"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
It would seem someone might be under the impression that I have changed my position on the legality of abortion because I posted a 45 year old column by Richard McBrien in which he states the official position of the Catholic church on abortion. I posted the piece in its entirety because that has been my practice in posting his columns to do that, even when I don't agree with everything said in it.
My position on the legality of abortion is that the state has no legitimate interest in regulating what happens in an individuals body, that the right of the state to limit a person's use of their own body ends at their skin, if not somewhere a bit farther away from them than that. As to the irrelevant issue of whether or not I like abortion, of course I don't like it, if for no other reason than that it is a serious medical procedure which should, in all cases, be avoided by avoiding unplanned, unwanted medically hazardous and life threatening pregnancies.
The only legitimate response to the more risky and possibly morally problematic issue of abortion is to promote the routine use of contraception to avoid pregnancy. The current war on Planned Parenthood will likely end in there being more, not fewer, abortions because shutting down and defunding Planned Parenthood will seriously restrict access to contraception and accurate information of how to use it effectively. Planned Parenthood has probably prevented more abortions than the American Pro-Life Action League, every other anti-abortion group and the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Not to mention prosecutors, police and the courts in the period when abortion was illegal.
The opposition of the Catholic Church to abortion is not based on a desire that there be consequences for sex outside of hetero-sexual marriage. That's just a stupid thing to assert. Abortion wasn't permitted to married women who never had sex outside of marriage, it was opposed because of the relatively recent doctrine that fetuses and embryos are fully human life and that to intentionally kill one is the taking of a human life. If you believe that then it is a very serious moral issue that you are going to have to take seriously. Whether pro-choice people like it or not, that is a fact of the situation. I can't fault them when they try to be consistent in their thinking specifically within that issue, what Richard McBrien was advocating in the column I posted yesterday. Though opposing contraception at the same time is both insanely illogical and a complete lapse of moral judgement. If you think abortion is murder the certainty that unwanted pregnancy will lead to abortions, legal or illegal, then forces the promotion of the use of contraception as a moral duty. When it is a matter of avoiding the taking of an innocent life that is an overriding moral value.
I think that the human identity of fetuses and embryos is something that even many proponents of legal abortion really either believe in or which they suspect. In which case they can only feel some unease at supporting its availability. Which could account for a lot of the decrease in support and soft support for abortion rights that gets reported. I'm not going to disrespect people for believing what they believe, though I will oppose what they believe is their right to impose their belief on women in the exercise of ownership of their own bodies.
And it is a question for even many people who, as a political and legal matter, support abortion remaining legal and available. I don't know that abortion isn't the taking of human life, I don't think needing an abortion is a good thing or even being in the position of wanting to have an abortion is. My position isn't based on what I don't know about the status of a fetus or embryo, it is based on what I do know about what happens when it is prohibited.
The simple fact of life is that making abortion illegal doesn't prevent abortions, it prevents abortions being done safely by people with medical training in safe conditions. Abortion was common all during the period of its prohibition. There were places where it was so common that you used to read that they routinely treated women who had miscarried for the infections that could result from a back alley, motel room or self-induced abortion. And, heaven help us, there are places where, today, they are getting ambitious prosecutors and politicized police involved when a woman miscarries, prosecuting her and, in some horrific cases, getting juries and judges to hand out long prison sentences to them.
And history and what happens in the present also shows that when abortion is illegal, infanticide is another of the results. Even infanticide for profit and as a recognized industry, though never explicitly called that. The extent to which the murder of infants and babies was considered more acceptable than promoting the use of birth control or having legal abortion is probably most evident in the phenomenon of "baby farming" in Victorian Britain in the period when the Parliament removed the legal obligation for a father to support children born out of wedlock. It was such a widespread phenomenon that it made its way into musical comedy*.
I remember a number of years ago being in the middle of an angry argument when some people denounced Hillary Clinton for saying that abortion should be legal, safe and rare. The idea behind the slamming of her for stating a rational and humane position on the problem was that anything short of declaring abortion a wonderful thing and a positive good was to open the door to opposing it. Which is absurd. Admitting the necessity of dialysis doesn't require a concurrent declaration that needing it is a wonderful situation, As life saving a thing as dialysis is, it isn't without its risks and down sides. Preventing needing it, to the extant that is possible is certainly not a crime against health care. Controlling your behavior to do whatever you can to avoid either developing diabetes or if you have it making it worse is certainly not to be discouraged because some people hate universal health care.
Yes, I'm saying it, I advocate people control their behavior rationally and responsibly. Isn't that terrible. Heterosexual people having sex who don't both agree that they want to have a child which could result from intercourse have a responsibility to prevent a pregnancy. A man who doesn't want to raise a child has a responsibility to the woman to not impregnate her, a woman who doesn't want a child has a responsibility to try to prevent becoming pregnant. It's what a decent grown-up would do, the failure to do that a certain sign that a person has not yet grown up or developed a sense of decency. People who don't do what is necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancy shouldn't be having heterosexual intercourse that could result in pregnancy. Aspiring to responsible adulthood, myself, I'm not going to tell a politically convenient lie about that no matter how much whining results. Any writers who do lie about it are asses who shouldn't be taken seriously.
The very few articles I've seen touting the joys of abortion are a sign of scribblers looking to get attention, they don't make any sense and are certainly irresponsible in advocating a less than serious attitude towards what can be a serious medical procedure. I doubt their irresponsible advocacy would play well in the general public as opposed to the play-left. They are as bad, in a different way, as the Republican liars and scum who attack a right to available contraception and the information to use it effectively and the right of women to an abortion. Only, for some reason, the irresponsibility and amorality of the anti-abortion side works better politically. Presenting a rational case for the rights of women to control their own body is the best way to counter their irrationality.
* Now this is most alarming!
When she was young and charming,
She practised baby-farming,
A many years ago.
Two tender babes I nursed:
One was of low condition,
The other, upper crust,
A regular patrician.
