Wednesday, October 28, 2015

G. K. #Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement: My Interview on the Quiddity #Podcast at the CiRCE Institute

My interview at CiRCE's Quiddity Podcast in which I discuss the disturbing disenchantment of our times, the problem with modern science, and books (of all kinds). The discussion touches on G.K. Chesterton, children's literature, reading habits, Walter Scott, gravity, Charles Taylor, fairy tales, and more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Family Foundation calls on Democratic candidates to disavow support of #PlannedParenthood

Today's press release from The Family Foundation:

LEXINGTON, KY—The Family Foundation called on the campaigns of Jack Conway and Andy Beshear today to disavow support they are receiving from Planned Parenthood. The group said it had received reports that Planned Parenthood Action Kentucky was conducting get-out-the-vote calls to Kentucky voters discouraging them from voting for Matt Bevin and Whitney Westerfield, the Republican candidates for governor and attorney general, respectively.

"Planned Parenthood is making calls urging voters not to vote for Republican candidates for governor and attorney general, which is an implicit endorsement of their Democrat opponents," said Martin Cothran, spokesman for the group. "We are calling on the Democratic candidates to disavow this effort, and we would hope that these candidates would want to distance themselves from groups engaged in the selling of baby parts for profit.”


Monday, October 26, 2015

Multicultural Follies: #Politicalcorrectness and the narrowing of the American mind

The Cultural Authorities still don't get the irony inherent in their use of terms like 'Tolerance' and 'Diversity', terms they use to counteract the very attitudes they purport to champion. They are used as cultural bullying words to beat unsuspecting Americans into compliance with their narrow left-wing program of tearing down every traditional cultural convention.

These are just two of the words that now pass for wisdom among American educators--educators who apparently think that political sloganeering constitutes an acceptable substitute for things like knowledge and understanding.

I remember when the Ayatollah Khomeini unseated the Shah of Iran and so-called "students" (of which, it was later revealed, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the now former prime minister of Iran, was one) took over the American embassy in Tehran and held its occupants hostage.

I remember thinking, do these "students," I don't know, study between their assigned hostage-keeping hours? Do they patrol the embassy with their machine guns from 8:00 to 4:00 and then go prepare for mid-terms in the evening? In fact, I don't remember any of the many news images from the time showing these "students" actually doing any school work. All they ever did was wave guns and chant slogans in the street.
For the political left, education is seen as inherently political. Rather than use them to pass on a culture from one generation to the next, schools are now simply vehicles for political or social reform. Today's "students" don't wave guns around or march through the streets (Americans, fortunately, are too lazy for that), but the term 'Diversity' in particular seems to be a part of every piece of propaganda pushed by the people who run our schools.

There is another word used to accomplish the same purpose: 'multiculturalism'. This word, in fact, was probably the first of the bully words to enter our modern political lexicon, becoming a sacred part of the secular theocratic rite that we have seen instituted over the last two or three decades.

Like the other terms we constantly hear chanted by the supporters of our modern Liberal Caliphate, the secular theocrats don't see the hypocrisy in their use of the term.

I was reminded of all this when I read the essay by British philosopher Roger Scruton at one of the best blogs going: The Imaginative Conservative. Scruton rightly diagnoses multiculturalism—and the whole tolerance regime, although the terms 'tolerance' and 'diversity' had not yet assumed their prominent place in our lexicon when this article was written in 1994—as the narrow-minded program it is and contrasts it with the truly multicultural traditional curriculum:

The word “culture” is used in many senses. Advocates of the multicultural curriculum cheerfully assume that they and their readers know exactly what is meant by such a thing, and that all would agree in recognizing the “monocultural” nature of our traditional education. A typical “multicultural” curriculum will concentrate on the lore, language, and literature of the modern pro­ letariat; on the history and “struggles” of minorities; and on the lowest and most popular forms of music, art, and entertainment. This monotonous study of ephemera can be encountered everywhere in America, Canada, Britain, Australia, and Scandinavia. I would be tempted to describe it as “monocultural,” were I convinced that it is capable of imparting any culture at all. By contrast, our grandparents studied the languages, religions, and literature of ancient Palestine, Greece, and Rome; they were brought up on the fairy tales of Arabia, the folklore and music of Germany, the art and architecture of the Mediterranean, and the history of the world. If the word “multicultural” means anything, then it should certainly be applied to their curriculum. It is precisely this openness toward culture in all its forms that is the essence of European civilization.

