"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
The whole reason one wants to do lower budget films is because the lower the budget, the bigger the ideas, the bigger the themes, the more interesting the art.
Francis Ford Coppola
Not having the time to do real research on this I looked at what the official source of online . . . Oh, mercy, I'll have to say it "culture" says about what constitutes a "low budget film," Wikipedia. It has figures like $60,000 (Blair Witch Project) $20,000 (Chan Is Missing - which I liked a lot when I saw it) as the lowest of the "low budget" films. It being the movies, it relates those figures not to the quality of the ideas involved, no matter what Coppola says, but how much money the movies made.
Micro-budget films - which I doubt was the kind of budget Coppola was talking about, are mostly a 3rd World category, $7000 (El Mariachi) and $3000 (Pather Panchali) but as that movie was made more than sixty-years ago I don't know if that's in 1955 dollars or today's or what the budget in 1955 India means in the United States in 2018. My guess is that $3000 got you a hell of a lot more production value in 1955 India than it would get you in even 1955 America.
Needless to say, even by the standards of high-production radio dramas as are produced only by a few of the large national radio services, now, the budgets of "low-budget" films are massively financed. The entire budget of the BBC's Radio 4 is smaller than the budget of a modestly financed major studio movie and their Drama department is only a fraction of that. I would bet that lots of producers would drool over a budget of $3000 for one production, I'd be curious if anyone knows what kind of financing we're talking about for a typical radio drama production. If there are many independent producers of audio-drama who spend hundred dollars on an episode (or perhaps a whole season) I'd be surprised.
Like in the movies, the largest number of audio-radio dramas are pretty empty of ideas or originality or of much worth for anything but, perhaps, practice for those involved in producing them, if that. [Stephen Spielberg's practice movie, Duel, had a budget of $450,000, according to Wikipedia, ] But I think there's more of a chance you're going to find more in a good audio drama than you'll get in an allegedly intelligent movie. Even back when there was actual, for-profit, network-radio drama in the United States, Rod Serling said that he was able to do a lot more by way of ideas BECAUSE IT WAS LOW BUDGET. The money men were only interested in the money and having something on to fill air time. If it were possible to do an idea per dollar ratio I'll bet the one for audio drama, even with the massive amount of crap in that category, it would break into measurements in whole numbers per dollar. The movies, with those budgets and the idiocy of almost all of it, I don't think you could measure that in whole numbers without going through an epoch of hyper-inflation.
Films and hotels have many aspects that are the same. For example, there is always a big vision, an idea.
Francis Ford Coppola Back at the height of my reading of the lefty magazines, a period which began to ebb in the 1990s and still hasn't ended, entirely, I'd have told anyone who predicted that twenty years later I'd be depending on Esquire more than The Nation for important news that they were insane. Shows how reliable the prediction business that seems to obsess the news media in the United States probably is.
I know the estimable Charles Pierce gets more repetition but I've come to really value Jack Holmes as someone who often gets it just about perfect. One of his recent pieces about Donald Trump's mind and its formation in TV and the movies tells us a lot of why we are in such danger from Trump.
After recounting the horrific story of how Trump, responded to veterans plea that there be more support given to service members damaged by the United States spraying Agent Orange on Vietnam out of his mis-remembered viewing of the movie Apocalypse Now. Even Robert Duval's famous line, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" didn't register with the grad of one of the Ivys as he repeatedly told some of the audience, some of the Vietnam veterans some of them must have been wrong that they weren't spraying Agent Orange in the movie. because of what he remembered from watching it. Holmes goes into some detail about the consequences of having the reality TV star as president in horrifying specificity:
It's always comforting to remember the world's most powerful man is swimming in a mental sea of informational flotsam, his synapses firing erratically as he latches onto the profoundly limited number of things he thinks he knows, most of which are fragments of reality he internalized around 1982. This is how you get the moronic, bordering-on-incomprehensible advice for dealing with wildfires he spooned out of his brain onto The Tweet Machine last week. It's something that he heard once, maybe, filtered through the kaleidoscope of his reasoning faculties, which he then presents as God's Own Truth. Of course it is—he's the one saying it. Obviously, this has some negative consequences for, say, veterans. The Vietnam vet groups in the Apocalypse Now fiasco meeting were trying to improve treatment for vets exposed to Agent Orange. It does not appear they made progress, and Weidman says they now struggle to get the president's ear at all. One upside of the meeting, however, was it was the last time veterans' groups had to deal with Omarosa, whom Trump tapped to run point on vets issues when he first entered office. Now a mortal enemy Trump wants to see "arrested," the former Apprentice was then saying nice things about the president, so he doled out out crucial responsibilities to her for which she was completely unqualified. Apparently, shortly after the Apocalypse meeting, Omarosa simply got bored of her vets assignment and other aides took it over.
It's bad. Really bad. And I don't mean the Omarosa angle, I'd certainly trust her more than the three businessmen thugs Trump lets run the VA. Well, "trust" isn't the right word, though "more" is.
But what's worse is a country which has an effective electoral margin (along with the putrid, anti-democratic Electoral College) handed the country to the biggest liar and phony in our history on the power of his TV presence, his fascist Boss-man "Apprentice" character along with the long running subplot of the media in which Hillary Clinton was not one of the most dedicated public servants to ever get the nomination of a major party, but that she was written a role something like what I'm told was Omarosa's stock character of evil black woman villain.
Our system, and by that I don't mean only the putrid, corrupt vote-suppressing state states and the Electoral College (now subject to Supreme Court rigging, as well) but also the media, from highest to lowest (and, it seems most influential) has produced Donald Trump through media saturation of the collective American mind.
Donald Trump is able to do what he is doing BECAUSE of the "free-press" which now, thanks to the innovative language and creation of neologisms of the "free-speech-free-press" industry means the media, including FOX and Sinclair, Breitbart, etc. They installed him, they sustain him and the people who put him there, billionaires domestic as well as foreign, used the media they control, taking the corrupt elections system into account to do it.
I don't know what Francis Ford Coppola intended in making Apocalypse Now but I doubt he intended it to inform the ignorant and pathological criminal depravity of the Trump regime, though obviously it does that. I don't generally go looking for quotes that I never read to illustrate a point but here's one from James Gray 'Apocalypse Now' poses questions without any attempt to provide definitive answers, and the film's profound ambiguities are integral to its enduring magic.
How anyone could maintain a view permitting ambiguity about the moral depravity of the characters in that movie or have the intention of leaving the audience with an ambiguous view of what they presented is disturbing.
I think it's related to that thing that Terry Eagleton talked about, the pose of suspended judgement and decision that is such a big part of the folly of modernism and the demands of the materialist-scientistic view of life. The claim that unless something has the status of proof required by nothing but pure mathematics, we are not to assert the truth of something. If that was what Coppola got out of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, it leaves me to wonder if the fault was his or Conrad's. Which is one of the reasons I've come to wonder about the efficacy of using fiction to make points about such serious life or death truths and about the entire project of modernism, as can be read in the quote by Jack Levine right under the blog header above.
I would like to hear Coppola on this, on how dangerous such stylish ambiguities are when a reality-TV president misremembers the directorial the auteurial intent in the movie.
Making a movie to make a point is about the most lavishly, expensively inefficient and incredibly stupid ways to make a point that have ever been dreamed up. Writing an opera to do that is probably less of a waste of resources, effort and time. Making a TV drama series must be at least as bad, especially if it goes into more than a couple of seasons. Though presenting Trump as a fascist boss-man seems to have gotten across with a dangerous number of people. If the point was about the depth of evil of the charters in Apocalypse Now, built off of the presentation of evil in Heart of Darkness, I doubt that more than a minority of the audience gets the point. That is even more true when it is a high-budget extravaganza with audacious and memorable effects of the kind that will be adjudged to make it a great movie. The part those play in the ambiguous take away from the famous "Ride of the Valkeries" scene of the movie is probably one of the main contributions to Trump's use of it in his gawdy, vulgar mental furniture and, as a result of people buying his TV persona, in his use of it in governing us, including the veterans Jack Holmes wrote about.
