Tuesday 28 February 2012

Objective and direct evidence of 'dysgenic' decline in genetic 'g' (IQ)


Reaction time (e.g. pressing a button as fast as possible in response to a light or sound) correlates with general intelligence 'g' - faster reactions correlating with increased intelligence.

However, in principle reaction time would be expected to be less affected by socio-cultural factors than standard IQ tests.

Therefore long term trends in reaction time might be an objective and direct measure of true, underlying general intelligence compared with normal IQ tests.


In particular, reaction time trends might resolve the apparent paradox between

1. the long-term decline in inferred underlying general intelligence due to differentially greater fertility among those with differentially lower IQ (the 'dysgenic' argument);

2. and the long term increase in the results of normal IQ tests (the 'Flynn effect' - or more accurately 'Lynn-Flynn' effect, since the observation was first published by Richard Lynn).


The dysgenic argument is that g has declined over the past century and a half and the increase in IQ scores is superficial - in other words genetic intelligence has declined even while phenotypic intelligence has increased; while the Flynn effect argument is that phenotypic increase in measured IQ also reflects underlying an increase in underlying 'genetic' g.


In essence, dysgenics advocates agree with the Flynn-effect advocates that phentoypic IQ has increased over the twentieth century but infer that underlying, genotypic IQ has declined.

However, the dysgenics viewpoint has had no objective, directly measurable evidence that genotypic IQ has declined.

Until now.


Dr Michael Woodley (http://publicationslist.org/M.A.Woodley) has pointed-out to me a paper by Irwin W Silverman of Bowling Green State University from 2010 which resolves this question, and provides convincing evidence to support the dysgenics argument.


Silverman IW. Simple reaction time: it is not what it used to be. American Journal of Psychology. 2010; 123: 39-50.

Abstract: This article calls attention to the large amount of evidence indicating that simple visual reaction time (RT) has increased. To show that RT has increased, the RTs obtained by young adults in 14 studies published from 1941 on were compared with the RTs obtained by young adults in a study conducted by Galton in the late 1800s. With one exception, the newer studies obtained RTs longer than those obtained by Galton. The possibility that these differences in results are due to faulty timing instruments is considered but deemed unlikely. Of several possible causes for longer RTs, two are regarded as tenable: that RT has been increased by the buildup of neurotoxins in the environment and by the increasing numbers of people in less than robust health who have survived into adulthood. The importance of standardizing tests of RT in order to enable more refined analyses of secular trends in RT is emphasized.


In a nutshell, Prof Silverman reviews data from Francis Galton between 1884 and 1893, extracted from a study of visual reaction times in 2,522 men and 302 women. The average reaction times were 183 milliseconds (ms) for men and 187 ms in women.

Silverman notes that in reviews of reaction time studies in 1911 (but not including Galton's work), it is clear that Galton's results were typical of the era - the range being from 151-200 milliseconds - median of 192 milliseconds.

By contrast, Silverman reviews twelve modern (post 1941) studies of visual reaction time (using a comparable methodology to Galton) - and the modern reaction times are very significantly longer - the total number of subjects was 3,836 - the mean reaction time was 250 milliseconds for men (SD 47) and for women was 277 ms (SD 31).

Looked at separately, in only one study, only for men, were Galton's average values contained within the 95 % confidence interval - in other words, in 11 of 12 studies and 19 of 20 comparisons - as well as the overall meta-analysis - the difference in reaction times reaches conventional levels of statistical significance.


Conclusion: Victorians had faster reactions, on average, than moderns.

Implication: Victorians were more intelligent, on average, than moderns.


It therefore seems that average reaction times have become slower over the past 100 years.

Since reaction times correlate with IQ then the measured decline in reaction times is consistent with a significant decline in general intelligence over the past century, as argued by the 'dysgenic' theorists.


Note added 30 April 2012.

I thought of this way of testing the dysgenic hypothesis using historical reaction time data in 2008, as shown by the following e-mail sent to Prof Ian Deary of Edinbugh University. However, at that time I could not find anything relevant in the online scientific literature, and gave-up looking. 


E-mail: Monday 07.07.2008 timed at 09:51

Dear Ian,

I'm sorry to badger you when you are still catching up but I have had an idea for measuring dysgenic change by using reaction times which I am keen to follow-up.

Since reaction time correlates with IQ, and since reaction time is an old physological measurement, it is possible that there are representative data on national population reaction times over the past 100 or so years.

Because high IQ people have a fertility considerably below replacement level, my prediction would be that average reaction time in developed countries should have become longer, and that the standard deviation would have become smaller (due to selective loss of shorter reaction times).

But probably somebody has already done it (perhaps your group?)?

Or maybe reaction time correlates with 'phenotypic' (or measured) IQ (and therefore gets enhanced by the Flynn effect) rather than correlating with underlying 'genotypic' IQ? - I don't know.

If it hasn't already been done - do you know of any databases of reaction times (or somebody whom I might contact about this?

Best wishes, Yours, Bruce


Monday 27 February 2012

Is delayed baptism of adults justifiable?


Acts of the Apostles Chapter 8:

36And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
 38And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 


Why do Catholic (Eastern and Western) Christian denominations, for whom baptism is regarded as a necessary sacrament for salvation - and who will 'pull-out-the-stops' rapidly to baptize a new born child in danger of dying - so often behave behave so casually about baptizing adult converts?

Why are adult converts made to wait weeks, months, a year before baptism or confirmation? 

Why does this delay in baptism sometimes prevent adult converts from receiving Holy Communion? - when (for a Catholic) the act of receiving Holy Communion is itself such a powerful help in the Christian life, and such a powerful help in understanding? 


(It is an excellent aspect of the Church of England guided by the Book of Common Prayer that a firm intent to be confirmed is sufficient to allow full participation in the Mass - I found the fact that I could take Holy Communion enormously helpful in my first months of Christian life - leading up to confirmation.)


Adults converts could die, be killed, become mentally incompetent - or fall away from faith - before becoming baptized if it is delayed and if the process of catechism (teaching the new convert) goes badly for any of a thousand contingent reasons (and with so much corruption and ignorance in the Churches and real Christian Priests sometimes being few and far between, this is highly likely to happen) the convert may be put off Baptism and/ or Confirmation by bad teaching and may fail to join the Church.


A priest meets a soul who is able to declare that Christ is Lord, to become a Christian - that is the moment ideally when he should be received into the Church - not delayed until after months of turgid, impersonal, bureaucratic 'instruction'.

Christianity is not meant to exclude those who have a low boredom threshold, or who lack  conscientiousness - yet it may be that membership requires the ability to tolerate months of impersonality, dullness and incorrect teaching.

The Church does not exclude innocent (and ignorant) new born babes from instant Church membership - why then should sinful adults - who need the Church so much more than the babes - then be effectively excluded by 'raising the bar' for admission so high?


It seems that there is nothing in principle to prevent a priest arranging a rapid, even instant, baptism or confirmation - as St Philip did with the Ethiopian Eunuch in the passage from Acts above and as has been normal in some times and places in the history of the Church - as soon as he is satisfied by direct and intense communication that the convert accepts Christ as Lord. 

Delaying baptism and confirmation are matters of expediency, of Church organization, and indeed of bureaucracy - and should not stand in the path of doing what is right for the soul of the convert, here and now, at the moment of choice.

This is not a matter of laxity; but would be to take baptism and conformation with real seriousness.


Note added: Another factor is that - as is the case for children - many adults in many parts of the world are cognitively incapable of understanding and remembering the abstract and detailed aspects of Christianity. This has, indeed, always been the case. (In legal terms, these people are 'unfit to plead' - cannot understand the nature of the legal process).

Yet such persons ought surely, to be admitted to the Church? Indeed, there is much in scripture to suggest that 'simple' people may make the best Christian - or at least that simple folk be the most assured of salvation.

