Saturday 31 March 2012

Rowan Atkinson - the longest running funny man?


After having seen and laughed at Johnny English Reborn I realized that Rowan Atkinson is by far the longest running funny man I could think of.

For most men, comedy is a thing of their youth and early adulthood, or a stepping stone to something easier and less strenuous to do well; but R.A. has been very famous and funny since 1979 and Not the Nine O'Clock News and he is now even more famous and still funny. 

That is considerably more than thirty years at the top of his game!

Rowan Atkinson is still primarily a comedian when all the other comics of that era have long since stopped being funny, and mostly stopped even trying to be funny.

Yet Atkinson is still there in front of the camera making people laugh by his own efforts; and has not become a presenter or actor or politician.

He is first and last a funny man - one of the greats. 


Note: the first time I saw the early TV episodes of Mr Bean I laughed so much that I it was almost uncontrollable - and I felt ill. I invited a friend around to see it on video - and he literally had to leave the room - it was simply too painful to laugh that hard. 


Why is Harry Potter so focused on his dead parents?


Before I understood the deep (and Christian) level of the Harry Potter novels, in other words before reading the Deathly Hallows, I found his relentless focus on his dead parents either unconvincing or pathological.

After all, his parents were killed while he was a baby, and Harry had no memory of them (until the memories were re-awakened by various magical means - such as the Dementors - later in the series).


The surface (sentimental?) explanation for Harry's growing fixation on his dead parents (exemplified by the Mirror of Erised episode in Volume 1) is that his adopted parents (the Dursley's) are horrible people who are deliberately mean to him.

But this explanation 'merely' implies the self-interested idea that Harry thinks he would have been more kindly and generously treated by his natural parents. This is almost certainly true, but not enough to bear the moral weight of a seven volume series.

If Harry's strong feelings about his dead parents really was based on the comparative nastiness of the Dursley's, then it would be, at bottom, 'merely' a desire for comfort and pleasure on Harry's part; which, while understandable (don't we all share it?) is not exactly admirable.


A deeper, but as it turns-out incorrect, explanation is that Harry has a kind of pathological, fantasy fixation on his dead parents - presumably as a consequence of having been-lied-to about them, or as a projection onto them of unrealistic levels of perfection.

There series of novels would then be seen as a progress away from over-idealised imagination towards a real understanding of his parents.
This would make the Harry Potter saga into a psychodrama of personal growth. But Harry is the hero, and it does not make sense for him to be motivated by something that is so purely personal. A hero saves his community - not only himself, and Harry's feelings for his dead parents are bound up with this.


The deeper picture which emerges over the course of the whole saga is that there are strong elements of destiny and heredity at work.

Harry begins by identifying with his father - for his exploits in Quiddich, his magical skill and as a dominant 'gang leader'; but ends by recognising that his father was also a spiteful bully and that the best in Harry comes from his mother: specifically his mother's exceptionally loving nature which has both affected Harry and been inherited by him.

This is symbolised by the fact that Harry looks almost identical to his father, except that he has his mother's eyes (and therefore, it implied, soul).

The people who best understand Harry (e.g. Dumbledore, Lupin and Snape just as he dies) recognise that Harry is 'his mother's son', but the people who misunderstand Harry (e.g. Snape until he dies, and Sirius) see Harry almost as a reincarnation of his father.


The stunning revelations of Deathly Hallows (prefigured in the graveyard at the end of Goblet) include that Harry's dead parents are not dead, gone and extinguished, but continue to live another existence 'beyond the veil' - aware of Harry, with some possibility of communication, and even able to provide some kind of support to him.

The deep metaphysical, and Christian, message of the Harry Potter series is that love has permanent effects: love affects everything and everybody forever.

Love may be overcome by evil, but is never destroyed by it.


Friday 30 March 2012

Preparing for the underground Church - by Richard Wurmbrand


Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001) was a Protestant Pastor in Romania where he was imprisoned and tortured for fourteen years by the Communist regime.

He left behind some invaluable words of advice for Christians contemplating a dark future - I pray they will never be necessary.

I append an excerpt, but, more than is usually the case, you need to read the whole thing

H/T Dale Nelson



I am Jewish. In Hebrew, the language which Jesus Himself spoke and in which the first revelation has been given, the word "doubt" does not exist.

To doubt is as wrong for a man as it would be for him to walk on four legs – he is not meant to walk on four legs. A man walks erect; he is not a beast. To doubt is sub-human.

To every one of us doubts come, but do not allow doubts about essential doctrines of the Bible such as the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the existence of eternal life to make a nest in your mind. 

Every theological or philosophical doubt makes you a potential traitor. 

You can allow yourself doubts while you have a nice study and you prepare sermons, and you eat well - or you write a book.  Then you can allow yourself all kinds of daring ideas and doubts.  When you are tortured these doubts are changed into treason because you have to decide to live or die for this faith.

One of the most important things about the spiritual preparation of an underground worker is the solution of his doubts. In mathematics, if you do not find the solution you may have made a mistake somewhere, so you continue until you find out.

Don't live with doubts, but seek their solution.


What's wrong with Christian heresies?


The problem with Christian heresies is almost exclusively a problem with intellectuals, especially professionals.

(Of course, the main problem is determining who is the heretic; since both sides claim to be orthodox.)

But, to take the example I know most about, Mormons could be regarded as a Christian heresy - what is the problem?


The problem relates to several of the second-order aspects of Christian doctrine: it is mostly a matter of theology.

Because in terms of actual behaviour, Mormons are pretty much indistinguishable from other types of Christian except that they are more devout than average Christians (i.e. more 'Christian' in their behaviour, to use common language).


But Mormons have no professional priesthood (or, more exactly, a trivially small proportion of professionals, who are nonetheless very important), so a comprehensive and consistent theology is of little importance to them; and theological limitations (or heresies) - incompleteness, contradictions... have little impact.

At least, I find it difficult to observe any particular problems which have arisen from Mormon theology over the past 180 years.


The main thing about Mormon theology is that the heretical aspects (heretical from the perspective of Roman Catholicism, especially) arise becuase Mormon theology is very concrete (not abstract), very narrative and time-bound (not focused on 'eternity'), very close-up and personal (not philosophical).

Mormon 'heresies' are therefore not so much deliberate deviations as the natural consequences of re-expressing Christianity in concrete and temporal fashion for the plain man.

Mormon theology is intrinsically realistic and narrative in style and concepts, and could not express the subtleties of Catholic theology, even if it set out to do so - which it does not.


For example, instead of the abstract, mystical and intricate conception of the Holy Trinity (e.g. as expressed in the Athanasian Creed), Mormons have God the Father and Son as separate actual persons.

From a theological perspective, this is heretical and incorrect; but the accurate Christian conception of the Trinity is - well - very difficult to understand; very abstract, very mystical.

And without a professional priesthood, and a few hundred years of theology, this kind of abstract conception cannot ever develop or survive. 


My point: there are gross and deliberate heresies which must be resisted, but many heresies are more like re-expressions; and the people who are most at risk from heresies are therefore intellectuals and religious professionals.

Indeed, for intellectuals and religious professionals, there is no form of orthodox Christianity which is heresy-proof - intellectuals can make anything into a heresy, and lead others down the path.


A heresy is like a fork in the road - but some heresies fork-off then go in-parallel with frequent crossings-between; other heresies lead further and further away from the truth.

