Sunday, December 23, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Raw Comment

If you haven't read this article from Gabriel Thompson about living on two dollars a day, you should.    Here is my comment on it.

I'd nominate this article for a Pulitzer.

David_LG, your comment is one of the most insightful and interesting because it touches on the intersection between Republican-fascist and liberal-Darwinist discourse.  In both cases, the pseudo-Christian Republicanism and the often anti-Christian liberalish side come down in exactly the same place.  People who through some aspect of random chance,  bad luck, catastrophe, addiction, lack of education or intelligence are to be subjected to "competition" which they will certainly lose and, so, die early, or to be managed in some marginally and superficially less brutal and slightly delayed death.    

I disagree with the idiotic leftish side that says there is no difference between the Clinton-Obama welfare "reform" and the Republican-fascist plan but that difference is far, far too small.  I believe the crucial change is on the Democratic side and it has a lot to do with the cultural shift between behaviorism with its mechanistic program of universal improvement and evolutionary psychology which asserts that improvement is impossible.  It was during the period of that cultural shift in which Democrats increasingly gave up on change,  going from Jimmy Carter's ideas to Clinton and Obama's.    
I will expand on that theme in the near future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Enrique Granados : El Mirar de la Maja

Victoria De Los Angeles  Soprano
Gerald Moore   Piano

Superb performance

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Enrique Granados: La Maja de Goya

Ana María Sánchez: Voice
Enrique Pérez de Guzmán: Piano

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Marc Antoine Charpentier The O Antiphons for Advent

Les Arts Florissants
William Christie Director

Part 1.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

J.S. Bach Jauchzet, Frohlocket

Monteverdi Choir - English Baroque Soloists
John Elliot Gardiner: Director

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Russell Woolen: Nativitie

Text:  John Donne

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Comment Awaiting Moderation At Tikkun

The religious right, as it acts, instead of what it professes, has far more in common with the materialist “left” in that they consider people and other living beings as being objects for use or neglect or, in some extreme cases, disposal. Both of them, in practice and, to a great extent, in profession hold people to be subject to the category of commerce based on different valuation. I’ve come to think that materialism will, inevitably, degrade into some variation of conservatism, one with a libertarian twist, based on the self-interest of the materialist, at most on the basis of the culture of their club.

A left that doesn't reject that materialist analysis and attitude is a left with no real basis, no real motive to exist and no prospect of ever gaining power and making real change.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marilynne Robinson's Birthday

No living author has had more of an influence on my thinking than Marilynne Robinson, her great, suppressed book, "Mother Country", is one of the greatest of little read books of the past century.   It is the Rosetta Stone  that explains why much of  the modern culture of English speaking people is inimical to the continuation of life and the morality that is required for it to continue.   Her collections of essays, "The Death of Adam" and "Absence of Mind" continue her exposition on that theme, the most important possible and among the most neglected in the superficial and celebrity addled intelligentsia current today.  Her non-fiction writing is the most significant body of work by a single, living,  author on those topics I'm aware of.

Her great novels, especially "Gilead" and "Home", show how imperfect people can strive to live moral lives, even as they don't understand so much and fail.  "Home" helped me to cope with the death of my brother from chronic alcoholism and helped me to understand many things about that which I am still dealing with.   For that I'm in her debt in so many different ways.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Linked Bibliography

For those who want to see, for themselves, that Darwin was a racist, the inspiration of eugenics and probably Ernst Haeckel's most famous supporter and endorser.

The Descent of Man  by Charles Darwin

Note:  As well as copious examples of clear racism by Charles Darwin in the book, he also praises and cites works by Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel,  W. R. Greg and others who are uncontroversially noted to be racists.

Works praised and cited by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man

Hereditary Genius  by Francis Galton

Note:  This is the seminal work of eugenics,  praised by Charles Darwin in a letter to Francis Galton (see chapter XX of Galton's memoir listed below) and cited with extravagant praise by Darwin in The Descent of Man.

The History of Creation,   English translation of  Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte

Volume one

Volume two

Note:  This overwhelmingly racist book advocating infanticide, murder of disabled people, etc. was translated by E. Ray Lankester c. 1875,  Lankester was a friend and intimate colleague of Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley.   During the period when he was making his translation, Darwin was lobbying for him to be accepted into the Linnean Society.   Darwin reserves his highest praise for Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichtes,  saying in his introduction that if he had not been far into writing The Descent of Man when he learned of Haeckel's book, he wouldn't have completed it.  His repeated citation of it in the text can be fairly described as gushing.

Also instructive

Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development by Francis Galton

Galton gives the line of his publications that constitutes his creation of eugenics, including Hereditary Genius.

Memories of My Life by Francis Galton

Note:  Chapter XX, in which Galton not only definitively ascribes credit to Charles Darwin and On the Origin of Species as inspiring eugenics but also publishes the very enthusiastic letter Darwin sent him on his reading Hereditary Genius.

Freedom in Science and Teaching,  English translation of Freie Wissenschaft und freie Lehre  by Ernst Haeckel

Note:  Thomas Huxley wrote the introduction to the English translation, Darwin endorsed it saying he agreed with all of it, one imagines including the passage in which Haeckel says that Darwinism applied to human society would produce an aristocratic system instead of democracy.

Also useful, especially in the relationship between Darwin and Haeckel is Francis Darwin's collection of his father's letters with commentary.

Volume two 

The Darwin Correspondence Project has many useful letters from and to Charles Darwin,  though there are many that aren't posted as of yet.

If Darwin disagreed with what any of these authors said  about him and his work in books and articles he is known to have read,  it was up to him to say so.   Unless someone can produce his objections,  his multiple, full throated, endorsements of these authors and their work has to stand as his expressed opinion.   I've read nothing from Darwin, his family members, his professional associates or others who knew him that distanced him from them.

The Real Reason You Can't Diss Darwin is His Usefulness in Atheist Propaganda

I will grant this to John Wilkins, in today's post he comes out and says it, well, he says it kind of back to front.  He says that the real reason that Darwin is controversial is his use by atheists in denying the idea that God directs evolution.

No, the reason why Darwin was controversial is very, very simple. Darwin argued that complex designs could arise without a mind to guide it. In short, his controversial idea was natural selection (and sexual selection, but even that preceded Darwin). Almost from the day it was published, critics attacked the implication that the living world was not all that special, and that it lacked a Plan or Meaning. Theologians, moralists and even scientists objected to this, and while even most of the Catholic Church accepted common descent and modification of species, it was natural selection they hated.

All the supposed “controversies” of Darwinism (or that phantom, “neo-Darwinism”) are post hoc attacks based on the prior objection to the lack of a guiding hand in biology. Don’t like natural selection? Attack Darwin by calling him a racist or blaming him for the Holocaust. Say he is antiessentialist. Say he is anti-religion. No matter how much evidence one puts forward that these are deliberate lies manufactured by those who hate Darwin for natural selection, it won’t stop the prevarication industry.