HMS Pinafore 1878
Eight years before that was making them laugh, that there was a well reported trial of infanticide as "baby farming" in the same city. Margaret Waters was convicted of five counts of murdering infants left in her care but was known to have killed many more. Some of the accounts note she was caught by Sergeant Richard Relf of the London Metropolitan Police who was the first policeman to specialize in investigating baby farming murders. Apparently it was a crime practiced regularly enough that the police noticed it before then. I can't believe that Gilbert and Sullivan's audience in London didn't make that association with baby farming. nor could the writer and composer been unaware of it.
This website lists her and other women convicted and hanged for baby-farming murders between 1870 and 1909. The article notes that it was not uncommon to find the bodies of infants wrapped in brown paper in the streets of London, due to the expense of burying them. How many of them were intentionally killed and how many died of natural causes, many of those due to economic inequality, can't be known.
And the practice didn't end in Edwardian Britain. I once wrote a piece about a likely "baby snuffing ring" operating in Southern New Hampshire in the 1950s. I knew one of the policemen involved in that investigation through his brother, he said that they were warned that if they investigated the very cold case in the 1980s that there were people who could go after them. There were prominent people involved in it and likely organized criminals.
Infanticide is a certain result of abortion being illegal and, also, of contraception not being widely available and used. The anti-abortion, anti-contraception crowd, if they succeeded would probably be responsible for huge numbers of dead children and women dead of illegal abortions. They would certainly be responsible for illegal abortions and, in the case of those who are attacking the availability of contraception, abortions.
Fr. Richard McBrien on Fridays Catholics have always been forthright in the defense of human life -- in certain specific areas. Thus, we have consistently opposed the deliberate taking of life by abortion or euthanasia, and we have generally resisted those practices which tend to restrict the possibilities of life, such as direct sterilization or contraception. Until the last decade, there was very little debate among Catholics about any of these issues. Many Catholics, however, have at the same time been ambivalent about the destruction of human life in war. On the one hand, they knew that killing is a terrible thing, something that could not possibly please God. On the other hand, they had been taught from catechism days that there are at least three instances where killing is allowable: just war, capital punishment, and self-defense. There has been some debate now about the range of legitimacy for the first two exceptions. Catholic ambivalence about the preservation of human life was encapsulated in a cynical witticism that gained wide circulation a couple of years ago when the birth control and Vietnam debates seemed to converge: If the United States had dropped contraceptives rather than atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, there would have been a storm of moral protest from the ecclesiastical leadership and from Catholics generally. I do not endorse the cynicism of the comment, nor do I include it here in order to insure its continued circulation. Justifiably or not, the statement rings true for many people, and it happens to be useful in illustrating the point of this week's essay. In this age of profound anxiety brought about by full-scale hostilities, terrorism, and all kinds of military and diplomatic provocations, it is of the highest importance that any residual Catholic ambivalence about war be dispelled. In this regard, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World is exceedingly helpful. Following the lead of such public statements as Pope John XXIII's Pacem in Terris ("Therefore, in an age such as ours which prides itself on its atomic energy it is contrary to reason to hold that war is now a suitable way to restore rights which have been violated"-para. 127) and Pope Paul VI's address before the United Nations in October, 1965 ("Never again war!"), the Second Vatican Council condemned the arms race (n. 81-82), the notion that "all's fair in war" (n. 79), indiscriminate destruction of cities and property (n. 80), and blind obedience on the part of military personnel (n. 79). While it did not call for unilateral, unsupervised disarmament, the council did reject the commonly-held view that a large weapons stockpile is a necessary deterrent to war. The council argued that the so-called balance of arms tends to exacerbate rather than eliminate the causes of war. "Therefore, it must be said again: the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, and one which injures the poor to an intolerable degree" (n. 81). How does the arms race injure the poor? By diverting enormous sums of money and resources from discovering "an adequate remedy for the multiple miseries afflicting the whole modern world" (n. 81). War will disappear only when we eradicate the causes of dissension among men. Wars thrive on these, and especially on injustice. "Many of these causes stem from excessive economic inequalities and from excessive slowness in applying the needed remedies. Other causes spring from a quest for power and from contempt for personal rights. If we are looking for deeper explanations, we can find them in human jealousy, distrust, pride, and other egotistic passions" (n. 83). The council singles out for special praise those people who choose to follow the path of nonviolence (n. 78) and it urges the various governments to protect the rights of conscientious objectors (n. 79). It recognizes all the while that the major challenge facing both Church and State is the task of education, of reshaping public opinion in support of the principles of justice and freedom (n. 82). The document calls upon all Christians to collaborate in every possible way in those organizations and movements dedicated to finding the path to peace. It praises those Christians, young people in particular, who volunteer their services to help other men and nations and thereby alleviate the sufferings of the modern age. "As was the ancient custom in the Church, (Christians) should meet this obligation out of the substance of their goods, and not only out of what is superfluous" (n. 88). In the midst of this time of violence and dislocation, the Church must stand forth as a spokesman, a witness, and an effective instrument of God's reign among men. It must be a community which really believes that the world can become his Kingdom because of what he has already manifested and accomplished in Jesus, who is the Lord of all history. Christian faith requires that we make our own the vision of Isaiah: "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (2:4).
10 / 9 / 1970
And from his on the death of Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., head of the Society of Jesus from 1965 until 1983:
In an address delivered in Spain in 1973, Father Arrupe insisted that the primary educational objective of the Society was to form men and women "who cannot conceive of a love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors" and who are "completely convinced that a love of God which does not issue in justice is a farce."
Those who knew him best, namely, his brother Jesuits, have said that hope was Father Arrupe's most characteristic strength. He never forgot that the order of grace is more powerful than the order of sin.
This from a man who, as a young missionary in Japan, lived through the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima in 1945 and spent the following days nursing and burying hundreds of its victims.
3 / 4 / 1991
I'd like to know more about Fr. Arrupe's time in WWII Japan as a Catholic missionary. I'll bet there were many valuable lessons to be drawn from it.
I found this while looking for recordings of Lazare Lévy's playing. I have to admit that Mompou isn't a composer I think of even once a year but this set of pieces is quite beautiful and it shows in non-virtuoso music what a great, great musician and pianist Lévy was.
