartender, confused, tells the duck no. The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns and asks, "Got any grapes?"

Again, the bartender tells him, "No -- the bar does not serve grapes, has never served grapes and, furthermore, will never serve grapes." The duck thanks him and leaves.

The next day, the duck returns, but before he can say anything, the bartender yells, "Listen, duck! This is a bar! We do not serve grapes! If you ask for grapes again, I will nail your stupid duck beak to the bar!"

The duck is silent for a moment, and then asks, "Got any nails?"

Confused, the bartender says no.

"Good!" says the duck. "Got any grapes?"

Elsewhere, another English Village has been mourning a duck. Funny mob the English.  Masters of a third of the world for a while and now look. Mourning a duck.
A VILLAGE is to hold an official wake and even lower a church flag to half mast – 
following the death of duck.
The bird – called Desmond Drake – had spent 25 years living on the village pond where he was known to bully other males away from the lady ducks.
Desmond had lived in Compton Martin all his life before he was savaged by a fox – leaving only a pile of feathers behind.
A wake, which does not yet have a date, will be held at the village pub, The Ring O'Bells.
Desmond will be the last drake – male duck – of the mill pond, with owner Andrew Griffiths wanting it to return to a more natural state.
Andrew, 68, said: "He will be sadly missed, both for his propensity to consume stale bread and cake, along with his ability to toss upstart young moorhens all over the place.
"He has been a permanent fixture of the pond, for in excess of 25 years, outliving all his contemporaries.
"He has brought much joy and happiness to people of all ages. He will be sadly missed and so can never be replaced.
"We said we would have a wake for the duck.
"When we decide to do it we will drop the flag to half-mast on the church.
"We will all have a drink in the pub.
"He was a very long serving duck and member of the community.
"He became family, he became a village icon.
"There was even a little society, the blood of the duck, and we would drink whiskey with a duck egg in.
"Lots of people have been giving their condolences since his death."
There was no word about the fox. 

Drink up.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Your Transgender Reality

The good professor of yesterday's conversations had little to say about Transgendered people. Their reality could well do with some scientific examination and perhaps a mathematical model or two.  Fortunately we had another Prof in today with a less 'superimposed' view which will without doubt see him pilloried as if he were a space scientist / satellite driver who dared to wear a shirt with naked ladies on't.

My Bouncer was obliged to chide a chap who tried to go into the Ladies, Damsels and Wenches toilet today, instead of the Kings, Knights, Gentlemen, Squires, Yoemen, Farmers and Farmboy's one. (We have a seperate one for Monks.) We are rather intolerant of that in the Tavern. The squawking drew some chuckles, although I did offer some kind words to the poor soul who was deluded enough to think I would submit to his lunacy. They were wasted of course. Another customer had something to say about that too, but we shall come to him later.  I took the carefully mis-dressed chap to a small room where he could sit in peace and not disturb other customers and sat him down with a dainty tankard of Ale for his ailments.
Smoking prohibited but going into the Ladies loo is OK !!??
The conversation about the incident flowed in the US Room. First the Prof. A medical Prof indeed. Dr McHugh. 