Liberals, who wouldn't even be allowed under other cultures, love every culture but their own. It's part and parcel of the Liberal Death Wish--the subconscious, nihilistic impulse to destroy the very culture that makes them possible. 

The agenda that goes under the multicultural label is really the worst kind of cultural jingoism. On the one hand, it sees every other culture through the distorted lens of the modern secular liberal mindset, making them merely the delusional mirror image of itself. On the other hand, it wants to impose its own uniquely secular technocratic attitude on cultures which, in reality, aren't really what liberals think they are.

If liberals are going to hate on the Christian West (and that's what Western civilization really is—the Christian West—which is why liberals hate it so much), then they're going to have to do things that liberals themselves hate. If they're going to embrace non-Western cultures—particularly those in the underdeveloped world that liberals pretend to value, then they're going to have to teach racism, sexism, cannibalism, human sacrifice, "classism," "homophobia," and every other "ism" and phobia—real and imaginary—the left fears and hates because they are rampant in the cultures of what used to be called the "third world."

They couldn't produce enough sensitivity trainers in a hundred years to address the problems they would encounter in just one corner of one non-Western country in one week.

But of course teaching what real non-Western countries believe will never happen. These people will continue to cling to their comforting delusion that non-Western world is exclusively the projection of their own non-smoking, gender-bending, radical egalitarian political and social selves.

But the left can't even hear these criticisms. That's the beauty of being a liberal: If there is something you don't want to hear, you just chant your slogans louder.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Things for which you don't need scientific evidence in order to believe

I was reading the first volume of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth today, and he quotes the second century Church father Theophilus of Antioch, in his book Ad Autolycum ("To Autolycus") , "But if you say, 'Show me your God,' I would reply, 'Show me yourself, and I will show you my God.'"
Benedict was highlighting Theophilus' argument that just as there were physical eyes, there are eyes of the soul, and just as physical eyes can be blinded, so can the eyes of the soul, making it difficult or impossible to see God. But it also made me think of the challenge I hear from the scientoids about what they argue is the lack of hard and fast evidence for God. "Show me your God," is the general point, and you are expected to produce scientific evidence for the belief in God.

The next time you are asked to do this by your atheist friend, ask him "Show me your self," or "Show me your mind," or "Show me your consciousness."  Atheists use these terms all the time and no one is expected to give scientific evidence for the things they signify--largely because there isn't any. 

The point being that there are things for which you don't need scientific evidence to believe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jürgen Habermas on scientism and analytic philosophy

I don't agree with Jürgen Habermas, one of our great cultural critics, on everything but he, along with a number of those associated with the "Frankfurt School" have a legitimate and useful critique of modern rationalistic scientism and instrumental rationality. In fact, is he the last surviving member of that crew?

The Frankfurt School was a group of influential early-twentieth century thinkers (my favorite of whom is Max Horkheimer--his Eclipse of Reason is a masterpiece) who were themselves influenced by Marx. And although Marx's prescription is fatally flawed, much of his diagnosis of modern commercial culture is right on the mark.

Here's Habermas critiquing the science-envy of the analytic philosophers in Eurozine:
The hard, scientistic core of the analytical philosophy was always alien to me. Today, it comprises colleagues who take up the reductionist Programme of the Unified Sciences from the first half of the twentieth century under somewhat different assumptions and more or less regard philosophy as a supplier for the cognitive sciences. The advocates of what we might call "scientism" ultimately view only statements of physics as capable of being either true or false and insist on the paradoxical demand of perceiving ourselves exclusively in descriptions of the natural sciences. But describing and recognizing oneself are not the same thing: decentring an illusionary self-understanding requires recognition on the basis of a different, improved description. Scientism renounces the self-reference required to be present in every case of re-cognition. At the same time, scientism itself utilizes this self-reference performatively – I mean the reference to us as socialized subjects capable of speech and action, and who always find themselves in the context of their lifeworlds. Scientism buys the supposed scientification of philosophy by renouncing the task of self-understanding, which philosophy has inherited from the great world religions, though with the intention of the enlightenment. By contrast, the intention of understanding ourselves exclusively from what we have learnt about the objective world leads to a reifying description of something in the world that denies the self-referential application for the purpose of improving our "self"-understanding.
HT: 3 Quarks Daily

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Predictions for/Live Tweeting of Tonight's #CNNDemocraticDebate

After my amazingly accurate predictions for the last Republican Debate, I have decided to issue a new round of predictions for tonight's Democratic debate. Here we go:

Hillary maintains or slightly loses, not because of her performance per se, but because of the relatively good performances of the other candidates. And the thing is that her performance, since it will only be solid but not spectacular, will be seen as a loss because people will know that, at this point in her campaign, she needs to turn in an impressive performance given the recent free fall of her campaign.