There are a number of problems within those two paragraphs, the one I commented on was the assertion that Darwin wasn't an obvious racist when you can only say that if you haven't read him or, as another commentator answered me, you change the meaning of racism to pretend to make Darwin's flagrant racism go away, a form of special pleading.  That is, to deny that you have to violate the most basic rules of intellectual discourse.  I am quite certain that wouldn't be done for William Jennings Bryan on an atheist blog, nor should it.

The comment about the Holocaust is more justifiable,  Darwin didn't know anything about Nazis, Hitler having been born well after he died.  But there are the strongest of links from Darwin and natural selection to eugenics and Haeckel's monism and those do have a direct link to Naziism.  You have to lie about the history of eugenics and that species of monism to deny that.  Which is commonly done by Darwin's fans when you point those  links out.

But Wilkins' main point also has problems.   The holding that evolution is not designed or is designed isn't science, it is an ideological assertion in one case and a religious one in the other*.  Science can come up with a description of physical evidence and generate analyses of that in scientific terms, it can't deal with whether or not what it describes and what it makes assertions about is designed.

The use of Darwin as an atheist oracle was asserted from shortly after On the Origin of Species was published, in books Darwin endorsed and cited as science.  It has been the real reason that atheists have been so eager to assert an extravagantly over the top cult of Darwin, his greatness and goodness and uncanny predictive abilities, a phony Darwin separate from his own literary record, his letters, his citations and associations and against which any contradiction will not be brooked.   Anyone who dares cite, fully, at length, with confirmatory citations from Darwin, himself..., anything to do with Darwin's racism, his sexism, the class interest that so clearly pollutes his scientific claim to fame, his endorsement of Galton's and Haeckel's eugenics, their racism, the depravity of Haeckel's monism.... will be shunned and cast out of the fellowship of educated people.

Any intellectual movement that requires lies to stand is an intellectual movement that will come to no good as it is up to no good.  Any intellectual stand that disallows the introduction of evidence, while requiring words to mean something other than their common meanings, is also rotten to the core.  Darwinism used to not deny the links to race "science", "racial hygiene", eugenics, class division and other things that Charles Darwin endorsed and asserted to be science. With the horrific history of the 20th century the social and intellectual milieu that made mentioning those things  acceptable has changed.  And with the post-war rehabilitation of Charles Darwin** you have to lie about the real Charles Darwin and suppress anything in his record that contradicts that phony, intellectually cleansed figurehead.

It being forbidden to mention that record -  if you happen to do what most Darwinists don't do these days, read him and his citations and find out that he asserted things to be science which are either discredited as science or discredited by history - you risk becoming a pariah.   For the most part, the only people who talk about that are the enemies of evolutionary science.

Well, brace yourselves, it isn't a violation of intellectual life to tell the truth about Darwin's record, there isn't any legitimate rule of logic or scholarship that prevents that, only enforced social convention.  If anti-evolutionists support what they say about Charles Darwin to the normal standards of intellectual life then they are correct about that much of it.  If they go overboard, distort or falsely ascribe things to him, as they often do, that is intellectually dishonest.  But their fabrications and distortions are no more dishonest than those regularly practiced by the Darwin industry and fan club.  Only the pro-Darwin side asserts they are all about evidence and intellectual honesty and the highest integrity.   As anyone who has read Darwin, refusing to constantly make excuses for the purely rotten things he said, the frequent assertions that are not supported by data or evidence, etc, will know that PR image of the culture of atheism is largely a myth, as well.

Note:  The series of posts I did on the topic of Darwin, eugenics and Haeckel are still in kind of rough form.  I hope to revise them in the spring and post them in order on a dedicated blog.   For now, here's my most recent linked index to them.

*  I won't go into the interesting idea that it might be designed but not by a conscious designer because I haven't waded through the very complex, very technical arguments and can, therefore, have nothing valuable to say on the topic.

** Evolution in 2012 doesn't require Charles Darwin to be the great and powerful figure of the Darwin cult, it only requires the truth be told about him and his ideas be subjected to physical evidence and the common rules of reason and logic.   Evolution's confirmation is far, far bigger than Darwin or natural selection, you don't need those in the face of an enormous mass of fossil and genetic evidence, though I doubt biologists indoctrinated in natural selection will give up that habit of thought for a number of generations.

As I said, John Wilkins was honest enough to admit the real need for Darwin and natural selection is in extra-scientific assertions of materialism and, ultimately, atheism.   And that is the real reason for the phony, post-War Darwin and the cult that has grown up around that  idol.   That materialism and atheism seem to need to lie about him should become more of an issue among those of us who are interested in the integrity of science and intellectual discourse.

Update:   Apparently John Wilkins has not read Darwin and he will not tolerate a dissenting view of him on his blog.  I'm not surprised.  It's been my experience that there is no group more disinclined to tolerate free thought than the "free thinkers" and no group of true believers more unaware of their being true believers  than the "skeptics".

Friday, November 23, 2012

How Can You Narrow the Topic of Consciousness?

John Wilkins is one of the more reasonable of the atheist bloggers I've read, even as I don't agree with him, quite often.   I do have some respect for him but I'm not willing to let that respect for him keep me from disagreeing with him when I do.  I've been having an argument at his blog on the topic of consciousness, it began with his post questioning if the "hard problem", scientifically addressing consciousness,  is really all that hard.   Nailing down consciousness and defining it as a material phenomenon has been an ongoing project of materialists and the devotees of materialistic scientism, especially in the post-WWII period.   No less a figure than Francis Crick made it his quest to do that and destroy the possibility of believing in God.   I've read that at Crick's funeral his son admitted that his father's quest  had failed.    Just as an aside, it's astonishing how many scientists, especially as they get older and aren't engaged in productive work, have set themselves the task of killing off God.  You don't have to guess at their motives because a lot of them have said that in the clearest terms.    I can't help but think they are recapitulating the last decades of Bertrand Russell after his career in mathematics and philosophy were dealt a death blow of their own by contemporary physics and Kurt Godel.

One of the things this exposes is how little even eminent scientists need to understand the foundations of science, making their claims to fame at higher levels while, in their extra-scientific, philosophical ramblings,  claiming that radical reductionism is the real key to understanding stuff.  This while exempting themselves from understanding the basic level of science and frequently being angry when those are brought up in evaluating their most extravagant, non-scientific claims, especially those purported to be science.   In most of science much can be taken as "given" and not mentioned, including that basic level.  But whenever you want to address something in which that level is intimately involved, you don't have that luxury.  In modern physics the way in which human beings perceive and think about the things studied turns out to be among the major considerations that has to be address, it can't be overlooked.  In some areas of modern logic,  the impossibility of resolving some of the most basic considerations of how we think, especially situations seen as paradoxical, makes achieving the most basic level of closure impossible.  And those are problems at a level just above where consciousness meets articulate thought, consciousness resides at a more basic level than any of them.

