Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hate Mail - Well, I Thanked The Dolt Didn't I?

I would never have mentioned what was said speculating about my reaction to Max Tegmark's absurd ideas about consciousness - if what he says is true, paradoxically one of the casualties will be the possibility that physical law can be objectively true which would falsify his other big idea - if I hadn't read Peter Woit's review of Tegmark's book last year, along with several, though not all of Woit's links to other peoples' posts about Tegmark.

I'm not going to apologize for being able to use that unsought opportunity to illustrate my contentions in a blog post I wrote before I was notified about the comment and before it was even made.   If people are going to insist on giving me those kinds of opportunities, I'm certainly going to take them.  

As for the other idiots you notify me of, not interested, they provide nothing. 

The New Dark Age of Scientistic Materialism

Note:  See an illustration of what I say in the Update below.

I am still learning a lot about the phenomenon of college educated ignorance and scientific ignorance of the most basic practices of scholarship and even science.  I had little to no idea how bad things were until I went online and read lots of people with degrees, many of them with academic careers in science and other academic topics who are abysmally ignorant and entirely willing to violate the most basic of all rules that we were told were required in tenth grade.   And a lot of those doing that are in my age cohort, this has been building for quite a while.

Understanding how we came to this position isn't easy, one thing I have concluded is that a lot of it is a result of cutting corners and relying on things based on repute instead of rigor.   And there is nothing that fits that bill like anything that can be sold as science.  It doesn't actually have to be scientific, the definition of science, set for such topics as physics and chemistry, were gradually expanded to include the study of life and associated entities which can't possibly be studied successfully or as completely due to the far greater complexity of the subjects of study.   As that study expanded the applications of the methods of science were stretched to an extreme and, with the theory of natural selection and a desire to include such things as behavior and mental activity, it passed the breaking point.  However, I believe largely in the interest of academic politics, what was being done was still called "science" though the methodology was often only a pantomime of what was done in the physical sciences.   And, as theoretical physics extends beyond any practical possibility of confirmation in nature and, more to the point, as physicists and cosmologists have desired to use the authority of science to support their ideological materialism, they've even outdone the psychologists in demanding an exemption from the most basic requirements for doing science.   I've gone through this idea before but it is coming ever more into focus for me.   

Science may be the one area of intellectual activity which has enjoyed the highest repute and, ironically enough, the blindest faith in the history of the species.   Among the educated of today, even those with little to no knowledge or understanding of science and its requirements, the faith in anything called "science" is as absolute as any state religion has ever enjoyed.   The uncomprehending faith in science is ubiquitous, even as the areas of science presented as infallible and entirely reliable are a matter of picking and choosing.  Hardly anyone has a uniform faith in science that is unrelated to either their ideological or, more often, financial interests.   Self-interest trumps even that faith.   Yet, picking and choosing along the way, one of the greatest of all modern sins is to disbelieve in something which either is, actually, reliable science or which enjoys the label of "science" no matter how lacking in reliability it is.  Those who deny the science of human caused climate change will claim "science" in support of their denial, creationists have had to invent their own "science" to support their denial.  But it's as true that much of what is accepted in the conventional canon of science isn't much more founded in the scientific observation and analysis of evidence in the natural universe. 

The classifications of periods of human history is hardly a science, it's not even very sophisticated history.  No period of human history was uniformly dark,  the age called the "enlightenment" has contained some of the darkest, most homicidal acts in the history of our species.  The claims that those dark blots on "enlightenment" are claimed to represent remnants of medieval, mystical, and other allegedly regressive hold-overs of the past when all of them used what was represented to be and widely taken as science as their intellectual foundation.  All of the darkest, most benighted regimes of our time and in the past two hundred years put enormous resources and efforts into science and, especially, the products of science, the level of that usually tied to the economic resources available to the regime and, in the absence of that, mined out of the people living under that regime.  In his quest for nuclear weapons, Zia ul Haq, the former president of Pakistan said that he would pursue the bomb even if it meant the people of Pakistan would be reduced to eating grass.  The despoliation and destruction of entire regions of people in the Soviet union and, in developing catastrophes in such places as Sellafield in Britain and Hanford Washington represent similar phenomena.  

Science, even real science has proven itself able to accommodate the darkest of patrons and the darkest of ideologies.  Scientists have proven themselves to be capable of enjoying, encouraging and even demanding the belief of people in their pronouncements, even those pronouncements which are not in any way understood by those believers.  Every day on comment threads, in blog posts and articles, you can read the same kind of demand made by people whose educations and intellectual formation contain nothing which would permit them to understand what was being said or to choose between the sciency statements of those they support.  That is true even for the most obviously ideological statements which are in no way widely accepted by other scientists or mathematicians, philosophers with relevant competence or others who do understand what is being asserted.   I can just about guarantee you that if I were to land on any comment thread on any blog or web-mag this minute there would be an assertion of that kind made by the most entirely ignorant of people.   I've wasted months of my life arguing with people like that over things like consciousness, abiogenesis, free will, natural selection, multiverse creationism, ... and that doesn't even get to the outright and massively believed in pseudo-sciences such as evolutionary psychology and the social "sciences".   The stupidity of such believers is generally matched with the most massive of conceit and arrogance, which can be amusing to encounter, even as it rapidly becomes tedious.

Being in the midst of a dark age can be exhausting if only intermittently amusing.  But I don't think there's much of a choice because if you suspend rigorous consideration you can get suckered into it, too.  So, I think I'll keep on with what I'm doing.


Max Tegmark, someone is snarking about my speculated reaction to Max Tegmark's most recent attention grabbing star pose of turning consciousness into matter.   Well, I suspect that the idiot who did that knows nothing about Tegmark (who, by the way,  changed his name from Shapiro because he thought it would make him more marketable, an irony in itself) but he unwittingly provided about the best current example of what I said here by doing so.

Peter Woit's blog post on his "Mathematical Universe" is worth reading in so many ways, showing how a first class mathematician applying the standards of science to scientific claims, not to mention mere logic and rigorous analysis, can come away quite skeptical of that.  I think the idea that every possible thing that is calculable existing is a rather silly idea but I can't apply the same level of thought to it that Woit does.

However, the most telling part of the blog post is in the comments where Tegmark's greatest supporter, unlike Woit and other skeptics, hadn't read the book under discussion.

"CJ says:
January 27, 2014 at 10:12 am
Dear Max, it is your behavior that is having the chilling effects not only on this blog, but throughout the entire physics community.

It is quite remarkable that while you are the one with millions upon millions of dollars at your disposal, a professional publicity machine, MIT’s PR department, and legions of Ph.D.-free pop-sci-fanboys, you accuse Peter of being a “creationist” bully for merely reading your book and reflecting on its empty content as a lone individual. To pile irony upon irony, it is also remarkable that while your book does little more than promote a faith-based initiative, which is not testable science, you then have the gall to accuse scientists and objective writers of behaving like religious fanatics.