This fact means that elaborate and specific catechism before baptism/ confirmation is something of a fraud since there cannot be any genuine comprehension or retention - a fraud not only due to its tendency to exclude those of short-termist and impulsive natures, but also because it renders baptism and confirmation inaccessible to those of low intelligence. 

H/T commenter StewartG 

http://orthosphere.org/2012/02/26/the-monumental-hubris-of-the-modern-heretic/ - 

which reminded me to blog on this topic.


Saturday 25 February 2012

Lent Study - modern mainstream Anglican style...


This is a notice from my nearest Church of England establishment, concerning their programme of Lent Study for this year:



Week 1: Caring for the environment

Week 2: Eradicate hunger and poverty

Week 3: Life before death

Week 4: Promote gender equality

Week 5: Building a global partnership


I don't think any comment or amplification is required. A course in this-worldly secular political correctness is regarded as suitable fare for the major devotional period of the Christian calendar.


This church is not generally considered to be especially 'liberal' by Anglican standards (ahem), although there are priestesses, modernised language services and they have joined this organisation:



What has all this to do with Christianity? What indeed. One can see that the organisation is lineally descended from Christian churches; that there are frequent references to God and Jesus - but since they have rejected the consensus of 2000 years whenever it conflicted with mainstream New Left radicalism, it is hard to be sure what the references really mean, or what surprising new discoveries about the nature of Christianity they will be announcing over the coming months or years.


When a Church is systematically deploying secular reasoning to evaluate Christianity, then can it be said to be Christian?

When this happens - week after week, in sermons, intercessionary prayers, and formal teaching - is not the net effect strongly anti-Christian.

This is what I term (as shorthand) an Antichrist phenomenon: by which I mean a phenomenon that contains enough Christian elements to be deceptively attractive to Good people, but which in its major thrust is working to subvert the Good and displace Christianity.


On the other hand, I attend another local 'mainstream' Anglican church (which is neither evangelical nor Anglo-Catholic) in a gorgeous medieval building - where in all the sermons and prayers - I have never heard anything but deep, traditional, sound teaching.

So all is not yet lost.


Note added - Don Colacho:

In their childish and vain attempt to attract the people, the modern clergy give socialist programs the function of being schemes for putting the Beatitudes into effect. The trick behind it consists in reducing to a collective structure external to the individual an ethical behavior that, unless it is individual and internal, is nothing.

The modern clergy preach, in other words, that there is a social reform capable of wiping out the consequences of sin.

From which one can deduce the pointlessness of redemption through Christ.



Friday 24 February 2012

Sheldrake's masterpiece?


I refer to the new, 2011, edition of Rupert Sheldrake's The Presence of the Past : Morphic resonance and the habits of nature.

I bought this book when it was first published in 1988, but didn't properly engage with it and indeed I seem to have lost my copy.

Instead of continuing to wait in hope of its turning-up, I recently bought a copy of the new edition which I have been reading over the past couple of weeks.

It is a superb achievement. Over 500 pages, yet without any padding: clearly yet densely written, scrupulously honest, reliable, careful and fair.

The book is, inter alia, a magnificant example of intellectual history - a crash course in the history of metaphysics and science.

Anyway - I found that all my questions and concerns generated by Sheldrake's other books were answered by Presence of the Past.

It is not the easiest of his books - and maybe it should not be the first book a reader tackles - but PotP is probably the best.


Time and Eternity


Yesterday I considered one of the major metaphysical distinctions - between stasis and change; another related matter is between Eternity and Time.

The distinction is one which underpins many of the apparent disputes among Christians - some are explaining Eternity from a perspective of Time, some (few, but influential) are explaining Time from a perspective of Eternity.

Probably, the perspective of Eternity is neither possible, nor necessary, nor helpful to most Christians - but among intellectuals it can be a stumbling block: then there must be some kind of model to relate Time with Eternity.


Time -  - Eternity

Directional causation: past causing present - - Stasis: no causation.

Secondary - - Primary

The true - - The Truth

Man - Christ (arrows pointing both ways) - God

Man (mortal, in time) - Angels (immortal, in time) - God (timeless)

Salvation - - Heaven

Plato - - Aristotle

Mystical - - Abstract

Monasticism - - Engagement

Eastern Orthodoxy explanations - - Roman Catholic metaphysics


Christianity does not need any elaborate or explicit metaphysics, as the teachings of Christ (such as the parables) demonstrate.

But many intellectuals crave at least a little explicit metaphysics! St. John the Apostle and Evangelist and St Paul the Apostle provide ample justification for some degree of intellectual engagment with metaphysics.

This craving can, I think, be satisfied - up to a point, and so long as it does not develop into an addiction...


If we adopt a Man's eye view, in Time; then Eternity, Heaven, can only be glimpsed 'from' Earth in revelatory moments of mystical communion - moments out-of-Time, when Time-stands-still, when our temporal perspective opens-out into a universal awareness that is contemplative and disengaged.

If we adopt a God's eye view, rooted in Eternity, stasis, universality - then this is at the cost of descending into abstraction - making a model to represent things (as I have done above), then attending to the model instead of the things it represents.


Although both approaches are valid, my strong instinct is that what Christians need strengthening here and now, is the first and 'Platonic' view - which regards Man as rooted in Time but with mystical glimpses of Eternity.

My feeling is that the second perspective is too prone to intellectualism and professionalisation, too close to secular modern Leftism, and too easily gets drawn-into the world.

The Aristotelian, metaphysical emphasis is perhaps too tempting for intellectuals, since it apparently guarantees them a special place of high status as philsophers - understanders and explainers.


By contrast, Platonism is much simpler, yet less coherent - and its problems are answered by moving-out from philosophy and into direct experience of the transcendent.

This is the necessity for mysticism. It it like a glue which (from a philosophical perspective!) holds-together, completes and makes coherent the very simple metaphysical system.

And mystical contemplation is an activity at which intellectuals are perhaps less adept than non-intellectuals. In a system of Platonism, authority lies with the contemplative monk, not the philosopher.


Aristotelian metaphysics in its Thomist, Christian form is perhaps the greatest intellectual achievement of Man. It may be the right perspective for some societies in some historical eras. But I think we need something which is very clearly distinct from the prevailing trends that we try to resist.

Simple mystical Platonism should suffice as a metaphysical system - especially beneficial because it shifts authority away from intellectuals and because its defects so obvious point to the necessity for completion by experience: especially prayer (plus liturgy and sacraments - where available).

We need more monasteries, not more universities; more hermits, not more professors!


And also because simple Platonic Christianity is so clearly other-worldly.

In a life of endemic and numbing distraction, we need continually to be reminded that the Earth is not our home; Heaven is our home.

From Earth, and for most people, Heaven can only be glimpsed, and that briefly.

And that is precisely why the Earth is not our home.


Thursday 23 February 2012

Reality is a lake, not a river – stability versus dynamic change

Reality must ultimately be stable and eternal; dynamic change must therefore be a secondary and subordinate phenomenon: reality therefore is a lake not a river.


The observable world is one of change, of growth and decay, of birth and death. 

Yet knowledge of reality requires stability, eternity and universality – or else knowledge is merely delusion, and will (sooner or later) be swept away by the process of change.

In this world, therefore, knowledge requires that there must, somewhere and at sometime (but not here and now), be a stable world of eternal, universal and unchanging reality.

This primary insight is the basis of all philosophy.


The secondary matter is then to create a structure to model the relation between stable and dynamic.

There are only two possibilities: 

1. that ultimate reality is stable (and dynamic change is secondary), or 

2. that ultimate reality is dynamic (and stability is secondary, local, temporary, contingent).


But only one of these possibilities is coherent: that ultimate reality is stable.

Because if ultimate reality is claimed to be dynamic then this is self-subverting: there is no real knowledge, only delusion, therefore the knowledge that reality is dynamic is not real, it is a delusion.


However, modernity has made that incoherent choice, the wrong choice, because for modernity the ultimate reality is dynamic change, particularly that the ultimate reality is evolutionary change.

