Friday, June 30, 2006

Cross-Cultural Convergence at Work

Darwin's theory has been proven wrong even by science back in the 1960's, so why they are still teaching a bogus theory in public schools is ridiculous. That means they do not want our children to know the truth. There is a book called Forbidden Archeology which has recorded thousands of artifacts and bones that show advanced human life even millions of years ago. (Way more advanced than we are today) And monkeys were still the same monkeys we have today. If you need proof then I suggest you get the book.

Mouth-breathing theocratic Christian fundamentalist?

No, proselytizing Hindu mystic!

Catholic Literary Action

Alumni of the Robert Southwell Literary Workshop have begun a blog called The Mahwah Literary Review.

I had applied for this workshop but was not accepted. My rejection was deserved, since I have yet to write a decent completed work of short fiction, and my health would likely have hindered, if not entirely precluded, my full participation.

One of the lovely young women in attendance at this workshop, a lady kind enough to date yours truly for a few happy months, has been published in the newest issue of Dappled Things. Congrats to Stephanie.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Colorado Archaeology

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. A bronze relic that may have been a cross carried by 17th century Spanish explorers has been found in the drawer of a Pueblo priest nearly 40 years after it vanished following its discovery in Colorado, according to a report in The Colorado Springs Independent newspaper.

Historians say the relic could help in their quest to learn more about the work of the Spanish in the West. The 5-inch-long piece carries images of the Vision of King Constantine, an armor breastplate and a cross with a crown encircling it.
CBS4 Denver

It seems inaccurate to describe this as a relic, since any possible association of the artifact with a saint is not described. Very neat discovery nonetheless, especially since the man who reported its location is a 94-year-old monsignor who can't have many years left in him.

More Egg Donation Problems for ESCR

MercatorNet: Obtaining eggs from women volunteers is essential for Harvard?s experiments. Do you foresee any problems?

Sherley: Very knowledgeable human endocrinologists, bioethicists, and women's rights advocates have provided prescient warnings regarding the potential for exploitation of women in meeting the demand for egg donors that may be created by human embryo cloning research. There is already an active unregulated service economy based on provision of human eggs for IVF in the US. Currently, women receive significant financial compensation for undergoing an invasive procedure for harvest of their artificially hormonally-matured eggs. The US National Academy of Sciences has recommended that women who donate eggs for human embryo cloning experiments receive no compensation beyond the costs they incur for participation. This is the policy to which Harvard reports that its scientists will adhere.

Even Economics 101 is not required to realize that this is plan may potentially reduce the plight that cloning experiments pose for human embryos. Harvard scientists are likely to find that they cannot recruit sufficient women who will volunteer their eggs to make embryos that will be killed for cloning research, when instead they could receive as much as US$15,000 for eggs that will be used to conceive babies for infertile parents.
-MercatorNet interviewing James Sherley

This is a good follow-up up to my post on the much-ignored ethical problems of human egg donation.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Against Neo-Jesuits

I am up to my ears in 16th century Jesuitdom because I am researching a project. Therefore I know that the Society of St. Ignatius and the Society of Pedro Arrupe have little to do with each other. And most Jesuits on the planet today are disciples of Pedro Arrupe, not disciples of Inigo de Loyola. And most of them realize it, in that they will acknowledge the morphing of the Society, but they think that St. Ignatius is smiling on the change. Thus the rationalization, "He was a man of his time." Which makes me want to wheeze fabada out of my nostrils at them.

I am convinced that he would tell them that he was a man of his time before the cannonball, and that afterwards, he was a man of God's time, as they should be. I am convinced because *I* could not have come up with something that eloquent, so it must have come from him whispering in my ear.
Some Have Hats

The comments to the post are similar in tone. "Supress the Jesuits!" and the like. We've all seen it before and my eyes roll like a busted slot machine. But THEN some Jesuit guy (one of the solid, orthodox, good ones, too) responds. And it's the SAME rote response. That is to say: "Problem? What problem?" and he goes to (rightly) make mention of all that is good, holy, decent and admirable about the current state of the Company to bolster the notion that all is both hunky and dory in Jesuitville. But it isn't. This isn't a spreadsheet where Fr. X's lunacies are canceled out by Fr. Y's holiness. On this blog and Karen's group blog, I make an effort to exalt the positive aspects of the Jesuits such as I see them. But that doesn't mean there aren't problems, and gravely serious problems at that, in the Society of Jesus.

This drives me UP THE [insert bad word]ING WALL. Yes, there are good, solid, orthodox Jesuits. Maybe even TONS of them. But they are being done a grave disservice by the attitude that, because there are solid/orthodox Jesuits, everything is just peachy-fine. Boston College is not Barely Catholic, Fr. Drinan is an exemplary servant of Christ, that whole "gays in the seminary" thing doesn't really mean anything nudge-nudge-wink-wink, legalized abortion is "lamentable" but military action in Lower Elbonia is an abomination, and Jesus certainly would have favored a confiscatory tax rate and socialized medicine.
"The reasons why Saint-Simonianism remained stuck at the stage of a sectarian cult were primarily to do with its lack of cosmic drama. Talleyrand put his finger on the limitations of all such secular cults when the creator of a new religion asked 'what would your Excellency recommend' regarding his failure to make many converts. 'I would recommend you to be crucified and rise again the third day' was the deadpan reply.
Burleigh, Earthly Powers, p. 228

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Downsides of Assimilation

A funny thing happened on the way from the '60s. Children of immigrants, instead of exhibiting better health than their parents, began to show signs of deterioration: The more acculturated teens were, the more risky behavior they displayed.

