Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Whole Existentialada Is A Top-Down Operation

Denyse O'Leary has a post in which she says

Beyond that, all I really want to say nowadays is that the universe is either top down or bottom up. That is, either mind comes first and creates matter or matter comes first and creates mind. The evidence for bottom up is actually quite poor but Darwinism (from goo to zoo to you in a zillion easy steps) is the bottom-up creation story.

In the comments to the Uncommon Descent thread referencing her post, commenter SteveH asks (snarkily?) "What’s the evidence for mind creating matter like?" The comment that I gave in answer is as follows:


It’s pretty darned good, SteveH. We have many converging lines of evidence. Philosophical evidence, like the Kalaam argument. The inconsistency of a worldview which insists that free will is an illusion and yet vociferously casts moral blame on people for their “unscientific” beliefs. The principle of sufficient reason, which says that there is nothing in the effects (consciousness, intelligence) that is not in the cause. The scientific fact that the Universe (and the matter in it) began to exist, requiring a cause for its beginning to exist.

In addition to these, we have revelation that came from the mind that created the matter, most clearly in the coming of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be the incarnation of God The Son (aka The Logos), through whom all things were made. He attested to this by His character, His teachings, His miracles, His rising from the dead, and His founding of a Church, which has stood for two thousand years, bearing witness through its Scriptures of His coming.

There is the testimony of history, which displays the flowering of Western Civilization as it took this Mind seriously, and its accelerating decline (the Third Reich, the Gulag, child sacrifice via abortion, Reality TV, the dumbing down of the populace, Dhimmitude) as it turned away from this Mind.

There is the testimony of properly understood science, which points to cosmic and biological design, which comes from a mind.

There is also the personal experience of the Saints and ordinary people who have a direct, immediate, ongoing, and undeniable relationship with this mind which created matter. People who have been morally transformed in miraculous ways through this relationship, and who regularly experience a profound joy from the contact. And who can see the utter weakness of a position that considers scientific evidence to be the only valid kind.

That’s what the evidence is like.

Regardless of the evidence for Darwinistic evolution, the evidence that matter can create mind is precisely nil. Matter knows how to do its stuff just fine without the superfluous epiphenomenon of consciousness. Under the materialistic conception of reality, there is nothing that happens in the nervous system of a human being that is not completely caused by the underlying physics. Consciousness provides nothing extra, and as such, is not a separate cause of anything. Since it is not needed to explain the workings of the physical system, then it can hardly be maintained that the workings of the physical system somehow explain it. There is simply no materialistically explainable connection. If physics can handle the job, consciousness is superfluous and thereby unexplained. If physics can’t handle the job, then consciousness is necessary, yet non-physical, and thereby unexplained via materialism.

So, I submit that the overall evidence for mind creating matter is pretty darned good, while the evidence for matter creating mind is non-existent.

Well Put

Peter Hitchens:

Fanatics in the classroom

The left-wing Guardian newspaper is in a state about what it calls "creationist teaching materials" being used in British schools. What is this row really about? What does "creationism" mean? Why does hardly anyone discuss it honestly?

The cause of the controversy is a concept called 'Intelligent design' (ID). Unlike most British journalists, I have spent some time in the parts of the USA where this idea is popular, and have talked to its supporters as well as to its opponents. I touched on this a few months ago when Archbishop Rowan Williams came out against ID, and I'd like to go into a bit more deeply now.

For what I noticed (as I have also observed over the global warming controversy) is that the people on one side of this dispute tend to misrepresent the other side. Rational scientists who are doubtful about Darwinism are abused. And expressions such as 'Creationism' are used to suggest that a complex, nuanced position is in fact a crude Hillbilly superstition.


If you cannot give an honest account of your opponent's position, then you cannot argue properly against him. If you lose your temper with him, and seek to shut him up, then you are revealing your weakness, not his.

Now, there is no doubt that some of the people behind the campaign for 'Intelligent Design' are passionately religious. Well, so what? Religious belief is a legitimate position of choice, held to by many of the greatest minds who have ever lived (including many scientists) and in my view religion is the foundation of all morality, art, literature and culture. The Darwinist theory of evolution seems to me to knock religion on the head. If Darwin is right, the realm of nature was produced out of random, undirected chaos, in which case we have invented God, and there is no reason why any idea, action or work of art should be considered superior to any other.

I am sure some supporters of ID do so for tactical reasons, and actually believe (but keep quiet about their belief) that the Genesis account of the creation of the world is literally true, and is an accurate and factual description of events - that the Earth was made in six days and is only a few thousand years old. This I, and many other Christians, do not agree with. I think the scientific evidence on the age of the planet simply contradicts this view.

But what's interesting is that many of the Genesis people, who control large funds, will not support the campaign for ID - because ID refuses to endorse the 'Young Earth' Bible literalist position. Now, when people turn down the possibility of generous cash aid, that seems to me to suggest that principle is involved.

Schoolchildren ID, whose opponents haven't bothered to find out much about it because they already know it's balderdash, is not in fact an all-embracing theory about the origin of species. Darwinists seem to have thought they needed to have such a theory, since they had overthrown centuries of Christian orthodoxy. So, rather than just sticking to their basic and unquestionable point, that the Church could no longer claim that certainty was on its side, they developed a complete explanation of everything, which has been under constant revision ever since as new facts have come to light or - just as important - failed to come to light.

Perhaps this is why evolutionists assume that their opponents also have an all-embracing theory that explains in detail how the realm of nature came to be as it is. Well, they used to, but they mostly do not any more. The original opponents of Darwin tried to stick to the Biblical theory. But they were defeated not by Darwin but by the growing body of scientific proof that the Earth is far too old for the Bible account to be literally true. Many ID supporters concede all that. What they say is much more subtle.

They examine various organisms in the light of the latest science, and argue that it is highly improbable that such organisms could have evolved as Darwinists believe. This is the theory of 'irreducible complexity;' advanced by the microbiologist Michael Behe (pronounced 'Beehee').

Behe cannot be certain that his chosen examples were not produced through natural selection, but he maintains that - for this to happen - an extraordinary number of changes would have needed to take place simultaneously. This is because of the interdependence of the parts of the organism, pointless on their own, all of which would have had to alter at once to have any evolutionary purpose. Behe' has written a book 'Darwin's Black Box', which goes into this theory. Darwin was unaware of this problem because in his lifetime the scientific knowledge did not exist. The question is one of probability, rather than certainty (and in fact all evolutionary theory can only be about probability or improbability, since the process - in the majestic form suggested by Darwin - has not been, and cannot be observed, and therefore cannot be tested against the theory or used to predict events).

Behe and his supporters are not trying to produce a mirror image of Darwinism, in which the hand of a Creator can be observed at work - as you might think from the rage and fury of the liberals who complain when schools propose to include 'ID' in their classes. All they are doing is casting doubt on the supposed certainties of Darwinism, and using advanced scientific knowledge to do so. If Darwinists are as secure in their beliefs as they claim to be, they should easily be able to see off the ID proponents, in school or out of it, without suppressing, abusing or misrepresenting anyone. And surely the fact that some scientists question Darwin's theory is itself an interesting fact, which any inquisitive mind ought to be informed about. What good does it do to hide the existence of a scientific disagreement from the young?

Yet the evolutionists trumpet and bellow about this small, modest challenge, like an enormous elephant panicking over the presence of a mouse. I wonder why.

The comments to the piece contain plenty of "I know you are, but what am I?" snarkiness from the Darwinists. But that's no surprise. There are none so predictable as those who insist on thinking of chance as the First Cause.

See also.

Update: Hitchens responds to the critics of the original piece.

Outstanding Parody

Seinfeld: The Lost Episode, in which hilarity ensues after Kramer's racist tirade.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Quagmire Of Delusions

Very hard-hitting Andrew McCarthy column.

The piece builds up to the conclusion:

Rejecting the democracy project is about respecting the enemy. Declining to talk to the enemy is about respecting ourselves.

Selling Their Birthright For A Bowl Of Lentil Soup

Victor Davis Hanson in the WSJ:

Our current crisis is not yet a catastrophe, but a real loss of confidence of the spirit. The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.

But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East.

What would a beleaguered Socrates, a Galileo, a Descartes, or Locke believe, for example, of the moral paralysis in Europe? Was all their bold and courageous thinking--won at such a great personal cost--to allow their successors a cheap surrender to religious fanaticism and the megaphones of state-sponsored fascism?


Note also the constant subtext in this new self-censorship of our supposedly liberal age: the fear of radical Islam and its gruesome methods of beheadings, suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, barbaric fatwas, riotous youth, petrodollar-acquired nuclear weapons, oil boycotts and price hikes, and fist-shaking mobs, as the seventh century is compressed into the twenty-first.

In contrast, almost daily in Europe, "brave" artists caricature Christians and Americans with impunity. And we know what explains the radical difference in attitudes to such freewheeling and "candid" expression--indeed, that hypocrisy of false bravado, of silence before fascists and slander before liberals is both the truth we are silent about, and the lie we promulgate.

There is, in fact, a long list of reasons, among them most surely the assurance that cruel critics of things Western rant without being killed. Such cowards puff out their chests when trashing an ill Oriana Fallaci or a comatose Ariel Sharon or beleaguered George W. Bush in the most demonic of tones, but they prove sunken and sullen when threatened by a thuggish Dr. Zawahiri or a grand mufti of some obscure mosque.