Is the left any better? I'd have thought so back when I subscribed to four lefty mags, before I went online. I don't think so now that I've read a lot of the lefty thinking, only instead of producing electoral victory and powerful presidencies, the left produces electoral impotence and (perhaps as a result) impotent presidencies such as those of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
The Trump regime is just the most recent and extreme in a series of disastrous presidencies since the high point of American liberalism, the Johnson administration got suckered by the Harvard boys and some Generals into sinking it in the mire of the Vietnam war. One of the strongest tools they used to talk Johnson into increasing the American presence there was his fear of the media calling him weak, saying he "lost Vietnam" and empowering the Republicans who were not yet overtly fascist. The American media was wildly supportive of the Vietnam war in the early 1960s and, I would say, well into the Nixon administration, that is after they helped use opposition to the war to end Johnson's plans to run in 1968 and then to defeat Hubert Humphrey when he got the nomination in his stead. The part that the "new left" played in that self-defeating idiocy was no where near as important as the role that the media played in it, and I would include Hollywood which has never been remotely liberal in general and when it has been it's generally been pretty stupid about it. I mean, Susan Sarandon is hardly the only one, Aaron Sorkin is as big a tool in his own way. Never, ever trust a Hollywood liberal, especially one who wants to prop up an updated version of JFK's Camelot, which was a lot of hooey even before his assassination. In his own way, I think Obama or at least many of his supporters thought it was going to be President Bartlett and CJ and Leo and Toby and the team as they elected Jimmy Smits who won narrowly over the noble Republican (it was that big a pile of bullshit) Alan Alda who would be offered a job and CJ got to be chief of staff. Well, in the real life that such TV produced, we got Trump. Shows you how realistic that show was.
The left are as big a bunch of suckers for show biz as the right, it's just they like different shows. Even some of the best of them, such as the crew at Majority Report show signs of it. The lower quality rungs of the left are as wallowing in show biz as the right. I doubt there are many of them serious enough to miss or give up their shows to save egalitarian democracy. I used to think it was all that pot we smoked, now I think it's all the TV and movies that sank the left, and the lefty magazines that were running their own old movies of lefty classics on a loop through their heads. Look at the movies the Hollywood lefties were making, look at the hagiographic junk produced about losers like Emma Goldman and the Hollywood lefties. John Reed, for Pete'sake, that total and complete asshole douche-bag John Reed!
I thought I'd post a performance of Jascha Heifetz and compare it to a couple of others. I chose the Brahms Sonata 3 op 108 (for one thing I've performed the piano part so I'm very familiar with the score) and I've posted a couple of other performances of it over the years.
Here is Heifetz rather equally matched with the younger and very great and tragically short-lived William Kapell in the first movement (you can hear the rest at Youtube).
Knowing the piece, there's nothing to fault in terms of fidelity to the score, the several instances of portamento in Heifetz's playing is, actually, typical of the playing of the period when it was written so I would almost guarantee that Brahms would have expected it, though it fell out of fashion later in the 20th century only to be reintroduced by some performers as a part of authentic performance practice.
The sound of Heifetz's playing is gorgeous, there's no other word for that, it is refined and never rough his technique is magnificant. Did he violate anything in the score? Nothing I can see or hear. Would this be my favorite recorded performance of it? No. I'd certainly listen to with a lot of pleasure but there is something missing from the performance that you might hear from the other two performances. I will say that I might not kill to be able to play the piano part like Kapell did but I'd think about it.
Here is one of my favorite performances of the piece, with the great David Oistrakh, violin and one of my piano heroes, Sviatoslav Richter, piano
There is no doubt that despite the extreme beauty of Oistrakh's tone, it is not as golden and smooth as Heifetz's, the tempo isn't as fast (Brahms didn't specify a metronome marking, as I recall he officially opposed posting those). But the performance is far deeper and far more varied, I would say that in terms of how the tone and technique is used in service to the music is far more beautiful. In Richter's playing were're getting closer to where I'm considering murder to be able to do what he does. Good Lord, what a great pianist he was.
Here is a recording that I had never heard until a couple of years ago by Adolph Busch and the piano player I once wished I was (and occasionally still do when I'm listening to his recordings), Rudolph Serkin.
So different. For a start there is the tempo which is the fastest I've ever heard the fast movements of this piece played. I noted when I posted it that both Adolph Busch and Rudolph Serkin's pedagogical history placed them far closer to both Brahms and Joseph Joachim for whom he wrote the piece and, as I recall, with whom Brahms, himself, performed it. They learned from people who knew Brahms' playing from hearing it, from working with Brahms.
The performance is so great, so radically spot on that the sound of Busch's playing is hardly worth mentioning for all of its beauty. It is sound in service to the music. The effect is terrifyingly direct, I'd go so far as to say they present you with about as direct a path to the mind, the soul of Brahms as you're likely to get. I can't do it justice by describing it. I'd have to listen to it a lot with the score to get used to the tempos used in the last movement but the only thing I can think to say is that it is supernatural compared to the other performances.
Update: I couldn't find the fascinating recording of the Brahms Trio op. 87 by the Busch Trio where they were joined by Adolph Busch's brother Hermann Busch on cello but if you think the Brahms was fast, there's the first movement of Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio op. 70 that is on the flip side of the LP I have of it.
That is what I'd call "bracing". I'd be looking for a victim if I thought committing murder would get me the ability to play like Serkin did there.
. . . Stupy says something stupid, I knock it down, he waits a while and forgets that so he says the same stupid thing, I knock it down . . .
It's been going on like for going on a decade. Obviously in our go round about Heifetz yesterday I was the one familiar enough with his style to know there were critics who noted that his extremely polished style, which is what Virgil Thomson's only real critique of his style was, what he compared to luxury goods, was in service to fidelity to the score. Stupy was the one stupid enough to introduce that issue into the brawl, not knowing enough about music to understand he'd just knocked the legs out from under his dunce stool. I knew it as soon as the ass posted the comment. It's not for nothing I've been a musician all my life, though the pay might make you think that's what it was for.
Here's a rule to live by. Whenever a psychologist or a group of psychologists (probably especially when it's a group of psychologists signed onto a paper or research program) comes up with something like "speed of cognitive processing" your first reaction should be to wonder if it's something real or if it's something they just made up. How does this "speed of cognitive processing" manifest itself? If it's something like a friggin computer generated diagram, that's not evidence that it is what they say it is. The machine metaphor for life is so ingrained in Western culture, since the 17th century, that even scientists don't understand that's what they're doing as they do it. The semblance of clarity achieved through it is deceptive, there is no reason to believe that any of that is really what is going on. In the use of the term I've been refuting, they don't seem to be able to correlate "speed of cognitive processing" with either the bogus scale of measurement of intelligence, IQ or educational achievement or real life achievement, apparently. My skepticism is in light of that lack of correlation. Not to mention the idea that if there is such a "speed" that it is a constant or that its average speed in an individual mind is reliably measured within the time frame of their research protocol. I think anyone who bought such a "thing" on the basis of the description is probably kind of slow on the uptake.
But the problem didn't start with that one made-up entity. It is more basic than that. For a start the idea that "cognition" is a "process" is an unfounded metaphor, founded in the ideological position that the mind is like manufacturing of a machine and, as psychology is want to do, they then pretend that the metaphor is what is real and that it is a secure base from which to start building conjectures, and with psychology (and all the behavioral sciences) that process has meant there is no limit in the extravagance of the imaginary structures they'll build in their city of conjectures. That is until the basic problem of the ideological metaphor is exposed and the thing collapses, except for those whose professional status is dependent on what was built, those derelict structures can house entire professional establishments. Rorschach testing is still around and its junk science status was obvious from the get go. For crying out loud, there are still Freudian snake oil salesmen making good livings out of that derelict old mansion of the mind. Having the designation of science means it never goes away, especially when there's money and professional status involved.
