Saturday, 26 July 2014

Did Britain (and the West, generally?) miss a Schumacher moment in the mid-1970s?


This is a totally subjective feeling; but I believe that there was a 'moment' in between the publication of EF Schumacher's Small is Beautiful in 1973, and his Guide for the Perplexed in 1977 - when Britain, and maybe the West, had a sort of 'last chance' to get serious about Life - and sort-out the proper priorities; but chose instead not to get serious - to take the path of distraction and hedonism and shallow, expedient, careerist stupidity.

My recollection is that Small is Beautiful made it very clear that economics specifically, but politics and social aims in general - had to be conducted inside an overarching spiritual and religious framework about what is really important in life - or else, there really was no hope.

Of course not many people read Schumacher's book; but this feeling was in the air at the time - and emerged all over the place in popular culture: comedy, drama, documentaries, non-fiction, music, fashions, and in what people actually did  - I feel that there was a real and general appreciation that we were at a decision point.

But at the same time, there were the usual forces and concerns up-front - all sorts of materialism, careerism, manipulation, seedy dishonesty, snide satire and cynicism - and perhaps most of all there was the sexual revolution; getting more and more confident, more and more self-satisfied; offering more and more gratification (sensual, motivational and especially moral) for less and less work, sacrifice - and all of this on-offer without the need for hard thinking or hard choices.

Why did it go so wrong? People en masse (and without much in the way of serious dissent) chose (and it was their free choice, their responsibility) the short-termist, the easy, the selfish, the trivial; and most of all they rejected the spiritual, the religious and in the end the Christian - so by the time that Schumacher published his final (Christian, Roman Catholic) statement in Guide for the Perplexed, it already seemed to have missed the boat, to be too late - and to be a quixotic, futile gesture.

Britain had decided; and apparently the rest of the rest made exactly the same decision; and after that point it got harder and harder to make the right decision - but, to be candid, by that time there were not many people who were really bothered anyway.


Note added: 

The final words of Small is Beautiful read: "Everywhere people ask: 'What can I actually do'? The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: we can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order. The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but it can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind."

His biography makes it clear that Schumacher failed to practice what he preached - and did not set his own house in order - in fact did not really even try to do this with any seriousness and got caught up in media, celebrity and (of course...) the sexual revolution; and this failure was no doubt crucial in the scheme of things.

Schumacher's daughter Barbara summarized her Father's work: "At the centre of his message was the point that unless it is recognized that there exists something higher than man which gives a point to man's actions, then there can be not future worth contemplating."

What was this 'something higher"? It was generally known as Buddhist Economics, but Schumacher stated that it could 'equally' be known as Christian economics - but he quipped that if he had called it that, then 'nobody would have read it'. 

I find this a telling comment. He is almost certainly correct - Westerners could enjoy the notion of Buddhist economics, because it was unreal to them and seemed to make no demands. So probably it was already too late even by the mid-seventies. And, by waiting for six years before revealing that it was really, so far as Schumacher personally was concerned, Christian economics - perhaps he missed the moment and left it too late?

But either way, I still believe that there was a 'moment of clarity' - when there was a balanced choice between repentance (on relatively 'easy terms'!) and continuing the path to cultural alienation, despair, dishonesty and suicide. 

For each individual, it was perhaps a matter of hoping that 'somebody else' would take the lead on this; would set their own house in order, and behave accordingly... but 'somebody else' never did - or at least not enough 'somebody else's'.


The Wittgenstein double-bind - and its solution


I used to be very interested by Wittgenstein and his ideas

although I now regard both W. and my interest in him as mistaken.

One aspect which I recall was that the only thing which enraged Wittgenstein more than people using his ideas without full attribution, was people using his ideas with full attribution - because they always misunderstood and misrepresented the ideas.

Wittgenstein himself did not publish anything after Tractatus - nothing of his 'late' philosophy; so this meant that there was only one way to know what W. was saying and that was to hear him say it - in his actual presence. And to be allowed to do this, one had to be a disciple.

So W. had disciples whom he controlled, not colleagues; and operated as a holy man or guru, not as an academic. This is, indeed, the basis of his appeal.

It is also a proper way to proceed in education - i.e. apprenticeship. Unfortunately, with his 'late' philosophy, W. did not really have anything worth teaching - as he himself was the first to assert, and was confirmed by W.s main patron and supporter Bertrand Russell.

In consequence, there was a weird cult of nothingness - moralistically critiqueing and denying this, then that, then something else... but from no discernible basis - swirling around the personality of Wittgenstein (and continually riven by accusations of misunderstanding and misrepresentation); and this cult proved extremely enduring: it was certainly still going strong twenty-five years ago (when I last looked).

But the phenomenon is fascinating. Of course Wittgenstein was a compellingly intense and uncompromising character - a one off; but it is remarkable that he became by far the most influential philosopher in the sphere of British philosophy - 'despite' - or was it precisely because - he 1. published nothing and 2. had nothing to say and 3. did his utmost to prevent anybody else from referencing or discussing his work.

Do colleges and universities indoctrinate their students? Only in bad habits


Modern higher education does indoctrination as ineffectively and inefficiently as it does everything else - with the exception of inculcating habits of sexual licence, intoxication and laziness (which comes mostly from other students).

The only people who get effectively indoctrinated are the staff, whose livelihood depends on 'toeing the party line' - not the students.

But where does 'the party line' come from in the first place?

Easy - nearly all the the indoctrination in the modern world is done by the mass media. This is constitutes an immersive environment, available 24/7 - and most people are very completely addicted.

If you think about it; the rapidity of change of political ideas makes this inevitable - it could only be done-by and come-from the mass media.

College is far too-slow, is one-off, and has far too-long a lead-time to generate and implement rapid social change.


Friday, 25 July 2014

What is formal education actually FOR?


What is formal education (schools, colleges etc.) actually for? I mean really, properly-speaking?

It seems to have very little to do with literacy and numeracy rates - but even if it did, that can be accomplished by a few years of formal education.

It seems to have very little to do with the transmission of cultural-important knowledge - but even if it does, that can be accomplished by a few years of formal education plus personal study.

It seems to have very little or nothing to do with the inculcation of skills - since these require multiple repetition (drill) and reiteration (practice) which is rare-in, or altogether absent-from, modern formal education.

It seems to have little or nothing to do with developing 'critical abilities' or 'the ability to think' or 'reasoning' or logic or higher levels of cultural sophistication - since all these have either always been absent-from or else are-being/ have-been incrementally deleted from formal education. And when IQ is properly tested, it can be seen that almost all measurable differences in these domains are due to hereditary intelligence, and not to schooling.

It seems to have little or nothing to do with inculcation of good working habits such as hard work and conscientiousness - since most formal education (the great bulk of it) requires neither hard work nor conscientiousness - and such of these as are required are incrementally being eliminated. And when personality is evaluated, it can be seen that almost all measurable differences in hard work. conscientiousness etc. are due to hereditary personality and not to schooling.

It seems to have nothing to do with morality - since success in formal education is already and increasingly possible by cheating (i.e. by presenting another person's work as your own) - so in terms of incentives, modern formal education is a training in dishonesty.

So my conclusion is that, as a whole and on the whole, formal education as it actually is here and now has zero legitimate educational function - beyond the first few years.

It is NOT about culture, knowledge, skills, reasoning, good habits or good morals... and insofar is it operates (imprecisely and corruptly) to evaluate and rank individual abilities, it does so less exactly, more unreliably, and vastly less-efficiently than proper psychometric testing. a whole and on the whole (with a low percentage of exceptions at the individual or institutional level) formal education has zero legitimate functionality.

That's not very good, is it?


Christian churches are about theosis/ spiritual progression, and are not a matter of salvation


This is, for me - as a late adult convert to Christianity, one of the most important insights to make sense of world and historical Christianity.

The 'publicity material' for many or most (but not all) genuine Christian churches has tended to be exclusivist; claiming that only 'we' have the keys to salvation: that only inside the church can you be saved, and outside of this particular institution all are damned.


There have been times when I have tried to believe this of a particular church, or even to make sense of it - but honesty prevents this. It is crystal clear that real Christians, and indeed the very best Christians, have existed across many denominations, and as members of many churches and of no particular church.