Second, almost every genre of artistic and intellectual expression has come under assault: music, satire, the novel, films, academic exegesis, and education. Somehow Europeans have ever so insidiously given up the promise of the Enlightenment that welcomed free thought of all kinds, the more provocative the better.

Yes, the present generation of Europeans really is heretical, made up of traitors of a sort. They themselves, not just their consensual governments, or the now-demonized American Patriot Act and Guantanamo detention center, or some invader across the Mediterranean, have endangered their centuries-won freedoms of expression--and out of worries over oil, or appearing as illiberal apostates of the new secular religion of multiculturalism, or another London or Madrid bombing. We can understand why outnumbered Venetians surrendered Cyprus to the Ottomans, and were summarily executed, or perhaps why the 16th-century French did not show up at Lepanto, but why this vacillation of present-day Europeans to defend the promise of the West, who are protected by statute and have not experienced war or hunger?

Third, examine why all these incidents took place in Europe, where more and more the state guarantees the good life even into dotage, where the here and now has become a finite world for soulless bodies, where armies devolve into topics of caricature, and children distract from sterile adults' ever-increasing appetites. So, it was logical that Europe most readily of Westerners would abandon the artist and give up the renegade in fear of religious extremists who brilliantly threatened not destruction, but interruption of the good life, or the mere charge of illiberality. Never was the Enlightenment sold out so cheaply.

We on this side of Atlantic also are showing different symptoms of this same Western malaise, but more likely through heated rhetoric than complacent indifference--given the events of September 11 that galvanized many, while disappointing liberals that past appeasement had created monsters rather than mere confused, if not dangerous rivals. The war on terror has turned out to be the torn scab that has exposed a deep wound beneath, of an endemic Western self-loathing--and near mania that our own superior education and material wealth have not eliminated altogether the need for force and coercion.


Just as the Europeans are stunned that their heaven on earth has left them weak and afraid, so too millions of Americans on the Left are angry that their own promised moral utopia is not so welcomed by the supposedly less educated and bright among them. But still, what drives Westerners, here and in Europe, to demand that we must be perfect rather than merely good, and to lament that if we are not perfect we are then abjectly bad--and always to be so unable to define and then defend their civilization against its most elemental enemies?

There has of course always been a utopian strain in both Western thought from the time of Plato's "Republic" and the practice of state socialism. But the technological explosion of the last 20 years has made life so long and so good, that many now believe our mastery of nature must extend to human nature as well. A society that can call anywhere in the world on a cell phone, must just as easily end war, poverty, or unhappiness, as if these pathologies are strictly materially caused, not impoverishments of the soul, and thus can be materially treated.

Second, education must now be, like our machines, ever more ambitious, teaching us not merely facts of the past, science of the future, and the tools to question, and discover truth, but rather a particular, a right way of thinking, as money and learning are pledged to change human nature itself. In such a world, mere ignorance has replaced evil as our challenge, and thus the bad can at last be taught away rather than confronted and destroyed.

Third, there has always been a cynical strain as well, as one can read in Petronius's "Satyricon" or Voltaire's "Candide." But our loss of faith in ourselves is now more nihilistic than sarcastic or skeptical, once the restraints of family, religion, popular culture, and public shame disappear. Ever more insulated by our material things from danger, we lack all appreciation of the eternal thin veneer of civilization.

We especially ignore among us those who work each day to keep nature and the darker angels of our own nature at bay. This new obtuseness revolves around a certain mocking by elites of why we have what we have. Instead of appreciating that millions get up at 5 a.m., work at rote jobs, and live proverbial lives of quiet desperation, we tend to laugh at the schlock of Wal-Mart, not admire its amazing ability to bring the veneer of real material prosperity to the poor.

We can praise the architect for our necessary bridge, but demonize the franchise that sold fast and safe food to the harried workers who built it. We hear about a necessary hearing aid, but despise the art of the glossy advertisement that gives the information to purchase it. And we think the soldier funny in his desert camouflage and Kevlar, a loser who drew poorly in the American lottery and so ended up in Iraq--our most privileged never acknowledging that such men with guns are the only bulwark between us and the present day forces of the Dark Ages with their Kalashnikovs and suicide belts.

So we are on dangerous ground. History gives evidence of no civilization that survived long as purely secular and without a god, that put its trust in reason alone, and believed human nature was subject to radical improvement given enough capital and learning invested in the endeavor. The failure of our elites to amplify their traditions they received, and to believe them to be not merely different but far better than the alternatives, is also a symptom of crisis in all societies of the past, whether Demosthenes' Athens, late imperial Rome, 18th-century France, or Western Europe of the 1920s. Nothing is worse that an elite that demands egalitarianism for others but ensures privilege for itself. And rarely, we know, are civilization's suicides a result of the influence of too many of the poor rather than of the wealthy.


By past definitions of relative power, al-Qaeda and its epigones were weak and could not defeat the West militarily. But their genius was knowing of our own self-loathing, of our inability to determine their evil from our good, of our mistaken belief that Islamists were confused about, rather than intent to destroy, the West, and most of all, of our own terror that we might lose, if even for a brief moment, the enjoyment of our good life to defeat the terrorists. In learning what the Islamists are, many of us, and for the first time, are also learning what we are not. And in fighting these fascists, we are to learn whether our freedom can prove stronger than their suicide belts and improvised explosive devices.

The Seventh Commandment

Good column by Walter Williams.


Unlike today's Americans, the founders of our nation were suspicious, if not contemptuous, of government. Consider just a few of their words.

James Madison suggested that "All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree."

Thomas Paine observed, "We still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping at the spoil of the multitude. . . . It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without a tribute."

John Adams reminded, "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."

Thomas Jefferson gave us several warnings that we've ignored: First, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." Second, "The greatest [calamity] which could befall [us would be] submission to a government of unlimited powers." And third, "Whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force."

In response to what Jefferson called an "elective despotism," he suggested that "The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

With sentiments like these, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison became presidents. Could a person with similar sentiments win the presidency today? My guess is no. Today's Americans hold such liberty-oriented values in contempt, and any presidential aspirant holding them would have a zero chance of winning office.


The supreme tragedy that will lead to our undoing is that so far as personal economic self-interests are concerned, it is perfectly rational for every American to seek to live at the expense of another American. Why? Not doing so doesn't mean he'll pay lower federal taxes. All it means is that there will be more money for somebody else.

In other words, once Congress establishes that one person can live at the expense of another, it pays for everyone to try to do so. You say, "Williams, don't you believe in helping your fellow man?" Yes, I do. I believe that reaching into one's own pockets to help his fellow man is both laudable and praiseworthy. Reaching into another's pockets to help his fellow man is despicable and worthy of condemnation.

The bottom line: We love government because it enables us to accomplish things that if done privately would lead to arrest and imprisonment. For example, if I saw a person in need, and I took your money to help him, I'd be arrested and convicted of theft. If I get Congress to do the same thing, I am seen as compassionate.

This vision ought to bother the Christians among us, for when God gave Moses the commandment "Thou shalt not steal," I'm sure He didn't mean thou shalt not steal unless you got a majority vote in Congress.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orson Scott Card

Great essay here. Also listened to the Glenn and Helen Show interview with him. A very sensible guy.

Some Religions More Equal Than Others

Dhimmitude. It's what's for dinner, tonight. Kobayashi Maru notices a pattern in a couple of recent events.

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

Could it be that the reason that leftists, homosexual activists, and feminists show no fear of Islam, is that deep down, all of these groups know that when push comes to shove, they'll simply leave their identities behind and convert? Leftism, buggery, and feminism, are all, in the final analysis, just ways to "stick it to The Man", either figuratively or literally. Wouldn't embracing Islam be the ultimate way to "stick it to The Man?" In other words, it would finally be open season on Western Civ, Jews and Christians, and isn't that really a lot more important and fun than all of this silly retail-level Victim Group politics? At last, the time would then have arrived to let the real games begin! Instead of sticking it to The Man, they can finally get on with the ancient sport of sticking it to the followers of the Son of Man!

I have a growing fear, and that is that one of our cities gets nuked, and that the response, as expressed through our political system, will amount to a collective shrug.

But no worries, Allah is merciful and compassionate to all who accept Islam...

The Light Shines In The Darkness

Good reflection:

This year, somehow it’s been “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that has stuck in my brain, and particularly these words, in the first verse: “To save us all from Satan’s power/ When we were gone astray.” We move through these sibilant words so quickly and rhythmically. I know I always have. And yet how plainly those few words sketch in a somber background, a whole universe of presuppositions without which the song has a very different, and diminished, meaning.

The merriness being urged upon the gentlemen (one should always remember that, in the lyrics, there is a comma between “merry” and “gentlemen”—they are not “merry gentlemen” being encouraged to “rest”) comes amid a great darkness, a darkness that never disappears, that beckons and threatens, a darkness whose presence is subtly conveyed by the minor key with which the song begins and ends. The black ship with black sails lingers on the far horizon, silent and waiting.

Dark Reminders

There are constant reminders of this darkness, if one has ears to hear them, running through the great liturgy of our Christmas carols, with their memorable evocations of bleak midwinter, snow on snow, sad and lonely plains, the curse, the half-spent night. The spooky and antiseptically sterile depiction of winter in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and its cinematic adaptations is, in that sense, very close to the spirit of the older carols, and to the biblical account of the matter—much closer than the hearty merriment of rosy-cheeked seasonal songs like “Sleigh Ride” or “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.”