Max Tegmark’s biggest defender Orin writes, “Peter, I’m afraid I haven’t had the time to read the book yet, but I’m familiar with the material I expect to be in it.”

Max, you do realize that your career is built more on laymen who have not read your book, than on scientists who have?

Orin says:
January 27, 2014 at 11:35 am
Well Peter, this “Ph.D.-free pop-sci-fanboy” has given your blog a fair shake. Specimens in irony like the above only do you a disservice by lending credence to Max’s comparison. Enjoy your echo chamber.

Peter Woit says:
January 27, 2014 at 11:44 am
I hope once you do get around to reading the book under discussion, if you find a non-vacuous argument in it for the MUH or the Level IV multiverse, you return to let me know."

I suppose I should thank the dolt for reminding me of such a good example of what I'm writing about and that there is a tie in to the upcoming Koch bros. financed NOVA 

From Woit's piece, I especially liked this:

"There’s only small part of Tegmark’s book that deals with the testability issue, the end of Chapter 12. His summary of Chapter 12 claims that he has shown:

The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis is in principle testable and falsifiable.

His claim about falsifiability seems to be based on last page of the chapter, about “The Mathematical Regularity Prediction” which is that:

physics research will uncover further mathematical regularities in nature.

This is a prediction not of the Level IV multiverse, but a “prediction” of the idea that our physical laws are based on mathematics. I suppose it’s conceivable that the LHC will discover that at scales above 1 TeV, the only way to understand what we find is not through laws described by mathematics, but, say, by the emotional states of the experimenters. In any case, this isn’t a prediction of Level IV."

Though I think this is far more explanatory as to why he gets as much attention as he does:

"One answer to the question is Tegmark’s talent as an impresario of physics and devotion to making a splash. Before publishing his first paper, he changed his name from Shapiro to Tegmark (his mother’s name), figuring that there were too many Shapiros in physics for him to get attention with that name, whereas “Tegmark” was much more unusual. In his book he describes his method for posting preprints on the arXiv, before he has finished writing them, with the timing set to get pole position on the day’s listing. Unfortunately there’s very little in the book about his biggest success in this area, getting the Templeton Foundation to give him and Anthony Aguirre nearly $9 million for a “Foundational Questions Institute” (FQXi). Having cash to distribute on this scale has something to do with why Tegmark’s multiverse ideas have gotten so much attention, and why some physicists are respectfully reviewing the book."

As Woit mentions, Tegmark would seem to not have an awful lot of use for mathematicians for someone who wants to reduce consciousness to mathematical fluctuations and to give mathematics the ability to determine ultimate reality of things otherwise entirely unobserved.

"A very odd aspect of this whole story is that while Tegmark’s big claim is that Math=Physics, he seems to have little actual interest in mathematics and what it really is as an intellectual subject. There are no mathematicians among those thanked in the acknowledgements, and while “mathematical structures” are invoked in the book as the basis of everything, there’s little to no discussion of the mathematical structures that modern mathematicians find interesting (although the idea of “symmetries” gets a mention). A figure on page 320 gives a graph of mathematical structures which a commenter on mathoverflow calls “truly bizarre” (see here). Perhaps the explanation of all this is somehow Freudian, since Tegmark’s father is the mathematician Harold Shapiro."

Update  2:

Massimo Pigliucci's article which Woit links to leaves me wondering how anyone can take Tegmark seriously.    I mean:

While I have commented positively on ontic structural realism (again, without necessarily buying into it), and more generally on the idea of a “naturalistic” metaphysics (i.e., a metaphysics that takes seriously the best known physics), my conversation with Max Tegmark actually generated more doubts than illumination.

One obvious problem is posed by what it would mean for the world to be “made of” mathematical structures. The notion of mathematical structure is well developed, so that’s not the issue. A structure, strictly speaking, is a property or a group of mathematical objects that attach themselves to a given set. For instance, the set of real numbers has a number of structures, including an order (with any given number being either less or more than another number), a metric (measuring the distance between points in the set), an algebraic structure (the operations of addition and multiplication), and so on.

The problem is in what sense, if any, can a mathematical structure, so defined, actually be the fundamental constituent of the physical world, i.e. being the substance of which chairs, electrons, and so on, are made.

Of course, both Julia and I asked Max that very question, and we were both very unconvinced by his answer. When Tegmark said that fundamental particles, like electrons, are, ultimately mathematical in nature, Julia suggested that perhaps what he meant was that their properties are described by mathematical quantities. But Max was adamant, mentioning, for instance, the spin (which in the case of the electron has magnitude 1/2). Now, the spin of a particle, although normally described as its angular momentum, is an exquisitely quantum mechanical property (i.e., with no counterpart in classical mechanics), and it is highly misleading to think of it as anything like the angular momentum of a macroscopic object. Nevertheless, Julia and I insisted, it is a physical property described by a mathematical quantity, the latter is not the same as the former.

Could it be that theories like MUH are actually based on a category mistake? Obviously, I’m not suggesting that people like Tegmark make the elementary mistake of confusing the normal meaning of words like “objects” and “properties,” or of “physical” and “mathematical.” [I don't know why not, he would certainly seem to do just that.]  But perhaps they are making precisely that mistake in a metaphysical sense?

There are other problems with MUH. For one, several critics of Tegmark’s ideas have pointed out that they run afoul of the seemingly omnipresent (and much misunderstood) Gödel’s incompleteness theorems. Mark Alford, specifically, during a debate with Tegmark and Piet Hut has suggested that the idea that mathematics is “out there” is incompatible with the idea that it consists of formal systems. To which Tegmark replied that perhaps only Gödel-complete mathematical structures have physical existence (something referred to as the Computable Universe Hypothesis, CUH).

This, apparently, results in serious problems for Max’s theory, since it excludes much of the landscape of mathematical structures, not to mention that pretty much every successful physical theory so far would violate CUH. Oops.

It does, actually, get worse after that in Pigliucci's article.  I will point out that I've been critical of both Woit and Pigliucci on ideological grounds but if they've got problems (some of which I can even sort of get) with Tegmark's fashionable ideas, it's wise to take their reservations at least as seriously as you might want to take Tegmark's ideas.   They both know what they're talking about in their areas of expertise and they're saying far less outlandish things than Tegmark.

Friday, May 8, 2015

DEBUSSY ETUDE no.5 Pour les octaves - Maurizio Pollini

And Even More Friday McBrien - The Inconsistencies of Fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is of interest to people today because it has acquired new political power. 'The Moral Majority, for example, exercises considerable influence on elections to the U.S. Congress. Its leader, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, appears on television and in the print media as a significant national figure.

In the Moslem world -- Iran is a dramatic case in point -- Islamic fundamentalism is changing the face of governments and the shape of social life and customs.