Update: I will mention that this performance was issued two years ago on the Meloclassic label which apparently specializes in releasing recordings by great performers which were not previously released. If I won the lottery I'd probably order all of them.
Note: This is the first of the pieces I wrote about James Randi, his cult, his lies, his crimes, his sleaze and his phony PR machine. Randi is a good example to use in looking at the pseudo-skeptics and the "skepticism" industry which is such a big part of organized, evangelical atheism because his position as one of its figureheads is as hypocritical as having a corrupt cult figure as a representative of religion, Probably more so in that I'm unaware of any influential criticism of Randi in organized atheism or the "skepticism" industry whereas any cult figure in religion will have many critics within religion, often within the denomination they are a part of. As the columns by Richard McBrien which I've been posting show, a Catholic priest and a theologian teaching at one of the major Catholic universities in the world published newspaper columns, which appeared almost exclusively in Catholic newspapers, most of them controlled by bishops, was far more critical of popes, bishops, cardinals, priests, and who regularly talked about the scandals current and past which have marred the history of Catholicism, which is regularly presented as the quintessential example of totalitarian religion, and Richard McBrien kept his job and, though some of the bishops appointed by John Paul II made sure their papers dropped his column, was published in the Catholic media until his death. McBrien's textbooks were and, I suspect, still are widely used in Catholic universities and colleges. I can't imagine anyone in organized "skepticism" acting like that kind of internal critic of their own denomination and being able to keep work in it.
Whenever I refer to the pseudo-skeptics and the skepticism industry I put the word in quotes because such people are not skeptics anymore than Randi is a figure of science. The "skeptics" and "skepticism" as a movement are rigid fundamentalists who have no doubt about their position, no matter what evidence collected under some of the most rigorously controlled experiments, no matter how massive the statistical basis the conclusions rest on, they will not abandon their wall of denial of that or their campaign of lies and vilification.
They have become the side that the mainstream media goes to for those areas because of the fear of science reporters and others that the "skeptics" know science, which the reporters and their editors seldom do, and that if they don't kow tow to the "skeptics" they will go after them and ruin their careers. The media's promotion of what is supposed to be science on the basis of fear, intimidation and, most of all, ignorance of the methods and mathematical basis of science is well illustrated by looking at the presentation of Randi and the "skeptics" by the media. As I mention in the series, that also shines a light on the tactics used by the tabacco, oil, coal, gas and other industries as well as climate change denialists who use many of the same tactics as the "skeptics" to attack rigorously conducted scientific research. It's important for that, if nothing else.
I would say that, beyond any doubt, the most famous "Skeptic"/atheist in the world is probably James "The Amazing" Randi. His "Educational" Forum is one of the larger and most often visited "Skeptical" websites, his YouTube propaganda operation is probably the largest of any single individual and he is still honored as a reliable authority by other large "rational" "scientific" entities such as "Big Think". If you have never delved even a centimeter behind the surface of the James Randi persona, you could be forgiven for mistaking him as a serious voice of science and reason. That is how he is promoted by himself, his associates, the "Skepticism" industry and the media who seldom have looked at him with the tools of genuine skepticism. If you did look past the promotion and PR, you would see he has a documented and large record of lying, incompetence, dishonesty and even criminal fraud.
The arrest of his long time lover on a serious charge of identity theft, which was far from a victimless crime, should have exposed the fraud that James Randi has been, but it hasn't. James Randi cannot escape the documented fact that he knew of that fraud and that he participated in it. It would seem that among the self-congratulating "rational class" the "fact based" and "science based, PR can entirely overtake the truth and ideological promotion is entirely more important than honesty. I have found few former admirers of James Randi and almost none who will apply skepticism to their icon of "Skepticism", few scientists who will break with him.
I will be taking some time to expose some of the known instances of dishonesty and lying by the icon, presented as a personification of truth and evidence based inquiry. I do that not in any expectation that it will change anything about the "Skepticism" industry or cause any defections in the Randi cult, but to expose those for the obvious fraud they are. The numerous exposures of Randi's lies, dishonesty and sleaze, over the thirty-two years since Dennis Rawlins exposed him in his sTARBABY article haven't done that. I don't think it's going to be done, not anytime in the near future. But something being true is an entirely sufficient reason for anyone saying it. I'm not going to be saying anything that isn't documented by others in the past. The number of lies James Randi has gotten away with while being the figure head of organized "Skepticism" might be a good start at answering the question in the title. Eventually it might be able to enumerate a unit for measuring this phenomenon, The Randi", the number of lies one can still tell and be presented as a credible voice of science, truth and reason. I can think of many practical applications in many fields. Especially in measuring media credulousness. Working on a measurement of irony might follow, close on.
UPDATE: What fun. An anonymous message tells me that they'll come after me if I go after the great and powerful amazing one. I think it's supposed to be a threat instead of a warning but as it's written with the typical coherence of a commentator at a "Skeptical"/atheist website, it's hard to tell. I'll go change my passwords just in case. I always use ones that are very hard to break. I'd be interested in knowing of anyone who has had problems like that after being critical of his amazingness.
Update July 7, 2015 "Jacob" noted the other day that since I didn't post the comment that made that threat, he has to take it on my word that the threat was made. I guess I didn't post the comment because it violated my refusal to post libel against other people, the major reason I deleted comments in the past and why I moderate comments now. That doesn't mean I won't use what is sent to me on my own terms. I've got no qualms about doing that.
I don't really care if you believe I received the threat or not, the record of James Randi's cult going after his critics is well established. His cult is almost certainly the largest in the atheism industry, today, the longest in development and the beneficiary of the most blatant and shameless PR campaign. If you read the comments on his "Educational" Foundation website you'll see what they're capable of doing in that area. The James Randi fan base is a cult and like all cults it won't tolerate a realistic critique of its central personality. It is one of the most telling aspects of the "skepticism" industry and the new atheism how cult like it is, how it is based in bigotry and ignorance and idol worship. It's easy to be a "skeptic" you just have to parrot the lines the "skepticism" industry hands you, it's a lot harder to be skeptical of the "skeptics" because you have to learn a little math and actually read some scientific papers and analyses. The scientists involved in the con are an interesting case in themselves, but they aren't much dealt with in looking at the James Randi cult.
