Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Short and Very Hard Teaching

With a New Tongue I Now Will Speak

Sr. Mildred Barker of the Sabbath Day Lake Shakers
Here is something I've meditated on over and over again and it still hasn't taken with me.  Maybe I need to meditate on it some more and harder.   I used to like to buy rose water from the Shakers at the Common Ground Fair, though I suspect the three or so left don't appear there much.  It's sad to think that I might live long enough to see the last Shaker.  

The best way to hear their great body of spirituals is like this, plain and simple without an instrumental accompaniment but with complete conviction and the experience of their truth and power.

Ignoring Those "Ifs" Could Just End Up Killing Us

From what I've been able to read about this "prisoner's dilemma produces the golden rule" line of tripe, the game set up for the computers to run through over and over again, is little like real life.  It is an incredibly narrow and artificial set-up that I'd guess seldom if ever is accurately matched in real life.

To start with, the teaching of the Jewish tradition, beginning in the Torah, through Hillel and Jesus and his earliest followers, wasn't meant to be confined to an artificial set up of mathematicians and ideologically motivated, so-called scientists.   The Jewish prophets and scholars were talking about real life.    It's my understanding that the extremely rigorous and detailed debates of Jewish scholars about the application of The Law to real life situations is so contentious BECAUSE it addresses real life instead of something that would fit into equations and computer language.  So, to start with, the conclusions of those who would fit that teaching into the dogma of natural selection are based on an inadequate reductionist presentation of what "the golden rule" was articulated to address, don't do what they claim they do.   That alone makes the contention that the game theoreticians have produced the same thing, absurd.

I don't think it's possible for any, single mathematical reduction to address the vastly complex range of human experiences and human actions that the prophets were addressing.   I'd like to hear someone defend idea that any mathematics that is humanly achievable could do that.   The assumption that what was given to the computers to run through is the same as that enormous variety of lived experience is nonsense.  We are talking about the enormously variable behavior of human beings in real life, not subatomic particles under controlled conditions.

That kind of absurdly reductionist modeling as reliably representative of real life is a basic superstition on which much of the "science" of behavior and societies is based.  It is often betrayed by the use of conditional statements found early in the process that are then just ignored in the rest of the process.  There is so often a tiny "if" put in one of the early sentences that is supposed to act as an escape clause if someone points out that the thing is based on some rather massive and unfounded assumptions.   Sometimes that "if" is implied but not stated, and by the time the popular "understanding" of the results are given it has disappeared into a statement as definite as those which any true believe have ever declaimed.

In one of the most annoying of recent commercials - well other than those of the oil industry shill, Brooke Alexander -  an upper class, Brit male voice says,  "We believe that if love is a chemical reaction [therefore the petrochemical industry = LUV. ]."  For an Irish guy it might be tempting to say,  figures that it would be a Brit who would think of love in terms of petro-chemicals.  But what this is is an absurd reductionism of one of the most profound and incomprehensible and, yet, the most meaningful of all human experiences  which ends up with promoting an industry that regularly sells death and environmental destruction for profit.   The motives of reducing profound human experiences into absurd symbolic substitutes is something that deserves serious study because the history of that effort is of one of the venues of organized human behavior that has produced enormous damage to human beings and the biological systems we require to live.

It is a habit of thought that is particularly popular with atheists, as I have shown in a long series of posts about the desire to make bio-chemistry, destiny.  Its generalization into the culture is on the basis of an uncritical and unthinking veneration of anything that can get called "science" on the basis of ideology or, originally, wearing down the resistance of real scientists who certainly would find it deficient and a complete violation of the standards that real science, physical science, requires, if they would only be honest about that.

In one of those earlier posts, I noted the horrified reaction of the eminent biologist, Vernon Kellog to essentially the same kind of thinking among the educated German elite in the early 20th century.   And he was talking about those ideas becoming current only among the elite.   Today they are promoted throughout the media on a daily basis, as the NPR story I heard this morning, the reason I'm writing this, demonstrates.   It is becoming the popular understanding of life, even among those who should be entirely skeptical about it.

The social, so-called, "sciences" have a history of having the securely stated, widely distributed foundations of its various branches and schools being widely accepted and then totally discredited.  I have come to conclude that that is a guaranteed result of the kind of reductionism that they base their "science" on. Real life will out, eventually, it will overtake and press the issues skated over by those opening and perfunctory "if" clauses.   It is remarkable that, given the serial collapses of behavioral science that it has retained its position in popular credulity.   I think that is because those social scientists are selling stuff that is saleable, especially to the mid-brow salesmen of the media.  I have found, over and over again that most of the people pushing that stuff in the media have scant scientific background and education.  Even in some of the popular science magazines, such as Scientific American.   I think we need to demand that real scientists apply their scientific rigor in a critique of this kind of stuff.  If they don't want to see scientific methods discredited, they will have to defend them from this kind of stuff.