Michael Chapman brought him in and ordered a pint of the best each.
Johns Hopkins Psychiatrist: 
Transgender is ‘Mental Disorder; 
' Sex Change ‘Biologically Impossible’
( --  Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, said that transgenderism is a “mental disorder” that merits treatment, that sex change is “biologically impossible,” and that people who promote sexual re-assignment surgery are collaborating with and promoting a mental disorder.
Dr. McHugh, the author of six books and at least 125 peer-reviewed medical articles, made his remarks in a recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal, where he explained that transgender surgery is not the solution for people who suffer a “disorder of ‘assumption’” – the notion that their maleness or femaleness is different than what nature assigned to them biologically.
He also reported on a new study showing that the suicide rate among transgendered people who had reassignment surgery is 20 times higher than the suicide rate among non-transgender people. Dr. McHugh further noted studies from Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic of children who had expressed transgender feelings but for whom, over time, 70%-80% “spontaneously lost those feelings.”
While the Obama administration, Hollywood, and major media such as Time magazine promote transgenderism as normal, said Dr. McHugh, these “policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”
 “This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken – it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.”
The transgendered person’s disorder, said Dr. McHugh, is in the person’s “assumption” that they are different than the physical reality of their body, their maleness or femaleness, as assigned by nature. It is a disorder similar to a “dangerously thin” person suffering anorexia who looks in the mirror and thinks they are “overweight,” said McHugh.
This assumption, that one’s gender is only in the mind regardless of anatomical reality, has led some transgendered people to push for social acceptance and affirmation of their own subjective “personal truth,” said Dr. McHugh. As a result, some states – California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts – have passed laws barring psychiatrists, “even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor,” he said.
The pro-transgender advocates do not want to know, said McHugh, that studies show between 70% and 80% of children who express transgender feelings “spontaneously lose those feelings” over time. Also, for those who had sexual reassignment surgery, most said they were “satisfied” with the operation “but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn’t have the surgery.”
“And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a ‘satisfied’ but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs,” said Dr. McHugh.
The former Johns Hopkins chief of psychiatry also warned against enabling or encouraging certain subgroups of the transgendered, such as young people “susceptible to suggestion from ‘everything is normal’ sex education,” and the schools’ “diversity counselors” who, like “cult leaders,” may “encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery.”
Dr. McHugh also reported that there are “misguided doctors” who, working with very young children who seem to imitate the opposite sex, will administer “puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous – 
even though the drugs stunt the children’s growth and risk causing sterility.”
Such action comes “close to child abuse,” said Dr. McHugh, given that close to 80% of those kids will “abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated ….”
Still a Woman for all that 
“’Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” said McHugh. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. 
Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.”
Frankly it is high time the medical establishment weeded its garden. Dr McHugh could make a fine gardener.

But, all that he said, being said, how does the ordinary man and woman in the street deal with the tiny perverse minority that likes to wear the opposite sex's clothes?  Well, first they have to put aside yesterday's Professotr of Non-Reality's views and face the onslaught. Then they have to get some perspective.

How a chap or chapess dresses is one of those odd issues that fashion takes the reins. There have been eras when chaps were rather dandilike, with lace trim, satins and velvets.  Almost ladylike! They had long hair that todays scruffy pop singers and hippies would balk at and even wore long wigs that would gain more votes than Donald Trump's meagre toupee. Not every era was modeled on Prussia! 

In many parts of the world, notably the middle east, it is common for men to wear dresses. Scots wear kilts and the Greek  soldier's 'best' uniform is a sight to behold.

So, if a chap comes into the Tavern wearing a skirt and blouse, and the skirt covers his knees and the blouse is not see-through or showing his lacy, underwired bra, he will get served. His underpants can be by Janet Reager and he can wear a dainty petticoat, I really do not care, so long as he keeps them modestly out of sight.

But should he seek compliments I will give him exactly the measure of some chap strutting his best suit. That is, not even a mention other than, "going to a 'do' later?".  Ladies are treated differently. False ladies are not. Immodest ladies get to chat with the Bouncer too.

And there are female to male transgenders too. Sometimes that is overlooked. There are far more women walking around dressed like men than men dressed like women. Does anyone have conniptions? All of the recent arguement and angst has been about perverts in the ladies rooms, but what about the laddies'? A perverted man is unwelcome in the toilets and changing rooms with someone's wife or daughter, but it is ok, it seems if he is in the Gents' with your son or brother. Hmmmm. There is more than meets the eye and not a small amount of misandry at work.
She becomes he but it does not become her
Hence, perspective, and compassion where it is due; a heavy hand where it is due too.

Having put that, let us see what others have to say. Mr Wright, for instance. He had a mate along with him too; not that they were in total agreement..