Looking back to 1830 when Mormonism was founded, we can see that it has not 'strayed' far or indeed significantly, and (except theologically) it does not look as if there are any real barriers between Mormonism and orthodox traditional Christians.


But orthodox traditional Christians are (in terms of power) no longer the mainstream.

Liberal Christianity, which began to develop at the same time, was not obviously a heresy for many years. Indeed, since it has captured most of the intellectuals and theologians and professionals in religion, Liberal Christianity sees itself as the mainstream.

Yet, Liberal Christianity has - from heresies so subtle as to be hardly perceptible for many decades, heresies embraced by the many or most of the leading theologians and intellectuals, by now diverged so far away from tradition and orthodoxy that it rejects all of Christian history up until a few decades ago; it also rejects paganism (Natural Law) and has nothing in common with any other major religion.


So there is this about heresy: that heresy which seems clear and gross from a theological perspective may be of trivial significance, indeed have some very obvious benefits - while subtle heresy may lead to a situation indistinguishable from total apostasy.


The main lesson is that theology is not Christianity; and that for most Christians throughout history and around the world, their 'theology' is necessarily very simple, concrete, common-sensical and story-like - and therefore (from a philosophical perspective) necessarily incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate.

But how much does this matter?

Wrong theology may lead a Christian significantly far astray - but not necessarily. And perhaps it is seldom the wrong theology which does the leading astray; the problem comes when the desire to stray distorts theology, and the resulting distortion may be very subtle indeed - imperceptible, at first, from the intrinsic inconsistency of human affairs.

But a simple Christian with incorrect theology may be, often is, and historically usually has been a better Christian than the theologically-correct intellectual and professional.


Thursday 29 March 2012

The Lambert Simnel/ Herschel Grynszpan Strategies


Lambert Simnel was a random poor kid adopted by an elite Yorkist and relabelled as heir to the throne of England (recently occupied by Henry VII) - actually a puppet for powerful interest groups.

First Simnel was going to be passed off as the Duke of York, but he was eventually claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, and a rebellion was begun by raising an army in Ireland and having him 'crowned' King Edward VI.

The rebels invaded England but were defeated - and the child Simnel was pardoned and allowed to live as a servant in the King's household.


It used to seem strange that a random kid was pulled from obscurity by the elites and claimed to be someone he was not; but of course, now it happens all the time.

I was peripherally involved in fighting an example of the Lambert Simnel Strategy in 2000 when an upper middle class girl called Laura Spence (her father was a headmaster which puts her in socal class 1) was plucked from Obscurity by Gordon Brown (then Chancellor, later Prime Minister) who claimed she represented the poor from the North and State Schools who were being excluded from Oxford on snobbish grounds.

The UK government then used this faked-up injustice to take-over control of university admissions, a process which is now almost complete.


Herschel Grynszpan was another kid, but he shot and killed a German diplomat as a protest against the Nazi expulsion of the Jews, which act was used to rationalize the Kristallnacht.

From an analytic perspective, the Herschel Grynszpan strategy shows who really is suppressing whom in a society, who is really dominant.

Who is really being persecuted, and who is doing the persecuting.


The people who used Simnel and Grynspan knew exactly what they were doing: they were deliberately setting out to deceive people; and they succeeded in deceiving many people.

They caused a great deal of suffering and death.


The Lambert Simnel strategy is almost the opposite of the Herschel Grynszpan Strategy - in the first an obscure person is put forward as representative of the Good, and used to justify a revolutionary takeover; in the second an obscure person is put forward as representative of the Evils of a whole group, and used to justify a revolutionary takeover.

Both Lambert Simnel and Herschel Grynszpan were manufactured excuses for elite to do what they wanted to do, excuses to implement a predesigned plan.


As excuses, Simnel was completely faked, Grynszpan was semi-real.

But there has been considerable 'moral progress' and much greater public dissemination of communications since 1938: nowadays, both would be faked.


Other variants could be added at will: for example the Horst Wessel Strategy, whereby somebody who has been killed (or, nowadays, subjected to hurt feelings) is fabricated into a saint and martyr for the cause; and their death (or unhappiness) a sweeping condemnation of the those who are asserted to be associated-with the killing (or hurtful comment).

The who-whom of a successful Horst Wessel strategy is evidence of the reality of societal power relations.


Me, on the cusp of becoming a Christian...


This talk I gave in October 2008, which the organizers (not me!) put onto YouTube, represents my thinking just a few months before I became explicitly, publicly a Christian.

In it I distinguish two attitudes to Human Nature: the Transcendental, for which I use the example of Mormonism; and the Transhumanist, the project to transcend, therefore change, Human Nature. 

If you can be bothered to plough-through this rather turgid lecture, you will see that even at this time (not that long ago) I was not a reactionary, but was indeed still pro-modernity - hence a kind of (unwitting, residual) progressive/ Leftist/ 'liberal'.


Wednesday 28 March 2012

Systemizing, 'autism' and poor explaining ability - the need for apprenticeship


The linear, sequential style of thinking which Simon Baron Cohen calls 'systemizing' - typical of 'autism spectrum' disorders, Asperger's syndrome etc. - is associated with specialized, focused, 'technical' expertise - mathematics, computers, engineering, crafts...

Yet experts with these traits are often poor explainers, poor teachers - how then can their vital skills be transmitted?


This is, I think, because systemizers do not see things in an overview, so they cannot provide a summary - but when they explain something they describe it as they experience it:

that is, they start at the beginning and go through to the end, without missing a step,

precision and completeness takes precedence over comprehension,

and this sequence may take a long time - too long for most people's attention span and absorptive ability.


This is why so many tecchy people are so bad at explaining things.

And they cannot help themselves, because they are simply transmitting the world as they see the world.


This is why formal teaching is limited and why apprenticeship is vital to the communication of skills.

Apprenticeship entails the master and the apprentice spending long periods of time working together for several years; and in these circumstances even the worst 'teacher' can pass on his skills to an eager student.

Apprenticeship is how traditional societies overcome the fact - the fact intrinsic to some types of expertise - that the people whose skills are most vital are often among the worst teachers.


Tuesday 27 March 2012

Leftist elites: no longer self-serving, now demonically insane


I think it is crucial to recognize that Leftist elites are no longer corruptly self-serving (yes in detail - but not overall); but with the advent and development of political correctness the Left became insane - an insanity of demonic energy and destructiveness (and, as such, consistent with the nihilism at the heart of the Left).

So the Left now sacrifice their own children's lives and well being to their crusades - they cover up injustices and crimes done against them.

Despite supposed 'pacifism' the Left tries to subvert, physically-attacks, lightly-wounds, and makes implacable enemies of nation after nation, culture after culture - until they are now ringed by foes.

The Left invites foes to dwell among them, and erects special legal protections for their foes, so that they cannot defend against these foes.

Yes - the Left is insane, destructively, nihilistically insane - in an advanced form of evil psychosis.


Monday 26 March 2012

Commenting suspended, perhaps permanently - media withdrawal strategy


Although this blog seems to be read by plenty of people, and the quality of comments has been really excellent (for example, Thought Prison was greatly helped by the comments from this blog, for which I am grateful); the number of comments is at such a low level (no doubt because the fact that I reject so many comments is, understandably, off-putting) - that as things stand now, the time I spend in checking for comments, and moderating them, is grossly disproportionate - and is in itself induces a bad - excessively web-oriented - state of mind.


