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|An addendum to Do pets go to heaven? (See
(December 13, 2014)
Yesterday, in considering the likelihood of finding our pets in heaven, we commented on the "miraculous" nature of evolution:
[Evolution], in itself, is miraculous – but miraculous in a non-interventionist, hands-off, do-it-yourself, let’s-see-where-this-takes-us sort of way.
We have been led to reflect further on what seems to be an essential element of the universe: it is creative. Life seems to progress by throwing out random ideas or strategies into – or against -- the restrictions of the environment which may hold at any given moment. Some of these random alterations fail, some succeed. Those which succeed are "right" – in a strictly utilitarian sense – and form the platform for the next change. Those alterations which fail, simply fail, and are discarded. The life that exists today represents, quite simply, success – the success of what works.
There is no "moral" component to this process; it is entirely utilitarian. Mr. Darwin himself noted: I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.*
We think that the creative process shown in evolution – the process of experimentation -- can be seen in the human mind. Certainly, we believe that we have personal evidence of the process in the composing of melodies, and in writing.
We have observed that, in making a melody – its genesis is only partly something that strikes "out of the blue." It is not something which appears, magically, fully formed. While we cannot deny that this might happen – as a result of the subconscious working away, unattended, and presenting the result in a flash of "inspiration" – that has not been our experience.
Rather, a melody starts with about three or four notes. The notes are suggestive – let’s see where they want to go. Oops – that doesn’t sound so good! But how appropriate – possibly wonderful -- it sounds if the next note is this one. And look what happens if this chord is changed slightly to give a different colour to the melody. And what happens when the rhythm is altered? Hey – playing the first two notes rapidly creates an entirely different effect!
Indeed, we see composing as simply an echo of the evolutionary process. And, we should add – anyone can do it.
Similarly, with writing. It is not without reason that the blank page is daunting, but the page with even a few words on it may more easily lead to a completed work. This is because creation comes from an interaction, experimentation, -- a playing with words and ideas. Starting with something is better than starting with nothing. In fact – perhaps like the universe itself – you have to start with something.**
We reflect on a single sentence which we composed recently:***
... religion clings, like a rather desperate limpet, to a rock of 'certitudes' made untenable in the rising tide of knowledge.
Our aim was to criticize religion as representing a blind clinging to ideas no longer relevant in today’s society. The image of the limpet came immediately to mind:
religion clings, like a limpet, to a rock
This, of course, is the subconscious mind at work. However, if another image had come to mind – a man hanging by his fingertips from a parapet – we might have discarded it. Or -- perhaps -- developed it.
As we imagined the religious limpet, it seemed appropriate to characterize his feelings. Surely clinging has a desperate quality – this particular limpet is fighting a rear-guard action.
Thus: Religion clings, like a rather desperate limpet to a rock.
We are glad that our subconscious came up with the word desperate. It has just the right element of humorous exaggeration, and is consistent with the determined stance of the limpet. Any suggestion of frantic desperation can be dispelled with the softening rather. Anguished would be excessive and tearful; worried would be trivializing. Insecure, while appropriate to the limpet's mental state, has connotations at odds with its clinging determination.
Now, let’s play around a bit more. We have made a suggestive start. We have embarked on a metaphor -- how can it be extended? What is the rock that religion clings to? It is not a real rock, of course, but a symbolic one. Surely it is a rock of "certitudes." We are grateful that our subconscious came up with certitudes rather than certainties. A certitude has a stiffness of backbone, a certain primness about the lips which a certainty cannot match. Indeed, compared to a certitude, a certainty is a gormless layabout, given to watching too much late-night television, and sometimes failing to ensure that the beer cans are in the blue box in time for collection the next day.
|To continue the metaphor, we should consider the environment of
the limpet and its rock of certitudes. That environment, of course, is the sea –
which is also symbolic. It is the sea of knowledge, gradually rising,
threatening to overwhelm the rock of old certitudes.
And then there is religion, the poor little limpet. What happens when the rock of certitudes is engulfed by the rising tide of knowledge? Well the rock becomes "untenable." "Untenable" – a word thrown up by the subconscious – is wonderfully apt. It can refer to the tangible – the physical rock to which the limpet clings or "holds" on to. But it also refers to the conceptual – the "certitudes" which can no longer be "held" or maintained.
