Science

The cruel irrationality of scientism (part 2)

Almost three years ago , I noted that the secular "scientific" experts claim to be merciful and helpful, but in reality they are incredibly cruel.

A recent column in First Things reminded me of this, and also how much the tide of bloody-minded scientism has advanced since then.   While the nominal topic is about the tension between religion and viewing pornography, it's really the old claim that the sin isn't a problem, it's the guilt from thinking it is wrong.

They used to call these "hang-ups," and the goal of sensible people was to break them down, because things like adultery, promiscuity, and sexual deviancy were actually normal and healthy, it was only the God-bothering scolds who thought them bad. 

Decades later, we have soaring youth suicide rates, a national mental health crisis, a collapsing marriage rate, falling birth rates and the "expert" solution is: more of the same.

How scientific.

The same logic pervades the transgender phenomenon, where women are told that if they dislike biological men walking into the female locker room and brandishing their organs, they should get counseling so that it no longer bothers them.  Again, their privacy and feelings are simply wrong - some talk therapy about their hang-ups will fix things.

This warm, compassionate belief system wants to kill imperfect or unwanted children in the womb, things that the world should run on a 24-hour clock and work seven days a week.  The old, infirm, disabled and depressed are literally better off dead.  The value of each life can be calculated to the penny, and society as a whole we are told benefits by the loss of this dead weight.

It is a variety of Yard Sign Calvinism, with reason serving as its god - a god every bit as bloodthirsty as Moloch or Baal.  Indeed, one can't but wonder if the animating power comes from those old, wily fallen angels.

Happily, the excesses of the pandemic (and the lies spread to justify them) are undermining this diabolical belief system.  Science has nothing to say about morality, and we are seeing just how quickly it degenerates when the guard rails are taken down.

 


The Deep Freeze

I'm old enough to remember when it was the universal scientific consensus that we'd all be dead by now.  Without immediate, and radical economic reorganization, life on earth would be over by...uh, 24 years ago.

I mention this because the real threat has never been a warming earth, which generally means longer growing seasons, but a new ice age.  If one goes back 10,000 years ago, my house would be under a mile-thick sheet of ice.

Even short of that, the current sub-zero weather is playing havoc the neighborhood pipes and even modern heating systems are struggling to keep houses warm.  A drive through the neighborhood showed that HVAC and plumbing services were not observing the federal holiday.

The cynic in me notes that "climate science" is just another grift, the equivalent of itinerant preachers or snake-oil salesmen in days gone by.  But in a deeper sense, humanity needs to be afraid of something, and if God is no longer a concern, while a 4 degree rise in global temperatures will do the trick.

This meshes well with Yard Sign Calvinism, which requires frequent (and public) affirmation while keeping actual sacrifices to a comfortable minimum.

Nevertheless, it's interesting how dependent the Elect are on sinners for life-giving warmth.


Inflation and the Indie author

Effective June 20th, Amazon raised the prices for print versions of their self-published authors.  I'm sure many authors are also looking at raising their e-book prices simply because everything else has gone up.

Inflation poses a unique problem for people who don't have major publicity behind them.  Such folks can charge a premium for their work.  Lesser lights, on the other hand, rely on a lower cost to help entice readers.  While inflation is distributed across the board in the book market, people still have a sense of what is expensive and what is not, and there can be a disconnect when prices rise as sharply as they have done over the last couple of years.

I supposed that - had I been market-savvy and seen it coming, I could have announced a big sale before the price hike.  I may do that anyway, offering "retro" prices over a big weekend.

The fact remains that when everything gets more expensive, that includes books.


"No Mow May" leads to "Lawn Death June"

I figured the end of No Mow May would be unpleasant for the participants, but I did not foresee that we would have drought conditions at its conclusion.

It has not rained her for two weeks and the plants are starting to show stress.  For those who regularly maintain their lawns, the solution is simple: stop mowing.  I usually mow once a week, but without rain, I held off because cutting the grass causes it to lose moisture, and driving over it when it is dry and brittle cause further damage.  When it gets enough rain, the grass will rocket up, and then there will be a job to do.