Indeed, there are a few commenters who have become pen-friends - so that is a measure of how much comments are valued.

However, for reasons described below, the necessary process of monitoring and dealing with comments is having a destructive effect on daily life.


Although I have been trying to reduce my exposure to media for a couple of years, this isn't working - the reduction has not been effective in breaking free from the media influence.

Instead, I recurrently fall into  the trap of trying to get at the truth behind the mass media by 'clever' (or wise) web usage - yet, all the time the mass media are setting the agenda and monopolizing my attention.

In some ways, I am now more in thrall to the media than I was when I was an uncritical consumer of it; since I waste time so much time and expend to much energy in thinking about how to outwit it. 


Current mainstream media are probably not much different than they have been for some while; but somehow I find that the past year has revealed an attitude so utterly demonic in its calculated destructiveness, in its manipulation with the goal of actively promoting evils, that it is now clear that engagement with the media and its agenda is just so much time spent debating with The Mouth of Sauron or Wormtongue (or, more likely, Bill Ferney or Ted Sandyman).

Once you recognize who is behind the scenes, pulling the strings, then you must be cautious about exposing yourself to their agenda.


Charles Williams used to reiterate that the devil is inaccurate; yet if we use the (favoured) media to fight the (mass) media, we too are being inaccurate - since our sources are inaccurate - and so we help the devil in spreading lies.

The actual activity of engagement is itself harmful - since even (local, temporary) success in out-arguing or detection in lies leads to little more than pride in myself (the worst of sins), and the delusion that a bit more engagement and more effort of mine in this direction will 'make a difference'.

A common version of this delusion is that traditional, reactionary Christians are making progress, are a rising tide, a coming thing...


At any rate I perceive that my avoidance of media matters will need to be more active and complete, and that my disbelief/ disregard of the media line on anything at all must be as total as I can make it.

As well as making blogging less of an obsession, this entails having no opinions on matters about which the sources are from the media; but holding to eternal truths, common sense and direct experience as far as possible.


Sunday 25 March 2012

Men and women who make mistakes but will not take responsibility


People make mistakes - but plenty of people will not take responsibility.

This happens differently in men and women.


Men who will not take responsibility for mistakes deny they have made a mistake; these men are always right and never wrong about anything.

Their decision was always right: what goes wrong is somebody else's fault.


Women who will not take responsibility for mistakes deny that they could have done anything different; they deny responsibility because they claim they had to do what they did.

They don't claim their decision was always right, but they deny that any other decision was possible.


These are extreme, yet common, caricatures of characteristically different modes of existence.


Saturday 24 March 2012

Women who age 30 years in five seconds


The phenomenon is a less extreme, but still chilling, version of what happened to Ursula Andress at the end of the old movie She (...who most be obeyed...)


What has happened is that hair dying technology is now able to take a 60 year old woman's hair, and make it look almost identical to that of a 30 year old woman - so that from a few yards away and if you are not paying much attention, from behind an old woman may look like a young women.

But when she turns around, a visceral shock is experienced on observing the ancient face framed by the young hair as if the woman has aged thirty years in five seconds.


A similar phenomenon can be seen with plastic surgery, which can take about 15 years off a face, but the hands show the real age.

When 'the gloves come off' there is another instant-ageing She-shock from the contrast between a smooth, shiny, wide-eyed face and the hands of a crone.


The irony is that those who are the most concerned by their own appearance, are utterly blind to the actual effect of their appearance on others - like those vain men who hate being bald but react by wearing an obvious wig, or ludicrous 'comb-over' hairstyle.


The autistic extravert - reflections on extraversion and stimulants


Hans J Eysenck's personality trait of extraversion is typically measured by asking about sociability, but extraversion is not primarily about sociability: rather, it is an index of reliance upon external stimulus to maintain arousal.

(Introverts are internally aroused, hence do not 'need' other people so much, and so tend to be solitary.)


Effective external stimulus is usually social, because humans are social animals, but nowadays it can also be provided by reading, computer work, absorption in crafts etc.

Therefore, many autistic/ Asperger's type personalities should properly be classified as extraverted, because they require high levels of external stimulus. 

However, because of their autistic tendency, social stimulus is not effective (because it is not interesting enough to them) and instead stimulus may be sought from TV, computer games, factual hobbies etc.


As David Healy has noted, many people with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or ADD (attention deficit disorder) can be seen as extraverted, in the sense of needing environmental stimulation - and indeed there is much 'comorbidity' or overlap between autistic traits and ADHD/ ADD.

Yet people with ADHD may be relatively uninterested in social interaction or social exchange - and their extraversion may therefore be non-obvious.


Also, by this concept of extraversion, more women than men - indeed most women - are extraverted; because women orientate towards other women (real or a virtual peer group provided by the mass media) more than men (on average), and seek constant social inputs.

This applies even if women are shy and dislike crowds, parties etc.

Yet women and men usually come out as being of equal average extraversion when the extraversion personality rating scales focus on social activity - I think this happens because extraversion scales focus on sociability, and these questions about sociability are missing the essence of extraversion, which is not social.


I regard introversion as a rare trait - much rarer than extraversion. The distribution of extraversion-introversion in the population would not be normally distributed if it were properly measured.

Introversion is neither useful nor adaptive for ancestral hunter-gatherer societies (except perhaps of the occasional shaman) but is probably useful for many types of modern (industrial and post-industrial) society, where solitary and autonomous endeavour is necessary; for science, arts and crafts.

Introversion is also a necessity for effectively creative people - creative geniuses - and modern/ industrial society absolutely depends on the work of such people.

But introversion does not fit into an organizational context, because it is solitary, uninterested by other people, awkward, autonomous etc. Hence modern/ industrial society is killing itself by failing to use the unique and absolutely vital (for modern/ industrial society) contribution of introverts.


But introversion may also be pathological, due to low 'drive' or motivation.

A person may be solitary and self-contained not because they are internally stimulated, but because they 'can't be bothered', because they are un-rewarded by action, anhedonic.

And this may be a consequence of a range of diseases and disorders.

This could be either an innate deficit - perhaps hereditary, perhaps a gene mutation; due to infection or a post-infective state; come from mild/ early Parkinson's disease; or due to malaise from immune activation, catabolism (post operative, with cancer), or from chemotherapy; or be caused by anti-dopaminergic drugs, such as the neuroleptics/ antipsychotics, or SSRI 'antidepressants' (indirectly anti-dopaminergic).

Some cases of dependence on dopamine-boosting agents (such as nicotine, or stimulants) are therefore likely to be primarily examples of self-medication, rather than addiction.


But in general, I think it is extraverts that benefit functionally from stimulants (amphetmine, ritalin, caffeine, nicotine), since this provides them with an internal stimulus, making them more independent of their surroundings and better able to concentrate and focus on 'work'.

(This is the explanation of the apparent paradox - noticed back in the 1930s - that 'hyperactive' people - children and adults -  are seemingly 'calmed' by stimulants such as amphetamines. They are not really 'calmed' but are made less distractible.)


And, as described before, pathological introverts may also benefit from stimulants because they need more drive and motivation: the stimulants treat their state of insufficient dopaminergic stimulation.


