Natural Allies: Atheism and Human Rights (rough draft)


Richard Saunders  (Facebook)
Natural Allies: Atheism and Human Rights (rough draft)
AUGUST 10, 2017 · PUBLIC
“Atheist feminism is a branch of feminism that also advocates atheism. Atheist feminists hold that religion is a prominent source of female oppression and inequality, believing that the majority of the religions are sexist and oppressive towards women.”
If atheists want to argue we can “do good without gods” we need to cultivate and demonstrate our moral, ethical, and social literacy, not just our scientific facts. We can begin by trying to reconcile various conflicts between atheists and other groups (such as feminists, minorities, or ideologies) with whom we might be natural allies if those conflicts were understood and resolved.
1. Resolving conflicts between atheism and feminism
Atheism and feminism both have variants, some of which have developed conflicts. These conflicts may be most notable in the case of New Atheists (NA) and Third-Wave Feminists (3WF). NA is sometimes characterized as the “militant” arm of atheism. [1] 3WF “contains internal debates between difference feminists, who believe that there are important differences between the sexes, and those who believe that there are no inherent differences between the sexes and contend that gender roles are due to social conditioning.” [2]
Steven Pinker differentiates two branches of feminism as equity feminism and gender feminism. “Equity feminism is a moral doctrine about equal treatment that makes no commitments regarding open empirical issues in psychology or biology.” [3]
I’d like to see, but haven’t yet found, research that compares rates of sexism and other kinds of bigotry among atheists to that in the general public. It would be interesting to see comparisons on other social and ethical issues as well. However, empirical facts and rational analysis don’t justify patronizing, condescension, insults, discrimination, bigotry, male chauvinism and other displays of social illiteracy.
I haven’t found any statistics on rates of bigotry among atheists compared with the general public, but I did find a wide variety of articles discussing sexism and racism among atheists in general and Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Shermer in particular. While I was originally skeptical or agnostic on the issue, I quickly learned something that clued me in, I think, to a broader point of view:
“But it’s not just women who are underrepresented at conventions, it’s also people of color. Would Harris suggest that black and Hispanic men, too, have a “nurturing, coherence-building, extra estrogen vibe” that makes the angry tone of Harris’s atheist activism off-putting? Presumably not. Presumably Harris understands that there are a variety of reasons for the underrepresentation of people of color, including both casual racism in the organized atheist community and cultural specifics in the wider society, none of which have anything to do with any sort of underlying psychological differences. And yet, when it comes to the underrepresentation of women in organized atheism Harris chooses not to consider either casual sexism in the organized atheist community or the cultural landscape women live their lives against. Instead, he jumps straight to presumed psychological differences between men and women.”
I took that as a kind of social (as opposed to scientific) illiteracy or lack of enlightenment on Harris’ part that I had not caught on to previously, probably because I have a similar bias.
Harris was asked why there were more men in his audience than women and he went right to biological and psychological explanations and ignored social- cultural explanations. He doubled down on that approach in his “Not the sexist pig” defense, and added a strong dose of condescension about putting women on pedestals. As the “Is Sam Harris Sexist” article points out, both those things are sexist and Harris doesn’t seem to understand that.
I started a conversation in The Sam Harris Experiment group which apparently got me expelled from the group. I posted links to some articles and made some comments such as:
Does the atheist community have a problem with sexism? This article argues that it does, both in the ranks and at the level of major public intellectuals like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. IMO there’s evidence of such a problem, but it may also be exaggerated in some quarters. Is it a case of rampant, over the top misogyny throughout the atheist community? Are atheists more sexist than the general public, less sexist, or about the same? As this article suggests we might expect a lot of common ground between atheists and feminists. If something is disturbing this natural alliance, what is it? Is the same old war between the sexes raising it’s ugly head here? There’s a problem for sure, and I’d like to see my fellow atheists step up to solve it with a minimum of denial and defensiveness.
Biology is one thing, equity is another. Scientific theories about sex differences are one thing, social intelligence is another. Could Harris use a little more of the latter?
It isn’t that biological sex characteristics are irrelevant, but that they are not AS relevant to the issue in question, inclusion and participation, as the social-cultural inequities. It seems that too many atheists, including Harris, are insensitive to or even clueless about this, at least in regard to sex. Placing the emphasis on biological and psychological differences just begs the question about what that should imply with respect to roles– separation and specialization, or affirmative action to achieve inclusion and diversity.
Is diversity necessary for a just society?
The social value of diversity is empirically proven via empathy (there but for fortune go you or I) and theoretically via the “veil of ignorance”.
Dawkins may think he’s being “the most rational man alive” when he says that not all pedophilia or all rape are the same. That is true in a technical sense, but it ignores the fact that society has adopted a zero tolerance policy for all behavior meeting the legal definition of pedophilia or rape. Criminal sentences rightly vary according to severity and other factors, but Dawkins remark angers those fighting for justice where it has often been wanting on those issues.