I'd never known until about ten minutes ago that Charles Tomlinson Griffes made this orchestration of the second movement of his great Piano Sonata. It is incredible. I've listened to and studied the Sonata and until tonight I hadn't heard the haunting sound like a bugle call at the very ending. Being written in the wake of WWI and during the influenza pandemic that was killing millions, as it would kill Griffes perhaps within weeks of this being completed it makes what was abstract as concrete as could be. As the comments at YouTube ask why isn't it played more often? It's a crime that it isn't.
Marcelle Meyer played Ravel better than just about anyone. As one of the comments say, passages, lines, you've heard a thousand times sound fresh, new, like a new revelation. I'm not a huge Ravel fan and even I love to listen to her recordings of his music.
When I started this blog the first thing I decided was that I wouldn't monitor the number of hits different pieces got because I didn't want that to influence my decisions about what to write. I've looked at the statistics a few times but not regularly. Some of the comments I've gotten this week led to me looking at those and I was surprised to find that the pieces I wrote a while back about James Randi were, by far, the most often read pieces I've written here. That is James Randi and his record of lying and fraud and my analysis of his phony "million dollar" challenge scam. And it is a total scam with rules drawn up so that no one could possibly "win" the challenge. That the folks who present themselves as the champions of reason, truth, intellectual rigor and science could have ever accepted and promoted such an obvious and flagrant liar and fraud as its masthead has to expose the pseud-skeptical, neo-atheist movement as a dishonest fraud, itself. That he has, over the decades, associated himself with some of the scientists who act as something of symbols of that movement should discredit them as the pseudo-Christian liars and frauds discredit those who associate with them. Only it doesn't.
Reading the unedited thoughts of many thousands of people who hold degrees from reputable universities online over the past dozen years, looking at what such people say and what they allow themselves and are allowed by others to get away with leads to the conclusion that, far from entering into a new Renaissance, we are smack dab in a new dark age, one that looks far darker than the one everyone talks about. It looks more like the bad dream of Malcolm Arnold and Friedrich Nietzsche, the nightmare that Vernon Kellog and William Jennings Bryan warned about than it does the great and ultimate age of science which the new atheists proclaim with every misreport of the most recent Pew surveys.
I've got a lot of work to do that can't be put off so I'm going to repost those pieces the rest of this week. I wish I had the time to update and if I get the chance I will. Given that what I wrote about only breaks the surface of a large and long cess pool of lies and fraud, a lot more could be written about the man and his PR.
But if you can't wait, here is a linked index I put together of those pieces and some of the other pieces I did on the pseud-skeptics and their industry.
Reading the actual scientific research and the rigorous statistical analysis of it reveals that, contrary to the "Skeptical" line, extraordinary evidence for several psi phenomena has been produced, replicated and published in peer-reviewed scientific and mathematical journals. Reading that research is taboo among what passes as the "intellectual class", today. That is opposed to believing the James Randis and Penn Jillettes of the entertainment industry.
The long and distinguished record in conventional science of Rupert Sheldrake, how he is smeared by ideologues who demonstrate they have never read his peer-reviewed research and his other publications. How PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne and Sean Carroll misrepresented what he said and intimidated TED into suppressing his TED Talk.
Martin Gardner's peculiar record of serious statistical and methodological error, lying, defaming scientists, promoting the use of sleazy propaganda tactics to attack scientific research (something that the tobacco, oil, coal, gas industries, the climate change denial and creationist industries might well have learned from him and the "Skeptics").
How Dennis Rawlins presents Martin Gardner's role in the sTARBABY scandal, along with other upper eschalon members of CSICOP and commentary about what it means and why it matters. Conclusive Evidence That Wikipedia Is The Focus of Organized Ideological Editing By "Skeptic"/Atheists You don't need a conspiracy theory when the conspirators brag about turning Wikipedia and other online entities into "tools for "Skepticism". Wikipedia and the ironically named "Web of Trust" should be forced to address the fact that they are the focus of ideological "editing" and influence or they should be considered discredited. A Really Skeptical Introduction To The Real Record of James "The Amazing" Randi and His Personality Cult
An example of how Steve Novella's clique of "Skeptics" covers up for Randi's fraud, smearing a journalist who reported on him, with a note about Rebecca "Skepchick" Watson* and her encounter with the virulent sexism in the well documented fratboy atmosphere that "Skepticism" industry is.
Randi's totally fraudulent "Million Dollar Challenge" which would destroy Randi and the "Skepticism" industry if anyone won it, some of the ways he "always has an out", as Dennis Rawlins quoted him saying 32 years ago. [Note: the scope of Randi's "Challenge" fraud and its position in the propaganda of "Skepticism" means that this long post is no more than a preliminary look into it. I hope that Steve Volk Greg Taylor and others who have written fact-based critiques of it will produce a definitive look at it in the near future.]
One of Randi's bigger lies, involving identity theft, passport fraud, how his PR operation can turn what even a "Skeptical" reporter notes was a failed stunt into a PR "win" and perpetuate the lie in the media and online.
Recapping the short and far from complete list of the Randi scandals written about with yet another example of him being caught in a published lie about Rupert Sheldrake's published research. Also why I will not deal with the phone sex scandal tapes that Randi has finally admitted are authentic (he reportedly said they were forgeries when they were originally introduced in a law suit) and why I will not go into it.
In view of the documented bragging by "Skeptics" that they organize to make Wikipedia, WOT, etc. into "tools of skepticism", does the James Randi "Educational" Foundation actively try to suppress Randi's critics, his documented history and online comments that could damage the Randi brand?
OK, let the threats and sabotage begin, remembering I make backups.
* I will be writing more on this topic in the near future.