The older lyrics are laced with just such evocations of darkness. They help us remember why it is symbolically right, even if historically wrong, to celebrate Christ’s birth in winter.

We are constantly reminded to “keep Christ in Christmas” and to remember “the reason for the season.” And of course we should. But, if I may be permitted to put it this way, we must also keep Satan in Christmas, and not skip too lightly over the lyrics that mention him.

For he and the forces he embodies are an integral part of the story. It utterly transforms the way we understand Christmas, and our world, when we also hold in our minds a keen awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and still must come, for our sake.

Later in “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” the visiting angel tells the shepherds in the field that Christ has come “To free all those who trust in him/ From Satan’s power and might.” Being subject to that “power and might” is, as we are likely to put it these days, the default setting of our human existence. But the Christmas story plays havoc with all such defaults.

It reveals the putatively normal and settled features of our world to be something very different: the ruins and aftereffects of a great and ancient calamity, the tokens of a disordered order. It lifts the veil of illusion about who we are and what we were made to be. Which means that the “comfort and joy” of which the song speaks are not merely outbursts of seasonal jollity.

Yup. I also wish our society would celebrate Advent during Advent, and Christmas during Christmas instead of Christmas during Advent, and nothing during Christmas.

I Have No Idea How She Does It

The Anchoress is on a tear with a plethora of intersting posts today. This, this, this, this, and this.


Here and here:

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Three-Century Aberration

In the NYT, of all places, an opinion piece called "Atheists Agonistes". I stumbled across this when it was mentioned in a new post at Pharyngula, where a tantrum will undoubtedly ensue.

excerpt from NYT:

Why, then, are the enlightened so conspicuously up in arms these days, reiterating every possible argument against the existence of God? Why are they indulging in books — Daniel Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell,” Sam Harris’s “Letter to a Christian Nation,” and Richard Dawkins’s “God Delusion” — in which authors lampoon religion or rail against the devout under the banner of a crusading atheism? Books dictated or co-written by God sell quite well among the 2.1 billion self-declared Christians and 1.3 billion self-declared Muslims of the world. What explains the current interest among secularists in absolutely, positively establishing that the author is a fraud?

The most obvious answer is that the armies of disbelief have been provoked. Articulate secularists may be merely reacting to the many recent incitements from religious zealots at home and abroad, as fanatics and infidels have their ways of keeping each other in business.

A deeper and far more unsettling answer, however, is that the popularity of the current counterattack on religion cloaks a renewed and intense anxiety within secular society that it is not the story of religion but rather the story of the Enlightenment that may be more illusory than real.

The Enlightenment story has its own version of Genesis, and the themes are well known: The world woke up from the slumber of the “dark ages,” finally got in touch with the truth and became good about 300 years ago in Northern and Western Europe.

As people opened their eyes, religion (equated with ignorance and superstition) gave way to science (equated with fact and reason). Parochialism and tribal allegiances gave way to ecumenism, cosmopolitanism and individualism. Top-down command systems gave way to the separation of church from state, of politics from science. The story provides a blueprint for how to remake and better the world in the image and interests of the West’s secular elites.

Unfortunately, as a theory of history, that story has had a predictive utility of approximately zero. At the turn of the millennium it was pretty hard not to notice that the 20th century was probably the worst one yet, and that the big causes of all the death and destruction had rather little to do with religion. Much to everyone’s surprise, that great dance on the Berlin Wall back in 1989 turned out not to be the apotheosis of the Enlightenment.

Science has not replaced religion; group loyalties have intensified, not eroded. The collapse of the cold war’s balance of power has not resulted in the end of collective faiths or a rush to democracy and individualism. In Iraq, the “West is best” default (and its discourse about universal human rights) has provided a foundation for chaos.

Even some children within the enclave are retreating from the Enlightenment in their quest for a spiritual revival; one discovers perfectly rational and devout Jews or Hindus in one’s own family, or living down the block. If religion is a delusion, it is a delusion with a future, which it may be hazardous for us to deny. A shared conception of the soul, the sacred and transcendental values may be a prerequisite for any viable society.

John Locke, who was almost everyone’s favorite political philosopher at the time of the founding of our nation, was a very tolerant man. In his 1689 “Letter Concerning Toleration,” he advocated a policy of live and let live for believers in many faiths, even heretics. But he drew the line at atheists. He wrote: “Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of God. Promises, covenants and oaths, which are the bonds of human societies, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all.”

Instead of waging intellectual battles over the existence of god(s), those of us who live in secular society might profit by being slower to judge others and by trying very hard to understand how it is possible for John Locke and our many atheist friends to continue to gaze at each other in such a state of mutual misunderstanding.

Reality Always Wins In The End

Victor Davis Hanson:

Our First Postmodern War?

Western exhaustion, guilt, and appeasement are nothing new. Much of the British aristocracy saw not much wrong with Hitler, even after the invasion of Poland. It was Churchill alone who put an end to their peace feelers to fellow travelers in Germany, still creeping out when his new British government chopped them off after the fall of France.

No need to talk about French politics in the 1930s, or the conditions in Austria before the Anschluss. Reread what Joe Kennedy or Charles Lindberg said about appeasement before December 1941, and it gives a frightening glimpse into the mind of a great segment of the population that thought it could ride out the European war, deal with a Hitlerized Europe, and live with Imperial Japan.

All that said, the West is encountering something novel, as it fights its first politically-correct war, in which all the postmodern chickens of the 1980s and 1990s have come home to roost. Thus multiculturalism makes it hard to fight non-Europeans from the former third world, inasmuch as it argued there was not just little distinctively good about the West, but rather the once recognized universal sins of mankind—racism, sexism, class oppression, inequality, patriarchy—were to be seen as exclusively Western.

If you have taught youth for generations that the story of World War II is Hiroshima and the Japanese internment, not Normandy, the Bulge, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, then how can you expect a nation to fight an enemy without making a mistake? And if dropping the bomb on Japan to stop its daily murdering of thousands in its collapsing empire, and to avoid something that would have made the horrific Battle for Berlin look like a cakewalk is equated with the Holocaust, how can the United States marshal the moral authority to press ahead, secure that its killing of jihadists is a different sort from jihadists killing the innocent or each other?

Add into this dangerous modernist soup moral equivalence, or what we know as “conflict resolution theory.” It postulates that any use of force de facto is equivalent to any other. We see those ripples with this Orwellian notion of “proportionality”, that a democratic Israel must calibrate its response to missiles aimed entirely at its civilians by ensuring none of its own aimed at Hezbollah terrorists and their supporters miss.

Then there is moral relativism and utopian pacifism. The latter is the idea that we have finally reached a sort of end of history, where our maturity and education and bounty have changed the rules of the game, relegating war to the Neanderthals. Relativism is even more pernicious because it is anti-empirical and suspends all moral judgment: Islam is just one of many religions given to excess, not at the heart of the vast majority of killing and fighting now going on in the world at this very hour, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Chechnya to Darfur to the West Bank to Lebanon to the Philippines to Indonesia to India and on and on. A Timothy McVeigh is not much different from an Osama bin Laden; forget the former was solitary and exceptional, the latter with millions of sympathizers and emblematic of an entire global movement. Both by their resort to terror were, presto, relatively the same.

So it is going to be hard, but not impossible, to win this war. Why,then, as readers have complained, my dogged optimism?

For two reasons. One, all these nostrums are theoretical, and anti-empirical. Ultimately as lies, they will be disapproved by the evidence before them. A progressive can call the ACLU all day long, but after 9/11 if he stands in line at an airport gate listening to an imam chanting Allah Akbar as he and his friends board, our liberal friend will begin to worry. And second, our enemies have no intention of relenting. They smell blood and want our carcass, so eventually even the progressive mind will give up the pieties of peace and face the inevitable

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Perhaps USA Today Wishes We Had Drafted A Multi-Million Man Army, Leveled Entire Countries, And Dropped A Couple Of Atom Bombs?

USA Today as quoted at Mudville Gazette:

Iraq war about to equal time U.S. spent fighting WWII

The Iraq war is about to reach a benchmark that puts it on par with World War II by one measure: Sunday, it will have lasted the same number of days — 1,347 —that the United States fought the Axis.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Weak Tea

Apparently there is a new book coming out, called "God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist".

The arguments are outlined on the author's website. Perhaps they would seem impressive to some, but I am underwhelmed. Nice try, though.

Biologists, By And Large, Are Simply Unqualified To Judge The Plausibility Of Unguided Evolution

Granville Sewell:

When Dr. Behe was at the University of Texas El Paso in May of 1997 to give an invited talk, I told him that I thought he would find more support for his ideas in mathematics, physics and computer science departments than in his own field. I know a good many mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists who, like me, are appalled that Darwin's explanation for the development of life is so widely accepted in the life sciences. Few of them ever speak out or write on this issue, however--perhaps because they feel the question is simply out of their domain. However, I believe there are two central arguments against Darwinism, and both seem to be most readily appreciated by those in the more mathematical sciences.


1. The cornerstone of Darwinism is the idea that major (complex) improvements can be built up through many minor improvements; that the new organs and new systems of organs which gave rise to new orders, classes and phyla developed gradually, through many very minor improvements.