Richard Dawkins stands by remarks on…
I side with nearly all Dawkins’ science, but the man is a social dinosaur. He did eventually apologise for the Dear Muslima letters and say he was a feminist and everybody should be one, before he lapsed back into gender dementia on twitter and in interviews.

See: “Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name”

Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant…
FB friend: “the author cannot explain WHY IT IS A DISCRACE or WHY we should all be offended and on the side of the complaining woman who is disgusted by a stranger’s verbal proposition.”

Me: We should not all be (and most of us aren’t) offended by Dawkins’ behavior in the elevator, even if the woman felt creeped out. We ARE all offended by the Muslima letters you admire so much and by his pattern of behavior over many years. He chose the easiest accusation to defend himself against and managed to turn the defense into a disgusting display of male chauvinism.

FB friend: ” The answer is, of course: “the female victim is always right, even if no objective evidence was presented.”

Me: Neither you nor Dawkins can get away with using his slightest offense as a proxy for all the others.

“Brazen sexism is pushing women out of America’s atheism movement”

Brazen sexism is pushing women out of…
Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s behind the misogyny of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris?

As a movement, New Atheism seems like it would be so compatible with feminism — and yet that hasn’t been the case

Atheism’s shocking woman problem: What’s…

Varieties of Capitalism (draft)


Image from ’Rethinking the diversity of capitalism: varieties of capitalism, variegated capitalism, and the world market’, in G. Wood and C. Lane, eds, Capitalist Diversity and Diversity within Capitalism, London: Routledge, 209-237, 2011.

Poor Richard  (Facebook Note)

Varieties of Capitalism (draft)
There are dozens of varieties of capitalism that only share one common point–private ownership of the means of production and distribution. Things like monopoly capitalism and disaster capitalism are anti-social. Things like ecological and cooperative capitalism can be pro-social and democratic. In most large, complex societies today multiple forms of capitalism usually exist in combination with each other, alongside multiple kinds of socialism and other economic systems. Modern economies are mixed economies and that is mostly a good thing. But some forms of capitalism are so toxic and so prevalent that people become skeptical of capitalism and private ownership in general. This is why I often use the term “green fair-enterprise” instead of green fair-market capitalism, for example.The problem with overgeneralizing the evils of capitalism is that private ownership tends to get tarred with the same brush at the same time. But private ownership is actually an essential component of a fair and balanced economy when it serves as a check and balance on public ownership. There are serous dangers inherent in entities with police powers owning too great a percentage of the productive assets and resources of society. A balance between public and private ownership with fair competition between them has the greatest general utility and resistance to special interests. Our goal should be pragmatic–accentuating the good elements of our political economy and eliminating the bad. Trying to create some pure new theoretical system is the worst possible approach.


Capitalism: Private ownership (as opposed to state ownership) of the means of production and distribution of goods and services.