True, I don't know everything, but isn't your response to that a God of the gaps? If the faith of atheists isn't credible, what makes yours any better? Jacob This was a question on a post I did which was critical of what Jerry Coyne said in Sean Carroll's Moving Naturalism camparee for some big names in atheism. The post and comments can be read here. My answer to why my faith is better than the atheists' is that the atheists' faith involves them in such massive hypocrisies and contradictions that it doesn't even have internal coherence. Their materialist faith would require that internal coherence so it can't stand. They certainly violate the requirements of science in trying to make their schemes work.
I didn't think addressing the problems with the atheists' assertions on these matters would produce an argument for God, I only addressed the question of free will and the motives of the atheists in trying to either destroy a belief in free will or to redefine free will to make the idea friendly to their materialism or to tell a useful lie about it with the goal of husbanding the human population so as to act in a way which free will is necessary to support even though they reject the possibility of that belief. Some of the atheists in attendance realize that a human species without free will is likely to be a violent, bloody, oppressive disaster, and so their argument about telling a useful lie about it to get people to behave themselves, though a demonstration of their massive arrogance and condescension to the majority of humanity was about the only thing they came up with.
I certainly don't think that citing gaps in knowledge is a valid argument for God, even less so gaps in our experience of the universe. I can't think, off hand, of that being done in the Bible, though it is noted in a number of places that God surpasses human understanding, which God even just as the creator of the Universe could be expected to do.
It is ironic in that it is these elite materialists who are constantly filling in gaps and chasms of knowledge with their substitutes for God, materialism, "naturalism" (Sean Carroll's preferred euphemism for what comes down to the same thing) schemes of causality in the absence of evidence and, in a more sophisticated version of a materialist God, these days, probability. That last one is especially interesting because of its use by cosmologists to violate some of the most basic ideological holdings and slogans of current atheism and science.
Out of nothing but probability (and a desire to be rid of an argument some make for the existence of God - though I never have*) atheists have invented, not just things in this universe, but the Billy-ons and Billy-ons of universes in their mulitiverse, ** In some schemes of multiverse theory, new ones being generated with every act we undertake so that every possible variation of our actions will be represented in their ultimate multiverse ensemble. And if some cosmologists don't like that ultimate version of the multiverse, theirs is no more based on empirical evidence than that fantastic tale in which we all create universes.
Among the problems with Jerry Coynes' atheist, safely materialist replacement for the idea of free will is that it is so incompetent that it doesn't hold together, either.
Modest Proposal Replace notion of free will with this statement: “My decision was caused by internal forces I do not understand” Passing with just the observation that Jerry Coyne claiming to have ever been modest in any way invites a joke, if you don't understand what causes you to decide something you have no basis to even identify it as having come from "internal" forces. If you don't understand it it could have been the result of free will located outside of your brain. It could be the result of entirely non-material "forces" operating entirely outside of the realm of causality, the fact that you don't understand them, you can't find them in the net of causality, could be evidence that the motivation of your decisions doesn't reside there. Which I'm sure Jerry Coyne would just hate, hate, HATE on , in his Coynean manner, if it were true. The problem with Coynes' ridiculous disposal of free will is that it merely calls attention to the failure of materialism to contain an explanation of our minds, including how we come to decide to do what we do. My faith doesn't assert that every single thing that is real has to conform to our understanding of cause and effect and to abide by physical law. So my faith doesn't contain the self-contradictory features that seem to be inevitable when your faith is that "The Cosmos is all that is, or was, or ever will be."
* The argument from the fantastically finely tuned constants of our one and only known universe being able to generate matter, stars, planets and planets such as Earth which has generated life. The incredible improbability of some of those constant values being what they are in our universe might constitute physical evidence persuasive of the argument that we live in a universe designed, intentionally, for the existence of life and intelligent life capable of comprehension. I have never made that argument as I don't make arguments for the existence of God, who would have to surpass any human argument of that kind, though others can be persuaded by what they find in such teleological arguments. I don't see anything invalid in someone being persuaded by the argument from fine tuning that God did it, it's certainly less of a stretch than the means that atheists have come up with to make their argument go away, including the multiverse.
In terms of this post it's interesting that the article linked to at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes my same critique of "materialism in the gaps" concerning one of the means atheists purportedly doing science have come up with to make the argument for God through fine-tuning go away.
126.96.36.199 Scientific progress That the universe is fine-tuned for life is based on current science. But, just as many other anomalies have eventually been explained, so might fine-tuning. Science may one day find a naturalistic answer, eliminating the need for design. For suggestions along these lines, see (Harnik, Kribs, and Perez 2006), Page 2011 (Other Internet Resources)), and (Loeb 2014). While this is a popular stance, it is, of course, a promissory note rather than an explanation. The appeal to what might yet be discovered is not itself a rival hypothesis.
The promissory notes of materialism which atheists issue at such an inflationary rate are no different from the naive arguments for God relying on gaps of knowledge. And I don't know of any sophisticated theologian who makes those kinds of arguments these days and few in the past who did. Theologians are constantly reviewing each others' works, picking each others' arguments apart in ways that atheists seldom know because they so seldom read theology. I would guess that a lot of physicists, even many of them atheists, can't stomach the ultimate violation of Occam's razor and the many other gyrations and hypocrisies involved in multi-verse cosmological fairy tales which, frankly, strike me as a rather desperate and hypocritical attempt by atheists to pretend they've killed off God once and for all. The lengths to which these attempts have taken some of the biggest names in physics, such as Stephen Hawking, including the demand to allow unverifiable speculations which will never have confirmation in observation of physical reality to be, nevertheless, accepted in science as science. By doing so they destroy everything that such atheist-scientists insist makes science the ultimate guarantor of reliable knowledge, they destroy science in their attempt to use science to destroy God. Which, like the multiverse doesn't do what they want it to do, it does the opposite. Materialism produces the ultimate in intellectual decadence in at least several ways, which is a more persuasive argument against the validity of materialism (naturalism, physicalism) as a valid philosophical framing than any of the materialists' arguments against God. If materialism must violate the very rules of thought used to generate materialism then it can't stand as a refutation of God who was never held to be bound by those rules.