Update: Look at what the 1970s innovation "Evolutionary Psychology" which creates invisible, undocumented "genes" and even "gene complexes" to, unseen, undocumented BE the physical origin of "traits," those "traits" also being invented at will by similar ideological processes along with elaborate scenarios in which unspecified animals in the forever lost past benefited (I'd say "or not" but they never seem to imagine "or not" scenarios in evo-psy) and produced a greater number of offspring - all existing nowhere but in the self-interested, I'd say fevered imaginations of the scientists, and all that being SCIENCE.
Oh, like I said, I'd be worried if they seemed to have known what I wrote because I'd figure I was saying something stupid. Duncan's "brain trust" doesn't do anything but risk making me feel smug as they prove my case. I can only imagine what would have happened to the civil rights movement if they were running it, there would still be signs saying Whites Only all over the place as they were too busy keeping up with their shows. Thank God the religious left was running it. Update Hate: Jascha got off easy there, when Virgil Thomson reviewed him he wrote one of his most famously infamous reviews, Silk Underwear Music. Which, I have to say, is enormously fun to read and, while, as so much of Thomson's criticism was, nasty, more than just a little true. Stupy would be scandalized. Nothing scandalizes him like people failing to respect the officially respectable. He's a real bohemian, you know.
Phil Ochs once told an interviewer he was “born in Moscow in 1917.” In fact, he entered the world via El Paso, Texas in 1940, but neither truth in particular nor reality in general ever came easily for Ochs, the preeminent troubadour of the New Left and an ardent SDS and Yippie camp follower. A remarkably gifted songwriter and political propagandist, on the one hand he was known to sing the praises of Mao Zedong, Idi Amin, the Viet Cong and Charles Manson, while also admitting he probably would be shot for singing his kind of protest music in a country like China. Phil Ochs was an ass. By the time he was born the beneficiaries of the Russian Revolution had already amassed a body count that rivaled the one Hitler was just starting to pile up, and those already massive mountains of those murdered by the commies would get bigger and bigger, even before Mao started his own mountain range of corpses even as the American left went from the old fashion for Stalinism to Maoism. I was there, I remember the enthusiasm of such atheist lefties for Mao, some of the old lefties of my age cohort still yearn for the days when Progressive Labor destroyed SDS out of Maoist principles. In China the cultural revolution was killing what is estimated as between two and ten million people. Given that list of his enthusiasms above, compiled by one of his online admirers, I wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't offed himself if he'd have supported Trump. Loads of old lefty leftists took the baby step into fascism and Nazism, that started way back in the 1930s and continues today. Loads of the guys who named names for HUAC and Joe McCarthy had been full fledged Party members. I don't have any problem imagining any of them then or now taking that baby step into another anti-democratic ideology, what Marxism is by definition. Look at how the goddamned Nation Magazine tells us we need to be nice to Mr. Putin, the foremost sponsor of fascism and neo-Nazism, today. The "new (now very old) left" SDS, the Yippies, total failures that should be left on the dust heap of history. They never produced anything but the Nixon presidency. Their antics probably delayed the end of America's war in Southeast Asia.
Exactly what is this "speed of cognitive processing", how it was identified as existing, how is it known that whatever method they purport to measure it by is measuring "it" and not something else, well, the questions just keep occurring to me as I think about it. One of those is if, as they do so often in psychology and the associated pseud . . . um sciences of that kind, if the "thing" is entirely a product of their self-interested imaginations. How, since they don't seem to be able to correlate it to education and IQ, do they know that "speed of cognitive processing" is related to the quality of thinking? And if it isn't related to that, what does it mean? The abstract says:
Controlling for childhood IQ score,[sorry, I had to suppress a chortle] we found that education was positively associated with IQ at ages 79 (Sample 1) and 70 (Sample 2), and more strongly for participants with lower initial IQ scores. Education, however, showed no significant association with processing speed, measured at ages 83 and 70. I'm kind of puzzled by the ranges of ages in this thing, it looks kind of higglety pigglety to me. And they seem to assume that people stay the same for that range of ages. I wonder, at those ages, did they "control" for undiagnosed dementia? Sorry, thinking about the troll leads me to think of that. I don't see that they've even managed to define what it is in any reliable sense or if what they're measuring is what they've defined.
How you can call that science is another series of questions, how science can sustain its reputation for reliable information when this kind of claim seems to constitute so much of what "is" science leads to more. Scientists have been way, way, way too lenient in allowing unfounded inferences of things that couldn't be observed in under the tent. They should have strictly controlled those for purely physical phenomena. When they let natural selection slide in because they liked that it refuted Genesis and was flattering to the upper class, that was the beginning of all hell breaking loose. And, well, nutrition science, as Rupert Sheldrake said, it's not our most successful branch of the stuff.
Yesterday, when I said, for so many of the credentialed class, it's more a matter of fashion than anything else, yeah, I'd include the lazy illiterate by habit remnant at Eschaton. But I can't say they were near the top of my list in writing that sentence, they're just an example of something more important. Since you ask.
I have to say, since going online and reading the thinking of large numbers of mostly college grads, I can't conclude they got an education along with those credentials. I think the ones who managed to get an education probably did it by their own initiative because you could obviously get the grades to graduate without happening to become educated. They're credentialing trade schools that don't, by and large, teach most of the people who graduate from them a useful trade. I'm told that the largest number of them, these days, get business degrees and never produce anything of real value in their lifetimes. All I can think of is what the British supporter of the American Revolution, William Cobbett, said about that kind of education.
The taste of the times is, unhappily, to give to children something of book-learning, with a view of placing them to live, in some way or other, upon the labour of other people. Very seldom, comparatively speaking, has this succeeded, even during the wasteful public expenditure of the last thirty years; and, in the times that are approaching, it cannot, I thank God, succeed at all. When the project has failed, what disappointment, mortification and misery, to both parent and child! The latter is spoiled as a labourer: his book-learning has only made him conceited: into some course of desperation he falls; and the end is but too often not only wretched but ignominious. William Cobbett 1833
With a view of placing them to live, in some way or other, upon the labour of other people, sounds like the American economy, especially since people got sold on the idea of "the ideas economy" and whatever idiot slogan replaced that one. I remember back when I was a kid, the old, high-school drop-out who used to deliver oil to us used to sit in his truck reading the newspaper while the ancient slow, inefficient pump pumped the oil into the tank. The best read person I've ever known in my life had to leave school when she turned 16 to work in a factory. I haven't encountered many college grads, some with graduate degrees who could hold a candle to her.
And I think it's probably far worse now than in Cobbett's Britain due to mass media and the regime of free speechyness-free pressyness and treating ephemeral commercial crap as if it's anything but ephemeral commercial crap. Cobbett was dealing with a culture in which education meant literacy, not "media literacy," or whatever that idiotic phrase the TV guy from Fresh Air called it.
I think the great lesson of the death of American democracy will be that a country which allows permanent and continual access to entertainment designed to be addictive eye-candy will become both stupid and (especially) amoral and it will not be able to sustain democracy. The college credentialed crowd is no less a part of that than idiots who get addicted to video games and don't graduate from high school. In a lot of cases that's how they intend "to live, in some way or other, upon the labour of other people." For what to expect will come from this I'd turn, not to Cobbett, but to some of the grimmer passages of William Blake. The prophetic books, not the happier passages. Or maybe Dickens. Or Orwell. The books, not the movies.
Oh, I don't know why he'd say that, he's the one who speaks the same language as Kellyanne Conway, Lying. The pathological dialect. Update: And now he's using the expected death of Aretha Franklin to make his cheap remarks about me. The guy is all class. If by "class" you mean low class. I suppose, since he uses the Shoah the same way . . . Update 2: Well, I'm not surprised, a. the Eschatots don't read, b. they aren't too bright, c. they are a self reinforcing spiral into increasing inaccuracy. No wonder Duncan gave up as the adults all fled. I'd worry if they knew what I actually said because I'd have figured I must be going stupid for them to read it. Update 3: Considering I never use the word "Federalist" as in "Federalist Society" without appending the word -fascist, something I must do at least five times a week, yeah, that guy is an idiot.