The final sentence, then, seems to be the result of an interplay between the subconscious and conscious minds. The subconscious throws up a word or idea – the conscious mind decides whether the idea "works" or does not. It "plays around" with further concepts. The process of evolution seems exactly replicated.
Whether the final creation is a "success" in the eyes of others – well, that, of course is an entirely different matter.
What happens in the human brain is also seen in society at large. Ideas are conceived, and either dismissed, or accepted. Accepted ideas are tried out, and are proved workable or not.
On this basis, we must accept that religion must have some utilitarian value, for religious ideas have persisted over the centuries. They also have a destructive value, as is seen in the murderous rampages to which deluded certainties about the nature of God and his wishes have led currently, and in the past.
At some point, we would hope, a beneficial evolution will proceed so that the utilitarian aspects of religion may be retained, and the destructive aspects will be rejected. It seems likely that a religion embracing murder and oppression is ultimately self-destructive.
Many of society’s experiments seem – to us – similarly flawed. The universal health care system is admirable in its attempt to provide care for all – but oppressive and coercive in its insistence that citizens not be allowed to seek remedies in alternative systems within the country. Like all socialist experiments, it must ultimately fail, because the environment -- the actual world of striving and inherent inequality -- is hostile and not supportive.
Multiculturalism is based on the idealistic, experimental idea
that all cultures are equal and should be worthy of equal respect. This
notion founders on the reality that not all cultures are equal in
providing the greatest happiness of the greatest number.**** Simply put,
some ideas are better than others. Once again -- not all -- but most
notions of equality
Human Rights Commissions are an idealistic experiment in the creation of equality, and a pious tribute to the notion that no citizen should ever feel offended. Their aims are largely unachievable, and their functions are an offense to legal procedures and protections which have been developed over the centuries in free and democratic societies. More rights are abrogated than supported. It is difficult to see how they can persist in any society which has already achieved many freedoms.
In all three examples, we are hopeful that, over time, the beneficial elements may be retained, and the unworkable (usually unworkably idealistic) elements will be discarded.
Thus we see creativity as an essential element in the universe. We do not look to the central planner, God, mucking about, pulling strings, working the levers behind the curtain, making sure the world reflects his personal vision. We think that Spinoza was correct in seeing "God" as the universe. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Spinoza held that:
There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God.
Indeed, we have speculated: The universe is just God, struggling to create Himself. (Observation #108)
Mankind is the result of millions of years of speculative, creative evolution. There is no guiding hand beyond that provided by utility: what works, persists; what doesn’t work, is discarded.
We ourselves reflect that same creativity – both as individuals and as societies.
Divinity is not enthroned above, in a heaven amid the stars, but in ourselves, the dust of stars which encodes and reflects the creativity and the imagination of the universe. (Observation #130)
*Our own favourite example of natural horror is the epomis beetle, which devours a hapless live frog over a period of many hours.
**This is why the current disparagement of "rote learning" in education is so mistaken. There is no point in teaching "critical thinking" to those who have no facts to think about.
***We recognize how self-indulgent it may appear to analyze our own work. On the other hand, in the circumstance, personal experience is all we have to rely upon for our contention.
****The abject failure of the United Nations -- a miasma of corruption and stupidity -- may be traced to the same error of assuming an equality of nations.
|Do Pets go to Heaven?
(December 12, 2014)
At the heart of religion is deception; the range is from feel -good bamboozlement to wolf in sheep’s clothing. (Observation # 81)*
We are intrigued to learn that the Pope has told a small boy – whose dog had died – that
Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.
(National Post, December 12)
This message – like many other assurances of religion – is comforting. Indeed, the resident Lumpenbangen feline, His Majesty, recently died – and we have taken solace in imagining him, not in decay in the small coffin which we constructed for him, but rather, in the flower of his youth, roaming the woods at Wind-in-the-Pines, making occasional exuberant rushes towards those same tall trees which he so loved to climb when he was alive.**
However, we see this imagining as exactly that – a comforting thought which has no basis in reality.
Regardless of our longings, we think the notion of an afterlife – because of the advances of science – has become a very difficult proposition.
In olden days, before we knew very much about the real world, all sorts of comforting and self-congratulatory ideas seemed quite acceptable. Man was at the centre of the universe, the sole preoccupation of the divine and beneficent Being who had created him. The earth, quite naturally, was circled by the sun – as anyone observing the rising and setting of that life-giving orb could attest.
