Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flowers amongst weeds.

I'm warning the Atheists that this is a religious post.

I don't think that many of my American readers realise just how hostile the contemporary cultural climate has become with regard to religion outside the U.S.  Amongst polite society, religious belief is not just intellectually mocked, but it has become a social vice, much like not washing or belching in public. The result of this twin pronged attack is that religion tends not to be mentioned at all in public discourse (except when discourse is critical of it.) Conservatives of the HBD bent--the most successful conservatives and the ones scoring the most social points--do their bit as well, denying religious insight any legitimacy(except where it is subordinate to evolutionary concerns). Amongst the dynamic conservatives at the moment, religious matters are touched briefly and with some embarrassment. The conservative argument is fought on empirical basis alone.

I suppose this areligious flavour of conservatism has its roots in the debates with the left. Conservative thinkers have tried to debate the Left on the Left's terms in the mistaken belief that while Leftist's were irreligious, they were at least objective on more worldly matters.  This view of course was false. The Left were never objective. Their objectivity was subjective, subjective to their own prejudices and they simply ignored argument which conflicted with their preferred version of reality. There was no dialogue but lots of debate. Conservatism, shaped by this endless dialogue with the Left, became publicly, practically irreligious.

This is a shame because without religious insight Conservatism is dead.

The Left is the killing the West, and thinking people of all persuasions realise that something is wrong. Detroit just one example of the malignancy of the Left disease and yet unless it is stopped, Detroit is the future for all of us. 20th Century Conservatism has the failed to stop the disease. Indeed God-lite Conservatism is part of the disease. There will be no revival of the West without a religious revival.

I've been meaning to put up this post for a while but could not find a good example to illustrate what I meant till I came upon this post. (Hat tip. The Black Death).  Amongst Detroit's cancer is something that refuses to die. (These are images of the surrounding area)

There are only 12 parishioners seated in the pews at the front. There’s room behind them for almost 2,500 more.

There’s no place else like it in Detroit. The way its tattered beauty still shows despite its age, the way a handful of people keep it going despite the challenges, the way its past was wild and sometimes even violent, it’s a lot like the city it has stood in all these years.

“This place is not only a statement about God; it’s a statement about us,” says Bob Duda, 64, part of the Polish American Historic Site Association, the group that takes care of St. Albertus. “It’s like a skyscraper — here we are folks, we’re important, just as important as anybody else. We’re going to be proud of ourselves. That’s why they built churches like this; otherwise they could’ve done it in tents*. It’s a testimony to us and our history and our heritage.   
*(Note to Modernist Architects)

Just imagine the effort and personal sacrifice that went into the building of this church. The care and artistry that lavished upon it, a time when infant mortality was shocking, hunger real and destitution, an ever present reality.  That a bunch of peasant Polaks,  Europe's rejected, could build such a church in what was effectively the wilderness and against the odds was testimony to the power of their culture to create something magnificent from nothing. As opposed to the modern culture of Detroit, which corrodes everything it touches, their culture was a culture of vitality: The force of life.

It's this "force" that gave the West its vitality and without this force the West will die. The world has gone through prolonged periods of darkness before and on a purely logical level there is no reason why the West go the way of other cultures.

That such a church, built up with much effort, toil and sacrifice; the drama for life's great events and a thing of beauty itself, could be sold for one hundred dollars is proof that the current Catholic church is run by downright morons and cultural aesthetes. The natural way of things when governed by such men is for self destruction. That the Church survives is not due to human agency, as clearly it is manifestly lacking, but is supported by something Divine. As some cardinal, whose name I forget said, "the Devil will never destroy the Church, our own priests have been trying to do it for nearly two thousand years without success." It survives despite the idiocy of its supposed guardians.

The force that keeps this church alive is the force that shaped the West and when this force leaves this church it will die. The name of this force is caritas. In English, the word is frequently translated into the terms charity and love. But these terms do not do concept justice. The best way I can think of it as a will to perfection. (perfection in the Aristotelian sense). This force, expressed in the real world, improves upon it. Reality is not only better, but reality thrives in its action.

If I had to distill the big ideas of the West, the qualities which gave it its unique character, it would be caritas and veritas.  Of these two, caritas is more important. Without caritas, veritas is impotent. The world thrives suboptimaly when it has caritas, but caritas becomes supercharged in the presence of veritas. (The West rocked in the 19th Century, it's when the two forces became aligned in Western society) And that's is why conservatism has failed, its concentrated on the veritas instead of the caritas; it's got its priorities wrong.

Looking at Paul's letter to the Corinthians in this light, it assumes a different message. Instead of it being an exposition on love, it becomes a sociological insight. Our society, no matter how technologically gifted it is, no matter what feats it can perform, is doomed to nothingness without charity. The technological fix, no matter how well informed, is doomed to failure. The HBD movement is a dead end. That's not to say that it does not have valuable insights(veritas), but on its own it's not enough. Standing in modern Detroit, St Paul could clearly identify the malady. Where is the love? Would be his comment. Detroit is decaying because of idiocy and indifference, failures of both veritas and caritas. In a sea of desolation, St Albertus survives because of love.

Before you can save Detroit or the West, you've gotta care. Without the love, no matter how informed you are,  you don't give a shit.

58 comments:

Simon Grey said...

This post has highlighted for me why modernist/art deco architecture (championed by Ayn Rand, by the way) feels so cold: it lacks soul. There is no celebration of of man's spirituality.

Blue Blazer said...

Gosh!If only I were Catholic,I would feel oh-so-much more optimistic right now!Oh,well...

Anonymous said...

Blue,

I don't think you would, because the church, like the rest of the west, has lost its way and it is in a cycle it can't escape from.

as men have left, the church has catered to women more, and so more men leave and it caters more to women. on and on it goes, more and more unbalanced.

I have heard Paul mocked from the pulpit because we are "more enlightened now."

It is now accepted as gospel that although "men are the head of the household. women are the spiritual head of the household"

What exactly is the male leadership role if the woman is the spiritual head?

An age of darkness is coming and it is foolish to think that Christianity will somehow survive better than other religions in history when the civilizations they supported collapse.

Zoroastrianism and Persia. Jupiter and Rome. All have their season in the sun.

The Social Pathologist said...

Christianity(mainly Catholicism) will survive, but it will morph into something different. It's very difficult to predict how these things will turn out, but I believe that Catholicism is going to be more protestantised in practice and to in some degree so will the theology. Benedict is big on informed conscience, which is traditionally a protestant stronghold.

I'm not trying to convince you about the merits of Catholicism, if you think its wrong you have an obligation to resist it, but resist it out of informed grounds. Resist it for what it is, not what you think it is.