Marielena Lara and colleagues, in a 2005 review of the literature, notes the overall health findings are complex. But "the strongest evidence points toward a negative effect of acculturation on health behaviors overall -- substance abuse, diet and birth outcomes (low birth weight and prematurity) -- among Latinos living in the United States." This was true even though acculturated Latinos were more likely to use preventive health services of various kinds.
-Maggie Gallagher, "America's Other Assimilation Problem"

Jim Kalb provides a similar discussion:
...increased English use by immigrants leads to teen sexual activity. The numbers are impressive. Among Hispanic teenagers in Arizona, 13.6% of Spanish speakers, 24.4% of bilinguals, and 30.7% of English speakers have engaged in sexual intercourse. (The rate for whites is the same as the rate for bilingual Hispanics.)


Neocon immigration enthusiasts point out that assimilation still works: the children of Chinese immigrants like the same pop culture American teenagers like. That's believable, but is it a good thing? It may be if we want the things that unsupervised teenagers pick up from a radically commercialized and bureaucracy-ridden environment to be the basis of our national way of life, but perhaps not otherwise.

Medieval Robots

Daniel Mitsui reports on a medieval oddity:

"References to automatons devised by western Europeans in the Middle Ages cite such distinguished names as Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus, both of whom are credited with constructing androids - Bacon, a talking head, and Albertus, an iron man.
-Encyclopedia Britannica

Additional information on this iron man has proven elusive - most sources on the internet seem to repeat the same bit of information. Those that elaborate are occultist websites that claim St. Albert was using the Philosopher's Stone, or the invocation of demons, to animate the machine.

There is a general agreement that the word android is St. Albert's coinage. The invention itself was reportedly destroyed by St. Thomas Aquinas, either because he was defeated by it in argument; because he was annoyed by its incessant talking; or because he regarded it as a demonic abomination.

My vote is for "annoyed by incessant talking."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monastic Blogging

A retreatant at Oklahoma's Clear Creek Monastery has been blogging his retreat diary.

I hope to make a retreat there someday, myself.

More Denver Election Commission Incompetence?

I mentioned the missing Denver voter registration information below. A few follow-ups are warranted.

I am not the only one worried about vote fraud, and certainly not the only one in my family. My cousin Dennis is pressing the issue:

City Auditor Dennis Gallagher prodded Mayor John Hickenlooper on Tuesday to better monitor the Denver Election Commission, alleging that more voter data are missing and the upcoming elections are in jeopardy.
Denver Post

The article discusses lots of political in-fighting which I am glad to have no part of. I don't envy my cousin.

Also, Denver blogger Heartbroken Tiger has spent the past month compiling all the dirty details on the hundreds of thousands of voters whose information has gone AWOL, and apparent attempts to cover up the failures at the Denver Election Commission. Not being a resident of Denver, this isn't my fight. Nonetheless, it makes me worry how vulnerable to fraud the voting system is.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

New Advent Gets a Blog

Kevin Knight is on-line at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Neglected Soundbite of Last Week: Hawking on Euthanasia

Stephen Hawking's speech set people all atitter about space colonizations. It sent Catholics into a quote-hunt, seeing if he had misrepresented John Paul II at an old papal academy of science meeting. So courtesy of Spiked On-line, here's some good cheer left out of the media spotlight:

Hawking made other remarks in Hong Kong that received less coverage than his space comments, perhaps because they go against today's consensus. On euthanasia he said: "I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." On research priorities he argued that "fundamental science has to be directed by scientific considerations, not economic ones". Out of hundreds of press reports on Hawking's talk, these statements only seem to have appeared in the Chinese People's Daily (3). Everyone else seemed to think the big story was "The End is Nigh (Again)".

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some People Fear Not Change, But Stasis

One reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness that has struck British, if not the whole of Western, society, is the avoidance of boredom. For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness. I have noticed, for example, that women who frequent bad men - that is to say men who are obviously unreliable, drunken, drug-addicted, criminal, or violent, or all of them together, have often had experience of decent men who treat them well, with respect, and so forth: they are the ones with whom their relationships lasted the shortest time, because they were bored by decency. Without religion or culture (and here I mean high, or high-ish, culture) evil is very attractive. It is not boring.
-Theodore Dalrymple

Calls to mind Pascal's line "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone."

A Thin Shadow Cast on Rep. Bailey's "Human Face on Abortion" Speech

Below I noted Rep. Bailey's story of the brouhaha he caused by bringing an abortion survivor to the Colorado legislature on the day it was considering a resolution honoring the anniversary of Planned Parenthood, a resolution which, sad to say, passed the Senate 24-11.

I was wondering why it took so long for Harvey to put his story out, which was promulgated via Focus on the Family's mailing list.

It seems that there is a primary challenger to Rep. Harvey who has impressive pro-life credentials., as is its habit, reprints a campaign press release:

The campaign of former Senate District 30 Chairman and current Senate District 30 candidate Mark Baisley today asked Rep. Ted Harvey to pull false information linked to the Harvey web site that illegally states that "establishment multi-millionaires" upset with Harvey's pro-life stance are funding the Baisley campaign.

"Ted obviously doesn't keep up with the news or talk to many pro-life activists," Baisley deadpanned. Baisley is being supported by an impressive array of pro-life leaders and has worked on putting together a pro-life summit to build an effective partnership for his terms in the Colorado Senate.

"Mark is the consistent social and economic conservative. He has practiced his beliefs all his life," said Senator John Evans of Parker, a Roman Catholic, pro-life legislator. Harvey was endorsed by NARAL when Evans defeated him in Harvey?s previous Senate race.