Behe's book is primarily a challenge to this cornerstone of Darwinism at the microscopic level. Although we may not be familiar with the complex biochemical systems discussed in this book, I believe mathematicians are well qualified to appreciate the general ideas involved. And although an analogy is only an analogy, perhaps the best way to understand Behe's argument is by comparing the development of the genetic code of life with the development of a computer program. Suppose an engineer attempts to design a structural analysis computer program, writing it in a machine language that is totally unknown to him. He simply types out random characters at his keyboard, and periodically runs tests on the program to recognize and select out chance improvements when they occur. The improvements are permanently incorporated into the program while the other changes are discarded. If our engineer continues this process of random changes and testing for a long enough time, could he eventually develop a sophisticated structural analysis program? (Of course, when intelligent humans decide what constitutes an "improvement", this is really artificial selection, so the analogy is far too generous.)

If a billion engineers were to type at the rate of one random character per second, there is virtually no chance that any one of them would, given the 4.5 billion year age of the Earth to work on it, accidentally duplicate a given 20-character improvement. Thus our engineer cannot count on making any major improvements through chance alone. But could he not perhaps make progress through the accumulation of very small improvements? The Darwinist would presumably say, yes, but to anyone who has had minimal programming experience this idea is equally implausible. Major improvements to a computer program often require the addition or modification of hundreds of interdependent lines, no one of which makes any sense, or results in any improvement, when added by itself. Even the smallest improvements usually require adding several new lines. It is conceivable that a programmer unable to look ahead more than 5 or 6 characters at a time might be able to make some very slight improvements to a computer program, but it is inconceivable that he could design anything sophisticated without the ability to plan far ahead and to guide his changes toward that plan.

If archeologists of some future society were to unearth the many versions of my PDE solver, PDE2D , which I have produced over the last 20 years, they would certainly note a steady increase in complexity over time, and they would see many obvious similarities between each new version and the previous one. In the beginning it was only able to solve a single linear, steady-state, 2D equation in a polygonal region. Since then, PDE2D has developed many new abilities: it now solves nonlinear problems, time-dependent and eigenvalue problems, systems of simultaneous equations, and it now handles general curved 2D regions. Over the years, many new types of graphical output capabilities have evolved, and in 1991 it developed an interactive preprocessor, and more recently PDE2D has adapted to 3D and 1D problems. An archeologist attempting to explain the evolution of this computer program in terms of many tiny improvements might be puzzled to find that each of these major advances (new classes or phyla??) appeared suddenly in new versions; for example, the ability to solve 3D problems first appeared in version 4.0. Less major improvements (new families or orders??) appeared suddenly in new subversions, for example, the ability to solve 3D problems with periodic boundary conditions first appeared in version 5.6. In fact, the record of PDE2D's development would be similar to the fossil record, with large gaps where major new features appeared, and smaller gaps where minor ones appeared. That is because the multitude of intermediate programs between versions or subversions which the archeologist might expect to find never existed, because-- for example--none of the changes I made for edition 4.0 made any sense, or provided PDE2D any advantage whatever in solving 3D problems (or anything else) until hundreds of lines had been added.

Whether at the microscopic or macroscopic level, major, complex, evolutionary advances, involving new features (as opposed to minor, quantitative changes such as an increase in the length of the giraffe's neck*, or the darkening of the wings of a moth, which clearly could occur gradually) also involve the addition of many interrelated and interdependent pieces. These complex advances, like those made to computer programs, are not always "irreducibly complex"--sometimes there are intermediate useful stages. But just as major improvements to a computer program cannot be made 5 or 6 characters at a time, certainly no major evolutionary advance is reducible to a chain of tiny improvements, each small enough to be bridged by a single random mutation.

2. The other point is very simple, but also seems to be appreciated only by more mathematically-oriented people. It is that to attribute the development of life on Earth to natural selection is to assign to it--and to it alone, of all known natural "forces"--the ability to violate the second law of thermodynamics and to cause order to arise from disorder. It is often argued that since the Earth is not a closed system--it receives energy from the Sun, for example-- the second law is not applicable in this case. It is true that order can increase locally, if the local increase is compensated by a decrease elsewhere, ie, an open system can be taken to a less probable state by importing order from outside. For example, we could transport a truckload of encyclopedias and computers to the moon, thereby increasing the order on the moon, without violating the second law. But the second law of thermodynamics--at least the underlying principle behind this law--simply says that natural forces do not cause extremely improbable things to happen**, and it is absurd to argue that because the Earth receives energy from the Sun, this principle was not violated here when the original rearrangement of atoms into encyclopedias and computers occurred.

The biologist studies the details of natural history, and when he looks at the similarities between two species of butterflies, he is understandably reluctant to attribute the small differences to the supernatural. But the mathematician or physicist is likely to take the broader view. I imagine visiting the Earth when it was young and returning now to find highways with automobiles on them, airports with jet airplanes, and tall buildings full of complicated equipment, such as televisions, telephones and computers. Then I imagine the construction of a gigantic computer model which starts with the initial conditions on Earth 4 billion years ago and tries to simulate the effects that the four known forces of physics (the gravitational, electromagnetic and strong and weak nuclear forces) would have on every atom and every subatomic particle on our planet (perhaps using random number generators to model quantum uncertainties!). If we ran such a simulation out to the present day, would it predict that the basic forces of Nature would reorganize the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers with supersonic jets parked on deck, and computers connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards? If we graphically displayed the positions of the atoms at the end of the simulation, would we find that cars and trucks had formed, or that supercomputers had arisen? Certainly we would not, and I do not believe that adding sunlight to the model would help much. Clearly something extremely improbable has happened here on our planet, with the origin and development of life, and especially with the development of human consciousness and creativity.

It's sort of interesting to me that in any other science, an assessment of miniscule probability means that some other explanation must be found, but in Darwinism, the response to such a probability is "Unlikely things happen all the time! This result proves that Natural Selection has awesome power to overcome vanishingly small probabilities!"

Pure sophistry.

Here's an amusing comment to the Uncommon Descent post that led me to the Sewell essay:

8. russ // Nov 24th 2006 at 4:30 pm

Chris Hyland // Nov 24th 2006 at 2:53 pm

I can’t speak for Sewell in particular, but in my experience scientists are angered by the claims that the ID movement has overturned decades of scientific research without actually doing any of their own.

Comment by Chris Hyland — November 24, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

How many ounces of gold were produced by the critics of alchemy? Were alchemists angered by the man on the street who scoffed at their enterprise?

Comment by russ — November 24, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

Hyland once again illustrates the common attitude of Darwinists. You see, they own all of the data of empirical science and they alone have total freedom to (mis)interpret it. No one else has the right to interpret published data. Other people have to go and get their own data. By this standard Max Planck was a thief because he found the quantum mechanical explanation of blackbody radiation without doing any of his own measurements, unfairly overturning decades of hard-won research based on assumptions of classical electromagnetism. I guess he did so out of shear laziness, piggybacking on the hard work of others without lifting a finger himself. Planck should be ashamed.

Pointless Incredulity

A commenter named Mentok has much to say over at Uncommon Descent (as do many other commenters in the lively thread):

5. mentok // Nov 21st 2006 at 9:10 pm

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

The “greatest contribution to civilization” is making people believe that their lives are pointless? Well I may agree that some things are pointless e.g. Weinberg’s nihilistic agenda, but he does show us just how essentially dark and cruelly savage the evangelical atheist extremist is. They seem to revel in the death of hope, soul murder. To them the destruction of our only hope for life beyond our few years in our present bodies seems to be of no concern and even to be sought after. When a child’s mother dies and the father tells them that “don’t worry because she is heaven” the Weinbergs and Dawkins of the world want to crush that belief and faith in eternal life for us all into dust, all in the name of “science”. These crumbums ought to be ashamed of their agenda. But instead they seek to spread their venomous hatred to all. They sneer at their colleagues who see the utter despair these ogres seek to dump on peoples lives. They claim that ID is basically just an argument from incredulity or an argument from ignorance when in fact it is they who reject the glaring impossiblity shown by scientific research that evolution is. It is their incredulity and argument from ignorance which they parade around as the “scientific approach”. God is unbelievable to them for one reason or another, therefore God cannot exist to them. Any evidence to the contrary is nothing more then a battle science has yet to conquer (Newton’s example). They claim we argue from incredulity when showing how evolution cannot explain so many points and by necessity there must have been an intelligence behind it. In actuality it is they who base their entire outlook on incredulity and an argument from ignorance. No amount of evidence can disprove evolution to them because god cannot exist.

Comment by mentok — November 21, 2006 @ 9:10 pm

25. mentok // Nov 23rd 2006 at 6:17 pm

Part One

One point I was trying to bring up was the hypocrisy of the crusading atheist. They are always telling us about the violence and repression spawned by religious belief (ignoring the underlying socio-political causes which are usually garbed in religious rhetoric in order to justify those actions) yet downplay repression and violence by those who were inspired by materialistic belief systems (eugenics, communism) even though when we compare the two we find that the atheist agenda was far more repressive and murderous in a shorter time then any other ideology in history. In the 20th century alone we see that close to 100 million people died due to atheistic agendas. If you take all the religious wars and deaths caused by a religious agenda throughout human history combined you will not get even close to 100 million people.

