Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Is Christianity inherently left wing?


The answer is given by the properly-formed question: Is Christianity inherently left-wing compared with what?

(And I mean compared with actual, real, historical situations - not with wish-list collages of 'these are the things I would like best in my perfect society' compiled by intellectuals.)


Have radical Left leaders over the past centuries been famous for their orthodox Christian devoutness; or for their atheism, heresy, liberalism?

Are the most Leftist regimes of all all time (i.e. Communist) characterized by their promotion of orthodox Christian devoutness; or for their subversion, persecution, imprisonment and mass murder of Christians?

And so on.


Mainstream modern Christianity is, of course, mostly led by Leftists - but then what isn't? The ruling elites just are Leftist. If you are not Leftist, then you are not a leader of anything powerful.


But the debate is arbitrarily framed.

Someone comes up with their own personal, imaginary, ideal list of what it would be to be reactionary - then measures up real world things against that list.

But if reaction has reality, if the polarity between Left and not-Left has reality, then this procedure is nonsense.

We would, instead, need to perceive the diversity of actuality as imprecise and imperfect representations of underlying trends.

And these trends - of which actual political realities are imperfect representations, are:

A 'traditional' society organized around religious imperatives (of which Christianity is one) - this is The Right.


A 'modern' secular society organized around the pleasure-pain axis, a utilitarian society, a this-worldly society. This is The Left.


Real life is, of course, much more mixed-up and compromised and corrupted - but these are the underlying realities.


Those who reject religion (of all kinds) are Leftists (differing only in strategy and priorities); and those who advocate a society which is ruled by religious imperatives are The Right (differing - profoundly - in their understanding of the Truth by which society ought to be organized).

And the rest are just sophomoric pick-and-mix wish-lists - intellectual collages. 


Monday, 29 April 2013

Sinners or victims?


Convincing modern people that they are sinners is a big problem for Christian apologetics, and has been for many decades.

Moderns are nihilists - they don't believe in the reality of reality - so they believe that sin is relativistic, and can be redefined-away.

Why repent of a sin when that sin can be abolished by a change of law?


Modern people are encouraged by the culture to interpret their feelings of guilt as evidence of oppression - instead of recognizing themselves as sinners, dyed in the wool, they feel themselves to be victims.

No matter what their own faults, no matter what their own imperfections, their bottom-line self-understanding is as a victim.

It is not that they suppose themselves perfect, nor that they are immune from guilt - but that victimhood trumps guilt. 


This ultimate, existential self-definition as a victim goes right through modern society, from the most powerful person in the world to the most aggressively parasitic lowlife; and this status pretty much defines the secular-Christian divide.

Self-defined victimhood is at the polar opposite of Christian humility.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

Super-correctness versus continuous revelation


This assertion is based on my experience, as well as my understanding of history.

In my brief time as a Christian I have tried - at times - to give my allegiance to a bottom line - whether scripture, reason, tradition etc  - and found it almost immediately impossible.

It seems that a living religion cannot exist on such an abstract basis but must be 'believed' in the sense of lived; which means that there must be communication with God and revelation at a personal level - simply in order to sustain scripture, reason, tradition.

Most obviously, because disagreements on interpretation always come to the fore, and cannot be resolved on the basis of anything other than interpretation - yet interpretation is shaped (almost wholly) by motivation such that it turns out there is ambiguity everywhere (in scripture, reason and tradition); such that when any church is cut-off from continuous revelation, the corruptions of the world will supervene.


And I was taught by reading Fr Seraphim Rose, as well as seeing for myself, that 'super-correctness' is no answer at all, but makes matters worse.

Super-correctness effects scripturalism (leading to line by line Biblical literalism and legalism), reason (leading to scholasticism) and tradition (leading to micro-level arbitrary ritualism and lifestyle rules).

Super-correctness leads to a particularly dangerous form of fake Christianity - prideful, zealous, punitive, negative, life-destroying, tyrannical and evil. It has everything that is Christian except the one thing needful: love.

Super-correctness is easy to perceive in other people, but very difficult to combat without advocating dilution, weakness, and 'liberalism'.


What passes for modern Christian 'devoutness' (and is advocated by reactionaries) is, unfortunately, very seldom otherwise than mere super-correctness.   


I think there is only one robust defence against on the one hand apostasy and backsliding into secularism; and on the other hand superficial and prideful super-correctness - and that defence is a living faith, a faith of frequent contact with the divine and in receipt of continual revelations.

The major mainstream branches of Christianity are mostly divided between a majority of apostates and a minority of super-correct - and the real Christians are trying to live off their glorious histories (I have tried this myself - tried to be a Prayer Book Anglican, in effect, to live from written history); but this won't work - or at least it won't work for very long, or in the face of difficulties.


I think that effective Christianity from now will absolutely require to aim for, and organize around, a direct personal contact with a personified God.

That requirement to subjective-ize the objective is (I think) the characteristic which is shared by all significantly large and thriving types of Christianity.

(It follows that what cannot be so appropriated by an individual must not be put at the centre of their faith - only that which they feel can be and ought to be a rock.)

Of course this is not enough - and by itself or when too dominant this is excessively individualistic, creates schisms, weakens and destroys churches - but I think Christians must be open to, indeed insist upon, a personal appropriation and experience of the Gospel, of the main tenets of their faith.


And it is clear that cool, detached, playful intellectualism can be a very significant barrier to this; which is why - in the modern world - intellectuals and intellectual activities are almost always anti-Christian in their effect (whatever their intention).


Miracles, history and religion


All religion, Western and Eastern, is founded upon miracle.

It makes little sense to present arguments against Joseph Smith and early Mormonism that would extend equally well to what we are told about the origins of what will eventually be Judaism, the origins of Christianity, the origins of Islam.

All religion depends upon revelation. All revelation is supernatural. If you wish to be a hard rock empiricist, then you should not entertain any religious doctrine whatsoever.

Harold Bloom


The kind of revelation that Joseph describes is the scandal of Mormonism, in the same way that the resurrection of Christ is the scandal of Christianity.

And what I mean by that is that on the face of it, that's an affront to sophisticated notions of how the Universe works.

God doesn't deliver gold plates to farm boys. It's a cause of embarrassment to many intellectuals in the church to continue to insist that Joseph had literal gold plates given to him by a real angel.

But I also mean that it's a scandal in the sense that it is inseparable from the heart and soul of Mormonism, that one could no sooner divorce the historical claims of the Book of Mormon from the church than one could divorce the story of Christ's resurrection from Christianity and survive with the religion intact.


I think there's no question that the [LDS] church rises or falls on the veracity of Joseph Smith's story.

History as theology is perilous. If it turns out that the whole story of Christ's resurrection was a fabrication, then Christianity collapses. 

That's the price we pay for believing in a God who intervenes in human history, who has real interactions with real human beings in real space and time. 

That makes it historical, and that's a reality that we just can't flee away from.

Terryl Givens


From the PBS documentary The Mormons, 2007


Bold emphasis added.  


Saturday, 27 April 2013

What is education? There is no such thing.