My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?
Ah, no, Galileo would seem to have written the letter that famous quote comes from to Johannes Kepler, a letter of 1610, Galileo's trial was in 1633. You can tell who he is talking about refusing to look from the quote, "what can you say of the learned here" by which he certainly would have meant people with the mathematical and astronomical knowledge to have understood what they were looking at. There were certainly some priests who would have had that ability, after all, it was Copernicus who inspired Galileo to look and Copernicus was a priest, as some of his greatest supporters were bishops and cardinals and at least one or two Popes. Galileo knew that, he said so in one of his most famous letters.* But in this case, he was talking about the scientific establishment of his days, the the university based teachers of the Ptolemaic system. It would have been hard for him to write a letter to Kepler complaining about his treatment in his trial at the the Vatican as Kepler had died in 1630. You know, BEFORE THE TRIAL. The reason he was tried, his book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, wasn't published until about two years after Kepler died.
I hadn't known it before but fact checking my recollection, I note that the Brit pantomime villain of the bio-pic version of it (and I believe the guy the famous, lying, Brit anti-Catholic painting depicts) Cardinal Bellarmine doesn't seem to have made his first inquiry into Galileo's work until 1611 when he asked some Jesuits with math chops to check G.G.'s math which they confirmed was correct. So that old story that he was talking about red-robed cardinals refusing to look through his telescope seems to be just another common received lie of the kind that Brit style atheists stole from old line Brit Catholic-haters. By the way, Bellarmine died in 1621, so he'd have had a hard time being at the trial a dozen years after that.
For people who claim to uphold the highest standards of science, it's remarkable that you don't seem to have learned how to use calendars. Or, maybe like my most persistent atheist-troll, you're kind of vague on how time works, you know, before and after. Maybe if you knew as much as what Fr. Copernicus knew about those. . . .
Next time you whine about something like that, do a word search of my blog, you'll probably find out I've already answered it, atheists aren't very original in their snark. Or very big on fact checking.
* In order to facilitate their designs, they seek so far as possible (at least among the common people) to make this opinion seem new and to belong to me alone. They pretend not to know that its author, or rather its restorer and confirmer, was Nicholas Copernicus; and that he was not only a Catholic, but a priest and a canon. He was in fact so esteemed by the church that when the Lateran Council under Leo X took up the correction of the church calendar, Copernicus was called to Rome from the most remote parts of Germany to undertake its reform. At that time the calendar was defective because the true measures of the year and the lunar month were not exactly known. The Bishop of Culm, then superintendent of this matter, assigned Copernicus to seek more light and greater certainty concerning the celestial motions by means of constant study and labor. With Herculean toil he set his admirable mind to this task, and he made such great progress in this science and brought our knowledge of the heavenly motions to such precision that he became celebrated as an astronomer. Since that time not only has the calendar been regulated by his teachings, but tables of all the motions of the planets have been calculated as well. Having reduced his system into six books, he published these at the instance of the Cardinal of Capua and the Bishop of Culm. And since he had assumed his laborious enterprise by order of the supreme pontiff, he dedicated this book On the celestial revolutions to Pope Paul III. When printed, the book was accepted by the holy Church, and it has been read and studied by everyone without the faintest hint of any objection ever being conceived against its doctrines. Yet now that manifest experiences and necessary proofs have shown them to be well grounded, persons exist who would strip the author of his reward without so much as looking at his book, and add the shame of having him pronounced a heretic. All this they would do merely to satisfy their personal displeasure conceived without any cause against another man, who has no interest in Copernicus beyond approving his teachings.
I wish I could type out and go through the entire text of Terry Eagleton's Gifford Lecture because it is chock full of fascinating points, some of them not what the atheists who are probably scoffing at the first two passages I typed out would imagine. The end of his lecture proper, after about minute 41 turns it around and points out that the new atheists would have probably never found enough ammo to start their Kultur Kampf (I was going to say jihad but thought better of it, not wanting to encourage the Muslim haters) against religion if religion hadn't given them so much of that.
And that's only one of the many points. Maybe someday I'll go back and go over the fascinating passage in which he points out how the modernistic, religiously neutered, replacement for religion, "culture" was not only a pathetically inadequate failure, unable to even fulfill the assigned role it was given but it proved as corruptible as the worst of religion.
I will go instead, not so much to what was said but the first audience question, certainly by one of the new atheists who went to the lecture so they could ask a question to embarrass the "faith-head". If I said that Eagleton addressing Dawkins and the still, then, living Hitchens sounds a little quaint, the question sounds even more quaint and far more ironic than anything Eagleton said.
43:41 Stuart Ritchie, Psychology Department. I hate to ask such a sublunary question, um, but do you actually have any evidence for the existence of God because it seems to me that you can talk about how nice you think the emperor's clothes are and how fancy they are and all that but it doesn't really matter if the emperor isn't actually wearing any clothes at all. Um, and in fact, you don't seem to be, I don't know who your talk is aimed at, 'cause you're not going to convince any atheist because you haven't provided any evidence for the existence of God and you're not going to convince any religious people because you've basically told them what they believe is not actually what, say, Christianity is. So I'm not entirely sure where your lecture is aimed.
I'll leave it to you to listen to Terry Eagleton's answer, this is mine.
I can't say, though perhaps I could find out if I sifted through his rabid commentators, if Stuart Ritchie was a devotee of P. Z. Myers anti-religious "Scienceblog" Pharyngula because I take it he was invoking Myers' "Courtier's Reply" in his question. Which was part of the common vocabulary of atheists at the turn of the last decade when this talk was given. That would be ironic (as it seems quaint to me) in the highest sense of it because Myers' was supporting Dawkins' contention that his not knowing anything about the very literature of religion, theology, that he slammed was entirely proper because, as a scientist, he was above knowing the substance of what he was slamming in a best selling book sold on his authority as a scientist and intellectual.
I wrote a piece pointing out that instead of being an evidenced base critique, the new atheism was taking the same position that Galileo's opponents took when they refused to so much as look through his telescope at the moons of Jupiter. For the record, and contrary to the popular received myth and English topical painting, it wasn't the Cardinals at the Vatican who refused to look, it was the contemporary scientific establishment who taught Ptolemaic astronomy at universities who were Galileo's earliest and most persistent enemies. Ironically, still, it was Galileo's supporters within the Catholic hierarchy who were his protectors when the dope provoked Pope Urban VIII by casting him as "Simplicius" in his The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Urban VIII (aka, ironically enough, "the last humanist pope) didn't know much about astronomy (unlike his predecessor, Paul III, to whom Copernicus dedicated his book on the topic) but he did know that a late renaissance-early baroque pope didn't have to tolerate being called names by an upstart sci-guy.
I think there is much irony that Urban VIII's attitude that due to to his position as a hierarch of the Catholic Church he could suppress knowledge so as to preserve his dignity is echoed in Richard Dawkins' and P.Z. Myers' claim of immunity from knowing what they're talking about, for they are scientists.
Stuart Ritchie's question is even more ironic coming from someone at a university Psychology department, psychology being the science that has been and still continues to be largely non-evidence based, the science which I used to believe had led biology and the life sciences seriously astray** through their shitty standards, phony research methodologies, etc, on the basis of what they claimed to study scientifically being totally hidden from the methods of real science which were unable to penetrate it even with inferential methods far more self-serving and unconfirmable than the speculations of much of traditional natural theology. I looked at the University of Edinburgh website at what I assume is the same Stuart Ritchie's page and have had the time to look at one abstract of one of his studies.