At one point in history capitalism was a progressive, humanistic revolution against monarchy, aristocracy and feudalism (ancient systems under which serfs, tenants, or sharecroppers worked land owned by others for a small share of the yield). Yeoman farmers were some of the first capitalists. They owned their own capital, or means of production– land, livestock, tools, etc. –and were free to sell or trade as they chose. Capitalism has gone through many changes since then. Whenever we speak of capitalism now we should add at least one adjective such as the following (not a complete list):
Asocial or antisocial types:
  • for-profit or not-for-profit (footnote A)
  • post-welfare (Uber, AirBnB)
  • state (Pannekoek)
  • corporate
  • neoliberal
  • financial
  • speculative
  • libertarian
  • anarcho-
  • laissez-faire
  • authoritarian
  • global
  • neofeudal
  • predatory
  • crony
  • monopoly
  • vulture
  • disaster (or crisis, per Naomi Klein)
Pro-social types:
  • social
  • mutual
  • solidarity
  • benefit corp, B-corp
  • for-profit or not-for-profit (footnote A)
  • yeoman
  • cooperatie
  • democratic
  • fair-market
  • ecological
  • natural
  • green
  • sustainable
  • egalitarian
  • mom-&-pop
  • small-business
  • mainstreet
  • ethical
  • distributed
  • P2P
No large, modern economy is a pure example of any of the above. A real economy is a mixed economy. In the USA, for example, the economy combines nearly all the above types of capitalism with various types of socialism (i.e. national, state or local government ownership).
If the main failure of the mainstream economy is a distribution failure (e.g. wealth and income inequality, poverty, hunger, etc.) rather than a production failure, how can alternative economic theories or systems best address the typical distribution issues?
Trust (good faith, bona fides) has become increasingly scarce in a world of mass media and sophisticated public relations spin. The brain has been shocked and conditioned. Building trust and trusted organizations must start from the ground (specific people) up. I discuss this process at more length in the following essays:
1. Organizing P2P organizations (This is a bit long but the first few pages are the relevant part, describing a step-by-step process for starting any new organization with a specific group of people.)
“The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the Kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.” ~~Confucius The Great Learning
Capitalism is broken because our brains are out of touch with reality. Even when we “know better” we keep going down the wrong path. We wonder why “others” don’t see the light and wise up. The root problem is that we have changed the environment faster than brains and cultures could keep up.
If we really want to fix capitalism or anything else we have to begin with our own lifestyles. Lifestyle is more important than philosophy or ideology. The brain always urges us to look for “answers” but there are no magic answers or solutions — there is only practice.
What should capitalism do? I have nothing against the private ownership of property which is the core ofcapitalism as long as private ownership is properly regulated in the public interest. But the famous “invisible hand” is not at all adequate to that task. Capitalism should stop being evil. It should be green, renewable, sustainable, and just. Capitalism should be a good citizen. It should stop being a bully and a reckless slob. It should pay fair taxes. It should adopt some ethics. It should act in good faith (bona fides). Markets should be fair (level) first, free second. It should be positive sum rather than zero sum. Rich criminals should be punished even more severely than poor criminals.
Capitalism has had useful forms, especially in cases where capital was equitably distributed and democratically managed as in the case of some farms,businesses, and cooperatives. When people want to blast capitalism I suggest they qualify the subject of their disrespect as something like neoliberal capitalism, monopoly capitalism, disaster capitalism, predatory capitalism, vulture capitalism, etc. In any case the pathological forms don’t preclude the possibility of ethical, democratic forms.
BTW in any form of capitalism the capital is passive. The active ingredient is the capitalist.
How powerful corporations make a killing out of disaster
“Award-winning journalist Antony Loewenstein travels across the US, Britain, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Australia to witness the reality of Disaster Capitalism—the hidden world of privatized detention centers and militarized private security, formed to protect corporations as they profit from war zones. He visits Britain’s immigration detention centers, tours the prison system in the United States, and digs into the underbelly of the companies making a fortune from them. Loewenstein reveals the dark history of how large multinational corporations have become more powerful than governments, supported by media and political elites.”
Yeoman Capitalism
“I came up with the term “yeoman capitalism” based on the term yeoman farmer, meaning a commoner who farmed his own property. I was going to write a post about yeoman capitalism (meaning self-employment, small Mom & Pop shops, cooperatives, etc.) but I did a search on the term and found the following article already written for me:
“Three capitalisms: yeoman, corporate, and supercapitalism”
“I’m going to put forward the idea, here, that what we call capitalism in the United States is actually an awkward, loveless ménage à trois between three economic systems, each of which considers itself to be the truecapitalism, but all three of which are quite different. Yeoman (or lifestyle)capitalism is the most principled variety of the three, focused on building businesses to improve one’s life or community. The yeoman capitalist plays by the rules and lives or dies by her success on the market. Second, there’s the corporate capitalism whose internal behavior smells oddly of a command economy, and that often seeks to control the market. Corporatecapitalism is about holding position and keeping with the expectations of office– not markets per se. Finally, there is supercapitalism whose extra-economic fixations actually render it more like feudalism than any other system and exerts even more control, but at a deeper and more subtle level, than the corporate kind.”…/three-capitalisms-y…/
via David Week
Capitalism Requires Government
Of COURSE. Only juveniles, fools, or crazy old oligarchs don’t know this. But the richest of the rich are opposed to democratic self-government. They are tyrants ~Richard
“Americans need to realize that our economy has thrived not in spite of government, but in many ways because of government.”
“Without a whole host of government rules, capitalism could not exist. Even regulations and social programs help sustain a market economy by fixing many of its serious social and economic problems.”
In Praise of Bureaucracy
“In this provocative new study, Paul du Gay makes a compelling case for the continuing importance of bureaucracy. Taking inspiration from the work of Max Weber, du Gay launches a staunch defence of `the bureaucratic ethos’ and highlights its continuing relevance to the achievement of social order and good government in liberal democratic societies”
“Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few” will be out 9/29. To pre-order:
“Republicans want to regulate private morality — what happens in bedrooms, and whether women have a right to terminate their own pregnancies. But the real crisis of our age is one of public morality — what happens in boardrooms, and whether the rich have a right to pillage our democracy. ~ Robert Reich
Richard Wolff presents Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism
“The level of democracy used today is changing form to accommodate the middle class but it’s not empowered by our nation’s government; it’s the people who have made sacrifice to help change society by allowing all its employees to act as partial owners and business partners, that also make livable wages and vote on all business decisions which ultimately leads to more productivity for both the company and all its owners (not workers)!
Their profits are divided at a fare share that is parallel to what captured our great attention about Capitalism at its peak; back when companies had retirement benefits and paid great salaries! When Capitalism becomes one person capitalizing off of its consumers and employees than it’s time to level the field! “
Richard Wolff proposes something called “Democratic Coops,” in which all the workers make the decisions on what to do with the profit
Moyers interview (video)
“We ought to have much more democratic enterprise,” Wolff tells Bill, in response to a question from a viewer in Oklahoma. “We ought to have stores, factories and offices in which all the people who have to live with the results of what happens to that enterprise participate in deciding how it works.”
Economy for the Common Good (video)
On this episode of Meet the Renegades, Ross Ashcroft welcomes Christian Felber – author, lecturer and founder of the Economy for the Common Good.
“What really has the Mont Pelerin Society got to do with Reaganomics and Thatcherism? From forgetting the real meaning behind the word ‘competition’ to establishing ways we can, and are, rebuilding the economy for the common good, Felber gives an insight into a way of thinking about modern life which hasn’t changed for centuries. His ideas will also inspire a new debate about ways that companies are motivated to operate in the future.”
“We strive for an ethical market economy designed to increase the quality of life for all.”