People don't have anything sensible and coherent to say on the nature of education - education is treated as a vaguely-defined black box, so, as the bottom line - people talk a lot about the supposed effect of this thing called education.

The effect, for example and in particular, of attending college upon earnings


People gather data, study correlations... (an awful lot of this goes on)

And, at the end of the day, people claim that being signed-up at a place called a university for three or four years enhances a person's lifetime earnings (and their economic value).

And the effect of college on earnings is assumed to have remained qualitatively the same as the proportion of people that attend college has risen from five to around fifty percent. 


All this is vastly implausible, and completely unproven, and indeed massively contradicted. 



Typical analysis of college and earnings does not even attempt to control for even simple and easily measured confounders - such as IQ and personality.

In particular, analysis does not take account of the fact that controlling for IQ and conscientiousness would very probably (if such quick, simple, and cheap studies were done, which they aren't) eliminate the generic measurable effect of formal education



(You will note from the above link that I was myself one of these ignorant, incompetent educationalists who failed to take account of intelligence and personality. When I had qualms about this failure even to attempt to use obvious input controls in outcome studies, I was reassured that nobody else used IQ and personality controls, and they were taken seriously, so the failure couldn't really be a problem.)


When controlled for the 'inputs' of intelligence and personality, it is very probable that in modern mass education systems - i.e. being signed-up at a place called a university for three or four years and acquiring a thing called a degree - will, on average, significantly reduce lifetime earnings, develop bad habits (e.g. idleness, irregular hours, a victim mentality, excessive drinking, promiscuous sex), diminish lifetime well-being and destroy devout religiousness (with all the manifold consequences that entails).

In other words, once you have eliminated the students doing elite vocational professional degrees such as medicine (and even this average effect will disappear as these professions have become less and less elite), college would very probably be found to do considerably more harm than good to individual earnings and to damage the national economy.


(In economic terms, on average, college is a luxury good, and not an investment - it consumes resources but does not tend to produce more resources. This is, or ought to be, very obvious from the history of education - economic growth preceded the expansion of educational provision and participation, educational growth followed economic growth - as would be expected for a luxury consumption item; and not the other way around, as would be expected if education was driving economic growth.)


The false analysis of education and its outcomes has arisen because education is undefined - a black box term. 

Analyses of the effects of education ignore, yes they do, things like:

1. whether the person actually attends college (as contrasted with sleeping late, working in a bar and going to parties)

2. how many hours he attends college

3. whether he is taught in a class of two or two hundred

4. whether he studies anything potentially valuable

5. whether what he studies is true, and

6. whether the place called a university is even trying to educate students (e.g. is the bottom-line curriculum a product of professional bodies, research faculty, scholars, or administrators).


Because such factors are neglected in considering education, we get a situation when people simply signs-onto the books of a college, and where the college simply lays on some random cluster of modules which they claim are relevant in some way - and play around with experiments in 'delivering' these modules... and everybody imagines that somehow, something (which we can't define) called education must necessarily be going on; and everybody is terribly surprised, offended or angry when the people who have been through this 'process' seem not only to have gained nothing by it (or where the gains are tiny compared with the large and obvious losses) but are seemingly made worse in their general habits and exhibit a decline in observable useful skills.

To notice such things, to talk of such things, is regarded in elite circles as being anti-enlightenment, to be oneself ignorant and in favour of ignorance, to be - in fact - an evil person.

To be against ever-more years of 'education' for ever-more people, as education actually is and is becoming ever more; to challenge the value of that black box, to point-out that although the name remains the same the content of the black box is utterly different and still changing fast... well this kind of stuff is beyond the pale of respectable opinion: crazy talk.  


Since there is no modern definition of education, the concept - the word - serves as a black box to obscure that:

1. we do not know what is going-on - if anything - in modern schools and colleges, nor do we know whether it is good or bad.

2. we do not even care what is going on - if anything - in modern schools and colleges, nor do we know whether it is good or bad.

3. Nonetheless we assume that something terribly important is going on - important for individuals and for society, important enough that we (as a society, as individuals) make vast sacrifices to make sure that ever-more of it goes on for ever-more people.


Education is - or has become - an utterly bogus discourse about abstract and undefined masses; systematically ignoring what could, potentially, be understood about education at the level of individuals and their experience - their culture, skills, habits.

From that perspective it is crystal clear than many, most, indeed the large majority of individuals deteriorate in college, are damaged and corrupted by college.

They don't learn much stuff, much of the stuff is irrelevant (and not even trying to be relevant) and even more of it is false (isn't even trying to be true); they learn no skills (skills absolutely require multiple repetitions and drill - and modern teaching eschews these and it is anyway impossible in many mass educational systems); education has instead become, in general, a training to ignore common sense and experience, and for people instead to orientate their lives around the whims and fashions of elite opinion.


That which is officially designated as 'Education' - that black box - is always regarded as being on the side of the angels, always given the benefit of the doubt, always assumed (until conclusively proven otherwise) to be useful, beneficial, enhancing - if not for obvious and measurable reasons then by invisible and magically covert methods.

And on the basis of this faith in this abstract magical entity, without asking for proof, without testing for validity, without even raising the question - millions of man-years of human life are de facto confiscated and dissipated, millions of man-years of potentially useful economic activity are abolished.


Education can be a valid thing - my medical education certainly was.

But just because something is called education does not make it valid - the assumption should be that calling something education means precisely nothing.

In fact, we are forced to conclude that there is no such thing as education.

In other words, the term 'education' - in its generic sense, in the sense that it is used to refer to a multiplicity of subject matter taught, or not taught, in a multiplicity of places and using a multiplicity of methods; and with a multiplicity of purposes - or no discern able purpose at all; and evaluated and measured in a multiplicity of ways (many wide-open to dishonesty and cheating)...

This thing has no useful meaning, but instead is a weasel word, a hooray-word, an intrinsically deceptive and manipulative concept; it is corrupt and un-refomable, it is unnecessary for any good purpose.


Forget it. Let's stop yammering-on about 'education' as a general thing, supposed to encompass the incommensurable.

Let's be specific. 


Much adapted and edited from part of:


Friday, 26 April 2013

The finite God of David, Isaiah and Jesus versus His rival the absolute God.


First of all I must parenthetically ask you to distinguish the notion of the absolute carefully from that of another object with which it is liable to become heedlessly entangled.

That other object is the 'God' of common people in their religion, and the creator-God of orthodox christian theology.

Only thoroughgoing monists or pantheists believe in the absolute. The God of our popular Christianity is but one member of a pluralistic system.

He and we stand outside of each other, just as the devil, the saints, and the angels stand outside of both of us.

I can hardly conceive of anything more different from the absolute than the God, say, of David or of Isaiah.

That God is an essentially finite being in the cosmos, not with the cosmos in him, and indeed he has a very local habitation there, and very one-sided local and personal attachments.

If it  should prove probable that the absolute does not exist, it will not follow in the slightest degree that a God like that of David, Isaiah, or Jesus may not exist, or may not be the most important existence in the universe for us to acknowledge...

