Saturday, November 1, 2014

McCoy Tyner Trio with Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson Inner Glimpses (frag.)

McCoy Tyner - piano
Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
Joe Henderson - tenor sax
Avery Sharpe - bass
Louis Hayes - drums

Wish it went on till the end but what's there is great.
Music for a cold, wet, rainy evening.  Cures the rhumatiz, and everything that ails you.

Write Out

I'm not sure it's writer's block or if it's just insomnia or the head cold that developed from the extended allergy season (wish it would hurry up and snow) but I haven't been up to writing the last day or so.  Here's a rerun, from my archive.

The Strange History of Altusim 

Of the four fine essays given by Marilynne Robinson in this series, this one is my favorite.   One of the most enlightening passages was the one in which she talks about the famous case of Phineas Gage.  It is a demonstration of how the reductionist method practiced by those who demote the mind to chemicals and neural circuitry produces a facile, two-dimensional cartoon of real human beings, ignoring enormous parts of human life and personality, not on the basis of it being irrelevant but it being inconvenient to their purpose.  Whose imagined Phineas Gage is more convincing?  That of the alleged scientists or the novelist-essayist?

I am indebted to Daniel Dennett for the ant and the lancet fluke, a metaphor that comes to mind often as I read in his genre.  for example, consider poor Phineas Gage, the rail-road worker famous for the accident he suffered and survived more than 150 years ago, an explosion that sent a large iron rod through his skull.  Wilson, Pinker, Gazzaniga, and Antionio Damasio all tell this tale to illustrate the point that aspects of behavior we might think of as character of personality are localized in a specific region of the brain, a fact that, by their lights, somehow compromises the idea of individual character and undermines the notion that our amiable traits are intrinsic to our nature.

Very little is really known about Phineas Gage.  The lore that surrounds him in parascientific contexts is based on a few anecdotes of uncertain provenance, to the effect that he recovered without significant damage - except to his social skills.  Gazzaniga says,  "He was reported the next day by the local paper to be pain free."  Now, considering that his upper jaw was shattered and he had lost an eye, and that it was 1848, if he was indeed pain free, this should surely suggest damage to the brain.  But, together with his rational and coherent speech minutes after the accident, it is taken to suggest instead that somehow his brain escaped injury, except to those parts of the cerebral cortex that had, till then, kept him from being "'fitful, irreverent, and grossly profane.'"  He was twenty-five at the time of the accident.  Did he have dependents?  Did he have hopes?  these questions seem to me of more than novelistic interest in understanding the rage and confusion that emerged in him as he recovered.

How oddly stereotyped this anecdote is through any number of tellings.  It is as if there were a Mr. Hyde in us all that would emerge sputtering expletives if our frontal lobes weren't there to restrain him. If any kind of language is human and cultural, it is surely gross profanity, and, after that, irreverence, which must have reverence as a foil; to mean anything at all.  If to Victorians this behavior seemed like this emergence of the inner savage, this is understandable enough.  But from our vantage, the fact that Gage was suddenly disfigured and half blind, that he suffered a prolonged infection of the brain, and that "it took much longer to recover his stamina,"  according to Gazzaniga, might account for some of the profanity, which, after all, culture and language have prepared for such occasions.  But the part of Gage's brain where damage was assumed by modern writers to have been localized is believed to be the seat of the emotions.  Therefore  - the logic here is unclear to me - his swearing and reviling the heavens could not mean what it means when the rest of us do it.  Damasio gives extensive attention to Gage,  offering the standard interpretation of the reported change in his character.  He cites at some length the case of a "modern Phineas Gage,"  a patient who, while intellectually undamaged, lost "his ability to choose the most advantageous course of action."  Gage himself behaved "dismally" in his compromised ability "to plan for the future, to conduct himself according to the social rules he previously had learned, and to decide on the course of action that ultimately would be most advantageous to his survival."  The same could certainly be said as well of Captain Ahab.  So perhaps Melville meant to propose that the organ of veneration was located in the leg.  My point being that another proper context for the interpretation of Phineas Gage might be others who have suffered gross insult to the body, especially those who have been disfigured by it.  And in justice to Gage, the touching fact is that he was employed continually until his final illness.  No one considers what might have been the reaction of other people to him when his moving from job to job - his only sin besides cursing and irritability - attracts learned disapprobation.