"Ted is so desperate to revive his failing political career that his campaign strategy revolves around inventing an evil cabal that wants him out because he's pro-life. We want him out because he's not an effective advocate of the causes he says he cares about. And the comments on his web site just prove it," said Baisley.

I make no claims for the accuracy of candidate Baisley's statements. But they do suggest that Rep. Harvey knew he needed to emphasize his pro-life credentials to the national movement to attract out-of-state funding, the local pro-lifers apparently being split between the two candidates. Harvey is a Baptist, while Baisley is a Catholic. Since being a self-described Catholic has been the best predictor of pro-abortion rights support in the Colorado legislature, I would like to see more pro-life Catholics in that body. But even more I'd like to see the best man win.

New Age--Rhymes with Sewage: The Enneagram at the Movies

A web search for Debunking the Enneagram led one reader to my link to friend Chris Rees' excellent essay. Following through on his search, I discover that there is a discussion board dedicated to analyzing films through the funhouse mirror-lens that is enneagram analysis. Johnny Mnemonic, whose MST3K treatment was excerpted here, receives an analysis from trained enneagram practitioners. The Keanu Reeves vehicle was a cyberpunk sci-fi failure remarkable for its utter lack of redeeming qualities. The Enneagram movie analysis website suggests the monumental failures of the faddish pop-psychoanalytic system.

The Enneagram Analysis of Johnny Mnemonic is an abominable pantomime of thought. It endangers the proper functioning of the mind as the absence of gravity withers the muscles. It affects reason as tear gas affects the nasal cavity: overloaded by one singular, putrid sensation, the mind seizes like a fuel-deprived engine, shut down by the pure irrationality it has encountered.

In short: Caveat Lector. Here are some mind-crippling excerpts:
Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Mnemonic/Mr.Smith - E9 character
Everything seems to happen to him (passive) and he's stuck in it. He's unpretentious, distracted and forgetfull. When his bored E3 girlfriend ('Just getting some ice') asks him 'so where is home Johnny?' he answers 'Would you believe?I don't even know?we've got?.ice?.' He plays himself; a mildly narcotized stubborn E9 character. In the movie he's also relativating situations 'Double cheese, ansovis' when all guns are pointed to him by the E5 bunch of Chinese nerdy ('Your storage capacity?') computer R&D scientists. (same as Hugh Grant's E9-ish 'minimizing' movie humor). When he's with Spider he's also minimizing; 'This is a full service shop'

Ice-T (a very secretive real life person with regard to his biography) plays J-Bone - E6 character He's alert, vigilant for potential dangers; xenofobic. Also loyal to his Lotek group/company. Over-armed for protection against dangers. About Jones: 'He's a friend'. 'Watch your ass man..'

Dolph Lundgren plays Street Preacher/Karl - extreme E4
The hateful neurotic freak , spiritual fantasy; imagining himself as Jesus: 'And who is this lost soul--this sinner unrepentend behold your savior!?' J-Bone said about Street Preacher; 'He doesn't have one natural bone in his body'. Anybody's having the opinion he's a megalomanic E8?

The immigrant scanning computer at Newark - E5 'character'
Objective diagonosis - analysing robot/computer; clinical voice; 'Implant detected--neural failure within 24 hours?'

The Horror, the Horror...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Home Cooking Without a License

MURFREESBORO — The state Department of Agriculture is enforcing food safety rules that prevent jams, ice cream and bread and certain other processed foods made in home kitchens from being sold at the local Farmers Market.

The rules that began being enforced last month have affected some longtime food vendors who were preparing their goods in the same kitchen where they cook for their families.


Agriculture Department officials said the rules aim to prevent food poisoning by requiring that such goods be prepared in a commercial-style kitchen with washable floors, walls and ceilings, tight-fitting doors and screened windows.

"Basically, no food can be made in your residence. It must be in a separate kitchen, which could be in the same house," said Buddy Woodson, a food and dairy administrator with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Associated Press,
Rules shutting down foods sales from home kitchens

The article even lacks any of the de rigeur horror stories about E. coli poisonings of children or concealed razor-blades slicing innocents' tongues. "Preventive laws" are too often only the manufactured illusions of bureaucratic foresight. One of Rod Dreher's better sections in his Crunchy Con book described how food, the literal victuals of family life, has had its preparation outsourced from the home. Now government has impoverished local culture a little bit more, acting yet again to fix what nobody thought was broken.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Vice is a monster of such frightful mien
As to be hated, needs to be seen
Yet seen too oft, familiar with its face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
-Alexander Pope, Essay on Man

Brain Death: Too Convenient a Concept?

Drake was invited to debate prominent bioethicist Peter Singer at a private school in Chicago in 2004. In his speech, Singer said that the brain death criteria did not exist in medical literature until its invention by a group of bioethicists who used it to "sell brain death" to the public.

Singer said that in the last 30 years nations have all amended the definition of death to include brain death, not because of any medical breakthrough or scientific discovery, but as a result of changes in ethics policies and advances in transplant medicine.
New Jersey Looking to Harvest More Organs by Easing "Brain Death" Criteria

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Human Face on Abortion: Gianna Jessen in Denver

Ted Harvey, a Republican in the Colorado Legislature, reports on his guest Gianna Jessen's visit to the capitol:

I was leaving the House chambers for the weekend when our Democrat speaker of the House announced that the coming Monday would be the final day of this year's General Assembly. He went on to state that there were still numerous resolutions on the calendar which we would need to be addressed prior to the summer adjournment. Interestingly, he specifically mentioned that one of the resolutions we would be hearing was being carried by the House Majority Leader Alice Madden, honoring the 90th anniversary of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.