Update:   The series of posts I did about Joseph Weizenbaum's great book, Computer Power and Human Reason is also very relevant to this topic.   I think I'll do an index of those posts.  Who knows, I might decide to expand it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Student Pieces

Sergei Prokofiev

Legend op.12 n°6  

Sviatoslav  Richter

This time of year, with the lengthening days but still long nights and the lingering winter always makes me think of Prokofiev.   This was the piece that showed me what a master of cadences Prokofiev was, how much more than mere formulas were possible at a cadence, even within the tonal system.  It's wonderful to hear a really great piano player like Richter playing these kinds of simple student pieces, they show you how much was there that you missed.  I'm hoping to give it another try.


The Bizarre Idea That Mathematical Confirmation of A Religious Teaching Debunks Religion

See an important and exciting Update Below. 
Oh, dear.  Now the atheist boys at Salon are claiming that the recent calculations of game theory, surrounding the "prisoner's dilemma" knock the stuffings out of Jesus.  They claim that the calculations of that branch of mathematics confirms that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.   Which, since they are so interested in chronological priority,  would seem to be a rather bizarre move in this particular game.   Having read a few things online, I'm not entirely convinced that the simplistic set up of the game and the calculations is really useful to address the teachings of the Jewish tradition, which is not about any artificial set up of such a simplistic scenario but one in which real people are living in the real world with a far fuller range of motivations and interests and in a far richer context of personal and impersonal relationships.  But, for the purpose of the brawl, I'll pretend to entertain the idea.

They make the typical atheist mistake of believing that God couldn't have anything to do with mathematics, that mathematics is, somehow, safe atheist territory where God can't get in.  But, luckily, whoever it was who composed the first line in Genesis blows them out of the water.  If God created the heavens and the Earth, if God is the Creator of of all things visible and invisible, as they say in one version of The Creed, then, of course, you'd expect to find confirmation of something that important if you can work it out mathematically.  While I'd never make that claim, unless forced to, that reluctance would be based in the kind of "tidiness of mind" that Eddington talked about, not any logical or moral objections.

I daresay that most of you are by no means reluctant to accept the scientific epic of the Creation, holding it perhaps as more to the glory of God than the traditional story. Perhaps you would prefer to tone down certain harshnesses of expression, to emphasise the forethought of the Creator in the events which I have called accidents. I would not venture to say that those who are eager to sanctify, as it were, the revelations of science by accepting them as new insight into the divine power are wrong. But this attitude is liable to grate a little on the scientific mind, forcing its free spirit of inquiry into one predetermined mode of expression; and I do not think that the harmonising of the scientific and the religious outlook on experience is assisted that way. Perhaps our feeling on this point can be explained by a comparison . A business man may believe that the hand of Providence is behind his commercial undertakings as it is behind all vicissitudes of his life; but he would be aghast at the suggestion that Providence should be entered as an asset in his balance sheet. I think it is not irreligion but a tidiness of mind, which rebels against the idea of permeating scientific research with a religious implication.
Science and the Unseen World 

I am not above pointing out that in this case it would appear to be mathematicians who are mixing math with religion, claiming to have confirmed the logical validity of a moral commandment that human history has shown to be anything but a matter of the most persuasive obviousness.   People, even those who claim to believe that it is a command of God in the Torah (Leviticus 19:18) or of Jesus in the Second Testament, even those people have had the hardest of times living up to this, one of the simplest and yet hardest of teachings.   That it took mathematics up until the very late 20th century to confirm a teaching that extends back into the Jewish tradition in written form many centuries before the Common Era certainly doesn't discredit the insight of the prophets who knew that intuitively.   No more than that it took cosmology until the early 20th century to get to that beginning of Genesis mentioned above, and it was a priest-physicist who came up with that one, too.

And, most ironically of all, it is the atheists who claim that mathematics confirming that most unobvious and difficult of religious teachings, somehow, confirms their debunking of the religious figures who taught that.   I think the untidiness of mind that represents is more than some philosophical maid service could clean up.   Perhaps they would like to address the many atheists of the past two centuries who have denied the truth that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you,  as so many of them have, Nietzche, Haeckel, Rand, ...   Because they are the ones debunked by mathematics if they really have proven the validity of the religious teaching in question.