Demanding Discourtesy in Courtesy’s Name

Ecreegan [the mate] holds forth an opinion on the courtesy owed to transvestites, transgendered, and transrationals.
Sometimes there’s no polite option. Tell me, what pronoun do I use for a pre-operative male-to-female transexual? “She” is a lie. “He” is considered highly offensive, and “it” is considered beyond the pale. (I try to use names. The new name is not a lie, even if it doesn’t make any sense.)
I very strongly disagree, so much so that I cannot tell if you are making a joke.
When you say the words “considered highly offensive” I cannot imagine anyone having any right to be offended at such a thing, nor any honest man taking such offense seriously.
Highly? Really?

To the contrary, it is highly offensive even to assert that an honest man should lie like a dog, a lie no one believes and no one can believe, merely to please the arbitrary whims of some petty tyrant trying to demean your soul and rob you of dignity.
The rule in English is that males and male objects are “he”, and persons whose sex is unknown or undetermined is also “he.” One says “he or she” only in a legal document where that degree of precision overwhelms the need for good grammar. Otherwise is it an error. “They” used in a singular merits horsehwipping.
A man who cuts off his penis and has false breasts implanted is not changing his sex, that is, his biological reality, but is attempting to change his social role: he is a man who wants to be treated with the honors [sic] and titles of a wife and mother. 

He also suffers from profound mental illness, so much so that he cuts off parts of his body.

But since the pronoun deals with the sex and not with social roles, he has no right to be offended if he is a “he”.

Saying a he is a “he” is not what offends.
The political correction officer is playing a social dominance game with you.
He is making himself to be offended with you so that you will obey him.
He uses your desire to avoid offending him as a tool to establish social roles. You are supposed to assume the role as the inferior, the lower order, the ignorant, the follower, the benighted. He assumes the role as the superior, the higher order, the wiseman, the leader, the enlightened.
Of course he is offended and most deeply so!
He is offended at your insubordination. 

You are an uppity niggra. If the lower orders shoot off their mouths and starting thinking for themselves, why, there will be rebellion among the proles and slaves. So shut up.

He is not offended at your lack of courtesy. 

That is risible.

No politically correct person has ever displayed the courtesy of a swine since the beginning of the world: they neither doff their caps to ladies, nor ask if you need any comfort, nor listen to your point of view, nor salute you will courteous greetings, nor say “sir” and “ma’am” and “miss” and “missus” like anyone not raised in a barn would do.
Indeed, they go out of their way to cheat these forms of address, and will call God by the pronoun “She” and call the year “CE” just to see how often they can offend and insult Christians without being slapped in the mouth.
I have never known one not to use four letter crudities or to encouraging others to do so. Even their most grave politicians in public swear in a fashion former generations, who had a right view of the dignity of man, would never have had allowed.
No doubt the politically correct lunatics you’ve met really act vexed and hostile if you call Bruce Jenner “he” as logic, love of truth, common sense, common decency and good grammar demand, but you are utterly insane if you consider their insanity to be legitimate.
If I have a bit of paper I claim is the title deed to the Moon and I say by right you owe me money for getting light from my moon without paying me, my title deed has no legal force or effect, because, despite my claim, I have no legal right to moonlight. In reality, by international treaty, no man owns the moon and, by logic, no one can own the moonlight, since it is a free good.

Likewise here: if a man grows vexed and irate, and wets his pants and shrieks like a loon and rolls on the ground in a pool of his own spleenish vomit because you will not call a crazy person who cuts off his dick and dresses in girly clothing a “she”, his vexation is a sign of his witlessness, not a sign of his due righteous indignation. It is as phony as the alleged title deed to the moon. Even if I believe I own the moon with my whole heart, as strong as I can make myself believe what I want to believe, I am outside my rights, and my claim on you for money is invalid.

So here. A man has no right to demand you pretend him a woman, no matter how badly he wants it.
He has no right to be vexed if you do not give what he has no right to ask.
A man can act offended at anything he wishes, but if he has no right to be offended, the act is just an act. 