One of the common methods of disposing of consciousness is familiar to those who have read some of the now discontinued philosophical game of logical positivism.   In that game any difficult problems that kept them from coming to their desired conclusion was declared to be "meaningless", by fiat, and this was supposed to make philosophy more like science.  It insists on having it both ways, of pretending to be radically reductionist by pretending that the problems of that effort in dealing with consciousness are "meaningless" because they escape their preferred method of analysis.   Not surprisingly, most people don't recognize their right to make those kinds of declarations, depending on our personal experience and observations more than the decree handed down from some obscure corner of a university department.   The reaction to that refusal is often quite bitter and hinges on a deep conviction of an entitlement to be obeyed on the part of those who choose not to.   Wilkins is one of the least prone to that among blog atheists, but I'm unable to name any others, off hand.

I haven't fully digested this argument Russell made in 1905 in this area but these passages should give his admirers some pause in making reductionist assertions about consciousness.  Under linings are mine.

The difficulty in speaking of the meaning of a denoting complex may be stated thus: The moment we put the complex in a proposition, the proposition is about the denotation; and if we make a proposition in which the subject is `the meaning of C', then the subject is the meaning (if any) of the denotation, which was not intended. This leads us to say that, when we distinguish meaning and denotation, we must be dealing with the meaning: the meaning has denotation and is a complex, and there is not something other than the meaning, which can be called the complex, and be said to have both meaning and denotation. The right phrase, on the view in question, is that some meanings have denotations.

But this only makes our difficulty in speaking of meanings more evident. For suppose that C is our complex; then we are to say that C is the meaning of the complex. Nevertheless, whenever C occurs without inverted commas, what is said is not true of the meaning, but only of the denotation, as when we say: The center of mass of the solar system is a point. Thus to speak of C itself, i.e. to make a proposition about the meaning, our subject must not be C, but something which denotes C. Thus `C', which is what we use when we want to speak of the meaning, must not be the meaning, but must be something which denotes the meaning. And C must not be a constituent of this complex (as it is of `the meaning of C'); for if C occurs in the complex, it will be its denotation, not its meaning, that will occur, and there is no backward road from denotations to meaning, because every object can be denoted by an infinite number of different denoting phrases.


One interesting result of the above theory of denoting is this: when there is an anything with which we do not have immediate acquaintance, but only definition by denoting phrases, then the propositions in which this thing is introduced by means of a denoting phrase do not really contain this thing as a constituent, but contain instead the constituents expressed by the several words of the denoting phrase. Thus in every proposition that we can apprehend (i.e. not only in those whose truth or falsehood we can judge of, but in all that we can think about), all the constituents are really entities with which we have immediate acquaintance. Now such things as matter (in the sense in which matter occurs in physics) and the minds of other people are known to us only by denoting phrases, i.e. we are not acquainted with them, but we know them as what has such and such properties. Hence, although we can form propositional functions C(x) which must hold of such and such a material particle, or of So-and-so's mind, yet we are not acquainted with the propositions which affirm these things that we know must be true, because we cannot apprehend the actual entities concerned. What we know is `So-and-so has a mind which has such and such properties' but we do not know `A has such and such properties', where A is the mind in question. In such a case, we know the properties of a thing without having acquaintance with the thing itself, and without, consequently, knowing any single proposition of which the thing itself is a constituent.

Of the many other consequences of the view I have been advocating, I will say nothing. I will only beg the reader not to make up his mind against the view --- as he might be tempted to do, on account of its apparently excessive complication --- until he has attempted to construct a theory of his own on the subject of denotation. This attempt, I believe, will convince him that, whatever the true theory may be, it cannot have such a simplicity as one might have expected beforehand.

If I had Russell here, one of the things he would need to clear up would be if when he says: In such a case, we know the properties of a thing without having acquaintance with the thing itself, and without, consequently, knowing any single proposition of which the thing itself is a constituent. it would have been better to say "we know some properties". But that's hardly the only question that arises from his assertions, including his motives which I don't trust.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In the Dark About the Only Light We Have

In the past month or so I've developed a new pet peeve, one which can make me grit my teeth. I've noticed how often some variation on the phrase "we're hard wired to," gets said among the mid-high brow folks in the media. I've yet to start counting but my sense is that I'm hearing or reading it at least once a day in some form of media communication. That communication can turn a metaphor into a deeply entrenched habit of thought that becomes an effective and possibly damaging basis for actions.

The idea that we are "wired" is to reduce an incompressible  phenomenon, our consciousness, our perception, our thought and our analyses into something that we believe we do understand, the computer. With that comes the comfort of believing we have a handle on something in service to the professional interests of the people who start off that chain of reductionist credulity. It's sustained by the desire of time-pressed and rather superficial academic and media scribblers to give their utterances a false caché of what they take to be cutting edge and exciting science. From there it goes on to be an unconsidered fashion accessory of superficial thought.

The idea that we are machines has become so widely believed and entrenched in what passes as the intelligentsia, that pointing out that the metaphorical and ideological substance of the phrase isn't backed up by anything but an ideological interpretation of extremely fuzzy science will get a pretty strong reaction.

The fact is that no one has anymore an idea of what consciousness is than they do what time is. Anyone who has tried to wade through the philosophical attempt to deal with time will inevitably confront the fact of the incomprehensibility of our consciousness, of the reality that the most basic of our our realities is undefinable and incomprehensible.

There is no reality that isn't intrinsically bound up with consciousness, "reality" is the word we use for what our consciousness perceives and understands. Time, in the only way it can have meaning to us, would seem to be intrinsically tied up with those problems but what we're doing is trying to conceive of the undefinable with something we don't know enough to even come up with the rules for doing that. We don't know how we know or what it means to know, we don't even know what it means to construct the product of our perception to create the limited image of the universe available to people. And we do construct the aspects of our sensory perceptions that we think about. Our thoughts are made by us.

I believe it was Richard Lewontin who speculated that for whatever consciousness which bacteria could have, gravity is essentially nonexistent, Brownian motion being entirely relevant to them in its place. Of course, that's all speculation. Though the idea that our perception of the universe and our place in it rules our most basic thinking about it seems to me to be the most sensible of statements. How a bacterium perceives the universe and its place in it is unavailable to us in any real way, but we can imagine how such an alien consciousness, so limited to its peculiar situation, would concieve of its existence in its habitat.* Perhaps that habit of thinking, the belief that our thinking about something like bacterial consciousness is understandable, is what's at work when we think about our own consciousness.