Robert Brockman said...

I suspect that empiricism will ultimately finish destroying the churches in their current form. The great weaknesses of the churches is that they have tied themselves strongly to non-disprovable (and in many cases, directly falsifiable) ideas. As a result, high IQ types who are also both perceptive and inquisitive ask all manner of embarrassing questions and will continue to steadily leak out of these organizations.

Stripped of intellectual legitimacy, the churches are thus in a very poor position to inspire intelligent people to care about the condition of humanity. The church can no longer credibly apply the carrot and stick of the afterlife on an individual basis to try and get people to be loving. (This is probably just as well.) I believe SP has correctly identified the resulting widespread deficiency of love/caritas/charity/arete as the great threat that has emerged from this process. Science (and especially scientism) gets to take a big part of the blame for this.

Fortunately, SP's (and Paul's, and Jesus's) observation that real love and caring are necessary for continuing forward and that their absence leads to disaster is EMPIRICALLY OBSERVABLE. Real scientists (of whom there are precious few) can therefore proceed to study these concepts. This can work because the two virtues of "caritas" and "veritas" are connected: for scientists to be able to proceed forward in their quest to understand the world as it really is, they need access to an advanced civilization. Thus, they must sincerely care about the maintenance of said civilization. (The reverse connection exists also.)

Sam Harris's latest project is a crude example of this sort of work. He has defined "the well being of conscious creatures" as a moral target and is agitating for people to scientifically study ways in which this can be advanced.

http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html



The thing to observe in Sam's talk is how much his attitude differs from that of the Demon Roissy. Their core models of how the universe works are very similar, but while Roissy has basically decided to party and mock while the civilization collapses, Sam appears genuinely affected by the suffering of others. In a very real sense, Sam and Jesus are on the same team, and it's the team that opposes both Roissy and Maury Povich.

Proposal: If we can mine the existing religions for principles and information regarding Love/The Essential Sweetness/The Will to Excellence/etc., "re-encode" them into the empirical "reality tunnel", and then get them to people like Sam Harris, we just might be able to improve things.

(Apologies to any Sufis out there who probably have been working on this angle for decades.)

Robert Brockman said...

One more thing: remember that there exists an invisible infrastructure of loving and saintly people everywhere who work tirelessly for the benefit of mankind. These people almost never make the news, and when they do, they are quickly forgotten. Everyone knows about Hitler, Mao, and Stalin, almost nobody knows about Stanislav Petrov, John Rabe, and Norman Borlaug even though the latter group has been far more powerful. The Jewish legend of the Tzadikim Nistarim can in this sense be experimentally verified.

Black Death said...

Glad you liked the link. The church really captures the spirit of Detroit - a small group of mostly city expats hanging on (barely) to an architectural treasure, with little institutional support.

In the original Greek version of the New Testament, Paul uses the word "agape" for what the King James version variously calls "charity" or "love." The word appears 116 times in 106 verses of the KJV NT. It is often translated as "affection, good will, love, benevolence, brotherly love."

I agree with your conclusion (and Paul's) - without love, nothing counts.

Dirichlet said...

Robert:

Sam Harris' "project" is, essentially, the latest attempt at solving the is-ought problem, as shown in his latest book The Moral Landscape. Sadly, he does not solve the problem, and ends up with a crude moral philosophy that is at the core not very different from utilitarianism, maybe with a more "modern" formulation of a felific calculus that makes use of our latest scientific tools, but that obviously does not sidestep the essential problems with utilitarianism.

Although I am no fan of Harris (I believe his attacks on religious scientists like Francis Collins are infantile and unnecessary), I think he shows genuinely good intentions in improving modern moral thought, but he is too trapped in the whole dysteleological mindset, probably as a result of his own ideological assumptions.

In the end, and as MacIntyre said in After Virtue, the only two moral options we are left with are Aristotle's telos and virtue vs. Nietzsche's will to power. Our moral language is imbued with purpose -- without it, only relativism remains.

Regarding Roissy, I don't approve of his lifestyle choices, but he's sometimes right about the sad status of the male gender in modern society.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Robert Brockmann and Dirichlet.

Regarding Roissy, I don't approve of his lifestyle choices, but he's sometimes right about the sad status of the male gender in modern society

I've not read or heard of Harris in the past, though from what I could see on the internet I agree with Dirichlet's comment. In fact I fear Harris more than Roissy, whom I actually think is a hairbreadth away from God. I've often thought the he is a an Augustine in the making.

The other problem is that the facts are out there. Take for example, The Sex in America survey by the University of Chicago done in the 90's. The data was pretty conclusive in showing that the people with the happiest sex lives were the traditionally married. I could go on, but a boring old fashioned lifestyle seems to be associated with a whole host of scientifically proven benefits. The data is ignored.

We on the Right need to recongise that the Left isn't engaged in honest debate. Orwell recognised this years ago, the mark of the leftist mind is the self-policing of thinking. The cause is more important than reality and hence data is ignored which clashes with the leftist vision.

Robert Brockman said...

Yep, lots of inconvenient data is ignored. The people who do this ignoring are not scientists and they are not empiricists, whatever side of the political debate they are on and whatever letters they have after their name. What characterizes minimal intellectual honesty is the willingness to change one's belief system in the presence of enhanced data and reasoning.

Hardly anyone has this intellectual honesty. People associated with Christianity are attached to very poorly supported notions about the nature of their founder and will not let go of them regardless of the evidence. Most "leftists" have a similar attachment to certain key ideas about the nature of humans which can be shown to not line up with observable reality. The result is the situation we have today.

Agreed that utilitarianism has problems, and that Sam Harris's project is very crude. Escaping from moral relativism is very difficult without reference to religious sources heavily tainted by magical thinking. Sam Harris is essentially starting over from scratch.

Novaseeker said...

The problem is the epistemological dictatorship of empiricism in the sense that something must pass certain empirical truth tests in order to be considered "validly true". This is appropriate for scientific phenomena, but not for metaphysical or spiritual phenomena. But because our collectively accepted epistemology has become so rigidly and narrowly empiricist, the kind of insights that lead to moral thinking are not available.

Harris can tilt all he likes at his windmills-du-jour. He won't get much of anywhere, because moral motivations in people do not come from empirical observations -- they come from the desire to live up to a standard that is, by its nature, asymptotic, and above the level of empirical reality. There has been no lack of philosophers bending over backwards to try to justify the moral good, to try to provide "reasons" for people to be morally good, based on reason alone, without regard to anything spiritual. They have failed. Spectacularly. Harris will likewise fail.