Therefore, modernity cannot engage with reality. Perceived knowledge is inevitably contingent, local and temporary, it is subjective and unstable – all we know (and this knowledge is lost as soon as articulated) is how we feel in the present moment.

Experience is the contingent sequence of such moments – neither linked with the past not pointing to the future.

Therefore modernity is leading us into disaster


For modernity, therefore, reality is a river, dynamically changing, sweeping away all apparent stability and order.

Any still pools in the river are merely temporary states, and are misleading representations of the underlying reality of continual flow and change: all still pools will sooner or later be changed – will be relocated transformed, disappear... 

When humans are reasoning, when humans think they know something, they are merely operating within one of these contingent still pools.

When reality is a river, all knowledge is ultimately a delusion – at best something that has historically been pragmatically valuable in a particular (unique) still pool existing in a specific place for a limited time – all of which is presumably soon to be changed.


But this is incoherent.

Reality must be placid: a lake – but a lake which contains dynamic activity...

Imagine a placid lake – but which contains dynamic swirls of movement.

The earth and all we observe is that dynamic swirl within the placid lake.


But whence comes the dynamic swirl in the placid lake?

While it is easy to visualise (because we have seen it) that a flowing river can generate, albeit temporarily, still pools here and there – how could a placid lake generate dynamic swirls in particular parts of its water? How could stability generate change?

The answer is that of course it cannot

One cannot get change from stability; at least, not by any natural means.

Therefore, the (true) model of reality as stable means that super-natural means must be the cause of dynamic change.

In other words ‘a god’ must be the unmoved-mover that generates change from stasis.


This is the basis of coherent metaphysics: the model of reality must primarily be one of eternal and universal stability, secondary reality is that world of observed change, and a god is necessary.

This basic metaphysical model is what is needed - minimally - to make sense of life, and to live in the world.


Monday 13 February 2012

Regular blogging suspended for a while


I am working on another book - about the relationship between Christianity and Evolutionary Theory (a subject on which I have posted here a few times - if you search 'evolution').

I may blog sporadically, and probably I will get back to daily blogging in a couple of weeks.


What to do when forced to be corrupt


If you are a teacher in a situation as described below, a situation where the methods of evaluation (exams) allow cheating and consequently there is a lot of cheating of various levels and types:


If you are in this situation which strongly encourages lying, and rewards clever lying - and hence is evil, then...

What should you actually do?


The most obvious responses are

1. to go along with things and join in the usual excuses.

This is obviously the major means by which moderns are corrupted - people are made complicit with corruption, and given the title of hypocrite unless they adjust their ideals to fit what they actually do.

So corrupt people simple deny that what they do, what they are coerced to do, is corruption.  


Or 2. The 'obvious' alternative is to fight every step of the way through the system - to pick up the most inept examples of cheating and try and impose exemplary punishments as a deterrent (recognising that you will be fought every inch of the way).

But in reality the second is on the one hand futile - a diversion of potentially productive effort into Quixotic behaviour, and on the other hand a false reassurance which in fact has the opposite effect.

However, the situation of dishonesty within bureaucracies, institutions, organisations, corporations etc. is simply another instance of the basic, fallen human condition; in which we cannot stop from sinning.


We cannot stop sinning, but what we must do is:

1. Acknowledge and Repent our sins, ask Forgiveness.

2. Do not defend sins: acknowledge the situation, do not excuse the situation, do not promote the sinful situation.

If you are being coerced, the acknowledge to yourself and others that you are being coerced and (without exaggerating) the scope and nature of that coercion - so that it is clear to yourself and others what was your 'price'.


When asked why we do this, why we go-along-with that - we ought to reply, we believe it is wrong because we are being forced to do such, or bribed to do such.

But we should not ever defend the wrong that we have been forced or bribed to do. 

And we should do no more than we have to do.


Aside from Saints, we all have a price, and it may be a low one - but being bullied or bought-off need not threaten salvation if it is honestly acknowledged, repented - if we state our weakness and ask forgiveness for our weakness.

But that is a very different matter from the usual business of serving evil, excusing evil, covering-up for evil, pretending that we like evil and that it really is Good...


Dishonesty breeds dishonesty - the example of examinations


Modern UK examinations are easy to cheat.

(By examinations I mean any work where marks count for qualifications.)

Those who set the exams are dishonest about this, pretending that there will not be cheating.

Therefore, many people cheat - which is dishonest.

That there is cheating, is obvious, and known - but it is dishonestly pretended that there is not cheating.

Yet cheating is endemic, and obvious - always present at high prevalence.

But because of this pervasive dishonesty - all round and on all sides; cheating must be proven, with legal standards of proof.

Anyone who detects cheating is punished, by lots of extra work and an assumption of cruelty and malice - the crime being to reveal reality in a system of dishonesty.

Lies beget lies beget lies - people are corrupt and know they are corrupt and come to accept that corruption which is an evil, of course - but the original fault was with the rulers, the leaders, the teachers who made it easy, profitable, unpunished to cheat in exams.


Sunday 12 February 2012

Traherne's argument from desire


From Thomas Traherne - Centuries of Meditations


Two things in perfect Felicity I saw to be requisite and that Felicity must be perfect, or not Felicity. The first was the perfection of its objects, in nature, serviceableness, number, and excellency. The second was the perfection of the manner wherein they are enjoyed, for sweetness, measure, and duration.

And unless in these I could be satisfied, I should never be contented: Especially about the latter. For the manner is always more excellent than the thing.

And it far more concerneth us that the manner wherein we enjoy be complete and perfect, than that the matter which we enjoy be complete and perfect. For the manner, as we contemplate its excellency, is itself a great part of the matter of our enjoyment.


In discovering the matter or objects to be enjoyed, I was greatly aided by remembering that we were made in God's Image.

For thereupon it must of necessity follow that God's Treasures be our Treasures, and His joys our joys. So that by enquiring what were God's, I found the objects of our Felicity, God's Treasures being ours. For we were made in His Image that we might live in His similitude.

And herein I was mightily confirmed by the Apostle's blaming the Gentiles, and charging it upon them as a very great fault that they were alienated from the life of God, for hereby I perceived that we were to live the life of God, when we lived the true life of nature according to knowledge: and that by, blindness and corruption we had strayed from it.

Now God's Treasures are His own perfections, and all His creatures.


The Image of God implanted in us, guided me to the manner wherein we were to enjoy. For since we were made in the similitude of God, we were made to enjoy after His similitude.

Now to enjoy the treasures of God in the similitude of God, is the most perfect blessedness God could devise. For the treasures of God are the most perfect treasures, and the manner of God is the most perfect manner.

To enjoy therefore the treasures of God after the similitude of God is to enjoy the most perfect treasures in the most perfect manner. Upon which I was most infinitely satisfied in God, and knew there was a Deity because I was satisfied.

For in exerting Himself wholly in achieving thus an infinite Felicity He was infinitely delightful, great and glorious, and my desires so august and insatiable that nothing less than a Deity could satisfy them.


This spectacle once seen, will never be forgotten. It is a great part of the beatific vision. A sight of Happiness is Happiness.

It transforms the Soul and makes it Heavenly, it powerfully calls us to communion with God, and weans us from the customs of this world. It puts a lustre upon God and all His creatures and makes us to see them in a Divine and Eternal Light. I no sooner discerned this but I was (as Plato saith, In summâ Rationis arce quies habitat) seated in a throne of repose and perfect rest. All things were well in their proper places, I alone was out of frame and had need to be mended.

For all things were God's treasures in their proper places, and I was to be restored to God's Image. Whereupon you will not believe, how I was withdrawn from all endeavours of altering and mending outward things. They lay so well, methought, they could not be mended: but I must be mended to enjoy them.


The Image of God is the most perfect creature.

Since there cannot be two Gods the utmost endeavour of Almighty Power is the Image of God. It is no blasphemy to say that God cannot make a God: the greatest thing that He can make is His Image: a most perfect creature, to enjoy the most perfect treasures, in the most perfect manner.