Computer science gives us some intellectual hold on the functioning of machine processing - which is no huge surprise since it was invented by computer science - which we use to organize and sift enormous amounts of information at great speed. The results of it, presented to our senses, seems like a form of consciousness and we are duped by that despite our knowing that human beings have done whatever was done. It tricks even some very bright people into pretending they don't know that it's a machine set into motion by very fast and very efficient but basically inert mechanics, prevented from doing some things and made to do some things by our mechanical and logical ingenuity. It doesn't reflect anything about whatever process consciousness is, about which we know nothing other than that it's there, without which no other aspect of existence is known, without which we don't exist. And we have no knowledge of what it is and where it comes from. Unlike the computer, our consciousness was not made by us to our specifications. Neither it's schematics nor its operational manual is available to us, we don't even know if it is linear or random or incomprehensibly unlimited in its ability. We don't even know if the analogies of schematics and operations are relevant to whatever consciousness is. We do know that our rational processing of information and even our most basic perception we use to think about such things is limited and that our metaphors really aren't identical to what they are used to describe.

The number of people who have an emotional reaction to pointing out that, whereas the machine is known to be he result of physical processes and phenomena brought out through our intentional design, is suggestive of a habit of our thinking, in itself. The fact is we don't have any real knowledge of any actual analog of consciousness in the physical world. The vehemence of that emotional reaction leads me to conclude that it's got motives apart from the mere defense of a scientific position, which the "hard wired" one really isn't. At its foundations and throughout its use, it's an assertion of dogmatic materialism.

Feminism, daily and inevitably, confronts entrenched ways of thought based in the selective and self-interested view of reality on behalf of men, obviously there but almost entirely unacknowledged. Most of it happens on the same, barely thought, level that "everyone knows we are hard wired" holds in our lives.

That ur-level view defines women as being less than and other than men and that, by nature, men are the default form of humanity, if not all of life which has gender. The denial of that orthodoxy causes an extremely emotional reaction which will grasp at any straw to deny women their person hood, their intellectual integrity, their most sacred rights as a human being. And what is thought and said about and done to women can be done to any other group of people whose intrinsic rights are ignored or denied. It is what allows the obnoxious banter of the "Market Place Report" about matters that dole out death to the many and even the biosphere to be so horrifically peppy.

Taking in a panoramic view of the reductionist ideology in scientific (and in a related way, non-scientific) thought and their resultant declarations, what that ideology frequently says about women is, I believe, intrinsically related to the idea that we are machines made of meat, meat which happens to come in two varieties, based in gender. The assertion is that women are "hard wired" differently than the way men are. Instead of being a light that illuminates an infinitely more complex reality of human beings it reduces us to a lower status than is ours by right. That reduction is an opaque cover for an ideology that reduces everything to the status of inert matter. And it reduces some more than others.

I believe the way out of that is to admit the unknowability of our consciousness, about what we really are. I believe the way out of that is to fearlessly assert that we are more than objects, that we are all more than objects with a higher status than the merely physical world our limited reason defines. We are undefinable and ineffable and our experience and human history shows us more than physics or mathematics or any other science is competent to tell us what the results of our collective, experienced life mean. History proves that the results of reducing any or all people to the same category of objects leads to them being considered in terms of commerce and use and exploitation. We must demand that people be treated better than that and there is no scientific method that can find the basis of that assertion. Our human experience can't make the connection between the subatomic structure of matter and our total experience of human beings living in a community and on the Earth. We have to find the basis of a decent life elsewhere.

The level of our conscious experience is not negligible or ignorable. The convenient and professionally and ideologically opportunistic reduction of it doesn't change that it is the real, effective higher level of existence that we actually live is that by which everything we know of the lower levels of matter is known. All of that is known only by an analogy and extension of our earliest, inarticulate, conscious experience, it literally can't escape that dependence on the humblest and simplest facts of that experience. All things we talk about are only inferential, in all their impressiveness.

* A niche is, in a fundamental way, created by the organism, the organism creates the niche. But I won't go into that today.

Note, also, that as far as we conceive of them being removed from us and our experience, a bacterium shares a lot with us, living on the same planet, having a physical existence in the same way we do. Any attempt to conceive of a conscious life even farther removed from that would completely exhaust our attempts at imagination.

First posted in slightly different form at Echidne of the Snakes, May 21, 2011

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Examined Life Is A Necessity But It Isn’t The Entire Story.

There is a certain slant of light, springtime afternoons, flooding through the large, open window with a fresh, cold wind that brings Arthur Berger’s Duo for Cello and Piano(1) to mind. Arthur Berger was sometimes described as an “intellectual composer”. Whatever that means. He was a composer, writer, analyst, critic, and a part of any intellectual scene wherever he happened to be. Perhaps closer to the point, Virgil Thomson, a fellow composer, critic and one of his friends, talked about his “sidewalks of New York charm”. So, here we already have a dichotomy, or at least two things usually considered as opposites. Maybe the strong sun light and cold spring wind should count as a third point of view. What’s the truth? Having played some of his pieces and studied more of them, I am happy to testify to the intellectual brilliance and the charm, he had both in abundance. Beauty of sound, the ability he shared with Luigi Dallapiccola(2) to find exactly the right note, tone color and expression, and to put it in exactly the right context, might stand in for the primary witness above.

Someone asked me why I don’t write more about music, since that’s clearly something I know more about than evolutionary psychology or cognitive science , about which I've spent enormous numbers of skeptical words. While music is what I got my formal training in, I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t think anything more is known about music than the technical aspects of how to produce it. Music is an order of sounds (3), it is possible to learn how to produce musical orders intentionally to attempt an effect. On that level music is a skill instead of a collection of theories, observations, measurements and speculations. That I could talk about easily, though it makes for rough reading and it really doesn't contain any information useful to non-musicians. It’s only in the sense that it is a skill to be practiced that someone can “know” something about music. In that sense, it is entirely like speculations about the mind, only with a practical component.

I could tell you that roughly measures 25 through 31 of the first movement of Berger’s Duo move me to an all encompassing state of ecstasy every single time I hear it or play through the piano part. Just remembering how that passage sounds can take me out of myself. I could try to think of further metaphors or write a formal technical description, to give a partial explanation of what happens at that time in the music and then guess why it produces that effect. All of that might be entirely true, in part, and entirely useless in total. Any elucidation that someone reading that description might think they've received would be deceptive. It would tell you nothing useful, it might endanger your own experience of the music. I would have to motivate you to experience the music, to listen to it, complete and in its entirety, to have any hope that you could know what I was talking about. No one who had not heard the music would know the first thing about it.