I trouble the dust of poor Phineas Gage only to make the point that in these recountings of his afflictions there is no sense at all that he was a human being who thought and felt, a man with a singular and terrible fate.  In the absence of an acknowledgment of his subjectivity his reaction to this disaster is treated as indicating damage to the cerebral machinery, not to his prospects, or his faith, or his self-love.  It is as if in telling the tale the writers participate in the absence of compassionate imagination, of benevolence, that they posit for their kind And there is another point as well.  This anecdote is far too important to these statements about the mind, and about human nature.  It ought not to be the center of any argument about so important a question as the basis of human nature.  It is too remote in time, too phrenological in its initial descriptions, too likely to be contaminated by sensationalism  to have any weight as evidence.  Are we really to believe that Gage was not in pain during those thirteen years until his death"  How did that terrible exit wound in his skull resolve?  No conclusion can be draw, except that in 1848 a man reacted to severe physical trauma more or less as a man living in 2009 be expected to do.  The stereotyped appearance of this anecdote, the particulars it includes and those whose absence it passes over, and the conclusion that is drawn from it are a perfect demonstration of the difference between parascientific thinking and actual science. 

This is only one of the masterpieces of human observation and elucidation contained in Robinson's essays.   All of those reconstructions of Phineas Gage are acts of imagination,  Robinson's no more than Gazzaniga's or Damasio's,  I'll ask again, whose version of him is more credible, more mindful of what must have been left out and in consideration of the believably of  various features of the near-contemporary accounts in which the story comes down to us.  Who is more exacting in that?  What are the motives involved in the reconstructions of the real man.

And this:

I hadn't known that two verified photographs of Phineas Gage have recently been discovered.   Before now the only image I'd ever seen of him was his shattered skull.  As can be seen, he was a very handsome man even after his accident left him disfigured.  I had also not known that he wasn't merely a laborer on the railroad but a foreman.  He had every reason to believe himself to be a young man of stature, a man who had prospects above the ordinary.   I can only imagine what an adjustment his catastrophic accident must have forced to his self-image.  

The accounts of his change in personality apparently don't square with the facts.  As Marilynne Robinson pointed out, he was continually employed until shortly before his death.  Here's an account of his work history,  which hardly seems like the picture painted in most of the "scientific" uses of him which I've read. 

Fancy and truth 

Most of the accounts of the rest of Phineas’ life paint a picture of a permanently unstable if not an uncontrollable personality. The trouble is they are either gross exaggerations or complete fabrications. None is independently documented. Taken together, these descriptions are of a once-temperate, mild, friendly, and genial Gage who was a favourite with his peers and elders, and who was industrious and reliable. According to them, this Phineas was transformed into a boastful, unpredictable, moody, depraved, slovenly, quarrelsome, aggressive, and drunken bully who had fits of temper, and whose sexuality was impaired. This Phineas is a waster who does not settle down and is unwilling to work. For most of the rest of his life he exhibits himself as a human freak with circuses or on fairgrounds and dies and penniless in an institution.

But what does Harlow, until now almost the only source of information about him, actually tell us? It is that Phineas gave lectures and exhibited himself and his tamping iron throughout New England; worked as an ostler at Jonathan Currier’s Hanover Inn in Dartmouth, NH, for 18 months; and then went to Valparaiso to work as a stage-coach driver. After about another 5-6 years Phineas became ill and returned, probably in 1859, to his family, then resident in San Francisco. After again regaining his health, his mother said he “was anxious to work” and did so as a farm labourer in Santa Clara County. In February 1860 he began to have epileptic seizures and only after they had begun did he become restless, dissatisfied with his employers, moving often from one job to another. The seizures became more frequent and he died in May 1860 of repeated attacks (status epilepticus). Phineas had survived his accident for eleven and a half years.