Exclusivist claims by churches in relation to salvation are therefore factually false. Exclusivist claims can only be, should be, interpreted as matters of expediency or strategy - as a concession to human weakness and vacillation; perhaps necessary on average, in some circumstances and for some people. 

(But it is better - preferable - when a church can function without making exclusivist claims in relation to salvation.)


Therefore, my interpretation is that in Christianity there is one mystical church but many denominations and individual institutional churches. 

The one mystical church is the community of those who have repented and currently accept Christ's salvation.

(Others will join this mystical church later in life, and still more will accept Christ after death, when confronted with the reality of the situation).


So what is the legitimate purpose of the specific, institutional churches?

Their proper purpose is to sustain faith and encourage the spiritual progression - the becoming-more-divinized, that is the theosis, or sanctification - of their members.

A good church is one which supports Christian faith on average and in individuals by various means - such as teaching, sacraments, prayer, study; by structures of legitimate authority and by informal social mechanisms.

A bad church does the opposite - and tends to destroy Christian faith on average, or in particular individuals.


Therefore, each church can be judged on average, and also at the individual level. Some bad churches, which destroy Christian faith on average - such as the most of the mainstream and most powerful Liberal Christian churches within both Protestant and Catholic denominations - may nonetheless be helpful for specific individuals (for instance, those who fight these anti-Christian trends by staying in bad churches).


So, denominations and churches are not about saving us, but about sustaining us in faith and moving us further towards the status of Sons of God. 

What differs in each church is the emphasis and scope. Some churches are happy with a moderate piety, others encourage members to scale the heights (and there are advantages and risks to each tendency). Some churches focus on celibacy and the monastic/ religious life - others focus on marriage and the family as the pinnacle.

The different emphases are not a matter of indifference, they do matter. Some churches have a better emphasis than others - especially in relation to particular times and places and people.

Some churches are much more correct than others in terms of what they teach, recommend etc. Some churches provide access and encouragement on a path to higher levels of spiritual progression than do others. Some churches do not even claim to enable high levels of theosis, but focus instead on evangelism. Some churches have an international scope and potentially a social-political role - but with all the hazards that brings, others are tiny and local and pure.

Some churches are competent and coherent, while others are a mess; some are mostly-uncorrupted, while others are full of fake Christians in leadership positions; some have a warmth of spirit, others are emotionally cool - or even cold.


Specific churches and denominations are very important - they can be very helpful, or else a major hindrance to spiritual progression: In sum - specific Christian churches make a huge difference (for good or ill); but none of them are crucial to individual salvation.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Diversity = Destruction


It is a straightforward equation. Diversity ten years ago was bad enough to destroy any institution - but perhaps the concept sufficient remaining ambiguities or uncertainties that some honest and competent people might have failed to see the writing on the wall...

But diversity now is starkly revealed as a clear plan of destruction:

D. Diversity Defined. 

Previous diversity plans have focused on race, ethnicity and gender, which remain critical problems for UW-Madison. We recognize, however, that to achieve Inclusive Excellence a strategic framework should be expanded to include additional dimensions of diversity. This framework  defines diversity as: race and ethnicity; sex; gender, and gender identity or expression; marital status; age; sexual orientation; country of origin; language; disability; socio-economic status; and affiliations that are based on cultural, political, religious, or other identities.


This is from the University of Madison Wisconsin, which for many decades has been the major institution for graduate training in the US - and presumably the world - and is therefore a representative powerful modern institution at the ideological 'cutting edge'.

Let's just unpack that list of priorities for multiplicities:

  1. race
  2. ethnicity
  3. sex
  4. gender, and gender identity or expression
  5. marital status
  6. age
  7. sexual orientation
  8. country of origin
  9. language
  10. disability
  11. socio-economic status
  12. culture
  13. politics
  14. religion
  15. other identities 
...and if it has any energy, resources or will-power remaining after getting all that stuff right; the UW-Madison can try to pursue whatever it used to do, you know education, scholarship, research... that kind of stuff. 


What this represents is an end to the brief 'modern' era of functional specialization and a return to the primacy of religion/ ideology/ nepotism in public affairs - BUT with the critical difference that Diversity is an anti-religion, and anti-ideology, a nepotism which promotes everything except one's own family.  
Diversity therefore equals destruction - it is the destruction of any and all religions (but especially Christianity, obviously) and of all positive ideologies by which I mean, ideologies that aim at a particular state of affairs.

Because Diversity can only be destructive: whatever IS is insufficiently or inexactly diverse. Whatever IS must therefore be destroyed in order to make it MORE Diverse. And there is no conceivable or measurable end to it. Yesterday's Diversity is today's intolerable lack of Diversity.


In sum: Diversity is the destruction of Good; and it is the destruction of all types of Good - however defined. All are chewed up and spat out by Diversity. 

More exactly, Diversity is the promotion of chaos by the destruction of Good; and then the re-naming of chaos as Good. 


But... The age of functional specialization is past and gone; it was a blip in human history; people JUST DO NOT WANT IT any more (as you will agree if ever you have tried to argue in its favour as I have, many many times).

The age of de-differentiation is returned.

This must be accepted as a given; as a fact.


So we have a choice - and only this one choice: the choice of religion/ ideology to which all institutions must conform.

The default choice - the prevailing and dominating situation - is the new Left, Politically Correct religion of no religion, and its anti-ideology of Diversity.

If implemented Diversity will destroy the functionality of all institutions, and then destroy itself. This destruction is sure and certain, and indeed fully intended by the architects of Diversity.

Or we can choose a positive religion or ideology.


The de-differentiating society


Modernity, the type of human society since the industrial revolution, was based on functional specialization - but modernity has been collapsing for a while, and a mark of this is de-differentiation: the loss of specialized functionality.

This is one way of looking at the takeover of Political Correctness in all major social domains: it is the loss of specialized functionality and the replacement of specific functionality with general political discourse across all domains.

So that mainstream churches are not about religion, they are about PC; the mass media is not about entertainment, it is about PC, the legal system is not about justice, it is about PC.

And in a very general way, functional criteria are ignored for all sorts of reasons, or no reason.


These thoughts were brought to mind by a microcosmic incident which reflects and represent this macrocosmic situation described above.  John C Wright reports

that the Science Fiction Nebula Award for short stories went to this story

which just isn't science fiction (but is a PC choice).


This is exactly the kind of plain, stark, straightforward corruption which goes on... well pretty much everywhere in modern life.

The rules are bent, the rules are ignored...

Now, there is a place for bending or ignoring the rules, and that is to make space for the exceptional - the off-beat, the one-off, the sui generis of exceptional merit - because if you don't bend and ignore the rules, it will have nowhere to go.

But when the rules are flouted in favour of commonplace mainstream industrious mediocrity as exemplified by the Nebula short story winner - well then this is merely arrogant corruption and deliberate destruction of function... in sum this is itself decadence, promoting of further decadence, and both a symptom and cause of decline and destruction.


And this kind of thing is happening everywhere and on a daily basis! Public administration, science medicine, education, the arts, the military and the police...

Reducing the effectiveness and efficiency of modernity (which was bad enough!) to the lying and posturing chaos of post-modernity - a situation so completely dishonest that it denies the observable reality of destruction, even as it celebrates its own destructive motivations!

Making exceptions for the unexceptional. Pah!


*Why* worship God? (And is 'worship' the best word?)


We might worship God (one God) because of His power, greater far than the power of any other entity - greater far than any 'other god' (as it gets phrased in the Old Testament); indeed, so much greater as to be immeasurably and greater.

This worship may be based upon fear of such power, and the hope that worship will be understood as a submission and a propitiation.

This sees the primary reality as legalistic - in other words, the universe is structured by relationships - and the relevant type of relationships are those which pertain in a 'state' - the relationships between a monarch and his subjects, and the relationships between subjects (of various ranks and roles).

To disbelieve in this concept of God is an act of rebellion against the legitimate monarch; and an anti-social act. 


We might worship God because he created everything - including the other gods - which is perhaps an extension of worshipping God because of His power.

However, if we were to worship God because he created everything out of nothing, this potentially induces a different flavour to worship. Worship may then be akin to a recognition of fact. The recognition that everything is from-God, part-of God, sustained-by-God.

This is perhaps analogous to recognising and acknowledging that we are inside God. 
So 'worship' may get a more scientific ('physics'-like) flavour - of stating, swearing-to and living-by quasi-scientific propositions that represent this reality.