The main problem here has been the main problem we have with liberalism and the intellectual environment that preceded it: hubris. Pride. Humano-centric pride in believing that we can, as humans, create a moral system out of whole cloth for ourselves, have it catch on, and base everything on our own "reasoned" ideas. This is the great wild goose chase of history, and right now the civilization we live in is so drunk on its own narrow empiricism that it is literally choking off any other kinds of "truth", any other methods of seeking and finding "truth", leaving the arid, morality-free landscape we see. Then the problem is recognized, but what do the empiricists do? Why, they try to do the same damned thing their forebears were trying to do in the enlightenment and romantic periods: create moral systems from whole cloth. It won't work.

SP is right. Without a religious foundation, the kinds of moral vision required for our civilization to thrive will simply not be present. Certainly the likes of Sam Harris are not going to provide moral salvation to our almost hopelessly debased empiricist culture.

David said...

Not a religious person myself, but find the stridency of the attacks on religion by self-defined "progressives" and "intellectuals" to be pretty bizarre. Especially since many if not most of these people are NOT rationalists or empiricists--quite a few of them are believers in magical crystals, a conscious gaia, various mystical "forces," etc etc.

Back in 1950 Arthur Koestler wrote a novel, The Age of Longing, which I believe you'd find interesting, SP. It is centered on the West's loss of civilizational self-confidence, via the story of a young American woman, a former Catholic who has lost her faith, who falls hard for a very committed Russian communist. Koestler has much to say about the impact of the decline of religious belief. My review/essay is here: sleeping with the enemy

Dirichlet said...

@Robert: thanks for your reply.

Yep, lots of inconvenient data is ignored. The people who do this ignoring are not scientists and they are not empiricists, whatever side of the political debate they are on and whatever letters they have after their name. What characterizes minimal intellectual honesty is the willingness to change one's belief system in the presence of enhanced data and reasoning.

Yes, this is true. But practical human experience (I tell you this as someone who works close to academia) shows us that scientists are not immune to ideology and that, at least in that same sense, they are not very different from the average citizen. Empiricism, the standard methodology of natural science, is not without its problems -- a recent New Yorker article, titled "The Decline Effect," shows how many scientists tend to attach themselves irrationally to certain theories. I don't mean to be disparaging, as I have a lot of respect for scientists and enjoy scientific literature, but they are just as human as you and me, whatever letters they have after their names.

Hardly anyone has this intellectual honesty. People associated with Christianity are attached to very poorly supported notions about the nature of their founder and will not let go of them regardless of the evidence. Most "leftists" have a similar attachment to certain key ideas about the nature of humans which can be shown to not line up with observable reality. The result is the situation we have today.

We live in an age of ideology, as evidenced by the fact that we do not produce legitimate culture anymore. This shouldn't surprise the diligent student of history, since every civilization that we know of has shown this trait during its decline phase, combined with increased hostility toward religious belief, a "gnostic" cognitive elite and demographic implosion.

Agreed that utilitarianism has problems, and that Sam Harris's project is very crude. Escaping from moral relativism is very difficult without reference to religious sources heavily tainted by magical thinking. Sam Harris is essentially starting over from scratch.

Harris' pursuit is a noble one (as was Bentham's and Mill's), although I'm not very optimistic about it. Besides the fact that, since the Enlightenment, all attempts at constructing a tractable system of ethics entirely based on rationalism has failed, the idea of creating some sort of rule-utilitarianism based on modern empiricism scares me a bit. We just saw similar results in the economy two years ago -- the problem of induction came back to bite our rear ends in the form of a Black Swan that destroyed many of our "proven" assumptions, as discussed by Taleb. This could certainly happen with a system of ethics.

Also, the point of a system of ethics is having something that endures throughout several generations. But the scientific process is extremely dynamic: theories are spawned and rejected every day. In ethics, this could mean that whatever is considered "good" today could be rejected tomorrow in the face of new evidence. So, then, one might ask: why accept such results at all?

Dirichlet said...

@SP, thanks for the comment.

I've not read or heard of Harris in the past, though from what I could see on the internet I agree with Dirichlet's comment. In fact I fear Harris more than Roissy, whom I actually think is a hairbreadth away from God. I've often thought the he is a an Augustine in the making.

Harris is not a bad guy. He just has an extreme bias against religious belief and religious people. This is paradoxical, given that he is some sort of Buddhist with an appreciation for mysticism (even Western, he's a fan of Meister Eckhart).

Now, he wants to use empirical results from the scientific process for his utilitarian goals. But recent studies (and the work of J. Haidt, D.S. Wilson and S. Kanazawa) show that religious belief and practice are in fact very beneficial for human beings and are associated with higher levels of personal well-being. In fact, the more religious the person, the higher the benefits they get from their practice and beliefs.

Would Harris be willing to accept those results for his system of ethics?

We on the Right need to recongise that the Left isn't engaged in honest debate. Orwell recognised this years ago, the mark of the leftist mind is the self-policing of thinking. The cause is more important than reality and hence data is ignored which clashes with the leftist vision.

The entire political process is corrupted. People care more about ideology and their personal interests than the principles they claim to believe in. This is why I don't associate with the Right, especially the American Religious Right, although I myself am religious and a traditionalist.

The Social Pathologist said...

Thanks everyone for the very considered comments!

What characterizes minimal intellectual honesty is the willingness to change one's belief system in the presence of enhanced data and reasoning.

Agreed. I think it's quite fine to honestly question the data and look for more supporting evidence the fundamental intellectual virtue that all men need to posses is intellectual humility, i.e intellectual subordination to the truth.

Both sides of the political spectrum have their ideologues. The Right has its traditionalists, who by refusing to acknowledge new insights and developments, stymie the conservative movement. The left on the other hand, has developed whole schools of philosophy that deny reality, thereby justifying it's position.

Of the two, the Traditionalist Right is far less toxic since it's ideology is based upon a good dose of reality, whereas the Left's grip on it is tenuous at best.

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Novaseeker

The problem is the epistemological dictatorship of empiricism in the sense that something must pass certain empirical truth tests in order to be considered "validly true".

That's a big part of the problem. As I've argued before, for a blind empiricist, colours do not exist. Any talk about colours, for him at least, is inspired by "magical thinking".

Why, they try to do the same damned thing their forebears were trying to do in the enlightenment and romantic periods: create moral systems from whole cloth.

Because each one thinks he's special. Special in the way that he thinks he is morally superior to everyone else, or special in the way that he thinks his thinking faultless. A lot of leftist error stems from good intention and a practical personal infallibility (Sam Harris). Rightist's are also guilty of this second error but as their ideology is more reality based it is less harmful.

So yes, in the end it's about Pride.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Dirichlet

We just saw similar results in the economy two years ago -- the problem of induction came back to bite our rear ends in the form of a Black Swan that destroyed many of our "proven" assumptions, as discussed by Taleb.