... Consider the demands of coach-driving: its routine imposes a repetitive and fairly rigid daily structure and a description of the daily tasks of a driver on the very route Phineas may have driven (Valparaiso-Santiago-Valparaiso) clearly shows this. Phineas had little choice over his tasks: he had to rise early in the morning, prepare himself, and groom, feed, and harness the horses; he had to be at the departure point at a specified time, load the luggage, charge the fares and get the passengers settled; and then had to care for the passengers on the journey, unload their luggage at the destination, and look after the horses. The tasks formed a structure that required control of any impulsiveness he may have had.

Even before going to Chile, Phineas seems to have been able to look after himself while travelling and exhibiting himself; he earned enough to be independent, and to work for a long period for Jonathan Currier. The 1850s daguerreotype found by Jack and Beverly Wilgus certainly seems to show a confident Phineas, squarely facing the world. On his return to USA and after recovering, he was anxious to work. Phineas seems only to have become restless and dissatisfied with his employment after the seizures began late in his life. Although my argument is frankly speculative, it is supported by the results of modern rehabilitation programs like those in the BBC Radio 4 Case Study broadcast and discussion on Phineas.

John Fleischman has put this thesis pithily: Phineas “figured out how to live.” The thesis is extremely important for modern sufferers of injuries to the brain. If Phineas could make a social recovery by himself, what are the limits for those in formal rehabilitation programs?

It's hard to believe that someone as erratic as Gage was claimed to be, due to the injury to his brain, could have sustained that work history.  I would guess it would compare quite favorably to many men of his class, in that time who had suffered a far less catastrophic injury and disfigurement.  From what I know about my great-great - grandfathers, his rough contemporaries, it would seem to be fairly typical.   Considering the very strong possibilities that his move to Chile may have necessitated him learning to adapt to many new and puzzling conditions, and the length of his employment in the challenging work as a teamster, I'd expect he must have been quite patient.   It would seem that it was only near the end of his life, as he began to have seizures that he became more erratic.   I wonder if he might not have begun to suffer some form of dementia, the insult his brain had suffered was far more dramatic than those who begin to exhibit early onset dementia.  Fear, anxiety and rage as ones physical capability, memory and reason are failing are reported by those who have only suffered several concussions.  

Much has been made of his previous employers refusal to hire him back on, in face of his frightening accident and seriously altered appearance.  The extent to which the reports of his changed personality could have been self-serving on the part of those employers - it wasn't exactly an age when hiring the handicapped was seen as a moral requirement - should be considered.  Especially in light of his picking up and working at several different difficult jobs.  If he was less amiable to his fellow workers, he could easily have had any kind of expectations of comradeship or workers solidarity shattered by their reaction to someone who no longer had the approval of the bosses  I've known strong union members who were shunned by their fellow workers in the face of a new and unfriendly supervisor, lose a good part of their former confidence in those 

Contrary to the picture of him as a barely in control monster, apparently his family saw him quite differently.   According to Dr. John Martyn Harlow, who attended him after his injury: 

Phin­eas was accus­tom­ed to enter­tain his little neph­ews and niec­es with the most fab­u­lous rec­i­ta­tions of his won­der­ful feats and hair-breadth escapes, without any foun­da­tion ex­cept in his fancy. He con­ceived a great fond­ness for pets and sou­ve­nirs, es­pe­cial­ly for child­ren, hors­es, and dogs—only ex­ceed­ed by his at­tach­ment for his tamp­ing iron, which was his con­stant com­pan­ion for the re­main­der of his life. 

As with his changing jobs several times, his reportedly telling his nieces and nephews tall tales of his adventures is given as proof of some pathological condition, a physiologically explained disinhibition from lying.   If that's the case they would have to account for the myriad of uncles, perhaps including me, who are inclined to stretch the truth in order to retain the attention of our young relatives.  

