Unicorn Ira Einhorn

This is a blog by and about the wrongfully convicted environmentalist and free energy activist, the Unicorn, Ira Einhorn. Here you'll find news and reviews concerning his case and views on how the world is working, or not. Articles from friends and supporters are posted here too. 'Tain't fittin, just 'tain't fittin...all those innocent folks in jail.'

Name:

I'm an old hippie from the 60's. Issues I'm working on include ebooks, hemp legalization, political activism , world trade center illness and bridging the digital divide.

Books Include:
Black People And Their Place in World History - Print Paperback
Black People And Their Place In World History - .PDF ebook edition
DePalma, Free Energy and the N-Machine
Print Hardcover
DePalma Free Energy and the N-Machine
.pdf ebook edition
Prelude To Intimacy
Hemp For Victory: A Global Warming Solution
Hemp For Victory: The Wonder Herb
Hemp For Victory: The Trillion Dollar Crop
Why I Survive Aids: Emergency On Line Edition
How To Compute: Computer Training Notes  On Line Edition.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The End Of Faith - Ira Einhorn's Book Review


Review By: Ira Einhorn

THE END OF FAITH

By: Sam Harris, Norton, Paperback Edition, 2005

When I lived in Ireland (1981-1986) my closest male associate was a former terrorist leader who had been trained by the Syrians and as a result had been on call for a number of years, if needed on a mission.

There are very few males in a life richly adorned with friendship with whom I have bonded more deeply. After Eugene moved out of Dublin, I opened my apartment to him as a second home, and he came to treat it that way. When I fell into difficulties toward the end of my Irish stay, I was given duplicate identity papers and for ten years became an identity duplicate of my friend. Our mutual trust was absolute. We talked about everything connected to our past situations. That is everything but religion, though Eugene had not seen the inside of a church for decades, the idea of Marquis De Sade practiced for over 1,500 years by the church in its own form had captured him at a deep level. Give me a child for his first 8 years said De Sade and I will return to you a libertine for life. The church had the same philosophy in respect to producing Catholics. Thus I quickly learned to avoid all discussion of religion while I was in Eire.

Knowing about his background, I was deeply surprised to realize that Eugene did not fully grasp the nature of suicide terrorism in spite of his often having gone out on missions that would result in the death of others and certainly could have resulted in his own death.

He attended all my seminars. In those seminars I discussed suicide bombing as it emerged. I soon realized that it was so alien to Western minds, at least those I was in contact with, that a new political weapon had emerged on the planet. A weapon that in less than 20 years has brought the West to its knees and if people like Sam Harris have their way, Spengler’s book title: The Decline of the West, will become prophecy.

The moral weakness that I have experienced since my forced return to this country in July of 2001 had made me metaphysically ill quite often. The feeling has accelerated as the response to 9/11 progressively produces an amnesia with respect to the asserted values of the United States.

John Le Carre’ conveyed it so well in his books about the cold war; if fighting an enemy becomes miming, one soon looses all sense of value and self; the exercise becomes a game without values.

Most of The End of Faith is a necessary book written by one of the few younger Americans who seems to have escaped some of the noxious fog that has enveloped the USA during the past 25 years. A fog produced by what Harris is railing about. A fog that is leading us to ecocide, a concept we must grasp and focus upon if anything is to be saved from what is coming.

The context in which we live, breathe and eat our daily bread is rapidly deteriorating. The linear projections about global warming that lull us into just continuing to walk into some distant destruction have changed into a hurried last call accompanied by all sorts of data that indicate that the system is broken, and that we now live in the world of the non-linear which no one can predict and few will like or benefit from. It is as if we have left the friendly local train that was comfortably carrying us to hell and have boarded the ecocide express.
That makes the 4% of the spaceship, who create 27-30% of the pollution, into the enemies of the rest of the planet, into killers if you will and whether they intend to be killers or not is besides the point.