To an extent, fundamentalism has made some inroads even in Roman Catholicism. It is ironic that Protestant fundamentalists, once so bitterly anti-Catholic, now find common cause with Catholics on various social issues, e.g, abortion.

Protestant fundamentalism has always been of a biblical kind, based on the premise that all Scripture is inspired (Second Timothy 3:16) and, therefore, also infallible. Scripture alone, as interpreted by fundamentalist authorities, are the measure of truth and moral life.

The Catholic version of fundamentalism is of a doctrinal, not biblical, kind. Catholic fundamentalism is based on the premise that all official Church teachings are, supremely authoritative (if not "inspired"). As such, these official teachings alone, as interpreted by certain Catholic authorities, are the final measure of truth and moral life.

Both kinds of fundamentalism are really based on rational principles, not on the Word of God or divine authority, as they often claim.

Biblical fundamentalism rests its case on Second Timothy 3:16. "All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. . . ."

By a process of rational deduction, not by appeal to Scripture itself, the Protestant fundamentalist concludes that Scripture is infallible (inerrant) and is the exclusive source of divine revelation.

I say "by a process of rational deduction" because the Bible itself nowhere says that it is infallible or inerrant. One has to deduce the principle of inerrancy rationally from the principle of inspiration.

One also has to determines by process of reasoning, not by appeal to Scripture itself, which books are inspired and which are not, which are canonical (ik.e., part of the official "list") and which are uncanonical.

There is no place in the entire Bible where it tells -us how 'we know. which books belong in the Bible and which do not.

Neither is there any place in the entire Bible where it says that everything written in the Bible is unfailingly accurate, in every historical detail.

Nor does it say anywhere in the Bible that the bible is central, or exclusively authoritative, for Christian faith and life. Second Timothy 3:16 says only that Scripture is "profitable" for teaching, etc.

Nor is there any evidence in the bible itself that Jesus ever sanctioned the New Testament, although his reverence for the Old Testament is clear.

Indeed, there was no New Testament in the early church, and yet there existed Christian faith and Christian life. The New Testament came after the Church, not before. The Church produced the bible, not vice-versa.

For Protestant fundamentalism principles ("fundamentals") are primary; people are secondary. And yet the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25) suggests that we are to be judged not by our adherence to principles but by our behavior toward one another.

Catholic fundamentalism, of a doctrinal rather than of a biblical kind, labors under similar inconsistencies. Catholic fundamentalism, too, is rationalistic in the sense that its main principles, or fundamentals, are derived through reason, not through direct appeal to doctrine itself.

Nowhere is there any official list of doctrines which the Church officially and infallibly requires every Catholic to accept.

The Church doesn't even provide us with a list of dogmas, i.e., with a list of infallible teachings. We know a few, but not all. We have to deduce them rationally, i.e., by a process of theological reflection.

Nowhere does the Church officially, much less infallibly, teach that Church doctrine alone is the source of truth for our faith and life.

Nowhere does the Church officially and infallibly teach that doctrines are always the last word in any disputed matter.

Nowhere does Jesus himself refer to a set of doctrines as the core of the Gospel or as the final test of fidelity to his call to accept and practice the Gospel.

Indeed, the early Church got along for centuries with no, or very few, doctrinal pronouncements.

The point of this essay is not to suggest that the Bible is unimportant to Christian faith and life, or that doctrine is similarly insignificant. On the contrary.

Our concern, rather, has been to underline the radical inconsistency: of the fundamentalist positions, Protestant and Catholic alike. Both claim divine authority for their social, political, and ecclesiastical views. But, in fact, both rely on rationally deduced principles to support those views.

Fundamentalism is, indeed, a form of rationalism. Its appeal to divine authority is superficially compelling, but ultimately without warrant.

Fr. Richard C. McBrien,  5 / 15 / 1981

Fundamentalism I and II - Richard McBrien on Fridays

Note:  I'm glad to say that the situation in the Vatican is far different under Pope Francis than it was under John Paul II, when this article and the one it refers to were written.

The issue of fundamentalism comes up frequently online since it is part of the neo-atheist program to pretend that either all religious belief is fundamentalist or that fundamentalism is the only genuine form of religion.  The self-serving aspect of that insistence is pretty clear in that fundamentalism, along with cults of idols and material gods are among the easiest of religious ideas to refute.  That anywhere from many hundreds of millions to billions of religious people aren't fundamentalists and believe in an uncreated, non-material God is among the biggest frustrations of both fundamentalists and neo-atheists.


Too many people -- politicians and ordinary citizens alike -- continue to refer to the "war on terror" as if terrorism were the enemy. As a number of more careful commentators have pointed out, terrorism is simply the deadly means employed by the enemy; it is not itself the enemy. 

The real and immediate enemy is Islamic fundamentalism. Not Islam as such, but Islamic fundamentalism. To be sure, the all-encompassing problem is fundamentalism of every kind, in whatever religious tradition it is found.

Religious fundamentalism flourishes, for example, within Shi'ite and Wahabist Islam, within ultra-orthodox and orthodox Judaism (the Haredim and Hasidim), within so-called Bible-belt Protestantism, and increasingly, in recent decades, within Roman Catholic traditionalist circles as well.

Of course, fundamentalism is a complex phenomenon, having been the subject of serious and sustained study by Martin Marty, emeritus professor of Church history at the University of Chicago, and his former student and current Notre Dame professor, R. Scott Appleby, who co-edited a highly regarded five-volume series on the topic. 

Given the general focus and audience of this column, however, its attention will be directed mainly to Catholic fundamentalism, with the hope that its broader ecumenical and inter-faith implications will be evident.

One of the best articles ever written on the subject of Catholic fundamentalism appeared over 17 years ago in the Jesuit weekly, America (4/11/87). It was entitled, "The Rise of Catholic Fundamentalism." Its author, Father Patrick M. Arnold, S.J., has since died. 

So impressive was his piece that I devoted an entire column to it. I think it worthwhile now, if only as a memorial to Father Arnold, to reproduce the main points of his article. It stands up very well indeed to the passage of years.

Like all careful and insightful observers of the fundamentalist scene, Father Arnold took care to distinguish between fundamentalism and conservatism, with which it is often confused, to the detriment of conservatism.

Conservatism, he insisted, fulfills a necessary and constructive role in the Church and in society alike. It is concerned with preserving a community's historical heritage, especially in times of cultural change. It urges a cautious approach, as captured, for example, in the familiar saying: "Look before you leap." 

Fundamentalism, on the other hand, is neither necessary nor constructive. Working out of an absolutist perspective, it sees the world as filled with evil forces conspiring against everything that it regards -- with unquestioned certitude -- as true and good.

Father Arnold identified five unhealthy characteristics of religious fundamentalism in general and of Catholic fundamentalism in particular.

First, it is marked by paranoia and self-righteousness. There is always some terrible enemy out there that has to be fought and ultimately destroyed.