I hold to the finite God... but I hold that his rival and competitor--I feel almost tempted to say his enemy--the absolute, is not only not forced on us by logic, but that it is an improbable hypothesis.

From William James - A Pluralistic Universe


The best three artists (painters)


I love portraits best, so:

1. Rembrandt

He seems to me the deepest painter/ portraitist that ever lived.  In general, I don't find paintings to be deep - Rembrandt is the exception.

(The same applies, more strongly, for sculpture. I find good sculpture decorative rather than deep with a single exception: Rodin.)

2. 18th century British Portraitists whose names mostly begin with R

Raeburn, Ramsay, Reynolds, Romney, Gainsborough, Kneller...

I'm not sure why I like these so much, but I do!

3.  John Singer Sargent

Pure joy, entrancing delight - astonishing virtuosity.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

Free will implies/ entails pre-mortal existence


I find the following line of argument very convincing.

Edited, and with bold emphases added, from pages 47-51 of The God who weeps by Terryl and Fiona Givens, 2012:


The greatest virtue of the idea of premortal existence, undoubtedly, is in its solution to the problem of human freedom...

If our life carries hidden within its core our own eternal past, then we are free in a way no alternate model of human existence can account for.


[The most daunting problem of free will is the challenge to understand..]

how we can freely choose, if God made us - body and soul, mind and will, genes and instincts, predispositions and predilections, tastes and desires?

One can say, God created us and He created us free. But that just substitutes a declaration for an explanation.

No, if God is the sole author of all that is, then we cannot find our way clear to believe He is not responsible for our choices. 


The ancients knew that something is free only if it is not caused or created by something else,

[...as JME McTaggart wrote]

If God created our souls, He 'could have prevented all sin by creating us with better natures and in more favourable surroundings... Hence we should not be responsible for our sins to God.'

This is the same logic by which we assign blame in all other instances where there is a creator and a thing created. If a bridge collapses, we hold responsible the person that designed the bridge or executed its construction...


But the fact is, as adults with moral awareness, we sense we are responsible for our own choices.

And the reason we know is we are, is because we feel guilt when we do something wrong...


The modern era has given us a dozen reasons to explain away those legitimate feelings of guilt we all experience...

But no rationalization can allay the insistent knowledge that we all confess in moments of secret honesty: we do wrong because we make a decision to do so, and feel guilty because we know we could have acted differently.


That means we had other options than the one we chose. If we could have acted differently, then we were free to act differently at that moment of choice.

Guilt, the legitimate remorse we feel for the deliberate decision to do wrong, is all the proof we need that arguments about determinism and predestination are a philosopher's game.

Guilt is how we know we are free to choose.


In our present, earthly form, we are clearly the product of forces outside our control that influence our personality, inform our character, and shape our wants and desires.

And yet we know we are free.

How can this be, unless there is something at the heart of our identity that was not shaped by environment, not inherited from our parents, and not even created by God?


Some scholars who thought deeply about the nature of sin came to the same conclusion that only pre-existence can explain human freedom.

It is no solution simply to insist God made us free.

Sin must mean accountability... Accountability must mean the freedom to choose.


And human freedom can only have its roots [to quote Julius Muller] 'in a sphere beyond the range of time, wherein alone pure and unconditioned self-determination is possible'. 



The above seems to crystallize pretty much exactly my own feelings on this topic.

I agree that 'God created us and He created us free' is a pseudo-argument.

I also agree in rejecting the suggestion that free will is one of those things that humans cannot know, but in this matter we must simply submit to (what we imagine to be) God's will - because I find this to be not just an un-Christian, but an anti-Christian conception of the relationship between God and Man.

And I agree that pre-mortal eternal pre-existence solves the problem of free will in the way that nothing else does.


Therefore, the only remaining question is whether it is true that the human soul or spirit (of some kind) had a pre-mortal eternal existence (of some kind).

The idea of pre-mortal soul/ spirit existence is compatible with at least some authoritative, albeit unusual (some would say heretical - but that is to beg the question) views of Christianity including some Holy Fathers such as (apparently) Augustine and Origen.

There is also a great deal of indirect experiential subjective evidence implying pre-mortal existence;

and a strong metaphysical argument that if souls are eternal from mortality forwards, then this would tend to imply they are immortal from mortality backwards (i.e. if something exists eternally - as souls do, then it is hard to imagine a time when it was not existing, and was created from nothing. Easy to say this, but hard to imagine it);

and furthermore the alternative times suggested for when the human soul is created (conception, during embryonic development, birth etc) all seem to be arbitrary and implausible.


So, I conclude that it is true and the reality is that human souls eternally pre-existed mortality in some form and mortal life is (mostly) shielded from (full and explicit) knowledge of this by a veil of ignorance - such as to preserve the autonomy of mortality on the one hand; while, on the other hand, encouraging us with legitimate hope and sufficient understanding.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Spiritual revelation in dreams




On being a feeble spirit


All virtues can be twisted into vice, even humility.

Thus it is Good that I recognize myself, deeply and with full conviction, as a feeble spirit; as not one suited to high status in an ultimate sense; as - at best - aspiring to be a messenger-for and helper-of those who wield authority; but not myself an authority.

This feebleness can become, often enough does become, an excuse for idleness, self-indulgence and aiming low - but the primary recognition of the truth, the reality, of feebleness is a Good thing, in and of itself.


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Forced to choose between impossibilities - a picture or a story?


Is reality one and static?

Or, plural and dynamic?


Or is it that mortality is change, corruption, decay and death; while eternity is stasis, unchangeing, immortal and perfect - but how then do we move between them?


How can be 'progress' (theosis) from changeableness and temporality towards stasis and eternity?

Slowing down, stopping, perfecting? But how is that progression - surely it is just death?


But if reality is progression, then activity is good.


Is reality a Picture or a Story?


Monday, 22 April 2013

WmJas on learning from LDS church organization




I don't often link to other blogs - but WmJas's Bugs to fearen Babes Withall is one of the best - and this post combining an insider knowledge of Mormonism with a skeptical understanding of democracy is one which few other bloggers could have written.


What is the default - salvation or damnation?


There must be a default.

Is damnation something that happens unless we actively embrace salvation?

Or is salvation something given us unless we actively reject it?


To 'win', does Satan have to make people actively anti-Good, Good-rejecters; or is it sufficient to make them not-pro-Good, simply to neglect Good?


And what difference did Christ make to this - did Christ, by his work, change the default?


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths. Yes, true - but so what?


"Myths are public dreams; dreams are private myths.   By finding your own dream and following it through, it will lead you to the myth-world in which you live. But just as in dream, the subject and object, though they seem to be separate, are really the same."    

Joseph Campbell - summarizing CG Jung.  


I used to think a lot about this - in the era from c1998-2008 when I was most into New Age, neo-paganism, neo-shamanism, Jung, Campbell and synchronicity...

My current opinion is that it is sometimes true - myths are sometimes public dreams, dreams are sometimes private myths (although not very often, in either case). 

But - so what?


Unless either myths or dreams or both are more than just myths or dreams - so what if they are the same in essence?

(This 'essence being, presumably, the level of the collective unconscious (i.e. a universally shared psychological sub-stratum.) 