Following a committee hearing, I rushed into the House chambers just as the opening morning prayer was about to be given. Between the prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, I wrote a quick note to the speaker of the House explaining that Gianna is an advocate for cerebral palsy. I took the note to the speaker and asked if I could have my friend open the last day of session by singing the national anthem. Without any hesitation the speaker took the microphone and said, "Before we begin, Representative Harvey has made available for us Gianna Jessen to sing the national anthem."

Gianna sang the most amazing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner that you could possibly imagine. Every person in the entire chamber was completely still, quiet and in awe of this frail young lady's voice.


As I looked around the huge hall I listened to the unbelievable melody of Gianna's voice being accompanied by a choir of over 100 voices. I had chills running all over my body, and I knew that I had just witnessed an act of God.

As the song concluded the speaker of the House explained that Gianna has cerebral palsy and is an activist to bring awareness to the disease. "Let us give her a hand not only for her performance today, but also for her advocacy work," he said. The chamber immediately exploded into applause -- she had them all in the palm of her hand.


Members, I would like to introduce you to a new friend and hero of mine -- her name is Gianna Jessen. She is visiting us today from Nashville, Tennessee, where she is an accomplished recording artist.

She has cerebral palsy and was raised in foster homes before being adopted at the age of four.

She was born prematurely and weighed only 2 pounds at birth. She remained in the hospital for almost three months. A doctor once said she had a great will to live and that she fought for her life. Eventually she was able to leave the hospital and be placed in foster care.

Because of her cerebral palsy, her foster mother was told that it was doubtful that she would ever crawl or walk. She could not sit up independently. Through the prayers and dedication of her foster mother, she eventually learned to sit up, crawl, then stand. Shortly before her fourth birthday, she began to walk with leg braces and a walker.

She continued in physical therapy and after a total of four surgeries, she was able to walk without assistance.


As the applause began to die down, I raised my hand to be recognized one more time.

Mr. Speaker, members, if you would allow me just a few more moments I would appreciate your time.

My name is Ted Harvey, not Paul Harvey, but, please, let me tell you the rest of the story.

The cause of Gianna's cerebral palsy is not because of some biological freak of nature, but rather the choice of her mother.

You see when her biological mother was 17-years-old and 7-and-a-half months pregnant, she went to a Planned Parenthood clinic to seek a late-term abortion. The abortionist performed a saline abortion on this 17-year-old girl. This procedure requires the injection of a high concentration of saline into the mother's womb, which the fetus is then bathed in and swallows, which results in the fetus being burned to death, inside and out. Within 24 hours the results are normally an induced, still-born abortion.

As Gianna can testify, the procedure is not always 100 percent effective. Gianna is an aborted late-term fetus who was born alive. The high concentration of saline in the womb for 24 hours resulted in a lack of oxygen to her brain and is the cause of her cerebral palsy.

Members, today, we are going to recognize the 90th anniversary of Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood?"

BANG! The gavel came down.

The Rocky Mountain News reports that Harvey angered the punctillious adherents of the sacred rituals of the legislature, including some of his fellow Republicans:

"I came this close to standing up and saying something," said Rep. Mark Larson, R-Cortez. He and others said Harvey violated House rules and protocol.

"It was despicable," said House Majority Leader Alice Madden, D-Boulder. "Ted Harvey doesn't care about proper decorum or the rules. He just wants to push his narrow agenda."

Such an indecorous human face is Ms. Jessen's.

The Denver Post also reports the reaction:
Rep. Ted Harvey Monday was rebuked Monday for introducing on the House floor a woman who said her cerebral palsy was caused by a botched late-term abortion.

Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said he told the woman's story on the same day the House planned to consider a resolution to recognize the 90th anniversary of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains because, "I just wanted to put a face to this celebration."

But Kate Horle, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said "There's no statistical evidence that cerebral palsy has been caused by failed abortions."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Students said they were offended when Mansfield said the only gentlemen left were either gay or conservative.

"If I was a gay man I'd be offended," said Rebecca Goetz, a fourth year graduate student in history who attended the speech as a guest of an Eliot undergraduate.
Harvey Mansfield Decries Harvard's Sex Scene

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stephen Hawking Spreading Lecture-Room Fables?

World-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Thursday that the late Pope John Paul II once told scientists they should not study the beginning of the universe because it was the work of God.

Hawking, author of the best-seller "A Brief History of Time," said John Paul made the comments at a cosmology conference at the Vatican. He did not say when the meeting was held.

Hawking quoted the pope as saying, "It's OK to study the universe and where it began. But we should not inquire into the beginning itself because that was the moment of creation and the work of God.", via Mark Shea

I'm glad the journalist was alert enough to note that Hawking's story was unsourced. Hawking has been pushing this story for a while. I believe it appeared in A Brief History of Time. At least one web denizen has attempted to verify the story, without success:
A more serious question is whether the pope even made the statement. I've had a few people throw Hawking's version of it in my face as an example of Catholic obscurantism, but none were able to come up with the original statement. The Holy Father's 1981 Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences evidences nothing like what Hawking claims. The Newman Center at Cal Tech has a list of the pope's messages regarding Faith and Science. He speaks about the urgent need for science and faith to benefit from each other, but at no point does he tell scientists there is something they should not inquire into. No "work of God" should be off limits and any one of them (particularly the big bang) points to the Creator.

It would be tragic if this prominent physicist is just spreading another academic urban legend.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

God and Man at CU-Boulder

While wandering around my alma mater's website, I came across this account from a symposium of professors giving advice to new students:

Bill Krantz told the story of going to see his undergrad advisor the first week at college. The advisor happened to be Jewish and noticed all the Catholic schools Bill had attended. The advisor told him that they didn't get many Catholic students in the engineering school because Catholic students couldn't separate science from religion.