A lot more could be written about the use of the Phineas Gage case by those who are ideologically motivated to convince us that our minds aren't all that much, anyway.   Going into the little known about Phineas Gage leads me to the opposite conclusion, the will power, the stable sense of self in what must have been as radical a forced alteration of that self-image strong enough to make him interesting to these attempts, leads me to see a real person, a real soul apart from his damaged brain.  But that's possibly due to my pre-existing point of view.  Only mine accounts for his continuing work at demanding jobs, the accounts of his affection for his nieces and nephews and animals, frequently a source of irritation in the best of them, of him squarely facing the camera, a demonstration of a presence of mind, a presence of personality that is rare for daguerreotype portraits of that period.  Of a real person instead of a complicated physical structure and chemical reaction.

My thanks to my cousin T.W. who told me about this recent research this weekend.  

Update:   I forgot to point out that the criticism of Phineas Gage's being "unable to settle", his going from job to job and place to place, traveling around New England, Chile and California, would, in another young man in that period, be seen as an admirable sense of adventure, grit and courage.  Perhaps his accident and the miraculous recovery he had told him to not put off such things because any day could end up with you dead.   How his accident turned that into evidence of pathology might reveal the most about how the predispositions people have, their expectations of what they will see and what we want to see can be as easily entered into "science" and academic scribbling as it can other aspects of thinking and writing.   Perhaps it is due to my father being a fully disabled veteran of the Second World War, of growing up with his blindness and disfigurement being just who my father was, that Gage's adventurousness doesn't look pathological to me.  If my father had the sight of one eye, I can easily imagine him doing the same.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Really Wanted To Write About This Story But It's Nigh on Perfect As It Is

MS. TIPPETT: You also really emphasize the Christian themes of death and resurrection. And I'd like you to talk about really what those words mean for you.

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yeah. I mean, I feel like the Christian life is a life of continual death and resurrection. Also, I think some sectors of Christianity think, well, you're saved and then you're good, right? And then you just lead a really nice life and you're a good person and you're redeemed and you sort of climbed this spiritual ladder so that you're close to God. And that's just not been my experience.

My experience is of that disruption, over and over again, of going along and tripping upon something that I think I know or that I think I'm certain about, and realizing I'm wrong. Or maybe fighting to think I'm right about something over and over and over again until I experience what I call the sort of divine heart transplant. You know, it's like God reaches in and, you know, the prophets speak of this. It's not a polite experience, you know?

MS. TIPPETT: Well, tell — give me an example. Can you think of …

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Oh, gosh. OK. So um, when my church was mostly young adults, and it was sort of, you know, hip, urban young adults. And then I preached at Red Rocks Easter Sunrise services — 10,000 people. And The Denver Post ran a front-page, full-page picture and story about me on preaching at Easter, and about my church and whatnot. And we only had about 40, 45 people every week at this point. And the next week, we doubled in size like overnight.

And we were excited because we were really struggling to grow, but what happened was it was like the wrong kind of people. I mean, it was the wrong kind of different for us, right? Like some churches might freak out if the drag queens show up, but these were like bankers wearing Dockers, right? And we were like …


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: It was not — it wasn't like — I freaked out. This actually isn't a joke. I freaked out. And I kind of went on this little rampage about, like wait a minute. They could show up to any mainline Protestant church in the city and see a room full of people that looked just like them, right? And like, why are they coming — it was almost like, oh, well, this just so neat! Oh, this church is neat! They're so creative! You know, and I just thought you're ruining our thing, man; you are like messing it up. And at the same time, we got evicted, this whole story. We moved …

MS. TIPPETT: Did they come with you?

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: No, no. So we moved and then that was the first service with all the new people, right? And it was like this stately, historic neighborhood instead of the like grungy hipster neighborhood we came from. And I turned to this woman who's like my deacon, and I was like, "We got to get the hell out of this neighborhood because it's attracting the wrong element."