But besides that hypocrisy is another, and that is that they fancy themselves (ad nauseam) and their atheist evangelizing as something which will help people. I’ve heard them say that religious beliefs do injustice to the grandeur and magnificance which “science” is constantly revealing to us about the universe, as if “science” is some kind of deity and the universe is it’s creation. Then in the next breath they try to convince us we have nothing but death awaiting us all as our final destination. In fact it is religious belief which gives true awe and reverence of the maginficence and grandeur of the universe. If you see the universe as a place that came from dust and will end up as dust and that your few years of your current life is all you have, then you are more likely to see your life similar to how a prisoner on death row sees his life in relation to the universe. You may not even realize it because you are conditioned to accept your view of your ontological position in the universe as normal. If someone is born and lives his entire life in some kind of prison knowing he will be killed at some point, then he won’t understand any type of existence beyond that. Even if he hears about life outside of the prison and how people are living a life free from confinement and fear of death, and who are enjoying the world and all it has to offer, still the prisoner will not understand what the experience of those people outside the prison is like. It will be beyond his conceptual frame of reference.

Comment by mentok — November 23, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

26. mentok // Nov 23rd 2006 at 6:25 pm

Part Two

I know from personal experience how belief in a higher power can radically alter your ontological frame of reference. I was born into a family of atheists and was raised without any religious exposure beyond what was seen in popular media. I was a convinced atheist and I “knew” that life was meaningless and that I was destined to die. I viewed my life as something which could at anytime be crushed into dust. I didn’t see any reason not to believe that and I accepted that as the fate of everyone and everything. In my 18th year I had my entire view of reality tossed upside down. I went from seeing death and living in a cruel dark universe of meaninglessness as my ontological worldview, into seeing my life as eternal, seeing myself as an eternal being destined to never die in a universe ruled over by an unstoppable invincible power of love which will give everything it has to everyone. It came as such a powerful reality shift because I had no conceptual ability to understand that someone could see themselves living in eternity rather then living on death row.

I thought that I was trapped on a sinking ship and that there was no help coming, I thought that was normal, that was what I was taught in school and through pop culture. That was the gift to me by the likes of the Dawkins and Dennets of the world who want atheism to be preached as ontological absolute truth in public schools and in pop culture. I had no reason to doubt my atheism because it was reinforced by “scientists” who assured me that belief in god or the “supernatural” was simply fairy tales. They had such big brains, they had spaceships and televison on their side, of course they should be trusted as knowers of everything there is to be known, they have lab coats. They knew everything or are just about to figure everything out was their mantra. Religious beliefs were for gullible silly people or was something which was cruelly forced on children when they should be enlightened about the healing power of “science” and atheism. That was what was instilled to me through school and pop culture. My parents were atheists but they never talked about religion as good or bad, They never mentioned religion. So I didn’t imbibe my anti-god attitude from them. The “scientists” and professional “educators” of course were doing this for my own good in fear of some resurgence of the spanish inquisition or whatnot.

My reality shift started to become possible because I started to read books that were not mentioned in public high school. Books on philosophy and world religious beliefs. It was shortly after that when I was directly shown the true nature of our world and our existence by the person who controls it all and who exists everywhere. God pulled back the curtain and showed me how “he” controls everything and everyone. I didn’t realize that I had been living life like a prisoner on death row until I was freed from the prison of disbelief.

Now I know that many if not most people who have faith in god have not directly experienced god. Their faith is oftentimes shaky at best. And there are many people who have no faith in god at all. The evangelical atheists want to crush their only hope for release from the prison of their fears, the prison of their despair. They want to put everyone on existential ontological death row because they fear a rise of witch hunts or medieval inquistions?

They see ID as a trojan horse which will lead to a scientific imprimatur for faith. That is their big argument agaisnt ID in schools. ID promotes the plausibility of god. For the good of everyone that must not be allowed. Everyone must live their lives in an existential prison on death row so as to save them from living their lives in eternity with the expectation of eternal joy and love.

Their utter hypocrisy is astounding. The sheer callousness and even glee with which they perform their odious task of shameful lies and deceits and misrepresentations of ID, while all the while claiming to be on a noble quest to stamp out faith, is indicative of people who are in serious need of some deep and profound soul searching. The mental walls of incredulity that keep their minds imprisoned need to be broken down. Their own self deceptions which they cannot seem to see when it comes to simple scientific exposes of the sheer lunacy of their beliefs, as well as their mockery of those who are free from the shackles of their ignorance, will come to an end if they can free themselves from their conditioned thought process. If they can see the harm they do, then the healing has begun.

Comment by mentok — November 23, 2006 @ 6:25 pm


Seen here:

"If everyone were capable of understanding metaphysics, there would be no atheists."

--Frithjof Schuon

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lost In Translation

Mark Shea re: the wisdom of Scarlett Johansson:

Scarlett Johansson defines "liberation" and "education" for the Postmodern World

The Lost In Translation star last month boasted about being so "socially aware" she gets tested for HIV twice a year.

Johansson says, "We are supposed to be liberated in America but if our President had his way, we wouldn't be educated about sex at all. Every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions."

The Church's Theology of the Body basically says that there is a language of the body, as well as a language of the tongue. The act of sex means "I give you all of myself in sacrificial love."

In Johannson's world, the act of sex is recreational and semi-anonymous. The guy might or might not be giving you a deadly plague as he pursues his own pleasure with you as the useful apparatus. Best to be "socially aware" of how anonymous, disposable, and meaningless you are. And best to dispose of any by-products of that mechanical act. That's educated. God forbid you find yourself in a family full of love. That would require something of you. Liberation is isolated atomized autonomy. Slavery is a family of love and mutual care.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Brand Has Been Destroyed

American Thinker:

“Shake it off.” That old coach’s nugget seems to be most Republicans’ response to the recent devastating election results. The message of many is that it was a unique situation, a massive one-time blow that has left the party with a mild concussion, but from which we can recover quickly.

We’ll have to endure two years of sectarian violence in Congress, will likely lose out on a conservative Supreme Court nominee or two, and will be up to our elbows in investigations and made-to-veto stunt legislation, but by 2008 the special circumstances that killed us in 2006 will be changed – and life can return to normal, with the GOP winning elections nearly by default. So goes the hopeful chant.

However, that is just wrong. The shock the GOP felt was not a lucky blow by Democrats, or a stumble caused by chance. It was the door hitting us on the way out of many voters’ trust. Before the election was even over and the votes fully counted, lots of experts offered opinions and theories on why the GOP lost so badly, but not a single one of them holds up.


For every issue, glaring contradictions can be found. The only workable explanation is that voters were voting against Republicans precisely because they were Republicans.

This theory also explains how some Democrats, virtually unknown even in the districts in which they were running, won a majority of votes (Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire comes to mind). These candidates were the human equivalent of the pollsters’ “generic ballot” – and they won. It’s striking also that the defeats for the GOP went well down the ballot. How does anyone expect to affect the war in Iraq or illegal immigration or even corruption in Washington by electing a new county representative to the state legislature or a new councilor to the town board?

The GOP, it appears, has spoiled its reputation, or as it’s known in business, their “franchise” or “brand.” The little “R” after candidates’ names is today seen as a net negative by many voters who just two years ago saw it as a mild indicator of quality. This is the worst possible turn of events a party can face – and one that could do damage for years to come.

Although elections are often portrayed as contests of ideas, or battles between individual candidates, these simplifications are only partially true. There are a lot of candidates, and a lot of claims, and too many offices and issues for most people to follow closely. So many voters do what consumers everywhere do: when in doubt, they go with the brand they trust most. Features and price (or ideas and candidates) have to compete against that prejudice.

I could buy a Dodge or a Toyota. The Dodge is cheaper, and it looks better. But I’ll probably buy the Toyota, because (having owned both) I don’t trust Dodge. It would take a helluva Dodge salesman or a huge price difference to overcome that lack of trust. That’s the power of a brand of good reputation – it removes lots of doubt at decision time.Ten dollar bargain bin sneakers are a suspect purchase. Ten dollar name brand sneakers are viewed as a no brainer, as long as they aren’t counterfeit.

It appears that “Republican” has now become a suspect brand, just as Dodge or Ford or GM are to many car buyers. Republicans cannot, therefore, expect things to simply revert to being in their favor in the next election cycle, any more than Dodge can hope to have Toyota owners suddenly stop buying Toyotas and switch to Dodge without some powerful new evidence.

Either the Democrats will have to re-tarnish their newly forgiven brand massively in the next two years, or the GOP will need to take extraordinary steps to overcome the philosophical inertia that burdens their brand in many voters’ minds. It will not be enough for the GOP to merely go and sin no more. Changing a reputation (for the worse or better) requires one to make a huge swing outside expectations for a sustained period. Stereotypes are stubborn things.

So what harmed the GOP brand? A deadly cocktail of stupid, atypical decisions. It was everything that the GOP did that surprised voters negatively – and sustained that ill surprise long enough to overcome the inertia of the old (good) brand reputation.

And it must be noted that you can only ruin a brand’s reputation with those who believe in it to some degree. Those who already hate your brand are not going to punish you for changing. So the GOP’s woes can be traced entirely to how the image of the brand has been changed for those who were previously somewhat loyal to the brand (independents and moderates) or very loyal to the brand (conservatives).

The brand-killing actions include violating the expectations of:

1) Fiscal conservatism.


2) Security competence.


3) Law and order, including immigration law, and border order.


4) Honesty.