Abstract Recent reports suggest a causal relationship between education and IQ, which has implications for cognitive development and aging—education may improve cognitive reserve. In two longitudinal cohorts, we tested the association between education and lifetime cognitive change. We then tested whether education is linked to improved scores on processing-speed variables such as reaction time, which are associated with both IQ and longevity. Controlling for childhood IQ score, we found that education was positively associated with IQ at ages 79 (Sample 1) and 70 (Sample 2), and more strongly for participants with lower initial IQ scores. Education, however, showed no significant association with processing speed, measured at ages 83 and 70. Increased education may enhance important later life cognitive capacities, but does not appear to improve more fundamental aspects of cognitive processing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Just my first question would be to ask Ritchie for evidence that "IQ" had any validity and for evidence that it measured what it purported to. My other question would be what evidence he had that the "cognitive processing speed" had any real life relevance to anything if it didn't seem to even be related to the phenomenon of education and the "IQ" that was supposed to be a measure of intelligence. If you can't relate any of those to real life phenomena (ignoring, for the moment, any evidence that any of what you were claiming was really real instead of merely asserted to be real), how do you know that any of it is real? Something tells me that he was disappointed he couldn't make the correlation between IQ and "the speed of cognitive processing". I strongly suspect he may have wanted to claim that education didn't change either. But maybe that's my anti-Brit class system bias interfering with an "objective" view of it. Though I'd never claim my skepticism was science. I'll admit to that bias coloring what I think but I doubt you'll easily find a psychologist who would admit theirs do, especially if they've got a professional interest in maintaining what they want it to. I also doubt that any current method of measuring "cognitive speed" will stand a test of time. It sounds like typical psych snake oil to me.
I have long thought it was supremely ironic how many of the professional and semi-pro scientistic atheists came from the world of academic psychology, claiming to uphold the standards of science and rationality when the history of their topic was as dodgy as any scientific or commercial fraud, replete with scandalous professional fees charged for complete and utter bull shit, psychotherapy, Rorschach testing, various other therapeutic snake-oil jobs, up to and including "expert testimony" that had gotten people executed on the scientifically (purportedly) reliable state-reimbursed predictions of duly authorized psych professionals with academic credentials who were later discredited. It was one of America's foremost professional atheists "Skeptics" Ray Hyman who I asked that about, a man who was far more interested in suppressing inconvenient scientific research than he was an uninterested seeker of truth through scientific method.
Psychology is pseudo-science which constantly violates the alleged methodology of science, though it is science for the same reason all science is, because scientists call it that. I'd rather hear an historical critic of religion, they're more likely to know what they're talking about.
** Now I think that started with the adoption of the ultimate biological just-so story, natural selection.
Update: Rereading this, about those "experts" who testified in court, predicting the probability of the defendants killing again, it was mighty convenient for them when the subjects of their speculation were murdered, removing the only possible testing of their scientific predictions for reliability. Psychology in the courtroom is about as reliable as trial by ordeal or throwing someone in the water to see if they float.
"We have literally doubled in the number of hate groups have since 1999." Maya Wiley in a discussion on the resurgence of white supremacy on MSNBC the other night. If "more speech" worked, that wouldn't have been the result of the most more-speechy period since the invention of electronic mass media with more more-speechy venues than ever before. "More speech" as a tactic to produce or even protect egalitarian democracy is a notable and total failure. The speech has to be true to be safe for egalitarian democracy, lies only serve crooks and fascists and dictators. Though I repeat myself, twice. Ideology so often is little more than a cover for gangsterism, gangsterism with an intellectual pretense is still gangsterism. Even when they call it "Marxism" or "classical liberalism" or "civil liberties". Jesus knew that. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:15-20 Fundamentalists who are Trump supporters (or, in fact the supporters of Republicans) should have remembered this. Atheists, of course, reject it. Not because they don't know it's true but because Jesus said it and they just hate them some religion. But religious people, especially the ones who call themselves "Christians" don't have any excuse. The college credentialed class just feel embarrassed by anything associated with the declassé and unfashionable thing, religion, so they'll probably have stopped reading before they get to this. For so many of the credentialed class, it's more a matter of fashion than anything else. That "free speech" has to serve egalitarian democracy to be safe, it can't preach inequality or racism or or sexism or be a come-on by con men to con the connable. "Free speech" serves ends which are sought, the ends are the only reason for it to be freely spoken. Those ends matter in whether or not it is safe to allow it to be amplified through the mass media. Whether or not the audience likes it is beside the point. OR, RATHER, IT IS THE POINT! People who got conned by Hitler liked what they were hearing or they wouldn't have accepted it, con men succeed by playing on what their marks like to hear.That goes for politics, you can steal suckers' democracy from them, probably more easily than when you're trying to rob suckers of their money. The courts certainly won't do anything to redress that, or not enough. Certainly not the Roberts court as amplified by another Trump - Federalist-fascist pick. When you let them lie in the mass media, masses of people will be gulled by it,they will buy the lies and the lies, under electoral government and rule by Supreme Court, will eventually enslave us all. It doesn't have to work more than an effective majority of the time, under the idiocy of the American system with the electoral college and corruptable state-run elections, you don't even have to get a majority of people conned, that's something Putin certainly understood but which Americans lulled by the cult of the Constitution are easy marks for, unable to see the cons that use our system against us. I think the college-credentialed, free speech absolutists will probably be the last to see that, certainly those who will bleat "more speech" as they're being led to the slaughter. That the slave owners and their co-conspirators in the Northern commercial interests who wrote the Constitution didn't spell that out in their golden calf, the First Amendment, might have been done through their total inexperience with setting up a government that they wanted to be free for themselves and those like them. I suspect, not really caring about it that much, they indulged a touch of the poet and got all 18th century poety, aping Latinate terseness when they should have written it like a contract. If they really cared about it, they'd have spelled it out. The Second Amendment is as dangerously non-specific. The history of the timing of the first ten amendments, the unenthusiastic adoption of it by the "founders" because they didn't think legislatures would buy their brilliant scheme without something they could ironically call "A Bill of Rights"* says a lot about the defects that are contained in the text, defects that the Republican-fascists on the Supreme Court used to hand Bush II the election of 2000 and which left us vulnerable to Putin suckering us into Trump in 2016. Or it might have been because they didn't want the people they wanted to continue to enslave and to gull to know the truth because it would free them from slavery and would allow them to see through swindles advantageous to their class. So they didn't specify that people should be free to tell the truth but lies had a lesser protection under the Constitution, which was invented by men to do what those men wanted or envisioned, it isn't an expression of the benevolence and wisdom of God. You should never, ever forget that the men who wrote the Constitution were predominantly slave owners and sharp businessmen as well as lawyers who served their class interests. Though, even if that were not the case, in effect, for us today, that latter case if not present in the Constitution by the intent of the founders was imposed on us through Supreme Court fiat at the behest of lawyers working for the media and the wealthy, going back to the beginning of Supreme Court rulings. And by the middle of the 20th century, there was no excuse because Europe and the Soviet Union had so recently shown us how fucking dangerous the mass media could be when it spouts lies. THAT is something that we have obviously not learned, even yet. No one in the deputed liberal media who doesn't realize "more speech" is a fascist-Nazi promoting failure is either really stupid or they're no kind of liberal who you'd want to have in power. * Update: As I said, never forget these were men who held massive numbers of people in slavery and who were enthusiastic genocidalists and land thieves. Roger Taney was probably speaking nothing more than the truth when he said they never intended Black People to be covered under their Constitution or their Bill of Rights. One reason to be skeptical of the thing even as fundamentally changed by the Civil War amendments. The Supreme Court, under the guise of not even a "Justice" but a clerk to one, used one of those Civil War amendments to grant "personhood" to corporations, something which we still live under and which is one of the greatest danger to the rights of real people under the Constitution.
I am going to go on quoting Terry Eagleton's Gifford Lecture and commenting on it because he hits a lot of nails directly on their heads. Continuing on with commentary. Beginning with a sentence I should have probably included in yesterday's post.
The price of freedom is potentially tragic conflict as well as a certain vulnerability in the face of a robustly absolutist or illiberal or foundationalist enemy.
Freedom that isn't limited will be a guarantee of tragic conflict, often following am even more tragic stasis in a system of violent oppression on the basis of those free to exploit people in a weaker state, as so much of human history consists of.