He should be chided, silenced, and, if he will not conform to the demands of polite society, be removed from it. If he grows violent, he should be confined, or killed. That is what you owe him.

He is the one being very offensive, not you.
Hmmmm. I draw the line before 'killed' but undestand all of the points. I prefer compassion where it is due and a civilised response where that is due too. Hence my sitting the chap in his attire in a small room away from harm, with a pint of Grace that may well relieve his ailment. 

Remember, the first Fundemental question: "What ails thee?"

Pain can discombobulate people. Someone afflicted with a 'transgender' feeling needs sympathy right up to the point they become demanding and oppressive.

As for those who would deceive children, infect them with nonsense, pervert them in schools, well, those people should be removed to a jail cell. 

Or get to know a Millstone necklace.

The older 'children' have been thoroughly perverted such that they refuse to acknowledge reality. Not 'can't' but flat refuse. They are so conformist to the perversions they have been taught.

Don't believe me? See here.....

There are Professors of Cant as well as Kant.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Is There Anyone at Home?

"Of course, this stuff isn't really Grace, as you claim, is it?". So said a skeptical fellow sitting with a glass half full the other day. I like it when someone gets well into thought in the Tavern. It's the place for it. Every Hero and Saint has asked deep questions at one time or another and started off with some doubt. Eric gave me the nod to top his glass up. "This one's on me", he said.

The talk had been a '42er '. What's the answer to Life, The Universe and, well Everything. Some just do not see the Grace we have been given. Some do not - and some will not - drink.

Do we even see what is infront of us? How did it get here? Is anyone else sharing the same elsewhere?  How come its just us in the Tavern? There were plenty of folk putting their oars in the deep waters.

Eric Metaxis opened up but it wasn't long before others joined in.
Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God
The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life. [I hope those zeros are correct].
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random.

But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely.. 
bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Bill chimed in. 

He's had a dog in the fight too, and for quite a while it seems.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. 
Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
The Moon too, as Bill pointed out. 
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
One can sympathise with those who say we have 'begged the question' in the first place. With all our intelligence and technology, are we really seeing what we think we are seeing? 

You do not have to be very intelligent to be a Tavern Keeper (although I do in fact have a brain the size of a small planet) and many who are intelligent are too clever by half. But the more we 'discover', the more questions arise, the more certain some people are and the more discombobulated others become. It is often impossible to differentiate between them. Which is where Grace comes in handy. 

When a chap looks at another and sees that there is a 'vacant' look in his eyes and he wonders if there is anyone at home, it is best to be generous and compassionate. And that is where the Grace does its work.

I filled the glasses and mugs while Amanda Gafter had a chat with a Professor of Exceptionally Clever Stuff. I am not at all sure he thinks Grace is Real. Or anything is for that matter. But what is 'real' and where does 'it' all come from?

Being a Catholic chap, I take it that God created Heaven and Earth and all things visible and invisible. And by the Lord Harry there is much we just do not see. He made Grace too.  Just how He went about it and whether He has a work in progress is yet more to ponder.

The Prof had many really interesting points and many side tracks to explore.
The Case Against Reality

A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.
As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions—sights, sounds, textures, tastes—are an accurate portrayal of the real world. Sure, when we stop and think about it—or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion—we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality. 
Still, we bank on the fact that our simulation is a reasonably decent one. If it wasn’t, wouldn’t evolution have weeded us out by now? The true reality might be forever beyond our reach, but surely our senses give us at least an inkling of what it’s really like.
The Confined Solution
Not so, says Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. Hoffman has spent the past three decades studying perception, artificial intelligence, evolutionary game theory and the brain, and his conclusion is a dramatic one: 
The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. 
What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.
Ahha, good old 'evolution'. The 'Theory' that explains some 'facts' and increasingly has to shovel other facts under the carpet. Is the carpet real?
Getting at questions about the nature of reality, and disentangling the observer from the observed, is an endeavor that straddles the boundaries of neuroscience and fundamental physics. On one side you’ll find researchers scratching their chins raw trying to understand how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience. 
This is the aptly named “hard problem.”