This deals directly with the Charltons's "clever silly", analysis. (of got some disagreements with him there).

The fundamental problem of modern economics was in the assumption that economic phenomena were stochastic and hence could be modeled on stochastic lines. The financial crisis was no black swan. Any person with half a brain, rudimentary reading of economic history, and an understanding of human nature could see what was going to happen a mile off. Bill Bonner, itulip, Bob Santamaria and others saw the train wreck a mile off. They may have had lower IQ's than the quants but their underlying assumptions about the nature of economic reality were spot on. There is going to be no recovery for a long long long period of time.

The entire political process is corrupted, but it is to be expected. The founding fathers of the U.S knew exactly what would happen to it if the people went bad.

The core problem of modern Western culture has been intellectual dishonesty, especially with regard to social phenomena and an understanding of human nature. The left is killing the world because of it, the right, incapable of fighting the left because of it as well.

Robert Brockman said...

I'm not so sure it's about Pride. In most cases I've observed it's about Trust. Old men reading from old books tell us that it is the will of the supreme being that we engage in behavior X. Many questions immediately arise. Why should we believe the old men? Where did these books come from? WHICH group of old men should we believe?

These are hard questions, and the more one explores the problem of exactly how the "authorities" of various sorts got their information, the uglier the situation gets.

No matter who you are, you cannot delegate the responsibility for choosing which set of old men to trust. This is why I always refer to Benedict as the "Acting Pope" -- the real pope is YOU, since you must decide moment to moment whether to delegate moral and cosmological decisions to Benedict or to someone else. In this sense at least everyone has to start from scratch.

For my own purposes, I trust Richard Feynman. Seems pretty low on the arrogance and high on the intellectual honesty scale. He's dead now, but the records have been well maintained:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhXzK5RxvUg&feature=related

If anyone knows a more reliable set of old men (or ladies) I'm quite interested in hearing about them.

Robert Brockman said...

@Novaseeker:

How are we to come up with moral and cosmological truths? What are the options? Empiricism, in principle, should be able to make statements like: If you do X, it's likely that you will have pleasant/unpleasant experience Y with probability Z in this life. (Assuming the empiricism is being done honestly of course, which it rarely is.)

It's clear you want to do better that this. I'm very interested in what methods you propose to use and how to implement them.

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Novaseeker said...

How are we to come up with moral and cosmological truths? What are the options? Empiricism, in principle, should be able to make statements like: If you do X, it's likely that you will have pleasant/unpleasant experience Y with probability Z in this life. (Assuming the empiricism is being done honestly of course, which it rarely is.)

It's clear you want to do better that this. I'm very interested in what methods you propose to use and how to implement them.


Simply "coming up with" moral rules on the basis of empiricism won't really get you anywhere with more complex morality. Sure, put your hand in the fire and you get burned, so don't put your hand in the fire. But that's self-preservation, which is quite different from morality.

Empiricism, for example, has nothing really to say about the morality of terminating the life of an unborn child, or of an elderly person, or the morality of suicide, or sexual or marital morality and the like. In order to draw truly moral conclusions about these issues (i.e., beyond "I'm ok, you're ok" or "if it doesn't directly hurt anyone else, you're good to go, mate!"), one needs a transcendent source of morality -- something that goes well beyond the preservation of self and tribe and the avoidance of bad outcomes. Without religion, this pretty much does not happen.

If the West does not get religion back, it's doomed in the long run, for the reasons Slumlord sets forth. Again, "reason-based" thinkers have been breaking their backs to come up with universal moral rules that people would follow, sans "religion", for thousands of years to no great avail. Sure, they're interesting to read and have all had some influence, but the sum total of Western rationalist philosophical discourse on morality has simply led to the current situation.

Robert Brockman said...

@Novaseeker

So you're making the claim that if large groups of people don't accept certain specific beliefs (not determinable from reasoning or evidence), then Doom will show up. Note that this is an EMPIRICAL claim: later on when Doom does show up, you'll be able to say, "my hypothesis was consistent with the data!" It also appears like your claim is somewhat based on previous instances of Doom correlated with a lack of support for certain moral concepts.

Assuming your idea of Doom is observable (Detroit as Hell on Earth vs. Post-Death Spiritual Hell) then we're back in the business of science. With enough data, you can sell scientists on the idea that they need to accept and promote certain moral truths as a way to avoid Doom, which would stop funding for their research.

In principle, we could even be in a bizarre situation where widespread belief in and performance of "crazy" rituals (vampiric zombie cannibalism, talking to invisible beings, etc.) was NECESSARY for the survival of civilization. A small number of sane non-cultists could empirically observe and catalog the necessity for creepy cult behavior and then keep real quiet to avoid disrupting the civilization. I'd be fine with that.

@SP:

I've been grinding through CR/Benedict's article. Good stuff, will need more digesting. I already feel better about Benedict, he doesn't smell nearly as corrupt in his writing as he is presented in the media (which is not surprising.) One thing I keep noticing whenever I read papal edicts, etc., is that the recent guys in charge really do seem to be kind and loving people.

Novaseeker said...

Robert --

You seem to be assuming that I am saying: "See, the coming doom is the PROOF that religion is needed." I can see how you would read what I have written that way, but it isn't really what I was saying.

What I was saying is that humans have tried and tried and tried and tried to come up with widely-accepted moral rules on the basis of reasoning and in all cases have failed to achieve anything close to the kind of "moral uptake" that religions have done in various cultural contexts. That's an empirical observation of sorts, to be sure, and it informs my own profound skepticism that someone in the 21st Century will finally, magically, "get it right" and set the world aflame with the pure moral truth of reason, firmly based on empiricism, in a way that will have significant moral uptake, even in the context of one civilization. It's already been tried numerous times without success.

Someone like Sam Harris is understandable from the perspective that he "gets" that without some kind of foundation for moral rules, people will often behave badly on a grand scale. Yet his invincible prejudice against religion - at least against any "revealed" religion (as he does seem to have some affinity for Eastern spiritual systems, systems which, as his compadre Hitchens points out well, are every bit as "irrational" as the more familiar ones, regardless of what Harris prefers in his own life and can muster up the words to self-justify) -- leads him to try, yet again, as hundreds if not thousands of thinkers have done before him, to come up with a moral system based on the reasoning of his own head.

From my own perspective, I see the prospect of a morality-free (or at least morally confused) civilization, one without a consensus morality of any depth beyond "I'm ok you're ok", as a chilling one -- hence the prediction of "doom". Others may see that prospect as a thrilling one -- so be it.

Robert Brockman said...