Sen. James Webb gains significantly. James Webb is actually a very impressive person. He is sort of an oddball because he was Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan (and a very good one). What is a former Reagan official doing in the Democratic presidential race? I think a lot of people don't even know he is in the race and will see him and like what they see. The problem is that there will be more non-Democrats who like him than Democrats. He will gain from the sheer exposure, but not enough among Democrats. Still it will be quite a rise for someone that no one has been talking about.

Bernie Sanders wins. Despite all the mentions of Bernie Sanders, who has been rocking the campaign trail with high turnout campaign events, there has been very little actual coverage of Sanders himself and what he has to say. People think of him as a marginal radical. The first problem with this perception is that he is not a crazy person, but a very sober and intelligent candidate who has the kind of anti-establishment message that is playing this year. I think that that when people actually see him, and agree with him about how our economy has been restructured to benefit the wealth and powerful and ignore the middle class, he's going to have people coming to his side who weren't because they were scared off by the "socialist" label. Sanders has the wrong prescription. But he has the right diagnosis and he is articulate when giving it. People are going to see this and his is going to win BIG. Bernie is for real and he will steal the show.

I would mention the other candidates, but they will continue to be irrelevant.

I will be live-Tweeting the debate tonight. Tune in.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Scientists claiming to be able to predict male homosexuality get roughed up by ... other scientists

What has come over the scientific community? Do they not understand that, when it comes to homosexuality, they are supposed to look the other way when questionable scientific claims are made that favor the exotic conclusions of modern gender theory? Isn't there some protocol somewhere that dictates this?

For years now, we have been told, for one thing, that psychologically speaking, homosexuality is perfectly normal. As proof we are given evidence such as that the American Psychological Association no longer considers homosexuality a pathology because science had shown that it isn't. Never mind that the APA changed its position purely on the basis of political activism within and outside the organization. This was admitted both by liberal members of these organizations who protested the change at the time and the radicals who pressured the APA, through political pressure, including the disruption of APA meetings.

Whether it is a pathology or not, it's hard to justify the process by which the question was answered, which was almost exclusively political.

Just imagine the response if social conservatives ever interfered in the workings of a supposedly scientific organization the way gays have.

But we all must look the other way, think scientific thoughts, and pretend it had something to do with, I don't know, like, evidence or something. Bad science is no problem with research that supports pro-gay orthodoxies, unlike research that questions the Approved Opinions, like that of Mark Regnerus, which are held to the highest scientific standards.

If your conclusions follow the party line, you're celebrated no matter what. But violate the current orthodoxies, and a witch hunt ensues, as it did with Regnerus.

One of the most important claims of gay orthodoxy is that "sexual orientation" is immutable. This is politically important on gay issues because, in order to be considered a "suspect class"—one that cannot be discriminated against--one of the four criteria (all of which need to be met) is that the class of person be defined according to immutable characteristics.

Not only do gay rights groups make this claim—and cite studies that purportedly demonstrate it, but courts now regularly accept these claims with almost no critical inquiry into whether they are, in fact, true. When these claims are questioned in judicial proceedings, the defense you get is not exactly compelling. This was the case in the Prop 8 case when, Gregory Herek, a social psychologist at UC Davis, testified that "eighty-seven per cent of the gay men and seventy per cent of the lesbians he questioned said they felt they had little or no choice in their sexual orientation."

That's right: A survey of gays themselves was supposed to settle the question of whether homosexuality was immutable. This methodology would laughed out of court, literally and figuratively, on any other issue, but when it comes to gay issues, no scientific method is so bad that it can't do in a pinch. But it should be noted that Herek had to backtrack with opposing attorneys presented a whole binder full of evidence (the actual, scientific kind) to the contrary.

In reality, no study has proven that homosexuality is immutable. It is not a scientific belief: It a creedal belief in the religion of Political Correctness that is automatically accepted in order to further what is now a popular political agenda. In fact, gays themselves deny it when they talk about "gender fluidity," which they do about as much as they talk about it not being a matter of choice.

So it wasn't a surprise when, at the end of last week, headlines blared that a team from UCLA announced at a meeting of the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics announce that they had creation "An algorithm using epigenetic information from just nine regions of the human genome can predict the sexual orientation of males with up to 70 percent accuracy."