Fundamentalism is marked, secondly, by fear and rage directed not only against the enemy outside the ranks but even more intensely against the enemy within, including bishops, priests, sisters, and theologians.

Father Arnold called this "the most revealing and dangerous characteristic" of fundmentalists because it leads them to engage in divisive activities. They spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to purge people, to get them fired, to destroy their reputations and, therefore, their influence.

Fundamentalists are captivated, thirdly, by the "myth of the Golden Age." They imagine that Catholicism in the decades just before Vatican II was in its pristine and ideal state, exactly as God intended it to be, without problems or deficiencies of any kind.

For the fundamentalist, fourthly, all truth is to be found in a single source. For the Muslim, it is the Koran. For the Jew, the Torah. For Protestants, the Bible. And for Catholics, the pronouncements of the pope and the Roman Curia.

Fifthly, religious fundamentalists tend to link themselves with right-wing political regimes and movements in the hope of advancing their own theocratic policies. Accordingly, Catholic fundamentalists are unenthusiastic about Catholic social teaching. They tend instead to emphasize a limited range of other issues as if they were primary.

Less than two years later, another Jesuit scholar, Father John Coleman, addressed the same topic in Commonweal magazine, linking today's Catholic fundamentalists with the Integralist movement of the early-20th century. The Integralists also claimed that the most dangerous enemies of the Church are within, and that the way to deal with them is through censorship, repression, and even excommunication.

Father Coleman offered some examples: Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, Opus Dei in Spain and around the world, and Catholics United for the Faith and the Wanderer Forum in the United States.

Not since the pontificate of Pius X (1903-14), when the Integralists flourished, have groups of this type enjoyed such favor at the highest levels of the Vatican. 


In late July, 1985, I devoted a column to "the threat of Catholic fundamentalism." I suggested that fundamentalism may pose the most immediate risk to Catholic faith in the United States today, pointing to the thousands of ex-Catholics who now belong to the Jehovah's Witnesses and various other fundamentalist, evangelical, and Pentecostal churches.

I quoted a prominent Catholic biblical scholar who had observed that the number of Catholics who have been lost to the Church because of Hans Kueng could hold a convention in a telephone booth, but the number lost because of fundamentalism is in the thousands.

I did not identify my source at the time. It was the late Father Raymond Brown, one of the Church's most distinguished New Testament scholars, who is sorely missed by all who have benefitted from his many writings and lectures.

Regrettably, the pastoral situation today is little different from what it was in mid-1985. Many Catholics continue to come under the sway of Protestant fundamentalists and they are still defenseless against their attractively simplistic interpretations of Sacred Scripture. 

The fact also remains that the modern Catholic biblical renewal, promoted initially by Pope Pius XII in his landmark 1943 encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu, and reinforced by the Second Vatican Council two decades later, has made no impact at all on a very large portion of the Catholic community. It is as if the renewal never happened.

I proposed in that column, some 19 years ago, that the U.S. Catholic bishops should write a pastoral letter to address the problem. To be sure, it was a time when the bishops' conference was still capable of achieving sufficient consensus to produce substantive and compelling documents on a wide range of major topics, including war and peace (in 1983) and the state of the U.S. economy in the light of Catholic social teaching (in 1986).

Soon after my column appeared, the bishops' conference established an Ad Hoc Committee on Biblical Fundamentalism, which issued a "Pastoral Statement for Catholics on Biblical Fundamentalism" in September, 1987. (For the full text, see Origins, November 5, 1987). 

"Fundamentalism," the statement pointed out, "indicates a person's general approach to life which is typified by unyielding adherence to rigid doctrinal and ideological positions -- an approach that affects the individual's social and political attitudes as well as religious ones."

The bishops urged the creation of a pastoral plan to enhance understanding of the Bible at the parish level by encouraging better homilies that apply the biblical texts to daily living, by providing better preparation for lectors at Mass, and by insuring that the content of religious education programs is solidly biblical at its core.

The chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee happened to be at the time my archbishop in Hartford, Connecticut, the late John F. Whealon, a biblical scholar in his own right. It was Archbishop Whealon who informed me that my column had been the catalyst for the formation of the committee and for the issuance of the statement on biblical fundamentalism.

He and his brother bishops were aware, of course, that there is more to Catholic fundamentalism than its uncritical use of the Bible. Their statement noted that fundamentalism also involves "rigid doctrinal and ideological positions" that affect "social and political attitudes as well as religious ones."

For an understanding and effective critique of this broader notion of Catholic fundametalism, there is no better resource than a 100-page paperback by my former Notre Dame colleague, Father Thomas F. O'Meara, O.P, Fundamentalism: A Catholic Perspective (Paulist Press, 1990). Unfortunately, the book is out of print.

I highlighted its many positive features in my column for the week of May 18, 1990, and subsequently compressed its central points in my book, Catholicism, which is still very much in print. 

"Catholic fundamentalism, [O'Meara] suggests, is a corruption of Catholic values, especially of sacramentality. It sees the world as evil and dangerous, forgetting that God is its Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

"It limits the manifestation of grace to the extraordinary and even the bizarre, forgetting that God is present to ordinary people, in ordinary situations of life. And it limits access to God's grace to a chosen few, the righteous within the larger community of the unrighteous, forgetting that God wishes to save all and has won salvation for all in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ" (Catholicism, p. 94).

"Fundamentalism," Father O'Meara shrewdly observed, "is not a conservative attitude, for it rejects every past but the one it rigidly honors."

So much that is regarded as conservatism in the Church today is not conservative at all. It is fundamentalism. 

The bishops' statement is still pertinent.

Ignorant Armies Clash By Monitor Light

I was informed at Salon that looking for a citation for the libel of Sam Harris, that Christian missionaries in the New World would baptize Native Americans then kill them so they could go to heaven was an example of "obsessive compulsive disorder".    Just so you can see how much darker this dark age is going to be than the last one, so denominated, even the most basic aspect of research is now considered pathological when what is found isn't liked or what was wanted to be true isn't supported.

This is the result of the always business based concentration on the STEM subjects, apparently, that the most basic methodology of research seems like diseased thinking among the young and sciency.   I ran into another example of something similar but am waiting to see how it works out.

It all reminds me of Dover Beach

Dover Beach  by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

I don't think it's necessary to give up like Arnold did due to the arrogant refusal to admit that, in the end, finding a way out of his dismal vision required the choice to move out of the darkness. And it required faith, just as it required faith of a different and more facile kind to go into the dark.   Arrogance, pride, vainglory and even nationalism were what I think led Arnold there, though he clearly knew better.    Which reminds me of nothing so much as West London as set by Charles Ives.