Similarly, Man had a special place in the hierarchy of being. He was part beast, and part angel, but separate from both. At death, he might leave his earthly body, and, under certain terms and conditions – the fine print was to be found in the Bible, and interpreted by the priests – might ascend to that higher realm inhabited by the angels. In that Paradise – the very one referred to by the Pope – the chosen would be close to God, and experience an existence rich in milk, honey, and concerts of the harp performed in some soft and downy stadium of the clouds.
Alas, as Man’s busy mind began to investigate the real world, great gaps began to appear between what was discovered, and what was thought to be true.
The sun did not circle the earth. Indeed, it was quite the other way around. Man became less central and more peripheral. All those other stars in the sky suggested that the sun itself was not such a big deal – a rather minor element in a rather unprepossessing galaxy in a universe expanding to infinity.
And then, of course, along came Darwin, with the suggestion that the creatures on this planet were not formed by a seven-day act of divine imagination, but, rather, evolved over millions of years from much simpler organisms.
This, in itself, is miraculous – but miraculous in a non-interventionist, hands-off, do-it-yourself, let’s-see-where-this-takes-us sort of way.
And indeed, if there should be any lingering doubt about evolution, it has been shown that all life is composed of the same building blocks. Human beings are 97% chimpanzee – and mice are used to test the effects of drugs because of their genetic similarity to human beings.
In short, science has dispelled the comforting mythology of earlier eras.
If one wishes to argue for an afterlife for mankind, then it seems difficult not to argue for a similar Paradisal existence for the chimpanzee, the mouse, or the cockroach.
The Pope, not surprisingly, has taken the positive side of the argument: Paradise is open to both human beings and their pets. We would assume that – to achieve consistency -- the Pope’s Paradise also includes mosquitoes, tsetse flies, and the epomis beetle.
It seems far more likely that life is a case of "what you see is what you get." Creatures are born, thrive, and ultimately die. Queen Gertrude put it well: "All that lives must die, passing through nature to eternity."
Neither we nor our pets go to heaven.
*Our opening quotation suggests the reason for our distrust of religion. It is based on supposition and hopeful thinking. A small amount of hopeful thinking --some feel-good bamboozlement -- may be helpful, as long as one does not take it too seriously, and attempt to construct Caliphates from it.
The more serious dangers -- the deceptive and predatory wolves -- are suggested by those who have been deluded into thinking that there is some kind of divine sanction for murder, and the oppressive social codes of the seventh century.
*See Drivel, September 8, 2014
|Religion and the Law
(November 23, 2014)
We have encountered yet another defence of Trinity Western University, an evangelical institution which seeks to have graduates from its Faculty of Law recognized by the Law Societies of the Provinces of Canada. The Law Societies of British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, have refused.
The difficulty arises from the fact that Trinity Western has a code of conduct which requires that students not violate "the sacredness of marriage between a man and woman." The students are required to sign a "community covenant" to that effect.
Mr. Ezra Levant has been a passionate defender of the University, and a recent editorial in the National Post (November 20) concurs.
The editorial makes much of the notion of "religious freedom," and points out that some religions are "officially disapproving of homosexual behaviour – and they have every right to be."
Thus far, we are in agreement. The question is -- not whether graduates of a religious University should not become accountants, or salesman, or farmers -- but whether it is appropriate that they become lawyers.
Of course -- as the editorial reminds us -- the Supreme Court of Canada is relevant in this matter. That august body, according to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, has established that entry into the legal profession cannot be denied on the grounds of religious belief.
Thus, it would appear that the case is closed. The Law has never been, and is not now in that category described by a confounded Mr. Bumble: "a ass."
But the weakness of the argument is revealed in the final sentence of the editorial:
Perhaps some day the Charter will be amended to weaken religious rights...
Indeed. Perhaps, some day, it will. The simple fact is that Trinity Western University and its sometimes over-righteous, passionate defenders are on the wrong side of history. While science has shed considerable light on old, dark, prejudices, and social views have altered accordingly, religion clings, like a rather desperate limpet, to a rock of 'certitudes' made untenable in the rising tide of knowledge.