The culture of scholarship, text and reflection, is all well and good but it carries danger when it is placed in supremacy over actual life. Life, the whole stream of experience and action as lived, not arbitrarily cut into segments to be digested and published. Scholars dwell on their publishable and teachable work, the materials of their careers, jealously guarding its repute, hardly ever admitting to their intentional selection out of the entire body of possible information. Actual, direct experience is not susceptible to scholarship. It is by its most basic nature, personal, the experience of a single person, invisible and variable, in its deepest essence indescribable. That is something that the aforementioned behavioral scientists(4) should keep in mind, something that a composer could tell them, something such a musician should never forget.

The very selective, partial view of life, which makes up the work of a scholar, can be very useful, it can produce things and objects that enhance health and increase life-span, it can enrich experience. But when those things are ideas about real life, their entire effects, good and bad are often not able to be apprehended. Sometimes the added component of history proves that ideas thought good or innocuous in the abstract are deadly. Far from just being the plaything of a dreamer or a brick in a scholar’s career, an idea can’t be viewed as an end in itself, it has to be seen in as full a context as possible. Unconsidered in the full context, ideas can carry the danger of overtaking the whole of life.(5)

1. Also Hear: An Arthur Berger Retrospective New World Records NW 360-2
Joel Kroskick, cello Gilbert Kalish, piano and others.

Almost all of Berger’s works are or have recently been available on CDs. I have heard and would recommend all of them. If you can find it I would also recommend the old CRI recording of Berger’s music in the American Masters collection. The recording of his Chamber Music for 13 Players, conducted by Gunther Schuller, is particularly wonderful. I've seen three dates in different places of when his birthday was but they were all in this coming week. This week would have been his 95th birthday. I loved Arthur Berger and his music very much.

2. Talking about your neglected composers. John Harbison made this observation about Dallapiccola’s ability as a composer.  As some examples, better heard live or on CD,  Il Prigioniero,  Three Questions with Two Answers,  Quaderno musicale di Annalibera

3. Susan K. Langer: An Introduction To Symbolic Logic. Langer’s several simple observations about music in this book stand as the most insightful general statements I've ever read by someone outside of the profession.

4. It is exactly this selective feature of these reductionist schools practice that makes me very suspicious of them and alarmed about the resulting conclusions they seem to demand. Those who insist that only one mechanism of evolution, the crudest part of natural selection, is the supreme guide for understanding practically everything , strikes me as too likely to produce a superficially appealing mannerism (6.) instead of a view of reality. It closes off too many possibilities of real life from consideration, even, at times, substituting fables with no known real life evidence as possible explanations.

5. If music was an area of life that could produce life and death consequences, a danger to freedom, it would be dangerous. Hearing, quite involuntarily, Les Preludes by Liszt the other day, the story of its association with the invasion of Poland and the suspected motivating force of Wagner’s work might be noted here. I do so without prejudice, as a suggested supplement to the observation.

6. I’m fully aware of the irony, I read Perspectives in Music Theory too.

First published at Echidne of the Snakes on the week of Berger's birthday, reposted here because of a discussion I'm having about "the hard problem" of consciousness and whether or not it is hard.   I take the same view I have above, that academic methods and science can't capture direct human experience.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

From 2006: Nice, Normal, Poor People What Could Be A More Subversive Concept?

Postcards From Buster, the PBS children’s show, is most famous for the suppressed episode in which he visited a two-mother family in Vermont during maple sugaring time. I saw the episode when it finally aired. After the big buildup Margaret Spellings and other mouth pieces of the radical-Republican right gave it I was expecting something like a daughter in Future Longshoremen of America or a son who aspired to be a Radical Faerie. But no, the most controversial thing about the episode was the promotion of tooth decay and that was due to Buster’s sugar addiction, not anything to do with the non-animated people. Being a kid’s show, the parents were almost invisible.

There is another episode of Postcards which did a lot more to undermine the corporate state than that perfectly nice, though typical, middle-class family in Vermont. The show which presented the unremarkable lives of clearly poor children who live in a trailer park was far more subversive. I loved it. The lives of poor children not as young thugs, not as problems to be jailed in a few years but as entirely likeable, normal children with normal, non-pathological, fantasy lives. That is something that is just not seen much on TV.

Nor were they presented as tragic figures. The children were presented as having normal problems, some due to their financial condition but not as hapless victims of their circumstances or as an implied threat to the slightly more fortunate. Happy, nice, poor kids.

The idea that an oligarchy needs to have poor people and their financial condition as a threat to keep the working class in line is an idea that I’ve never seen much to contradict. That certainly is the most common use the oligarches’ kept media puts them too. As a number of people have pointed out, it’s the major theme of “COPS” and where else do you see poor people on TV these days? Jerry Springer?

If there was no destitution then the demands of the working class for a better deal would be a lot stronger. The threat of poverty drives wages down for the near poor. In order to make maximal use of this resource for social management the poor have to be despised. The never far away condition that they could fall to if they get too aggressive has to be shown to be a living hell with little chance for escape. Working stiff is better than the other roles assigned to the poor, criminals, junkies, prostitutes, violent psychopaths, drunks, etc. And that most despised role of all, victim, don’t forget victim. Some of this hatred of our untouchables even bleeds through to the left, “trailer trash” is a term that is sometimes even used on the most leftist blogs.

All of this hurts poor people, they suffer from the attitude of other people and from the damage it does to their opinion of themselves. It would be useful to know how much of the inertia of ingrained poverty is caused by people being convinced that it is hopeless to try to achieve a better life. It might give insights into other problems poor people sometimes have.

If poor people were depicted on TV as good people the social order could truly be endangered. The class system could really fall. If the United States really acted as if it believed the children of poor parents were the equal of the richest of the rich it would have to feed, take care of and educate them as if they were something other than a threat to distract the middle classes with. The neo-Malthusian view of them as surplus population would become unfashionable again.

What would happen if Postcards and other TV programs presented a lot more positive images of poor people*. Could America handle it? Would it be allowed to handle it? If poverty in itself wasn't seen as a despicable thing a good part of the fear factor in middle class politics would lessen and with it the downward mobility pressures on wages and services. The assumption, built so rigorously by the corporate state and its organs of media, that all of the destitute were lazy, degenerate, “undeserving poor” could give way to the more idealistic American response of the New Deal era. The truly American way as opposed to the class snob way. What would happen to an oligarchy whose children were discouraged from being class snobs? Heavens, the young of the ruling class, itself, might someday fall in love and marry them! How would they feel if their daughter wanted to marry some nice, poor boy? Or girl?

* Running this by my nieces, they tell me that there was an episode showing positive images of families in the barrios of LA. If their account is accurate all I can say is keep those kind of postcards coming, Buster.