Colleen Philp - soprano
Ann Muir - piano

Thursday, May 7, 2015

George Philippe Telemann - Concerto in e minor for Flute and Recorder

Flute - Georgia Browne
Recorder - Ian Wilson
Violins - Tuomo Suni, Hilary Michael
Viola - Emma Alter
Cello - Harriet Wiltshire
Double bass - Kate Aldridge
Harpsichord - David Goode

One for NTodd, one of the wildest of the baroque concertos.

The Unformation Age

Before I go off to do some much neglected garden work - it decided to skip spring and go from winter to summer around here -  I've got to share the, so far, best try to answer my accusation that Sam Harris was lying, as detailed below.

One "happyhaze" says, at Salon:

happyhaze 54 minutes ago

Sam may have gotten the details wrong, but this account --from Bartoleme de Las Casas, Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies. (1542)--is even worse than his 'fable'. 

From that time onward the Indians began to seek ways to throw the Christians out of their lands. They took up arms, but their weapons were very weak and of little service in offense and still less in defense. (Because of this, the wars of the Indians against each other are little more than games played by children.) And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers' breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, "Boil there, you offspring of the devil!" Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim's feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. To others they attached straw or wrapped their whole bodies in straw and set them afire. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them round the victim's neck, saying, "Go now, carry the message," meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains. They usually dealt with the chieftains and nobles in the following way: they made a grid of rods which they placed on forked sticks, then lashed the victims to the grid and lighted a smoldering fire underneath, so that little by little, as those captives screamed in despair and torment, their souls would leave them....

I'm not exactly certain of the chronology but I think after he read my response pointing out that de las Casas was a Catholic missionary, he said:

happyhaze 44 minutes ago
@Anthony_McCarthy I say "worse" because there is no calculation of the infant victims going to heaven. 

On the other hand, this was not the work of missionaries as such. Just xtians of the ghastly strata. Believable because de las Casas was a man of the cloth and major source for eyewitness accounts of events of the time; and because Spain gave us Torquemada, who set the bar for religious loopy pretty low. 

If this is the story in Sam's mind, based on a much earlier reading of the account, his recall may have been inaccurate. 

So, citing A CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, believed to be the earliest advocate for the human rights of the natives of the Americas, calling out the crimes against them by the conquistadors, the earliest opponent of slavery in the Americas, who DIDN'T SAY WHAT SAM HARRIS CLAIMED in support of his condemnation of CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES on a charge that they baptized, then murdered them so they would go to heaven.  

Welcome to the unformation age, where truth isn't just optional, it's meaningless, logical coherence is replaced by convenience and lies don't matter if you can get away with them among people who don't care as long as they like the lie.  And all brought to you by the champions of sciency, evidency, simulated reality.   Throwing in Torquemada doesn't do anything but send up a smoke screen to mask the lie.

I'm Calling Harris Out As A Liar Until A Citation is Provided

I have been looking for a documentary source for the accusation Sam Harris made, to the effect that Christian missionaries in the New World would baptize infants and then murder them to send their souls to heaven and have found nothing.

Without him providing documentation I'm left with the belief that it is a sensational lie that he invented, himself.  Which, apparently, no one else would seem to have noticed.  Perhaps that is because in the neo-atheist period that Harris did so much to incite, no lie would seem to be too extreme or too absurd to not tell and be believed by people who consider themselves to be intellectually sophisticated, at least when those being lied about are Christians or Muslims. Though other religious denominations are lied about with abandon by atheists, lies told about other groups are more likely to be refuted, in my experience, at least.

Which is more than a bit ironic, considering that, in the west the main advocates for the killing of live born children in the modern period and up to today have been atheists.  I have documented, at the first of those links, from their own words, in their own books published as science, such heroes of many atheists as Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel advocating infanticide as a benefit to the general population.   In the inverted morality of atheist "ethics" from such as Peter Singer and Michael Tooley, murdering infants is considered as a form of salvation, for the infant, relief of a presumed bad life due to disability.  Even more than that, some of these "ethicists" propose that an infant not be considered a human being and leaving it to the discretion or just merely the choice of parents whether or not they want to be bothered with the child, allowing them to kill it up to a sometimes unspecified age.

Which brings us right back to the beginnings of the Christian era when it was only with Christianity becoming politically potent in the Mediterranean region that it became illegal to murder infants, infanticide by various means having been endemic to many local and even imperial cultures. The murder of disabled children was routine, that of girls about as routine.  It was in, first, the Jewish Law and later in Christianity that the practice was banned in many places.   It is still widespread and a major form of violation of rights committed against one of the most easily discriminated against groups in the world because they are not articulate and are powerless.  I would like to know of any organized atheist effort to oppose infanticide.  But, then, I'd like citations to support a lot of what the Sam Harrises of the world say.

Despite the tale told by Harris, in recent years it has been Christian missionaries such as those in Brazil who have met resistance when they tried to call attention to the practice of infanticide in some indigenous groups in the Amazon, though I don't think their decision to issue a video dramatization of the practice was the wisest way to do it.  I don't know enough about that particular group's history and motives to judge their missionary activity but I do know that opposing a traditional form of murder is a worth while thing to do.  I don't see that it is an old custom is a valid reason to not oppose it.  Just about every single thing that the concept of rights were considered over and struggled for addressed long standing customs and cultural habits of thought and life.  The idea that even the "untouched by modern thought" isolated cultures don't change all on their own and are some kind of living museum peopled by the people who live in them is ridiculous and condescending.

I mentioned a while back that I was reading about the history of the blood libel, which, I have to conclude, isn't unrelated to this issue.  I hope to be able to write about it later this week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Debussy - Masques - Lazare Levy

I found this recording online years ago and have regarded it is the greatest performance of Debussy's music I've ever heard.  I only wish the quality of the recording matched the playing.

Sam Harris Takes On The Tall Trees And Gets Tangled In The "Weeds" A Report From The New Dark Age of "Science"

The exchange of e-mails initiated by Sam Harris and, rather obviously, reluctantly entered into by Noam Chomsky was rather revealing of a number of things, none of them to the benefit of Sam Harris.   That Harris was looking to use Chomsky in his self-generated publicity, what his public career largely consists of, is, I think, rather obvious.  That Chomsky clearly realized this was Harris's goal is, I think as obvious.   Here is how the published (Harris was the one who published it) exchange began:

April 26, 2015
From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

I reached out to you indirectly through Lawrence Krauss and Johann Hari and was planning to leave it at that, but a reader has now sent me a copy of an email exchange in which you were quite dismissive of the prospect of having a “debate” with me. So I just wanted to clarify that, although I think we might disagree substantially about a few things, I am far more interested in exploring these disagreements, and clarifying any misunderstandings, than in having a conventional debate.

If you’d rather not have a public conversation with me, that’s fine. I can only say that we have many, many readers in common who would like to see us attempt to find some common ground. The fact that you have called me “a religious fanatic” who “worships the religion of the state” makes me think that there are a few misconceptions I could clear up. And many readers insist that I am similarly off-the-mark where your views are concerned.