The recourse of a different group of physicists and others, filling in a rather huge gap in their knowledge of the origin of those fine turnings with one of the myriad of never to be redeemed promissory notes is foolish if doing away with God is their goal, as well. Even in the seemingly unlikely event that they can tell us how those fine tunings came about, that would leave the question of why they are like they are and that is something science is unequipped to do. Larry Krauss and others have stumbled badly when they purport to do that, only showing that someone who isn't used to thinking philosophically in a rigorous manner won't even understand the problems involved in the attempt.
** I've heard two speculations that show the futility of their attempt to get rid of God by inventing 100500 or more universes. One would be that a multi-verse would likely require an effective infinity of even finer tuning than our one unverse and so would reasonably be an even more persuasive argument for design. The other would be that an infinite God could create an infinity of universes for reasons that would surpass our understanding as we can be confidently certain that our, one, universe available to human perception ultimately surpasses our understanding. It would strike me as idolatrous or blasphemous for a religious believer to assert that God is comprehensible to human understanding. That is one of the most telling habits of fundamentalists and a sign that there is a lot wrong with their thinking and the God who is limited by their imagination and their own character.
Some, perhaps not all, cosmologists, as well, have an unbounded faith in their own powers. I will brag again about the one and only occasion that I was able to get Sean Carroll to answer me, when I got him to admit that physics doesn't have comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of any one object in our physical universe, never mind being in possession of that ultimate Holy Grail of his discipline, a Theory of Everything. As I recall, it took me about 17 days of asking over two long blog comment threads to finally get Carroll to admit that most obvious fact about physics. And he's still pretending that physics and cosmologists can have a theory that covers everything in the absence of that far more modest goal of comprehensive knowledge. As I've pointed out, the neo-atheists and various religious fundamentalists have a lot more in common than either of them would care to acknowledge.
What David Bentley Hart says about two different concepts of freedom [beginning at about 3:00] is important to think about. Since I have talked a lot about the problems of materialism for free will, free thought, etc. it's something I'll have to incorporate into my thinking about that because it certainly seems to be valid and important. Which "free will" you're talking about will probably end up having as much to do with your conclusions as where you want that to go, at least if you're being honest in your attempt to understand. Of course, the irony of the "free thinkers" having been engaged in trying to destroy the possibility of free choice, free will, etc. because those can't be made compatible with the material universe and which would certainly be possible as a hard fact of a created universe created that way by God. But the presentation of an alternative which associates freedom with the choice to choose the better instead of just choosing any choice is far more complicated than the kind of freedom I've engaged with. The atheist conception which they hate is freedom as if values and intention to do what's right are not real. It is also the concept of freedom which is generally discussed. But if you believe that there is a difference between what's good and what is less good or even evil, then the quality of different choices would have to enter into it. Choosing the better, the desirability of encouraging people to choose the better is an inescapable issue. It is an irony of the atheist address of these issues that they have their own version of the better choices, generally ones I think have proved to be a disaster within living memory. That so many of those things that are identified as evil, if chosen, will tend to harm people, enslave them, destroy them or, if not them, than those who those things are done to has to be considered in a wider, more realistic and more sophisticated discussion of freedom. I'm just beginning to think of the question in those ways.
What he says more generally is also interesting to me because he has a more sophisticated version of arguments I'd come up with on my own. I've not listened to a lot of David Bentley Hart but I'm listening to more and, if I can find affordable copies of his books, I hope to read more of him, too. What he confessed about the history of the association of religion with evil, especially serving as a prop to oppressive regimes is especially interesting because within the past 24 hours I've tangled with an atheist who claimed that Stalin was a Christian and not an atheist. I have seldom if ever encountered an atheist who has addressed, seriously, the association of atheism with the worst regimes of the past two and a half centuries, especially the Marxist ones.
I can't say that I share his respect for Nietzsche, though I get what he says about him.
Oh, but we don't have to pretend that the Marxists were ever anything like a force for good anymore. That's just so last millennium. Even the Chinese government has given up that stuff. That was never based on a realistic view of what Marxists really advocated, even less so an honest view of what they did when they got political control of a place, that is the longest sustained bloodbath in modern history. The Marxists here duped us into sympathizing with them because the people who persecuted them in the 1950s were such slimy folk who violated the civil rights of people they had no right to question about their political thinking and those who they slimed by association even when they had nothing to do with entities like the Communist Party.
The simple fact is that we never needed to take a side in the Communist vs. anti-Communist brawl, we could reject all of them because all of them were hypocrites and liars and hated democracy and freedom of thought.
The passion and comparatively soft martyrdom of the Hollywood 10, such as those who were, actually, members of the Communist Party in the 30s, 40s and 50s, is severely mitigated by the fact that they supported a foreign government which set one of the undisputed records of not only putting someone out of a posh job as a screen writer, but torturing and murdering them and anyone they might have named under torture or who might be associated with them.
We now know that their heroes, Lenin, Stalin, etc. routinely tortured and murdered people, sent them into slave labor and oppressed them and even their entirely innocent children because the constant terror created by that was what kept them in power. If Lester Cole had written even the most mildly dissident material in the Soviet Union under Stalin, he'd have been shot instead of just deprived of an ability to get the big bucks by writing for the movies under his own name. He'd probably have caved under torture and named names, the means of getting that out of reluctant witnesses under Communism being a bit harsher than he ever suffered under HUAC and the Hollywood blacklist. His refusal to talk under threat of jail and blacklisting might be admirable if it were not for the fact that he was and remained a supporter of governments who did far worse for far less to thousands and millions of more poeple.
I have equal contempt for the American right, Hoovers' FBI, Red Channels, etc. and the Communists. I can have equal contempt for David Horowitz and the Progressive Labor twits, who worshiped Mao in the same way the Communists did Stalin and the Weather Underground who seem to have worshiped mostly themselves.
I am not going to be the dupe of the Communists anymore out of their sympathy seeking sob story. I bought their lies way too long. I'm not even going to let my affection for some of those old commies keep me from telling the truth about it anymore. They were either knowing liars and supporters of governments as depraved and homicidal as the Nazis or they were willing dupes. You would be amazed at how good it feels to tell the truth after buying those lies for so long.