I bring up the issue of intention due to the fact that Harris uses it to beat Noam Chomsky over the head with arguments that could only make sense if one was unaware of just how destructive American ‘good intentions’ have been, but he isn’t. His footnotes are filled with the American horrors that enable one to see what a destructive force my homeland has been from its inception up till the present, and Noam has been the most tireless chronicler of recent horrors: The most accurate, the most unrelenting during the years when 60’s hope turned into a backlash of puritanical despair that has led the republic into hyper-consumption (now using, by some estimates up to 80% of the savings of the entire planet) and a spreading condition of personal obesity that has one recent wag describing Americans in the following manner:. “It’s a place where people are so fat it’s as if they had decided to become their own air-bag system.” (Edward St. Aubyn)
Harris is well trained in philosophy, so the distinctions he uses to berate Chomsky give the game away when one slightly shifts the focus.
It seems as if our intentions in bombing Iraqi citizens are OK, as we don’t mean to kill them. They just happened to be in the way as we tried to kill soldiers defending their homeland, disruptive terrorists, Italians driving too fast, Iraqis who can’t understand English…the list is endless.

But we do know what depleted uranium does, we do know what phosphorus does to human bodies, as we should have known what would happen to unguarded museums. How do our intentions look when we widen the focus?
And the real question! Why are we there? Harris does not deal with this question at all, so his talk about ‘collateral damage’ accompanying our ‘good’ intentions is twaddle as a famous Harvard Professor used to say. Once you throw that large pinch of salt into the cooking pot, so much of his use of intentions collapses and we are left with some hard collateral damage facts and Noam’s naked lunch presentation of them: not good eating for those who would claim the moral high ground.

And there is more and worse: ‘ethics of “collateral damage”’ which has Sam Harris justifying the torture of innocents, if there is a chance that good information might result.

I have studied torture, extensively; I spent 6 months writing a chapter of a novel on it (I will post that chapter on this site as soon as I can locate it.) I abhor it; the thought that my country is practicing it and that an intelligent well educated American man such as Sam Harris can advocate it makes me very sad, for it indicates that our loss of who we are and what we stand for has been greater than I thought.

If you read deeply into torture material as I have, you soon learn that torture rarely produces usable information, for obvious reasons: if I begin applying a blow torch to your face or do some other egregious thing to you, you will talk after awhile, but what you tell me may be sheer nonsense, as had been confirmed to me by people who have first hand experience.

Those we seek to track by such obtained information have elaborate contingency plans in the event of the capture of someone who has pertinent information.
The proof in the pudding: Where’s Osama?

Do you want to encourage behavior demonstrated by Ms. English and her cohorts or the CIA operative described in Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker article who unknowingly killed his victim (his face was hooded, so the torturer did not see it turn blue: the man was suspended by his arms (held behind him) from a window frame), or provide torture entertainment for bored off duty cooks as described in many recent articles?

Behavior spreads. Once you begin acting as if conventions and treaties are toilet paper, you create an immoral force field that could destroy an army and a nation.

No one can be proud of Abu Ghraid.

No one can be proud of torturing innocent people on the hope that someone in the group of the victims will produce some useful piece of information, and the kicker is that totally innocent people have been tortured to death.

How does this standup to our browbeating China, Turkey or one of the ‘stans’ about human rights or John Bolton’s contempt for members of UN human right’s organizations.

The blow back is enormous and has just begun, and I’m not even thinking about what the rendition scandal is set to produce. When one claims to live on high ground, one’s light has to be very clear. Alas, it has dimmed and the claims about what we stand for ring hollow in too many well disposed ears.

It puts our captive soldiers in great danger. What we do to others, can and will be done to us. Will over 200 years of struggle to abolish torture suddenly be sidetracked by American fears and over reaction?

And last but not least is John McCain who has lived out the captive’s nightmare, certainly he should be trusted on this issue more than W., the Veep or Rumsfeld, who have not served a day in combat between them. His large majority vote in the Senate, in spite of our Veep’s vehemence and W’s threat of a veto is good confirmation for all of the above, as I more than defer to Senator McCain on this issue, I bow down to him.

To torture someone is to effectively destroy a life. Abusers have mainly been abused. A pattern is created. We can only hope the same thing is not true for the tortured, but their lives are marked and human trust is destroyed.

Without basic trust, there is no adequate life.

All of that said, I find parts of The End of Faith quite refreshing and essential, though his total reliance on rationality seems misplaced given the recent history of our species when weighed against his attack on faith.

The book’s real weakness is his attempt to speak in universal terms, but of course that is the nature of rationalism: it pretends to speak for us all as if it were a universal language that we all speak and use in exactly the same way.
Recent cross cultural work has demonstrated that this is just not so even in terms of basic perception: we do not even see the same thing when presented with common perceptual objects.

Given that wobbly pivot, how can we expect to reach agreement on matters that are deeply engrained in our tribal mores and have been so since Neolithic times.
The agreement or should I say truce that rules math is rare, and what Godel has wrought is missing from his book.