To disbelieve in this physics-like concept of God is seen as a factual or logical error, due to ignorance or insanity or a lie: a denial of what actually IS. Its harm comes from its dysfunctionality.


The idea of God as Love is qualitatively different from the above - because it implies that we should love God because He loves us. But why love Him, and why Him above others and as God? What makes love of God different from love of a specific Man?

The answer comes from Him being our Father and us His children,and the value attributed to this primary fact - so, by this 'argument', family relationships take on and replace the 'structural' role which used-to come from God's creation of everything from nothing, or the relationships of monarch and subjects in a state.

To disbelieve in such a God - God as Loving father - is therefore primarily to exclude oneself from God's family - an act of self-exile - a decision to 'go it alone'.


Whereas a God who is creator of everything from nothing 'ought' to be worshipped as an acknowledgement of the reality that everything depends on Him and everything is inside of Him; and God as legal monarch 'ought' to be worshipped as a matter of good order and proper deference; God as loving Father 'ought' to be worshipped as an acknowledgement of the reality that derives from relationships.

In other words, when God is (primarily) Love; the universe is conceptualized as structured by family relationships. These family relationships become the primary reality and the reason for doing things.

For Christians who regard God as Loving Father, it is relationships which provide the 'ought' that used to be provided by power or status.


All metaphysical reasoning involves a decision or choice, whether that decision recognized and explicit or unconscious and implicit. the choice is to put some assumption at the root of things: and that fundamental assumption cannot be analyzed or critiqued exactly because it is the primary assumption, and everything else is secondary to it.

When it comes to understanding and conceptualizing God, we are in the realms of metaphysics; and the advent of the Christian revelations of God as Love led to a metaphysical revolution - with the transformation of God as Power, or God as Monarch into God as Father.

And the ultimate rules of this new Christian universe were not physics-like structures, nor were they like laws - but they were like the relationships in a family. 


So, the primary, bottom line understanding of the structure of reality for a Christian is now family-relational, rather than quasi-scientific or national-legal. 

And the 'worship' of God naturally takes on a different primary flavour - because the proper attitude to God who is primarily understood as our loving Father, is different from the proper attitude to a monarch, or to an infinite power.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

More thoughts on Mouse Utopia - phases of modern England and declining of social and sexual functional adaptations

Further thoughts on the Mouse Utopia experiment, here described:

Some fanciful parallels between Mouse Utopia and modern England:

And what to look-out-for when mutation accumulation is suspected:

The animistic consciousness: Review of “Dancing with a Ghost: exploring Indian reality” by Rupert Ross

Rupert Ross. Dancing with a ghost: exploring Indian reality. Octopus publishing group: Ontario, Canada. 1992.

I would like to thank the blog commenter who uses the pseudonym Thursday (I also know his real name) for very generously sending me a copy of this book, because he believed – correctly – that I would appreciate it and learn from it. I don't suppose I would ever have read it otherwise.

This book is about the difference in the thought-worlds of modern Canadians of European descent (such as the author, Rupert Ross), and the American Indians or Native Americans – especially those who have recently been hunter-gatherers – specifically the Cree and Ojibway peoples of Northwestern Ontario.

My brief summary of the book is that some of the descriptions of how these Indians perceive the world are among the best I have encountered – they really seem to take you inside the minds of these hunter gatherers – and, implicitly, our own pre-agricultural human ancestors.

And what different minds they are!

It is this aspect of the book I found of such great value – and it is my intention to transcribe edited version of my favourite passages from the book over the coming days.

What is not good about the book are the explanations for these differences: the explanations for why Indians think and behave so differently from whites are incomplete, incorrect and in general just wrong.

The preferred explanations are mostly cultural – i.e. Indians think and behave the way they do because of Indian culture; or Freudian-ish – e.g. Indians engage in binge drinking of alcohol because it releases their repressed anger.

And the explanations completely ignore the 'racial' – in other words they do not even consider the fact that Indians and whites are separated by hundreds or thousands of generations who have experienced very different evolutionary trajectories and selection pressures – so that now Indians and whites are (inevitably!) psychologically different in a way that is hereditary and genetic; and which therefore ought to be regarded as the main explanation for group behavioural differences that are so large and so powerfully resistant to social shaping.

In other words, in truth Indians (and recent hunter gatherers generally) are different from whites, mainly because Indians/ hunter gatherers are different from whites – and not merely because they have been brought up in a different culture.

So, in reading this book – and I would recommend it to people like myself who are fascinated by the hunter gatherer mind – a degree of filtering and selectivity is necessary; there is a lot of angst and muddled-goodwill to be waded through in order to get at the good stuff.

But the good stuff really is good! 

Edited from pages 81 through 85:

I earlier spoke of 'imaging' as opposed to 'imagining'. I suggested that the skilled imager visited times and places in advance of going there, and that during such visits he would experience as the sounds, smells, feels, tastes and sights of those times and places in his mind.

As he crouched on the trail reading a fresh physical sign, he would also be up ahead with his quarry , reading the signs available to it, sensing fully what it sensed.

He would, in fact, be able to inhabit two worlds, and for a significant part of each day he would trek back and forth between them...

In other words, for the skilled hunter gatherer there was life on two planes, equally vibrant, equally full and... equally accessible.

...It seems clear that such a conviction could not help but lead, ultimately, to certain other kinds of conclusions.

If, for instance, it is possible for a man to 'walk' through the spiritual (that is the imagined) plane, then he could not deny the possibility that others would be able to do the same... Each person who did this visiting thus ought to be able to encounter... others; suddenly the possibility of interaction with others on that plane becomes real.

Further, there would be no reason to conclude that such interactions could only be of a positive sort; it would therefore seem prudent to adopt a stance of vigilance even in thought, lest offence be given on that other plane. Ridding yourself of negative thoughts would be considered essential, if only to avoid antagonizing the spiritual dimension of others.

Because people were vulnerable on two planes, extreme circumspection was a central requirement.

...Reverence for (and perhaps fear of) ancestors becomes reasonable, for death on the physical plane does not means ceasing to exist on the other.

Fasting, vision pits and the seeking of protective Naming-Spirits are seen as reasonable precautions. 

Dreams themselves take on a different significance, being seen as … signals that are being channelled through [one's subconscious]; why would dreams not be the logical way for inhabitants of the spiritual plane to communicate?


How do we know if a person, or a church, really is Christian?


First, these remarks refer to self-identified Christians - people and churches who explicitly claim to be Christian, and explicitly regard themselves as Christian.

In this situation, the proper framing of the question is to ask whether some person or church who says they are Christian - and shows all signs of sincerely believing that they are Christian - really is what they profess to be and what they show signs of believing they are.

(When I say 'sincerely believing' I mean that we need to judge that a self-identified Christian person or church is not claiming to be Christian merely in order to attain some other non-Christian goal; an exclusion which would apply to many modern Leftist Liberal Christians - in fact a majority of the leadership in mainstream Christian churches.)


When a person (or church) says he is Christian and we believe that this is sincere because he also behaves as if he believes that Jesus is his Lord and Saviour; then the principle is to approach the claim with charity, and with a genuine hope that the claim is true.

Then, observe the situation over time, check what is happening to that person or church.


An example of a borderline but false claim of being Christian was Unitarianism - which seemed, initially, just like Protestant Christianity (from which it evolved) and involving the same personnel - but denying the divinity of Jesus. It was not completely clear at first, because the earliest Unitarians included people who seemed sincere and devout and well behaved - and were clever enough with words to seem to be able to explain that they still were Christians...

Denying the divinity of Christ would seem to be a clearly non-Christian belief anyway (although many Anglican Bishops and theologians would perhaps disagree) - but if the fact was not at first obvious, it soon became obvious by trajectory into apostasy of many well known Unitarians (such as Ralph Waldo Emerson) and of the Unitarian church itself - and this just increased with every decade.


An example of the opposite situation is the Monophysite controversy which tore apart early Christendom.

This vicious heresy war was concerning what - in retrospect - was a mere philosophical quibble: a distinction without a difference. We know this for sure because the  Monophysite church has continued for more than 1000 years to be self-professing and sincere Christians - who have show no tendency to collapse into apostasy.

The people who regarded Monophysites as non-Christians turned out to be just plain wrong.