Marx had some important things to say in his critique of capitalism, his alternative, though, was a disaster brought on by his superstitious belief in the dialectic, his materialism and his rejection of the real alternative to it. But even Marx rejected Marxism. I suspect he knew he couldn't trust his own followers because, at bottom, they didn't really believe in anything better, themselves.
The Occupy message didn't quite work out the way it was supposed to but the song was written before Occupy and its message will outlive it. I go downtown now and it's a shadow of what it was fifty years ago. A ghost town.
There have been no takers, so far, in my ongoing challenge to atheists to identify where in their atheist universe they find equal rights which are real, inherent to all and inalienable by the means which atheists use to dispose of those entities they don't like and which cannot be made to conform to their radically reduced and restrictive materialist universe. Neither have they tried to do the even harder thing under atheism, come up with a durable, effective moral obligation to act in respect of those rights in other people, especially when acting morally costs something.
In thinking about politics, liberal politics, over the past decade the entire program of civil rights, of human rights rests, inevitably, basically and necessarily on the reality of those things, without those being really believed in and acted on, liberalism is impossible. A left without those is no better than the right, as the history of allegedly leftist atheist governments in the 20th century but, also, going back to the French Revolution proves beyond any reasonable doubt.
The major theme of the 20th century could be summed up as the test of time given to politics as if those metaphysical holdings were not really real or not real at all. It is among the things which both fascism and Marxism held in common, in reality and, to a large extent, as an ideological base. It is the means by which capitalism tramples over the rights of people. When rights are merely a matter of social convention and an agreed to myth instead of an absolute and real entity in life, their unequal distribution is a given as no aristocrat, oligarch or member of the military-political-judicial elite will do without freedoms which they will deny to most other people. The denial of the reality of rights and the moral obligation to observer them equally and impartially is what all of those have in common with the reality of the alleged democracies of the West.
This issue really matters in life in the most basic way, to deny that is pathologically delusional. Any political ideology or philosophical position that can't produce them within itself is dangerous. That is especially true of monistic ideologies such as materialism, the ideology of almost all atheists. Under monist systems of thought, nothing that can't be found within it and made to conform entirely to its totalitarian system is deemed to be unreal, belief in it, delusional. When, as under materialism and the promotion of atheism through alleged science, the objective reality those ideas and the basis of human consciousness they depend on, are denied using the faith most people have in anything asserted to be science, it is especially corrosive of rights and, so extremely dangerous. If a politician said what Richard Dawkins said about morality in River Out of Eden, they would be known to be dangerous to life and freedom we would readily identify them as a dangerous figure:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
But promoting that idea as scientific truth is just one step back from its use in politics and the law. The Nazis, fascists, the Marxists all gave scientific reasons as the truth on which they constructed their ideologies and policies and practices. The Nazi genocide was, at every step, justified by using biological science and the purported science of economics. During The God Delusion book tour Dawkins asked:
Well, what if I'm wrong, I mean — anybody could be wrong. We could all be wrong about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the pink unicorn and the flying teapot. What could go wrong if people believed what he said in the first quote is written in the history and the criminal indictments of the Marxist, fascist and Nazi regimes of the past century with their scores and hundreds of millions of murders, in the practices of imperialism, both in its military conquest form and its rapacious forms using trade agreements, concessions, international corporations, banking and the international and national systems to crush large numbers of people and the environment. Those political, economic and military entities act in a way that betrays their real and effective belief in the materialist doctrine, no matter what their pretended ideals and purposes are. That view of life is inescapable in the total inability of materialism, of atheism, to produce purpose, good, evil of which rights and morality are made, Such a view will produce, especially for those unconnected with our experience "blind pitiless indifference." The widespread, nearly ubiquitous behavior by individuals, societies, governments and international organizations out of pitiless indifference proves that its prevention and opposition requires an enormous force which atheism will never provide. That force isn't an act of will, it is an act of moral choice which is frequently a struggle against what is willed. The gate to depravity is far wider than the one to morality. Acting out of pitiliess indifference when we can profit from it is easy and attractive, caring and considering what we are doing to other people, to animals, to the environment is hard and always comes at a cost. Liberalism is harder than conservatism for that reason, the reason that liberalism starts with an inborn hurdle to jump, hobbling liberalism with materialism makes its struggle impossible.
That huge numbers of people on the alleged left don't see that for what it really is accounts for the total failure of the dereligionized substitute for a real left we've got today and which we've mostly had since about 1968. Materialism is probably the most dangerous ideology which has ever been devised no matter what name it hides behind these days. With those hardest of hard lessons of the 20th century and up till today, denying that reality is the ultimate delusion.
SKANK slang : a person and especially a woman of low or sleazy character
The only objection to the word is that it is used by some exclusively for women while it is a perfect word that also describes such behavior and character of many men, as well. The New York Times' Dowd and FOX's Tantaros were being skanky in the media, I don't see anything wrong with calling that what it was. The New York Times' false reporting about Hillary Clintons' e-mail account was skanky too, in that case the skanks were the reporters Michael Schmidt and Matt Appuzo as well as the all male chain of command which ran with the story and perpetuated it, it is widely believed given to them by the skanky congressman Trey Gowdy. Pretty much the entire mainstream, media, male and female are skanky these days. I don't see any reason not to use the word. I don't see any reason for the gender of the likes of Maureen Dowd and the entire female staff at FOX to shield them from the word, especially as they use and promote regressive stereotypes of women, constantly, in their media careers. I certainly don't see any reason for the word to not apply to the New York Times in general when they practice the same kind of skanky media promotion that FOX and the other cabloids do. They are all sleazy, low characters, those sleazy low characters are the reason we had the politicians we had during the Bush II regime and the reason we have the sleazy skanky Supreme Court majority we've generally got. Calling them what they are is necessary.
The moon has been incredible here the last three nights, tropical and inspiring or, maybe, disturbing if you have lunatic propensities. I can't blame my insomnia on that because it's the heat that has caused that. This is the first piece from one of Carla Bley's remarkable theme albums, this one Tropic Appetites. The words to the songs on it are the ultra impressionistic surreal poetry of Paul Haines. Gato Barbieri who plays the blazing tenor sax was uncredited because of contract restrictions, as I recall. His photo on the back, unlike all the others, showed his back and identified him as an unidentified "cat" but no one who heard it and was familiar with his playing wouldn't have known who he was. I haven't heard this in about twenty five years.