First there was that bother about whether or not the sun circled the earth. Then Darwin showed that man evolved -- rather than ‘appeared’ through an act of divine imagination. To reinforce that point, it has subsequently been shown that all life is composed of the same building blocks. Oops! There goes the afterlife – unless that beneficence is to be extended to the cheetah, the cat, and the cockroach.
We have heard few sermons extolling the wonders of cockroach Nirvana.
Finally society – well, our society -- has accepted that religious dogmas with respect to abortion, contraception, and benign variant sexual interests should be regarded as precisely that – the religious relics of an era when significantly less was known about the real world.
In addition, we might note, it is instructive to contrast the wealth, comfort and freedom of citizens in those societies which have made religion subservient to secular interests in governance with the quality of life in those jurisdictions which have made it primary. Surely such comparison suggests that -- regardless of the personal comfort that superstitious belief may confer -- it has no place in the legal system of a ‘civilized’ nation.
Now there is a distinction, we would argue, between casual religious believers of any sort, and those who make a great fuss over religious principle. Casual believers are just that – they might be able to fudge a bit on religious dogma when it interferes with common sense. But Trinity Western makes a great fuss over a significant matter – a matter on which society has moved on. Indeed, society has moved on at such a distance, that it has enshrined a directly contrary principle in its legal system.
If the ‘principle’ were trivial – such as the speed limit on major highways – one might regard the matter with amused equanimity. But what is involved is the fairness and equity which a society extends to a significant portion of its population.
Religious principles, which are based on superstitious understandings of the world, should not be seen to influence the legal system of the nation. The subversion of justice on religious grounds should be no more countenanced than on any other.
Ordinary citizens, may, course, hold any absurd or fanciful religious notions they please.
But lawyers are not dentists or automobile repairmen; they are "officers of the court." Would we be willing to accept as lawyers those graduating from an institution which has, as a priority in its charter, the instituting of Sharia law, the revocation of the vote for women, or the establishment of a Caucasian-only dictatorship?
While individual lawyers graduating from other institutions might -- as individuals -- hold such contrarian views, the threat to society does not seem dire. But it would seem rather inappropriate to welcome graduates – as a group – from an institution declaring its opposition to rights and freedoms so many centuries in the making.
The right and freedom at issue is of more recent origin, but one we think it is important to defend.
It would not surprise us to see Trinity Western win its case on technical, legal grounds. There is a current right of "freedom of religion" in opposition to another right of freedom from discrimination. Religion bears the unjustified halo of 'divine' sanction.
But -- the central question remains: can those making public declaration of beliefs contrary to those enshrined in the legal system be relied on to suppress their prejudices in case of conflict? Is such an expectation not contrary to common sense, and to our knowledge of human nature?
Eventually, we hope that religious belief will find its proper place in the administration of justice in a secular society.
Just next to the Unicorn Shed.
(See also Drivel, May 16, 2014)
|The Essex School Board Affair
(November 13, 2014)
Truth is the first casualty of war.* (See weekly quotations, November 12, 2014 for two attributions.)
Just before Remembrance Day, Mr. Ezra Levant drew our attention to a memo issued by the Greater Essex County District School Board which suggested that teachers be prepared to exempt students whose families might not wish them to attend any Remembrance Day Ceremonies:
Some families may be reluctant to have their children attend your location municipality's ceremonies. Please note that meaningful alternate activities should be provided at the schools for those families who do not wish their children to participate in any Remembrance Day ceremonies.
The reason for the exemption was not specified, but Mr. Levant noted that, at the foot of the memo, were links to two "Muslim-themed websites," one of which included a story about the first Muslim soldier in the Canadian forces, who wore a hijab.
Mr. Levant’s article on the subject did not include additional information provided on his television program, The Source, during which it was noted that the Sun News Network had received communication from Scott Scantlebury, who is listed on their website as a Public Relations Officer for the Board. In these communications – our understanding is that there were two – it was indicated that the reason for proposed exemptions was the principle of "religious accommodation."
It is not surprising, therefore, that Mr. Levant concluded that the memo issued by the board meant that exemptions were to be granted on grounds of religion.
Mr. Levant objected strongly to the notion that Remembrance Day, which is not a religious ceremony, but one which is part of Canadian culture and tradition, which recognizes that the freedoms we enjoy have been purchased at cost, should be avoided by any group on grounds of religion.