But natural introverts would probably find that stimulants were dysfunctional, making them somewhat manic, so internally-over-stimulated as to be out-of-touch with their surroundings.


I think it was Eysenck (again) that first noticed the almost opposite effects of stimulants on extraverts and introverts: 'calming' extraverts but making introverts jittery and 'hyper'... 

Friday 23 March 2012

Are 'things' getting better, worse, or staying the same?


Most people in the modern world believe in, that is live by, progress. They believe that things have been and are getting better.

They especially believe things are getting better in relation to morality.

For example, they believe that societies without slavery are better than those with slavery, and not better ceteris paribus but better full stop. Abolition is a very recent thing in human history, so these people believe in progress.

Similar arguments apply to the belief in pacifism, or the belief that capital punishment is wrong, or that equality is a good thing; recent ideas, geographically restricted.


'Progress' should not - properly - refer to material progress - improvements in societal capability power, comfort, prosperity (or, to do that would be to re-write the meaning of progress, to change the subject about progress): rather 'progress' should refer to The Good.

The Good is a unity of Truth, Beauty and Virtue - from the above we see that modern people believe in moral progress. But moral progress entails progress in Beauty and Truth also.

Yet we know that both Beauty and Truthfulness have declined; have declined over a times span of decades and in our own personal and direct experience.  

Thus we know that Beauty and Truth have declined, and yet our society acts as if Virtue has increased...


The conclusion is that Virtue has of course declined; and we have merely re-labelled decline as progress (moral inversion - the essence of political correctness) - just as the professionals of 'modern art' assert progress from the music, paintings, architecture and poetry of the past up until now by re-labelling.

This kind of artistic 'progress' assumed by modern art entails 'discovering' that deliberate ugliness by talentless charlatans is actually Beautiful; just as a belief in the progress of Truth entails 'discovering' that the vast and hourly invasive world of advertising, public relations, propaganda and media manipulation is, somehow, Truthful.

So, we really have to drop the idea of progress.


But are things perhaps staying the same - is the world just as Virtuous now as it ever was, only the balance of Virtues is different - is Virtue a homoeostatic mechanism whereby progress is one area is exactly matched by decline in another area?

Have things always been - overall - the same as they are now?

People often say so - that things have not changed, complaints are the same in all ages, swings and roundabouts etc... but what an absurd idea!

Whence came this supposed homoeostatic mechanism that somehow keeps society as good or bad as ever - or makes Virtue oscillate about a mean such that excesses in either direction are self-correcting?

In fact, this belief in homoeostasis simply serves as an instruction to ignore the past and future and accept the present - which, as alienated creatures, we simply cannot do. It is a counsel of existential despair - and one which is arbitrary and groundless.


So we are left with the conviction of decline. Decline in The Good: in Truth, Beauty and Virtue.

Behind the local and temporal oscillations, a long term decline...

This must be true from our experience, and was, indeed, common knowledge for centuries.

It is a familiar view to all who have read the greatest and most enduringly popular work of modern times: Tolkien's Lord of the Rings

So that is the answer: things are getting worse.


Thursday 22 March 2012

Christians must treat Scripture, the Church and other 'Christian things' as a separate category


One of the traps set for Christians in the modern world is that of treating 'Christian things' just the same as we treat non-Christian things.


I mean activities like analyzing Scripture using mainstream academic methods (linguistic, historical, archaeological etc); discussing the Church using the methods of sociology or political science; treating the Priesthood as 'a job'; discussing Saints as if they were normal, average people like ourselves and our neighbours; regarding prophecies as if they were scientific hypotheses... that sort of thing.

All of these are nonsensical, and indeed self-refuting from a Christian perspective; because the secular, materialistic, naturalistic worldview has the necessary and intrinsic prior assumption of excluding Christian explanations: the prior assumption of excluding divine revelation, divine providence, miracles, angels, demonic activity... i.e. excluding just about everything of primary Christian relevance.


All such activities must be eschewed by Christians as not just worthless but dangerously misleading: eschewed (ideally) not just relatively but completely.

There is no such thing as a moderate usage of concepts such as 'the historical Jesus' or linguisic analysis of scriptures.

If we stop treating Christian things as Christian things, an unique category, it is the first step on a slippery slope to secular materialism.   

Wednesday 21 March 2012

*If* real science was validated by experience, *then* division of labour drove science


I believe that real science is, or rather was, underpinned by common experience evaluated by common sense. In other words, that the ultimate validation of science ought to be unstructured judgment by people as a result of their own general experience.

Science itself is not common sense - of course not. Sometimes science is counter-intuitive. Science is the underlying structure of reality, an hypothetical (selective and simplified) model of reality which may be of almost any kind: an equation, geometrical, rational, narrative...

But whatever it is, its validity ought to be underpinned by experience.

So that medical science is properly evaluated by the doctors who apply it (using not any formula but their human judgment); physical science is  evaluated by people like engineers and inventors, who try to apply it to real world problems and so on.

And doctors and engineers themselves are properly evaluated by the general public who judge whether or not they are effective using common sense criteria applied to their own experience.

There is no formula underpinning things, no explicit and formal system of evaluation.


(This is, indeed, logically entailed - since every the decision to apply an explicit, quantitative and formal system of evaluation is ultimately underpinned by an unstructured and implicit evaluation that this is the right thing to do. Formal systems cannot go all the way down - at the bottom there will always be metaphysical assumptions.)


So scientific progress - when it used to happen - was underpinned by the common sense evaluations of experiences of individual people.

In simple societies individual experiences are very similar.

Think of a physician - a general physician (such as a general practitioner or family doctor) may see all types of medical condition; but as a result there are some conditions he will see only rarely - once a professional lifetime, or once every few years - e.g. a case of severe psychotic depression, or a case of melanoma (skin cancer). He will not be able to evaluate the effectiveness treatments for these rare conditions.

(Unless such conditions were uniformly fatal or had an utterly predictable outcome of some other types, in which case he can detect a treatment that cures this or very obviously improves the 'natural history'.) .


But as societies become more complex, jobs (and personal experience) becomes more specialised.

A medical specialist may see nothing but skin diseases, or severe psychiatric illness, and so is able to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments in these specialised areas.

Therefore, as economies specialise, and such specialisation necessarily entails the coordination of specialities, the underwriting of medical science by evaluations based on personal experience becomes more specialised and has greater scope.

But notice that the evaluations themselves are not formal - there is no 'system' of evaluation. Medical scientists 'suggest' various treatments and improvements, doctors may or may not try them out and decide (on the basis of implicit judgement criteria, or perhaps not 'criteria' at all), whether or not these scientific suggestions are valuable.


However, expanding the experiential basis of evaluation by specialisation necessarily brings a cost: which is that the evaluation is on a narrower range of criteria.

A skin doctor can be more sensitive to treatments that improve skin, but only at the cost of a narrower focus on skin - and may well approve an agent for its ability to improve skin despite that a generalist doctor may notice that the skin improving drug has disadvantages in other body systems, inflicts other costs - may psychiatric, cardiac, respiratory, kidney, bowel, sexual... it could be almost anything, and only a generalist would (potentially) have the broad perspective to be able to discern this. 


And beyond a certain point, specialisation becomes so narrow in this way, that it becomes dangerous: micro-specialisation.