A creature endued with the most divine and perfect powers, for measure, kind, number, duration, and excellency is the most perfect creature: able to see all eternity with all its objects, and as a mirror to contain all that it seeth : able to love all it contains, and as a Sun to shine upon its caves: able by shining to communicate itself in beams of affection and to illustrate all it illuminates with beauty and glory: able to be wise, holy, glorious, blessed in itself, as God is; being adorned inwardly with the same kind of beauty, and outwardly superior to all creatures.


From Thomas Traherne - Centuries of Meditations, Third Century



This is the same argument as oft used by CS Lewis - especially in Surprised by Joy; and by JRR Tolkien - especially in On Fairy Stories and The Marring of Men



On the other side of repentance


There is no possibility of averting the collapse of the West without explicit repentance: we can only be saved by repentance.


But then, after repentance, what would we need actually to do? What specific things?

Ah - that we don't know - that is on the other side of repentance.

Only if we repent will we find out what we need to do.


(There is no point at all making plans about it now. The plans we could make on this side of repentance could only be bad plans.) 


But if we must repent, what must be repented?

If it is merely that we repent our soft-heartedness or irrationality then we will get cruel secular fascism, nothing better.

But if we repent our sin - that is to say our worldly, materialistic, secular hedonism; which is the state of being turned-away from God and towards our own gratification - then we may eventually get something much better than what we will lose.


Saturday 11 February 2012

Contemporary insanity and things coming to a point


If, as CS Lewis said in That Hideous Strength, history has been things coming to a point, with Good and evil being more and more obviously different - this may explain what seems to me the insanity of much contemporary life.

Selfishness and laziness are understandable, but what I see is futile, industrious, meddling self-harm with its origins in the Western elites.


I'm thinking of international affairs such as military and political action in the Middle East and legal and economic action in the European Union; I am thinking of personal activities at the level of how people treat their bodies, dress and spend their leisure.

I cannot make sense of these - sure, I can read or myself can spin master theories, but what it really looks like is the chaotic mass effect of individual instability.

What it looks like is a world gone mad - in some new kind of madness, far removed from traditional causes of conflict based in selfishness and short-termism.


If things are coming to a point, then there is less and less of a neutral or grey area in-between the sides of Good and evil - and this applies to everything.

The good is rare, difficult and always comes with a up-front cost - so anything else will in fact be evil.

Anything without an up-front cost will be evil.

(Of course, this principle is not reversible.)


I am not talking about people being purely good or evil, that would be nonsense because everybody is mixed.

But I am talking about the sides they are on: whether mixed people serve Good or serve evil is getting clearer and clearer.


All the moderate people are now, actually, in fact, all on the side of evil. Evil has made sure of this.

So, as a specific example, if you are appointing somebody to a job as a scientist - they will either be a real scientist (truth seeking, truth telling) or they will not be a real scientist - in which case they will serve evil, intrinsically.

Real scientists are now very obvious, they stand-out, they do not fit-in. They are very rare. All the rest, from the outright frauds to the decent, modest, respectable, pliant, pleasant mass - are in fact working against truth.


In government, what needs to be done is based on reality - reality is unitary.

We know reality, but we do not know it very precisely.

And reality is experienced, not abstract.

What needs to be done is usually very clear - but not very precise. What needs to be done is always an aim not a policy - and the aim is clear, and success or failure in attaining this aim is easy to evaluate.


A good governer will perceive reality and do what needs to be done, which will not be precise, not statistical, not moderate nor balanced - and he will do nothing else but aim at what needs to be done, because anything else is to violate the unitary relationship between reality and human experience.

The good, what ought to be done, the truth - is absolutely single, simple and exact (although specific policies do not flow from this clarity); but the alternatives to the good are unlimited, complex, balanced, nuanced... that is the property of evil in our time.

Once you have decided not to do the Good thing, the possibilities for debate and compromise are endless...

Evil is that which pretends to precision but is inexact - it is highly specific, but is unreal.


So matters are lucid.

The 'centre', the domain of 'decent' and 'moderate' and 'sensible' folk fitting-in - is now the major domain for the service of evil.

The Good also is lucid.


The genuinely complicating factor is human individuals; who remain - as always - mixed; and therefore are moving in one direction or another - towards service to the Good, or else towards service to that which opposes good.

Every choice pushes them in one or other direction.

And with every choice nowadays, it is more and obvious which is Good and which is evil: which is truth and which dishonesty, which is beauty and which ugliness, which is virtue and which is vice.


Thus all mainstream modern discourse operates within the domain of evil:

all mainstream modern discourse is a deliberation between shades and types of evils:

modern discourse is therefore a sequence of forced-choices between dishonesties, uglinesses and vices.


In modern discourse Good is 'off the table'.

Clearly there is only one proper thing to do:

Good must first be put back on the table, then Good must be chosen.


Sir Thomas Browne on the motives for almsgiving


This generall and indifferent temper of mine, doth more neerely dispose mee to this noble vertue.

It is a happinesse to be borne and framed unto vertue, and to grow up from the seeds of nature, rather than the inoculation and forced graffes of education;

yet if we are directed only by our particular Natures, and regulate our inclinations by no higher rule than that of our reasons, we are but Moralists; Divinity will still call us Heathens.


Therfore this great worke of charity, must have other motives, ends, and impulsions: I give no almes to satisfie the hunger of my Brother, but to fulfill and accomplish the Will and Command of my God;

I draw not my purse for his sake that demands it, but his that enjoyned it; 

I relieve no man upon the Rhetorick of his miseries, nor to content mine own commiserating disposition, for this is still but morall charity, and an act that oweth more to passion than reason.


Hee that relieves another upon the bare suggestion and bowels of pity, doth not this so much for his sake as for his own: for by compassion we make anothers misery our own, and so by relieving them, we relieve our selves also.


It is as erroneous a conceite to redresse other mens misfortunes upon the common considerations of mercifull natures, that it may bee one day our owne case, for this is a sinister and politick kind of charity, wherby we seem to bespeak the pities of men, in the like occasions...


From Religio Medici - http://penelope.uchicago.edu/relmed/relmed.html

Emphasis added and re-paragraphed.


Browne is clarifying that, from a Christian perspective, it is not valid to give alms because a person needs resources, nor is almsgiving Christianly valid from reasons of compassion, nor is it valid to give alms on the basis that 'there but for the grace of God go I' - nor that we may ourselves be in the same condition at some time and would then want our sufferings to be alleviated.

I think Browne is right.

And this means that many Churches often uses illegitimate means to persuade people into charitable-giving.


Friday 10 February 2012

How should a genius behave?


This seems to me the big question for Goethe and the major German writers which followed him.

For instance, Nietzsche and Thomas Mann (in his essays, and implicitly in some of the novels) seem to be focused on the matter of 'how should a genius (such as myself) behave?'

That, of course, all of these were indeed real geniuses only makes matters worse!

Germany was the most intellectually advanced of the Western nations. Its culture exemplified at the highest level that early modern phenomenon of unchecked pride; pride inverted to become a virtue

- in which the genius consecrated his talents, not to God (as Bach had done), but to his own autonomous and self-worshiping genius.


The future of Mormonism - recreating an independent state?


Readers will know that I am well-disposed towards Mormons, and I was pleased to see there have been a couple of good articles about Mormons lately:




What attracted my interest to Mormonism in the first place (although my attention was retained by other aspects) was 'sociological': that they were a modern group - well-integrated with contemporary society in terms of being high status, highly educated, high earning, holding many responsible positions of leadership, exceptionally well-behaved - yet Mormons have had larger-than replacement-size families, and the richer and more devout the Father, the larger was the family (pretty much all Mormons use contraception, so these all represent deliberate choices).


Yet, having since become a reactionary (at least in aspiration), I now wonder whether Mormonism is equipped to survive: since I suspect that moderate 'conservative' or 'Republican' views cannot survive rule by Leftism/ Political Correctness - we now perceive that 'sensible' moderates will always compromise with the Left until they have nothing left to compromise on.