The same applies to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, although the difference from preceding Christianity was much larger.

Mormons have always professed to be Christian, and shown all the signs of being sincere and devout in this profession.

Initially, it was understandable that mainstream Christians might regard Mormons as non-Christian, and this belief was assisted by the truly epic scale of mass media misrepresentation and just-plain-lying concerning their reporting of the early polygamous phase of Mormonism and of life in Utah.

But over the space of 184 years the CJCLDS shown no trend towards sliding into apostasy - therefore, according to the criteria I have outlined, and from any charitable perspective: Mormons, like Monophysites, just are Christians.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Are Mormons Christians? Yes, of course! - or else, most Catholics and Protestants are not Christians either...


What I find most ominous about the way that so many mainstream Christians reject the Christian status of the CJCLDS / Mormon church - is that the grounds on which they do so would also reject the vast majority of past and present members of their own Catholic and Protestant denominations.


In practice, many mainstream Christian intellectuals regard philosophical doctrines as more important than Christianity; in the sense that they cannot believe that anyone who rejects their philosophical doctrines can really be a Christian.

This formally entails that their understanding of Christianity is contained-within the philosophical doctrines of Catholic or Protestant theology; or those bits of Catholic and Protestant theology which overlap.

To put it crudely, they put philosophy first, and fit Christianity inside it; and assert that anything outside the philosophy cannot be Christian

What does this mean for the mass majority of Catholic and Protestant children, simple people, and others who either cannot understand these philosophical doctrines, or cannot hold them in mind, or in actual fact believe in a God the Father and Jesus Christ who have (to all intents and purpose) exactly the same nature as is understood by Mormons?


This must, indeed, be the case - because ordinary simple people simply cannot comprehend what it means to create from nothing, or to have a disembodied God who is located everywhere, or to have a Holy Trinity which both is three and one simultaneously - what is actually in their heads is pretty much what Mormons have as their 'official' doctrine.

Now either these Catholics and Protestants who actually believe in the Mormon God and Jesus are not really Catholics or Protestants; or else we regard being Catholic or Protestant as being merely a submission to a structure of authority and passive assent to a set of un-comprehended verbal forms.


This is a terribly hazardous situation - not for the LDS, which is doing fine, and indeed is perhaps more devout than at any time in its history - but hazardous for Catholic and Protestant Intellectual Christians; because the temptation is to misrepresent Mormon beliefs - in order to be able to deny that Protestants and Catholics actually hold them - is hard to resist, and is clearly seldom resisted. 

The misrepresentation of Mormonism ranges from an ignorance which is understandable, yet is proud, wilful and refuses correction; through to an ignorance which is based upon pervasive bias; to a deliberate focus upon decontextualized peripheral aspects of Mormonism (pulled-out and held-up for ridicule as obviously crazy) while ignoring the core of actual Mormon beliefs and practices as they are lived; to plain and straightforward lying about Mormons (dishonestly rationalized by the desired-for end - of destroying the LDS church - justifying the means); to what I can only regard as a near-psychotic craziness on the topic of Mormonism which refuses to see the plain and obvious present day known realities, and instead focuses on the open-ended realms of the hidden and unknown, the arcane, the potentially possible, supposed analogies with other religions, and whatever evils attributed to Mormons (someplace at some time) that cannot conclusively be disproved.

(And, as always in human affairs, there are those Christians who are simply looking for an excuse to indulge in the exhilarating emotion of unrestrained hatred; in which case, unless this pleasure-in-hatred is repented, they may not remain Christians for very long.)


Now - of course I do not expect that either Protestants or Catholics ever could or would accept Mormon theology - it is profoundly different, profoundly in the accurate sense of different way back at the level of metaphysical assumptions.

Also there are additions to Mormonism compared with Catholic and Protestant beliefs. But then there are additions (loads of them, and very profound ones!) in Catholicism as compared with Protestantism; and in many forms of Protestantism in actual practice - which incorporate magic, animism. Indeed, in general, since Protestantism lacks a central authority - and many forms have a very local form of organization, there are almost as many types of Protestantism as there are churches, home groups or individual worshippers. Who knows what additions, combinations, or new emphases these may have?  


And I accept that there is evidence on both sides of Mormon claims. Certainly the evidence is not overwhelming. There is some good evidence that the LDS church is true (in the sense of essentially what it claims to be), and also some good evidence that it is not true: the evidence is in some kind of balance. In other words, the evidence either way is not decisive. The choice between the possibilities is a choice, the decision is not-compelled, and the choice must be made by each person.

Furthermore, the way that Mormonism was set-up, and the highly specific and concrete nature of its claims, leaves very little 'wriggle room'. This means that there are only two informed coherent attitudes to the CJCLDS - that it is true or it is a fraud: a deliberate deception by the founders and sustainers.


So, the crux is that for Mormon unbelievers the choice is between on the one hand regarding the religion as a benign fraud - and on the other hand, regarding Mormonism as a fraud that is covertly malicious (since there is so little/ zero evidence of overt wickedness).

Nonetheless, if we are both honest and informed, it must be acknowledged that precisely this situation exists between all Christian denominations - that either someone else's denomination is true or a fraud; and that any Christian faith which comes from another denomination must be attributed to ignorance or accident.

However - this should never lead us to deny the reality of Christian belief in despite of what inevitably seems like organizational fraud, or doctrinal ignorance.

We must have a concept of Christianity which fully and at the highest level encompasses the faith of the the simple and the ignorant - and those of other Christian denominations who live by Christ, as best they may (which may be very well indeed, and far better than the intellectuals who profess to judge them on philosophical grounds).


(I know that some will allow that individual Mormons may be Christian, but hold that the LDS church itself is not Christian. And they regard this as a problem because they believe that false theology will lead - sooner or later - to apostasy, and evil. Yet the apparent fact that this has not happened in the CJCLDS must either challenge their belief, or encourage them to look hard for signs of apostasy and evil in the modern Mormon church - evidence that it is going-bad; and if you look hard enough, you will of course find what you seek. Also, it is obvious that 'true' belief in a church does not prevent apostasy, or error or corruption. Thus the relationship between philosophy/ theological detail/highly specific official doctrine on the one hand - and on the other hand goodness and Christian faith is... well, at best extremely weak and probabilistic.)


So, the status of being 'a Christian' must - and I really mean must - be non-philosophical and extremely simple; or else we will do terrible damage both between denominations, and also within denominations.

Therefore, the specific example of Protestant and Catholic attitudes to Mormonism leads us to a very important general topic that transcends the specific question of the CJCLDS - i.e. the definition of being 'a Christian', as contrasted with the definition of any particular Christian denomination.

I contend that the apparent desire to enforce a definition of Christian which includes both Catholic (Eastern and Western) and Protestants, yet excludes Mormons, will lead to falsity and wickedness - will indeed stoke hatred within-denominations and between sincere self-identified Christians; and will, in short, play-into the hands of the Enemy.

Because, a definition of 'Christian' which includes Protestants and Catholics yet excludes Mormons, will also and inevitably exclude most of the simple, the ignorant, the isolated, and the children among Protestants and Catholics.

Thus I would expect that honest and informed Protestants and Catholics would accept that it is possible for Mormons to be Christians (and good Christians) despite the philosophical/ metaphysical differences.

And if they do NOT accept this, then they need to agree that if Mormons are not Christians due to (for example) their supposed misunderstanding of the nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity - then the clear implication is that many and probably most Catholics and Protestants throughout history have not been Christians for exactly that same reason.


A brief and preliminary review of The Son also Rises by Gregory Clark


Gregory Clark. The son also rises: surnames and the history of social mobility. Princeton University Press, 2014.

In one word: disappointing.

In one sense this was inevitable, given that I regarded Clark's previous book (A Farewell to Alms - FtA) as a work of genius. Nonetheless, The Son also Rises (SaR) is disappointing in a disappointing way.

Whereas the facts and figures of FtA were structured by an underlying clear, explicit, comprehensible theoretical underpinning; the SaR reads like a compendium of new data - as-if a linked collection of papers. It includes a lot of empirical analysis - but the theoretical and explanatory basis seems either over-complex or muddled.

Also, the 'normative' or ethical concern over the good-ness or bad-ness of social mobility is intrusive and distracting - indeed, I regard this normative/ethical prominence as the main reason for the unclarity of the books theoretic basis.