Re: Cardinal Ratzinger's assessment of the situation.

JR/PB seems to be saying that the reason we aren't completely screwed in our choice of morality and religion is because we have a small fragment of Correctness built in that we can use to assess incoming ethical and religious data. Presumably the efficiency of this Correctness Mechanism can be augmented by decreasing the mental noise level through the usual means (meditation, sobriety of various kinds, etc.)

This idea is quite interesting -- I recall Idries Shah made the exact same claim about how students can separate true Sufi instructors from false ones. The idea is that some latent capacity present in the student will identify who is a real master.

If this is really the case, then maybe we have a way out. We could study this mechanism and promote ways to improve its functioning. For this to be done honestly, it would need to be done independently of the various religious groups (including atheism!) However, if CR/PB is right in general, then this exercise might increase genuine recruitment to the "correct" organizations.

The_King said...

I disagree, any type of religion just like other types of belief systems will and can be replaced by modern media propelled brain washing. Media dictates social wants and needs, hence the modern religion is consumerism. The drastic rise in conspicuous consumption and cosmopolitan lifestyle will support this notion.

Unless government increases religious tradition in the public school system, the average civilian will not pursue it.

Anonymous Protestant said...

The facts, as SP says, are indeed out there and the number and depth of them increase every day. Science itself is undermining the concepts that Marxism, and its variants such as Feminism, stand upon.

Example: Magnetic Resonance Imaging has revealed that men and women's brains are not only different in volume, they differ in structures. Some lobes are larger in men, some are larger in women. This physical difference must lead to other differences, including behavioral and perceptual. There is, for example, a scientific reason to explain why women on average have a finer ability to detect color shading difference than men.

But Lawrence Summers is still not president of Harvard.

Example: the effects of endorphins on the human brain are unquestionable. The generation of endorphins in the human body during sexual activity is unquestionable. There is, therefore, a scientific explanation for why women who have had none or at most one sexual partner are more likely to remain faithful, less likely to stray/divorce than a woman who has had some larger number of partners.

There are other examples, and this is why I regard the HBD people as useful, because in case after case I find a scientific explanation for human behavior that just happens to agree with old books written by old men. To me it is hugely interesting and at times vastly amusing to read a summary of research that just happens to prove the old man who wrote Ecclesiastes knew what he was on about.

Continued.

Anonymous Protestant said...

Or to put it another way: science is revealing that much of traditional Christian morality is not capricious, not random, not just something thought up by killjoys, but actually in line with human biology at various levels. We are, in fact, made a certain way, and not blank "tabula rasa" sheets upon which the latest and greatest "progressive" fad can be written upon.

But! But! But! The religion of liberalism, that nature is nothing and nurture is all (except when it comes to homosexuality...), that anyone can be anything they want, that every child is a blank sheet upon which the parents or guardians can write -- this religion is the ideological underpinning of our entire modern political and social structure. Thus, the liberal, the Feminist, the Marxist are increasingly on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, their belief in nurture-as-all, in infinite malleability of human behavior, in "no one right way to live" is the core of their belief system, they cannot give it up and remain what they are. On the other hand, science continues to falsify all of the above and more, and one of the core beliefs of liberals, Marxists, Feminists et al is that they are "reality based", and scientific.

Anonymous Protestant said...

Conclusion:


But as Detroit demonstrates, given a choice between continuing to believe wrong things, or denying reality, liberals will consistently deny reality. Detroit is an object lesson in where a few generations of liberal policies lead: to an imploding, desolate community. It should come as no surprise that debate raged for years and years from the 1960's through the 1980's on "what should be done" to save cities such as Detroit. What may surprise some non-Americans is how that turned out: the liberals basically have walked away from such projects. There is no more 'national debate on urban problems' as there was for a generation. Liberals cannot admit they were wrong, won't admit the disaster was of their making, and so they have decided to just look the other way. Friends of mine in Michigan tell me that economic development in that state increasingly just ignores Detroit, Flint, etc. except to throw some more money from time to time into the corrupt political machines that run those places.

Let me be clear: faced with a massive, ongoing failure of liberal-left policies, the response is to basically walk away from the project. Reality stinks, so liberals decide to ignore that reality. This bodes ill for the liberal-left project in the long run, but it's much more troubling for everyone else in the short ti intermediate term.

Therefore, I predict that the left as a group will increasingly reject science, and become more mystical in some way. The Sam Harris's will increasingly be left out in the cold. I fear that this will all too often take the form of some devolved version of Nietzche's "will to power". The 20th century was littered with would-be "supermen", a 21st century version could be a huge disaster. But the leftists are faced with either admitting their god of science is false, or their god of the state-as-god is false. I do not envy them in this situation, but it was inevitable.

In any event, what Sam Harris and all the prideful, puffed up intellects before him going back at least to Voltaire are attempting is both redundant and futile. Any honest attempt that takes into account human biology will of necessity wind up in the same place as that dusty old Christian morality. So it is redundant.

And it is futile, because Harris and others are attempting to re-invent the wheel but they insist on leaving out the hub. So all the spokes must perforce flop around, colliding and clashing and not working. Because humans, contrary to liberal/left/Marxist dogma, are not perfectable, not in this world. No matter how hard it is tried, it cannot be achieved.

PS: I despise and distrust Harris because of a casual line in an interview to an atheist-friendly publication that is not to hand right now. In this comment, Harris casually suggested that in order to really get his program off of the ground, it would be necessary to take some children away from their parents and have someone else raise them, because of the superstitions the parents insisted on teaching their children. He specifically mentioned removing children from Christian homes in this context.

As a student of history, I know a declaration of religious war when I see one. I see one in the writings of Sam Harris.

RobertT said...

"Unless government increases religious tradition in the public school system, the average civilian will not pursue it." from The_King

Just so it doesn't go unchallenged, this is complete nonsense. My own case, and probably millions more, proves its nonsense.

Nietzsche said...

@RobertT

How so? Its common knowledge that religion and politics are intertwined in Western culture since they are both of social tradition and custom. Since government is in charge of public education and decide on the content and format, it is up to the government/courts to decide the amount of religious education allowed.

It is a weak argument to use yourself as evidence. Since you lack objectivity and in the broad sense outliers shouldn't count.

Please find a reliable source that proves your statements. You have to do the work first, since you threw the accusation. Once you produce your sources, I will rebuttal.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Protestant,

Harris is known for making those comments. His famous remark "some people ought to be killed because of their beliefs" is well known.

But perhaps the most dangerous was his argument that full secularization can only be achieved through a dictatorship and, since (according to him) mankind had to choose between secularization and extinction, a dictatorship was necessary for our survival.