In any case, my offer stands, if you change your mind.


April 26, 2015
From: Noam Chomsky
To: Sam Harris

Perhaps I have some misconceptions about you.  Most of what I’ve read of yours is material that has been sent to me about my alleged views, which is completely false.  I don’t see any point in a public debate about misreadings.  If there are things you’d like to explore privately, fine.  But with sources.

And what ensues is a repeated statement of misreadings by Sam Harris of things Noam Chomsky said, of Harris inventing things for Chomsky to have said, Chomsky's corrections and Harris's continual insistence on not understanding what he's saying.  It goes on and on, clearly Chomsky knows what I have learned about interacting with the Sam Harrises of the world, that their goal is to get the last word in, figuring that means they win.  I think the entire thing was initiated by Harris in the misguided belief that he could raise his stature by getting Chomsky to talk to him*. 

The exchange, which really has to be read to be believed, reveals what any long term reader of Harris should have already known.   He's an intellectual lite-weight, dishonest and, unsurprisingly, given those, base in his motives and goals. 

Chomsky, wise and clearly familiar with the Harris style of discourse,  included the condition that any exchange they had would be "with sources".  And Harris included a chapter from his "End of Faith" (it is too long to include here but you can read it at the link) which, as Chomsky was able to show, misrepresented him through dishonest characterization, distortion and, what I have found most typical of this kind of discourse, misrepresenting more complex ideas through dishonest simplification and classification.   Chomsky is able to refute what Harris said, which should have been the end of the exchange:

April 26, 2015
From: Noam Chomsky
To: Sam Harris

The example that you cite illustrates very well why I do not see any point in a public discussion.

Here’s the passage to which you refer:

Or take the destruction of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, one little footnote in the record of state terror, quickly forgotten. What would the reaction have been if the bin Laden network had blown up half the pharmaceutical supplies in the U.S. and the facilities for replenishing them? We can imagine, though the comparison is unfair, the consequences are vastly more severe in Sudan. That aside, if the U.S. or Israel or England were to be the target of such an atrocity, what would the reaction be? In this case we say, “Oh, well, too bad, minor mistake, let’s go on to the next topic, let the victims rot.” Other people in the world don’t react like that. When bin Laden brings up that bombing, he strikes a resonant chord, even among those who despise and fear him; and the same, unfortunately, is true of much of the rest of his rhetoric.

Though it is merely a footnote, the Sudan case is nonetheless highly instructive. One interesting aspect is the reaction when someone dares to mention it. I have in the past, and did so again in response to queries from journalists shortly after 9-11 atrocities. I mentioned that the toll of the “horrendous crime” of 9-11, committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty” (quoting Robert Fisk), may be comparable to the consequences of Clinton’s bombing of the Al-Shifa plant in August 1998. That plausible conclusion elicited an extraordinary reaction, filling many web sites and journals with feverish and fanciful condemnations, which I’ll ignore. The only important aspect is that single sentence—which, on a closer look, appears to be an understatement—was regarded by some commentators as utterly scandalous. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that at some deep level, however they may deny it to themselves, they regard our crimes against the weak to be as normal as the air we breathe. Our crimes, for which we are responsible: as taxpayers, for failing to provide massive reparations, for granting refuge and immunity to the perpetrators, and for allowing the terrible facts to be sunk deep in the memory hole. All of this is of great significance, as it has been in the past.

It goes on to review the only evidence available—we do not investigate our crimes, indeed bar investigation of them—which is from quite credible sources, estimating that casualties might well have been in the tens of thousands.

Your response is interesting both for what it does not say and what it does say.  What it does not do is answer the question raised: “What would the reaction have been if the bin Laden network had blown up half the pharmaceutical supplies in the U.S. and the facilities for replenishing them? We can imagine, though the comparison is unfair, the consequences are vastly more severe in Sudan. That aside, if the U.S. or Israel or England were to be the target of such an atrocity, what would the reaction be?”

Anyone who cites this passage has the minimal responsibility to give their reactions.  Failure to do so speaks volumes.

Let’s turn to what you did say—a disquisition on “moral equivalence.” You fail to mention, though, that I did not suggest that they were “morally equivalent” and in fact indicated quite the opposite.  I did not describe the Al-Shifa bombing as a “horrendous crime” committed with “wickedness and awesome cruelty.” Rather, I pointed out that the toll might be comparable, which turns out on inquiry (which is not undertaken here, and which apologists for our crimes ignore), turns out to be, quite likely, a serious understatement.

You also ignored the fact that I had already responded to your claim about lack of intention—which, frankly, I find quite shocking on elementary moral grounds, as I suspect you would too if you were to respond to the question raised at the beginning of my quoted comment.  Hence it is simply false to assert that your “basic question” is one that “Chomsky seems to have neglected to ask himself.” Quite the contrary, I asked myself right away, and responded, appropriately I believe, to your subsequent charges.  The following is from Radical Priorities, 2003.

Most commentary on the Sudan bombing keeps to the question of whether the plant was believed to produce chemical weapons; true or false, that has no bearing on “the magnitude with which the aggression interfered with key values in the society attacked,” such as survival. Others point out that the killings were unintended, as are many of the atrocities we rightly denounce. In this case, we can hardly doubt that the likely human consequences were understood by US planners. The acts can be excused, then, only on the Hegelian assumption that Africans are “mere things,” whose lives have “no value,” an attitude that accords with practice in ways that are not overlooked among the victims, who may draw their own conclusions about the “moral orthodoxy of the West.”

Perhaps you can reciprocate by referring me to what I have written citing your published views.  If there is anything I’ve written that is remotely as erroneous as this—putting aside moral judgments—I’ll be happy to correct it.

In his response to that Harris proves my point about his mode of thinking by starting by complaining, in effect, that what Chomsky said is too detailed for him to make into a facile squib useful for his purpose.  No doubt Harris is aware of the level of thinking among his readers, of the kind who seem to spend most of their time spreading his style of hate-talk discourse on comment threads.  

April 27, 2015
From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

We appear to be running into the weeds here. Let me just make two observations, before I recommend a fresh start:.... 

I think an accurate translation of "running into the weeds" would be the all too familiar first semester Freshman whine, "But that's haaarrrrrd!"  though older folks on internet comment threads often say "word salad" instead.   The insistence on brevity due to a widespread lack of attention span would seem to be taken as a valid intellectual practice among lots of people with college and graduate degrees these days, even when the issues under consideration can't be honestly reduced to suit their phony debate rule. 

I do recommend you go through the entire exchange and you might want to look at some of the comment threads in the many places where this exchange has been copied from Harris's website.  Harris wrung a clearly reluctant permission to publish it from Chomsky, clearly believing that by publishing it he was demonstrating that he was on the same intellectual level as Chomsky when the substance of what was said by both proves that intellectually, he's still in training pants.  