This example of jaw-dropping bigotry has been percolating in my mind for a week. Had I been that undergraduate, with the same formation I had at eighteen, I would have just walked out in a stupefied daze, as if slapped. With nearly a decade of further education under my belt, I could have rattled off to this advisor all the great Catholic scientists. I could have appealed to Thomistic philosophy as a great synthesis between secular knowledge and religious faith. I also could have cited my family history--I would have been the third generation in the family to enter a science career, and my grandmother, a chemistry major, was one of the first co-eds at St. Louis University.

What I could not have done was what the future Professor Krantz did, namely unquestionably accept his professor's opinion as valid:

Bill couldn't get that thought out of his mind for many years. Up to that point he had gotten good grades and didn't question anything. That comment changed his life. "I decided to do something that reminded me every day of what I am not doing creatively, " Bill said. "I will ask a question at every lecture I go to."

Now in the advisor's defense, there are some very poorly-formed Catholics out there who have been co-opted by Evangelical fideism and take an irrationalist approach to both religion and science. But these kinds of insults are hardly a way to encourage more Catholic science students. My own budding science career was cut short by an inability or perhaps unwillingness to abandon the concept of infinitessimals, a crippling attitude for someone studying introductory calculus. Likewise, I was distracted by the call of the Classics department. Had I a similar advisor, the move might have been made even sooner.

This anecdote reminds me that allegations of bias are only mostly useless. They are always voiced by those who possess a decent vocabulary but lack the formation to outright refute the position of their putatively biased target, or at least offer a viable alternative point of view. Sometimes people are trapped in mere bias-cataloguing, never enjoying the necessary intellectual formation for deeper argument. Sometimes accusations of bias are only defense-mechanisms for those trapped in untenable positions. But sometimes awareness of bias really does keep a poorly-educated person from abandoning a truth he cannot fully explain for a lie popular among his superiors.

At the beginning of the Ward Churchill debacle, CU-Boulder's president opportunistically invoked the memory of George Norlin's defense of academic freedom. Norlin specifically defended both Jews and Catholics from a state government dominated by the Ku Klux Klan. At that time I attempted to discover the statistical breakdown of religious adherents among CU faculty. My sad suspicion is that there were more Catholics on the payroll in Norlin's day than there are today. However, such statistics appear not to be kept and I am glad to have abandoned this idle cause for other pursuits. Nevertheless, it is regrettable that the campus diversity police decline to cause a ruckus over religious variety because a challenge to the secularist hegemony on campus is long overdue.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Michael Burleigh's Earthly Powers: A Review

One of the only modern history classes I took in college covered the tumult of the nineteenth century in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Our main textbook was Peter Gay's Cultivation of Hatred. Rereading through its index, it is amazing to see how few pages are dedicated to religion, perhaps thirty out of five-hundred. Religion is never treated systematically. It receives cursory attention only in its relations to the author's favorite topics: racism, sexism, capital punishment. The secular academy is inexcusably blind to religion. Gay, himself a Freudian, seems typical of the modern academy: religion is epiphenomenal, a manifestation of some other system: psychological, economic, or biological.

Newer anti-essentialist theories which supposedly shun these systematic approaches nevertheless also dismiss religion as yet another overarching system. And so the study of religion even in its historical embodiment is happily left to non-academics like Michael Burleigh, whose book Earthly Powers focuses upon church-state conflicts in the wake of the French revolution.

Burleigh adroitly discusses the state of France before the revolution. Following other recent studies, he is revisionist towards the early philosophes. Voltaire's cause celebre, the blasphemy case of Francois-Jean de la Barre, became one of his favorite whipping boys in his crusade against superstition. Burleigh revises this case with exculpatory factors: "Senior clerics had actually intervened to commute La Barre's sentence; the Assembly of French clergy requested clemency, and the papal nuncio said a year in jail would have sufficed." Burleigh attributes de la Barre's torture and execution to local animosities and desires on the national level to prove national piety after French harassment of the Jesuit order.

Speaking of the Jesuits, Burleigh shows how Jansenism stirred nationalist sentiment against the supposed perfidy of the international order of the Society of Jesus. This sentiment likewise acted against papal interference in the French church, resulting in a resurgent conciliarist ecclesiology. Such Gallicanism fed into the Revolution's later attempts at instating a constitutional church. And this conciliarist impulse was not confined to churchly spheres:

"A religious dispute had become highly political; an exceptionally austere creed was on the way to becoming the religion of opposition lawyers, although there would be a mere three Jansenists in the National Assembly. Louis XIV associated Jansenism with sedition, much as his English predecessors had done with Puritanism in a Protestant context. It was no coincidence that during these conflicts leading Jansenist lawyers claimed that these parlements were actually 'parliaments', allegedly coeval with the monarchy."

Burleigh also sees the Calvinists and Jansenists as the unwitting foundation for deistic theology: "In a sense, the philosophes were the beneficiaries of those Calvinists and Jansenists who had propelled an infinitely good God further away from this corrupt world. The latter became autonomous, observable and pottentially malleable, its links with the celestial hierarchy attenuated to invisibility."