Modern physics in non-coherent, general relativity and quantum mechanics do not belong to a conceptual greater whole. The struggle to create a quantum gravity that might unify all four fundamental forces has come to naught. 96% or so of the universe is among the missing, called either dark energy or dark matter, but do not ask me what it is for no one has the slightest idea. It is akin to what Newton said about gravity: “It might as well be an angel’s wing.”

The either-- banished by late 19th century physics - is threatening re-entry; string theory (choose your version) seems un-testable.

Thus coherence and rationality seem weak tools to employ against our entire cultural history. Our present world view smells more of chaos than cosmos.
Yet Harris is correct. We must use the tools we have, though his over-emphasis on rationality and coherence speak as much about personal need as they do about universal norms.

And there’s the rub.

The book cries out for more personal description and statement.

Why the extreme overreaction to 9/11 and Noam Chomsky?

Why did so many of our elected officials so quickly give up our precious blood won freedom to the aegis of an unread law?

9/11 could not have been totally unexpected. I do not have access to the president’s daily intelligence briefing, but long before I was forced to leave France, July of 2001, I told my wife that a major terrorist attack would soon hit the United States. I could feel it in my blood. Her letter about 9/11, received soon after that date, expressed deep shock at the event and wonder about my prediction.

Was Sam Harris totally shocked? Is he a Jew? Does he fear for the future of Israel, for though The End of Faith has a covering surface of rational criticism, it is written out of a deep emotional distaste for Islam whose main enemy is the Jewish state: Israel.

I bring this up as a Jew who sees the fundamentalists in Israel as the trigger for the destruction of Israel. Unless their rabid extremism is severely bridled and a just peace made which includes their extraction from the West Bank, I see the destruction of Israel within the next 20 years. In addition, any threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran just brings that day closer.

We live in a world that grows more dangerous with each passing day. Given the forces now unleashed, there is no way to fully protect any country from attack. It is just impossible to anticipate and protect against every contingency.

But we must grow up a bit and put things in prospective.

The World Trade Center action is rapidly becoming a mortal blow, due to our reaction. If we are so weak that the loss of less than 3,000 people forces us to give up over 200 years of precious freedom and move in the direction of a Garrison state, then we are lost.

If we could have the courage to continue living without allowing the struggle to destroy our values, the strength drawn from such action would be incalculable and infectious.

Listen to Joseph Lelyveld in his review of the book that James Yee published on his surreal treatment by the military:

“The idea that Camp Delta had been infiltrated by Al-Qaeda was far-fetched from the start, but the prison was on a war footing since the day it was set up, patrolled as if attack from the sea, by the non-existent Al-Qaeda Navy were a real possibility; infiltration from within was not the least plausible threat imagined by the command in training exercises designed to keep the prison’s guards on constant alert.”


Did 9/11 suddenly make Sam Harris aware of Islam as a danger?
The growth of his ideas would inform us all, for we all are going to have to dig deeper to survive.

I have studied and taught the Bible. I spent years studying the history of Christianity and Judaism. I have read in the Koran, so have come across the inflammatory passages that Harris quotes. I totally agree that organized religion and the deference shown to it is a cruel joke. I’m appalled that our president claims to speak to God and bases major decisions upon such purported conversations.

I have studied early Christianity, the Inquisition and the Cathar Horror. I have read lots of books on the witch craze.

I know that religion is responsible for more deaths than anything else in human history, that Christians killed more of their own in the 100 years after they became the official Roman religion than the Romans killed of them in the preceding 300 years.

I abhor organized religion though some of my finest friends have been church functionaries and I was part of a bishop’s kitchen cabinet for 7 years.
I am now in jail. I am surrounded by those who clutch the Bible and the Koran. It is their comfort. I don’t see rationalism replacing that comfort.
So, although I agree with Sam Harris and thank him for his courage in beginning an awesome task, I do not see any hope in that pathway.

I fully agree with his assessment of New Age nonsense. What junk people are eating. But Chesterton warned us. When major belief is lost, people don’t replace it with nothing, but rather anything at all. Belief similar to nature abhors a vacuum.

Faith based 12 step programs form the basis for all rehabilitation in Pennsylvania prisons. The parole recidivism rate is 93%. The programs are a prison hype for gaining federal funds. A scam, but so much of American life seems like a scam at present, and the tone is set at the top.