Update:  It just occurred to me that, now that the atheists are claiming that the truth of that particular commandment has been proven to the level of mathematical certainty, that we can now expect atheists, en masse to begin successfully applying the fruits of reason and science in their own lives.  We can look forward to them proving the superiority of atheist-materialist ideology to that religion which has taught the commandment for thousands of years to such mixed success, though, I would claim, far more success than the denial of its validity would be in reforming the lives of those who heard the words of the Torah, Rabbi Hillel and Jesus.   Now we can see the real test of the atheist devotion to logic, mathematics and reason.

Aren't you just waiting with baited breath to see the atheists acting as if they believed that they should do unto others as they would have done unto them?  I mean, we can look forward to them ditching the double standards favoring atheists that they have always insisted on.   Only, I wouldn't hold your breath TOO long.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The New Atheism As A New Dark Age

Last night at Salon, an atheist guy pulled what, I suspect, is something that that crowd sees as something of a coup de grace  meant to kill off Christianity and, so, God altogether.

urnso2 20 hours ago

Many religions teach what could be accepted at universal "rights".
A good example is "“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you."

To which "happyhaze" soon added:

That's a humanistic precept which some religious have adopted.

Which is where I entered that discussion:

A "humanistic" precept?  No, it was not.  If it's anything, it's a Jewish precept, Hillel said it was the entire basis of The Law, in slightly different form. Humanism came about 1,400 years later and it was a movement within Christian culture.

Hillel's famous response to the wit who said he'd study The Law if Hillel could recite it while standing on one foot is often given as,

"That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study."

I didn't know it last night, but, by chance, the readings for the mass, today, contain the exact place where Jesus said the same thing.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.  This is the law and the prophets.”  Matthew, 7:12

So, to start with, the red herring that was soon brought up, that, somehow Christians claim some kind of originality and priority for the idea for Jesus is false.  Jesus said,  "This is the law and the prophets,"  saying exactly the same thing that Rabbi Hillel said.  No one who had read the gospel would have made the claim that Jesus was doing more than encapsulating The Law and the prophets.
One of the atheist boys, then, made an even more bizarre statement,

You're thinking of Matthew who came much, much later. So did Hillel.

As anyone who wanted to look could see that Hillel died in the very early years of the Common Era,  the idea that he got the idea from Jesus instead of the other way around is just stupid.

But stupidity is at the basis of so much of the widely copied and used atheist propaganda.  One participant gave a long laundry list of similar statements, beginning with Pittacus, alleged to have said something similar in 600 BCE. Though I wondered how reliable the provenance of the claim was, I pointed out that 600 BCE didn't have priority to the source of The Law.  Not that it would make any difference.  It is only in this ridiculous kind of atheist discourse that more than one source of an idea is taken to discredit the people who said it.   Multiple sourcing and attestation to an idea is generally taken to confirm its reliability, not a impeachment the credibility of someone who also has the idea.

Most absurd of all was the next to the last item in his list

"What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others." – Epictetus, circa 100 BCE

Anyone who was, at all, familiar with Epictetus or the sayings attributed to him would catch the glaring anachronism in that dating, putting him more than two centuries before one of his students assembled the Enchiridion.  He is believed to not have been born before 55 CE, well after Jesus is believed to have lived.  I mean, even the Wikipedia article on him, which probably has had some neo-atheist editing applied to it, got his position in history right.   Considering the comment thread this was attached to was one concerning the historical boner that Neil Degrasse Tyson pulled in Cosmos II, you'd think the atheist boys would at least be careful to vet the junk they pull from the cooky jar of new-atheist talking points.

But, this morning, I found a similar one concerning the Buddha and what seems to be a claim that he got his ideas from, of all places, the Mahabharata.  Considering that Buddha was hardly likely to have gotten a lot of his stuff from an epic glorifying war and strife, especially one that was part of the religious tradition from which his Dharma was a drastic departure.  And, even more especially, one whose date of composition is often estimated to be from three to six centuries after the Buddha's death.

Just about every, single time I'm confronted with these widely distributed atheist talking points that they are full of false statement, ideological inventions, wild inaccuracies, hysterically bizarre anachronisms, etc.  When you're confronted with those kinds of things, don't take them at face value because the currency of neo-atheist propaganda is full of bad coinage, lots of it minted well after it's supposed to have happened or been said.  As has been pointed out before, maybe this kind of thing can be expected to happen when people don't believe it's a sin to tell a lie.