When 'effectiveness' is evaluated narrowly and at a micro level, then (except in the most clear cut instances of life-saving or prognosis transforming treatments, and these do not requires micro-specialisation to detect them) the detected improvements (for example and improvement to a specific blood chemical, or a structure visible on X-ray or some other scan, or an improvement in a formal rating scale) may not be corrected with any real-life improvement in a patient.

For example an 'improvement' in cholesterol levels (i.e. a lowering on cholesterol levels) may make no difference to a patient's well being, or may in fact make them feel worse - the effect of treatment on that particular a patients prognosis is wholly conjectural and indeed formally undetectable.


But medical science remains a real science only so long as it is underpinned by the common sense evaluations of doctors based on their individual experience.

When (as now) supposed medical improvements are a matter of micro-specialist measurement, then they may not be improvements but may indeed be worthless or harmful.

When the supposed improvements measured in large clinical trials are such as to be formally un-detectable at the level of individual doctor's practise, then the door is open to infinite error; since medical science is no longer underwritten by human experience; and human experience (whether or doctors or patients) becomes strictly irrelevant - nothing that could ever happen to any doctor or patient can affect the implementations of treatment plans derived form arbitrary yet formal, explicit and quantitative evaluation procedures.


And this applies across the board in science, due to a combination of micro-specialisation and the capture of evaluation systems by science itself (under the excuse that formal, explicit and quantitative evaluation methods are intrinsically superior than common sense applied to common experience and - less probe to abuse and error.

Yet it remains a fact that in the golden ages of science (from about 1700 to about 1965), and the golden age of medical breakthroughs (at the end of this era - around the mid twentieth century) evaluation was done by practitioner and technicians (who were themselves underwritten by non-specialist consumers of scientific innovations - users of medicine, engineering, technologies).

So, no matter how abstract and complex and abstruse is the structure of science itself - it must be validated by commons sense applied to common experience at the bottom line - or else it will soon cease to be science.

And science, when it was 'real' was a product of the early modern stages of specialization (an economic phenomenon)  - and was destroyed by the late  modern stage of micro-specialization including the capture of evaluation by science itself, and its reduction to restricted, formal, explicit and quantitative systems.


Tuesday 20 March 2012

Genetics and Natural Selection


Natural selection emerged in 1859 from the work of Darwin and Wallace, and (since the work of Mendel was not known) genetics only emerged around 1900 as a result of various more-or-less forgotten biologists such as de Vries and William Bateson who soon agreed to award retrospective credit to Mendel.

It is generally forgotten that for several decades after its discovery, genetics was regarded as a new science, a rival to Darwinian natural selection and having - pretty much - superseded natural selection.

It was only in the mid-twentieth century that natural selection, genetics and (also forgotten) embryology were synthesised in the Neo-Darwinian synthesis by a variety of workers such as Fisher, Julian Huxley, Mayr, Dobzhansky and others.


But why was genetics seen as having superseded natural selection?

Nowadays the link seems obvious but it was not at all obvious - forging the new synthesis between genetics and natural selection (and embryology) required the joint work of several geniuses spread across several nations over a few decades.

Why were genetics and natural selection for so long seen as rivals rather than parts of a greater whole?


My guess is that genetics was seen as superseding natural selection mostly because genetics was more useful.

i.e. Genetics was more useful to the people who used biological theories.


Who was genetics useful to? - why, exactly the same people who had initially found natural selection useful - that is mostly breeders: animal and plant breeders in agriculture, horticulture, and for hobbies (e.g pedigree dog showers, fancy pigeon showers).

Genetics enabled breeders to do their job better - genetics enabled more rapid, reliable, precise creation of functionally useful new breeds that would themselves breed true.

By contrast, pre-genetics Darwinian natural selection was vague and incoherent ('gemmules' and all that stuff) exactly where genetics was most exact - in relation to the business of how characteristics were inherited.


This comes back to my point about real science being rooted in common experience - in this instance in the experience of animal breeders.

By 'common experience' I mean the individual personal experiences of people engaged in devising practical applications of scientific ideas.

In other words, common experience means that non-scientists should - ultimately - evaluate science.

That is, stock breeders evaluated biological science, doctors evaluated medical science, engineers evaluated physical science - and so on.

The work of these practical and applied 'technologists' itself being evaluated in its turn by more general users of the technology - the farmers and animal fanciers who bought from breeders, the patients who chose which doctors to consult and pay, the people who bought or depended on the products of engineers - and so on.

It is (or was) the independence and practical nature of this evaluation of science by 'common experience' which was the underpinning validation of real science - without which science becomes a fake.


(For example, when science 'captures' its own evaluation system it becomes fake; as has happened in medicine, where treatments are now supposedly evaluated by the people who do clinical trials - rather than by the experience of doctors, and the experiences of their patients.)


So... who was the neo-Darwinian synthesis useful to?

I mean, aside from professional biologists.

One suggestion: it neatly explained the emergence of resistance to antibiotics.


 REF: Science as a Process - by David L Hull, 1987.


Christian ethics cannot be promoted by common sense arguments, only by conversion


Christians seem to expend a lot of time and energy critiquing modern behaviours - such as infanticide - which are unethical only from a Christian perspective.


In a secular society, this is not going to work - why should it?

The general population is not going to feel ashamed about behaviours - like infanticide - which are unethical only from a Christian perspective.

Moderns will be shamed only about behaviours that were, and are, generally regarded as unethical by non-Christians - by pagans for example.


Frustration about this fact leads Christians into subtle forms of dishonesty, when they conflate ethical categories that are in fact distinct to pagans (that is to say, distinct in terms of natural law).

For example, much has been written recently about the possibility of infanticide re-emerging as modern practice, and (in order to try and shock and shame people) calling infanticide by the name of murder - saying that the killing of newborns is the moral equivalent, the same thing as, murder of adults.

But as a recent non-Christian I can affirm what is obvious from history: that infanticide is experienced by non-Christians as qualitatively different from, and less reprehensible than, murder.


Infanticide (of a baby by its mother) is a distinct crime from murder in British law, and attracts much lesser penalties than murder; but more strikingly infanticide has been common in many periods of history - for example among the pagan Romans; and infanticide was (apparently) openly practiced among various hunter gatherer tribes such as the Australian Aborigines.


Therefore for many - perhaps most - humans throughout history, infanticide was regarded as either morally acceptable or a much lesser crime than murder. Different from murder.

Indeed it has been argued (by Sarah Balffer Hrdy) that infanticide was perhaps the method by that ancestral humans spaced-out their offspring - analogous to the way that dogs can reabsorb or spontaneously-abort puppies when the mother is ill or under extreme stress.


A society based on Christian virtues, Christian morality, is a consequence of a Christian society; and distinctively Christian morality makes no sense in a secular context, as it would not in other religions.

(Distinctively Christian - I am not saying uniquely-Christian.)


Since infanticide is not spontaneously experienced as immoral, for Christians to reverse the current re-emergence of infanticide in modern society, or other behaviors prohibited by traditional and orthodox Christianity, therefore requires that individuals and society - the Church - first become more devoutly Christian.


St Cuthbert and his Unseen Warfare against the devils of Farne


Bede: The Life and Miracles of St. Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindesfarne (721)


WHEN he had remained some years in the monastery, he was rejoiced to be able at length, with the blessing of the abbot and brethren accompanying him, to retire to the secrecy of solitude which he had so long coveted.