5) The common touch and an ability to connect.


These weighty violations of established expectations have sunk the brand.


The voters who abandoned the GOP have not abandoned their beliefs, and could quickly be won back from their uncomfortable trial separation from the party – if given reasons to return. Failure to address vigorously the five basic betrayals that drove them away, however, will allow the current poisoned brand reputation to set permanently. The result will be an end of GOP ascendancy for a decade or more.

The GOP is going to have to come up with something twice as good as the Contract For America, and actually deliver on it in order to get power back, and to hold it. They shafted us once, already. The brand is dead, and mere tinkering isn't going to fix it. No one is going to put in the time, money, and effort to support the GOP if the expected end result is precisely nothing.

All The Right Enemies

Islam hates us for being a bunch of godless, licentious, unwilling-to-kill-for-our-beliefs, wimpy, feminized effete infidels. Europe hates us for being a bunch of Bible-thumping, prudish, imposing-our-ways-through-violence, cowboy macho-man uncultured throwbacks.

If different folks can't stand you for completely opposite reasons, the problem might not be with you...

An American Success Story

The interstate highway system turns 50 this month. Here's a pretty good essay.


Give thanks because the Interstate is going to make your holiday trip, this week, and at Christmas, immeasurably faster and easier than it used to be. Only those who drove or rode as children in automobiles in the '30s, '40s and '50s can fully appreciate how much faster and how much easier.

Long distance auto trips back then meant stop and go driving through a maze of dangerous intersections with and without traffic lights; through railroad crossings, perilous curves and steep grades on which motorists too often found themselves crawling along behind heavy trucks. Most main routes led directly through cities and towns and there were few by-passes. For every charming little roadside restaurant now remembered through the haze of nostalgia, there were scores of dirty joints of decidedly uneven quality. If you were lucky you might find a good motel, but often you were left with a grim, run-down tourist cabin.


When it comes to the Interstate I throw all my reservations about Big Government out the car window. I don't care about the history of graft and the lobbying by the "Road Gang" and the fights over "urban freeways" and the tales of pork barrels and political favoritism and the bifurcating of neighborhoods and the scandals of inferior concrete and faulty inspections and on and on. The Interstate got built and it works.


And, yes, I love the predictability of McDonalds and Bob Evans and Best Western and those huge truck stops with sweeping phalanxes of gas pumps. There are some snobs who grouse about the Interstate and brag about how they shunpike their way between point A and point B on the side roads so they can drink in the scenery and enjoy that cute little diner in Outofthewaysville.

Well, the reason they enjoy their trip is because all the truck traffic and a lot of the regular traffic is rolling on the Interstate, leaving those side roads less crowded and more serene. I've heard all their stories about how great it was to travel back in the old days before all those bland chain restaurants and motels "made everything the same."

These people get a little catch in their throats about some great stuffed pork chops they had somewhere outside Dayton back in the "old days" and they forget what it was like to follow a heavily loaded 18-wheeler up a two-lane highway in the not-so-Great Smokey Mountains, or to run afoul of some fat-assed tax collector in a police uniform in a little town on the way to Florida...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cogito Ego Sum

Gagdad Bob:

[W]hen I was a kid, when someone hit a home run, they would humbly circle the bases with their head down. The batter would never make a show of it by lingering at the plate, admiring the trajectory of the ball, or dawdling around the bases, much less jumping up and down and pointing at himself. If you did this -- except in extreme cases, such as hitting a walk off home run in the World Series -- you could be sure that in your next at bat, the opposing pitcher would knock you down, both literally and figuratively. This is a fine example of the “community” tempering the obnoxious narcissism of the ego.

Look at what happens today when someone scores a touchdown. The purpose of scoring used to be winning for the team. Now it is to draw attention to oneself, like a delighted infant. The last player I remember not doing this was Marcus Allen. He said that he was brought up not to act as if he had never seen the end zone before.

The identical thing has happened in the entertainment world. At some point in past 30 or 35 years, there was a definite shift in the attitude of most performers. Instead of being on stage in a respectful and subservient manner to please the audience, the audience was there to literally worship and glorify the artist.

Look at the Beatles. They ended each performance by literally bowing to the audience. One of the reasons they stopped performing in August of 1966 was that they could not deal with the bizarre idealization of the audience. For them, they were still innocent enough -- still the product of an earlier time -- to simply want to play their music to appreciative ears. All the other nonsense of “Beatlemania” was not just superfluous, but annoying and even disorienting, as it would be to any remotely emotionally healthy or even just minimally insightful person who realizes he is not worthy of such adulation, much less worship. It should be disturbing to the recipient, to say the least. (In Bob Dylan’s enjoyable autobiography, he devotes a chapter to the absolute nightmare of the idealization he received in the latter half of the 1960’s.)

But today, as I said, the situation is entirely reversed, and entertainment has literally become a form of substitute religion, in which sick celebrities comfortably take on the role of idealized demigod instead of shrugging it off with embarrassment. People now want to become ”artists” not for the joy and privilege of creativity in the service of transcendent beauty -- which is its own reward -- but simply for fame, which is nothing more than a collective pathology that glorifies narcissism (and is the death of art, needless to say).

Remember, the narcissist cannot be a narcissist without a community to mirror his grandiosity. In a culture that was not already deeply sick, we wouldn’t know the names “Paris Hilton” or “Britney Spears” or even “Katie Couric” (to pick a supposedly “respectable” name out of thin air; it could be most anyone with great celebrity but no talent). If I could ask them one question, I suppose it would be, “why are you not constantly embarrassed?” Either that, or, if they were slightly more self-aware, “how do you conceal your contempt for the idiots responsible for making a talentless person such as yourself so wealthy and powerful?” I mean, what kind of ignoramus watches CBS News to inform themselves about the world? Don’t people at CBS or Time magazine know that their success depends upon legions of dolts? I’m sure some of the more cynical executives must, but cynicism is just another variation on narcissism.

It seems that talk of the “ego” mostly comes to us through Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Yoga, since we in the West have discarded our own perfectly acceptable ways to conceptualize the spiritual pathology of the ego, which centers around pride. In Christianity the ego is not so much transcended as vigilantly monitored and reformed. The classical virtues -- temperance, prudence, courage and justice -- had to be developed in order to counter the “natural” trends of the fallen ego, i.e., pride, envy, sloth, greed, etc. Thus, traditional culture provided a built-in transcendent purpose to existence. No wise person mistook the ego for a finished product, much less something to be celebrated or worshiped.

Here again, the loss of our own wisdom tradition has led to deep pathologies that are enshrined in massive political movements. In the past, Dennis Prager has mentioned that one of the most beneficial lessons of his religious upbringing was in teaching him that his greatest struggles in life would always be with himself. All forms of leftist victimology turn this perennial, self-evident wisdom on its head, and teach that your greatest struggles are outside of yourself, with society.

I should add that this latter attitude is literally addictive, in that it easily becomes a primary ego defense mechanism that prevents growth, insight, and self-examination. Why examine the self when you know in advance that it’s someone else’s fault? Why engage in the hard work of becoming a better and more moral person when all you have to do is join a political movement and displace your personal responsibility to the collective? You may be a selfish creep, but at least you're against global warming!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Important Safety Tips

A Chris Rock instructional video (language warning, but darned funny). H/T John Hawkins.

Hawkins' post highlights an incident at UCLA in which a person resisting the police got tasered at a university library. Of course, we can expect that everyone will be blaming the police, and not the troublemaker.

A commenter at Michelle Malkin re:the UCLA incident:

I watched the taped you had posted on your blog about the UCLA officer. I am a police officer, as well as a trainer in situations similar to this.

What the officer did wrong was continue to ask the subject for compliance. I can tell by his (the officer’s) actions and his words that he is so afraid of doing the “wrong” thing that he has let the safety and well being of both himself and the others in the area become secondary. Police officers across the country are taught to take action quickly and most importantly “don’t’ do it like they do in California.” In other places without the PC police, that guy would have been jacked up and carried out in under 30 seconds, without tasers, noise, or video.

It is a very simple principle: 1+1… if a person uses one type of resistance, a police officer (even in California) is justified in using a force GREATER than that of the offender. If you say NO, then I can lay hands on you! If you fight, I can pepper spray, taser, even hit with a stick! If you have a knife or a club, I can shoot you.

Police officers that attempt to match a person’s resistance with the same amount of force all to often end up in litigation or dead.

I always ask new recruits, “Would you rather hit a person with your nightclub one time as hard as you can in the leg and gain control, OR hit him softly (the pc version) over and over until he gives up. Inevitably, new recruits are afraid to answer until I add…” don’t forget a TV camera is recording.” One solid strike is usually all it takes to gain compliance from someone like the offender in the video, and by the time that is over the folks with the cameras don’t even have time to push record.

It's All Just A Big Scam

Here's an excerpt from Gagdad Bob's latest post, which also covers lots of other interesting ground:

This is what makes politicians and MSM talking heads so tedious. They are not there to teach, much less to learn. Rather, they are there to use speech as a primitive object with which to paper over reality or to vanquish their adversary. In fact, I am always surprised when I see someone in the MSM who is not doing this. However, what is so frustrating is that a person who does speak truthfully is treated identically to the person who doesn’t. There is a kind of utter cynicism, so that the truth is regarded as nothing but another form of “spin.”