So what if humans share a deep psychology - unless this signifies more than that humans share a deep psychology, it merely kicks the can of meaning and purpose a little further down the road.

Maybe this knowledge is potentially therapeutic, but therapy for what? Psychological well-being is a means to an end, not an end in itself.


Thus the Jungian perspective is actually a fake religion: it does not deliver - and this failure is not (fundamentally) because it does not work in practice (which is probably true); but because Jungian/ New Age perspectives intrinsically lack the resources to supply that which needs to be supplied by a religion: meaning and purpose.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

What was the advantage of alliterative verse in Middle English? "A master key to the dialects"


From Kenneth Sisam's introduction to Fourteenth Century Verse and Prose Oxford University Press 1921, corrected 1937 (with a Middle English Vocabulary by JRR Tolkien).

About the middle of the [fourteenth] century, imaginative poetry found a new home in the West-Midlands...

They preferred the unrimed alliterative verse, which from pre-Conquest days must have lived on in the remote Western counties without a written record; and for a generation rime is overshadowed...

At the time alliterative verse was fitted to become the medium of popular literature. Prose would not serve, because its literary life depends on books and readers...

It was not easy to write verse that depended on number of syllables, quantity or rime. The fall of inflexions brought confusion on syllabic metres; there were great changes in the quantity and quality of vowels; and these disturbances affected dialects unevenly.

It must have been hard enough for a poet to make rules for himself: but popularity involved the recital of his work by all kinds of men in all kinds of English, when the rimes would be broken and the rhythm lost...

The more fortunate makers of alliterative poems, whose work depended on the stable yet elastic frame of stress and initial consonants, possessed a master key to the dialects.


Examples of Middle English alliterative verse includes two out of three of the great poets of the 14th century (the other being Chaucer): William Langland who wrote Piers Plowman, and the anonymous author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Pearl.      

The alliterative metre used descended from Old English, where each line is divided into two half-lines, and each half line has two main stressed syllables - in the first half-line both stresses should alliterate, and these two usually alliterate with the first stress of the second half line.  

But sometimes extra alliteration is scattered about, for effect. Perhaps the most alliterative poem ever, seems to have been a piece of apparently 'comic verse'  now called 'Blacksmiths'

The Blacksmiths
Swarte-smeked smethes, smattered with smoke,
Drive me to deth with den of here dintes:
Swich nois on nightes ne herd men never,
What knavene cry and clattering of knockes!
The cammede kongons cryen after 'Col! Col!'
And blowen here bellewes that all here brain brestes.
'Huf, puf,' saith that on, 'Haf, paf,' that other.
They spitten and sprawlen and spellen many spelles,
They gnawen and gnacchen, they groan togedire,
And holden hem hote with here hard hamers.
Of a bole hide ben here barm-felles,
Here shankes ben shackeled for the fere-flunderes.
Hevy hameres they han that hard ben handled,
Stark strokes they striken on a steled stock.
'Lus, bus, las, das,' rowten by rowe.
Swiche dolful a dreme the Devil it todrive!
The maistre longeth a litil and lasheth a lesse,
Twineth hem twein and toucheth a treble.
'Tik, tak, hic, hac, tiket, taket, tik, tak,
Lus, bus, las, das.' Swich lif they leden,
Alle clothemeres, Christ hem give sorwe!
May no man for brenwateres on night han his rest.


Friday, 19 April 2013

How to make a 95 percent stable marriage...


From a prospective follow-up cohort study of 56 couples interviewed before marriage, one year post-marriage and eight years post-marriage - published by Thomas B Holman, 1996:


Average age of subjects: 21 - range 18-26.

Time between first acquaintance and engagement: mean 5 months (mode 4 months).

Divorce rate at 8 years c. 4 percent (two couples from the fifty-six).

At eight years post-marriage, couples were asked to evaluate the shortness of the mate-selection process. Most felt it was about right, a few felt it was too long, only one felt it was too short. 

Nature of choice: in this group the decision to marry was an individual, a personal choice. Parents, friends and others were sometimes consulted, but often not.

However, couples did seek spiritual input and divine confirmation of their choices: a 'spiritual manifestation' of the rightness of the choice.


Reference: TB Holman. Commitment making: mate selection processes among active Mormon American couples. In Mormon Identities in Transition edited by Douglas Davies. Cassell: London, 1996.  

Oh yes... I 'forgot to mention', this study was of active members of the LDS church who were married in a Temple where they were sealed to one another for 'time and eternity'. 


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Eternal peace versus eternal striving? Or a cycle of refreshment?


Endless striving, in mortal life and then eternity, is to me a somewhat horrific prospect!

I think it is probably a weakness in me - a lack of vitality - that I often tend to fantasize about attaining an ultimate state of peace in which there is a stasis of rest, vaguely conceptualized as aware, blissful and endless sleep.

I see this as my Platonic mood - a wish to enter into and lose-myself-in the world of eternal forms: in an everlasting moment...


But this is probaby a pernicious desire. A living death surely cannot be one's aim - even if the emotions were pleasant.

A more viable thing would be to see a life in a day: a day as a life.

To be embarked-upon, adventured, and then to end in a little death of sleep - with expectation of re-birth next day.


So, although the prospect of endless striving would be, for me, terrifying; it becomes much less so, and perhaps indeed appealing, when there is hope of a cyclical process of waking-striving and sleeping-resting - a cycle of refreshment.


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Marriage as eternal


I think that one of the reasons that mainstream Christianity has done such a poor job of defending marriage is that this is an area of fundamental theological weakness - such that marriage does not have a sufficiently secure or central position in the mainstream Christian mode of life to enable it to survive the kind of determined secular-hedonic onslaught of the past century or so.

The root of this weakness is that mainstream Christian marriage is perceived as a merely this-worldly, hence temporary and expedient, institution.

By contrast, the Restored Gospel of the Mormon (LDS) church has been exemplary in its defence of marriage, as well as family; and this is substantially a consequence of its regarding marriage as (potentially) eternal.

Thus eternal marriage is not a defence of 'traditional' marriage - because traditional marriage is a much weaker thing than eternal marriage - the Mormon doctrine of marriage is radical, not traditional.


From Adam S Miller Rube Goldberg Machines: essays in Mormon theology  (2012)

Traditionally, marriage is not eternal. Rather the traditional meanings of marriage can be broken into two segments, both of which are rooted in finite interests:

1. Marriage as a hub of economic exchange and social productions, and

2. Marriage as an expression of preference in the pursuit of personal satisfaction.

These traditional meanings are not bad in themselves, but they are certainly not eternal...


...The difference is this. In [mainstream Christianity] eternal life is singular. In the context of eternal marriage, eternity splits and pluralizes eternal life into eternal lives.

[Eternal] marriage transforms human sexuality from a merely biological difference into a truth that is both spiritual and eternal...


Human sexuality is not reducible to biology; rather, human sexuality is irremediably grounded in the symbolic, spiritual dimension of the 'word'...

Gender, as the Proclamation on the Family ^ reminds us, is 'an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose', and, as such, it is fundamentally a spiritual, rather than a biological, distinction...