He rejoiced that from the long conversation with the world he was now thought worthy to be promoted to retirement and Divine contemplation: he rejoiced that he now could reach to the condition of those of whom it is sung by the Psalmist: "The holy shall walk from virtue to virtue; the God of Gods shall be seen in Zion."

At his first entrance upon the solitary life, he sought out the most retired spot in the outskirts of the monastery. But when he had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict, and more remote from the eyes of men.

There is a certain island called Farne, in the middle of the sea, not made an island, like Lindisfarne, by the flow of the tide, which the Greeks call rheuma, and then restored to the mainland at its ebb, but lying off several miles to the East, and, consequently, surrounded on all sides by the deep and boundless ocean.

No one, before God's servant Cuthbert, had ever dared to inhabit this island alone, on account of the evil spirits which reside there: but when this servant of Christ came, armed with the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, all the fiery darts of the wicked were extinguished, and that wicked enemy, with all his followers, were put to flight.


Traditional and orthodox Christians need to recover the mode of thinking in which we can read the above account - by Britain's first great historian writing of her greatest Saint - and regard it as an account of what happened.

For instance, that Inner Farne was un-inhabitable because of the evils spirits, and after Cuthbert arrived to set-up his hermitage, the first thing he did was to expel these devils.

And it was participation in this cosmic conflict, on behalf of Good, that was the highest activity of Holy Elders of the past, that towards which the greatest Saints strove.

In other words, ascetic monasticism (and the Via Negativa) was (in part) intended to be a spiritual training for unseen warfare for the benefit of mankind - when [Cuthbert] had for some time contended with the invisible adversary with prayer and fasting in this solitude, he then, aiming at higher things, sought out a more distant field for conflict...


Monday 19 March 2012

Real science must be anchored to common experience


My belief is that real science must be anchored to common experience as interpreted by common sense - otherwise it stops being science.

For example, modern medical research, which includes its own (statistical, and bogus) evaluation criteria and rules out the validity of individual experience, has long-since failed to make breakthroughs and is becoming an active menace to human health and well-being.


So, science is (ought to be) validated in terms of obvious differences it makes in the real world.

The technical, professional science needs to be linked firmly to these obvious differences.

And this applies to all sciences - even physics.

String theory has destroyed the most rigorous of sciences, theoretical physics, by its lack of any anchor to common experience - lack of even the slenderest anchor.


A rigorous science can make do with a very slender anchor - but anchor there must be.

Without such science becomes merely bureaucracy - a social organization based on arbitrary rules and practices - mere peer review...


Natural selection is linked to a few obvious differences accessible to common experience, but mainly it serves as a professional research program by unifying biology.

But the professional structure must ultimately be linked back to common sense evaluations, which isn't happening.

Instead, natural selection is being used as a a philosophy of life; but as a philosophy of life, natural selection is very bad.


Sunday 18 March 2012

Peter Mullen's sermon for Mothering Sunday 2012


Sermon by Peter Mullen, Mothering Sunday 2012...


And Mary said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my saviour.”

These are words to call to mind on Mothering Sunday.


Northern European religion is a rather dour masculine thing. John Updike said, I don’t think God plays well in Sweden. God sticks pretty close to the equator. This has certainly been my experience.

I went to Scotland once, to St Andrew’s to give some lectures to some Scottish schoolteachers. Whether it was that unfortunate combination of pedagogy and Puritanism – or whether it was just the weather – I’m not exactly sure, but they were hard going: people for whom, you might say, jokes were no laughing matter.

St Andrew’s itself seemed rich in history and culture, but even so there was something severe about it: the dirty grey stone of the sparse cottages and the strong east wind.


Little villages on the coast had attractive names – Anstruther and Pittenween – so I thought I’d drive out and take a look.

They turned out to be so desolate I thought they were the sorts of places where if you looked back at them you might get turned into a pillar of porridge.

Seven miles out to sea and half hidden under the mist was the island of Crail: the place where the Calvinist John Knox put ashore to bring the Scots the good news of their damnation.


I went to Sweden once as well. It’s very clean in the protestant style where cleanliness is preferred to godliness. The seashore bleak, even beside the little mermaid, her head cut off again by vandals for the umpteenth time. It looked the ideal place for Strindberg or Ibsen to commit suicide.

The massive cathedral in Copenhagen was stony, austere, shouting of the angry God and bellowing Thou shalt not. The nave is full of twice life-size statues of the twelve apostles, but dressed like 19th century mayors of Copenhagen.


As John Updike says, how different when you go south. I was on the high west coast of Teneriffe a few years ago and I looked down into a cove which turned out to be the seaside village of Candelaria.

The square was filled with youngsters in colourful clothes: girls in white dresses and veils; boys in red and blue shirts. The church was dazzling white and the bells were ringing for a Confirmation. I went in. It was ablaze with light. Candles and chandeliers. Before the altar was the huge, smiling statue of the Black Madonna covered in flowers. The service was joyful, wholehearted – not like the psyched up, faking it ecstasy that you get among the English aisle-dancers.

And afterwards everyone spilled out into the square for flowing wine and plates of fresh seafood, olives, home-baked bread. It reminded me of W.H.Auden’s religious preference when he spoke of Catholic in an easy-going Mediterranean sort of way – lots of local saints.


I did actually catch a glimpse of this sort of thing in England when I was a boy of eleven.

I was at my grandmother’s house in Leeds, in the front room with the piano and its yellowing ivories, the failed aspidistra and the solipsistic ticking of the unwatched clock. The room was damp and only used for funerals.

But that particular morning I looked out of the window and saw the most wonderful procession. The whole congregation of Holy Family Catholic church passing by. My gran disapproved. Come away from that window! She commanded. She said it was all show, the scarlet woman, the mark of the beast, devilish priests.

But I was transfixed by the girls at the front, all primrose and white. Little boys in their grey flannel suits, the priests in their high quality satanic vestments. Incense boiling among the smoking chimneys and a mixture of Yorkshire and Irish singing Ave, Ave, Ave Maria… And the old ladies in black dresses with lace fringes and veils, crying their eyes out for sheer happiness.


This is the feminine side of religion and it is embodied in the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is there at all the crucial moments in the history of our salvation. How she binds the whole story together in a tale of cradling and cuddling and comforting. The pictures blend into one another in an epic of tenderness about which the great painters tell us the truth. She holds the Christ-child in his swaddling clothes. She holds him again in the Pieta after the taking down from the Cross.


We northern Europeans need to rediscover what we have lost, to become possessed again by the feminine vision. We need to remember that our England is Mary’s Dowry and join our forebears in singing of a maid that is makless…as dew in Aprille…

What medieval Christian people knew was that her care for the Crucified Christ became emotionally transplanted into her care for us. If she is the Mother of Jesus, she is surely Our Mother. She is with us in our ordeals.

Not just the painters, but the musicians show this. She is there in our loss. I conducted a funeral for a five weeks old child. The soprano, bless her, sang Schubert’s Ave Maria. And this was right, for Our Lady received and swaddled that little child as she swaddled her own Son. Why do we only think about the truth of our religion? We should feel it too.


But devotion to the Virgin Mary is not just emotional; it is deeply theological. They don’t come any more theological than St Thomas Aquinas and he said, When Mary said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord!” it was the sign that a spiritual marriage was to take place between the Son of God and human nature. At the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel sought the Virgin’s assent to this on behalf of all humanity.