However, for the No Mow May crowd, waiting is no longer an option.  The city has an ordnance about grass length, and while the good burghers will willing to look the other way for a fashionable cause, such dispensations could not be prolonged indefinitely.

Thus, as anyone with passing knowledge of lawn maintenance could have predicted, the result is that many formerly well-manicured yards are now trashed.  This is because mowing actually helps sustain the grass - without it, weeds will take over and over time, crowd it out.  In extreme cases, there isn't any actual grass left.   More commonly, there are now bare patches that will have to be replanted and watered.

Those without excessive weeks may be in worse shape, as the trauma inflicted on the grass during drought conditions has killed the lawn outright.

The lesson here is right out of G.K. Chesterton, which is that lawns, like fences, exist for a reason.  The promoters of the event bought into the false narrative that trimmed grass is somehow wasteful, or harmful to the environment.  In truth it is nothing of the sort.

Grass is a time-tested way to provide sustainable green spaces for outdoor recreation while minimizing harmful insect populations.  Even with the drought, tall grass supported high mosquito counts as well as ticks - which I'm sure the dog owners of the area did not appreciate.  Misleading statistics that compare it to farmland ignore the obvious fact that residential neighborhoods can't support production agriculture, but often do support vegetable gardens. 

That it is aesthetically pleasing is also nice, but not the point.  The point is that the alternative is much, much worse, which is why so many cities have ordinances regulating lawns.

I'll be curious to see how many people want to repeat this next year.  Having a dead yard is indeed a cross to bear, but I doubt many of the participants expected it.


Sci-fi that's too heavy on the allegory: C.S. Lewis' "space" trilogy

Given my interests, one would think that I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis.  While I do admire some of his religious writings and particularly enjoyed The Screwtape Letters, I find his work a little too heavy on the allegory.  Like his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, I didn't approve of him mixing mythologies in the Narnia books.  Moreover, I came upon them late in life, and while the kids enjoyed them, I did not get much out of them.

However, I had heard good things about this "space" trilogy, which is a someone curious body of work.  It was written during the Second World War and could credibly be counted as "hard" science fiction in terms of how it explains space travel (which is confined to our solar system).  It is quite inventive and combines spiritual concepts in an interesting way.

That being said, it is not a conventional trilogy insofar as the plot only somewhat builds during the series.  Most trilogies (this includes my Man of Destiny series, which started out as a trilogy) are basically a story arc spread out over multiple episodes or periods.  The "space" books differ greatly in tone and character, and in the author's forwards (and sometimes in the epilogues) this is explained.

All of which is to say, there are good points to the books, but to me there is a fatal flaw that finally brought my reading to a halt, and that is the excessive use of allegory.

Tolkien himself was a sharp critic of using this method of storytelling, and made a point of separating stories that were applicable to other areas from ones that were simply extended metaphors for making a point.  The latter is what the "space" books are.

The first book is the worst in this respect.  Out of the Silent Planet features three remarkably thin characters who are really nothing more than placeholders for points of view.  There is vivid description, lengthy discussions, and not much else of interest.  Lewis loves language, and major part of the book discusses how other life forms would utilize it.  At the end is a note promising the next book will be less heavy-handed.

It isn't.  Like the first book, Perelandra had a remarkably inventive setting (the first book was on Mars while this one is set on Venus) but apart from an attempt at better narrative framing, it is mostly description and long-winded philosophical discussions.

That Hideous Strength concludes the series but can also be read by itself.  Maybe that's what I should have done, because by now my tolerance for symbolism was non-existent.  I'm about 100 pages into it and have completely lost interest.  None of the characters feel in any way real - they are all archetypes placed in the story to make a political, philosophical or religious point.

Of course it is possible to do this while retaining vibrant and fascinating characters.  Tolkien certainly did it, as did Evelyn Waugh.  Indeed, the strength of Waugh's writing is that it feels like a real story and the sense of meaning and purpose only gradually makes its presence known.

That Hideous Strength is basically a Nineteen Eighty-Four style tale written in a much more elaborate way.  Indeed, George Orwell was one of the few writers who did allegory well, and his secret was he kept it brief.   Animal Farm is a very quick read, and while Nineteen Eighty-Four is more detailed, the doomed romance keeps it interesting.