See Also:  Possibly The Most Incompetent Atheist Argument in History.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Fun Fact Almost Forgotten If It Were Not For the Prattling About Giordano Bruno Today

To the Humanist no Latin poem was correct that did not measure up to the classical standards of the Augustan Age.  Any deviation from this standard was a barbarism.  "The Humanists,"  says Father Clemens Blume, S.J.  "abominated the rhythmical poetry of the Middle Ages from an exaggerated enthusiasm for ancient classical forms and meters.  Hymnody then received its death blow as, on the revision of the Breviary under Pope Urban VIII, the medieval rhythmical hymns were forced into more classical forms by means of so-called corrections."  (Cath. Encycl., Art.  Hymnody).  Pope Urban was himself a Humanist, the last in fact of the Humanist Popes.  During his reign a commission was appointed to revise the Breviary, and a special commission of four distinguished Jesuit scholars,..... 

The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal:   Matthew Britt

Urban VIII was, of course, the Pope who was offended when Galileo mocked him as a simpleton and who lowered the boom on him in one of the gentler forms available to a late Renissance Pope.  He, himself, was an accomplished Latin poet and a lavish patron of the arts and sciences.

The point is, that today's "Humanists,"  through misappropriation of the name they have no intellectual right to, have associated themselves with one of the figures of history who they officially most abominate.

Update:  Here's another thing that would be fun to cite in argument with a "Humanist" gassing on Galileowise

In the early days of his reign, Galileo had reason to believe Maffeo Barberini's elevation to Pope might lead to a loosening of the Church's opposition to Copernican thought.  Pope Urban VIII received Galileo for six long audiences.  Although a humanist largely baffled by scientific principles, Urban VIII seemed genuinely interested in Galileo's ideas.  Urban VIII assured Galileo that as long as he remained Pope, the memory of Copernicus had nothing to fear.

Eventually, however, the Pope's pride and suspicious would produce the dramatic confrontation with Galileo that culminated with his arrest, trial, and conviction in 1633.  The troubles developed after Pope Urban VIII gave Galileo permission to write a book discussing the contending views of the universe: his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.   Galileo's biggest mistake seems to have been putting into the mouth of an ignorant, literal-minded character named Simplicio the Pope's own views, offered to Galileo in 1623, concerning God's omnipotence.  Urban VIII had argued that an all-powerful God could make the Sun and other heavenly bodies do as he pleased--notwithstanding the laws of physics.  In his Dialogue, Galileo provided a response that must have made the Pope feel foolish:  "Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with thier wings exceedingly small.  He did not, and that ought to show something.  It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle."

Upset with what he saw as ridicule of his argument and convinced that the Dialogue was nothing but a thinly-veiled brief for the Copernican model, the Pope swung the machinery of the Church into motion against Galileo.  The Pope insisted upon a formal sentence, a tough examination of Galileo, public abjuration, and "formal prison." In June 1633, the Pope got his wish.

Perhaps Galileo was, actually, the victim of humanism?  Urban VIII is often cited as the pope who wanted to re-establish the humanism that the Counter Reformation rather put a wet blanket on.  You can read this, in the description of his famous tomb designed by Bernini

 Bernini, however, removes Prudence and instead chooses Charity to mirror Justice.  The inclusion of Charity instead of Prudence is to enforce that Urban was the Vicar of Christ.  Jesus is considered the ideal example of a just and merciful, or charitable, figure, while a ruler was remembered as just and prudent.  This intentional composition choice is in direct opposition to Urban’s renewal of humanist, Pre-Counter Reformation thought and ostentation.

For what it's worth, I looked to see if Pope Clement VII, a pope who was very enthusiastic about the Copernican system, during his life, was a humanist but he is not listed in any of the lists of "humanist Popes" that I've been able to find.  Ironic, no, that it was the last of the humanist popes who prosecuted Galileo and it may well have been a non-humanist pope who was enthusiastic for the system that the humanist pope tried to suppress.

For instance, he discovered that the orbit of the Earth had variable eccentricity and that the apogee of the Sun moved towards the fixed stars. Because of this, the writing of De Revolutionibus was much delayed and became the subject of many changes and corrections. And even when all the books were completed, Copernicus did not consider them ready for print, but perused them over and over again verifying all the details and calculations with new calculations.

Concerned about the implications of his discovery, its novelty and inconceivableness, he preferred to keep the results of his labors for himself and for a few close friends. However, word of his work spread among the circles of mathematicians and astronomers.