Indeed, we see such thinking as extremely dangerous. It is yet another example of the peculiar willingness to disavow and denigrate our culture in favour of those of immigrants to this country. It is a refutation of the idea that, when in Rome, one should do as the Romans. It is an extraordinary endorsement of the idea that one can move to another country and expect that country to adjust to suit one’s own cultural preferences.**
Subsequently, the Essex Board has hastened to "clarify" – and has run to the provident shelter provided by those pesky gremlins of "miscommunication." The memo, it is asserted, had nothing to do with religious accommodation, but rather with concerns for safety:
"We had some families call expressing some safety concerns about their kids attending public Remembrance Day ceremonies at municipal events," Pyke told The Windsor Star. "It’s not that they don’t want their kids attending Remembrance Day events. But with what happened in Ottawa, with what happened in Quebec, they had heightened sensitivity about having their kids at that type of event." (National Post, November 12)
Now, it may well be true that the Board received some expressions of concern from parents. The possibility of a terrorist storming into a school auditorium during a Remembrance Day Service, while highly unlikely, is not completely beyond the imagination.
At the same time, we have a great deal of trouble dismissing the notion that the idea of religious accommodation was entirely absent in the crafting of the memo. To hold that position, one would have to assume that Mr. Scantlebury, the Public Relations Officer for the Board, is completely out of touch with the ethos of the organization which he is paid to represent.
We would note that there has been no news that his position has been terminated; nor have heard of an abject apology from Mr. Scantlebury for so misreading the intent of the memo. Indeed, Sharon Pyke the Board Superintendent has noted that "religious accommodation" is not a novel and outlandish concept:
Pyke said her board has allowed religious accommodation on a number of issues since 2004
Perhaps even more indicative of the prevailing ethos is the comment made by the student President:
I feel proud that so many students decided to mark the day with us," said student council president Ethan Raymond, 17, who sang O Canada. "I agree with presenting students with a choice, if they feel uncomfortable in the situation..."
Remembrance Day is regarded as a potentially "uncomfortable"
One has only to look at any number of recent incidents which show that "religious accommodation" is considered to be a primary virtue in contemporary Canada to be suspicious of the protestations of the Board.
There is the refusal of the Supreme Court to rule that those testifying in court should not be required to show their faces, the wearing of turbans by officers in the RCMP, the welcoming of hijabs in the Toronto and Edmonton police forces, and the actions of the police in Thornhill in persuading a local rabbi to cancel a speech by Pamela Geller in his synagogue.
Then, of course, there was the outcry from all the respected pooh-bahs of public opinion against the proposed Quebec Charter of Values, which would have made the symbolic proclamation that our society is primarily secular, and not influenced by religious sentiment.
We have no doubt that The Greater Essex School Board was simply proceeding down the well marked, well worn path to cultural capitulation in the face of confident demands of those who think that such self-abasement is fitting, and becomes us.
What is particularly interesting in this matter is that the National Post has immediately leapt to the side of the School Board in this Matter. A November 12th article is entitled:
Ezra Levant creates latest made up controversy by wrongly accusing Ontario School Board of allowing Muslims to skip Remembrance Day.
We think not.
*It is our contention that there is currently a war between those who believe that the best guide to the governance of society is to be found in the religious speculations of the seventh century, and those who do not. In our society, the conflict is evidenced by the division between those who think it is appropriate to defer to those who claim that religious values are paramount, and those whose commitment to religion is more casual, or who see secularism as the best hope for mankind. Our position is utilitarian. We have no objection to drawing on religious ideas of the past where they seem likely to lead to the greatest happiness of the greatest number -- but we would deny those ideas any "divine" sanction or "supernatural" validity. Those who wish to believe in "divinity" are perfectly free to do so, but should not expect others to accord their beliefs any special consideration on that account. To do so is to favour superstition over reason.
** See Drivel, October 24, 2014
Post Script: There is a small victory in this matter in that no students, apparently, decided to miss the Remembrance Day ceremonies. Good for them.
November 8, 2014
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Does he believe that evil should be fought with force, but only by grown-up nations with more airplanes? Does he think that some nations have a special place in a hierarchy of moral purity which enables them to avoid the nastiness of actual combat?
Is your Liberal leader given to baby balancing, marijuana musings, or making feeble jokes involving phallic foolishness?
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Are you tired of hearing your Liberal leader refuse to express an opinion, deferring instead to a hypothetical future pronouncement to be made by experts?