...Sexuation, in order to be thought as a truth, must be more radically rooted in two discrete relations to... symbolic order.

In relation to the symbolic, there is both a masculine position and a feminine position and these positions are incommensurable...

the feminine mode of grasping the symbolic, the feminine way of knowing the world, is fundamentally different from the masculine position, and vice versa...

Eternal marriage, rather than being the mutual satisfaction of sexuated interests and preferences, is an interruption or a calling into question of these preferences by the incommensurable logic of the other sexual position. 

Love is an experience of the nonrelation of sexual difference. It is an exposure to the gap in being human that is human sexuality. 


In sum, for Mormon theology, our souls are, and always have been, and always will be, gendered: to be a man or a woman is part of each person's essence.

Eternal marriage has sexual identity as a primary and irreducible metaphysical reality (or assumption) - which makes eternal marriage between man and woman the most profound unit possible (i.e. the ultimate unit is a dyad).

And from this eternal perspective flows, as consequence, the essential or ideal nature of marriage in this mortal world.


 The Family: a proclamation to the World. 1995.



Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What do 'antipsychotics' do to people?


An interesting quote from Robert Whitaker's Anatomy of an Epidemic: magic bullets, psychiatric drugs, and the astonishing rise of mental illness in America.

This is a quotation from a 1952 article by Delay and Deniker describing the psychic syndrome caused by their newly discovered drug chlorpromazine (Thorazine/ Largactil) the first of the class of agents now called antipsychotics, but then called major tranquillizers (in the USA) or neuroleptics (by Delay and Deniker) .


Seated or lying down, the patient is motionless on his bed, often pale and with lowered eyelids.

He remains silent most of the time. If questioned he responds after a delay, slowly, in an indifferent monotone, expressing himself with few words and quickly becoming mute.

Without exception, the response is generally valid and pertinent, showing that the subject is capable of attention and reflection. But he rarely takes the initiative of asking a question; he does not express his preoccupations, desires or preference.

He is usually conscious of the amelioration brought on by the treatment, but he does not express

The apparent indifference of the delay of the response to external stimuli, the emotional and affective neutrality, the decrease in both initiative and preoccupation without alteration in conscious awareness or in intellectual faculties constitute the psychic syndrome due to the treatment.



And this is exactly what antipsychotics do - more or less, in a dose dependant fashion and with varying degrees of potency. It is not a 'side effect' it is their core clinical effect.

Wouldn't imagine that people would be queueing up to take that stuff would you? Yet chlorpromazine became one of the biggest selling drugs to that date, and one of the most influential drugs of all time.


Of course, people never have been keen on taking antipsychotics voluntarily, except when they were in extreme distress - but this does not matter, because these drugs have mostly been given by various coercive means, and once established on treatment they produce dependence, so it is often very difficult/ impossible to stop taking them without provoking a psychotic breakdown.


Anyhoo - over the last couple of decades antipsychotic class of drugs has been thriving, in newly patented versions, and is current being force-fed to children diagnosed as ADHD or 'bipolar disorder', and in general pushed to hard and in such quantities that antipsychotics became (as Whitaker documents) the top revenue-producing class of drugs of 2008.

Clearly, my article of 2006 had no effect:



Sleep, creativity and complexity


Over the past decades, people have supposed that the rapid expansion of the mass media, and the vast informational availability made possible by the internet, would lead to increased complexity of human thinking: there was an idea that the human mind was being constrained by the availability of information.

Yet - so far as we can see - the opposite has happened, and human discourse has become greatly simplified over the past several decades.


I concluded a few years ago that it is primarily when our brains are 'offline', including asleep, that complexity is generated - in other words complexity of ideas does not come from the environment but from inside.

This is not quite right, of course, since such relationships are reciprocal - but the usual idea is that human ideas 'come into the brain' from the environment, and complex thoughts from a complex environment.

However, as a first approximation, it makes more sense to see complexity as coming from within, and this complexity being typically constrained by the environment.


So when a person is immersed in a highly information-rich environment, the response is to simplify, not to complexify.

A clear example would be mass media journalism. When smart people work in journalism (which must be the most information-dense environment in human history) their evaluation processes become greatly simplified, down to a level of gross stereotypy. With experience, no matter how much information of whatever type is deluged onto such people, they can effortlessly weight and filter it. The more complexity of input, the simpler is the output. It is only when the information flow slows or stops, and they are thrown back onto their own resources, that they are at a loss.

Extraversion is a similar phenomenon - when social interactions are continuous and diverse and absorbing, thought is simplified.


This also fits with creativity. As a generalization, primary creativity comes from sleep and sleep-like states of consciousness such as trances or daydreams.

Pure creativity is a psychosis-like phenomenon, inner, subjective - and typically of little interest or relevance to others (except as an object of study).

But uncreative discourse (i.e. the mass media outputs, and the outputs of bureaucracy) is likewise of little intrinsic interest - and the vast output of uncreative discourse must be made sensational (that is, must grab attention via 'sensory' means - by being a direct bribe, threat, or appealing to visceral emotions - rather than by its being of intrinsic interest).


The creativity that interests other people is a balance between the complexity of inner generated creativity and the simplicity imposed by the environment - but the root of creativity is inner and personal - thus individual; and substantially happens during off-line states when the human mind attenuates or shuts-down the overwhelming flood of sensory impressions from outside (informational and social); and builds ideational complexity according to their internal logic; these complex ideas later being tested and simplified - not complexified - in environmental interactions.


Build soil. Turn the farm in upon itself 
Until it can contain itself no more, 
But sweating-full, drips wine and oil a little. 
I will go to my run-out social mind 
And be as unsocial with it as I can. 
The thought I have, and my first impulse is 
To take to market— I will turn it under. 
The thought from that thought—I will turn it under 
And so on to the limit of my nature. 
We are too much out, and if we won't draw in 
We shall be driven in...
From Build Soil by Robert Frost


Monday, 15 April 2013

Our little life is rounded with a sleep


There are many benefits from sleep - it is a biological necessity, many problems can be caused by lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep - but for a Christian it is necessary to understand the spiritual or 'existential' role of sleep because each Man's life is built-around sleep.


When Shakespeare wrote the above quotation - from The Tempest - he meant that our whole life was a little thing and then we died; but often a whole life feels like a big thing, an incomprehensibly and unmanageably big thing.

So, our whole life is divided into little lives of days - and each day is separated by sleep; which is a kind of little death, in the sense of bringing a pause to conscious endeavor, striving, doing, planning.


Thus each day we are active, then inactive; extraverted then intraverted; each day we start and we finish.

(It might have been otherwise; but this is how it is.)

Each morning there is expectation, hope or dread; then there is doing and struggling and happiness and sadness, pleasures and pains; and at the end of the day, as sleep approaches, there is of necessity a coming to terms with that day, and a surrender of will, and an enforced helplessness as we are plunged into unconscious passivity - a requirement for trust that sleep is not the end but a transition between days.