Monarchs, emperors, dictators, slave holders, factory bosses, owners of tenant plantations and farms, company store towns, etc. enjoyed the kind of freedom that Noble Prize economics preaches, especially as even the likes of Friedrich Hyack's Darwinian evolutionary depravity evolved, itself, into the Koch brother's favorite model invented by James M. Buchanan, Darwinian framing, itself dissolving into the ironically titled "Public-choice" in the universal acid that materialism inevitably is. The imagined absolutist foes, as imagined by Margaret Atwood or at least her fantasy in the hands of cable TV or the anti-Islamic fanatics, in turn, would be overtaken by that same force until things became so intolerable that there would be a violent overthrowing of the system, with or without any intellectual framing. What followed, whether Stalinist oppression, mafia or French enlightenment style rule of terror or, as in the rare example of George Washington (slave holder though he was) the only plausible candidate to wield dictatorial power not feeling right about being crowned king in some Hamiltonian wet dream, might only be a stage in a rerun.
But I'll continue with what Eagelton said because it's more important to understand our condition, where we are.
For another thing capitalism is not just, is just not the kind of life form that demands too much from its citizens by way of belief. As long as they roll out of bed, pay their taxes, refrain from assaulting police officers, they can believe more or less what they want. It's not belief that keeps the system taking over, as it's belief that keeps the Lutheran Church or Flat Earth Society taking over. The system, once again, is thus bound to look particularly feeble and fragile when confronted with a stoutly absolutist foe. Post-modernism in particular commits the grave error, I think, of regarding all passionate conviction as ipso-facto dogmatic. It's skeptical not just of this or that faith but, in a sense, faith as such. It tries to get by on as little of the stuff as it decently can like a recovering cocain addict. For this brand of thought all certainty is latently authoritarian. This is, one reason why the post-modern young insert the word "like" into their speech every couple of seconds to avoid the impression of their being certain about something. And thus, in their own view, distastefully authoritarian. It's a kind of ritual hesitation and so a sort of authenticity in an age when you can't be sure of anything where it seems overweening to imagine or convey that you can by not putting the word "like" between the other words. Yet I think there's more to the general situation than that because I think the deepest irony is that liberal secularism of the kind I've been describing actually helps to breed fundamentalism.
I have mentioned the part that going on lefty blogs in the past twenty years and reading the unfiltered thoughts of self-identified lefties has played in my disillusion with the secular left and I can say another of the major milestones in that was. I wish I could resurrect the discussion in which one of my fellow LGBTs castigated the entire category of morality and morals as oppressive when the basis of her making that statement was her histrionic anger at supposed, imaginary really, oppression of atheists, itself, cluelessly, moral complaint. I seem to recall pointing out that without morality and morals that the rights of LGBT people could not be demanded because all anyone would need to do to reject such a demand is to say, "I don't want to". When you reject the absolute moral standard of equality as a moral command, that's all that's left. Atheists of that ilk have no leg to stand on in demanding any civil right on the very basis of their materialist, scientistic framing because those destroy the entire category of morals.
The situation Eagleton lays out does play an enormous role in the self-generated, self-imposed impotence of the left after about 1965 as the college-based "left," schooled in the very ways of thinking that Eagelton cites, started taking over from groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, perhaps freedom-summer had that ironic effect. The domination of that college-based left in the anti-war movement definitely suffered from the often self-defeating enthusiasms of such young people as well as the attention-seeking and, pathetically enough, "power struggles" among the powerless based on ideological assertions of who, by virtue of one ideological position or other, was the most lefty in the room, a room which would never do anything, not anymore than the blog commenting communities that so many of those people now people. It is one of the limitations of depending on leadership of the young, it's bound to get caught up in the inherent immaturity of the young. The "youth culture" hegemony that my generation inflicted on the world proves that immaturity can be extended into senectitude.
Compared to the religion-based activism of the Civil Rights movement, which produced the incredible feat of at least forcing a pause in the American apartheid system, the achievements of the secular left are certainly at least unimpressive and I say they have been counterproductive. Given what I said about the idiocy of my generation's great contribution to this, "youth culture" it's only fair to point out that it wasn't only the young who contributed to that idiocy. The part they played in "breeding fundamentalism" was not only in fragmenting the left (as any student of American Marxist parties could have predicted was inevitable) but more so in providing the Republican-fascist right with examples of ballot-box poison and laughing stock "liberalism" (the "liberal" Phil Donohue seldom presented liberals as anything but flaky). Likely most damaging of all, they also unleashed the corporate media to lie with impunity, handing the fascists unlimited ability to propagandize the country through a fundamentalist reading of their idea of secular holy writ, the First Amendment.
The fact that the theory of natural selection is responsible for producing the entire line of eugenics is absolutely proven in what I laid out, again, in my first post yesterday. Both eugenics' inventor, Francis Galton named his inspiration for the idea of eugenics, natural selection as set out in On the Origin of Species and his cousin and colleague, Charles Darwin, the inventor of natural selection and the author of On the Origin of Species, authorized his cousin's use of his theory, not only in a published letter to Galton but, in what is conventionally considered the strongest endorsement one scientist can make of another's work, in his scientific publications, The Descent of Man and, as Galton pointed out was Darwin's first endorsement of his first foray into elucidating his eugenics, in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, Darwin citing his first two articles on the topic published in Macmillan's Magazine in June and August, 1865.
Neither man ever retracted what they said on the topic and that does, actually, constitute absolute proof in the matter. It is impossible for anyone to come up with a refutation that can overcome what they said on the topic.
The rest of it is merely a long and laborious definition of documenting the depravity of what eugenics as even they conceived of it was, that their inspiration continued in those who, on the basis of their faith in natural selection, developed the theme of inequality, the alleged dysgenic effects of letting those of "lesser fitness" to live long enough to have children or to allow them to have children (both Darwin and Galton explicitly favored the deaths of the "unfit" over the use of birth control, Darwin explicitly endorsing the eugenic effects of genocide) and how the next generations, up to and including Darwinists today, have continued that development, even after its most literal expression in American, Canadian and other eugenics in putative democracies and, inspired by those earlier examples, the Nazi genocides.
Though not usually an explicit expression of eugenics, I would point out that the evolutionary psychology, published, peer-reviewed science, of such figures as Kevin Macdonald and John Hartung, science endorsed by not only Richard Dawkins, who cited explicitly antisemitic science by Hartung in The God Delusion, but the neo-Nazi David Irving who gave Macdonald perhaps too much exposure outside of the alabaster chamber of science when he called him as a witness in his attempt to silence Deborah Lipstad in the British courts. Evolutionary psychology is probably the most influential articulation of Darwinism, constructed out of just-so stories of natural selection, in the past half century. "Never again" would not seem to be a slogan that has penetrated science or the popular understanding of science. Maybe they think it's too much like something that would come from the humanities to be respectable. I mean the humanities as in the traditional research and writing of history, not as in the modernistic devolution of the humanities aping the supposed methods of science, "theory". That's more in line with evo-psy and, as I've come to understand through writing on this topic, the ultimate just-so story of natural selection.
It really does matter because it's happening yet again. You can read it in the disciples of William L. Pierce and in the neo-liberal and conservative opinion media, Andrew Sullivan, the champion of The Bell Curve and in the endorsements of inequality as expressed in evolutionary psychology as can be read in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and elsewhere. I hear its secondary echo whenever I hear Rachel Maddow or someone else say "meme".
If anyone wants me to continue with Simels let me know because I don't think there's anymore to be learned from him, the stupid is merely repetitious at this point. Stupid on stupid is just more stupid. I think it's demonstrated that the atheist play-left failed because it was, well, it was just always stupid. I wish I could say he was a particularly stupid and dishonest example of the type but he's typical. It's too much like a freak show at this point.
This passage and what came after it in Terry Eagleton's Gifford Lecture, posted yesterday, struck me as touching on some of the most dangerous and difficult to address trends leading to the current resurgence of fascism and its relationship to modernity. So I thought I'd type it out and comment on why I think it's important.