Yesterday I reached the breaking point.  It was the perfect time for a good book, and yet after reading only a few words of That Hideous Strength I had to set it down.  Instead I reached for a Joseph Conrad anthology and started reading The Shadow Line, which actually held my attention.

I suppose I could soldier on and at least skip and skim my way through the remainder of That Hideous Strength, but I feel that's dishonest.  Since I'm not required to do a paper on it, I'm going to simply stop reading and perhaps at some later date I will decide to pick it up again.


Those who cannot see

My column on Ben Hur at Bleedingfool.com kicked off a modest debate in the comments.  What started as a discussion of the film has now turned into a debate about faith itself.

I'm not interested in litigating my side over here, but the course of the conversation is worth a closer look.

I'm sure most people of faith at some point will encounter an "evangelical atheist."  These people don't believe in God and they don't want anyone else to, either.  Marx had a big hand in creating these creatures, and while they deserve compassion, history has shown they can also be very destructive.

While it is unlikely that we will encounter the next Pol Pot at the bookstore or in an online comment thread, I think it is important that we understand where they are coming from.

In my area, a great many were raised by strictly religious parents and their unbelief is a form of rebellion.  "I refused to be brainwashed into your cult!" is their battle cry.  Others had faith, but for some reason lost it.  Again, the stories tend to have many points in common, but each one is unique. 

Just as converts often tend to be the most fervent believers, apostates are often the Church's worst enemies.  On the psychological level, we can explain this by noting that the same strength of will that can sustain a voluntary life-change can also give it enormous power and zeal.

But if we look spiritually, we a different dynamic.  Converts to the faith are trying to share something wonderful and new to them, something that they had overlooked before. 

The evangelical atheist, by contrast, has nothing new to share, no gift other than envy and despair.

In the last couple of weeks I came across one who explained that there was no God, and that people should just enjoy life knowing that they were going to die and that would be that.  The person insisted that he was perfectly fulfilled, thank you, but that did not explain why he went on a religious forum to spread this message.

I have been seeing this all my adult life.  Again, the reasons vary, but the actions have the same dull similarity.  The most virulent form of this are the ones who want to outlaw all religious practice in the US military.  And that is what gives the game away.

The old secular materialist explanation was that misery loves company, and having had their faith shattered or never being able to find it, these folks seethe with envy and anger when they see smiling religious people find meaning and purpose in their lives.  It's especially obvious when they go out of their way to hinder them - like going to an online religious discussion to spread their message.

But if we use the Spiritual Warfare lens, what we see is something different.  These people have declared themselves against God and therefore any hint of His presence is a threat to them.  That is why they want churches closed, and seek to undermine the faith of others.  They are allied with demons, but too blind to see it.

Such creatures regularly appear in the writings of Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, which shows how far back this particular strain of Spiritual Warfare goes.  Indeed, one of the Enemy's most successful tactics has been creating an artificial tension between faith and science.  Yet there is none.  Faith without reason is merely foolish while science without faith is diabolical.

Perhaps the most poignant part of the Ben Hur exchange with the commenter's refusal to even accept the possibility of miracles.  Given that the oldest writings we have confirm their existence - indeed there is an evidentiary chain leading to the present day - this is perhaps the most irrational aspect of atheism.

There are no magic words to break through to such people, but my hope is that by giving counter-examples to their misery, people who of their own choice embraced faith and found contentment and joy, they may look about themselves with new eyes.

 

 


The Christmas Spirit

In may last post I (jokingly?) referred to malign spirits of technology glitches, but over the last few years I've come to accept that there's more spiritual activity in this world than we acknowledge.

While I have to give the obligatory nod to the Lord of Spirits podcast, this view predated my wife's discovery of them, and it also made me very receptive of their message.

Timing is important in these sorts of things.  What might have seemed stupid then may make perfect sense now.  Given my upbringing, which was very skeptical of miracles and hostile to organized religion, I could only accept these truths gradually.