What - if anything - may survive is the intransigent, immoderate, extremist, anti-modern religious Right (although not necessarily nor probably the Christian religious Right - at least not in the UK and Europe).

So, now my concern is that the recipe for Mormon success, the special mixture of modern/ integrated and traditional/ patriarchal - may have made the religion just too expedient (when compared with the founders of the LDS church, who certainly were intransigent!).


Speculation time.

I suspect that the Mormon diaspora is unlikely to survive - what will be critical is what happens in the Mormon heartland around Utah, in face of an ever more aggressive and intrusive Federal Leftist government.

(By Leftist government I, of course, include the mass of mainstream Republicans. US Federal government is intrinsically Leftist. And modern Leftism is intrinsically secular.)

The choice would seem to be either to re-create an independent Mormon state - which Utah was originally - and to call upon all Mormons to come and dwell there; or else become assimilated to the ever more Leftist, secular, materialist norms of the USA.


I have no doubt that a Mormon state would be highly viable in all vital respects - and would be large enough in population - probably around 10 million.

But what I wonder is whether this really is a choice for modern Mormons.

Whether the LDS Church, or its leadership, is nowadays capable of such an extreme and intransigent step as making an independent State.

It would be a U-turn on the expansionist, assimilationist, quietist strategy of about a century - with Mormons supposed to 'plant' themselves and found 'colonies' all over the world. It would mark a return to the consolidation and fortification of the Brigham Young era and after; when Mormon converts were supposed to migrate or emigrate to live in Utah.

The very success of Mormons in US national life means they have a lot more to give-up now.


If presented, now, at one crisis, with a clear and immediate choice between the LDS Church or the Federal government, between secularism and personal success or the spiritual life and hardship, Mormons would no doubt choose the Church, the spiritual life and hardship.

But it will not happen like that.


Quantitative difference, when non-trivial, is qualitative - a Kristor comment


A comment by Kristor from:


In which he explains why things that are similar are in fact, and necessarily, different in their essence. 


Dogs clearly take some responsibility.

My dog Rosie is capable of lying, and of shame at the way she has behaved. Otherwise, the utterance, “Bad dog!” would have zero meaning to her, or therefore to me. It would mean nothing intelligibly different than “Good dog!” or “Squirrel!”

And, meaning nothing different to Rosie, none of these utterances of mine would affect her differently. But they do. She responds appropriately to my utterances, if not intelligently.


But this is very far from saying that she is equal in dignity to me.

For, because I can comprehend my actions vis-a-vis the world far more completely than she, so I can take a more informed responsibility for my actions.

The more comprehensive the information of my actions, the more efficacious they are, and the greater my dignity (and my liberty).


My dignity as a man, then, as different quantitatively from hers, is ipso facto different qualitatively, in just the same way that possessing $10 is qualitatively different from possessing $1,000,000.

The bottom line: a quantitative difference just is a qualitative difference; for quantity is a quality.

Where the quantitative difference is trivial, it is negligible; where not, not.

It all comes down to a judgement of importance. The difference of intelligence between me and Rosie puts us in different categories of things, just as the difference of mass between Jupiter and Sol puts them in different categories.


Categories are porous, to be sure, so that taxonomies are bound upon close examination to look somewhat adventitious, in one way or another; but if categories were not real, there would be no membrane to have the pores, no way to arrive at the conclusion that the boundaries are somewhat arbitrary.

You can’t say that things are close to each other, or similar, without implicitly admitting that they are truly and fundamentally and essentially different.

Again, it all comes down to a judgement about how important those differences are.


Thursday 9 February 2012

The insoluble mystery of The Simon Dickens Show


When I was an infant at primary school, boys would gather kids to play games by marching around the playground in a line, with their arms over each others shoulder, chanting the name of the game over and over. Like 'Up and down, up and down...' or 'Brit-tish-bull-dogs, 'Brit-tish-bull-dogs'.

A boy who wanted to join the game would join the end of the line, putting his arm over the shoulder of the last kid, and join the chanting.

These lines might end up with a dozen or twenty kids in them for a mass game like Up and Down, sweeping up virtually all the kids by a kind of physical intimidation. Or else there might be a small group of three or four who would go off an play a game amongst themselves.

One such game was The Simon Dickens Show - announced by the chant:

'All in who wants to play the Si-mon Dickens Show, All in who wants to play the Si-mon Dickens Show...'

This line never amounted to more than about four boys, but the game continued week after week.

What was it? Simon Dickens was a kid who had attracted a small clique of devoted disciples, and I disapproved of this. I regarded him as being conceited for naming a game after himself: such things should not be encouraged.

So I never joined the game, never found out what happened in The Simon Dickens Show although I burned with curiosity to find out.

I seems I shall go to my grave with this mystery unsolved.. .


The truth of the Church of England - from Charles Williams


Of the Inklings who were Anglicans but not clergy e.g. the Lewis brothers, Coghill, Dyson... the only one who seemed to have a very strong and specific affiliation to the Church of England was perhaps the one who might have been thought the least likely to affiliate to any church at all: Charles Williams.

I find myself returning to re-read a particular passage in the early, biographically incomplete but deeply insightful, memoir of Charles Williams by  Alice Mary Hadfield (An Introduction to Charles Williams, 1959).

This passage almost perfectly expresses (or rather, enabled me to understand) the nature of my own positive affiliation to the Church of England - such as it is:


Extracted from pages 131-133. The passage relates to 1939:

Charles Williams remained an unswerving son of the Church of England, and was never seriously tempted by any other centre.

For doctrine he always preferred the whole to the part and said that in claiming to be the only holder of the truth the Roman Church was separated from the Universal Church.

He opened out and deepened his position in the Church of England until it was one through which all his thought could pass, and had no hidden feeling that a more valid authority belonged elsewhere.


He was convinced that one could not be convinced of the existence of God. One could decide to believe, but not more.

Therefore he preferred to be a little able to choose what he would decide to believe than to have one final definition in matters which he thought could divide and had divided, as for example over the essentially hidden mode of the working of grace in sacraments.

The English method of having certain shades of belief open within one constant framework which itself fitted into the shape of the whole Church was one which he particularly valued.


He would deny nothing. Rome, Byzantium, Canterbury, Jerusalem, were to him diocese of Christendom, differing in glory but all sustained by Christ.

But of the great variants of Christendom C.W. chose the Church of England for himself deliberately.


Her acceptance as a living principle that belief is a tension between different poles was part of his deepest makeup.

I have seen him march up and down his office for half an hour castigating newspapers and superior articles which said that the Church of England did not know itself what it believed.


The Report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine in the Church of Engalnd, published in 1938, was a matter of deep interest to him.

He would pull a copy from the shelf in his office and walk up and down turning over the pages and declaiming:

'Three main schools of traditional thought are to be distinguished.... The first school teaches that ... on these grounds... Most clearly opposed to that is the teaching... on these grounds... A doctrine between the two affirms that... The strongest Anglican tradition is to affirm that ...'

And then he would talk with his fullest emphasis on the theme that to say that a man could either believe this, or that, giving grounds for each, was totally different from saying that he could believe anything he liked, or that no one knew what he should believe.

He never tired of pointing out that to refuse extreme of belief need not be compromise but accuracy, and a more intellectually valuable state for those who operated it than to be drawn by either lodestone.


Both the deep sources of the English faith nourished his mind.

He was Protestant for his basis in the Word, in personal conversion, experience and communion, and in salvation by faith.


On the other hand his vision was always of the Church Catholic and universal.

His sense of the sacramental character of all that we see, touch, and do, grew with him throughout his life. Everything expressed another nature.

He carried this to extreme lengths in his perceptions of domestic life and love, and in religious terms he exhibited always a natural adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.


He very much disliked arguments on the doctrine of Transubstantiation, but if pressed to a statement he would say that, knowing nothing of real theology, his sense of the true existence of matter in its won right, of each human body, of bread, and of non-supernatural goodness, kept him from that final abandonment.