This idea is basically the same as the Marxist belief in a dictatorship of the proletariat as an intermediate phase toward Communism. We all know how it ended.

Novaseeker said...

Indeed. Harris has proven himself to be quite the monster when he's poked. He comes across as an affable secularist, kind of into Eastern mysticism and all that jazz. But when he's been poked about his views, the abject immorality, inhumanity and monstrosity can't help but bubble to the surface and be exposed for all to see. He's a 21st Century version of the madmen of the 20th -- cultured, intellectual and monstrous to the core.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nietzsche

"Unless government increases religious tradition in the public school system, the average civilian will not pursue it."

Religion seemed to get on quite well in the U.S (as well as Australia and New Zealand)until recently, without government intervention at all. In Ireland, Croatia and Poland it seemed to thrive in the presence of communist persecution. Religion, if to be successful, has to arise organically from the people. It can't be imposed.

The Social Pathologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Social Pathologist said...

Robert Brockman

JR/PB seems to be saying that the reason we aren't completely screwed in our choice of morality and religion is because we have a small fragment of Correctness built in that we can use to assess incoming ethical and religious data.

I think this small fragment or "default setting" of conscience ensures a bare minimum of morality which enables effective social functioning. Murder is pretty much prohibited across all cultures, as well a lying and stealing. C.S Lewis identified these values as the Tao of Life in one of his books.

The big cultures of the world are roughly similar in their social moralities and it is perhaps this rudimentary conscious sense that is the cause for this expression.

Nietzsche said...

@SP

"Religion seemed to get on quite well in the U.S (as well as Australia and New Zealand)until recently, without government intervention at all. In Ireland, Croatia and Poland it seemed to thrive in the presence of communist persecution. Religion, if to be successful, has to arise organically from the people. It can't be imposed."

That's because US is a religious nation, founded by protestants. Why do you think WASPs wielded so much power? Now the Jews are taking over, but that is only because they adopted Protestant values and infiltrated their power system. Let's not forget that religion was created to promote education in the masses for social stability and control.

Australia and New Zealand are both former UK colonies, enough said.

Who wants to be Ireland, Poland or Croatia these days?

I can simply say China or Japan. Both world economic powers and very atheist. China is still communist and religion doesn't flourish there. How come?

Religion serves as a social control or brainwash for the masses. The social elite uses religion to promote the social structure. The only reason the elite pretend to be religious is because so much social and traditions are intertwined with religious practice. But if you interact with them on a daily basis, you can see their hypocrisy.

Robert Brockman said...

@Anonymous Protestant

Yes, it's very interesting whenever empiricism can verify certain sayings of the old guys reading from the old books. The big difference is the justification: the scientists claim to have done recent experiments rather than getting their understanding from mystical experiences.

Totally agree that the left will ultimately turn against real science completely, what little it can't corrupt (see climatology, for example.)


@Novaseeker


Oh yes, Sam Harris is definitely a member of a specific religious team and is playing for all the marbles. He wants CR/PB sent to the slam, for example. Us science-y types are still a bit bitter over Galileo and Hypatia, which probably makes us unnecessarily cranky.

Harris is far more concerned with Islam right now, of course. From the standpoint of market share if nothing else, the Christians might consider him a useful weapon that perhaps could be properly aimed.

As for monstrous, I'm not so sure. Harris considers his ideological enemies to be a threat to his survival (with some reason) and wants to see them crushed. That makes him a normal garden variety human, no different from members of any of the other religious factions (including the followers of Jesus). Recall "kill them all, the Lord will recognise His own"?

I'm too old to get worked up by all this Red Team vs. Blue Team stuff anymore and am far more interested in trying to figure out what's actually going on in the world rather than who wants who killed this news cycle.

The Social Pathologist said...

AP.

Very good series of comments.

Therefore, I predict that the left as a group will increasingly reject science, and become more mystical in some way. The Sam Harris's will increasingly be left out in the cold. I fear that this will all too often take the form of some devolved version of Nietzche's "will to power".

I think that the important thing for conservatives to realise is that the Left is not interested in honest debate, so let's not waste time debating them. Our aim should not be to engage the left, but to destroy them and regain power. This does not necessary mean physical destruction, rather cultural and political neutralisation.

@Novaseeker, Anon and AP

I'm interested in your comments with regard to Sam Harris. As I've said before, I've not heard of him but I took an instant dislike to him after seeing him on the link.
Sam Harris is the type of person that scares the shit out of me. The affable, articulate and polite high minded person who in reality, is nothing more than a grubby little tyrant. He is the acceptable face of evil.

And that's the problem, the really evil guys never appear at that way. They always appear most agreeable. Whilst the good, on the other hand, appear vile. It's this phenomenon that causes the failure of popular movements. The mob chooses badly.

Give us Barrabas!

Novaseeker said...

@SP --

Harris became a bit of a phenomenon in the United States when he published "The End of Faith" back in 2004. He was, in the years following, initiated into the trio of "smashmouth atheists" -- Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Harris -- going on speaking tours and debating religious people and so on. He's well known enough in the US and in Europe as well in the context of the new pushy atheist crowd, as well as their religious interlocutors.

Harris is soft-spoken in person, but his writing is often filled with anti-religious ranting. I will say that he is more impressive than Dawkins, whose writings on religion only serve to display a quite embarrassing lack of sophistication when it comes to metaphysical matters. Harris is a bit more sophisticated, having had a background in philosophy at Stanford, but he still regularly resorts to ranting and historical distortion (i.e., telling one side of the story only), which also serves to display the fundamental weakness of his position.

A great "take down" book regarding this unholy trinity is "The Atheist Delusions" by David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox philosopher/theologian who swims circles around these three quite effortlessly. I would like to see Daniel Dennett and David Bentley Hart debate sometime, as Dennett is at least philosophically sophisticated, even though he is filled to the brim with pure hatred of religion.

Nietzsche said...

Interesting how none of you can refute any of my points.

Also why do you all focus on the votaries instead of the actual concept?

This place is like Sunday mass aka circle jerking of the mind. You all seem to have your mind made up. Why even debate it?

Anonymous said...

Nietzsche, you mad?

Nietzsche said...

Yes, completely insane. Which allows me to hold two perspectives simultaneously and decipher that religion is a form of social control employed by the elite.

Again stop obsessing over me, and stick to the argument.

Anonymous said...

What if I don't want to?

The Social Pathologist said...

@Nietzsche.

You made the assertion that religion can't thrive without government support. I provided three examples where it thrived in the face of persecution. This proves your assertion wrong. It's logic, not my opinion.

What you did however was the engage in the classical move of dishonest discussion and ignore the point and switched to another one.

Who wants to be Ireland, Poland or Croatia these days?