On the other side are quantum physicists, marveling at the strange fact that quantum systems don’t seem to be definite objects localized in space until we come along to observe them. Experiment after experiment has shown—defying common sense—that if we assume that the particles that make up ordinary objects have an objective, observer-independent existence, we get the wrong answers. 
The central lesson of quantum physics is clear: There are no public objects sitting out there in some preexisting space. As the physicist John Wheeler put it, “Useful as it is under ordinary circumstances to say that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld.”

So while neuroscientists struggle to understand how there can be such a thing as a first-person reality, quantum physicists have to grapple with the mystery of how there can be anything but a first-person reality. In short, all roads lead back to the observer. And that’s where you can find Hoffman—straddling the boundaries, attempting a mathematical model of the observer, trying to get at the reality behind the illusion. Quanta Magazine caught up with him to find out more.
Let us listen in and I guess expect that the Theologians are not seen either. 
Gefter: People often use Darwinian evolution as an argument that our perceptions accurately reflect reality. They say, “Obviously we must be latching onto reality in some way because otherwise we would have been wiped out a long time ago. If I think I’m seeing a palm tree but it’s really a tiger, I’m in trouble.”

Hoffman: Right. The classic argument is that those of our ancestors who saw more accurately had a competitive advantage over those who saw less accurately and thus were more likely to pass on their genes that coded for those more accurate perceptions, so after thousands of generations we can be quite confident that we’re the offspring of those who saw accurately, and so we see accurately. That sounds very plausible. But I think it is utterly false. 
It misunderstands the fundamental fact about evolution, which is that it’s about fitness functions—mathematical functions that describe how well a given strategy achieves the goals of survival and reproduction. The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.

Gefter: You’ve done computer simulations to show this. Can you give an example?

Hoffman: Suppose in reality there’s a resource, like water, and you can quantify how much of it there is in an objective order—very little water, medium amount of water, a lot of water. Now suppose your fitness function is linear, so a little water gives you a little fitness, medium water gives you medium fitness, and lots of water gives you lots of fitness—in that case, the organism that sees the truth about the water in the world can win, but only because the fitness function happens to align with the true structure in reality. Generically, in the real world, that will never be the case. Something much more natural is a bell curve—say, too little water you die of thirst, but too much water you drown, and only somewhere in between is good for survival. 
Now the fitness function doesn’t match the structure in the real world. And that’s enough to send truth to extinction. 
For example, an organism tuned to fitness might see small and large quantities of some resource as, say, red, to indicate low fitness, whereas they might see intermediate quantities as green, to indicate high fitness. Its perceptions will be tuned to fitness, but not to truth. It won’t see any distinction between small and large—it only sees red—even though such a distinction exists in reality.
See what I mean by too clever by half? 
Gefter: But how can seeing a false reality be beneficial to an organism’s survival?

Hoffman: There’s a metaphor that’s only been available to us in the past 30 or 40 years, and that’s the desktop interface.
Oh dear. Its a good job we moved from the 'radio' era into the computer era or he's be using analogies of glass tubes and resistors. 
Suppose there’s a blue rectangular icon on the lower right corner of your computer’s desktop — does that mean that the file itself is blue and rectangular and lives in the lower right corner of your computer? Of course not. But those are the only things that can be asserted about anything on the desktop — it has color, position, and shape. Those are the only categories available to you, and yet none of them are true about the file itself or anything in the computer. They couldn’t possibly be true. That’s an interesting thing. 
You could not form a true description of the innards of the computer if your entire view of reality was confined to the desktop. 
And yet the desktop is useful. That blue rectangular icon guides my behavior, and it hides a complex reality that I don’t need to know. That’s the key idea. Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. They guide adaptive behaviors. 
But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. 
I am reminded that we 'look through the glass-darkly. I am reminded of how we have had matters slowly 'Revealed' to us as we have progressed. 
And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be. If you had to spend all that time figuring it out, the tiger would eat you.