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Like this is — and I would call my friends and I'd rant about it and what am I going to do, and I called one of my friends who has a similar type of church in St. Paul, Minnesota, called House of Mercy. And I called up Russell, and I was like, "Dude, have you ever had normal people take over your church?"

And so I go on this — I tell him the whole story expecting him to be like, man, that sucks, and instead he goes, because our community holds this value of welcoming the stranger, and he goes, "Yeah, you guys are really good at welcoming the stranger when its a young transgender kid, but sometimes the stranger looks like your mom and dad." I was like, you're supposed to be my friend! Click! You know, um, and so I had scheduled this meeting to talk about the demographic change in our community so that the people who are new …

MS. TIPPETT: So just to be clear. So this to you felt like a bit of a death of the dream of what the church had been about.

MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yes, no, completely, because I thought, well, then the people who showed up will find out what the church is about and leave. And then what happened, thank God, is I had that phone call with Russell and had this like God reaching in and pulling out my heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh, like something that was actually warm and beating again.

And we had the meeting and I told that story and the people who were new told us who they were and why they were there so that the people who've been there from the beginning could hear what the church is about. And then everyone went around in a circle and Asher said, "Look, as the young transgender kid who was welcomed into this community, I just want to go on the record as saying I'm glad there's people who look like my mom and dad here, because they love me in a way my mom and dad can't."


MS. BOLZ-WEBER: Yeah, you're clapping, but like that sucked for me, like, I was — I was sure I was right, I was going to fight the fight, I was going to do what needed to be done and then like my heart gets just cold and stony the longer I go on that path every time. So that to me, that's the Christian life. It's always death and resurrection.

Aaron Copland Violin Sonata

Issac Stern Violin
Aaron Copland Piano

I like Copland's chamber music a lot more than I do the orchestral pieces that always get played, some of them to death.  The Violin and Piano Sonatas, the terribly neglected Nonet (which is also on the album this performance was originally released on) the Sextet, are all works that could do with more performance.

For personal reasons I always associate this piece with this time of the year.

Update:  And I still think that of all the composers who were heavily influenced by Copland,  André Previn is the most convincing.

André Previn  Sallie Chisum Remembers Billy The Kid

Elizabeth Reiter, soprano
André Previn, piano

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Someone Asks What Those Songs Mean

I don't speak Cape Verdean Portuguese and I don't have my brother's copy of the the great Cesaria Evora's CD which had translations.  That was the disc I listened to them on while I was waiting for word that my niece was born.  I did find some of them translated into French online so here's my attempt to translate the first of them,  Tudo Tem Se Limite, Everything has a limit, which was especially appropriate for that memory.

Your father was not a stoker,
Nor a charcoal maker,
Not a sailor or a boatman,
A carpenter or a mason,
A baker or a fisherman.
Or, even less so, a day laborer.
You have never known hardship,
Poverty was always a story to you,
You never fought for freedom,
So tell me who you think you are
To judge the reality of our country.

Humble Christians keep silent
And justice for the people is always without voice.
From where you come from,
You insult and mock even God
But under heaven there's a limit to everything.
Your power is not infinite,
Here is Cape Verde.

I Should Stop Reading Salon and Alternet: Your Provocative Idea For Tuesday

In recent brawls with atheists it came to me that if the surveys are right, then atheists have seldom comprised more than a small fraction of the members of any society.  Even in places where they held or hold control -always by force- , they don't seem to be more than a fraction of the population.  Look at how religion sprang back in the former Soviet Union and its occupied countries as soon as the heavy hand of official atheism fell off.  And that was with decades of violent, relentless pressure to destroy religious belief, at times mass slaughter numbering into the tens if not hundreds of thousands and more, indoctrination in the schools and media and through social pressure, etc. 

Yet, given their minority status, in the past century, beginning with the rise of the Soviet Union almost a century ago, atheist governments have managed to rack up some of the greatest body counts of any identifiable group during any similar length of time in human history.  Per capita, it is quite possible that atheists have one of the greatest records if not the actual greatest record for killing, slaughter and oppression of any identifiable human grouping.  