Body was not dream to him, but reality, as were all material details; and, adore the indwelling presence as he did, finally he said that Our Lord maintained the material reality of the consecrated bread, and did not break through.

His feeling was in fact nearer the consubstantiation of the Orthodox belief.


A key section for me is: "to say that a man could either believe this, or that, giving grounds for each, was totally different from saying that he could believe anything he liked, or that no one knew what he should believe. He never tired of pointing out that to refuse extreme of belief need not be compromise but accuracy, and a more intellectually valuable state for those who operated it than to be drawn by either lodestone."


My own attachment to the Church of England is mostly historical by a sense of direct, mystical contact.

I am - of course - extremely dissatisfied with the current, institutional Church of England; I regard it is thoroughly corrupt and anti-Christian in overall tendency.

(In this it is merely typical of all modern powerful institutions.)


The institutional C of E has, since Charles Williams died in 1945, tragically lost those subtle theological characteristics which CW so valued.

Perhaps Archbishop of Canterbury (1961-74) Michael Ramsay was the last well-known exemplar of what C.W. refers to; and he was also the last leader personally to be loved for his goodness, his holiness (although he utterly failed to push back the wave of secular modernity which has now engulfed the Church).


The strain of trying to include the views of non-Christian bishops, and secular-motivated changes, broke the subtle mechanism of finding a middle way. There is no middle way between the primacy of Christianity and the primacy of secular, materialist hedonism.


Yet even now the mechanism works with respect to Anglo-Catholics and Evangelical Protestants in the Church of England.

Although these are superficially regarded as extreme poles of the Church - on opposite sides with respect to the Reformation; since they are both Christian, both are - in principle as well as in practise - compatible.

Thus I feel no sense of compromise from worshipping at both types of church in the same week - attending midday mass at an Anglo Catholic church, or at a church using the Book of Common Prayer; and Sunday service at an evangelical Anglican church.

No compromise, the same core; but a difference in emphasis.

Indeed, the two - together in one mystical English Church - much fuller in Christianity than either could be individually.


Wednesday 8 February 2012

Harry Potter is a Saint - literally


Is Harry Potter a Saint?

The answer is a clear and resounding yes!

By the end of The Deathly Hallows, Harry is indeed a Saint - indeed the seven book series is an account of the making of a Saint who can save the world from the personification of evil.


Of course Harry does not start out as a Saint when we first meet him as a 10 year old boy - but following his numerous trials and tests, symbolic deaths and rebirths, and actual death and restoration to life, by the last pages of the last book Harry really has become a Saint:


In saying that HP is a Saint I am aware I appear to be contradicting both JK Rowling and John Granger (aka The Hogwarts Professor), both of who have categorically stated that Harry is 'no saint'.

Who am I to go against the author and the premier Potter Scholar?

My understanding is that JKR and JG would not disagree with my explanation of why Harry becomes a Saint, but in saying HP is 'no saint' they were trying not to be misunderstood by the average reader - because the average reader profoundly misunderstands what is a Saint.


JKR and JG are also probably trying to be clear that for most of the series Harry is not a Saint, indeed nothing like a Saint.

But that applies to many real Saints too - for much of their lives they were not Saints.


The corrupt and secular (legalistic) mainstream modern definition of a Saint is (roughly) a person without flaws, who never does anything wrong.

But by this kind of 'zero-tolerance' definition - not only is Harry no saint, but nor was any real-life saint a real Saint. All real Saints were fallen humans (except perhaps the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to recent Roman Catholic doctrine), lived in this world, and had flaws when their lives as a whole are surveyed.

(Except that some Saints probably did achieve a 'flawless' perfection after long struggle and shortly before death.)


In what follows, I hope I am simply sticking somewhat closer to the idea of a Saint being someone who, while still living on earth, has their deepest being turned-toward God, their soul in communion with God (feet on earth, head in heaven).


Real life Saints are a result of a long process of 'theosis', sanctification, of purification - this is what is happening to Harry in the first six and three quarter books.

Harry is tried, again and again, and comes through these trials a better and braver man: indeed, by the end he is the best and the bravest (as Dumbledore tells him in King's Cross).

Then Harry accepts death in a spirit of loving self-sacrifice, is killed and chooses to return to life.

Thus he becomes a martyr-Saint - which (sadly) is the most abundant type of Christian Saint: but unlike most martyr-Saints, Harry is restored to life to intervene in the world, to save the world.


(Harry is not 'resurrected', which would suggest a new and perfected body - but Harry's soul, having vacated the body and been endowed with greater wisdom and sanctity, then returns to and reanimates his briefly-dead body.)


Harry's loving self-sacrifice renders immune to the enemy not just himself but all his loved friends, all the good forces defending Hogwarts - after Harry returns to life, from that point onwards nobody among the defenders of the castle is killed, nobody is injured nor even hit by a curse.

This means that Harry is a miracle-working Saint - a wonderworker.


Harry returns from death by martyrdom as a wonderworking Saint, a saviour and messenger.

Only a great Saint could save the world from Voldemort - who has become, by his choices, not so much a human but more a kind of demonic servant of (implicitly) Satan.

(Satan is, of course - but implicitly, the source of Voldemort's extraordinary powers, the source of all 'Dark magic'; although Voldemort himself does not realise it, since Voldemort's pride is such that he will not acknowledge any other will, but claims everything to himself.)


'Saviour' because Harry's self-sacrifice enables him to save the world from Satan's emissary Voldemort; returning from death Harry immediately realises that is now immune to the Cruciatus curse (cough cough - symbolism alert).

Harry is given power (uniquely, nobody else could do it) to kill the un-dead Voldemort - but pauses in order to offer him a chance for remorse/ repentance.

Voldemort cannot even comprehend the offer.

And it is through his invincible pride in persisting in trying to kill the invulnerable Harry that Voldemort kills himself with his own rebounding death curse.

A beautiful, deep parable.


(Harry knows, because he has seen Voldemort's soul and because Dumbledore has told him, that Voldemort almost certainly cannot be helped. Humans can always repent, but Voldemort - with his multiply-fragmented soul - is hardly human, almost a demon. (And for various theological reasons, fallen angels/ demons cannot repent). Why then does Harry try to bring Voldemort to feel 'remorse'? I think it is 'just in case'. Since Voldemort is an unique kind of maimed being, Harry is not sure of what he is capable. Harry knows (from Dumbledore in King's Cross) that Voldemort cannot be saved by another person's will. Repentance cannot be done by others. So Harry offers Voldemort a final choice to repent and 'save' his remaining fragment of soul (although it is unclear what that might mean) - because Harry cannot be sure that such a choice is impossible to Voldemort.)


Harry is a 'messenger' because he has learned about ultimate reality - beyond death - from Dumbledore in the King's Cross chapter; Dumbledore himself has become a prophetic messenger from the other side.

When restored to life, Harry brings this divine revelation back to earth for the benefit of the world.

This is typical of great Saints - they are divine messengers and intermediaries; explaining, clarifying, amplifying revelation.

Indeed, only Saints can really understand Christian teaching. So far as we know, by the end of the series, only Harry, in the whole world, can really understand the nature of the world.

Harry thus takes over the role of 'Spiritual Father to the wizard world' from Dumbledore, but as a greater - because better, albeit less magically powerful - man than Dumbledore.


So, I would say that, at a deep and mostly implicit level, the Harry Potter series is precisely about 'the making of a Saint'.

And is not that a remarkable and wonderful thing?

That the best-selling and most widely-read book series of recent decades (in some respects, of all time), this in a modern world apparently without any living Saints, should ultimately be about the making of a Saint?


Note: the above analysis is built-upon the work of John Granger


And his vastly-documented insight that the Harry Potter series is, without any doubt, an essentially Christian work: both by intent and in achievement.


Modern society is like a man who has lied to his wife - Kristor comments


From a comment by Kristor:

The problem of modernity is not a surfeit of logic and rationality, but a deficit thereof.