As the podcast points out, there are singular spirits, but also collective ones - the "spirit of the age" as it were (literally Zeitgeist in German).  There are also crowd spirits, and we see this in things like football games or various rallies.  How many times has "the mood turned sour" and a reasonably calm crowd suddenly become overcome by madness - a change that even the participants found hard to explain?

I'm sure some of you are immediately thinking of psychological conclusions (certainly I am), but what if psychology itself is an attempt to find a material expression for a spiritual event?  The grand experiment in secular psychology is about a century old and the results are pretty awful.  We pump people full of drugs, tell them to play with crayons and they still kill themselves.

Indeed, now our "medical professionals" are urging assisted suicide as a solution to chronic depression!

To me, it is increasingly obvious that the problem is a separation from God and any sense of meaning in life.  If you're just a bony juice bag waiting to get the whole thing over with, fast-forwarding to the ending makes sense.  Obviously, folks like G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis pointed all this out decades ago.  If you aren't reading them, you should be.

In addition to the spirits of crowds, I think there are also spirits of events, and that's where Christmas comes in.  One of the Enemy's greatest victories was turning the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord into a celebration of materialism.  I hate "holiday displays" that center on wrapped gifts - as if that's the reason for the season. 

Growing up as I did, the culmination of Christmas was Christmas Day, but traditionally that is the beginning, not the end.  As the song says, there's 12 days of Christmas, and the decorations should stay up and the music should still play because the event isn't just about tearing away wrapping paper on the morning of the 25th.

I am pleased to say that (at least in the circles I move in), this view is becoming more common. 

Partly because our kids are grown, the gift-giving element has become merely symbolic in our household.  I'm hoping to do what I can to ensure our grandkids also look at the season as a time for some presents, but that it should in now way be a lavish attempt to either show off prosperity, or a belated attempt to buy affection.  I know kids who grew up with that, and it hasn't worked out well for them.

Despite what was in many ways an unhappy childhood, I've always had a warm spot for Christmas because I associate it with joy and happiness.  Christmas Day to me has been marked with family gatherings, old friends dropping in and a sense of overall well-being.  I hope your Christmas is possess by the same benevolent spirit that has touched mine.

 


A Strange November

This is the mildest start of November I've ever seen.  It is no unusual for Halloween to be balmy (or freezing), but the long streak of warm weather is uncanny.  I keep running into people who smile at the weather and then shudder at the thought that we'll be "paying for it later."

Perhaps.  Sometimes there are mild winters.  A succession of these added fuel to the global warming movement (which was strange, since mild winters are a good thing - more please!).

I don't like to bring up current politics, but I will note that while huge sums of money are being spent on campaigns (my mailbox is hit with glossy fliers every single day), no one seems really interested in it.  The "yard sign wars" are the most restrained I've seen.  I don't know if it's people not caring, the campaigns not spending money or what, but the political signs have robust competition from contractors and the virtue-signalling Yard Sign Calvinists.

(Speaking of which, after decades of pondering, I've realized a similar term describes the hatchback covered with leftist bumper-stickers - Bumper Sticker Calvinism.)

My little burg's most common sign is in favor of the library millage renewal, which will certainly pass.

I'm not going to complain about either, and I'm approaching Election Day with more calmness than a felt a month ago.  I must keep reminding myself that God ultimately decides who wins, and if "my cause" loses, I should embrace that cross and also ask myself what lesson we are being taught.

In the meantime, I need to keep going on walks and even take a few bike rides while I still can.


The Spirituality of Ghostbusters

I recently watched Ghostbusters for the first time in a long time.  It has to have been at least 25 years since I had seen it, largely because it was so ubiquitous in my youth.  In addition to be a smash hit in the theater, it did heavy duty on the TV movie circuit and of course was a popular video rental for parties.

Don't get me started on the theme song.

At any rate, I was pleased to see that it holds up pretty well and being much older, I got some subtle jokes that evaded my younger sensibilities.

Of course, I also approach the subject matter of the film vastly differently than I did as a teenager, particularly after spending the last two years listening to the Lord of Spirits podcast.  Part of why I was willing to watch it again was that I wondered what Ghostbusters looks like through the spiritual lens.

Despite its nominal topic, the film presents a very secular version of the spirit realm.  The protagonists famously use mad science to capture and contain ghosts and it is the application of technology that "saves the world."