The world, one might say, is currently is currently divided between those who believe far too much and those who believe far too little. I like to think I stand in the middle, somewhere. Late capitalist cultures are not given to an excess of belief for at least two reasons. One thing liberal democracies don't so much hold beliefs as believe that people should be allowed to hold beliefs. They display a certain creative indifference towards what their citizens actually believe as long as they're allowed to get on with believing it and as long as they don't entertain or act upon beliefs which will prevent other people from believing whatever they believe. Such social orders, then, are agonistic by their very nature, um . . . sorry, agnostic. They're also agonistic, I misread the word. They're also agonistic but I'll say agnostic for the moment. And this agnosticism, however intellectual or laudably admirable, letting people get on with what they believe is politically perilous. Because the fact in this situation is that peoples' beliefs are bound to collide with each other to the point where any fundamental consensus necessary for political power becomes well neigh unachievable. Another reason why that consensus becomes very difficult to achieve in late capitalist societies - though this is another story - is so-called "multiculturalism." If the dominant power will be interpreted in different ways by different communities that poses a problem for deep-seated political consensus. Anyway, it's a characteristic of modernity, certainly late modernity, that consensus is increasingly hard to come by in a way that would, no doubt, have struck many an ancient or medieval thinker as exceedingly strange. Almost everyone agrees that roasting babies over fires is not the most civilized way to behave but we can't agree why we agree on that and we probably never will.
The pretense of scientism I mentioned earlier, especially in the period when psychology took it on itself to convince people that they couldn't trust their own thinking because the phenomenon of mental illness exists, and, especially, the need of materialistic-scientistic atheism to discredit morality as having the possibility of determining absolute moral truths has led to political absurdities that make liberal democracy (as opposed to the democracy of traditional American liberalism) unsustainable. It is proving unsustainable, in the age of Trump and other neo-fascist, neo-Nazis, because of the legalistic principles that replace moral principles. In the United States, it is conventionalized in the mistaken idea that because the Constitution says something, because "the founders" said something, it is the sought end of things. That stupidity enshrined in the oaths that various officials take to merely "defend and protect the Constitution" short circuits the only reason that any Constitution should be considered as having any legitimacy, that those serve egalitarian democracy and the requirements of universally held moral obligations to respect the rights of all. Those aren't, by the way, the legitimate end which all of those must serve to be legitimate, that end is embodied in the principle that you are to do unto others as you would have done unto you, that you are to love one another, that you are to provide for those in need, including the alien among you, that you should forgive (if for no other reason than that you might then rightfully ask forgiveness) and that you should know those truths and those truths will make you free.
Eagelton's extreme example of the general consensus that you shouldn't roast babies but that we'll never agree on why that is is both extremely optimistic that there is any kind of consensus on that or and spot on in identifying why, even that, what should be the hardest of hard hard truths, is vulnerable to the methods of materialistic, scientistic modernism, which, I will say, I have come to believe is primarily a vehicle for the service of those who can exercising their will on those without power. The goal of science, from the start, was to channel nature to enhance the power of those who wield it, politically that is bound to serve those who already have the power. Egalitarian democracy has to find its origin and energy in something else and that is only going to come from God who endows all of us with rights and moral obligations.
It's demonstrably true that there isn't general consensus against the murder of babies, the history of the 20th century that Eagelton derides "Ditchens" for holding is a saga of increasing moral excellence has had innumerable babies and children and other innocent people murdered, the Nazis, under various Marxist governments, all of them proclaiming their scientific nature, did pretty much what Eagelton says a consensus in opposing. And the whole while, those acts had their apologists among liberal democracies and certainly intellectual establishments. Often such things were accepted as a mere cost of war or a cost of "progress" and, in fact, the murders of children - though by some cleaner, "humane" means - is a mainstay of the scienctific consideration of what is called in many if not most universities in the English Speaking Peoples, "ethics". In fact, its explicit discussion was a mainstay of utilitarianism and its existence was certainly accepted by many of the brightest lights of the enlightenment, either directly or by proxy in their support of racial inequality and the conquests and destruction of people deemed inferior to the Europeans who were anything but civilized in their actions. The scientific and sociological and philosophical literature is full of such breaches of that consensus.
Politically, in the United States in the post-war period, the tender regard of secularist elucidations of the civil liberties establishment - at the behest of lawyers payed to promote such stuff - of post-war Nazis freedoms to be able to promote a repeat performance of the Nazi genocides was and remains a mainstay consensus of the modern, secular, enlightened intelligentsia that "Ditchens," or at least such intellectuals as Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker put their most warmly held faith in.
That even as the ashes of the crematoria were cooling and even before the scholarly understanding of what had happened was barely getting underway, those holding fastest to the legalistic principles that the Founders replaced real morality with in the Constitution, piously invoked and recited the formulas that we had to take the chance of the Nazis doing what they had already succeeded in doing, what Marxists were still and are still doing, killing people, including babies, is all the confirmation anyone of any reasoning ability and any moral sense would need to say the agnosticism that pose is based in is not only problematic but dangerously and criminally immoral.
The "principle" that we must take a chance on Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, etc. on not being able to repeat what they did because science, the slicing and dicing of intellectuals can't come up with a solid consensus in why what they did is wrong, a consensus that, unusually in even scientific discourse, especially that pretending to treat human societies and populations, is demanded to be on the level of a mathematical proof before we take it as an absolute truth is in the running as the stupidest idea produced in the entire history of human thought. I can't think of another idea as stupid that is regularly spouted by anyone today. And, as we're still in the backwash of the new atheism, it's not for want of competition for the ultimate stupid idea but it's an odds on favorite. I have a feeling we're going to be seeing just what a good bet that was.
The conceit of scientism, that science is the sole source of truth is obviously untrue because that central holding of scientism isn't a scientific statement. As with the materialism that is held along with scientism, it has the distinctly discrediting property that it can only be true if it is false. That so many within science (and sci-groupies who don't have the chops to be sci-guys but want to be mistaken as them) would be true-believers in such absurd and incoherent dogmas (while they claim to hate dogmas) is evidence to their non-mastery of logical rigor.
History is only one area of human endeavor which, unlike much of science, can produce absolute knowledge. So can other areas of rigorous study. We can know with absolute certainty the date of Hitler invading Poland, we can know with absolute certainty the date and time of both of the 9-11s that Terry Eagleton mentioned in that lecture I posted yesterday morning, the first, the Nixon sponsored overthrowing of the Allende Government in Chile, three decades before the second one, the airplane-bombing of the World Trade Center. We can know that more people were murdered in the first than murdered in the second one.
In answer to the objection that is often heard that Charles Darwin had no responsibility for eugenics (which, following on the criminal depravity it produced in the United States, Canada and elsewhere inspired the Nazi genocides) is that we know he bore responsibility for it, exactly and directly through his theory of natural selection. I've pointed that out many times before. We have the absolute authorities in determining that responsibility, authorities who can definitively make that attribution beyond any honest question, Francis Galton, the inventor of eugenics and his cousin, Charles Darwin. They had the unique and absolute authority to make that connection, and they did.
We also know that Darwin didn't reject the honor, as Galton would have it, of having inspired eugenics because he sent his cousin a letter praising what Galton said was the first of his books elucidating eugenics,* Hereditary Genius (see the link). We also know that after he sent that letter, in his second major book on the subject of natural selection, Charles Darwin repeatedly cited Hereditary Genius and the two earlier articles in Macmillan's Magazine which Galton documented were the fountainhead of his science, eugenics.* That is something which neither man ever retracted during their lifetimes and which no post World War Two claims of Darwin's innocence has the power to retract on their behalf. That lie which I as most college educated Americans and Brits were taught in the post-war period is an obvious lie that can be known is a lie by anyone who reads the relevant writings of Francis Galton and Charles Darwin, as well as things written by such people as Francis Darwin, Charles Darwin's son and probably his earliest biographer and Leonard Darwin who repeatedly said that his work in eugenics was carrying on his father's work, something which no subsequent denial can honestly overcome, though it can overcome by the methods of public relations and other forms of lying.