..is not a rebuttal, which was ignored, but a subtle switch in the terms of the argument.

This type of argument is bullshit.
I'm not going to engage in it and neither I hope are my commentators.

It's a good time to bring out this blog's comment policy.

I'm quite happy to debate opposing ideas done in good faith, but I do expect a certain amount of intellectual maturity. The tired trope of "religion is a form of mind control" is adolescent bullshit. Get a brain or get lost.
Perhaps you'd feel more at home on another blog.

Finally, I run this blog. If I feel any comment crosses the line, it's deleted. No questions asked.

Nietzsche said...

@SP

SP "You made the assertion that religion can't thrive without government support. I provided three examples where it thrived in the face of persecution. This proves your assertion wrong. It's logic, not my opinion."


Me: I was/am arguing a different point. I also provided two examples China and Japan, where religion doesn't play a key role. However both of these nations are far superior to your three examples, hence proves my point that religion is part of inferior or less advanced culture.

SP "What you did however was the engage in the classical move of dishonest discussion and ignore the point and switched to another one."

Me: I was engaging in regular debate until I was personally attacked. My mistake for leading other commentators on.

Me: "Who wants to be Ireland, Poland or Croatia these days?"

SP "..is not a rebuttal, which was ignored, but a subtle switch in the terms of the argument."

Me I guess you missed my sarcasm and implied inferiority of those nations compared to my two examples of China and Japan. Both economic and social power houses in the modern world.

SP "This type of argument is bullshit.
I'm not going to engage in it and neither I hope are my commentators."

My sentiments exactly, perhaps you missed my whole stance.

Me "Again stop obsessing over me, and stick to the argument."

I hope you reconsider. I am still waiting for you to answer if you would still be religious if you were deaf and blind. Without being able to comprehend sensory information, you wouldn't be able to understand Christianity would you?

Anonymous said...

Faith is by definition not rational—that is, it is belief in the absence of verification.

Source: Merriam-Webster online dictionary, item 2b

You really should go reread Nietzsche. Fool.

The Social Pathologist said...

@Neitzsche

I am still waiting for you to answer if you would still be religious if you were deaf and blind. Without being able to comprehend sensory information, you wouldn't be able to understand Christianity would you?

Helen Keller

Nietzsche said...

@SP

Helen Keller is an inadequate example, since her mother drew on her hand. She can still feel the letters and then given the object to connect the strokes with that particular object. How about a human vegetable? Or a severely mentally handicapped individual? Can they still comprehend religion? No of course not, and that is why they will never be Christian since they cannot interact with it.

Also why did Helen Keller pick the Christian sect of Swedenborgianism over others?

I'll provide another scenario. A secluded island of peoples that have no contact with Christian missionaries or the bible. Are they born Christian? Do they believe in Jesus or Jehovah? No, again goes to prove that without teachers or missionaries, Christianity like other pagan religions will die out. The only people who perpetuate the "faith" is its followers.

I'm also inquisitive why you are Christian, instead of Muslim. Isn't Muhammad the last prophet that stated that Islam was the true way? Or did you not pick it, since you were born into it like the majority and never question your upbringing?

Elizabeth Smith said...

Nietzsche - God is dead
God - Nietzsche is dead

The Social Pathologist the West is in serious decline and America will default on it's debt (as possibly many Europeans nations). Will economic collapse restore the West or no?

The Social Pathologist said...

@Elizabeth Smith

The Western World is in pretty serious economic trouble. Due to demographic, industrial, cultural and fiscal factors, we are headed for a long period of economic malaise. Whether it takes the form of a sudden collapse or a long ever tightening vice of economic malaise, I don't know.

As I see it, the West is in a death spiral and unless there is some form of Christian revival the west will become a blip in history. Still, I feel that the upcoming economic misery will be conducive to cultural restoration.

The welfare state is one of the major facilitators of social pathology. By separating action from consequence, the welfare state encourages idiocies which would be rapidly stopped naturally. Smaller budgets mean smaller welfare states.
A lot of the economy that supports stupid behaviour such as irresponsible single motherhood is coming to an end.

David said...

"By separating action from consequence, the welfare state encourages idiocies which would be rapidly stopped naturally"...I have used the analogy of the penny in the fusebox. Back when people had fuses instead of circuit breakers, idiots would deal with a burned-out fuse by putting a penny in to replace it instead of going to the store to get a new one. This did have the advantage of keeping the lights or whatever on, but it also had a pretty high likelihood of burning down your house.

Penny-in-the-fusebox policies are not only to be found in welfare and other economic areas: the policy of allowing highly disruptive kids to stay in a class and ruin it for everyone else is also an example of this kind of policy.

Anonymous Reader said...

Robert Brockman:
Yes, it's very interesting whenever empiricism can verify certain sayings of the old guys reading from the old books. The big difference is the justification: the scientists claim to have done recent experiments rather than getting their understanding from mystical experiences.

From the point of view of the cult of scientism, this is true. From the point of view that I'm coming from, and that likely SP is referring to, it is very different.

What I see (and SP may or may not agree) is the practitioners of scientism finally catching up with reality. That is, the nature of humans has been known for millenia. It's in the books such as Ecclesiastes. About, oh, 250 years or so ago self-styled "realists" decided that all that was humbug, hogwash, and that Science with a capital S was actual Truth.

So we have had a couple of centuries of disasters, as a result of scientism. 100 years ago in the US the Progressives were busy in their attempt to re-order society along Scientific lines; the fall out from that continues to this very day.

So from my perspective, those who worship the men in lab coats are just now catching up to truths that others knew all along. Because Science may pride itself on being the first real observers of reality, but that's just not true.

The old books by the old dead men contain the distillation of observed wisdom, with revealed wisdom underlying it. Practitioners of scientism, with their tabula rasa absurdity, have looked everywhere else for wisdom. Maybe now it's time to look up?

Us science-y types are still a bit bitter over Galileo and Hypatia, which probably makes us unnecessarily cranky.

I'll see you one Galileo and raise you 100,000,000 dead at the hands of "Scientific Socialism" and its variants. Once the idea that, hey, humans are just all animals and so it's no big deal to convert a few thousand into fertilizer takes hold, then the end justifies the means in every case.

And I say this as someone who has a much bigger bone to pick with the Roman Church than you do. Galileo fared far better than several of my ancestors, and they at least were able to leave the Continent one step ahead of Church-inspired mobs unlike tens of thousands of others.

But for real, industrialized, killing you have to go with Scientism. Read Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag" books, or Harry Wu's work, for examples.

That's why Sam Harris gets the reaction he does from some; because everything he suggests was already tried by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others. We've seen that movie. We know how it ends.