Gato Barbieri (uncredited) − tenor sax, percussion
Carla Bley − organ, piano, electric piano, celeste, cello, marimba, percussion, vocals, clavinet, producer, engineer
Paul Haines − performer
Dave Holland − bass, cello
Howard Johnson − tuba, bass clarinet, baritone sax, soprano sax, vocals
Michael Mantler − trombone, trumpet, valve trombone, producer
Toni Marcus − violin, viola
Paul Motian − drums, percussion
Julie Tippetts − vocals
Karen Mantler - vocals
Note the date. No one else was writing music so uncompromisingly dissonant in 1894. which is remarkable but nothing as compared to the remarkable expressive power of this setting of that Psalm in a language that Ives was, essentially, inventing for himself.
Not one to generally mourn over the lost and unrecoverable past, the loss of many of Ives' pieces from that part of his life when he was an active church musician, is something I've often regretted. Other than a few Psalm settings not much of it survived. As I recall someone once told me there had been a fire. I'm going to post some more of Ives' Psalms this week. They are a challenge a century and a quarter after he composed them, often a sign that music will continue to be performed by musicians who like to learn new things. The typical strategy in music and the performing arts these days is to pander to the lowest common denominator, in classical as well as pop music, that means giving people what they're so familiar with that they don't have to go to the bother of hearing it, anymore. But the other strategy of appealing to good performers with the challenge of what isn't familiar and to listeners who like to really listen to things is probably the more sound one. As Charles Rosen pointed out, musicians are the ones who are ultimately in control of what music is performed. I don't think here is much of a chance that the best musicians won't want to take on Charles Ives at his hardest and least familiar. This piece isn't going to get old.
Diane Nash is another of those who I am continuing to learn from. Her record of effective courage is ignored as those who get attraction from their violent talk are promoted, even though they didn't do much in the past to validate their ideas. This talk she gave in Selma on March 7 has more practical advice and wisdom in it than just about any other five minutes I've heard recently.
Her observation that change can't wait on the politicians because they won't deliver it brings it back to the roots of the real government, The People, who are the only real source for durable change. If we had to wait for the politicians we'd never get anywhere. Her observations about the difference between a movement for change and protest is also valuable. I would endorse her statement about the necessity of WRITING DOWN the objectives of the movement so there will be a direction in front of all involved is essential. The phobia about committing to clear goals has hampered an awful lot of action in the past. A "movement" that has dozens of interest groups involved, working in all kinds of directions doesn't move anything anywhere except the hands of a clock and pages on the calendar. Though she doesn't say so, it was clear that George W. Bush pretending, after eight years of standing against everything the Selma movement stood for, of supporting and augmenting the Supreme Court majority that has gutted the Voting Rights Act that was the goal of the event being remembered, was just a part of his brother, Jeb's, presidential campaign. That Jeb Bush along with Bush cousin John Ellis were the ones who triggered the stealing of the 2000 election made his for-show participation in that event intolerable. As she had been one of the most courageous figures in the 1960s struggle, she was about the only one who stood on principle that day by refusing to march. Here is a piece I wrote in response to her decision to not walk across the bridge because she would not be coopted by the Bush family PR op. I think she is credible as few others are on how the success of that effort came about.
It is wonderful to read about and hear one of the great heroines of the Civil Rights struggle, Diane Nash, continuing to witness for the truth and against those who are trying to co-opt the history of civil rights in the form of George W. Bush. She refused to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge due to his clearly political participation in it. I don't think she said it but I told a lot of people that this is consistent with what the Bush family does when another of its members is about to run for President. I am expecting some other PR moves like this in the coming weeks and months, all for nothing more elevated than the thief of the 2000 election, Jeb Bush to make his try for the same office he stole for his brother.
Here is what she said, in her own voice.
Here is something she said fifty-four years ago, as she was in the thick of that struggle, one of its most courageous and bold strategists and fighters.
I see no alternative but that this text must be a personal interpretation of my own experience within the region known as "Dixie" My participation in the movement began in February 1960, with the lunch counter "sit-ins." I was a student at Fisk University, but several months ago I interrupted my schoolwork for a year in order to work full time with the movement. My occupation at present is coordinating secretary for the Nashville Nonviolent Movement. I should not wish to infer that I speak for the southern movement, for I think that there is no single person who can do that. Although many of the following statements can be generalized for the entire movement in the South, I shall refer largely to Nashville, Tennessee, for that is where I have worked. I submit, the, that the nonviolent movement in that city: 1. is based upon and motivated by love; 2. attempts to serve God and mankind; 3. strives toward what we call the beloved community. This is religion. This is applied religion. I think it has worked for me and I think it has worked for you and I think it has worked for our Church... ... The problems in Berlin, Cuba, or South Africa are, I think, identical with the problem in Jackson, Mississippi, or Nashville, Tennessee. I believe that when men come to believe in their own dignity and in the worth of their own freedom, and when they can acknowledge the God and the dignity that is within every man, then Berlin and Jackson will not be problems. After I had been arrested from a picket line about three weeks ago, I jotted down the following note, with this meeting in mind: If the policeman had acknowledged the God within each of the students with whom I was arrested last night, would he have put us in jail? Or would he have gone to the store we were picketing and tried to persuade the manger to hire Negroes and to treat all people fairly? If one acknowledges the God within men, would anyone be asking for a "cooling off period," or plead for gradualism, or would they realize that white and Negro Americas are committing a sin every day that they hate each other and every day that they allow an evil system to exist without doing all they can to rectify it as soon as they can? Diane Nash, August 1961 address to the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice from: Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965
edited by Davis W. Houck, David E. Dixon
I was going to spend an hour this morning typing out a long passage about the history I've been talking about for the past few days but when I read about what Diane Nash said and did this weekend, I knew there was someone who not only studied what I'm addressing but lived it and lives it.