The rise of science is often taken to have been the catalyst for the decline of faith. Burleigh rightly observes that the decline can also be attributed to novel deistic theologies appearing alongside, and sometimes before, the rise of Darwinian theory:

The young theologian Hegel had written a Life of Jesus in which there was no mention of miracles. Since educated people consumed far more popular works on religion than on science, this literature was arguably more subversive of faith than learned tomes about fossils, frogs, rocks, and snails, especially when it made the ambiguous claim that the Gospels were neither fabricated nor true, but testimony to a religious reality concealed within myth and legend.
Disbelief in miracles had little or nothing to do with contemporary science, but everything to do with what was afoot among theologians in the sleepy German university town of Tubingen who in turn were influenced by the study of collective myth. The word 'German' came to be synonymous with darkness that inevitably strike us as innocent, but which were sinister by the lights of the Victorian era. "

Burleigh sympathetically treats the clericalist parties which would eventually lose the political wars. To a typical American, governmental funding of religion seems prima facie suspect. But when one's centuries-old church buildings can in no way be maintained by a small flock of parishoners, state funding seems far more reasonable, even if its dangers are recognized.

The perils of state subsidy are also evident in this work. In an ironic twist, the French government forbade French bishops from reading the Index Librorum Prohibitorum compiled by Catholic censors in Rome. During the Kulturkampf, Bismarck and his fellow travelers expelled most of the Catholic clergy and redirected funding to the Old Catholics, which Burleigh summarizes thusly:
"Simultaneously, the Prussian diet promulgated the Old Catholic Law, which allocated this anti-infallibilist sect, in which Catholic academics who thought the papacy guilty of dangerous innovations were prominent, a share of existing church resources. Government attempts to promote a professorial sect that made much noise but which had few adherents were largely attributable to its potential to divide the Roman camp."

Here there is resemblance to the old hands at work in the radical party of the Catholic Church today. I hope the National Catholic Reporter doesn't get any ideas from this precedent.

Earthly Powers as a whole shows deficient organization. Its writing order at times seems haphazard. If there is any one theme, it is that secularism did not remove religion from the public sphere, but rather made the public sphere a religious but definitely non-Christian area far more fanatical than the order it usurped. It is no accident that Burleigh is primarily a scholar of murderous twentieth-century political religions, and this lens makes patent what could otherwise remain ignored.

Burleigh's work is a factual recitation mixed with opinionated asides, snide remarks, and the occasional fleet-street barbarism like "jiggery-pokery." Much of this is salutary, a spice in the recipe of one damn thing after another. What is not salutary is generally forgivable. However, his bad grammar is not. More than a dozen key lines tempted me to write in the dread red ink of the grammarian: "AUC," "antecedent unclear." It certainly needed one more editorial run-through.

Earthly Powers is most useful as an introduction to the history neglected by popular history: the decline of Christendom in the face of liberalism and the near-fatal blow delivered to both in the Great War.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Denver Bureaucratic Incompetence Or Election Year Maleficence?

The Denver Election Commission has filed a police report and launched an internal investigation to figure out what happened to personal information on more than 150,000 voters.

Voter registration information from 1989 to 1998 was in a filing cabinet on microfiche. Early voting signature cards from the November 2005 election are also missing.

Social Security numbers, birth dates, signatures and addresses have disappeared. Officials don't know whether the records were stolen or lost when the Denver Election Commission moved in February. The loss is worrisome because the records could be exploited by identity thieves. -9 News

Voters have been exhorted to take identity-protection measures, but to my knowledge so far nobody has suggested the possibility of outright voter fraud. Considering there is no way to verify that one's vote has been counted, the anonymous ballot encourages and rewards voter fraud. Perhaps our national indifference to the problem indicates just how little we really value one vote.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Two Minds of the Body Politic

...the Lockean settlement was obviously a long time ago, and most of today's liberals no longer believe in the "endowed-by-their-Creator" theory of human rights. Which is why abortion has become such a flashpoint - because it's the place where modern liberals have instituted a utilitarian approach to killing in place of the older natural-rights-based understanding, and the place where Christians are resisting. This explains, in turn, why pro-lifers make liberal arguments even though the source of their conviction is usually religious: it's not because they're dishonestly concealing their Christianity, but because they still think that rights-based liberalism is the common ground between Christians and secularists, and so they naturally attempt to argue on that ground. And the current pro-life frustration, I think, flows from the fact that pro-choicers have half-abandoned this common ground, but often won't admit it. Hence the constant talk about slippery slopes and infanticide from my side of the debate: it's not because we necessarily think America is about to legalize infanticide, but because we're trying to demonstrate to the pro-choice side that they only have one foot left in rights-based liberalism, and that there are some pretty awful things waiting where they've put their other foot down.
-Ross Douthat

All public ethics are equivocal mishmashes, but some mishmashes are more equivocal than others. The so-called Lockean settlement has its flaws, as Daniel Larison shows, but like many I'm wary of exchanging it for its likely successors.

Mr. Douthat's comments recall the editorial advocating "semantic gymnastics" a few posts below this one, as well Helen Alvare's response to my question "is natural law theory just a Catholic Thing?"

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mean People Win

It is a severe fact that one cannot take clear stands on many critical issues without expressing contempt for "the deeply held convictions of others with whom [one] disagree[s]." The proper attitude toward a person or position one regards as contemptuous of, say, human life, is contempt--which need not preclude pity, fear, and even compassion. Anything less indicates one does not really take the matter seriously. It is always the fitting implication and sign of honesty in even the most "civil" disputes that the disputants are clearly antagonists whose differences cannot be reconciled or infinitely deferred without there being a winner and a loser.
-Gassalasca Jape