Or no, wait, that’s not quite accurate either. The problem is not that modernity is too rational, but that it is too timorous and dishonest, too afraid of the Real.

It applies its superabundant rationality – which is, after all, one of its strengths, its virtues (think of the brilliant achievements of massive coordination: DDay, the Moon landings, the internet) – to the development, elaboration – and, more and more, the rescue – of a fundamentally specious and inadequate model of reality.

Our society is like a man who, once having lied to his wife, finds himself forced thereby to devote more and more of his mental resources to the maintenance of his lie, keeping track of what he has said, and monitoring every word that falls from his lips.

That’s what PC culture is doing. The cost is the roughly 40% (or more?) of our economic resources that are devoted to the fake economy – to the business of fakery, pretense, and compliance with the ridiculous pretense.


Tuesday 7 February 2012

Corruption incarnate


On Sunday I caught about one minute of a radio programme featuring the English writer John Mortimer (1923-2009) - in which he was speaking about his life to a sycophantic audience; emanating a smug self-satisfaction so powerful that it came out into the kitchen from the speaker and grabbed me by the throat.

In the space a about 30 seconds Mortimer talked about joining the Communist Party as a young Oxford student (during world war two, after the Nazi-Soviet pact), which got an indulgent laugh; then described how (as a lawyer) he had found most murderers to be decent chaps - implicitly by comparison with respectable people, such as those who supported punishing them.

And I realised that here was successful, talented decadence incarnate.


Just look at the life:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Mortimer ...

Upper class decadent through-and-through, from the elite schooling, through the Communism and fellow-travelling socialism, the 'anti-establishment' posturing, self-indulgence and ostentation, the adultery and dishonesty, right up to the CBE and knighthood. A hedonistic, selfish, greedy, bloated, irresponsible rake. And yet, throughout all this, a colossal sense of moral superiority! This combination is the unique triumph of Leftsim - no wonder it is so popular among the elites!


Mortimer was a very talented writer - at least, his creation of Rumpole of the Bailey seemed to me (as a late teen) an excellent example of the comic novel genre, and it worked particularly well on TV.

Yet now I find it undreadable and unwatchable because the undercurrent of moral inversion, of subversive, hedonic, Leftist propaganda.

The Rumpole series is (I now believe) evil by intent; but skilfully coated in sugar - cozy traditionalism and earthy humour.


The situation can be summarised in these terms: Sir John Mortimer was one of the prime architects of a climate in which it is edgily-admirable and sophisticatedly-amusing to express admiration for Communists, convicted murderers and deliberate obscenity; and in which anti-Communism is regarded with great suspicion, anyone who publicly criticises murderers and lawbreakers is seen as being fanatical and offensive, and to be revolted by obscenity is despised as a lower middle class trait: boring, weak, timid and anti-cultural.

And now the likes of JM rule the public world!


Life permeated with faith? An analogy with poetry


If a life permeated with faith is the goal, then why is it so difficult?

Because it is difficult - and especially so for intellectuals.

What is wanted is that Christianity must be integral and habitual and intrinsic to whatever is being done; in the same way that poetry is intrinsic to the lines of Shakespeare.

Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.


Supposing we take Shakespeare's poetic stanza as analogous to the Christian life. Yet in our daily thought, intellectuals dwell within this world, devoid of poetry:

There are two different overall impact/outcome evaluation and monitoring paradigms which can be used. The first is to attempt to undertake impact/outcome on the 'full roll-out' of a program. The second is to just attempt impact/outcome evaluation on a pilot of a program and not attempt it on the full roll-out of the program. In the second case all that is done in regard to full roll-out of the program is monitoring that best practice is being applied. It is very important to distinguish between which of these two possible paradigms is going to be used in an evaluation. Attempting the first paradigm when it is not appropriate, feasible or affordable can lead to producing almost useless pseudo-outcome evaluation reports.

It is clearly not sufficient to our goal merely to try and alternate between soulless, alienated modernity and Christian awareness. 
Christianity cannot be injected into modernity, poetry cannot be injected into bureaucracy - because that would merely yield:
There are two different overall impact/outcome evaluation and monitoring Fear no more the heat o' the sun paradigms which can be used. The first is to attempt to undertake impact/outcome on the 'full roll-out' Nor the furious winter's rages of a program. The second is to just attempt impact/outcome Thou thy worldly task hast done evaluation on a pilot of a program and not attempt it on the full roll-out of the program. (etc)

This represents the Christian periodically turning away from from his work, turning away from modernity, and recalling himself to God.

But the result is not what is sought - it is merely a mixture of incompatible elements and is neither Christianly effective, nor bureaucratically efficient.

So this is why it is so difficult for intellectuals to live as Christians.
Modern public discourse in bureaucracy, government, law, science, education, the media... everywhere, is intrinsically materialist, worldly and secular; it has evolved for many decades on the foundation of excluding Christianity references and reason. 
This is why we cannot take public discourse as it is, and inject Christianity; Christianity is immiscible with modernity in the same way that Shakespeare is immiscible with management speak - when we add Shakespeare to management speak it is like sprinkling gold grains on oil: they cannot mix, the gold will sink to the bottom and all we can perceive is the oil. 
This is the measure of our task.
The media of public discourse and Christianity have evolved into separate and immiscible elements, such that they cannot be recombined without destruction of what it.
Modern discourse - that which, as intellectuals we have spent so many years in mastering and attaining certificates of our mastery - must be discarded and all its benefits will be lost; and we must start anew to build public discourse  

Because there are real benefits to modern discourse - as can be seen most clearly in the example of science.

 Compared with discourse which is integrally both functional and religious, modern scientific discourse has simplicity, precision, efficiency and focus. Much exact information can be communicated in few words, and modern scientific language can be used by ordinary people.


By contrast the science of the past, someone like Sir Thomas Browne is complex, much harder to write and understand; and its difficult, rich integral-fusion of poetry and science (as of Christianity and public discourse) can be mistaken for diffuseness and imprecision:

The sexangular Cels in the Honeycombs of Bees, are disposeth after this order, much there is not of wonder in the confused Houses of Pismires, though much in their busie life and actions, more in the edificial Palaces of Bees and Monarchical spirits; who make their combs six-corner'd, declining a circle, whereof many stand not close together, and compleatly fill the area of the place; But rather affecting a six-sided figure, whereby every cell affords a common side unto six more, and also a fit receptacle for the Bee it self, which gathering into a Cylindrical Figure, aptly enters its sexangular house, more nearly approaching a circular Figure, then either doth the Square or Triangle. And the Combes themselves so regularly contrived, that their mutual intersections make three Lozenges at the bottome of every Cell; which severally regarded make three Rows of neat Rhomboidall Figures, connected at the angles, and so continue three several chains throughout the whole comb.

From Garden of Cyrus


Thus we are locked-into the dead and deadly discourses of modernity.

Since these discourses cannot be modified without damage, attempts at reform will - insofar as effective - be destructive.

We cannot get from where we are to where we want to be without retracing our steps.

If we are to escape alienating modernity then it must be replaced, not modified.


Monday 6 February 2012

Life lessons of Sir Thomas Browne


To live in the modern world is to live in a world where Christianity is excluded from public discourse, and to be competent in modern discourse is therefore to develop the habit of excluding Christianity from thought.

This is not only a matter of excluding the subject matter, although it is that; it is also that the actual grammar, logic, reasoning of modern public thought is built upon rules which have no place for transcendental realities.

If modern public discourse even mentions anything like God, or the immortal soul, or Good and evil, or truth, beauty and virtue - it treats them not as realities, not even as potential realities, but as means to ends of this-worldly happiness or suffering.

So, it is here and now, worldly the effects of beliefs that are discussed; not their reality or falsity.