Note: digby at Hullabaloo has this link to look at what is respectable among the best people. I'll take the trailer park residents, thank you. They have a lower crime rate.

First posted  at Echidne of the Snakes in September, 2006 under my former pseudonym, olvlzl.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lennie Tristano Trio Blue Boy

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lennie Tristano Intuition

Some people say this was the first recorded piece of free jazz.  Doesn't make it any less great if it wasn't.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mary Lou Williams Libra

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mary Lou Williams Waltz Boogie

Mary Lou Williams Piano
Bridget Flynn Drums
June M. Rotenberg

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Latest Updated Index of the Darwin-Eugenics-Haeckel Series

I have been asked to put the temporary index of my Darwin-Eugenics-Haeckel series at the top of the page again.   I will, since I have decided to include the post about what eugenics meant to its victims in North America with them.  I will probably add more posts on that legacy of Darwinism along with other posts on related to Darwin's eugenics and will repost it then.  I may put a link to it in the sidebar

Notice of Intent
A Note about Documentary Evidence and Primary Sources.
A Note About The Word "Darwinism"
How Much Do You Have To Quote Before You're Not "Quote Mining”  With a note about Darwin "quote mining".
Charles Darwin and Eugenics: The Standard of Evidence Required to Make the Case 

What Would It Take for Charles Darwin To Beat the Eugenics Charge
1. Galton  (case closed )
2. Leonard Darwin Schallmeyer with a note about George Darwin (note: This post should be considered an outline due to the lack of Schallmeyer available in English translation. )  Revised on Sept. 2. 2012.
3. How Much Did Darwin Really Believe In Natural Selection:  W. R. Greg, sometimes called the co-inventor of eugenics.  Darwin's anti-Irish bigotry overcomes Natural Selection.
4   Another Note About George Darwins 1870s Eugenics Activity   Francis Darwin calls it "eugenics"
5.  Darwin's Response to Gaskel Was Not a Rejection of Negative Eugenics
6.  Darwin and The Survival of the Fittest  Darwin and Spencer and Wallace
7.  Darwinism Against Economic Democracy: William Cobbett on Malthus

Leilani Muir:  Making Eugenics As Real As A Young Girl's Life And Body

Darwin and Haeckel 1  Darwin endorses Haeckel 
Darwin and Haeckel 2  Darwin Publicly Confirms His Endorsement of Haeckel as Science (will be lengthened)
Darwin and Haeckel 3  Darwin Doesn't Protest Attribution of Monism To Him
Darwin and Haeckel 4  Haeckel and Darwin   Infanticide.
Darwin and Haeckel 5  Could Haeckel's Depravity Have Been Prevented If Darwin Had Objected ? with a long footnote on the future course of Darwinism in Germany and Leonard Darwin as the only one with standing to speak for his father in 1939.

EVOLUTION, evolution Ideology and the Continuation of Life
1.  Part one  The Enormous Scope of Evolution, Its Complexity,  Science has only scratched the surface
2   Interlude Scherzando and Early Selections   Biological Determinism, its Depravity and Hypocrisy
3   The People   Biological Determinism Negates Democracy with a long footnote about the “aid which must be given” paragraph
Dissing an Idol and Feeling Better For It
It's a Dirty Political Brawl Adapt or Die

The Popular Misunderstanding of the Huxley - Wilberforce Debate

A Closing Comment   Darwin Provided Himself Cover, His Position in Science Culture as Opposed to Today's Science

Update:   I will probably keep working on these posts which were written very quickly, especially the second of the Darwin and Haeckel posts.   I had intended to write a 2a because there is just so much material showing that Darwin and Haeckel were saying many of the same disturbing things as they were in contact and I will expand that theme in the future.   I am intending to put these in a more permanent order on a new blog, probably finishing some of the posts that are still in draft.

Since the purpose of these was to show what Charles Darwin could be fairly charged with as he was alive and writing I haven't gone nearly as far into what people who Darwin never heard of said about his inspiration of them.  There is much more that could be said about that.   It is a major intellectual scandal that so many people who present themselves as scholars blatantly lie about this.  I think some of that is clearly ideological,  Darwin is the mascot of scientism,  materialism and atheism.  A lot of it is done in ignorance of the record.  Some of it is done out of cowardice, knowing that writing about Darwin's relationship to eugenics in the English speaking world and Germany will make you a pariah and attract attacks and distortions of what you said.   I hope to show how the eugenics and Social Darwinism that were present at the start and which have been one of the major catastrophes in the history of science have survived and are promoted by prominent and some infamous scientists.  I will do so in their own words, trying to hold to the same use of primary source material, where that is available.  But that is for the future.

Why?  Several reasons.  First and foremost because the record supports the idea, that record is there and, as I said, its existence is the only justification anyone needs for exposing it.  Second, it is important politically and in terms of human life and society.  Eugenics led to more than one attempt to destroy groups of people and to deprive people of their most fundamental rights.  Third, there is great interest and controversy about these facts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Humble Farmer On Public Broadcasting

While listening to how NPR covered the Democratic convention and remembering how it covered the Republican convention, I remembered my favorite radio man once said this:

And the only thing that you'll see on public radio or public television now that would indicate that they are leaning to the left...  that's just a facade for what's really going behind, on behind, for the fascists running it from behind.  The guys who're pulling the strings.  They're still fooling the liberals.  Some liberals think,  “Oh, we must support public radio.  It's the only place we can...”  They don't realize it's gone. It's gone.  They don't need, public radio doesn't need money, that little thirty-five dollars from you anymore.  Corporate guys can write checks, five thousand, ten thousand a hundred thousand ...

Robert Skoglund,  The Humble Farmer. 

Do go to the link at his name and hear his wonderful podcasts and read his "Whines and Snivels". And please contribute. The humble man who gave Maine Public Radio the best show in its history for free over three decades could use the support.  And watch the YouTube at the first link that will give you the history of how they got rid of him and why they did it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance In Full, Not Excerpted and Distorted

James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance is frequently clipped down to one section to assert he was some kind of deist and enemy of "theism".  That section in the seventh paragraph beginning "Because" is hardly ever, if ever,  given in full.  I've underlined that section which is probably the only part of it well over 98% of people who have read any of it, have read.

Because experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

As anyone who reads the entire paragraph can see, Madison's list of vices in religion are attributed, by him to "ecclesiastical establishments", in an argument that he makes against established, tax supported religion.  He argues for "maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion" and "a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks".   I interpret that as a call for the return of primitive Christianity during the period before it was corrupted by being adopted as the official religion of the later Roman Empire.  Since he mentions Quakers favorably and that was one of the stated intentions of Quakers, to restore primitive Christianity, that is certainly what Madison was advocating.   Throughout the document Madison advocates Christianity in terms that are far more than merely political, even, in the 12th "because" paragraph, saying that disestablishment is necessary for its propagation.