Of course there is a lot of very interesting piecemeal data and analysis, evidence of a lot of hard work and thinking; but in the end the SaR is less than the sum of its parts.

What do I take-away from the SaR, so far (given that there are some of the inner sections I have not yet read - and may never read)?

Well, what I take-away from this book is that the whole topic of 'social mobility' is a stupid subject, a pseudo-discourse, a false frame for analysis, and (most of all) a fake ethical principle.

Therefore, given the astonishing abilities of Gregory Clark - a man who operates at an intellectual level far above my own - what I want is for him to try again with this mass of data.

What I would most like to see is that Clark set aside the whole 'social mobility' garbage - and instead present an honest, clear and explicit causal analysis, based upon a sufficiently simple and lucid and coherent theoretical basis.


Silliest. Hairstyles. Ever.


Are now to be seen: 

In women - to make a crescent-shaped, four-inch-high lump out of a fold of long hair, then to place this lump into position on top of the head, posterior to the brow and parallel with a line between the ears.

In men, to shave the head into a 'Number 1' crew cut, except for a square of longer hair left on top of the scalp, which is gathered into a tiny pony tail - of perhaps an inch long, or a three inch ponytail folded-back onto-itself.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Do not despair! Damnation hangs by a thread.


We are indeed living in the end times, the latter days; yet Satan's triumph is a trick - and he lives in terror of its being seen-through. He has successfully induced the mass of Men to nihilistic pride and existential despair - but this is extraordinarily fragile.

Satan's meticulously-constructed vision of nothingness could suddenly shatter in anybody's life - or blow-away like a wisp of smoke.

It is not our salvation that is precarious: if we want it, we can have it (at least have salvation at some level, albeit not usually a high level - yet vastly better than anything we could now experience). Rather it is damnation that is precarious - because it must be chosen; and ultimately it must be chosen in knowledge of the consequences.

To induce people to choose damnation requires getting them to reject God's vision of their happiness and to prefer the gratification of pride at our power to spit in the face of deity; and to embrace such a despairing vision of nothingness that a perpetual self-satisfaction at our own defiance seems the best reality we can imagine.


[Damnation - for most of the people for whom it is a real possibility - is to accept as the ultimate reality and fundamental truth Satan's selections, his evaluations, his methods... most often, nowadays, as they are modeled in the totality and net nature of the mass media.]

The wonder-full New Testament video series on


A truly inspiring set of short dramatised video episodes dramatising some of the major incidents of the Gospels, currently continuing into the Acts of the Apostles, is incrementally being published on the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

These are so good, I could suppose that viewing them might be one of the best ways for a somebody to become a Christian; because the videos seem to provide not just a correct understanding of the essence, but the proper way to think about it.

At times I have felt my spirit transported back in time to experience the strange and unique impact of Jesus in a very personal way - this has not happened for me with any other TV or movie depiction of the Gospels - indeed, I generally dislike such things.

The difference with these LDS segments seems to be the seriousness and intensity with which they have been created - resulting in an extraordinary detail and focus; such that a small segment of a few minutes duration functions as a micro-world within-which (and from-which) events unfold in a deliberate and expansive manner. And this itself must surely have been how time with Jesus was actually experienced.

But perhaps the greatest achievement is that the concentration and focus is achieved in a non-theoretical manner - by story, personality, social actions and responses, atmosphere, setting, light... As an intellectual with a tendency to over-analyse and abstract - this is exactly what I need.

And it greatly increases the potential scope and impact of this video Bible series - far beyond the scope and impact of any analysis or abstraction.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Women as victims of modernity


In a superficial sense, women are pandered and pampered by modernity - in a deeper sense they are the primary victims.

I know that women are privileged above men in almost all human societies (there are more than half a billion women living in the culture that is the exception); and that this preference is biologically-based upon each specific woman being on average reproductively more valuable than each man (see The Woman Racket by Steve Moxon before disagreeing with this) - BUT when it comes to the fundamentals of life, women are in the situation of having been duped by modernity so profoundly that they do not even recognize but profess to enjoy the situation!


I will not weaken my case by stating too many pieces of evidence: two will suffice:

1. Among the wealthiest, healthiest, most able and (on average) most attractive women - those women who are free-est in our society, and perhaps in the history of the world - the fertility rate is about half a child per woman, and about half of these women choose not to have any child.

Somehow, women en masse have been duped into forgoing, indeed rejecting, the greatest of all earthly mortal gratifications: motherhood; for which nothing can remotely compensate - and what is worst of all they embrace their victimhood (at least they do in public).

2. Healthy young women are intrinsically the most valued, desired, and attractive entities on this earth - and yet, about half of these beautiful creatures strategically, deliberately and (what is worst) proudly mutilate, deface and uglify their bodies with tattoos - they pay to do this, they go through inconvenience and pain to do this, the damage cannot be undone - and yet they advertise and boast about and display their foolish choices and wicked actions (wicked - because gratuitously to mar beauty is indeed wicked - and to advertise it is to encourage wickedness in others).

The trend is recent, the scope and inclusiveness of the trend is increasing and spreading, the extent of self-inflicted defacement and mutilation are expanding year on year. 


How has this happened? I think the answer is fairly simple. Women calibrate their behaviour mostly by reference to the peer group of other women - in modernity this peer group has been hijacked by the mass media.

The only force powerful enough to overcome the peer group for women is religion; and in modernity religion has been rejected (or subverted into being merely a mouthpiece of the mass media).

And the mass media is evil - indeed in modernity it is the very source and focus of evil

The mass media has duped women into becoming willing mass victims - and the mass media has done so deliberately, from its intrinsic wickedness and its strategic onslaught upon good.

The reason for the greater success among women than men is simply that the mass media can successfully mimic (at the psychological level) the peer group of women and can shape their active, chosen behaviour.


(The mass media can and does destroy men - but as a rule men know their lives are miserable and wicked and futile; and do not embrace and celebrate and make political movements out of their desperate condition, in the way that women do.)


To do all this to women, the mass media first had to clear away religion by portraying Christianity as intrinsically anti-woman and a misery-inducing fraud, and imposing a secular world view - and this was accomplished very fully about fifty years ago - in the mid 1960s. 


Modern secular women are helpless before the mass media: psychologically, nothing stands between each modern woman and the pervasive, crushing, gleefully destructive power of the mass media.


Since the mass media is the source of evil in modernity, it can be equated with Sauron's One Ring  - which puts modern women into the situation of Frodo when he had become 'addicted' to the Ring.

So here - from The Lord of the Rings - is the situation of modern, secular, media-addicted woman:

No taste of food, no feel of water, no sound of wind, no memory of tree or grass or flower, no image of moon or star are left to me. I am naked in the dark, Sam, and there is no veil between me and the wheel of fire. I begin to see it even with my waking eyes, and all else fades.


Summary of the metaphysics of free will


I have written quite often about free will on this blog


The reason why people (why I myself) find it hard to grasp this subject is that it is metaphysical, not scientific; i.e. it is about our assumptions concerning reality - not about our investigations of reality.

Another problem is that the metaphysics of free will is that - to be real - the free will must be an unmoved mover, an uncaused cause.

It must be - so it is!


That places free will outside of science - because science is only concerned with caused things.

This means that science is necessarily incomplete - since there must BE uncaused causes, or else we have infinite regress in a-caused-b-caused-c-caused-d forever! - and a situation which nothing could happen (this was pointed-out centuries ago by Aquinas).


But free will conceptualized as an uncaused cause implies that each Man (and maybe other things) is to some extent an uncaused cause - and this creates difficulties for most philosophies, which are monist - and refer all causes back to one cause.

The conclusion seems to be that God has free will and is an uncaused cause; but the same also applies to each Man.

How can this be understood?

The only two rational conclusions I can see; are either

1. To state that God caused each uncaused cause: i.e. God caused (created) each Man to as an uncaused cause.


2. The theology of pluralism: that God and also each Man are alike in being uncaused causes, and 'always'-have-been. God and each Man are (at the level of being uncaused causes -  although not necessarily as 'persons') basic constituents in the universe.


The first is the solution of Aquinas, the second is the solution of Mormon theology. Each solution has advantages and problems - and different implications.