So, an average human life is both long and short - it is a single archway, and it is cyclical and recurrent - sleep makes our lives into a sequence of reincarnations as the soul feels that it leaves the body then re-enters the body.


This is not a matter of dreams remembered. Sleep does its work whether we dream or not, whether we remember our dreams or not.

Awakeness is experienced as a explicit state, by contrast sleep is implicit; we know what sleep does from indirect evidence, from the difference it has made.

What this difference from having slept actually is, is seldom known by direct introspection but is a matter for inference, for guessing, for trial and test perhaps.   


We plunge into sleep, we emerge from sleep changed; we find ourselves awake and starting a new day - we feel different from the way we were yesternight. Something has happened, some things have happened - whatever they are is now a matter of experience.

(Sleep is experience.)

And this is life - it is serial and it is cyclical; each diurnal cycle does not return us to the beginning but to a somewhat different point; each day is a unit and a 'fresh start', but not a discrete unit since we carry our-selves over from the day before.

And yet that self to which we return on wakening has been changed somewhat.

And this is life.


Sunday, 14 April 2013

What did Margaret Thatcher do? Fixed the economy, stupid...


Politics is very simple; and great politicians (the epithet 'great' meaning that they did something constructive to turn a tide, as contrasted with most politicians who do nothing and/or make matters worse) - such as Margaret Thatcher - typically do one positive thing.

(Making one large and complex thing is enough for greatness - one achievement is infinitely more than none! Construction is vastly more difficult than destruction. Creation is much rarer than scavenging and parasitism.)

Then positive thing Mrs Thatcher did was to reverse decades of British economic decline.


This decline would almost-certainly have led Britain into an Argentinian-style (no irony intended) mega-economic collapse (about a century ago Argentina was - I understand - one of wealthiest of countries per capita). I have read economic and social analysts writing in the middle to late 1970s, and this fate was regarded as all-but inevitable for the UK. 

Yet it did not happen. Margaret Thatcher diagnosed the problems, publicly repented of the policies of the past, told Britain what it needed to do ('roll back' socialism), explained that short term prosperity had to be sacrificed to the longer term, took the necessary measures and -

Sure enough, things did get worse, there was a period of sharp recession and exacerbated decline.

But Mrs Thatcher held the line until the battle was won, and the impending economic collapse was not just averted but reversed.

Then Britain had a period of strong economic growth.


Many economists had diagnosed Britain's problems; several politicians knew what needed to be done; perhaps several of these politicians could believe that these things could be done and might even have started the job of fixing the economy...

But only Mrs Thatcher could see-it-through in the face of a level of orchestrated vilification and misrepresentation from the Leftist intelligentsia and organized labour (and most of her own party) which was astonishing at the time and in retrospect.

(A process with which I, to my shame, participated to the max - I was on the wrong side in the Great War.)


The British economic turn-around was partial, temporary, and has long since been dissipated by her successors: but that is what Margaret Thatcher did, and we have lived-off-it (and, sadly, the borrowing and inflation made possible by expectation of its continuance) ever since the early 1980s.

It is very hard to think of other examples of this kind of  reversal of decades of economic decline in such a large, complex and aged society as 1970s Britain - I think this must count as a world historic achievement.

Mrs Thatcher probably also did some other positive things; but else nothing she did was so clear-cut nor so objectively verifiable as the economic re-birth of Britian.


There is an important lesson which Leftist intellectuals ought to draw from this.

They were wrong about Mrs Thatcher.

At the time they (we) all totally believed they were right; we were filled with boundless moralizing zeal concerning our rightness - but the facts state otherwise.


The first lesson is that the Left intellectuals were wrong about Mrs Thatcher en masse and objectively and this ought to have led to a major reappraisal of the Left's understandings of the world and their modes of evaluation.

The second lesson is that the Left has utterly failed to make this honest appraisal of events, but instead denies the facts.

The third lesson is that the Left is therefore, now, profoundly dishonest, rotten, corrupted - and unteachable.  Immune to experience. Utterly deficient in common sense.


Once the Left had succeeded in denying to itself the blatantly obvious economic 'miracle' wrought by Mrs Thatcher, and thus failed to acknowledge their major error; then a path was cleared for the Left to deny anything else inconvenient, and to construct public discourse via the mass media and the bureaucracy in order to endorse Leftist 'reality'.

So, the British attitude to Margaret Thatcher and her achievement was a road fork for national politics - as a country we made the wrong choice and took the false path of denial (especially in Scotland, Wales and the North of England); we have refused to learn the lessons taught by Mrs Thatcher - and inevitably we are reaping the consequences.

Reality bites


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Don't allow questions to block belief: faith is primary, doubts should be within faith


Wise and important words excerpted from a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R Holland at the LDS Conference in April 2013:

In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited... 

When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes...

The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.


When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak!

Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have.


Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not!


...Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.

Brothers and sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will.


In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith.


So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women.

Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. 


These are vital words to internalize: especially for intellectuals living in a media/ political/ academic/ educational world which purposefully, systematically generates questions and doubts about Christianity.

Think about it: they can generate (real or apparent) doubts and questions much, much faster than you could possibly deal with them...


Almost all of these questions and doubts are utterly bogus; and the position which these questions and doubts are used to defend is ludicrously incoherent and contra-evidential...

- but, even if this were not the case, there will always be questions and doubts


If we are foolish enough to defer until after we have 'settled' our questions and doubts concerning the deliberate and responsible choice of the believing basis of our lives in faith; then we will implicitly have chosen to accept the prevalent incoherent worldview of alienating nihilism; and we will have have implicitly chosen to reject even the possibility of purpose, meaning, and that joyous personal relationship with God which is being offered us conditional merely upon our free acceptance of this gift.


Faith never has, and never could be, and neither should it, wait upon the resolution of all questions and doubts: to believe is to 'live by', and that is something we are doing at every moment. 

Thus faith is here, it is now: faith is always happening - and we must and do always choose in the absence of resolution of doubts and questions. 


My next book idea - Sleep...


After a rather prolonged search, I have settled upon the topic of my next 'book' (the last two books have only been about 24000 words, so are really more like booklets in terms of word length).

The idea is to collect a wide range of my thoughts about Sleep and its place in human life - this will range from some ideas about the 'function' of sleep in animals in a scientific sense - insofar as it known - which is not very far at all - see


via consideration of sleep as a visionary state (shamanism, creativity, dreams of enlightenment, prophecy) to culminate in my understanding of why we, humans, sleep in an ultimate (religious) sense: how we can understand the strange fact that it is a universal experience of Man to be in this peculiar state for about twenty years of a normal lifespan.

I find this a fascinating topic, I think I have something new-ish to say about it; and I am looking forward to putting the book together!


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Harvard is a second rate research university


As a companion to my posting on Harvard Medical School, it may be worth mentioning that it is a fact that Harvard is a second rate research university - and I have the numbers to prove it!

Of course, being second rate is still a big deal - but it is contrary to what seems to be the near universal belief of Americans.

First, I should emphasize, that the only remotiely objective evaluations of research quality relate to science - therefore, when adopting an international perspective, the humanities, social science and law are simply elminated from the analysis.  Harvard may excel at these other things, or it may not, but nobody really knows.