When the president lies, when the president breaks the law, we all suffer, no matter what the intention.

Think about all those statements about the linkage between Al Qaeda and the former Iraqi leader. There is no linkage. The president and the vice president are both liars: the effects of their continual lying has poisoned the entire context in which we are forced to function. We are all victims of such lies.


The heart of The End of Faith is to be found in the following quote (page 221):
“It seems to me that the nature of consciousness will trump all these developments. Whatever experience awaits us – either with the help of technology or after death – experience itself is a matter of consciousness and its content. Discover that consciousness inherently transcends its contents, discover that it already enjoys the well-being that the self would otherwise seek, and you have transcended the logic of experience. No doubt experience will always have the potential to change us, but it appears these changes will still be a matter of what we can be conscious of in the next moment, not of what consciousness is in itself.”

I totally agree.

All this part swapping, brain downloading, computer merging is an avoidance of sitting quietly in a room and getting on with the task of clearing away the accumulated dross that would allow us to stop over consumption and learn to live within our planetary means.

And yes Buddhism holds the key to this further stage in human evolution, for the west is indeed a child when faced with the inner knowledge that Buddhism has gathered. Our philosophers seem puerile in comparison, but ‘happiness’ [the word Harris uses] seems a bad choice describing the enlightenment that a well trained and achieved master can point us in the direction of.

There are no guarantees. Our time may be short. The ecological disaster grows apace. Enlightenment can’t be forced, but Harris has made one thing very clear: religion is a dangerous mess of pottage whose disappearance would release enormous new bound human energy.

If that energy could sit quietly and meditate, we would have a fighting chance at survival.

Terrorism is a meek energy by comparison with the forces of consumption: Osama will kill thousands, perhaps destroy a city or two, render some areas uninhabitable, but the ecological changes now underway threaten to collapse the entire structure of our civilization.


Science benefits from feedback and open discussion, but it can provide no means for explaining something as basic as the 2 slit experiment in quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics works, but I would not call it coherent or rational.

The criticism of rationalism itself made by Lukács, Horkheimer, Adorno and Benjamin is not easy to counter.

In addition the view of science held by Kuhn or Feyerabend certainly runs counter to the Harris program as put forward in this book.

And then there is the data from the new branch of psychology that explodes the Harris program totally. Evolutionary psychology had made a loud and overly reductive case about those we tend to love and support. They turn out to be those who carry our genes into the future and they are a very limited group of people, not the totality of our fellow earthlings, so one of the most recent of data sets generated ‘rationally’ indicates that what Harris wishes for is just not on.
But if he would exam his fear and anger re: 9/11, religion and Islam in particular, we all might learn something. The outcome has to do with introspection and honesty and little to do with ‘rationality’ which is one tool among many, just as science is one form, not the form of knowing.


While I was writing this review, a friend told me about a recent debate at the Kennedy School at Harvard in a building I know well, as I spent a semester there in residence. I have not read the transcript of this debate between Alan Dershowitz and Noam Chomsky, but was told that Dershowitz called Noam a Nazi and an anti-Semite. To label a Jew a Nazi and an anti-Semite, particularly a man who is recognized outside the USA as the world’s leading intellectual, is indicative of how far ideology, as distinct from truth has bled into our world.
I have great respect for Noam’s courage and intellectual persistence. He has refused to be quiet in the face of years of pariah-hood. He has walked this singular pathway without flinching. Such courage is very rare; he now has a vast audience, planetary recognition and respect. The mud that Dershowitz is slinging will only besmirch his own reputation.

I can also empathize with Alan Dershowitz, and more to the point of his present book review: Sam Harris. Both are obviously freaked by what they see happening to things they love; both are willing to defend what they see threatened by any means available: name calling, “collateral damage” (read Torture and Death of Innocents) and a twisting of rationality into an ideological club for hammering at anything that threatens.

At the point we cease to understand each other and feel frustrated, action should cease, for any action that flows from frustration is counter-productive and violative of both self and other. At that conjuncture we can go to war or deeper into the self.

Publicly we are at that point almost all the time in the United States. We insult à la Rush Limbaugh instead of talking. We have lost all sense of manners and mutual respect. We ‘dis’ instead of honoring each other. We outer ourselves constantly in a manic need to assert our disappearing identities. We seem to have lost all sense of what an inner life could be. American culture feels so superficial; a micron thin mélange of TV sports and celebrity watching that is so disdainful of life’s precious beauty and wonder. A continuous orgy of consumption that sets me to musing upon army ants, the feeding frenzy of sharks or a fox let loose in a chicken house.