(This applies even in science, scientists discuss the effect of their scientific beliefs - they don't consider, and would be regarded as simple-minded or crazy to consider - the reality of their scientific beliefs. False science is nowadays conceptualised in terms of that which is harmful, misery-inducing - and, by a weird inversion, that belief or statement which does, or might, produce misery is nowadays regarded as false, and deserving of suppression. That a belief might be true and also lead to misery, or false and lead to pleasure, is outwith the evaluation system: science is regarded - from inside - as necessarily 'good', hence necessarily pleasure-increasing.)


Yet the Christian life is supposed to be a life in perpetual communion with God, a life in which our hearts, minds and bodies are orientated towards God.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), in his Religio Medici - the religion of a doctor:

Now, if we can bring our affections to look beyond the body, and cast an eye upon the soul, we have found out the true object, not only of friendship, but Charity; and the greatest happiness that we can bequeath the soul, is that wherein we all do place our last felicity, Salvation; which though it be not in our power to bestow, it is in our charity and pious invocations to desire, if not procure and further.

I cannot contentedly frame a prayer for my self in particular, without a catalogue for my friends; nor request a happiness, wherein my sociable disposition doth not desire the fellowship of my neighbour.

I never hear the Toll of a passing Bell, though in my mirth, with out my prayers and best wishes for the departing spirit; I cannot go to cure the body of my patient, but I forget my profession, and call unto GOD for his soul; I cannot see one say his prayers, but, in stead of imitating him, I fall into a supplication for him, who perhaps is no more to me than a common nature: and if GOD hath vouchsafed an ear to my supplications, there are surely many happy that never saw me, and enjoy the blessing of mine unknown devotions.

To pray for Enemies, that is, for their salvation, is no harsh precept, but the practice of our daily and ordinary devotions.


Sir Thomas Browne was, amongst other virtues, one of the greatest writers and 'intellectuals' of his age - what is more he was a physician (which, even then, was recognised as tending to harden the personality, to make a skepticism), what is more a scientist (classifying, analysing), what is more he was only about thirty when he wrote Religio Medici and was not only yet unmarried but confessed to never having been in love.

All these would be expected to turn his mind away from God.

Yet, what I perceive in Religio Medici is that Christian devotion permeated Browne's life in a way that is utterly different from that of an intellectual of today, utterly different from any public figure of today.

Because still, at that time, almost all discourse - including medicine and science - was permeated by Christian reflections and evaluations - there was not a 'secular realm', the public realms had not been purged of all Christian vocabulary and evaluations.

Perhaps one reason why the Reformers, the Protestants, of the seventeenth century and earlier were able to take the extraordinary step (it seems extraordinary to me) of excluding monasticism from Christianity - was that everyday life itself was then potentially almost-purely-monastic - so that relatively little was lost (although there was indeed loss of the highest type of Christian sanctity: actual Sainthood).

But now we have inherited a public realm is which science and medicine, as well as politics, administration, law, literature, news and gossip... all have been purged utterly of Christianity, and (for Protestants, at least) there is no hope of any escape from this daily, hourly worldliness which now reaches deep into the churches.


Now for my life, it is a miracle of thirty years, which to relate, were not a History, but a piece of Poetry, and would sound to common ears like a Fable.

For the World, I count it not an Inn, but an Hospital; and a place not to live, but to dye in.

The world that I regard is my self; it is the Microcosm of my own frame that I cast mine eye on; for the other, I use it but like my Globe, and turn it round sometimes for my recreation.

Men that look upon my outside, perusing only my condition and Fortunes, do err in my Altitude; for I am above Atlas his shoulders.

The earth is a point not only in respect of the Heavens above us, but of that heavenly and celestial part within us: that mass of Flesh that circumscribes me, limits not my mind: that surface that tells the Heavens it hath an end, cannot persuade me I have any: I take my circle to be above three hundred and sixty; though the number of the Ark do measure my body, it comprehendeth not my mind: whilst I study to find how I am a Microcosm, or little World, I find my self something more than the great.

There is surely a piece of Divinity in us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun. Nature tells me I am the Image of GOD, as well as Scripture: he that understands not thus much, hath not his introduction or first lesson, and is yet to begin the Alphabet of man.

Let me not injure the felicity of others, if I say I am as happy as any: Ruat cælum, fiat voluntas Tua [Let Thy will be done, though the heavens fall], salveth all; so that whatsoever happens, it is but what our daily prayers desire. In brief, I am content; and what should Providence add more?

Religio Medici - Sir Thomas Browne



Sunday 5 February 2012

Average IQ and the nature of leadership


Speculation time...

Suppose that the threshold IQ for effective leadership is about 105 (roughly the top one third of the population of England, when IQ is normed at 100 average and with a standard deviation of 15).

In other words, by IQ 105 I mean a level of general intelligence (as measurable by capacity for abstract and systematic thinking, ease of memorising, swiftness of calculation etc.) which is somewhat but not much above average for European natives.

(This is roughly the IQ of an effective foreman, police or Army Sergeant, or a master craftsman - somebody with potentially high technical skills, good practical reason and tactical nous.)

I am suggesting that IQ 105 is the threshold for 'intellectuals' in a global and historical context - for those who take leadership roles in social domains requiring cognitive expertise (most obviously priests, sorcerers, sacred kings, law makers and judges, in military societies those roles where 'generalship' is required and so on).



In a population with an average IQ of 70 or less, there would be (functionally) zero individuals capable of intellectual leadership. Therefore it would be intellectually egalitarian.

In a population with an average IQ of about 80, there would either be just a few percent or less of the population as an intellectual leadership - therefore at most specific individual leaders (and not an intellectual leadership class).

In a population with an IQ of about 90, there would be an intellectual elite of leaders (more than just a few percent, something around 10 percent of the population). It would probably be ruled by an upper class or caste.

In a population with an IQ of about 100 plus, there would be around a third of the population above 105 IQ, and therefore potential leaders - this would be a middle class society, tending toward some version of 'democracy' or majority (skilled class) rule (eg rule by organised skilled workers, crafts, guilds, unions etc).



Average IQ 70 or less (two and one third SD below IQ 105) - zero/ very small proportion of individuals are intellectuals, therefore no significant social role for cognitive specialists.

Average IQ around 80 (one and two thirds SD below 105) - a few percent of intellectuals, therefore individual intellectual leadership.

Average IQ around 90 (one SD below 105) - an elite of intellectuals.

Average IQ around 100 (one third of an SD below 105) - a mass-minority middle class of intellectuals.


The general point is that the proportion of 'intellectuals' in a society (when 'intellectual is defined as above) is likely to be a strong influence on the general type of society, and the diffusion and nature of power in that society.

There are things which a society with a given IQ distribution can and cannot do - higher average IQ brings new capabilities and powers, but also new pitfalls and problems - since being an abstracting and systemising intellectual is a disposition which entails that life will be framed in abstract and systematic fashion.

Hence the societies with an average IQ around 100 must expend tremendous resources on internal propaganda, to maintain cohesion of the abstract world of the large minority of intellectuals - such that much intellectual activity is merely keeping intellectuals in order, and not contributing to social well being...


This is NOT a prediction relating to monarchy, oligarchy and democracy - rather relating to whether power is individual (e.g. Big Man), minority elite (Priesthood), or minority class (a large minority of multi-specialized intellectual/ skill specialists).


This set of assumptions is consistent with my impression that the societies which have the most cohesive and obvious intellectual elites are mid-range IQ societies - despite that these intellectual elites are less intellectual than the intelligentsia of high IQ societies.

Indeed the intelligentsia of high IQ societies (those c. ten percent of the population with an IQ greater than 120) are a different thing altogether from the intellectual elites of the mid-range societies which constitute much of the current and recent world populations; and quite possibly are not a sustainable leadership class.

It is possible that things work better over the long term when there are only a handful percent of >120 IQ intelligentsia - not enough to form an elite, but enough to provide specialist expertise and advice, operating as one-off gifted individuals not as an interest group. 


The 'smart fraction' theory suggests that there is a threshold IQ around 108


The argument here and in the above paper is different' but 108 is anyway so close to 105 that the two values cannot reliably be distinguished in individuals and small groups.)