Which adds weight to my conclusion that what we see in this kind of thing, especially the pretensions of the neo-atheism that Harris did so much to incite, a new dark age which, despite whatever you might believe, is actually conducted at a far, far lower level of intellectual practice than medieval discourse, being sciency and media savvy taking the place of logical rigor and familiarity with the contents of what is under discussion.  There are lots and lots of people who maintain that Harris won the argument, a lot of them citing Chomsky's detailed seriousness, articulate mastery of detail and completeness in their declaration, he loses. 


In a footnote to that chapter of his major opus, Harris says:

 47, Are intentions really the bottom line? What are we to say, for instance, about those Christian missionaries in the New World who baptized Indian infants only to promptly kill them, thereby sending them to heaven? Their intentions were (apparently) good. Were their actions ethical? Yes, within the confines of a deplorably limited worldview. The medieval apothecary who gave his patients quicksilver really was trying to help. He was just mistaken about the role this element played in the human body. Intentions matter, but they are not all that matters.

I would like a citation of where that bit of atheist lore comes from because I looked for more than an hour this morning and I can't find it.   I doubt it ever happened, it would have 1. been entirely a violation of the teachings of Jesus, of his apostles, of the entire prophetic traditions and the teachings of the Catholic church and every other Christian church I've ever heard of, 2. if true, far more certainly and commonly documented than I'm finding it is.  No opportunity to reveal the sins of Christianity would go so unsourced as this one would seem to be.   What did Harris base his claim on?  

*  A similar tactic to the one H. Allen Orr noted Daniel Dennett was rather frustrated to not have been able to take when Stephen J. Gould and others ignored his provocative statements. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Haiku For A Hate Mailer

If what has been tried 
Were going to win the fight
It would have by now. 

The Use Of A Ten-Year-Old Girl's Life By Church, State and Unrelated Ideologues In Other Places

It should be a given that no ten-year-old girl should be pregnant and that carrying a pregnancy to full term for any girl of that age is a life endangering situation and so any girl in that situation should have access to an abortion performed by a doctor under hygienic conditions.  I have no doubts that the law should allow that and that medical care is a human right that such a girl should have access to. No law, anywhere should mandate that any ten-year-old girl remain pregnant.  Any man who impregnates a girl too young to give adult consent to sex is guilty of rape and authorities who don't intervene when they're informed of a man raping a child are as guilty as the rapist.  That also needs to be said in regard to this case.  Every adult person has an absolute right to determine what happens in their own body that no other person or group of people has a right to intervene in.  And that in cases of children or those unable to make a rational, adult decision on their own behalf will have to have those decisions made by responsible adults who have their welfare as their first consideration.   That is where I start on this.

The news story about the ten-year-old girl who is being denied an abortion in Paraguay is certainly full of awful features, a lot of those in the laws governing abortion in Paraguay, and is certainly ripe for ideological use.  That is what it is here, something used in an ideological campaign when it should be about the life and health of the girl, not about the use to which she can be made in the United States and other countries where such a child could have a legal abortion under safe conditions.  Its use here centers on slamming the Catholic church, who have gotten far worse treatment than the civil authorities in Paraguay have, those with the legal ability to allow an abortion in this case.  Which tells us a lot more about us here than it does about Paraguay or this situation.  That it is a matter of the girl's life would seem to matter less than why her life is in danger to most of the people talking about it than that the denial of an abortion.  You have to wonder how many ten-year-old girls' lives are in danger in the United States, today, due to denial of entirely legal medical treatment for conditions other than being pregnant when it is a question of ability to pay, all with no similar outcry.  Not to mention such girls in Paraguay.   The interest in a lot of people is in being able to use this to slam religion, specifically the Catholic church, the actual welfare of the girl is secondary.

Again, it should be a given that no ten-year-old girl should be pregnant and that carrying a pregnancy to full term for any girl that you is a life endangering situation and so any girl in that situation should have access to an abortion performed by a doctor under hygienic conditions.   The situation in Paraguay is appalling, that a girl who is pregnant should have access to a safe abortion is obvious and its banning in a case like this is a violation of rights.  There can be no reasonable case made that the law should prevent it.

In the case in the news from Paraguay the use of it in the United States and Britain (which I mention only because I'm relying on an article from The Guardian), apparently, is to present another reason to vent against the Catholic Church, the church of well over 85% of the population of Paraguay.  Even in the most restrictive interpretation of Catholic teaching on abortion, one is allowed if the life of the woman is in danger.  From the little I've been able to find on the law in Paraguay, it would seem to me that an abortion is also allowed under those circumstances.  In this case that decision is being made by doctors and, ultimately, civil authorities.

“Right now, there is no reason to interrupt the pregnancy,” Lida Sosa, director of healthcare programs at the ministry of public health and wellness, said. “In fact, given the stage of the pregnancy, it’s even more dangerous for the girl to undergo a procedure [to abort] without a well-considered medical, obstetrical evaluation.”

Since this issue is being used here mostly to slam the Catholic church, I'll point out that it was the civil authorities who didn't intervene to prevent the rape of the girl by her step-father who was certainly doing things that the Catholic church teaches are seriously wrong.  I have looked and can't find any report that the mother, the step-father or the girl were Catholics or even religious.  I have looked at the constitution of Paraguay**, there is legal separation of church and state and no religion is given legal power, though, as always, there is no way to prevent religion having political influence through the beliefs of the people.

I can't imagine any circumstance under which a pregnancy in a ten year old girl isn't a life threatening situation but, then, like most of the rest of the people who are commenting on this, I'm not a doctor, I've never so much as seen the girl and I haven't heard what she thinks about the situation*.  In this case the girl's mother was the one who is presented as asking for an abortion and I think that given the girl's age that she is probably the one who should make the ultimate decision on her daughter's behalf.  The situation is complicated because she is being targeted by the authorities for not having prevented the rape of her daughter by the girl's step-father, an outrage in itself as the woman tried to report the man to police last year and they did nothing.  He's reported to be "on the run".  I have no way of knowing what level of responsibility for the situation falls on the girl's mother, if she was entirely blameless or did act irresponsibly.  I doubt any of those commenting on this situation know more about that than I do.  However, focusing on her as opposed to finding the clearly guilty step-father is appalling optics, and that's the least bad thing you can say about it.

What do the people here imagine they're going to accomplish by using this story to slam a religion which is not going to change its policy that a fetus, an embryo is a human being and that having an abortion is killing a human being.  They aren't going to convert the Catholic population of Paraguay to some other belief, in a lot of places in Latin America, when Catholics have left the Catholic church it is to some kind of fundamentalist protestant church which is far less friendly to women and their rights.  Though that varies from place to place.  You should be careful for what you wish for because what you get as a result might not be what you want.