And the dis-ease is spreading!

That is why I find Harris of interest, not for what he says in this book, but for what he hints at.

Zen And The Brain: Toward An Understanding Of Meditation (Cambridge, MIT Press: 1998) by J. H. Austin is the most important book I have read in the last two decades for it is both a personal report of the quest for enlightenment – what Harris is on about in the quote above from page 221 – and an exhaustive attempt to reflect upon the experience in light of scientific study of the mind and consciousness. A bridge of survival that I hope is greatly increased by the explosion of Buddhism in the United States, the presence of the Dalai Lama in our midst, and the work of Francisco Varela and others.

Martin Rees, Our Final Hour seems to be correct: We don’t have much time. We are looking in the eye of species extinction. Whether we do it through ecocide or nuking the planet into oblivion is irrelevant.

The following quote from a catalogue announcing the 100th birthday celebration of Albert Hofmann, Basel, Switzerland (13 to 15 January, 2006) describes the situation with great clarity: “Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let’s cut this time-span down to 46 years for a better understanding. GAIA’s early years rest in the mists of history, it wasn’t before it turned 42 that it started to bloom. After about 44 years dinosaurs inhabited the planet. Some eight months ago the first mammals evolved, and during last week the first hominids entered the scene; modern man exists for only four hours. Some sixty minute ago he took up agriculture, and a minute ago the industrial revolution began. During these very last sixty seconds man managed to turn Gaia into a garbage dump, to exterminate thousands of plants and animal species, to kill an uncountable number of its own kind, to loot the planet’s resources, to pollute soil, air and water and to leave nuclear and other waste for future generations.

“Within the next few seconds all of us will decide whether we are going to make life on our home planet impossible, or develop a consciousness that allows us a future existence with Gaia.”

There are three pathways which we can now follow:

1. Muddle through by somehow not pulling the triggers on all those drawn ‘guns’. This seems doubtful as technology continues to develop and quicken, giving a small group or even one person the power to destroy entire cities (9/11 awakened or exponentiated this fear in Sam Harris).

2. Develop a new energy technology that is both totally scalable and portable. It must also be renewable (not add to present level of bads no matter how measured).

This requires the establishment of a multi-disciplinary review panel and many levels of proposal sorting, so that something that seems impossible does not get discarded before being honestly tested.

It requires total commitment of resources and the willingness to set up 5-10 diverse research structures.

It requires whatever money is necessary, agreements to share and pay back, etc.
It requires total openness, so the best can freely use the internet for knowledgeable criticism.

I’m talking about a technology worth at least 1015 in $, so the stakes are high and the planetary best should be involved.

3. Submit the claim of enlightenment to the same process as I described in 2 above. Let us take the Harris quote seriously and try to organize the knowledge, so that many find the context which allows the logic of experience to be transcended, a seeding of such minds throughout the planet may provide enough leaven/levity for us to rise above the instinctual identifications that are presently killing us.

Ira Einhorn Dec. 20, 2005

P.S.: We have entered a new historical era as a result of structural changes that everyone talks about but does not focus enough upon.

The two major concerns that all past large polities focused upon were currency, the ‘coin of the realm’, and weaponry. Their control was an absolute need of the rulership no matter what name it bore.

Recent events have changed that situation as George Soros and others have made obvious; Americans may one day find out about this lack of control of their currency when they awaken one morning to a $ worth very little.

When I jokingly asked in a public lecture during the mid 60s what we would do when 42nd Street got the bomb, my intuition was anticipating our present acute paranoia (not totally uncalled for) about suitcase nuclear weapons and other horrors (chemical and biological) that are now more available than our ‘protectors’ let on about.

The ‘king’ now lives in a bubble, but he no longer is in effective control. We are in a totally new situation and past reflexes will be of no avail.

P.P.S.: Reflect for a moment upon one aspect of our madness. We are spending $7,000,000,000 a month on just our soldiers in Iraq; the total cost of the war will probably top out at over one trillion $. Tax reduction during the last five years under W. will come to trillions more.

Yet we can’t spare some relatively small change to set up energy projects that could realistically save the planet. In that light ‘rationalism’, no matter how defined, is a very distant dream.