And that is just one of the  favorite examples of  "quote mining"  among those who are always saying  the phrase"quote mining".  I will post more of the examples of misrepresentation of The Founders* in the future.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia

A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

We the subscribers , citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled "A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion," and conceiving that the same if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,

1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considerd as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

2. Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

3. Because it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entagled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? that the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?

4. Because the Bill violates the equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensible, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If "all men are by nature equally free and independent," all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an "equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience." Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens, so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their Religions unnecessary and unwarrantable? can their piety alone be entrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others with extraordinary privileges by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these demoninations to believe that they either covet pre-eminences over their fellow citizens or that they will be seduced by them from the common opposition to the measure.

5. Because the Bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious Truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: the second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

6. Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself, for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence. Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies to trust it to its own merits.

7. Because experience witnesseth that eccelsiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?

8. Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not. Such a Government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.

9. Because the proposed establishment is a departure from the generous policy, which, offering an Asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an Asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. The maganimous sufferer under this cruel scourge in foreign Regions, must view the Bill as a Beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthrophy in their due extent, may offer a more certain respose from his Troubles.

10.  Because it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms

11.  Because it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion has produced among its several sects. Torrents of blood have been split in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm, to extinguish Religious disscord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinion. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assauge the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bounds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed "that Christian forbearance, love and chairty," which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jeolousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded, should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?

12.  Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of Truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachments of error.

13.  Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to go great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case, where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? And what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority?

14.  Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens, and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly." But the representatives or of the Counties will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.

15.  Because finally, "the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience" is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the "Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Vriginia, as the basis and foundation of Government," it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis. Either the, we must say, that the Will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say, that they may controul the freedom of the press, may abolish the Trial by Jury, may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary Powers of the State; nay that they may despoil us of our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independent and hereditary Assembly or, we must say, that they have no authority to enact into the law the Bill under consideration.

We the Subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their Councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his [blessing, may re]dound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity and the happiness of the Commonwealth.

I would call your attention to the twelfth "Because" paragraph that reads:

Because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of revelation from coming into the Region of it; and countenances by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of Levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of Truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it with a wall of defence against the encroachments of error.

Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments wasn't a document of religious skepticism, it was a declaration of religious freedom through an assertion that the civil government had to have a policy of strict non-interference and non-preference for one sect or another.  It asserted that when religion accepts state funds, it is susceptible to political corruption and vice.   Madison's document was certainly not an anti-Christian document as it's so often presented to be in the post-war period.  It warned about the history of religious establishment in Europe over the previous three centuries.   It warned, repeatedly, that disestablishment of religion by the civil state was essential for the integrity of religion and the peace of a pluralistic socieity.

* NOTE:  I don't understand why anyone in 2012 cares what Madison or Jefferson, etc. thought about religion OR THE CONSTITUTION except in so far as what they said makes sense in today's world.   I wouldn't look to "the founders" lives as good models of moral conduct.   Collectively, the "founders" owned slaves, stole land and other things, favored dispossession of the native population so they could steal their land - "ethnically cleansing" land outside of the existing 13 colonies and within them, to do that.  "Ethnic cleansing" is a modern euphemism for "murdering" when they wouldn't go without a fight.    All of them deprived women of their rights.   The best of them are covered with warts.  And more than two centuries after them, we don't need to be slaves to their beliefs and intentions.   I'm against making heroes of them by cleaning them up into plaster saints when none of them were.   Their Constitution, that we're still saddled with against all reason,  proves that the cult of "the founders" is a dishonest and misguided act of romantic hagiography.  Its modern aspect arose in opposition to the civil rights movement and the struggle for black Americans and members of other minority groups to be covered by the Bill of Rights and other amendments that are the only things that make the original Constitution tolerable.

But I point this out because the deceptive quotation of the document and the assertions of what it "proves" about "the father of the Constitution's",  Madison's,  "deism", claiming the Constitution  for anti-"theism",  annoys me.  That characterization of Madison and the Constitution is an ideological superstition.   I may post other documents from other "founders" frequently claimed, often against their own words, for "deism" and atheism.  While the Christian fundamentalists have the case quite wrong, so does today's religion bashing movement.

PZ's Great Desecration A Fake?

PZ Myers, whose major intellectual contribution, "The Courtier's Reply", I wrote about the other day, is more famous for a publicity stunt he mounted called "The Great Descecration".    In his act he stuck a nail through a consecrated communion host, a page ripped out of The Quran, and more pages from The God Delusion, covered all with coffee grounds and banana peels, took a picture of it and put it on his blog with a puerile description of what he did and why he did it.  And, remember, Myers did so on his "Science" blog*.

I'm not going to go into the Webster Cook incident or Bill Donohue's own PR campaign riffing off of that,  PZ's  motivation for doing what he did.  This post isn't about his act of desecration, which I pretty much ignored when he first did it to squeals of glee in the halls of blog atheistdom and outrage from other people.   I thought it was an act of juvenile attention getting, all round and  suspected it would turn out to not end the world as we know it.  But in the blog brawl over its authenticity I  was involved in several years back, I found out that atheists are not only supposed to be  immune from knowing what they're talking about,  their improbable sounding claims are NOT to be treated with skepticism.  The uber-"Skeptics" are not to be treated skeptically.  Something I found not to be in keeping with the requirements of science.

When one of his fans gave extremely improbable details of his most famous act, as told,  I asked what if PZ Myers faked it?   Accusations of fakery are the bread and butter of pop-atheism and its conjoined twin, organized "skepticism".   I figured it was entirely fair to hold them to their own standards.

It began on Chris Mooney's blog, The Intersection.   In a long discussion about PZ Myers, and his "Desecration"  I first critisized his using pages of a Quran at comment 15.   In the context of the times and previous events it was extremely irresponsible, especially when Myers said he was responding to threats of violence as the reason for his claim to have desecrated a consecrated host.

I haven’t heard any reaction to the Quran desecration, though I’d imagine any might be gratifying to someone who publicly did that during a period when the reaction to that kind of act, getting large numbers of people injured and even killed. Anyone who assumes Myers knew what had happened in the aftermath of the cartoons published in the Danish newspaper, could hardly be faulted for assuming PZ would be prepared for some kind of reaction to his publicity stunt. I haven’t checked his archive to see if he’d commented on the demonstrations and riots that had left people dead in the aftermath of the cartoons. Did he comment on that?