I personally favour the Mormon metaphysics, partly from temperament - but mostly because it solves the problems that are most dominant for me, and I find the consequences congenial; while the Thomist solution  seems too obviously paradoxical and leads to problems (such as the problems of pain/ suffering and moral responsibility) further down the line.

But both solutions are viable in some ways, unsatisfactory in others; and both are much preferable to the up-front, in-your-face nihilistic incoherence of denying the reality of free will!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

JRR Tolkien's The Silmarillion - audiobook reviewed


Has scientific research proved that human freedom is an illusion?

No, because science presupposes freedom.

If we are not free, and everything that happens is merely a consequence of what led up to it; then there can be no judgment, or decision, or choice; then science has no validity, and nor does this comment nor your response to it, and neither does anything else!

The very concept of a fact depends on freedom - therefore facts formally cannot disprove freedom.


Friday, 18 July 2014

Decline and fall of Mouse Utopia, reinterpreted by Michael A Woodley


What was the main problem for God?


God and Man are of the same basic 'kind' - which is evidenced by the fact (not metaphor) that He is our Father, we are His children and we are destined to be raised-up as 'Sons of God'.

Hence we can become, and are enjoined to become, like God.  

This is what God deeply desires to accomplish - He yearns for us to become like Him - enough like Him that we may each of us experience (what could be termed) a divine loving friendship with Him: and He with each of us.


But there is a problem...

Or rather, the 'problem' was not a problem - but a reality. The reality that Man's will is free.

Because Man really is an autonomous agent, then man can only be educated, enticed and persuaded; Man cannot (ultimately) be coerced into becoming like God, nor can God-like status be imposed upon Man.

We, personally, each of us as individuals, must consent to becoming like God: more than this, we must actively want to become like God.


So, this was the problem - the reality - confronting God when designing the earth and the basic nature of things.

Everything must work-around free will and autonomous agency as immovable facts.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Anthropological and historical evidence on very high rates of child mortality before the modern era (consistent with mutation accumulation as a mechanism for intelligence decline)


Noisy desperation and the sexual revolution


It seems to me that the mass of modern men lead lives of noisy desperation - and the women even more so.

The possibility, the threat, even a discussion of any way of limiting their sexual freedoms in (almost) any way, seems to evoke something like panic - followed by wild fury.

The reason is presumably that sex is what modern people live for, what keeps them going - and it is only this which keeps them going.

Not so much actual sexual fulfilment; but hopes and dreams and the merest potential possibility of sexual fulfilment; and they do not want there to be anything - not marriage, not lack of marriage, not a family or dependents or responsibilites, not love nor hate nor fear; not gender, not age, not illness; not geographical location; not job not lack of a job; not even religion - nothing but nothing but nothing can be allowed to stand in the path of their one and only hope of their one and only slender chance of the one and only something that sounds like happiness.

A society of unmatched comfort, convenience, resources - yet has there ever been so grossly impoverished a society of souls as are revealed by the modern attitude to sex?


Given that the 'evidence' is ambiguous, it is the primary assumption about Life which mostly influences the evaluation of whether existence is meaningful, or not


Does God exist, does Life have meaning and purpose? There is some evidence on both sides; the evidence is ambiguous...

Therefore, what is usually crucial is the assumptions we bring to the evidence - the assumptions shape the conclusion.

If we bring-to the evidence the inborn, spontaneous, natural assumptions (of early childhood) - the assumptions of animism (a living universe), the (theistic) reality of spirits, gods or God... then we become religious.

But if we bring-to the evidence the assumptions of modern, secular Leftist (hence anti-Christian) culture - then we become atheist, and indeed de facto nihilist in that we feel, suspect, believe and tend to act on the basis that reality is not really real.

Consequently, in order for modern secular people to become (really) religious, they must first recover their childhood assumptions.


A bit of folklore - Walter Willson's wettry tea


Walter Willson's wettry tea
Is good for dergs; but not for me


  • Walter Wilson's = a chain of food shops, based in Newcastle upon Tyne, which used to be found in prominent high street locations in many of the mining village of Northumberland. Now disappeared without trace.
  • wettry = watery
  • dergs = dogs

Recorded in the middle 1960s, from my Father - reported from his childhood of the 1930s (?) - Newbiggin by the Sea, Northumberland


Existentialism and choice


Colin Wilson c1956 - England's home-grown beatnik existentialist

The era of Existentialism, in the years following the 1939-45 World War, was the last time that atheists did any serious thinking about the human condition. Since then things have slipped back into shallowness, sloganeering, and sophomoric sniping.


My interest in existentialism goes back to a TV interview in the Men of Ideas series, in which presenter Bryan Magee spoke to the expert William Barrett - who authored Irrational Man. Or perhaps this was preceded by my finding the work of Colin Wilson - especially The Outsider.

 I grabbed onto existentialism exactly because it was 1. atheist; and 2. serious - tackling the most profound issues of life. In fact, I never much cared for any of the canonical existentialists except Nietzsche - I was (and still am) unable to get anything out of Kierkegaard), was bored and repelled by Sartre (who seemed dishonest), very interested by Heidegger but unable to plough through the turgid tedium of his prose (although I read dozens of books about him) - but nonetheless, I probably saw myself as an existentialist of some kind - gleaning bits and pieces here and there from novels, plays, poems, pictures...


The existentialist attitude to Christianity is hostile or bored. Nietzsche regards Christianity oxymoronically; as a powerful-powerlessness, a cancer of the will, puny yet able to bring-down civilizations and individuals - but this complex vision fell into two opposite, alternating assertions:

Christianity was merely the fairy-tale, wishful thinking of feeble-minded people who avoided confronting existential reality by escaping into daydreams;

and/or Christianity was a tyrannical, oppressive force of social authority and control, that crushed freedom and happiness.


But the 1950s existentialists seemed mostly to be bored by Christianity, and the assumption was that (perhaps for world historical reasons) it just didn't work anymore; therefore something new and stronger was needed.

But the existentialists were honest enough to perceive that in eliminating God, they had eliminated objectivity - and that therefore LIFE boiled down to a subjective choice - which was not regarded as The Truth, was therefore not binding on anyone else, and could not serve as a socially cohesive force.

What was the choice between?


The human condition falls into the good bits - happiness, insight, fulfilment, a sense of meaning and purpose...

And the bad bits where it is miserable, boring, painful, meaningless and pointless. The question was - which was real and which was the illusion?

Most existentialists chose to believe that the bad bits were underlying reality, and the good bits were temporary illusions; Colin Wilson chose to believe the opposite - which was why I found him a valuable author.

But the fact was that it was all down to choice, individual choice, subjective choice, contingent choice, impermanent choice: the whole weight of existence hinged upon this choice...

So, in the end, existentialism does tend towards despair - since sooner or later even the most pride-crazed mind (I am thinking of Nietzsche) becomes filled with terror at supporting the whole weight of existence by a mere act of impermanent, fragile choice - a choice which must be sustained at all times, through thick and thin, sickness and heath, youth and age, good times and bad...


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

What did Jesus save us from? Death


If I was asked this with not much time to answer I would have to say that Jesus saved us from death, or gave us eternal life - but the meanings of the key words and concepts of 'death' and 'eternal life' are not likely to be understood.

I might try to make a few points:

1. Before Jesus came, Men would die; after Jesus, they now have eternal life. All men now have eternal life. This is why the Gospels are called good news.

2. Death means that the body dies, and the soul is severed from it; and (before Christ) the souls of all Men (maybe a handful of exceptions) continued to live in a miserable, hope-less, demented, state which the Ancient Hebrews called Sheol, and the Greco-Roman pagans called Hades. This is what we have been saved-from by Jesus.

3. After the life of Christ, when we die the separation of body and soul is only temporary, then all Men are resurrected with a perfected body.

4. After resurrection each Man decides whether to accept Jesus's offer to live in Heaven (ultimately, a perfected earth, New Jerusalem) with Him, and also those we love who also accept this offer; or else to reject this offer and go our own way, on our own terms, existentially alone (Hell).

This is also called judgement. It is about whether we live in the society of the saved, and live by the rules of that society - which requires repentance and acknowledgement that we have been sinful; or not.

Men really have the power to defy Jesus Christ, to refuse to agree with God's explanation of Good and evil, beauty and ugliness, truth and lies, virtue and vice - and to assert the ultimate validity of our own perspective against that of God. We really can reject divine principle and rules, and live either alone or among those others who also rejected the society of the saved, its principles and its rules.