Given that record someone with a scientific or analytical turn of mind might wonder if there was something about atheism that led to that record.  They might look at the words of notable atheists and see what they said about the cost-benefit of having people dead (no, I won't repost my entire archive of pieces on eugenics and related topics, just now)  and the advocacy of notable atheists for violence and mass killing, in the run up to the past century of atheist blood letting and and up till today. 

I mean, if you're going to look at religion that way, it's fair to do the same with atheism.

Update:  I'm told that An averagely intelligent 5th grader would have you pegged as an insufferably obtuse knowitall pompous putz in a nanosecond. 

Which might bother me if I intended to write for "an averagely intelligent 5th grader" instead of an intelligent adult audience.  I'll leave the 5th graders to the guy with the OC for me.  And here I'd always figured he was 12 instead of 10 1/2.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cesaria Evora - D' Nhirim Reforma

Petit Pays

Because Everyone Knows That Liberal Christians Enable Bad Christians. It must be true, I read it on Salon today

Heads I Win Tails You Lose, I Win When The Coin Lands On Its Side, When It Rolls Out of Sight And When I Turn It Over, Too

That is essentially the rule I find is asserted whenever arguing with an atheist on "the question of evil", the alleged inseparability of religion and war, racism, sexism, crime, etc. one of their asserted disproofs of the existence of God.

In the last two or three years the point I've made here a number of times has come to interest me more, that,

1. whereas with most religious folk, at least in the monotheistic religions that we are mandated to hate and despise,  it is a fact that a member of those religions would generally have to violate the most basic teachings of their religion to do serious evil, those religions provide at least that hurdle the evil doer has to to jump over.

2. Atheists don't have even that hurdle of metaphysical moral commandment to overcome in order to do the very things they 
-rightly- slam religious people for doing.

3. It is my experience that when that is pointed out, some atheist will say, "well, of course, atheism doesn't have moral obligations to not do those things, atheism doesn't have any kind of moral code."  As if that makes it superior to religions that DO CONTAIN MORAL CODES AGAINST DOING THE VERY THINGS THE ATHEIST COMPLAINS THAT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE DO!  

Which is ridiculous because, just as religious people have to temporarily evacuate their professed beliefs to do evil forbidden by their religions,


5.  The go-to "question of evil" as asserted by atheists, while quite inadequate to address the "existence" of God,  is a better demonstration of the inadequacy of atheism due to atheism not providing the competence to even name something as being evil in order to make the argument. 

One of the few defenses atheists can make if you refuse to be distracted into not pressing the issue is to claim something along the line of "How could you imagine kindly, sweet, little old, professor (as it generally is) X could ever countenance anything evil?"   Well, the first point is that any system of morality that relies on the disinclination of a contented, well-fed academic atheist to not be moved to commit evil is hardly a major hurdle to those who want to do so, despite having been given a PhD and a professorship*.

I've been to university and grad school, academic life is often like nothing so much as a tank of piranhas.  And if you include, not only the actual commission of evil but, also, the advocacy of it, no, not even that but the RIGHTNESS of it, that hurdle barring academic evil was knocked flat centuries ago.

This was brought to mind by two things, one is my reading one of those wacky, stupid and insane papers by "ethicists", as quite often out of some Australian university, quite often with some kind of connection to the atheist barmpot, Peter Singer, who we are all supposed to hold is some kind of expert on this ethics stuff.   The paper in this case was entitled, After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? and perpetrated by Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, both, I believe from Melbourne University.  It argued that infanticide for a period (unspecified as to how long) should be allowed because neonates and even infants aren't "persons" because they don't match a definition that another barmpot, Michael Tooley, came up with in another paper of the ancient vintage of 1972.  Which, predictably, created a bit of a controversy.  When the critics of Giubilini and Minerva and the editor of Journal of Medical Ethics, Julian Savulescu, got the predictable storm of protests, they were just shocked that people could criticize "ethicists" for merely following up on ideas that people like Peter Singer (identified in the comments as Savulescu's dissertation advisor) Michael Tooley and John Harris.   As this idea has festered among the most ironically named academic profession "Ethicists" for going on half a century, in the English speaking world, proves that the "ethics" fostered among academic atheists today is no better at self appraisal than it was when Ernst Haeckel and Alfred Ploetz were saying similar thing more than a hundred thirty years before.  And if you know the first thing about that, yes, they set such precedents in thought that led to the eugenics and T4 programs of murder that I wrote about a little while ago.   That Peter Singer, with his family history, could promote infanticide doesn't lead me away from thinking that atheism is tied, not only to moral depravity, but fractured thinking and a stupendous inability to learn the most exigent lessons of the most recent and even personally relevant history.