Just as we have come to expect, the uncritical headlines followed:
"Homosexuality can be predicted by a gene scan with 70 percent accuracy, study reveals," Latinos Health
"Study: DNA test can reveal male sexual orientation," San Diego Union Tribune
"Epigenetic algorithm accurately predicts male sexual orientation," Medical Press
"Real-Life ‘Gaydar’: Gene Scan Predicts Who’s Gay with 70 Percent Accuracy," Healthline News
"Epigentic ‘gaydar’ proven to be 70 percent accurate,"
And on and on. You get the idea.

Now first of all, you wonder what all the fuss is about concerning a study finding something we already know. If we all know now that homosexuality is immutable, then why would the results of this study be hailed so widely?

Scientific American summarized the study soon after the announcement:
It followed 37 pairs of identical male twins in which one was homosexual and one heterosexual, and 10 sets of twins in which both males were homosexual. The study found that the presence of specific epigenetic marks in nine areas of the human genome could predict homosexual preference with up to 70% accuracy.
But something went wrong. Someone didn't get the memo that bad science is perfectly permissible when it comes to gay issues. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, comes this chorus of scientific voices casting doubt on this study's results. Scientific American was one of the first:
... genetics experts warned that the research has important limitations and will not provide definitive answers to a potential biological basis for sexual preference.
Two days later, there came a fairly devastating article in the Atlantic, where, after reiterating the excited headlines, author Ed Yong said:
Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.
It went on to explain how the study was done, and then this:
...The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results. 
Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered. 
There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms. 
If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)
He goes went on to point out problems with potential confusions between cause and effect. Yong concludes by calling the study an "underpowered fishing expedition."

What happened to all the credulity?! Where did all of this actual critical analysis come from? And what are we going to do now that countless courts have treated the immutability of sexual orientation as a settled issue, partly depending on it to justify their conclusions about gay marriage?

Just move along folks.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

From the Vault: Harry Potter and the Attack of the Critics

I am still asked what I think of the Harry Potter books, and, in fact, was just asked about this again recently. This is my article from the Spring, 2008 Classical Teacher magazine addressing this question:

It was Christmas time at number four Privet Drive, and Harry Potter found himself alone in his room, wondering whether anything could be worse than another yuletide spent in the home of the Dursleys. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, whose idea of a yuletide celebration never seemed to include actually giving Harry anything, had already informed him in the harshest tones that the gift he had asked for, the thing he wanted the most, was absolutely unacceptable. These kinds of judgments usually applied only to him, and not to their son Dudley, who almost always got what he wanted.

In fact, Dudley had asked for the same thing this Christmas as Harry: a copy of the newest in a series of books by a British author about a boy whose parents have been killed and is living with his unsympathetic aunt and uncle, and who, it turns out, has magical powers which he is not supposed to use outside school--a boy, in fact, just like him.

But even Dudley would not be getting his wish this Christmas, since the Dursleys were like many other parents on their block: conflicted about whether such books--books about young boys who use witchcraft, but who nevertheless engage in seemingly noble acts, should be so terribly popular--and read by their children.

...Well, you see where all this is going, don’t you?

That the greatest publishing event in history should turn out to have been a children’s book about an English orphan boy in training to be wizard has, depending on who you are, been a cause for celebration--or a matter of concern. For the parents whose children wait for months for the next in the series--and who are likely to disappear for a day or two in their rooms after they arrive, it is fact that either delights or horrifies you.

The Harry Potter books are indeed terribly popular, and many parents wonder what they should think of them. Generally speaking, there are two basic questions abour the Harry Potter books: First, are they bad? Second, if they’re not bad, are they good?

By “bad”, of course, could mean a number of things. Some people think the books are positively dangerous, since they use positive images of witchcraft to tell their story, and there is a concern that this could have a detrimental influence on children. Others think they are simply not good literature.

Let’s first address the first question: are the Harry Potter books dangerous? And the answer, of course, is “yes.” But there is a another, related question that naturally follows this one: Does that mean that the books should not be read? After all, it would seem to naturally follow that, if a book is dangerous it should not be read. All books that are dangerous should not be read; the Harry Potter books are dangerous; therefore they should not be read. Quod est demonstrandum ("It has been demonstrated).

But is it that simple?

When I am asked by a parent whether the Harry Potter books are dangerous, my answer is, “Absolutely.” “In fact,” I point out, “all literature is dangerous.”