The humility of Mary is the antidote to blasphemous spiritual arrogance, ancient or modern. She is the vehicle of the true gospel.

Psychologists such as Carl Jung say she represents the feminine principle. No she doesn’t. She is not an idea or a principle or an abstraction. She is. And she is the one in whom the Word was made flesh.

And so we say with her:

Behold the handmaid of the Lord.


Hail Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen


Saturday 17 March 2012

The reality of Unseen Warfare - Excerpted from God at War by Greg Boyd


Excerpted and edited for emphasis from the Introduction to God at War by Gregory A Boyd, 1997.

The fact that we live in a world of unseen spiritual warfare between Good and evil was undeniably obvious to traditionalist Christians, and indeed to almost everybody outside the bubble of the modern West - despite that modern people routinely fail to notice it when we read Scripture. 

I would urge readers to print-out and ponder the following:


...Modern Westerners... are culturally conditioned to dismiss talk about nonphysical conscious beings (angels) as superstition. Such concepts seem to be on the same level as science fiction.

Even for modern Christians, who on the authority of Scripture theoretically accept the existence of such invisible beings, this account, for other reasons, sounds incredible.

[Yet] from a crosscultural perspective, the insight that the cosmos is teeming with spiritual beings whose behavior can and does benefit or harm us is simply common sense. It is we modern Westerners who are the oddballs for thinking that the only free agents who influence other people and things are humans.


The worldview of the Shuar (Amerindians from Ecuador) is one in which everything on the physical plane is understood against the backdrop of a highly influential, intricate and remarkably detailed spiritual world in which forces are at war with each other and through which people wage war against each other; the Shuar do not clearly differentiate these two spheres.

While this worldview... sounds bizarre to many modern Westerners, it is hardly exceptional by historical and global standards. To the contrary, it was apparently self-evident to the vast majority of ancient people, and still is to primitive people today, that the world is not all physical, not even primarily physical, and certainly not all right.

It was, rather, a world that was populated with influential spiritual beings, some of whom were evil, and most of whom were at war with one another.

I call this basic understanding of the cosmos a warfare worldview.


Stated most broadly, this worldview is that perspective on reality which centers on the conviction that the good and evil, fortunate or unfortunate, aspects of life are to be interpreted largely as the result of good and evil, friendly or hostile, spirits warring against each other and against us.

... this warfare worldview is in one form or another the basic worldview of biblical authors, both in the Old Testament and even more so in the New.


This is not to suggest that the biblical authors (or any ancient people-group for that matter) deny that evil is also a reality of the human heart and of human society. To the contrary, biblical authors consistently demonstrate a passionate concern for confronting evil in all the individual and societal forms it takes. Therefore no biblical author suggests that warfare prayers or exorcisms are cure-alls for all that is wrong in the world.

I do suggest that biblical authors generally understood all evil in the context of spiritual war, however.


For biblical authors, to wage war against such things as injustice, oppression, greed and apathy toward the needy was to participate directly or indirectly in a cosmic war that had engulfed the earth...

The ultimate canvas against which the unfolding drama of world history is played out is, for biblical authors, a warfare worldview. In this regard these authors share a great deal with most other ancient peoples.

The prevalence of the warfare worldview is revealed not only in the similar practices of ancient and contemporary primitive peoples but also in the similar mythologies these various cultures possess. Their mythologies reveal the nearly universal conviction that the battlefield appearance of the world is the result of a real battle that once took place, or is still taking place, in "nonordinary" reality.

It is all too easy for modern western people, Christian and non-Christian alike, to dismiss mythologies and religious practices such as those we have been examining as amounting to nothing more than ignorant, primitive superstition. The warfare worldview that comes through in these mythologies and practices simply does not square with either our modern Western materialistic view of the world or many traditional Christian assumptions about God...


...The very prevalence of the warfare worldview among so many different people-groups, in such radically different times and unrelated locations, should itself be enough to inspire us to take this worldview seriously.

If we modern Westerners cannot "see" what nearly everyone else outside the little oasis of Western rationalism the last several centuries has seen, then perhaps there is something amiss with our way of seeing.


It is just possible that the intensely materialistic and rationalistic orientation of the Enlightenment has blinded us to certain otherwise obvious realities.

It is just possible that our chronocentrism - our tendency to assume that the worldview we hold at the present time is the ultimately true worldview--is preventing us from seeing significant features of reality.


But even if the nearly universal intuition of cosmic conflict is not enough to call our own naturalism into question, the fact that this warfare worldview constitutes a central component of Scripture's understanding of God and the cosmos should surely inspire us to do so.

At least for those of us for whom this collection of canonical books is no mere collection but rather constitutes the inspired Word of God, not seriously considering the warfare worldview can hardly be said to be an option, however much such a view may conflict with our own naturalistic cultural presuppositions. ... the thematic unity of Christ's ministry (as well as that of his disciples and the early post-apostolic church) becomes fully intelligible only against the backdrop of a warfare worldview...

The nearly universal myth of our world being largely shaped by warfare among various cosmic forces and spirits is here incarnated as the one true God-man warrior of God enters our real war zone and wages war against God's real foes.


In sum, then, the truth to which all these mythologies point, and indeed the truth to which the mythological warfare dimensions of the Old Testament itself point... is the truth that God's good creation has in fact been seized by hostile, evil, cosmic forces that are seeking to destroy God's beneficent plan for the cosmos.

God wages war against these forces, however, and through the person of Jesus Christ has now secured the overthrow of this evil cosmic army. The church as the body of Christ has been called to be a decisive means by which this final overthrow is to be carried ...

This is the truth to which the nearly universal intuition of spiritual warfare points.

Thus from the perspective of Scripture, all the so-called primitive stories of cosmic conflict, and all the supposedly primitive techniques for waging war against evil spirits, must be judged as being far more true to reality than the Western "enlightened" worldview, which presumptuously holds that the cosmos is strictly material, that noncorporeal beings do not exist, and that humans are the highest form of life in the cosmos.


A second reason why I believe that the warfare worldview needs to be taken seriously is that it provides a remarkably different, and a remarkably better, understanding of evil than does the classical-philosophical Christian (or any other) approach to this problem.


In a nutshell, the way in which classical-philosophical Christian theists have approached the problem of evil has generally been to frame evil as a problem of God's providence and thus of God's character.

Assuming (rightly) that God is perfectly loving and good, and assuming (wrongly, I hold) that divine omnipotence entails meticulous control, the problem of evil has been formulated within the classical-philosophical theistic tradition as the problem of locating a loving and good purpose behind evil events.

This, I later argue, represents an impossible task, and hence the problem of evil becomes simply unsolvable within this framework.


By contrast, the warfare worldview is predicated on the assumption that divine goodness does not completely control or in any sense will evil; rather, good and evil are at war with one another.

This assumption obviously entails that God is not now exercising exhaustive, meticulous control over the world.

In this worldview, God must work with, and battle against, other created beings. While none of these beings can ever match God's own power, each has some degree of genuine influence within the cosmos.


In other words, a warfare worldview is inherently pluralistic.

There is no single, all-determinative divine will that coercively steers all things, and hence there is here no supposition that evil agents and events have a secret divine motive behind them.

Hence too, one need not agonize over what ultimately good, transcendent divine purpose might be served by any particular evil event.