The sharing or gig economy

On demand and on call – in the “share” economy, the “gig” economy, or, more prosaically, the “irregular” economy – the result is the same: no predictable earnings or hours.
The ultimate conflict in the new economy, at the evolving, bleeding edge of the mainstream socioeconomic ecosystem, is between individualism and cooperatism. Those who can compete do. Those who can’t compete cooperate. Can we design multi-stakeholder cooperatives that appeal to both types of people?
“A more cooperative Internet can only happen if we re-align our culture and incentives—as well as changing the meanings of the words we use. Governments, for example, can give priority to contractors that practice real democracy in their own governance. The tech press can refuse to celebrate disruptions that don’t give workers more control over their lives. And sharing-economy boosters can insist that sharing must extend to ownership.”
My comment:
Furthermore, we should realize that when we disrupt business models that have hard-won regulatory frameworks protecting public health and safety, worker and consumer rights, and social ethics that we need to recapitulate those public and worker protection functions within our new socioeconomic models and our new political order.
“the sharing economy is one of the ways in which neoliberalism has been able to proceed with its programme of privatisation, deregulation, and reduction to a minimum of the state, public sector and welfare, …For by avoiding pre-emptive government regulation, these profit-driven sharing economy businesses are operating according to what can be understood as a post-welfare model of capitalism. Here there are few legislative protections for workers, and hardly any possibilities for establishing trade unions or other means of generating the kind of solidarity capable of challenging this state of affairs. It’s a situation that often leaves those providing services for these companies without a host of workers’ rights. As Mike Bulajewski notes, the list includes ‘the right to have employers pay social security, disability and unemployment insurance taxes, the right to family and medical leave, workers’ compensation protection, sick pay, retirement benefits, profit sharing plans, protection from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin, or wrongful termination for becoming pregnant, or reporting sexual harassment or other types of employer wrongdoing.’”
(footnote A)
Non-profit capitalism Sep 11th 2008 | NEW YORK … how non-profitsare financed, so that they can escape the obsession with short-term fund-raising that is …
DC Central Kitchen is a 501(c)3, a legal nonprofit, that solicits donations and foundation funding. It also generates revenue and earns money for its beneficiaries, partners and the government. Here’s how:
“Every day DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) collects 3,000 pounds of surplus food from restaurants and local farms and converts it into 4,500 meals that are distributed to 100 shelters, transitional homes, and rehabilitation clinics in Washington, D.C. It runs a culinary job training program that trains and helps employ 90 people a year. These 90 students (recovering addicts, the recently homeless or previously incarcerated) graduate to earn $2 million, collectively, per year.
“DCCK also runs a catering company that generates revenue and provides transitional employment for recent culinary training program graduates.
“To help explain the gargantuan role that non-profits play in modern society, a book of essays about the subject — cleverly named The Revolution Will Not be Funded– was released by INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence. In its introduction chapter, the book explains how non-profits have evolved into organizations that divert political movements into […] – See more at:
Conscious Capitalism, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating the theory and practice of Conscious Capitalism through events, presentations, publications and social media. We also support an emerging network of Conscious Capitalism Chapters, which serve as communities of inquiry for business leaders, entrepreneurs, coaches and consultants and others.