Many parents of my generation will remember the fellow students they ran into in college 1970’s and 80’s who were hijacked by the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. These were people who left home and came to college, where they encountered Rand’s novels the Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, and were overcome and captured by Rand’s egoistic ideology. Why were they so swept away? For one reason: they hadn’t read anything else. By and large, these were people who were not well-read in the first place. They were ignorant of the great books, and so, in encountering Rand, they mistakenly concluded that they had come face to face with great thinking. They were not used to ideas, and so, to use G. K. Chesterton’s words, the one idea went to their heads like “one glass of wine to a starving man.”

“Literature,” says Chesterton, “classic and enduring literature, does its best work in reminding us perpetually of the whole round of truth and balancing other and older ideas against the ideas to which we might for a moment be prone ... You can find all the new ideas in the old books; only there you will find them balanced, kept in their place, and sometimes contradicted and overcome by other and better ideas.”

To a child who is not well-read, Harry Potter is dangerous--and so is any other book he or she may read.

The best defense against one idea is not fewer ideas, but more of them, and the best defense against one book is a whole host of them. Being widely read, in other words, is the best innoculation against the dangers of literature. Being familiar with a lot of ideas is the best way to protect yourself against one bad one. Being widely read enables a person to not only see an idea, but, as Chesterton pointed out, to see through it.

Literature is dangerous--except when taken in large doses.

If my theory is right, then the Harry Potter books are only dangerous to children who are not well-read. But what about the witchcraft? It would seem here that the critics have a point. But let us think about this a little further.

I think there are two responses to the concerns over witchcraft in Harry Potter. The first is to ask whether the so-called “witchcraft” in these books of the same kind as that prohibited in the Scriptures (it is usually Christians who have this concern). I have my doubts about whether what is discussed in Scripture--namely necromancy--is really what is going on here, or whether what we have in the Harry Potter books is what I have called “fairy tale magic”. Waving wands and exploding birds just don’t seem to be the same kind of thing as calling up the spirits of the dead for purposes of prophesying, as in the case of the Witch of Endor.

The magic in the Harry Potter books seems mostly to be a sort of natural magic, used to manipulate things to do what we want them to do. If this is the case, then we might well ask how it differs fundamentally from science and technology, which do the same thing with processes that, to most of us (with the exception of a few magicians we call scientists) are just as mysterious as what happens when Harry Potter waves his wand.

The twentieth century science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once said that "any technology, when sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic." I think he was right. But if you doubt it, then think about any one of the numerous uses to which you put technology every day and explain how they work to manipulate the word around you: the microwave, the garage door opener, your cellphone, or, for that matter, your car. By the same criteria that we would condemn the kind of magic used in Harry Potter, we would also have to condemn the technological devices that we use numerous times every day.

But even if the “magic” in Harry Potter posed a problem, there is something to be said for it being out in the open. In fact, if there are problems with the Harry Potter books, they hit us right in the face: the better we may see and assess them. How much better than a book in which the problems are underneath the surface, and that pass into our mind unnoticed. For this reason I am much more comfortable with my children reading Harry Potter, than, say Lois Lenski’s The Giver, or Katherine Paterson’s, Bridge to Teribithia, whose subtle messages are an undertow that cannot be seen on the surface.

Another charge thrown against the Harry Potter books is that they are not great literature. Harold Bloom, one of the great literary critics of our time, leveled this charge against the books in an article in the New York Times. After it ran, the editors called and told Bloom that they had never seen anything like it: they had received 400 negative response letters and only one positive one, and the latter they said they suspected he had written himself!

But those who think that the Harry Potter books are dangerous should be less concerned, not more, by the thought that they are not great literature. Why? Because not only is literature dangerous, but the better a piece of literature, the more dangerous it is. This may seem like a paradox, but it is really just common sense. Anything that captures your heart (and the better a piece of literature is, the more it will do this), can propel you in the right direction--or the wrong one.

There is a famous Latin phrase: Corruptio optimi pessima (“The corruption of the best is the worst”) In his “Screwtape Letters,” C. S. Lewis applies this principle by pointing out that the great saints and the great sinners are made of the same stuff.

Valdemort is very, very bad--but only because he could have been very, very good if he had not gone wrong.

In the case of Harry Potter, the books cannot be that bad because they are not that great. There is a difference between great literature and good literature, and they both have their place. When it comes to fiction, a great book is not only a book that you read again and again, or that speaks some great truth: it is a book that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a book in which there is something behind what you initially see--a book in which there is more than meets the eye.

There have been many criticisms of the Harry Potter books, but for my money the most insightful remark anyone has made about them was that made by Medelaine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time and several other classic stories. In a May, 2008 interview in Newsweek magazine, L’Engle made an interesting observation: “It’s a nice story,” she said of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, “but there’s nothing underneath it.”