5. So, after Jesus Christ, nobody dies, everybody is resurrected, everybody gets to decide on their fate. Nobody is 'sent to Hell' - but some people choose not to accept Heaven.


A note on the viability (and desirability) of cousin marriage under historical conditions


The modern consensus is that cousin marriage is 'a bad thing' because of the higher probability of genetic disease among close-ish relative.

Cultures which practice cousin marriage certainly experience much higher rates of genetic disorders - especially those relating to rare and recessive genes. The clinical genetics wards in the UK are very obviously populated by the offspring of such cultures.

But, in the conditions of historical human selection, this doesn't matter.

Before about 1800, all human societies experienced very high rates of child mortality (probably about 2/3 or 3/4 of children died before maturity) - so most babies that were born would not have survived until adulthood.

Any significantly deleterious gene combinations resulting from relatedness would be eliminated by this harsh selective sieve.

So a somewhat higher rate of genetic diseases would barely be noticeable, and easily outweighed by the group benefits and social advantages which cousin marriages might be expected to bring.




More on the lop-sided genius


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

How intelligent does a creative genius need to be?


The moribund Orthosphere

It looks as if The Orthosphere group blog

has pretty much died, with no original posts for more than a lunar month.

It had a reasonably vigorous lifespan of a couple of years; the idea being launched on this blog:

But, like almost all group blogs, The Orthosphere has been somewhat less than the sum of its parts; and like all unmoderated blogs, the good commenters (of whom there were several) were generally overwhelmed by the spiteful, angry and semi-crazed.


In general, the basic idea of The Orthosphere was of a 'Mere' Christian blog of traditional religionists who opposed the sexual revolution and the liberalization and Leftist colonization and take-over of mainstream Christian churches.

However, the Orthosphere consensus soon became apparent that 'Mere' excluded Mormonism. This dismayed me greatly, because ever since I became a Christian, and indeed before I became a Christian, the inclusion of Mormonism within Mere Christianity has been a lynch-pin of my personal agenda.

So, that put me decisively out-with, and at-odds-with, the basic Orthosphere philosophy - even before I stopped trying to become Eastern Orthodox, fled the Church of England, and began calling myself a Theoretical Mormon .


Indeed, what I regard as the failure of The Orthosphere to generate and sustain a unified perspective and web presence among traditional Christians has highlighted for me, and helped persuade me of, the impossibility of the Mere Christian idea as a basis for any kind of 'movement' (and this 'movement' ideal also underlies the bigger and more influential First Things and Touchstone magazines and blogs) - and, in general terms, the political affiliated associated with Francis Schaeffer


Despite my own unaffiliated and un-churched status; my hopes are now pinned on specific Christian denominations in specific places; and I reluctantly accept that there is near zero prospect of active interdenominational cooperation and support among real (traditional, non-Leftist) Christians.

The best that can be hoped for among Christians is a non-aggression pact - but I'm not even sure whether than would work for long; given the strength of resentment between denominations, and the nature of the religious priorities which they demand.


Theological limitations of CS Lewis (my revered mentor)


I cannot be too grateful to CS Lewis for his role in my conversion to Christianity - which was substantial and decisive. Indeed, my own trajectory into Christianity was broadly similar - in that it was 'philosophical' and went from theism, to monotheism, to Christianity; and proceeded mostly by logical argument with myself.

However, Lewis's Christianity remained highly philosophical - and indeed Lewis's Christianity is actually based upon the acceptance of some abstract philosophical principles - in particular the Platonic/ Neoplatonic (Boethian) concept of eternity as outside time - which is required in order to make sense of reconciling free will and omniscience.

That this was foundational to Lewis can be seen throughout all his writings; and even in the Narnian books for children - when The Last Battle ends with a very detailed description of the philosophical basis of Christianity - and a story-analogy for the relationship between Heaven and the mortal world: Plato is even name-checked by The Professor.

So, there is no doubt in my mind that Lewis was not only a philosophical convert, but continued to base his Christianity on philosophical concepts which are abstract and eternal and unchanging.


That is no longer the case with me - my Christianity is now based-upon relational concepts and a narrative understanding of history - I see God as primarily a Father, our Father - our relative in some sense; and therefore a person with a certain disposition, motivation and intentions; rather than a metaphysical/ physical entity with certain properties.

I now understand God's love for me and for Man as essentially like love as I know it; rather than love being an ultimate force or structuring principle.

And I feel no need to have my Christianity underpinned by explicit and abstract philosophical assumptions - for example concerning time. My metaphysical assumptions (that is, my basic assumptions which structure the understanding of reality) are now not philosophical. Philosophy and logic are still there but not as foundations, but further down the line as properties.


So, I would now distinguish apologetic and evangelical tactics from strategy; Lewis's tactics for explaining Christianity and winning converts are clearly effective for some people in some situations - indeed among intellectuals he seems to have been the most effective individual writer of the twentieth century.

But this approach is limited, and not necessary - indeed far more converts have been made by evangelical Protestants and Mormons, whose method is (to summarize crudely, in order to conflate the two rather distinct systems) based upon establishing a felt personal relationship with Jesus Christ, as validated 'emotionally' rather than rationally.


So Lewis was my original Christian mentor, but I no longer regard him as the major influence - and indeed feel Lewis 'got stuck' in that primarily philosophical mode which happened to be the way that he became a Christian - but which is not necessarily or usually the best way for other people to become Christians and even less is it necessarily the best way to remain a Christian and embark on a path of spiritual progression or theosis.

(Of course Lewis never would have claimed exclusivity - he was just doing what he could, as best he could; and he did it better than anyone else).

However, I think Lewis was led to the error of believing that some Platonic philosophical assumptions (such as out-of-time eternity) were indeed foundational to Christianity as such - since he included them in his Mere Christianity broadcasts and books.

In this I think Lewis was simply mistaken - since he did not know - or to the extent that he knew, did not appreciate - that Christianity has been, is, and can be non-philosophical - underpinned and built upon other things than 'philosophical'' principles.


Indeed, philosophy never ever needs to be mentioned in Christian discourse! - unless people ask about it, or our troubled by it. 

Platonism is not Mere to Christians!

And this is something to be grateful for!


NOTE - It must be understood that I love CS Lewis the man and his writings, perhaps second only to his friend JRR Tolkien; I have read pretty much everything Lewis wrote - much of it more than once and some of it many times; I have also read a large swathe of biographical and critical material. So there is no need to defend Lewis against attack by me: I am not attacking him!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Were William the Conquerer's Norman invaders *much* more intelligent than the Anglo Saxons?


The magic of Keswick


One of the best places I know is Keswick, in the Lake District; which is the main place I have taken my holidays over the past thirty-five years.

I hope it is not tempting fate to say that the place has never let me down, but always proved potent at curing alienation, and reconnecting me with 'life'.

Keswick is England's nearest (and preceding) equivalent of Concord Massachusetts as the rural literary centre and birthplace of Romanticism - at various times Coleridge, Southey, De Quincey and Shelley lived there (and were visited by other major writers of the time); and the Wordsworths were just a couple of hours walk over the fells at Grasmere.

Keswick - located on the banks of the sublime Derwentwater, is also the centre for hill walking in the northern Lakes - which was an activity also pioneered by the Romantic poets - so the place attracts residents and visitors who have an outdoorish and also somewhat poetic cast of mind.

Keswick's other main claim to fame is The Keswick Convention, which is an evangelical Christian gathering that was very influential as a cross denominational grouping in Victorian times, and continues in some form - but although church groups visit throughout the year; Christianity is not, overall, a major presence (as it is in, for example, Oxford or Durham or some small Cathedral towns). The spiritual feel is of a general pantheistic/ neo-pagan type.

It is interesting to speculate why Keswick is such a magical place, because there are many factors against this - the fact it is a magnet for tourists, and seems to have a greater number and density of bed and breakfast 'hotels' than anywhere else I have ever been. (Yet these are, in practice, a plus; since the B&Bs tend to be owned and run by couples and families who are some of the nicest people I have met.)  And of course all of Keswick is not magical all of the time - mornings are best, and evenings next best.