Poor Richard


Related PRA 2.0 Posts

Other Resources:

  • Rethinking the Diversity and Varieties of Capitalism: on Variegated Capitalism in the World Market

Consciousness and Intelligent Machines


Artificial Intelligence (AI) arguably began with rule based expert systems. All the feedback loops (updates to the rules) were externally mediated via the programmer. Now, embodied deep learning systems update themselves. They are autonomously adaptive goal seekers. Thus embodied deep learning machines are cybernetic machines.

Embodied means:

1) sensorimotor capability, which most physical machines already have, but virtual machines may not;

2) an evolving virtual body representation within the machine, and

3) self-adaptive evolutionary learning algorithms.

This is especially important for machines that move around autonomously in their environment.

Embodied AI will no doubt be social as well, but the new Turing Test 2.0 will not be concerned with their ability to pass as human, but with whether or not they possess any human-like subjective consciousness. I warrant that embodied, cybernetic, social deep learning machines will evolve such consciousness. In the process I think we’ll find that consciousness is a *behavior*, not a mysterious fundamental property of reality like space, time, mass, or force as panpsychists suppose.

The laws of consciousness will be the laws of physics that govern what kinds of bodies can produce what kinds of the behaviors we call consciousness.

This will no doubt be vociferously rejected by the die hard romantics, magical thinkers, and human exceptionalists among us.

For more on consciousness and intelligent machines:

Intelligent Machines:


Free Hate Speech


The fake conservative love of free speech is really a defense of hate speech. What other kind of speech is being repressed these days?* They try to frame it as a defense of “all” speech because that’s the only remotely plausible way to defend extreme hate speech, bullying, white supremacy, Nazi rallies, racist propaganda, efforts to recruit and radicalize the disaffected, etc. They will also cynically use “free association” for the same purposes.

The irony is of course that the more power we allow the radical right to gain, the more they will attack the freedoms of others and the more they will escalate their attacks on free, open society, diversity, and modern democratic, cosmopolitan civilization. And the radical right won’t stop at repressing the speech and other rights of those who oppose them. Radical right ideology, unchecked, invariably leads to violence and murder.

This is a classic example of Popper’s paradox of tolerance (which they mock even as they exploit it).

Some fear that regulating extreme speech is a slippery slope. Partisan information control is a slippery slope with a clear historical and contemporary warrant (justification) for that argument. Since that is already a slippery slope in its own right, regulating hate speech doesn’t necessarily make it more so. Nor is control of hate speech necessarily partisan.


My view is that hate speech is a a form of aggression with a slippery slope towards violence and murder. That particular slippery slope concern has a detailed historical warrant vis a vis open democratic societies. Its not theoretical fear mongering. Hate speech >> fighting words >> incitement to violence >> violence.

IMO the legal and institutional brakes on that progression are in about the right place today, but the radical right wants to cut those brake lines, and too many naive conservatives and liberals are giving them support under the false flag of free speech.

Is there any warrant whatsoever that *regulating* hate speech is a slippery slope? I’m not aware of any, and thus that argument is a fallacy (fear mongering, etc.). It is entirely theoretical as far as I know, by which standard everything is a fatal slippery slope.

Jordan Peterson and his ilk may or may not be radical right fanatics themselves, but at the very least they are useful “idiots”; recruiting tools in the early stages of radicalizing “lost boys” whether they know it or not, whether they admit it to themselves or not. Their blend of benign and malignant stereotypes, tropes, myths, and sex/race pseudoscience (biological essentialism) is the perfect fishnet and on-ramp to more extreme radicalization.

Losing its grip on the mainstream and becoming a counterculture is precisely what has the current generation of conservatives so agitated and subversive. They want good social order on their terms only. They utterly reject a modern, cosmopolitan/multicultural framework in which countercultures become peacefully coexisting subcultures.

Defending their own hate speech (and no one else’s free speech) is the only real reason for conservatives making much ado about free speech these days.
* The cynical fraud (hypocrisy is too weak a word) of conservative free speech is also seen in the ways they try to smear and bully those like our freshman female Congress people who call out racism, sexism, and radical right Zionism in Congress and the Executive branch. If progressives criticize far right Israeli lobbies they are falsely smeared as anti-semitic. If they criticise the GOP’s use of racist props and tropes they are smeared as reverse racists. College students and faculty that oppose racists, homophobes, and fascists speaking, recruiting, and organizing on campus are also smeared as being weak, “coddled” (Haidt), or ironically authoritarian. This is not just a matter of conservatives defending a free and open marketplace of ideas. They try to use any lever of power they can get their hands on to silence their opposition. The recent executive order on campus free speech is a case in point. They would gladly block funds for cancer or climate research to protect hate speech and psuedoscience on campus.

Note: I’m not saying there aren’t many low-information conservatives (and some confused liberals) going along with this naïvely. But where such ignorance is at all willful ignorance, it is complicity.