It is an end that justifies no means. Not even those of the great god Science...

Robert Brockman said...

My mother's family moved to the Ukraine from Germany in the 1800's and then left to come to South Dakota before World War I. They were medium-scale farmers. Kulaks, I believe they were called. One day some years ago Mother speculated in my presence as to whether or not we still had relatives in the Ukraine. I told her that it was rather unlikely.

I trust everyone here now understands my position on socialism and "scientific" state planning of societies.

I am well aware that we have very little scientific information about fields such as economics, politics, and psychology. Perhaps that will change someday, but not yet. Claiming that science decisively supports specific actions in these fields strikes me as highly questionable and dangerous. (Disclaimer: I am not a true expert in these fields despite several years of study in each.)

What we do know something about is physics, cosmology, and to a limited extent, biology. The information we have about such fields would seem to indicate that the claims about how the Old Wise Men who wrote the Holy Books acquired their information are very suspect. They seem like stories used to intimidate and goad the primitive and the foolish into believing the Old Wise Men.

This does not mean that the Old Wise Men were acting in an immoral or irresponsible manner. I will grant that much of the information contained in the Holy Books about how to run a society and how to deal with people in general may be very useful even today, and even more so in the context in which it was created.

The problem is that when you go to someone today who is intellectually honest, internally consistent, and not established in your particular religion and tell them to do X because some guy who was born of a virgin said so, they simply are not going to buy it. They just aren't. It's like me telling you to brush your teeth because Zeus commands it. You're not going to listen to me, even if what I'm suggesting is a good idea.

The result is that all of the accumulated wisdom about humanity that is in the Holy Books is likely to go unused, and we get to have more Detroit.

If you want to get people to behave properly using the information in the Holy Books there seem to be basically two tactics. One, decrease the understanding of the above sciences to the level where people are superstitious enough again to accept the commands in the Holy Books Because God Told Us So. Hey, if that's what it takes to keep Detroit from coming to my hometown, I'll shut up, keep a low profile, and get out of the way.

The other option is to tell people, "Hey look, people back in the day believed lots of mystical stuff -- who knows what of that really happened. However, the reason we have the Holy Books we do and not other Holy Books is because cultures that adopted our rules succeeded and others did not. So maybe we need to stop hammering away at the values in the Holy Books, which might just be what's keeping the civilization afloat, until we are REAL SURE we know what we're doing."

Robert Brockman said...

One more thing:

Nietzsche has brought up the common question of why most people seem to think that the One True Religion just happens to be the exact same tradition as their parents. I share his suspicions on this matter. This doesn't prove that your particular flavor of miraculous claims is incorrect, but surely ya'll must admit that it's REAL CONVENIENT.

Nietzsche said...

@Robert Brockman

Yes I totally concur and would like to know if SP will still be Christian if he grew up in a secluded community of Buddhist monks in Malaysia that have no contact with Christian ideology or its votaries. Pretty hard to have faith in something you don't learn about.

@Elizabeth Smith

Nice try with a clever comment. Are you equating God to a mortal? Also how does God die, if he was never born?

Anonymous Protestant said...

My mother's family moved to the Ukraine from Germany in the 1800's and then left to come to South Dakota before World War I. They were medium-scale farmers. Kulaks, I believe they were called. One day some years ago Mother speculated in my presence as to whether or not we still had relatives in the Ukraine. I told her that it was rather unlikely.

I trust everyone here now understands my position on socialism and "scientific" state planning of societies.

That's an emotional response. It is useful, because it inoculates you against the virus of totalitarianism. But what I'm trying to point out is that there is a clear correlation between societies that are officially atheist, and mass killing. From the French "year zero" atheists to the Russian Bolsheviks to the "year zero" of Saloth Slar aka Pol Pot, the correlation is strong: deliberate denial of God and the mass killing of those human beings considered to be enemies of the state go one with the other.

So from a purely rational, materialistic point of view, any time someone proposes a society in which all "superstition" is banished, that is an indicator that society is headed for disaster. We an argue about why that is. But the historical evidence is very, very clear.

Yet atheists, from the local village atheist to famous ones such as Sam Harris and others simply refuse to acknowledge this. Somehow, each example of a murderous regime with an official atheist policy is an "isolated case", each time. That's troubling. I can't tell if it is due to historical ignorance, or bad faith, or something else. But it cannot be overlooked.

Part 2 in a second.

Anonymous Protestant said...


I am well aware that we have very little scientific information about fields such as economics, politics, and psychology. Perhaps that will change someday, but not yet. Claiming that science decisively supports specific actions in these fields strikes me as highly questionable and dangerous. (Disclaimer: I am not a true expert in these fields despite several years of study in each.)


A humble and in fact truly scientific position. Unfortunately, it is not shared widely, and in fact was out of date fully 80 years ago. From the "scientific" management of the Wilson administration to the "brain trust" of FDR to the "scientific" education notions of Dewey and so on, every fad, fancy, etc. for generations in the social realm has been draped with a white lab coat.

Consider the "self esteem" movement. Some sort of social research in the 1970's or early 1980's found a correlation between individuals who were successful in sport, school, work, etc. and their self esteem. This should be no surprise, when we are good at some worthy pursuit, we become proud of our skill. But in the usual modern way, correlation became causation, and the absurd idea that raising someone's self esteem would make them perform better took hold.

A generation later, we have a whole cohort of young people who were raised with such things as singing "I am special, I am special, look at me, look at me" to the melody of "Brother Jacques". We have people who require constant re-assurance that they are "ok", in the workplace or in university. We have a higher percentage of narcissists in people under 30 than at any time in the last 50 years.

A great deal of damage has been done, by a foolish idea that first took hold in California, where a state Office of Self Esteem still exists. This foolish, illogical idea was propagated by Scientism, not science. In fact it is anti-scientific, as many of the worst such notions are.

Your rational skepticism is good. Karl Popper would approve. Unhappily, you appear to be in the minority among "sciency folk", in part because some previous Sceintistic fads resulted in teachers who don't understand science, but who teach it anyway out of some book.

However, the poor quality of science teaching is a different topic for a different day. My point is this: worshipping a way of thinking, science, as a deity & assigning infallibility to people in white lab jackets has led to very bad things. Science is fine, it is a gift from God - ask Isaac Newton, the father of the calculus. Scientism, the worship of science and the annointing of scientists as infallible oracles/priests/whathaveyou is bad, and has led to disaster.

It led, for example, to what Detroit is today.

Robert Brockman said...

@AP:

You may be interested in the works of one Mencius Moldbug, who has done a fair amount of research into the horrible series of events in which scientists in the US donned the Ring of Power and proceeded to corrupt themselves. Truly disastrous, this has been.