To be sure, religious people are seen praying for them, but that's part of the spectacle.  In the end, technology - not prayer - is decisive.

That being said, it is interesting that one of the assumptions of the film is that ancient gods can be real and inflict physical harm.  Since God has often various means to achieve His goals, having the Ghostbusters thwart Goser or Zuul or whoever could be seen as a dismissive wave on the part of the Almighty.

One of the key concepts of the Lord of Spirits is that the ancient gods were in fact real entities and that the sacrifices offered produced tangible results.  As a recent episode pointed out, the rise and fall of various cults is in part explained by the success of the people who worship them.  Wars between the various city-states and later empires were at the time seen as struggles of their gods as well.  The Trojan War was famously a contest that divided the Olympian gods, who repeatedly intervened.

In our modern secular worldview, we see gods as a purely cultural matter and in our contempt for our ancestors assume that the temples and rites were no more than superstition by ignorant savages.

However, as I've mentioned before, cause and effect are not a modern invention, and given the amazing sophistication of ancient metallurgy and architecture - that is, the stuff that has survived - it is the height of arrogance to assume we know more than they do.  In fact, I think we are far less logical, since many "rational" people rather irrationally refuse to consider even the possibility of the Unseen.

It's interesting that Ghostbusters also prefigures the later "ghost hunter" reality TV shows, which clearly seek a secular answer for a spiritual problem.   After I became more aware of the spiritual realm (and the fact that most if not all "ghosts" are likely demons), I asked my wife (who was an avid watcher for a while) how many of the shows were still on.  She replied that many of the first generation had stopped and that the cast had complained that "their work" tended to follow them home.

Well, yes.  Absent a "trap" and a containment field, mucking about looking for the Unseeing armed only with an voltage meter, shotgun microphone and a thermal camera is remarkably stupid.

If only they'd watched Ghostbusters, they'd have known better.

 

 


Logan's Run: Prelude to hook-up culture

Continuing with the theme of dystopian sci-fi films, I watched Logan's Run for the first time in at least a decade. 

I'm not going to say it hasn't aged well because the quintessential 70s sci-fi feel is part of its charm.  It came out in 1976, and was such a hit that a spin-off TV series was put into production.

The central conceit of the film is that environmental degradation forced humanity to retreat into a climate-controlled domed city run by a central computer.  This was when overpopulation was a great fear, with books like The Population Bomb and movies like Soylent Green intimating that we'd soon be eating each other.

At any rate, to keep the population stable, births (and deaths) are highly regulated.  Each resident has a small crystal in the left hand and it changes color as they age.  Once it starts blinking red (which happens at the age of 30) time's up.  That generation goes to a thing called 'carousel' (spelled differently) and they spin and levitate until being blow to bits.  In theory, the worthy will be given a second life, but no one's positive about how that works.

Anyhow, some people want to keep living and try to evade the security force, known as Sandmen.  They are assigned to chase "runners" and kill them.

It's standard fare, with the usual heavy-handed culture references ("don't trust anyone over 30" was of course a hippie slogan) and the plot leans heavily on ruined landmarks being scary.

What I find interesting was that it prefigured the hook-up culture that started to emerge in the late 80s.  Because everyone is safe and fed and population is determined by computers, sex is entirely recreational.  Monogamy is unknown.  Thus each evening, one can go "on the circuit" and find a partner (or more than one).  There's even an orgy district.

The obvious message is that bodily pleasure without a relationship is ultimately empty.  Our society is learning the same lesson.  The 'freedom' provided by birth control and abortion comes at a significant cost.  Numerous studies and mountains of data demonstrate that quantity of sex partners is less important than the quality of them, and that a long-term monogamous relationship results in the best outcomes in health and emotional satisfaction.

This shouldn't be a surprise - countless generations embraced this structure before us, but the conceit of the 20 Century was that all those people were stupid and ignorant.  We're now learning the opposite.

Amidst the hysterical responses to the Dobbs decision is the claim that "hook-up culture is dead."  I think the prevalence of other methods of birth control says otherwise, but I'd be very happy if that is true.