I am fascinated by how something which literally no one in the pre-WWII era ever denied was so quickly turned into that ubiquitous lie after the war, a lie which those champions of truth and scientism and materialism, scientists had such a huge hand in peddling and how many who could have made the effort of reading Galton's memoirs, Darwin's The Descent of Man and his letters, which began to be published in quantity soon after his death (Francis Darwin was probably the first to do that) and all of the other testimony from those who knew him.
I think that a lot of the methods of lying that have become the major danger to democracy and any decency in the world were pioneered by such liars lying such lies, using the professional methods of lying that were developed by the advertising industry and which were used, so successfully, by the Nazis and Stalinists and Maoists, Putinists and Trumpists. The Nazis and Marxists, as do the materialists and devotees of scientism claim they have science on their sides, when they obviously don't. Science is as dependent on people telling the truth as history or any other human endeavor, including the religion they despise. Putin, Trump, not even having the vestiges of morality - something washed away by materialism, high-brow and vulgar, don't care as long as they get to steal everything and stay in power to do that.
People who wonder how Trump suckered people without education (they never consider the people with college degrees who voted for Trump in higher percentages than for Clinton) when they buy their own preferred lies. I doubt my most persistent troll really cares about how the Nazi genocides happened or he'd be interested in what the actual record of those who produced the genocide said were their motives. He - like most allegedly educated Americans - only knows he's routing for the atheist, anti-Christian team, which is what so much of the "real" left, the play-left consists of. It's only a game and in a game truth is irrelevant.
* In fact, in the book Francis Galton notes that Charles Darwin cited that even earlier manifestation of his eugenics before Galton published Hereditary Genius and that Galton took encouragement from that earliest endorsement by Darwin:
I am aware that my views, which were first published four years ago in Macmillan's Magazine (in June and August 1865), are in contradiction to general opinion; but the arguments I then used have been since accepted, to my great gratification, by many of the highest authorities on heredity. In reproducing them, as I now do, in a much more elaborate form, and on a greatly enlarged basis of induction, I feel assured that, inasmuch as what I then wrote was sufficient to earn the acceptance of Mr. Darwin (“Domestication of Plants and Animals,” ii. 7), the increased amount of evidence submitted in the present volume is not likely to be gainsaid.
I am certain that a good deal of Charles Darwin's acceptance of his cousin, Francis Galton's Hereditary Genius may have been colored by Galton's use of their shared family history on the Darwin side, both of them were grandsons of the earlier evolutionary theorist, Erasmus Darwin (see the book) as an example of "hereditary genius". I can only imagine what side-comments were made as Darwin's cousin-wife, Emma, read those sections of the book to him or what his son, George Darwin said in that regard as he recommended the book to his father (see Darwin's letter at the first link above).
The entire phenomenon of the idea of natural selection owes a lot of its acceptance in the presumed good-news it is for people who believe it marks them as superior, ordained so by nature. Its use in promoting class, racial, ethnic and, irrationally enough, gender inequality is no accident, it is intrinsic to how it became so universally promoted among those who had been to college and those who want to be mistaken as scientifically informed and up to date. Its ideological use is, I am convinced, the major reason it is retained through every twisting, turning modification of it to mean whatever the person citing it wants it to mean. It is the weirdest scientific theory I've ever looked closely at in that regard. Popper's legitimate accusation, retracted under massive pressure, that natural selection is obviously tautological is hardly its biggest problem, it is that it has meant entirely different things over its long history.
I am intending to go into my fascination with the corrosion of the value of the truth by materialism more using other irrationalities of common received wisdom.
Update: I always try to look up citations by authors to check what they're talking about, so I looked up the citation by Galton in Hereditary Genius and found that Darwin did, indeed, express total confidence in even the earliest works that Galton named in the genesis of eugenics.
Some writers have doubted whether those complex mental attributes, on which genius and talent depend, are inherited, even when both parents are thus endowed. But he who will read Mr. Galton's able paper(11) on hereditary talent will have his doubts allayed. Unfortunately it matters not, as far as inheritance is concerned, how injurious a quality or structure may be if compatible with life. No one can read the many treatises12 on hereditary disease and doubt this. The ancients were strongly of this opinion, or, as Ranchin expresses it, Omnes Græci, Arabes, et Latini in eo consentiunt. A long catalogue could be given of all sorts of inherited malformations and of predisposition to various diseases. With gout, fifty per cent. of the cases observed in hospital practice are, according to Dr. Garrod, inherited, and a greater percentage in private practice. Every one knows how often insanity runs in families, and some of the cases given by Mr. Sedgwick are awful,—as of a surgeon, whose brother, father, and four paternal uncles were all insane, the latter dying by suicide; of a Jew, whose father, mother, and six brothers and sisters were all mad; and in some other cases several members of the same family, during three or four successive generations, have committed suicide. Striking instances 11 'Macmillan's Magazine,' July and August, 1865.
Reading that two things strike me, one is the only time he mentions the nationality of the people in the paragraph was "of a Jew". The second is that it reminds me of how much of the deputed scientific evidence that Darwin depended on has more of the quality of gossip used to reinforce preexisting beliefs than of any kind of rigorous examination to determine the actual cause of an event. Of course, it's so much easier to assert that the causes of such things are biological, discounting things such as being driven crazy by living in a terrible situation, still a mainstay of Darwinian claims not only within but, as concerns my purpose, within the human population.
Simps is pissed off because I won't say "Israel right or wrong," something I'd never say about my own country, the United States, or the country of most of my ancestors, Ireland, and I'm sure as hell not about to say for any other country.
In reaction to him making a racist "joke" about putting "Gypsies" in an abandoned mall as a "homeland" (as I've pointed out, the Trump regime seems to have had a similar idea) I said that I regretted that Jews hadn't been admitted into the United States instead of a. being murdered by Nazis and other atheist-government pogroms, by which mostly meant Stalin but also others *, b. the ongoing tragedy that putting Israel on land taken from the Palestinians has been for the entire post-war period. That, by the "Israel right or wrong" faction of the United States is called "anti-semitism" even as it would fit no honest definition of the term. If anything what I said could get me accused of philosemitism. And, as one of those habitual liars I mentioned in my morning post, Simels repeats it endlessly at Duncan Black's blog even as at least even some of the lazy baby-adults who constitute the remainder of its once more varied comment community must know that he's lying. One thing I learned from Eschaton, atheists tend to be unreliable as friends. Maybe that's a consequence of atheists seeing people as material objects, excepting, as always happens even with the most exigent of materialists, themselves.
Looking back at my earliest days in blogging this morning, I came across the first time I answered that kind of accusation, in the days around just one of Israel's now seemingly perpetual fascist governments' illegal and appalling, indiscriminate scorched-earth attacks against Palestinians, that time in Lebanon. You will note that I didn't name "country x" in the piece, but I will now.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 The Question Asked on Another Website About the Bombing of Lebanon: Do You Like Country x ? The Answer: What the hell does "like" have to do with it? People are getting killed and who I like or don't like has about as much to do with that as whether or not I approve the existence of tungsten. Good Lord, get a grip on yourself. This isn't a high school popularity contest. None of the sides is going to just evaporate - not without both of them evaporating now a days. Five years from now they are all going to be there minus the people who are getting killed. Do you think the survivors are going to forget? No, I don't care if it was a good idea to do something before even I was born, that's not what is going to keep people from getting killed. I don't happen to like the people in control on any of the sides but they are the ones who are going to have to be forced to settle this. Not that that's going to happen while George "I'm the rightest hand of God" Bush is in office and trying to bring about the epic destruction of Revelations.
* You know, the reason that the St. Louis being turned back with Jews fleeing the Nazis is a crime against humanity and why the Darwinian Immigration Act of 1924 was a precursor of and inspirational example to the Nazi's own policies.