If the world is indeed caught up in the middle of a real war between good and evil forces, evil is to be expected - including evil that serves no higher end. For in any state of war, gratuitous evil is normative.

Only when it is assumed that the world is meticulously controlled by an all-loving God does each particular evil event need a higher, all-loving explanation. For only then is evil not expected, hence only then is it intellectually problematic at a concrete level.


In other words, only when we reject the view that the cosmos is something like a society of free beings, most of whom are invisible, and all of whom have some small degree of influence on the whole - in short, only when we reject the warfare worldview in favor of a monistic one in which one sovereign will governs all - are we saddled with an understanding of God and his relationship with the world in which evil becomes impenetrably mysterious on a concrete level.


Now, on the biblical assumption that God is the sole Creator of all that is, there is still the ultimately metaphysical question of why God would create a world in which cosmic war could break out.

In this sense the problem of theodicy remains, even within a warfare worldview. 

ut unlike the futile quest for the elusive good divine motive for any particular evil within the world, this metaphysical question is answerable.


Instead of futilely trying to locate a particular loving divine reason for a particular evil event, we are now attempting to conceptualize God's most general reason for creating a societal cosmos in which a multiplicity of creatures share power, and in which moral conflict (and thus suffering) can therefore occur.

But as was said, in contrast to the problem of evil within the classical-philosophical tradition, this question is not impossible to address.

...Once the intelligibility of the war itself is accepted, no other particular evils require explanation. Hence Scripture gives none. This shift away from the classical-philosophical monistic perspective is empowering in terms of confronting evil, and this represents the third reason why I believe that Christians today need to take Scripture's warfare worldview seriously.


Put succinctly, the classical-philosophical assumption that a mysterious, loving, sovereign, divine plan lies behind even evil events in our world encourages an approach to evil that defines it as an intellectual problem to be solved rather than a spiritual opponent to be overcome.

If all evil is believed to serve a higher divine purpose, then clearly one's sense of urgency in fighting it is compromised, while one's ability to render it intelligible is diminished.


This is precisely what has tended to happen within the Christian tradition since at least the time of Augustine.

I believe it largely explains the Western church's long-standing propensity to theologize so much about evil while being relatively impotent in waging war against it.

Whereas the New Testament exhibits a church that is not intellectually baffled by evil but is spiritually empowered in vanquishing it, the Western tradition has more frequently exhibited a church that is perpetually baffled by evil but significantly ineffective in and largely apathetic toward combating it.


Within a warfare worldview, however, particular evils are their own ultimate explanation: they flow from the wills of creatures, hence there need be no higher "good" divine reason for their occurring.

Thus evil must be understood as being what God is unequivocally against, and thus what God's people must also be unequivocally against.

Whereas the classical-philosophical theology of sovereignty encourages a theology of resignation, a theology rooted in a warfare worldview inspires, and requires, a theology of revolt: revolt against all that God revolts against.


This is the only understanding that squares with Jesus' ministry and the whole of the New Testament, on the one hand.

On the other hand, it is the only theology that is going to reappropriate for the contemporary church the power of the New Testament church to confront and overcome the evils in our present world.

It is, as such, a theology that the church today must take seriously, despite the significant difficulties such a theology may create with our culture's naturalistic assumptions and with some of the church's traditional theology.


Above from the Introduction to Gregory Boyd's God at War.


Natural selection is a metaphysical assumption, therefore cannot be refuted


Further to my recent postings on this topic, I solicit responses to the fact - as it seems to me, a practitioner - that Natural Selection is a metaphysical assumption which cannot be refuted.

For example here are two big things (ahem) which have no decent explanation from natural selection but which are (ahem) very obvious:

The existence of sexes (yes, I know WH Hamilton's ideas, but really nobody believes them).

The existence and attractiveness of prominent breasts in adult women (no decent theories which satisfy minimal biological constraints).

Yet - the failure to come-up with decent theories for such major bio-cultural phenomena as the sexes and large human breasts has not even scratched the fact that it is assumed that eventually some such theory will be discovered or invented.

In practice, Natural Selection cannot be refuted by science (or by evidence): it's validity is assumed - as is the case for all meta-scientific (metaphysical) assumptions.


[P.S Commenters please note: The above posting has exhausted the permissible quota of smutty double entendres / witty wordplay for this topic. ]


What is the use of white men? (In a politically correct media world.)


I sometimes like to analyse the scores of advertising, propaganda and publicity posters, which bespatter the places I live and work.

It is clear that the people who make and deploy posters don't have much use for white men.


The rule is that if a single face is shown on a poster it must be a woman or an ethnic man.

If there is a sufficiently large group (about six or more) it is permissible to show a white man, so long as he is not the central 'character' and is surrounded by women and ethnic men.


Are white men then useless for poster designers?


Look carefully: there are some posters which deploy a single white man.

Indeed, I found three such posters in my survey sample - single face, white man.

Two posters depicted people who were identified as suffering from serious psychiatric illness, the third depicted a person identified as criminally insane.


So white men do have their uses!

If you need to depict somebody low status, evil, or in a miserable state - then a white man is perfect for the job.

Indeed, it has to be a white man - because to use a poster featuring a single woman or an ethnic man to depict somebody non-admirable is clearly unacceptable.


Great News! For so long as there is need to represent solitary and specific evil or misery - then for so long white men will be allowed to retain a place in the media.


Friday 16 March 2012

Secular leftism cannot learn, cannot be taught


My evidence? The twentieth century.

What bigger and more overwhelming argument could there be than the wars and mass slaughters of the twentieth century.

Yet the experience of the twentieth century has made absolutely no difference at all to the secular Leftist mind-set, perspective and plan; that bland, blind, smug, 'well-intentioned' mechanism of wholesale insatiable destruction.

The Good can be seen as beauty, truth and virtue - leaving aside virtue (which we cannot perceive clearly due to propaganda) is there as single person alive who believes that truthfulness and the creation of beauty are thriving activities in the modern world? That truth and beauty did well throughout the twentieth century? That they did well under secular Leftism?

Yet, just think - the 'modern art'/ modernism movement originated before the twentieth century, and un-rolled unperturbed by everything that happened in the twentieth century; as did advertising, public relations and the mass media. What more could have happened to refute them? Nothing - the refutation, the disaster was as extreme as it is possible to imagine (without utter collapse) yet that made no difference at all.

Because, of course, no amount of experience and knowledge can challenge the assumptions which frame reality. Secular Lefism is 100 percent assumptions.

(No wonder mainstream 20th century philosophy is so hostile to metaphysics; no wonder the mass media is so hostile to metaphysics. When everything depends on your metaphysical assumptions, but these assumption are crudely arbitrary and contrary to common sense, then naturally you don't want to talk about your metaphysical assumptions, or defend them.)

Forget reason, evidence, argument! If wholesale death and enslavement can be ignored/ forgotten, then no argument we might construct will make a difference.

Secular Leftism cannot learn, cannot be taught. If the vast multinational and all-pervading actuality of Communism can fall out of mind, be forgotten, be disregarded; then why wrangle over minutiae.


A soul-less building versus a soul-destroying building


I currently work in a soul-less 1970s building:

But, this is not so bad - I previously worked in a 2000s soul-destroying building:

A building that actively sucks-out your soul is worse than a building which is a desert for the soul.


(My suspicion is that the above building has a dementor installed in the basement.)