Gefter: So everything we see is one big illusion?
Hoffman: We’ve been shaped to have perceptions that keep us alive, so we have to take them seriously. If I see something that I think of as a snake, I don’t pick it up. If I see a train, I don’t step in front of it. I’ve evolved these symbols to keep me alive, so I have to take them seriously. But it’s a logical flaw to think that if we have to take it seriously, we also have to take it literally.

Gefter: If snakes aren’t snakes and trains aren’t trains, what are they?

Hoffman: Snakes and trains, like the particles of physics, have no objective, observer-independent features. The snake I see is a description created by my sensory system to inform me of the fitness consequences of my actions. Evolution shapes acceptable solutions, not optimal ones. A snake is an acceptable solution to the problem of telling me how to act in a situation. My snakes and trains are my mental representations; your snakes and trains are your mental representations.

Gefter: How did you first become interested in these ideas?

Hoffman: As a teenager, I was very interested in the question “Are we machines?” My reading of the science suggested that we are. But my dad was a minister, and at church they were saying we’re not. So I decided I needed to figure it out for myself. It’s sort of an important personal question—if I’m a machine, I would like to find that out! And if I’m not, I’d like to know, what is that special magic beyond the machine? 
So eventually in the 1980s I went to the artificial-intelligence lab at MIT and worked on machine perception. The field of vision research was enjoying a newfound success in developing mathematical models for specific visual abilities. I noticed that they seemed to share a common mathematical structure, so I thought it might be possible to write down a formal structure for observation that encompassed all of them, perhaps all possible modes of observation.
I was inspired in part by Alan Turing. When he invented the Turing machine, he was trying to come up with a notion of computation, and instead of putting bells and whistles on it, he said, Let’s get the simplest, most pared down mathematical description that could possibly work. And that simple formalism is the foundation for the science of computation. So I wondered, could I provide a similarly simple formal foundation for the science of observation?

Gefter: A mathematical model of consciousness.

Hoffman: That’s right. My intuition was, there are conscious experiences. I have pains, tastes, smells, all my sensory experiences, moods, emotions and so forth. So I’m just going to say: One part of this consciousness structure is a set of all possible experiences. When I’m having an experience, based on that experience I may want to change what I’m doing. So I need to have a collection of possible actions I can take and a decision strategy that, given my experiences, allows me to change how I’m acting. That’s the basic idea of the whole thing. I have a space Xof experiences, a space G of actions, and an algorithm D that lets me choose a new action given my experiences. Then I posited a W for a world, which is also a probability space. Somehow the world affects my perceptions, so there’s a perception map P from the world to my experiences, and when I act, I change the world, so there’s a map A from the space of actions to the world. That’s the entire structure. Six elements. The claim is: This is the structure of consciousness. I put that out there so people have something to shoot at.

Gefter: But if there’s a W, are you saying there is an external world?

Hoffman: Here’s the striking thing about that. I can pull the W out of the model and stick a conscious agent in its place and get a circuit of conscious agents. In fact, you can have whole networks of arbitrary complexity. And that’s the world.
Gefter: The world is just other conscious agents?
OK, I didn't interrupt but was thinking that if there were no other conscious agents - ourselves, people, -  for a very long time during evolution, then WHO was the One Conscious Agent that was keeping it all spinning before we got here? 
Hoffman: I call it conscious realism: Objective reality is just conscious agents, just points of view.
The mind boggles at the fence he builds around us.  He really does need the Grace I serve here.
Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind.
Almost Theological, innit ? He stops short of positing an Original Mind, an Originating Mind that creates all the new little minds to generate a unified, single mind for Himself.  But the Prof ain't theological.
Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down.