Lectures on the principles expounded in the Commentariolus were given in Rome in 1533 before Pope Clement VII who approved of the theory. A formal request to publish was made by Nicholas Schonberg, Cardinal of Capua. From Rome he sent Copernicus a letter, dated November 1, 1536, encouraging him to publish the work or at least to send him a copy of the manuscript. Copernicus declined the request. Others also urged him to publish De Revolutionibus. The most ardent among them was his good friend, Tiedeman Giese, then bishop of Chełmno (Kulm) and earlier canon of the Warmia chapter.

Another Busy Day

Before I go, I can't help but notice Bill O'Rilley has complained about Barack Obama going on a comedy show to promote Obamacare, saying that Lincoln would never have done it.

As if the entire world knows that Abraham Lincoln was famously and entirely lacking in humor.   And, perhaps apropos of this, he never admitted that most of his jokes were only fit for an outhouse, they were so obscene as back woods humor tends to sometimes be. 

If Lincoln had heard of Bill O'Reilly, I suspect he would have said his problem is that his headquarters are where his hindquarters should be. As he said about General Pope, I believe.   Lord knows what he'd have said about Glen Beck.   

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is Media Matters Trying to Rewrite The History of My State?

Uh, check out Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's record when he was the governor of Maine. He was awful. Just sayin'.
    • Avatar
      I believe you are quite wrong. A very large percentage were, I would suspect most. You should look up "The Maine Law" a defacto abolition of capital punishment that had been in effect for quite a while. The legislature abolished it, in effect in 1835, under the "Maine Law". Its defacto abolition happened, first, in 1876, though abolition of it was briefly repealed in 1883, it was abolished, I hope for good, in 1887.
      Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was an enormous proponent of execution in opposition to that history of its abolition. Getting Media Matters to suppress that history won't do anything to change it.
    Here's a brief description of capital punishment in Maine before Chamberlain took office.

    For example, in 1835, Maine enacted what was in effect a moratorium on capital punishment after over ten thousand people who watched a hanging had to be restrained by police after they became unruly and began fighting. All felons sentenced to death would have to remain in prison at hard labor and could not be executed until one year had elapsed and then only on the governor's order. No governor ordered an execution under the 'Maine Law' for twenty-seven years."

    I can't see any other reason for them to remove that comment.   The last one was posted after I saw that notification about removing my original comment.   Anyone who wants to read Chamberlain's advocacy for the state killing people can read his inaugural addresses.  Starting with the first one.

    Here is a description of the last hangings in Maine, after Chamberlain campaigned for its reinstatement.

    The last hanging was on November 20, 1885 at the Maine State Prison in Thomaston. The victim was Daniel Wilkinson. However, the controversy that lead to its abolition in 1876 was based on a double hanging in 1875. There was serious doubt about the guilt of Lewis Wagner who protested his innocence to the end. John Gordon, the other person hanged at the same time, was carried to the gallows bleeding from a self-inflicted stab wound.

    According to some who have research the matter, “There was no time to wash Gordon off and, consequently, he was covered with blood and groaning as the deputies held him in a sitting position on a soap box placed upon the trap. Wagner looked down . . . and said, ‘Poor Gordon, poor Gordon, you are almost gone.’ Wagner again protested his innocence and said that someday the guilty party would be found.”

    The last double-hanging was on April 17, 1885 when two Italians, Carmine Santore and Raffaele Capone, were executed. Wilkinson was executed later that year in November, as noted above.

    There Will Be No Egalitarian Democracy Without God

    "Stillborn Education" from "Gods of the Modern World" by Jose Clemente Orozco
    I suppose, given the things I've been talking about here for the past two months, that I should read the late Ronald Dworkin's recently published book, "Religion Without God" but I am almost certain that I never will.   From this review by Michael Rosen, it sounds like the massive mind of Dworkin tried to come up with an intellectually coherent means of creating inherent rights, equally held by all that there is a moral obligation for us to respect without God.  While Rosen seems to have to be impressed, his description of what Dworkin came up with looks like it would be as easily blown away by someone who doesn't WANT to believe it as anything else could be.  Since Dworkin was a lawyer and legal scholar, I doubt that judges and justices who were disinclined to respect rights on an equal basis would lose any sleep tossing quotes from it around in their heads.  Atheistic arguments for such things have, I strongly suspect, that defect, that they carry no power to prick any conscience.