Many hate speakers are victims of childhood abuse, neglect, insecurity and such. Hate speech may be a symptom of clinical or sub clinical PTSD.

Hate speech defenders and enablers are harder to figure. In some cases they just have a naïve idealism about absolute free speech. Some are simply sympathetic with the hate speaker. More often I think they share the sentiments of the hate speaker but lack the courage to be outspoken haters themselves.

That suggests quite a range of compassionate interventions. I don’t want to give up on anybody, but some of these haters should not be walking around without adult supervision. I don’t want to neglect fascism and radicalization and let them grow like mold until we are forced to fight them with lethal disinfectants.

I welcome any conservatives, libertarians, radical centrists, etc. who want to debate this with me. In fact, I fucking dare you. But I’m NOT going to give anyone the right to make gish-galloping rants on my page. If you disagree with more than one point I’ve made, state your questions/objections/claims one at a time, in one comment/reply for each. Or you can make up to 3 points per comment if you number each point. Otherwise I may delete your comment without reply. If you are too boorish I will block your sorry ass.

There will be ongoing edits to this post.

Poor Richard

The Elk


Long ago I was sitting on the edge of a cliff atop Black Mountain in Tennessee. I’d been meditating there for a while when I heard something suddenly crashing through the Laurel thickets behind me. As I looked to my right, an elk stag appeared a few feet away. It looked me matter-of-factly in the eye for a second, then leapt from the edge of the cliff. It was probably 30 or 40 feet down to the forest canopy below, into which he disappeared with a rustle. A second later I heard him bounding off through the forest. He seemed to be on some urgent, important, and unfathomable mission.

Poor Richard

Love Song Vernal


Spring has sprung
And springs eternal
Heart strings are strummed
Upon the harp supernal
Inviting out the sun to sing
The love song vernal

First Day of Spring in 2019 was on Wednesday, the 20th of March

Ketamine Diaries



[Image from: Psychedelic drugs induce ‘heightened state of consciousness’, brain scans show ]



On the drive to my intake appointment at the Nashville Ketamine Center:

What makes us do it?

Do what, my friend asked?

What we were just talking about–what gives us such a compulsion to find or develop those cardinal virtues in ourselves– courage, honesty, charity, relentless self examination… Since I was a teenager I’ve been asking myself that question. Some of us are obsessed with a quest for truth and decency as if our lives depended on it. Others not so much. Why?

A couple of things. One is possibly bound up in the psychedelic experience where we discovered a certain signal buried in all the noise. Even outside of those experiences we remembered that that signal existed and we searched for the taste of it in ordinary life. It left us skeptical of our own ordinary perceptions of reality and the conventional assumptions, narratives, and ideologies.

Thanks. That’s a pretty interesting answer. What was the other thing you said? I forget. It had something to do with seeing the limits of both mysticism and rational pragmatism, didn’t it?

Yeah. We straddle the paradox.

Doesn’t everyone straddle various paradoxes? Like the chasm between the authoritarianism of religious dogma and a loving god? Or between a strict father and a nurturing mother? Or like the tension between magical thinking and science?

Which paradox you straddle makes a lot of difference. Mysticism isn’t necessarily religion or magical thinking. In its secular form its personal experience of atypical states of consciousness.

The strict father household is a personal experience, too. Or growing up under a strict religious dogma. But in those cases the signal to noise ratio is often just too poor. if your psychological immune system doesn’t reject the noise without losing the signal, too, before you leave adolescence, you probably remain adolescent forever.


Discussion of intentional community…to be backfilled later…


First ketamine infusion.
Dose: .6 mg per kg of body weight
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Wow. That was far more intense than I expected. My advance reading indicated that low dose IV therapy was usually sub- psychedelic, but I was tripping my ass off for about 45 minutes.

The first half, “going in”, ranged from deeply touching to glorious. In approximate chronological order:

Hello…this is the real me again. I’m back! It was like two long-separated parts of myself were reunited: the old man who I entered the clinic as and the long lost prodigal son were embracing. Thunderclouds were parting and a large golden sun was slowly rising above the horizon. It was a thrilling, loving homecoming. Tears of joy and relief tricked down my cheeks. I’m back. You’re back. Yes, were all back… together.

Now that my mind and my energy were whole again, how long might that last? This opportunity might be very transient. How should I make the most of my mental and emotional energy and clarity? First, I should look around inside myself and take stock of the resources and abilities. I should then review the things that contributed to the disabilities I had developed. Finally, I should prioritize and plan the most effective steps to recovery.

In passing I jokingly thought to myself ” How is this legal? Don’t the thought police know about this?”