"...the old religion did not beatify men unless they were replete with worldly glory: army commanders, for instance, and rulers of republics. Our religion has glorified humble and contemplative men, rather than men of action. It has assigned as man's highest good humility, abnegation, and contempt for mundane things, whereas the other identified it with magnanimity, bodily strength, and everything else that conduces to make men very bold. And if our religion demands that in you there be strength, what it asks for is strength to suffer rather than strength to do bold things. This pattern of life, therefore, appears to have made the world weak, and to have handed it over as a prey to the wicked, who run it successfully and securely since they are well aware that the geniality of men, with paradise for their goal, consider how best to bear, rather than how best to avenge, their injuries. But, though it looks as if the world were to become effeminate and as if heaven were powerless, this undoubtedly is due rather to the pusillanimity of those who have interpreted our religion in terms of laissez-faire, not in terms of virtu.
-Machiavelli, The Discourses

Too often, "meanness" doesn't mean cruelty, it simply means disturbing the things which need disturbing. Generally, these things are part of the self-satisfied status quo ranging in level from the individual ego to global society. The status quo itself required and still requires meanness to maintain itself, only this cover is forgotten beneath a veneer of virtue at those times when it is not deliberately ignored. Cynical to say, those who admonish and rebuke malfeasance on the part of politicians, entertainers, journalists, and clergy, are too easily silenced by distracting admonitions that the critic care more for his inner state before correcting other people who themselves care little for self-criticism. The would-be critic's soul is never perfect enough for his opinion to be reckoned worthy of consideration, and so his self-examination is never-ending and therefore nigh indistinguishable from self-absorption.

Yes, personal reform is both an obvious prerequisite and a continuing process for any man. Yes, Machiavelli's claim to vengeance is neither his nor ours, but the Lord's.

Nonetheless the personal failings self-examination reveals cannot always counsel inaction in the face of wrongdoing. Indeed, an examination of conscience can indicate that one is timid when one should be courageous; that one is hectored into silence when one should be bellowing vituperations upon self-serving moralist poseurs. It is indeed a deformed sense of prudence which advises only reasons for inaction while being deaf to reasons for action. Inaction itself can be a moral failing in need of correction: it was once recognized as Sloth, a sinful habit to be purged by just and true action towards real good.

May the counsels of Sloth be silenced in all good men's hearts.

Why Yes, I Do Want to Burden My Loved Ones

via, an excellent reflection on how altruism in end-of-life medical care veers into isolating suicide:

Perhaps it is a good thing, lest we be tempted to injustice, that the dying burden the living. Some years ago Robert Burt wrote a book about medical decision-making for incompetent patients. The book's title was Taking Care of Strangers. Burt's point, which carried a double entendre, was essentially this: Patients who are unable to make decisions for themselves are often in a state (e.g., severely demented, comatose) in which they become strangers to us. They make us uneasy, and we react with ambivalence. And to say of such a patient, "I'll take care of him," may be a statement freighted with ambivalence. Burt worries that, no matter how devoted our care, our uneasiness with a loved one who has become a stranger to us may prompt us to do less than we ought to sustain his life. (Nor, we should note, are physicians immune to such uneasiness.) It is, therefore, essential that we structure the medical decision-making situation in such a way that conversation is forced among the doctor, the medical caregivers, the patient's family, and perhaps still others, such as pastor, priest, or rabbi. Advance directives, designed to eliminate the need for such extended conversation--lest it should burden loved ones--are, from this perspective, somewhat problematic. They may not force us to deal with our own ambivalence in "taking care of" a loved one who is now a burdensome stranger.
-Gilbert Meilander,
"I Want to Burden My Loved Ones"(PDF)
(First Things, October 1991, pp.12f)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Must Read: Christopher Shannon

The Japery links to several works by or about Christopher Shannon, a contemporary thinker previously nearly invisible to me. A former student of Christopher Lasch, he seems to have zeroed in on the intellectual failings of his brilliant mentor:

Shannon tagged this project "the tradition of conspicuous criticism," and attempted to locate Lasch within it. "More than any other intellectual since the 1950s," Shannon wrote, "Lasch carried on the struggle with modernity as it took shape in the tradition of conspicuous criticism." But despite his acuity of vision, Lasch seemed unable to accept one ominous historical reality: due to the modern rejection of a world governed by a "spiritual order" and the affirmation instead of "the creation of value and meaning by autonomous human subjects," the sort of community for which Lasch and so many others yearned--whether they were on the left, center, or right--was impossible. Whatever their own self-flattering perceptions, Americans were, constitutionally, "a people bound together only by a belief in their inalienable right not to be bound together to anything." Given this brute philosophical and political reality, the unceasing jeremiads pronounced by moralists like Lasch, however intelligent and well-intentioned, were doomed to fail. "Calls for moral responsibility are pointless apart from some context of shared values, and the only values Americans share are the procedural norms of a libertarian social order, the thinness of which incites the anxiety that drives the jeremiad in the first place." He concluded the book with a damning pronouncement: "The bourgeois attempt to construct a rational alternative to tradition has failed."
Eric Miller, Alone in the Academy

Mr. Shannon did pen a memorable review of Frank McCourt's impotent, rage-filled Angela's Ashes for First Things, but due to the absolute nadir of my health I managed to miss his extraordinary essay Catholicism as Other.

Reading the culture of critique through the lens of Alasdair MacIntyre, Shannon considers multi-culturalism as one manifestation of a secularized Protestant spirit:

Gerald Early rightly traced multiculturalism's obsession with issues of personal identity back to the Puritan tradition of self-scrutiny; he would have done better had he also traced the metaphors of boundlessness that run through so much of multicultural (and liberal) rhetoric to their roots in the post-Puritan transcendentalism of nineteenth-century American literature. The multicultural attack on "structural barriers rooted in race, class, gender, sexuality, and citizenship" must be understood as a contemporary manifestation of the classic American antinomian rejection of all restrictive--or even defining--structures external to the self. Regrettably, even Early proved too dull to consider that American culture could ever possibly be anything else. That something else, the repressed story, if you will, simmering beneath the surface of the discourse of multiculturalism, is Catholicism.