What Harvard is, in terms of science is a very high volume research university


Look at Table 2, citations - Harvard has more citations per unit time in the science research literature than any other university.

1 Harvard

2 Johns Hopkins

3 Stanford

4 U of Washington, Seattle


6 U Michigan, Ann Arbor


8 U Pennsylvania

9 U California, San Diego

10 U California, Berkeley


But you can see from the other Universities in this list, that citation volume is not a reliable guide to elite science - and is mostly a product of a university being very big - that is employing very large numbers of highly productive researchers.

When it comes to being excellent at the highest level of scientific research, Harvard is in the second rank and the premier university is without question MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).





For example, analysis using a combined metric of Nobel prizes, Fields medals, Lasker awards and Turing awards for 1987-2006, we get:

MIT 13

Stanford University 10

Princeton University 10

Chicago University 8

University of California, Berkeley 7

Columbia University 7

Harvard University 6

CalTech 5

UCSF (University of California San Fransico) 5

Cornell University 4


What is more, the trend for Harvard is downgoing - because it used to be the best (and MIT was not so special) - Looking just at Nobel prizes looking at 20 years segments from 1947:

Number of United States Nobel laureates by institution – 20 year segments from 1947 to 2006

Institution 1947–66; 1967–86; 1987–2006

Harvard University 9 - 13 - 5

University of California Berkeley 7 - 3 - 4

Stanford University 4 - 5 - 9

CalTech 4 - 4 - 5

Columbia University 4 - 1 - 7

Rockefeller Institute & University 3 - 6 - 3

Chicago University 2 - 4 - 7

Princeton University 1 - 2 - 6

MIT 1 - 5 - 11

Cornell University 1 - 4 - 2


Thus Harvard went from 9 Nobels via 13 down to 5, whereas MIT went up from 1 via 5 to 11.


Thus from the perspective of scientometrics Harvard looks like it is nowadays and increasingly geared-up for hiring highly productive but 'safe' researchers in very large numbers (what Kuhn termed 'normal science'); while the smaller and more truly research-elite modern Universities are doing a better job at recruiting more original/ creative 'revolutionary science' researchers.


[Note - in the above Nobel science prize analyses I included Economics, which I would not nowadays do; but since I discovered that nobody takes any notice whatsoever of this kind of evidence, I find that I cannot be bothered to re-do the numbers.]

My time at Harvard Medical School


I spent two months at Harvard Medical School - two psychiatry attachments - in the summer of 1980 as a part of my student 'elective'. It made an interesting comparison with my main medical training at the med school, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Both were good, but very different. The main difference was that they were trying to do different things.


British medical schools take kids (mostly) straight from high school - aged about 18, while US medical schools are postgraduate institutions with entrants 22 plus years old. So that makes a difference.

I was able to compare year three of the UK with year three of the US - which was just about the only comparable point, being the first year of clinical training, when students who had been doing medical science type things for two years (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry etc) were rotated through the major medical specialties such as (internal) medicine, surgery, psychiatry, obstetrics and the like.

By the end of year three I had already completed a month rotation in psychiatry at Newcastle - and could compare it with two of the available one month rotations at Harvard.


The main similarity is that at both places I was 'attached' to a particular ward and senior psychiatrist which I was supposed to attend on every working day, as an apprentice.

But the difference in aim and methods was striking.

At Newcastle we commenced with a series of mini-lectures at an introductory level and covering the whole of psychiatry, we worked mostly from a single large textbook, and the focus of activity was training us in the skill of interviewing and 'history taking' as a basis for diagnosis and treatment.

At Harvard there was no systematic coverage and no basics, but a series of specialized (often very up to date, topical) seminars with a variety of different psychiatrists, we worked from journal papers not a textbook (and were given unlimited, free photocopying facilities!), and the focus was upon being able to evaluate and discuss the research literature.


So, Newcastle was mostly aiming to train us in the skills of psychological medicine underpinned by the full range (not depth) of basic knowledge required for this; while Harvard was more like a training in medical research, with a sampling of various specialties rather than a general coverage.

At Newcastle we seldom forgot we were going to be doctors, and that med school was a preparation for this - at Harvard this was ignored or taken for granted. Much of what we did as a clinical skills training in Newcastle while undergraduates - repeated practice at difficult tasks - was deferred to the specialized, post MD three year Residency training in the US system.


As I say, I enjoyed both, and both were useful to me - mostly because Newcastle came first. And both were characteristic of the medical systems of which they were a part: the British still (at that time) with a premium on clinical skills (the Harvard students were astonished at my - quite normal, in the UK - ability to examine patients and elicit 'physical signs'), while the Americans clearly valued investigations and research more highly.


[All this was three decades ago and does not now apply. The British systems has changed almost beyond recognition - and clinical skills have been almost abandoned. I have no idea what happened in the US.]

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Delusional fertility hopes of young women?


A fascinating snippet from a survey of a couple of hundred mostly 18 year old women students that I recently supervised is that most of them intend to have 3 (or 2) children, and only 3 percent intend to have zero children.

Yet the expectation of what will actually happen, based on the equivalent cohort from a generation ago, is that about 33 percent will have zero children, and the average fertility will be more like 1.


A general finding of this study comparing educational intentions with fertility intentions was unrealistic expectations - for example, some answered such that they intended to start a family at the same time as they were intending to be engaged in doctoral level training.

Also, those who intended to do postgraduate education - and therefore in practice delay fertility by an extra several years - actually had a higher intended fertility than those who did not - whereas numerous studies have shown that postgraduate education among women is strongly associated with smaller families.


I conclude that these young female university students showed a surprisingly strong, indeed almost universal, desire to have families; yet this was apparently combined with a lack of realism about priorities and the need for tough choices which verged on the delusional.


Alternatively, this cohort might possibly be the first signs of a turn-around in fertility among the most intelligent and educated women - and such a turn round is likely at some point.

These girls are, after all, mostly the children of that section of the previous generation of intelligent women who did have families despite all alternative inducements - and they will presumably (on average) have inherited something of their mother's disposition; as well as perhaps having been reared in a family with somewhat counter-cultural ideas of the importance of children.

And this process has been going on for several generations already - with the least family orientated women choosing behaviours that over time will tend to eliminate their own characteristics from the gene pool.


But on the whole, I'm afraid I see these young womens' expectations and intentions as most plausibly just plain incoherent, verging on delusional - the product of a mass media which tells them that if they want things hard enough then they will get them.

A mass media which tells them: you can 'have it all', even when 'all' contains incompatible - albeit not impossible - elements.


Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Is negativism a rational reflex response for the Right?


Would it be, is it, rational for the Right to oppose new measures simply because of their provenance - simply because the Left are so keen on them?

Experience says: Yes.  This is a reasonable, sensible, default position (pending further evaluation).


1. Current Leftist leadership is bureaucratic, therefore they make change (necessary or not, helpful or harmful); and therefore they are indifferent to the real world outcomes of change (because in bureaucratic systems the consequences of change are decided, not discovered).