Looking at PZ's archive, I found that he had addressed and expressed understanding at how the desecration of the image of Muhammad had sparked the violence that had gotten people killed and maimed.  At comment 18 I quoted PZ.:

There are some things a cartoonist would be rightly excoriated for publishing: imagine that one had drawn an African-American figure as thick-lipped, low-browed, smirking clown with a watermelon in one hand and a fried chicken drumstick in the other. Feeding bigotry and flaunting racist stereotypes would be something that would drive me to protest any newspaper that endorsed it—of course, my protests would involve writing letters and canceling subscriptions, not rioting and burning down buildings. There is a genuine social concern here, I think. Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!

So, Myers, himself had noted the potential of desecration of religious objects to incite violence among Muslims before he used pages of the Quran in his publicity stunt.   I will note that I'm not sure the English translation of the Quran that Myers used actually qualifies as desecration of the holy book, I'm no Islamic scholar, which was mentioned.   But it's more than possible that just the rumor of such a desecration, as Myer's alleged he performed, could be enough to get people killed.  That would be proved when the Florida "pastor" announced his intention to burn a copy of it.  I have not checked to see if PZ commented on that incident but I may and will report what I might find.  Atheists on the blogs I frequented condemned the Florida pastor for threatening to do what, perhaps, their hero PZ Myers had already done to widespread atheist approval.   Consistency in such matters is not to be found among the atheists of the blogs.  It's entirely a question of who they hate more on what occasion.  Mocking Muslims is only somewhat less popular among blog atheists than anti-Christian and, especially, anti-Catholic hate talk.

But things really didn't get going until I found out a detail I'd missed in my general indifference to PZ's great stunt.  In a discussion of whether or not PZ had gotten the consecrated host from someone who stole it, someone pointed out that part of the tale is that it was sent to PZ by an apostate Catholic who had brought a consecrated host home and kept it until he became an atheist, when, for some reason, he'd sent it to Myers in time to be used in his star turn.  I found that particular assertion fishy.

Wowbagger at comment 319:

He made it quite clear the crackers he received were sent to him by now ex-Catholics who’d taken them when they were still members of the church. None of them were ’stolen’ by anyone.

I said this:

321.   Anthony McCarthy Says: 
July 15th, 2009 at 9:11 pm
He made it quite clear the crackers he received were sent to him by now ex-Catholics who’d taken them when they were still members of the church.

Is that what PZ claimed? I find it very hard to believe that. I’ll bet it was never consecrated, I’ll bet it was a fake.

PZ's fans quickly took offense at my skepticism and  in the discussion that followed, what they said made me even more skeptical than I'd been about the authenticity of his publicity stunt.  The scenario as laid out by them was seeming ever more far fetched.  For reasons known to him alone, PZ, himself jumped into the long discussion for the first time soon after that.

329.   Anthony McCarthy Says: 
July 15th, 2009 at 9:40 pm
Oh, I forgot this.
—- Catholics on the threads admit taking the cracker home rather than eating it; why is it such a stretch that they may have kept it? Wowbagger
I came from a very Catholic family and know a very large number of Catholics. I have never once heard of one of them doing that, not even the ones who left the church and wouldn’t have any reason to not talk about it. I’ll have to ask someone who’s still active in the Church what they’re saying about it these days, but back when I was still a Catholic there were extremely strict rules about how a consecrated host was supposed to be treated.
I think it’s a fake.
330.   PZ Myers Says: 
July 15th, 2009 at 9:43 pm
The source of the cracker was documented on video.
331.   PZ Myers Says: 
July 15th, 2009 at 9:44 pm
Of course, anyone who believes it was fake are free to do so. Those people, though, would then have nothing to complain about.

Which I thought was PZ throwing in the towel awfully fast.  The You-tube he asserted was his evidence of the authenticity of his stunt has been taken down,  I don't know how soon  after this.  I did see it when I could get to a faster connection (was on dial-up at the time) it showed nothing that could be positively linked to PZ's "host".

Apparently, everyone is supposed to believe, this Catholic boy, for some reason, while he was still a Catholic, just happened to have had video of himself taken while he was given communion.  Remember PZ's fans said this was while he was still a Catholic, well before the boy turned atheist and sent PZ a consecrated host.    The coincidence of a Catholic having a video of him going to communion on that one occasion is too big a stretch to be credible.  Adding in the extreme unliklihood that a faithful Catholic, in violation of church law I was taught when I was six, had taken it home for some unstated reason  instead of eaten it, the story is absurd.   As I said, the more details that were added to the story, the more like a fake it seemed.   I said that I was certain, if that's how the story was being told, that it was a total fake, either PZ had faked his desecration diorama or that the kid was hoaxing him and PZ was a victim of what he wanted to believe was true.   And I still think it was a fake.

In the ensuing hundreds of comments - really,  hundreds of them -  many of PZ's adoring fans defended their faith in the authenticity of his publicity stunt, to which I pointed out the simplest explanation was that PZ had faked the "host" by cutting it out of paper or flattening a circle cut out of Wonder Bread or that Myers could have ordered communion wafers which are available online, something I hadn't know about when the brawl started.  I pointed out there were a number of explanations,  more credible and parsimonious, than the Catholic boy happening to have had a video taken of the time he stole a consecrated host, only to turn atheist and send it to PZ so he could desecrate it in the wake of the Webster Cook incident.  And, as I noted, PZ Myers had destroyed any possible evidence that could prove his staged photo was a fake or if it might be real when he threw it away.  That, is, of course, exactly the same thing that even a real skeptic would point out about any claim they didn't like.  But skepticism is another thing that atheists hold themselves to be immune from.   And note:

Despite PZ Myers' mantra that "it was just a cracker",  asserted all through the incident, one thing that was proved was that to him and his fans, it was extremely important that everyone believe that it was a genuinely consecrated host.  And that all must believe in PZ's Desecration Diorama.  PZ and his fan base PROVED IT WAS NOT "JUST A CRACKER" TO THEM.

If you want to go through the entire thread to read how very rigorously skeptical these atheists are NOT of their great hero, you can find some real gems of credulous faith in PZ and his great act of attention getting.    I will confess that I had a lot of fun raising one point after another before the blog owner called an end to it at comment 856.  Really, it went for 856 comments.

*  The "Science Blogs" are mostly a vehicle for conventional scientism and self-congratulatory religion bashing with a bit of science reporting thrown in.  The "Science Blogs" that concentrate mostly on science seem to be less popular than those that regularly feature atheist boy-bonding hate rap sessions.  At their worst they are hate-jock talk, call-in radio in print.  I once challenged Myers to see just how interested in science his fan-boys and girls were by going all-science-all-the-time for a few weeks to see how many of them stuck by him, and then he could resume his Rush Limbaugh level content later. to see if his audience returned.     He flatly refused to run the experiment to test his blogs scienciness.  I have posted that exchange here.