Shannon also offers a choice analysis(to make a groaning pun) of Margaret Mead's selective reading of Samoan culture which even bypasses the bog of academic fraud allegations:

True to her anthropological ideas, Mead understood Samoan sexual freedom in the context of a broader culture that has no place for the romantic love or emotional intimacy Westerners tend to associate with sex. In adopting Samoan sexual practices, must Americans adopt Samoan attitudes toward romantic love? Not at all. For Mead, it is a very simple matter of picking and choosing what you like and do not like in a particular culture.

Another Monster for the Academic Bestiary

It seems that "Dr. Doom" Pianka and Peter Singer have yet another ally:

Most people believe that they were either benefited or at least not harmed by being brought into existence. Thus, if they ever do reflect on whether they should bring others into existence--rather than having children without even thinking about whether they should--they presume that they do them no harm. Better Never to Have Been challenges these assumptions. David Benatar argues that coming into existence is always a serious harm. Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence. Drawing on the relevant psychological literature, the author shows that there are a number of well-documented features of human psychology that explain why people systematically overestimate the quality of their lives and why they are thus resistant to the suggestion that they were seriously harmed by being brought into existence. The author then argues for the "anti-natal" view--that it is always wrong to have children--and he shows that combining the anti-natal view with common pro-choice views about fetal moral status yield a "pro-death" view about abortion (at the earlier stages of gestation). Anti-natalism also implies that it would be better if humanity became extinct. Although counter-intuitive for many, that implication is defended, not least by showing that it solves many conundrums of moral theory about population.
Oxford University Press

I wonder if this professor is explicitly reacting to the minor premise of St. Anselm's Ontological proof of God's existence: that it is better to exist than not to exist.

Hans Urs von Balthasar once remarked that one cannot receive a gift in a critical spirit. Benatar, it seems, has no sense of how gifted one is simply to be. Philosophy begins in wonder; suicide begins in criticism.

St. Basil on the Holy Spirit

Three days late for Pentecost, but great nonetheless.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations--we become God.

St Basil the Great

Planned Parenthood Aiding and Abetting Child-Molesting Rapists

"Jane Roe" vs. Planned Parenthood began two years ago when a 14-year-old girl was given an abortion at the Planned Parenthood clinic on Auburn Avenue, without notification or permission from her parents. Permission was granted by a 21-year-old soccer coach who was molesting her.

Planned Parenthood said they made a good-faith effort to notify a parent, using the number the girl gave them for her "father."

The girl's parents claim in their lawsuit that Planned Parenthood had to know she was being coerced. The coach, now in prison, paid in person with his credit card and driver's license. Planned Parenthood failed to report the crime to police.
-Peter Bronson, Cincinnati Enquirer

via Rich Leonardi

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Fetal Farming, Semantic Gymnastics, Political Blindness: Another Day in Dystopia

Some studies published by Advanced Cell Technology and others have been touted as showing benefits from stem cells harvested from cloned animal embryos--but in each case, the study had to achieve its therapeutic goal by implanting the embryo in an animal's uterus and growing it to the fetal stage, then killing the fetus for more developed fetal stem cells. Such "fetus farming" is now apparently seen by some researchers as the new paradigm for human "therapeutic cloning," and some state laws on cloning (e.g., New Jersey's) are crafted to allow just such grotesque practices in humans. It may be that "therapeutic cloning" cannot be made to work without conducting the "reproductive cloning" that almost everyone condemns--placing embryos in women's wombs, in this case in order to abort them later for their more developed tissues. This would, of course, compound cloning's exploitation of women as egg factories, by exploiting them as incubators for cloned fetal humans as well.
-Richard Doerflinger, The Many Casualties of Cloning
The New Atlantis, Spring 2006

Seeming to be powered by unfulfillable promises and boundless desires to give the finger to pro-lifers, the political push for embryonic research proceeds apace without any perceptible signs of self-correction:

While many researchers are beginning to appreciate that human cloning for medical treatments may be a failure, the world of politics is another matter. The political agenda for cloning has long been divorced from the facts, and this problem is, if anything, getting worse. It was after the South Korea scandal--after the last two years of "progress" in human cloning research was found to be illusory--that Senator Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) declared: "This is probably the most promising medical-healthcare scientific research, as far as I'm concerned, in the history of the world."

Diana Degette, please read this.

Doerflinger also cites an infamous editorial from a 1970 issue of California Medicine which endorsed ethical equivocation to a point far beyond malignity. Though several decades old, its authors recognized with unflinching realism the ethical and logical incoherence of our times:
Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everybody knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but the taking of a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices. It is suggested that this schizophrenic sort of subterfuge is necessary because while a new ethic is being accepted the old one has not yet been rejected. [my emphasis]

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Not-So-Sweet Mystery of Activist Scholarship

I've referred before to the creative histories written in the service of manufacturing new constitutional law. By way of Mere Comments, I've found a detailed academic paper covering the wishful thinking and outright distortion covering the anti-abortion laws of the nineteenth century.

This piece covers in significant detail not only the pro-life feminist activists of yore. The writer discusses the first professional women doctors who were also unanimously opposed to abortion. The piece is interwoven with sound evidence of bad scholarship from modern day abortion rights activists. Many of these academics influenced the decision in PP v. Casey by means of a tendentious amicus curiae brief whose text was sometimes contradicted by the research of its own signatories.

Bibliographic description as follows, linking to the paper's abstract:

Joseph W. Dellapenna, DISPELLING THE MYTHS OF ABORTION HISTORY, Chapter 8, Carolina Academic Press, 2006.