Yet somehow the enchantment stands. The surrounding hills have a lot to do with it. The fact that much of the building uses local stone (a dark blueish green slate) probably helps. The type of people it attracts. And probably some cumulative atmosphere built-up over the centuries.

Also, Keswick is very English in a deep and traditional sense of that word, which includes resonances of Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) and Scandinavian - and that also is something I like very much.

How fortunate I have been to know and benefit from Keswick.


Sunday, 13 July 2014

Christians don't *really* believe that God is omnipotent (or, if He is, then He has a funny way of doing things)


The evidence is simple: the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

This implies that God the Father could not do what Jesus Christ has done - therefore He either was not, or is not, omnipotent (by any simple or sensible understanding of omnipotent).


With suitable qualifications, this is a powerful and basic truth; and may serve to help shake free from the deadly and paradoxical tyranny of over-focusing on God's abstract, absolute omnipotence.


Note: If this statement sounds fanciful - try to imagine how Christianity looks to a Non-Trinitarian strict-monotheist - who would surely find it incomprehensible that a genuinely omnipotent God (who supposedly created everything from nothing and makes absolutely everything happen absolutely according to His will); apparently cannot achieve what He wants to achieve for Man without the rigmarole of incarnating Jesus Christ as a Man at a particular point in history!

My impression is that the underlying situation is that real Christians don't really believe that God is omnipotent - but don't like to state that He is not ; are indeed scared to state that He is not omnipotent - since this sounds disrespectful, asking-for-trouble, and is certainly liable to lead to vehement accusations of blasphemy.

But I regard this as evidence in favour of the truth of the statement that God is not omnipotent - since to be deterred by fear, when God is our loving Father, suggests that omnipotence is in fact a demonically-inspired error; because to submit to a God conceptualized as being of un-limited power, from terror of the consequences of denying His power - is profoundly anti-Christian. It is indeed to subvert and invert God. 

That is why this error of omnipotence needs to be tackled head-on.


Saturday, 12 July 2014

The nature of dialectic - the necessity of the viva voce in evaluating real understanding


Following from

The method of enquiry depicted in Plato's dialogues is the dialectic - which bears some relationship to a procedure of question and answer - and this was taken up much later as a key term by Hegel then Marx; but I have never been able to understand what dialectic meant.

I read definitions, but they mean nothing to me - and in particular I could not understand why this method (and not another) was supposed to have a special kind of validity.

But it now strikes me that what is going on in Platonic dialogues should be considered in the light of what Socrates reported of his own motivation to do philosophy - in other words, the 'dialectic method' is simply the way of testing the knowledge of another person; to see whether he really understands the matter in hand.


In the Apology, Socrates describes his motivation as trying to find a man wiser than himself - to try and refute the Oracle at Delphi who stated there was nobody wiser than Socrates. So Socrates met and conversed-with various candidates for greater wisdom.

But how do you discover whether somebody is really wise, when they may be faking it, or they may believe that they understand - but really do not?


The only answer is that you need to 'apprentice' yourself to them - try to learn understanding from them to the extent that you can do it yourself.

Memorizing facts and relationships is not understanding. What is needed is to try and learn from the inside - so that having genuine understanding, new knowledge can be generated from that understanding.

It is a matter of understanding generating the answers; rather than a set of answers masquerading as understanding,


To know if an actual person himself understands, involves engaging him in a face-to-face, real time engagement - in a situation when whatever you get from that man comes from his mind (and not from a book).

The dialogue must be an open field, in which any topic can be addressed and probed to any depth.

This means that the would-be Master cannot simply prepare a set of answers in advance, but must respond to whatever subject at whatever length the questioner deems necessary; and must do this here and now.

Only if the Master knows the subject from the inside can he do this.


I take it that Euthyphro represents a (more or less) 'transcription' of the kind of thing Socrates did (since that seems to be the way this dialogue is presented, and indeed is its only justification since the dialogue doesn't really go anywhere).

And Euthyphro seems to correspond closely to what I have described above.


So, the essence of the dialectic is a real-time, interactive conversation between actual people (the dialectic cannot be done via books, or by one person). Its objective is to test knowledge. Its 'method' is that there is no constraint on the topic being discussed. Any theme may be introduced and any line of enquiry may be followed-up.

Dialectic supposes knowledge to be as located in a generative understanding and ramifying out through innumerable specific topics like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. Dialectic questioning moves between these specific topics at the twig ends, and follows back each answer through the larger branches and toward the central trunk (or real understanding, which itself cannot be directly observed).


Thus the dialectic represents a very ancient form of discourse, in which wisdom was understood only to be communicable and testable via direct, here-and-now, one-to-one (or one to just a few) human communication; and in which we can only know that someone else knows via real time and unstructured communication.

This is how the Master knows that his apprentice really understands the subject - and how a potential apprentice such as Socrates might evaluate a putative Master - and this is why all early university tests were simply discussions: 'oral', viva - or more fully viva voce = 'living voice' exams.

The dialectic 'method' is simply a thematic but unstructured conversation. That is why it is difficult for moderns to grasp the nature of dialectic; since moderns typically deny the necessity of the unstructured individual relationship in real education, testing and evaluation of understanding.


Friday, 11 July 2014

The superiority of bodily incarnation in Tolkien and Mormonisn


One of the most striking aspects of Mormon theology is that incarnation, to have a body, is regarded as superior to a spiritual existence.

This is - of course - spontaneous, universal common sense about divine things (something that seems to be innate to all children); but stands in contrast to the Platonic (and gnostic pseudo-Christian) traditions which regard the spiritual as superior to the incarnate - the the spirit as being 'dragged-down' by the body.

Mainstream Christianity has historically been ambivalent on the matter of the body - the essence of Christianity being focused on the incarnation of Christ and the resurrection of all Men, yet with strong trends in the opposite direction of regarding the body as bad, corrupt, weak; and the spirit as purer and more perfect.


For the Restored Christianity of Mormonism, humans lived a pre-mortal spirit life - and some humans chose to be incarnated as mortals, and to die; and one reason for making this choice is that to have a body is superior to being a disembodied spirit. Living as an incarnated mortal and then dying leads to resurrection - and to be resurrected (and perfected by Christ's atonement and our repentance) allows spiritual progression or theosis - to become divinised as 'Sons of God'.

So higher divine beings are incarnate beings - and therefore not just Jesus Christ but also God the Father are incarnate beings with bodies (this reality was also a revelation given to Joseph Smith).

The implication is that the body is an enhancement of power, not a diminution. This is quite an alien and hard-to-grasp idea for the Western intellectual consciousness - indeed, some mainstream Christians apparently regard it as self-evidently ludicrous and incoherent that God the Father should have a body - presumably because they feel this would be a limitation rather than an enhancement.


In understanding the idea of incarnation as an enhancement, the work of Tolkien provides some help. Tolkien's gods/ Valar - including the minor gods or Maia - are incarnate (the nature of Eru, God, The One, is not described).

In particular the history of Sauron suggests that power is enhanced by the focus and concentration provided by a body - and that the periods of time when Sauron's body had been destroyed (when he was caught in he ruin of Numenor, and after the One Ring was cut from his hand by Isildur) were times when he was weakest. At such times he was a spirit of malice, like a black mist; but he needed to condense and form a body in order to become powerful.

Also in Tolkien is the idea that the beauty of the body is linked with the spirit which inhabits it. Sauron was at first and for a long time exceptionally beautiful, which was part of his ability to 'charm' and deceive the Numenorean King Ar Pharazon, and the Noldorian Elven smith Celebrimbor. When Sauron's body had been destroyed in Numenor, he was unable to remake it as beautiful; and the situation was worse after he infused much of his power into the One Ring - these were weaknesses.

Analogously, Morgoth began as the greatest of the Valar, incarnated in a body, and beautiful - but as his corruption and evil work proceeded he infused much of his nature into Middle Earth itself, and his armies of creatures such as balrogs, dragons, orcs and trolls. He ended up shrunken, blackened and physically weakened - and it seems his body was destroyed and his discarnate spirit shut out from the world of living creatures.  


So, Tolkien's mythology provides an example of incarnation regarded as a focusing and enhancement of power; and a purely spirit existence as relatively weak and lacking in focus - and in this respect it is a helpful analogy for understanding what is (for Western intellectuals, at least)  an unusual aspect of Mormon theology.