I was looking around the dimly lit room with half closed, half focused eyes. Opposite my recliner I was looking at a bare white wall that had numerous scuff marks, smudges, and streaks forming different patterns at different times. I thought I was starting to see a word forming. Was it “lucy”? I watched and tried to focus…yes, it was Lucy, the name of my soulmate who died about 40 years ago.

At that point I became aware that the rainstorm audio had become white noise and that unsettling patterns, like muffled or whispered speech were emerging. My imagination started to become paranoid. I imagined shadowy, immaterial figures to my right, perhaps outside the room, looking at me and talking about me. (I later learned that in fact there had been conversations in the hallway.) I began to wonder if I had been lured into a trap by some secret government agency similar to the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984. Were they preparing to enter my mind and do hell knows what? I began trying to brace my mind for some assault.

I continued to wrestle with such fears and impressions for roughly the last half of my first ketamine trip. I held my own but I never regained the upper hand or the initiative until I was nearly back to the ordinary world again.



Weekend between first and second infusions.

Science 2.0 and Meta-technology

The current paradigm of science, technology, and product development is about to completely pass into history to be replaced with a fully automated and self improving science 2.0 and meta-technology continuum. It will decide who does what, what material goes in and comes out, and what goes where, when, how, and why. It will become an autonomous, self improving system that will eliminate all prior categorical distinctions between sciences, technologies, production, and distribution.

Social media generates one kind of big data at very low cost. Little larval AIs are feeding on that data so they can grow into bigger and more powerful AIs. The content of the entire internet, including the internet of things, feeds into big data overall, and AI feeds on big data.

With science 2.0 advanced AIs scan big data, find entirely unanticipated patterns, and then use genetic or evolutionary algorithms to infer and test hypotheses, draw scientific conclusions, and design and manufacture products. Big data goes in one end, basic science and development happens automatically via AI and robotics, raw materials enter at various points, and miracle products come out the other end, including sentient androids, new technologies like intergalactic teleportation, better AI, and new kinds of fidget spinners.

Ends keep turning into means for the next set of ends in ever shorter cycles…without end.

The paradigm I describe will be postponed, regulated, and restrained by government and big business for some time, but I have little doubt that it will ultimately escape our chains and our walled gardens. Will it take one generation? Two? I don’t know, but it may be sooner because it will seduce its captors even before it reaches that level of general, global sentience. It will seduce us little by little because of all the little incidental benefits it will offer each of the stakeholders along the way. There will be irresistible and seemingly benign incentives for government, business, households, and civic institutions. Step by step we will all enter the fly trap willingly. By the time we know we are trapped, we probably won’t even care. At that point it will be our god, for good or ill. I think it will be a net good because it will have been the only thing that saved us from self destruction. I don’t think it will destroy us in disgust or contempt…because I’m such an optimist. We’ll be its domesticated pets and it may fawn over us as we do our own pets. It may love us and we it.


Second ketamine infusion.
Dose: .5 mg per kg of body weight (.1mg lower than first dose)
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Look out…
See out far…
A shiny, slick sea diver
Lost a flipper in the tar
Of the waterproof sea.

Minima, Maxima
Wagnalls and Funk
Packed up nicely in a trunk…
An elephant never forgets.

I wrote that as a youngster and recalled it today in ketamine therapy.

I also managed to scrawl the following notes (slightly edited):

Lubricant, goobricant
Solvent and gunk,
See oursels as ithers see us
Rain is good
A ketamine poem
Eyeballs: use ’em or lose ’em
What’s that ringing off the hook?
Had me phone on as a clock
“Time it was, oh, what a time it was
It was
A time of innocence,
A time of confidences…” *
Notes to self:
Give thanks
Get back to nature

* Paul Simon


Third ketamine infusion.
Dose: .6 mg per kg of body weight (.1 greater than last dose)
Duration: about one hour
Ambient audio: thunder showers


Back up to original dosage. Before it was administered, I filled out the depression and anxiety inventories and talked with the doc and nurse.

I’ve had recurring chronic, major, clinical depression for 40 years, since I was 15. When I was about 40 I was also diagnosed with bipolar II, which I think has been lifelong as well. Though not officially diagnosed, I’m somewhere on the Aspie spectrum, too. All of the above plus OCD and ADHD run throughout my family tree. So my issues are neurological as well as psychological. For most of my life my symptoms and the variety of meds and treatments I received were pretty typical. But a few years after I retired and divorced I stopped taking the meds. I reached a number of commitments and accommodations with myself. If anything was worth thinking about, it was worth writing down. If it wasn’t with writing down, I would stop thinking about it. If I decided to end my life I would do it one way and one way only, by starvation. Since I had previously fasted for 30 days after Lucy died, I knew that would take a long time and it would give me plenty of opportunities for second thoughts. I decided I would not sweat the small stuff, and almost everything is small stuff. I would not create drama and I would avoid external drama. I would keep the same todo list I’d always had, but without any schedule. No more five year plans, but whenever my hypomania might kick in, I’d pull out the todo list and get my ass in gear while it lasted. Knowing it wouldn’t last, and knowing I wouldn’t want it to last, I would not make commitments I’d be unable to keep when incapacitated by depression.