While I am certain some of the people writing about this and similar awful situations are sincerely interested in the lives and welfare of the girls and women involved, , especially many feminists, I am just as certain that most of those I'm reading about it couldn't care less about them.  For such people it's not about the rights of girls and women, it's about the use to which they can be put for their own, unrelated agendas.  As I said, this situation is full of awful features.  I'd just like the awful features concentrated on all have the rights and conditions of the girls and women as their real focus.

*  What would be the right thing to do if the girl wanted to continue with the pregnancy?   My inclination would be that, at that age, she should certainly not be the one making such a vitally important medical decision, though the idea of forcing an abortion on such a girl is certainly not untroubling.  What if the mother didn't want her to have an abortion?   Who should make the decision then?   I ask that because of an argument I got into over the sterilization of a young woman who was profoundly intellectually disabled and barely able to function at the level of a four year old but who was, none the less, attractive to men who would take advantage of her.  These aren't easy issues in many cases but there is no way to think you can come to any kind of easy, clear comprehensive conclusions about them.


Quedan reconocidas la libertad religiosa, la de culto y la ideológica, sin más limitaciones que las establecidas en esta Constitución y en la ley. Ninguna confesión tendrá carácter oficial.

Las relaciones del Estado con la iglesia católica se basan en la independencia, cooperación y autonomía.  

Se garantizan la independencia y la autonomía de las iglesias y confesiones religiosas, sin más limitaciones que las impuestas en esta Constitución y las leyes.

Nadie puede ser molestado, indagado u obligado a declarar por causa de sus creencias o de su ideología.

That means that, far from the ultimate authority for making the legal decision preventing the girl from obtaining an abortion resting with the Catholic church, as is being said all over the English language blogosphere, legally, the authority is in the hands of secular authorities.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Skizzierung Macht Frei

Here we go again, idiots draw pictures of Muhammad to offend Muslims, apparently Muslims are offended and some of the most militant of Muslims - apparently - take violent action and people get killed hurt and killed.  Actually, considering the blatancy of the provocation it's surprising more people haven't been killed, yet.   Oh, yeah, and the American haters led by the American queen of anti-Muslim hate, Pam Geller, imported the Dutch hate-talker-politician Geert Wilders to draw attention to their provocative event.

Having gone into that phenomenon rather exhaustively  during the Charlie Hebdo incident, I'm going to just raise the question of the motives of these people.  Clearly for Geller, she wants to attract support and I am certain, money to her hate group and, I suspect, to herself, there being no chance that she will ever be a political force on her own in the United States.  That she's willing to risk lives to do it is obvious in 2015, what with the numerous incidents that those kinds of stunts have already been.  That is obvious.  Her stunt was most likely to get people killed or maimed in Islamic majority countries, where Christians, Jews, liberal and moderate Muslims  must tremble with fear for their lives as her like exercise their "freedom" here, but also in other places.   "Drawing makes Free" should be the slogan of her effort.

That a creepy racist politician like Geert Wilders hopes to turn hate into political power is as obvious, I believe his hate party holds a quarter of the seats in the Dutch government.  Though from my reading this morning it would seem his attempt with the French fascist, Marie Le Pen, to form an alliance with quasi-fascist parties in other European countries fizzled this time.   This time.

I think it will turn out that this kind of thing can't be allowed without a huge cost in the lives of people, harm to people and a resultant oppression, damaging all other rights on behalf of some of the stupidest, most vilely intended "free speech".  It's certainly the intention of the likes of Geller and Wilders to deprive Muslims here and in Holland of rights, that's the entire intention of the effort to provoke a response from Muslims in this way.  That's their goal, or at least their road to their real goal of political power or, failing that, getting attention and raising money for their hate group.

Update:  Yeah, I meant the Nazi implication.  Sue me.

Update 2:  Hate Mail:  "...... fucking Christians"

Uh, Pam Geller happens to be Jewish of the type who call other Jews anti-semites.  I  believe Wilders is an atheist but I'm not sure of that.  Using bigotry to promote bigotry is promoting bigotry.

There Is Nothing So Polically Stupid As A Conceited Person With A Degree

Some people didn't like my post Saturday.   I know, airplane lands safely level news.  But you would think that the fact that liberalism has been on the down-slide since FDR died and in free fall since 1968 would at least make a few liberals wonder why that should be.  The country elected and kept re-electing a man who would turn out to be the most liberal president in our history eighty years ago but we can't even get a real liberal who reliably supports his accomplishments nominated these days.  It's not that liberal programs of that era haven't worked, even while subjected to massive media attack and a massive number of lies by babbling academics, Social Security is still one of the most popular programs ever adopted.   What did people, with far more modest educational achievements, eighty years ago, know that people in the massively vaunted "information age" don't know now?

The common habit of scribblers, those who comprise that "information age" who wonder what went wrong for liberalism has been to blame The People, the "masses" who are alleged to be asses, ignorant, superstitious, fat, lazy and cootie ridden, a strategy which, if it were going to work, would have decades ago into that rather interestingly clueless means of obtaining their support.  While I'm sure it was popular with those with a college education, those who would buy their books, review them in the media, and have them on their chat shows, it has been what could have been a total and entirely predictable failure as a political strategy in a democracy or even in a non-democracy.

I will run the experiment again, noting how stupid the scribblers who love to diss the majority of people and their nodding, babbling readers are and ask them how much they like being told they're stupid, conceited and entirely clueless and ask them how much me pointing out their true idiocy despite their educations and degrees doesn't make them want to vote for me.

The People are less stupid than the intelligentsia who have bought into the program of telling them how stupid they are.  I have pointed out that among other things, The People rejected the stupidest of all of the political follies of the educated class of the past century, its infatuation with Marxism and it will turn out that they are wise enough to reject the successor of that elite Marxism, materialist atheism.  But most of all they will refuse to go along with the idea that they are base and stupid from people who propose that they lead them on their behalf.

The real political lesson for liberals of the past fifty years is that as desperate as The People are for political leadership which will honestly work in their interest, they won't buy one that begins with disrespect for them and an ideological message founded on the belief they are nothing more than badly working computers made of meat. I think they may know what it took me so long to figure out, that you could rely on that mindset to produce just a different form of dictatorship.  They obviously think they have more of a chance with despots that at least know enough to try to flatter them than one that thinks they'll go for those stupid enough to insult them.

As has been pointed out here before,  FDR, the last successful liberal president, one of very, very few of those in our history, gave his ideological foundation very simply, he was a Christian and a Democrat.   Though I think that would probably be better written with a small "d".

The People aren't the big problem for liberalism, it's the liberals who aren't liberal who falsely define liberalism.  The problem, buddy, is us.  Only some of us refuse to remain the problem.

Update:  Obviously, there are those who insist that remaining the problem is going to work just given a little more time.  That test of time failed with the re-election of Richard Nixon more than forty years ago.