Gefter: If it’s conscious agents all the way down, all first-person points of view, what happens to science? Science has always been a third-person description of the world.
How about that old pre-science idea of 'Turtles all the way down', hehehe.
Hoffman: The idea that what we’re doing is measuring publicly accessible objects, the idea that objectivity results from the fact that you and I can measure the same object in the exact same situation and get the same results — it’s very clear from quantum mechanics that that idea has to go. Physics tells us that there are no public physical objects. So what’s going on? 
Here’s how I think about it. I can talk to you about my headache and believe that I am communicating effectively with you, because you’ve had your own headaches. The same thing is true as apples and the moon and the sun and the universe. Just like you have your own headache, you have your own moon. But I assume it’s relevantly similar to mine. That’s an assumption that could be false, but that’s the source of my communication, and that’s the best we can do in terms of public physical objects and objective science.

Gefter: It doesn’t seem like many people in neuroscience or philosophy of mind are thinking about fundamental physics. Do you think that’s been a stumbling block for those trying to understand consciousness?
Heck, lady, I was thinking as I listened and filled the pots of the other's hanging on their every round about word, what about David Bohm?  He was a quantum physicist. He tackled that very question and came up with the Implicate and Explicate Orders. That was fifty years ago !!  Perhaps it was because he caught sight of God's coat tails just as St Thomas did, that he was relegated to the science footnotes.
Hoffman: I think it has been. Not only are they ignoring the progress in fundamental physics, they are often explicit about it. They’ll say openly that quantum physics is not relevant to the aspects of brain function that are causally involved in consciousness. They are certain that it’s got to be classical properties of neural activity, which exist independent of any observers—spiking rates, connection strengths at synapses, perhaps dynamical properties as well. These are all very classical notions under Newtonian physics, where time is absolute and objects exist absolutely. 
And then [neuroscientists] are mystified as to why they don’t make progress. 
They don’t avail themselves of the incredible insights and breakthroughs that physics has made. Those insights are out there for us to use, and yet my field says, “We’ll stick with Newton, thank you. We’ll stay 300 years behind in our physics.”

Gefter: I suspect they’re reacting to things like Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s model, where you still have a physical brain, it’s still sitting in space, but supposedly it’s performing some quantum feat. In contrast, you’re saying, “Look, quantum mechanics is telling us that we have to question the very notions of ‘physical things’ sitting in ‘space.’”

Hoffman: I think that’s absolutely true. The neuroscientists are saying, “We don’t need to invoke those kind of quantum processes, we don’t need quantum wave functions collapsing inside neurons, we can just use classical physics to describe processes in the brain.” 
I’m emphasizing the larger lesson of quantum mechanics: Neurons, brains, space … these are just symbols we use, they’re not real
It’s not that there’s a classical brain that does some quantum magic. It’s that there’s no brain! 
Quantum mechanics says that classical objects—including brains—don’t exist. So this is a far more radical claim about the nature of reality and does not involve the brain pulling off some tricky quantum computation. So even Penrose hasn’t taken it far enough. But most of us, you know, we’re born realists. We’re born physicalists. This is a really, really hard one to let go of.
Hmmmm. I hesitate to say that he has a cheek saying that others 'haven't taken it far enough'. But, we are a work in progress ! 
Gefter: To return to the question you started with as a teenager, are we machines?

Hoffman: The formal theory of conscious agents I’ve been developing is computationally universal—in that sense, it’s a machine theory. And it’s because the theory is computationally universal that I can get all of cognitive science and neural networks back out of it. Nevertheless, for now I don’t think we are machines—in part because I distinguish between the mathematical representation and the thing being represented. 
As a conscious realist, I am postulating conscious experiences as ontological primitives, the most basic ingredients of the world. 
I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. The experiences of everyday life—my real feeling of a headache, my real taste of chocolate—that really is the ultimate nature of reality.
Hmmmm. I think the good Prof has a long way to go to reach the destination, and is insisting on taking the pretty route. He is in dire need of sustenance to help him on his way.

I filled his glass, but I don't think he saw it. He clearly isn't experiencing it.