There’s nothing underneath it. That is the difference between a great book and a merely good one. Great books have something underneath them.

There are many things to commend the Potter books as reading material. I happen to think that her characters are well-drawn and compelling. In fact, they remind me very much of some of Dicken’s characters: they have the same vividness, they have the same reality and fundamentally comic nature--even the bad ones. She even gives them names that express something about their character: Bathsheba Babbling, Bathilda Bagshot, and Severus Snape are not that far from Josiah Bounderby, Mr. Bumble, or Ebeneezer Scrooge in descriptiveness and propriety.

And yet there is something different. Dickens’s characters often tell us something fundamental about human nature itself. His stories do this too. There is something “underneath” Dickens’ stories in a way that there is not in the Harry Potter books. While Rowling’s stories are about what they are about, Dickens’ stories are about more than what they are about. Chesterton once said that the aim of good prose words is to mean what they say, while the aim of good poetic words is to mean what they do not say. There is a poetry about great books that is missing from merely good ones.

In his book The Death of Christian Culture, John Senior makes a distinction between what he calls the 100 great books and 1,000 good books. He makes the distinction not to dismiss the good books, but only to put them in their proper place. In fact, he says, it is important to be familiar with the 1,000 good books before even attempting the 100 great books.

To say that the Harry Potter books are not great literature is not an argument against reading them; it is only an argument against the misconception that they are great. Because a book is only good and not great is not a reason for not reading it: it is only a reason for not misunderstanding its place.

In some sense, there is no arguing with success. There is something to be said for the argument that J. K. Rowling’s creation must have something to it for it to have been so successful. In fact, she spins an exciting yarn. As good books go, it is a pretty good good book. But second things, said C. S. Lewis, suffer when put first. He didn’t say what their fate was when put last. But neither mistake does the books--or ourselves--any favors.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Ted Cruz dismantles Sierra Club president on Global Warming

Ted Cruz dismantles Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in a congressional meeting on the issue of Global Warming alarmism yesterday. Whether you believe the earth is warming or not. I believe that that probably is the long-term trend, although what is causing it seems less clear. But you've got to find the anti-scientific mentality of the people demanding that everyone else accept it or else to be manifestly disturbing.

Listen to Mair's blatant appeal to authority when confronted with what the actual objective satellite data say about the pause in global warming over the past 18 years. In fact, he doesn't even seem to know what the "pause" is or that it is actually a term used by Warming proponents.

Can you be blamed for not trusting the authorities cited by these people (which de facto places them in the position of authorities for your own opinions)? Are you really supposed to believe so-called experts (who have been well-plied with grant money for taking the positions they take) in the face of evidence?

And do the 97 percent of climate scientists cited by Mair deny the pause? This seemed to be his assumption, but, as far as I know, these scientists were never asked that question.

I sat next to a recently retired climate scientist earlier this year. He was a political conservative, but believed that the evidence was definitive that the globe was warming over the long term. He said that he strongly disagreed with many conservatives who just denied that the earth was warming, but equally disturbed by how his liberal friends tried to sell the idea.

No wonder.

Oh, and here is one Warmer blog that calls Cruz's attempt to confront Mair with actual evidence, "bullying." This is priceless.

If someone argues this badly for a position, it makes you want to reject it even if you are inclined to believe it. In this sense, the Warmers have only themselves to blame if they can't convince people of their position.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Is the Urge to Pathologize "#Homophobia" a Psychological Disorder?

More junk science from the gay lobby.

There are apparently people who believe that "homophobia" should be considered a psychological disease. These people should have their heads examined.

In fact, more study should be done on whether the urge to assign pathological status to people who politically with you is itself a pathology.

The term "homophobia" originally came into use by psychologists to refer to people who were in denial about their own homosexuality. Only in recent years has it come into use as a punitive political bullying term wielded against people who simply disagree, on religious or other grounds, with the condition or practice of homosexuality.

But the political and psychological use of the term together provide a nice little way for LGBT advocates to bully their opponents. How nice it is if you could just label people whose political or social positions you dislike as diseased.

This goes back to the Soviet era in which the Russian government many times deemed opposition to Communism as a psychological malady, and filling its psychiatric hospitals with political prisoners.

This is also the essence of what the Southern Poverty Law Center does with its label of any socially conservative group as a "hate group."

But don't wait for the people who are always complaining about the "politicization of science" to complain about this. That's because the people who complain about the politicization of science are themselves politicized.