Yet in complex systems there few ways to improve the system and many ways (an infinite number) to damage the system - so change as such is almost certain to be harmful, except when there is strong reason to assume it will be beneficial.

The default must be no change.



In modern society, with its ultra-Left politically correct leadership; for a real Christian or indeed a mainstream conservative or libertarian almost all changes proposed or implemented are bad. Looking back, this has been so for some considerable time.

Therefore this change, under consideration now, will very likely be bad.

The default evaluation ought to be that any proposed change will be bad, even if it is presented as Good.


3. The Right and Left are entwined in a reciprocal relationship.

In deciding how best to damage Christianity and traditional society, the Left (which is concentrated in the mass media - that is the centre of its power) is continually floating ideas.

When an idea emerges that the Right can show to be almost-certainly damaging to those things which the Right values - then the Left will pick-up this idea and press it very hard indeed, with the full force of the modern mass media, sustained over many years.

(Mostly by singling-out, lying-about, mocking, demonizing, damaging and destroying anyone who stands against it - this reputational assault being sustained by the mass media over years and decades. The modern mass media is fickle and self contradicting about almost everything - except this matter of reputationally destroying its enemies - and sanctifying its [arbitrarily chosen] symbolic heroes.)


4. The reciprocity between Left and Right means that by the time the Left has chosen its big theme and is pressing for implementation of key policies - the process of evaluation of the effectiveness of this policy is well advanced: by the time the Left has decided on its Big Issue of the day - mass welfare, easy no-fault divorce, feminism, the environment, diversity, mass immigration, redefining marriage, whatever it may be - by this time the Left is sure that the chosen policy will inflict enormous and ramifying damage on its enemies.

And also, by this time, the counter-rational assumption of the necessity of (this) change has been established - the default rational assumption of no change has been inverted.

Such that anyone who opposes the Left's latest policy change - a change which has been carefully pre-selected for the likelihood that it will be the first step down a slippery slope, or the entry point into a cycle of positive feedback of socio-political damage - any opposition can by this time be plausibly presented as irrational, futile and weirdly radical.


In conclusion, the Right needs to be aware of the way it is manipulated.

The really big and really destructive changes to Western society have been introduced in a stereotypical fashion such that, by the time the policies are being proposed to cement and expand such changes, to make them official and legally enforceable; by this time to go along with the change seems easy and sensible, the change itself seems almost trivial, at least very small and probably reversible if it doesn't work out; there seems like a possibility (if not likelihood) that good consequences might, possibly, ensue (or, at least, good consequences cannot conclusively be ruled-out); while opposition is extremely difficult and feels very uncomfortable and indeed dangerous.

Also, by this time, given that the Leftist agenda is mostly media influenced, it can be difficult to find what seem like strong enough grounds for rational dissent.


Well, in practice, such grounds are not needed. When the Left is pushing something very hard, when there is a multi-system onslaught from the mass media, politics, law, civil administration, education... and yet the focus of this campaign seems almost trivial... then is the time for real Christians to get very worried indeed.

They don't need to know any more. Look at the provenance of proposed change. Who wants it - which organizations or people does it emanate from? What is their track record?

I don't mean who 'supports' the change - because by this advanced point in the introduction of major damaging policies all but the heroes and potential martyrs of faith will support the change, so 'everyone' 'supports' the change - I mean from where does the change emanate: who is driving the change? What kind of organizations and people are they, and what are the other things that that kind of people are driving? What is the socio-political package or agenda that they are promoting?


Politics is very simple - necessarily so.

There is no nuance in politics, no fine-tuning, only distracting quibbles.

The Big Issues are major forks in the road - most lead to destruction, a few towards salvation; but how do you know which Issues are Big?

You cannot always tell from analysis of the content - the Big Issues are usually disguised as trivialities until they are settled.

But, really,  it is very easy to spot them: a simple attitude of negativism will suffice as a default.

If they want it so much; then it must be bad.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Argument with Leftists is like telling Nazis that their policies may harm Jews...


Mostly, Leftists will not listen to - leave aside engage with - evidence and rational argument from Christians.

But since the development of New Left political correctness, and its spread to include the almost whole of the ruling class and most of everyone else, there is a definite sense that argument with modern progressives is counter-productive.


I think the reason for this is quite simple: inversion.

For the modern Left, to a striking extent, the evaluative framework is an inversion of the traditional; so Good is bad - and bad is Good.

This applies to aesthetics, to standards of truth, and to morality.


Typically, the Christian or conservative or libertarian puts forth a consequentialist argument on the lines of:

'If this [insert currently promoted Leftist policy] is implemented - then the following [insert bad consequences] will ensue...'

But - because of inversion - what count as 'bad consequences' for the Right, count as good consequences for the modern Left.


So if the evidence and reason suggest that policy X will result in damage to marriage, the decline of the family, an increase in violence and disorder, or encouragement of parasitic behaviour - then what the Left hears is that the policy will work in exactly the way they want it to work.

Christians arguing with the PC ruling class of modern Western societies are therefore, but unwittingly, in a position analogous to that of a good German in 1933 telling the Nazis that both evidence and reason suggest that their policies will probably harm Jews.

The imaginary good German of 1933 neglects that the Nazis were anti-semitic, and that therefore their policies were intended to harm Jews - the Christian or Right-wing or libertarian mainstream commentator neglects that the modern dominant Left is anti-the Good and therefore their policies are intended to harm the Good.


And, just as the Nazis originally wanted several Good things as well as the destruction of Jews, but as time went by the destructive agenda became ever more dominant at the cost of any Good things; so modern Leftists have moved-on from the time when they wanted several Good things alongside harming their enemies, to an ever-more-complete embrace of their destructive agenda.

The Nazis started off pro- some Good things as well as anti-semitic but by 1945 had ended-up mostly anti-semitic; the Left is now at a similar end-point when whatever Goods the Left used to favour are being swallowed-up and lost in their desire to destroy that which they hate.   


Christians argue from the assumption that the modern ruling elite want to improve things in a functional sense - want to reduce poverty or unemployment, want to improve the life of Africans, want to protect the environment, want to improve health services or education, want to have a more just legal system, more efficient research, a more effective military; want a peaceful and wholesome society...

But the ruling elite want none of these things, or at least if they personally happen to want one of them, then this individual idiosyncracy is constrained by the imperatives of their over-arching ideology.

As a class what our rulers want is mostly to destroy what they hate.


When the rulers in the mass media, politics, public administration, law and education are told - evidentially and with good reasoning - that their policies will likely cause damage to things that traditional Christians (and indeed those with common sense and who take seriously their personal experience) regard as Good; what the ruling elites are actually hearing is that their policies will damage the kind of people and situations that Leftists regard as bad; they are hearing confirmation that these are the correct policies.


Thus the bulk of mainstream mass media Right Wing and Christian commentary serves the Left as a test and confirmation of the correctness of their policies, and a measure of the optimal priorities.

The more conclusive is the Right wing and religious assembling of evidence and rational argument against a proposed Leftist policy; the more aggressively that policy will be promoted because the Left then know - to a high degree of probability - that the policy will achieve its desired effect.