For the thoroughly ironicized secular left (which should always be distinguished from any form of liberalism), there is no truth but no truth. The con artist thinks everyone “has an angle,” and cannot imagine someone who is innocently motivated by an agenda-free love of truth, with no strings attached. This is why you will have noticed that the left is inherently suspicious and paranoid, and therefore habitually attributes motives to positions. Since it is often the case that their positions are actually cynical motives in disguise, they think this is true of everyone.

Therefore, you can’t possibly be against judges tinkering with the basic unit of civilization and redefining marriage. Rather, you are simply using this as a cynical ploy to get more redneck homophobes to go to the polls. You can’t possibly think that racial quotas are bad for blacks. You must be a racist. You can’t actually believe that raising the minimum wage causes unemployment. You just hate poor people. You don’t really think that global jihad is a genuine threat. You just want to frighten people so that you can maintain control over them. You can’t possibly believe that Darwinism is logically self-refuting. You just want to teach Genesis as science and impose a theocracy. You can’t simply believe that Roe vs. Wade represents atrocious legal reasoning veering on judicial tyranny. You just want to “control women’s bodies.” You don’t want to harshly interrogate known terrorists. You just enjoy torturing people. You don’t really want to intercept their phone calls either. You’re just spying on Americans. And of course, if you do not accept all of the dubious speculations of the global warming theorists, you hate the earth.

And on and on and on. Again, Truth is reduced to motive, which represents nothing less than an attack on reality. It reminds me of when I used to enjoy watching wrestling on TV when I was a kid. The bad guy would turn his back to the clueless referee, reach somewhere into his tights, and throw a substance of some kind into his superior opponent’s eyes. Now, instead of “may the best man win,” it was merely two beasts struggling in the dark, as it were.

Likewise, if you can sever the sacred covenant between language and truth, then language is reduced to a battle of wills...

Playing Air Guitar


In my post Demographics & Narcissism, I wondered how we went from JFK to Grace Slick in 6 years:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy - January 20th 1961

Steven won't give his arm
to no gold star mother's farm;
War's good business so give your son
and I'd rather have my country die for me.

"Rejoyce" from After Bathing at Baxters Jefferson Airplane, 1967

How did we journey, in the space of 6 short years, from JFK's famous speech to the Jefferson Airplane's drug-induced, summer of love, response? And what does this have to do with the Demographic changes we are seeing in our culture?

The dirty, little secret, more accurately, the hidden pang of anxiety and fear at the heart of the anti-war movement, is the question of our courage. Young boys and young men have traditionally had their mettle tested in the crucible of combat. Living a full life without ever experiencing conflict has always been the rare exception for men. A generation that was successfully able to avoid conflict is necessarily left wondering how they would have responded to danger. Were we motivated by cowardice in our opposition to the Vietnam War? It is inarguable that fear played a role in the anti-war movement. The proof was that once Congress did away with the draft, the opposition to the war dissipated with alarming speed. Without the threat of being drafted, few were motivated to battle to oppose a war that, until the moment the draft was repealed, was widely characterized as immoral, illegal, and based on lies.

Why is this important today? Defensive rationalizations and intellectualizations are used to keep us from knowing uncomfortable things about ourselves. In the 1960s, in order to avoid any feelings of fear and attendant anxiety over masculinity, the war effort needed to be demonized. The original idea of "speaking truth to power" required minimal bravery. The level of danger the anti-war protesters faced was a tiny fraction of the real danger truly brave people living under brutal governments faced in Eastern Europe, or that our military men faced in Southeast Asia. Yet in order to avoid feeling scared, the war protesters needed to see themselves as bravely facing a quasi-fascist regime (LBJ and then Nixon); our protests were heroic efforts to establish and support peace and justice. In reality , the protests were nothing of the sort and millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians paid the price of our rationalizations. By demonizing the war as based on lies, immoral, imperialistic, etc (which all had a grain of truth but were clearly exaggerations and hardly the exclusive reasons for our involvement in Vietnam) the logic of our defensive edifice required the eventual cut-off of funds to the South Vietnamese, who until the military aid cut-off were more than holding their own.

We see the same need to rationalize today in Iraq. The anti-war movement, as if to re-confirm their essential morality and bravery, continue to "speak truth to power" at no real risk to themselves. In order to avoid the deeply hidden questions, maintain consistency in their rationalizations, and continue to retroactively justify their anti-Vietnam War beliefs, the anti-War campaigners are willing to once again abandon people who trusted us. Millions of Iraqis will be killed but they will feel morally superior and will continue to support the edifice of rationalizations that have sustained their image of themselves as brave rebels since the glory days of the 1960s.

How much is it worth to stabilize a nation that has never known consensual governance and create an eventual democratic state in the middle of the most dangerous place on Earth? The reality is that our casualty rate in Iraq is minimal compared to past wars and the primary reason to abandon the Iraqis at this early date in their attempts to gain stability is a continuing need for too many Americans of a certain age (who unfortunately have great power over the image of the war) to maintain a defensive stance that has already caused untold misery and threatens to compound the misery once again. I do not mean to imply our conduct of the war has been perfect or that victory is right around the corner, but the only way we can lose this war is by abandoning the fight. Our enemies know this and count on it. We should not rationalize our failure of will as a triumph of morality; we did that once and it was the height of immorality.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Democrats: The Psycho Ex-Girlfriend Of American Politics

Republicans: The ex-boyfriend in denial. "She'll come crawling back!"

Excellent video blog by Mary Katharine Ham.

Way Out In Center Field

Taranto item:

Extremism in Defense of Moderation Is No Vice?

In a USA Today op-ed, Kirsten Powers, a onetime Clinton administration official, celebrates the rise of "moderate" Democrats:

It was critical that Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York--who ran the campaign committees--recruited candidates palatable to conservative or moderate voters who wanted to send a message about the war, but who didn't want to compromise on beliefs about abortion, gay marriage or the role of religion in public life. . . .

In North Carolina, Democrat Heath Shuler ran as a born-again Christian who opposes abortion. Pro-gun Brad Ellsworth, who opposes abortion and favors an amendment banning gay marriage, will be a new representative from red-state Indiana. Rep. Ted Strickland, a United Methodist minister, became the first Democrat to win as governor in Ohio in 20 years.

This column is scrupulously nonpartisan, so it falls to us to point out the double standard here: How come Democrats who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage are "moderates," while Republicans who hold the same views are "extremists"?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Future's So Bright I Have To Wear Shades

Dinocrat (H/T Shrinkwrapped):

[O]ur first practical point is that there is no reason to believe that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or others similarly situated, will not use nuclear weapons. They are in a war with the Modern World, and if it must be literally destroyed for man to properly submit to the will of God, so be it.

Our second point is about Iraq and the recent election. There are those who say that President Bush and Republicans got caught in a pincer movement on Iraq between isolationsists and the anti-military. It is said they got caught beteween those on the Right who think that American soldiers should not kill and die for Iraq in an endless insurgency, and those on the Left who think that American soldiers should not kill and die for America for most any reason at all. We think there is an additional group of Americans unsatisfied with the war, who perhaps should be called Separationists.

We believe there is a pretty large group of Americans who, after watching 9-11 and all the daily witless violence in Iraq, have intuiitively arrived at the conclusion that the Islamic world is utterly irredeemable at present. They would be content to see our military wipe out Sadr and many thousands of Shiites and Sunnis, if necessary, in the hopes of teaching the Arab and Muslim world to go pick on someone else, but they no longer harbor any hope that an Unreformed Islamic world is fit for peace and democracy. They acknowledge that the vast majority of the people in these countries are probably fine folks, but observe that in country after country in the Arab and Muslim world, they count for nothing and one group or another of bully-boys always runs the show. Many of the Separationists would vote for total war if it was on the ballot; since it is not, they would prefer America not waste its time, treasure, and fine soldiers on a fantasy, but rather keep its powder dry for that day when total war will almost inevitably come from the enemy.

We observe that there are more Americans than ever who think that the best outcome in the current set of conflicts is a separation of those who would spread Unreformed Islam from those who choose to live in the Modern World. Absent some deus ex machina appearing soon, however, some now believe that the alternative to the uneasy separation of these groups appears to be the eventual destruction of one or the other of them.

One of the Dinocrat commenters:

Put me down for ‘the eventual destruction of one or the other,’ them or us. I would like to believe the charming schoolgirl fantasy of ‘live and let live’ but Islam does not believe this. It cannot believe this. Before Mohammed was dead it began to expand into Christian lands. Its demands of 1400 years ago were the same as its demands today. Nothing has changed except the machines and the decadence of the West.

We are engaged in a Culture War—think Rome and Carthage, Spain and the Aztecs—and in such a struggle one culture must go under.

Some might be shocked at such words but I am open to evidence of the contrary. The simply stated fact of the matter is that Islam will not leave us the Hell alone. Do a check of all the incidents of terror over the past 50 years; how many were instigated by Islam? Of all the wars infecting our world today, how many have Islam on one or both sides?

Moslems demand that we surrender to them. They have made this as plainly as it can be made in writings and videos and sermons. They kill us whenever and however they can get to us.

We or they. Choose.