Somewhere in the discussion after the fire storm of protest started the authors claimed that they hadn't advocated that infanticide be made legal, though their article most certainly called for it to be allowed.  How you make that distinction while maintaining a pose of coherence is a curious thing to see, considering that you can already kill babies, only it's illegal if an all too seldom punished crime. I see the whole thing as evidence that the word "Ethicist" today generally means an atheist academic who spends their time thinking of threadbare utilitarian arguments for moral depravity so as to get their names in the news and them on shows like Fresh Air and in the online buzz feed.  I assume everyone here has more than a passing problem with subjecting human beings, if not life in general, to the slippery and often sleazy methods of utilitarianism.  Perhaps more of that in the future.

Later, while researching Michael Tooley online, I came across one of those debates about the existence of God between William Lane Craig and a celebrity atheist.  It was not one of the more interesting ones because Tooley is no Sean Carroll or even Larry Krauss.  In a rather astonishing turn of events, he tried to base his arguments on "the question of evil" which one would assume an academic advocate for murdering babies would not be found credible to make.  I don't believe Craig was gauche enough to point that out, I'm not sure I wouldn't have.


After an adulthood of pretending that it isn't the case, a decade of reading the unedited and edited thinking of atheists forces me to conclude that so much of the depravity that has issued from atheism, from even before Haeckel,  Thomas Huxley, Darwin's circle, Nietzsche's followers, and an enormous number of other names up to and including those named above is a direct result of their atheism, their materialism, the fact that they reject the idea of absolute moral truths and absolute moral obligations.   Infanticide was asserted to be a downright social good by Haeckel and Darwin, something which is an idea which is inescapable in the case of children deemed "unfit" from Natural Selection as they created the theory.

The pretense of academic life, what the alleged value of a university education and the public funding of universities is based in, that it matters in real life, either is true or it isn't.  That ideas presented within academia have the most basic requirement that they cohere also matters or the entire enterprise of academic life is a sheer and total fraud.   Academics can't be allowed to have it both ways, to make claims that something which are a clear moral depravity are good and, indeed, at times are morally required and then to pretend that they didn't intend what they actually presented as having the reliability supposedly gained by peer review and the rest of the sometimes silly and gaudy regalia of academic publication.  

And even more so, I can see no way to pretend that ideas such as that babies who have been born, who have an independent life,  removed from consideration of the rights of their mother to their own bodily autonomy, can be killed at will of the parents are not a direct result of the intellectual and ideological basis from which those who articulate those conclusions work.  

As I noted, we are supposed to despise those officially unfashionable monotheistic religions, because, it is alleged, they kill children, etc.  But the very same atheists who make that accusation against, mostly, Christians,  then turn around and either tolerate the assertion that acts such as infanticide are morally justifiable or assert that it is an actual good.  Atheists demand to have it both ways, in both ways, and that all of those ways be held to benefit atheists and their ideology.

*  I would wonder if, perhaps, in the same why that it is generally asserted that the saintly, pure scientists aren't the ones who produce weapons of mass destruction, environmental disasters, terrible legal and social results, it is those evil engineers who do it, that it will be held that it's those lesser academic beings, instructors, associate profs, etc. who bring academic atheism into dispute.