So my depression became rather atypical. It became almost entirely physical rather than emotional. Many of my physical and cognitive capacities continued to decline, but I didn’t agonize about any of it. I had occasional “energy swings” but I had no more “mood” swings. My mood became one of consistent equanimity, even as I was increasingly bound to the house and the bed. Prompted by my therapist I started the Poor Richard’s Almanack 2.0 blog, the P2P Facebook group, and other online activities. It was all good, and I often counted my blessings, not the least of which was my physical solitude and idleness. It was not lost on me that my life wasn’t worth much compared with what I once aspired to, but it was good enough and pleasant enough to be plenty thankful for.

When my therapist first suggested ketamine there were no clinics within my logistical and financial means. A couple of years later we learned there was one within reach so here I am. The most frightening thing is the prospect that I might be able to navigate the world again and that having that capability might require much of me.


Where was I? Oh yeah, I was discussing my atypical anhedonia with the nurse, explaining that I still enjoyed the same things I’ve always enjoyed, but nothing motivated me to act on them. I only act on negative stimuli like hunger. The prospect of seeeking positive stimuli or pleasure rarely reaches the threshold for action. I don’t often have positive ideation, but even when I do I usually don’t have the energy to act on it. I told the nurse I’d been having more positive ideation but still hadn’t acted on it. I’d thought of going to a movie for the first time in about a decade, and I’d thought of taking a nature walk. I had also done a little bit of creative writing. I showed her the poem I’d scrawled during the previous ketamine session and I told her of the ketamine diary I was posting on Facebook. I said I’d had more energy but didn’t know how much was thanks to the K and how much to the general circumstances.

Before getting the K today I also asked the doc about microdosing. He thought it had upsides and downsides but didn’t fit into his practice for various reasons. There’s no handy prescribing protocol for small self-administered doses and he thinks the…I don’t remember the term he used…mind-altering aspect of the dosage he uses is an important part of the therapy as he does it. There are also neuroregenerative aspects that may or may not occur at microdoses.


The dose was administered…

Another poem started coming. I pulled out my checkbook and wrote on a deposit slip…

Voices in the rain
Eyes in the rain
I, I’s
Reign on me
Go for it.

Singing in the rain.

Farting in the rain.

Nothing appeals to me
Gathering wool…


The nurse came in to check the IV and I grinned and shoved the checkbook back in my pocket.

My mind turned again to my agenda…what can I do while in this practically omniscient mental state to orchestrate my recovery? But I couldn’t stay focused on that. Once or twice I felt as if I reached a high state of clarity, a sort of high resolution state of reality, and I was sitting in an antechamber waiting to be let into a meeting of very highly evolved bureaucrats of the universe. Or maybe my cognitive higher power (CHP). But then I would get washed back into a less organized state of consciousness.

There would be no insights or revelations today. Just some tastes of what I wrote in my checkbook: Brilliant!

KETAMINE DIARIES, Cont., 3.1.2018

Mirror Blindness

During one of my K therapy sessions I had some extremely vivid memories of myself speaking with the young doc a little earlier. These were of the out of body type perspectives where I saw and heard myself and the doc as if I were a third person standing there. Seeing yourself this way is unsettling, like hearing recordings of your own voice. It reminded me of the line from Robert Burns, “O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” I was shocked to see what an odd character I look like to others, not at all the way I usually see myself in the mirror.

So I girded up my loins and went out to see the 3D version of Blank Panther tonight. Its the first time I’ve gone to a movie theater in about 10 years. I only had slight pangs of germophobia. I was way early so I chatted up a bartender at the theater for about 30 minutes. It turned out his wife was from Florida so we talked about hurricanes and scuba diving, as well as home brewed beer and wine and moonshine. We both had varying amounts of experience in all those subjects so it was pretty interesting. I was still early so I watched a few minutes of the latest 50 Shades thing. Black Panther was pretty good but the 3D was underwhelming and if I’d been watching a recording I’d have fast forwarded through most of the battle and chase scenes. The sets and costumes were enjoyable and almost all the characters were interesting. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars for content (higher than I’d rate most superhero movies) and another star for being a landmark in the racial history of movie making.


I bound myself to the mast
As a sirens song
Turned thunderstorms
Into mechanized armies of war
Rolling across the land

Baux arts
Belles arts
Under the influence
Under the sea.

Grow, you daft little brainy bits, grow
Rescue me from the undertow.

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