On the bright side, there are all kinds of relatively non-violent things we can do if we ever need (and have the spine) to take the gloves off:

  • Seize the Saudi oil fields. Take back our oil from the barbarian hordes, who have no use for it. Thereby defund jihad. We developed the civilization that needs the oil. Not them. If they can't play nice, then no revenue for them, and we take what is rightfully ours.
  • Destroy Iran's oil production capability and blockade the country.
  • Shut down the mosques in this country, and deport the Imams.
  • Profile the hell out of Muslim immigrants. Ban entry to all Muslims from certain countries.
  • No nation building. Simply high-leverage military dominance.
  • Control our freakin' border.

There are all manner of things we can do short of annihilation of the enemy. We haven't even scratched the surface. All of this assumes that we haven't been fundamentally sold out by our own political class...

The Barbarians Inside The Gate

This American Thinker article is, I think, too optimistic:

Victory will make [the Democrats] feel better the same way that morphine eases a terminal patient’s pain. But like morphine, victory won’t change the long-term prognosis and it may even push the patient over the edge.

The Democrats’ life-threatening disease is a cancer of the left. Their core constituency consists of extremists who repel the overwhelming majority of American voters. Much as Democrats try to balance the game with hysterical assaults on “the religious right,” Republicans have no analogous political problem.

American politics has never been the battle between left an right that most observers imagine it to be. Ours was a liberal nation at its founding and it remains so today. No major political party has ever stepped out of that tradition toward the right. European blood and soil conservatism has no place here; our politics has no scary right wing, despite the fervid imaginations of some on the left.

But we do have a left wing which has rejected the American liberal tradition. In a bizarre example of newspeak we call the enthusiastic supporters of that wing “liberals.” They are, in fact, bitterly disappointed socialist/collectivists. The 20th Century put paid to their utopian dreams and left them with no positive vision to pursue. After Stalin, Mao, Castro, Pol Pot, et al., collectivism just won’t sell in the U.S.

Unfortunately collectivists haven’t given up politics. Instead they use politics to commit cultural vandalism, doing what they can to destroy the civilization that spoiled their dream.

The real battle lines in American politics are drawn between the socialist vandals and people who see a fragile civilization under attack and try to defend it. The great bulk of the American electorate occupies the no man’s land between these camps and tries to avoid giving offense on either side. Americans value our civilization and its liberal tradition but most of them have no idea how fragile those things are and barely an inkling that they are under attack.

The Democrats are in an untenable political position because most of their votes come from Americans who want to protect and preserve our civilization, while their intellectual and financial support comes principally from people who want to destroy it. This coalition can’t last. The effort to keep all their constituent parts together has already twisted the Democrats into knots and their situation will only get worse.

Of course “liberals” don’t admit that they are trying to destroy civilization. This, however, is the only hypothesis that makes sense of their strange assortment of policy prescriptions both foreign and domestic.

On the domestic side, the left works tirelessly to promote the importation of Latin America’s corrupt, collectivist political culture through unrestrained immigration and lax enforcement of the rule that only citizens can vote. Leftists also work to expand the welfare state which enervates and infantilizes the electorate. Above all, they work to demolish the moral underpinnings of our freedom and prosperity.

Our civilization has succeeded in large part because Christianity got morality right, and the left has devoted itself to uprooting Christian morality. It has also devoted itself to separating Christianity from our public life. No civilization has ever survived cut off from its moral and spiritual traditions, but this doesn’t seem to bother the left.

Consider two principles grounded in Christian theology, central to our civilization’s success and under relentless attack from the left. First, the principle that God made us in his image and loves each of us individually. Second, Christian monogamy and the principle that our sexuality is good when, and only when, it serves the purpose of creating and sustaining families.

The first of these principles is the spring from which all human rights flow. It teaches us that humanity is inherently precious and that human life and dignity demand respect. The second stabilizes our civilization and directs it’s energies constructively. The left attacks them both in a number of ways.


At the same time they are kicking the props out from under civilization at home, leftists do whatever they can to empower the foreign enemies that want to destroy us. They carp about every use of military power and seek to constrain even gathering intelligence about developing terrorist threats. With the election of a new Congress they have begun talking about forcing a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq which would serve no purpose other than to secure an American defeat and a terrorist victory.

The left, in sum, has entered a tacit, mostly unconscious alliance with Islamic fascists for the purpose of destroying the individualistic and Christian civilization they both hate. This poses a problem for the United States. It creates a crisis for the Democrat Party.


The long leftist ascendancy has corresponded closely with a long decline in the party’s fortunes. The Democrats can only stay in the game at all because of their dominance of the old media bureaucracies, leaving many Americans so clueless about politics that they still haven’t figured out who herds the donkeys.

Maintaining this confusion is much easier when the Democrats are shut out of power and playing defense. In the majority they will have to go on offense which will clarify their public image. Clarity is not their friend.

As the Democrats return to power they will be confronted by the army of lobbyists representing left-wing interest groups. Every member of that army will be waving a sheaf of political IOU’s. The Democrats can’t pay any of them without handing Republicans a stout stick with which to beat them.

The Democrats’ most immediate problem is Iraq. Congress probably can’t force a retreat from Iraq, and if Pelosi and Co. try to do so they’ll pay a heavy price with sane voters of every political stripe for the effort. Very few Americans relish defeat. But if Democrats don’t at least try to engineer an American defeat in Iraq, their base will desert them in disgust.


Democrats are so deeply divided that nearly every issue is perilous for them. They will spend the next two years trying to tip-toe through a minefield. The surest bet in town is that they’ll step on a few mines.

In the long-term, Democrats have two options. They can put themselves in a position to compete in the political mainstream by purging the left or they can slowly dwindle away. A purge would cost them an election cycle or two. Without one they have no future.

Now and then they may have a good year, but even in a good year they remain on the road to oblivion as long as they’re in hock to the left.

If only it were so.

Kobayashi Maru (lots of links in the original):

And yet... am I the only one to feel strangely peaceful about it all? ...the only one to feel as though the fight--against foes both foreign and domestic--has shifted into an entirely different realm? A realm in which the answer is already determined... the victory already won but for a few years of unadulterated awfulness and apparent defeat? I'm outraged on one level yes, but not in my soul.

It's just an intuitive sense, but it seems as if something has been unleashed in the world in recent weeks--a flood-tide of forces previously held back. Most are congruent with the election in the sense (for example) of it having made even clearer the unholy dangerous philosophical alliance between radical Islamists and liberals as relativism excuses the former and empowers the latter.

Yet only a few of the examples I've mentioned can be said to have been directly caused by it (the election, that is). I refuse to go down the road of crying in my soup and demonizing Democrats. Many are lost, yes. The republic isn't... yet. I am not angry, only disappointed--resigned to something that feels more and more inevitable and in which the republic will be lost (along with many other things) but in the service of gaining eternity. The election is merely another aspect of a much much larger phenomenon.

Despite what some pundits are spinning about conservatism triumphant in a Democratic victory, I sense a weariness with the essence of conservatism itself, which as William F. Buckley famously put it over half a century ago is all about "standing athwart history yelling 'stop!'"

That stance gets tiring after awhile for both the metaphorical traffic cop ('stop'... no really, I mean 'stop'... trust me, I said 'stop' so you wouldn't get run over by that truck over there) and for those who would listen. It's exhausting to be constantly on the defensive, called to explain (as a remedial patch on a lack of historical education and perspective) why some hare-brained idea like socialized medicine or negotiating with Satan will not work.

In recent headlines I detect a weariness with war and with ideals formerly held dear that would set war in context, illustrating vividly that not all peaces are righteous and not wars are evil. (Ponder, for example, that both cops and criminals possess and use guns... that both Hitler and FDR fielded armies.)

I sense a weariness with truth and growing confusion about whether it is fixed (much less knowable)--an unmooring from anything but ourselves. (For a glimpse of faulty, self-referential assertion posing as reason in that vein, check out "Letter to a Christian Nation" whose author, Sam Harris, in a recent podcast I endured with morbid fascination, glibly echoes Elton's John's wish that religion--as Harris, John and others choose to define it for us--be put in a very small box indeed because it and its adherents are 'stupid' and dangerous. Encouragingly, we ought to recall that this is not a new impulse out of the world of the entertainment community--merely a blunter expression of a very old one.) As Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias notes, paraphrasing GK Chesterton: "meaninglessness ultimately comes not from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure".

(Zacharias' podcasts are now on my absolute must-listen list. Additional side note and subject for another post: for a fascinating and on-the-right-track--but still flawed--view into how the secular left views Islam, see this podcast talk by Salman Rushdie with an intro by Ibn Warraq).

And finally, I intuit in recent headlines a weariness with life itself. Sure, Michael J. Fox wishes to cling to his own life (including its quality). On one level that is totally understandable. It would be the rare individual who could say with honesty that they did not care if they lived or died or got sick or stayed well and that--given the opportunity--they would not switch sides on some moral questions that seem abundantly clear when one is not facing them. And yet the impulse to preserve one's own life at any costs comes with a much larger cost. We should not be surprised to discover this wisdom [here Kobayashi Maru links to Mt 16:25 "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."].

At a certain point, if your own culture keeps trying and trying and trying to commit suicide no matter what you do to stop it, what can you do? All you can do is let it. And follow God to the best of your ability. Which entails one-on-one charity and evangelization, with the results entirely up to God. If He has already decided to flush the apostate West down the drain, as He did with Israel in the Old Testament, then that's the deal we're going to get. Politics is not our route to salvation. Our route to salvation was spelled out 2,000 years ago, and there is nothing new under the sun. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be given you besides."