    It also looks, to me, to be something so extremely complex that it is entirely unlikely to sustain equal rights under the law in the political sphere, where these kinds of enormously complex, secular arguments are even more impotent than they are among lawyers. I doubt the reportedly impressive and mighty considerations of  Harvard-Oxford scholar Dworkin will be more than a footnote in some other, equally impotent, scholarly attempt to provide the benefits given by God, while denying that is where those came from.   I doubt that all of the collective attempts by great scholars to do that, over the past three centuries, has had nearly the moral, social and political force of any of the well known assertions that our rights are granted to all of us by God.  I doubt that those have carried any force to do more than damage the entirely more effective assertion of rights as an equal, inherent endowment of God.   The scholars are talking to each other and their words fork no lightning in the wider world, down among the common folk, where the real existence of equal rights resides.  Dworkins' arguments won't have the beneficial effect of the declaration that the truth that God granted us equal rights is self evident.

    Why this is important, given the aggressive promotion of atheism among the Ivy League class of the elite, where all of our Supreme Court and way too many of our chief executives come from, is that it has a real life consequence for us all.  If they don't believe that those rights are real, if they believe that their equal distribution by God isn't real, then they so often act as if they have no reason to pretend to believe that.  The alternative, generally in the assertions of scientistic materialism, has had a malignant effect in real life.  I wrote about the source of the Buck vs. Bell decision, informed by the sciency atheism of Holmes and I think it probably has a lot to do with some other decisions by less candid justices that are obviously a denial of the truth held to be self-evident in the Declaration of Independence.

    The very end of the review, including a long quote from Dworkin's book shows that even these two elite thinkers are aware of the problems that I assert are unavoidable if atheism comes to dominate either a de facto ruling elite or, God help us, the general population.

    Dworkin is always wonderfully clear and honest about what is involved in his position—it is part of what makes his book such a pleasure to read—and he concludes his discussion of the nature of value by explaining its limitations:

    "I will not have convinced some of you. You will think that if all we can do to defend value judgments is appeal to other value judgments, and then finally to declare faith in the whole set of judgments, then our claims to objective truth are just whistles in the dark. But this challenge, however familiar, is not an argument against the religious worldview. It is only a rejection of that worldview. It denies the basic tenets of the religious attitude: it produces, at best, a standoff. You just do not have the religious point of view."

    This expresses precisely my own reaction. I cannot see that describing the target of our disagreements about value as existing in a fully independent, objective realm is anything more than religion lite: the religious idea of eternal goodness without the miraculous elements of omnipotent divine will and personal immortality. Yet I am at one with Dworkin in thinking that even a fully secular individual should contemplate the universe not just with curiosity and wonder but with reverence and gratitude. Still, behind me I hear a voice—a Nietzschean one, perhaps—that tells me that what Dworkin and I are looking at is no more than a penumbra, the few rays that remain in the sky after the sun of revealed religion has set. If that is so, then the coming night may be dark indeed.

    I am not at all hopeful that the brief period of modern democracy, especially in its most expansive, egalitarian form, can survive in a world where most people don't believe that people they don't care for were granted rights that they are morally obligated to respect and take with the utmost seriousness.   The atheism which elites might find personally liberating, leaving them free to enjoy the privileges that come with their economic and social status carries a general price in the removal of the belief in a God granted equality.  We have seen enough in modern history, beginning in that emblem of "enlightenment" thought, the French Revolution,  of what happens under "scientific" systems that have that as a feature of a ruling elite.  Generalizing that convenient skepticism will not do anything but further generalize the depravity that those experiments in atheistic government have been.  I don't think there is any reason to believe people who don't believe that they have that moral obligation will act as if they do have it.  And I don't think most people will take it seriously if they don't believe that it is imposed on them by any lesser authority than God.  Indeed, history also shows how difficult it was for men, like Jefferson, Madison, etc. to live up to their declaration with a belief in God and having gone on record asserting that.

    Someone who is a more careful scholar than I'm able to be should write a fuller treatment of Dworkin's book than Michael Rosen has.  I hope that some of them cast as skeptical a look at it as it deserves, though that skepticism of this kind of literature has either not been expressed or it has been disappeared in the general materialist coercion of our educational and media elites.  I hope that they don't keep their heads up in the clouds where these elites like to keep these discussions but that they seriously consider the impotence of such artificial substitutes and patch jobs are certain to have in real life, where the real issues and consequences of killing off a belief in God will happen.   With a removal of a really effective belief in the moral obligation to respect rights, the removal of one that The People can understand and believe in, all hell will break loose.