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|The Shootings at Canada’s Parliament
(October 25, 2014)
At the restaurant, our friend asked us what proposals we might have which would reduce the threat from radical Islamic ideology.
We confess that our preference is for complaint. We have had a lifetime of experience in complaining, and have developed – we hope we are not being excessively immodest – a certain degree of facility in that art. When it comes to positive suggestions, we are on less confident ground.
However, we do see the problem as a clash of ideologies; hence, the battle must be won primarily through words and symbols – propaganda, if you will. While a few legislative changes might be required, the most important thing is a change in attitude. Instead of accepting the demands of others, we must be aggressive in convincing those who believe that the answer to the problems of humankind is to be found in the oppressive and inhumane commandments of a seventh century religion, that they are -- just perhaps -- not in complete possession of the truth.
Our approach is based on the notion that appeasement -- being overly accommodating to those whose ideas are antithetical to our culture -- while superficially attractive, is dangerous. Being wonderfully tolerant allows people to claim moral superiority, to bask in the warmth of self-approbation, and to avoid facing the challenging fact that some ideas are better than others. The downside of appeasement is that it suggests weakness, and implies that one's own position is hardly worth defending. This merely encourages those with opposing viewpoints to demand further concessions.
It is our understanding that Muslims, by and large -- and quite understandably -- would prefer to live in a society in which religion plays a greater role, and that Islam should be the dominant religion. It is our contention that it should be made clear that we are, and wish to remain, an essentially secular society. If Muslim citizens understand that, we think that the potential for radicalism will be significantly reduced.
Now – the usual disclaimer – not all Muslims approve of extreme notions – such as the idea that the death penalty is appropriate for apostates and unbelievers. It probably varies by country. But it may well be that one of the great dangers is to underestimate and minimize the differences between Islamic ideology and our own. Although we are constantly told that Islam is a religion of peace, it is wise to keep in mind the words of Francis Bacon: For what a man would like to be true, that he more readily believes.
Our society seems pathetically anxious to believe that a chasm is merely a hairline crack. A hairline crack may be filled in with a little glue of tolerance and smiles. A chasm suggests a reconsideration of fundamental assumptions, and possibly the necessity of actually doing something.
While few Muslims may be classified as radicals, even a "tiny minority" of 1% of believers is fifteen million. And it should not be overlooked that those who do not act, but who support radical ideas, are more numerous than most would like to believe. A 2006 poll showed that 40% of British Muslims wanted Sharia law in "predominantly Muslim" parts of the country. And a 2011 McDonald Laurier Poll showed that 35% of Canadian Muslims would not repudiate Al-Qaeda. (TheReligionofPeace.com)
What to do?
1. Ban the wearing of the niqab in interactions between citizens and the government. Tell the Supreme Court to reverse its spinectomy, and rule that the niqab may not be worn by those testifying in court. Allow shopkeepers to insist that prospective customers not enter their premises wearing masks.
2. Do not allow the use of public school premises for Muslim religious ceremonies, as is currently being done in Toronto.
3. Stop providing places for religious prayer in secular institutions.
4. Stop the coziness between police and Muslim communities. The police in both Edmonton and Toronto have welcomed the wearing of the hijab by officers. They have shown no inclination to allow the wearing of mistletoe for Druids or pictures of L. Ron Hubbard for Scientologists. Stop the police from bowing to Muslim pressure to inhibit freedom of speech – which was done when police forced a rabbi in Thornhill to cancel a speech by Pam Geller in 2013. Stop the RCMP from contributing to booklets made up by questionable Muslim groups. Then they will not have to revoke their approval because of the "adversarial nature" of the content.* Stop the police from speaking about "our" communities when referring to Muslim residents. Police should regard citizens as citizens, not as "communities." We need less multiculturalism, and more emphasis on the Canadian culture which has given us wealth, comfort and freedom.
5. Stop indiscriminate immigration. Those coming from other countries should be able to demonstrate that their values are not antithetical to our own. Immigration is not a right, but a privilege. A strict immigration policy will enhance the degree of gratitude shown by successful applicants. It will minimize the number of those who might be seduced by or support radical ideology.
6. Encourage and provide a forum for Islamic scholars, Imams, and prominent Muslims to speak out against radical ideology and its manifestations.
7. Publicise and ridicule the pronouncements of radical Imams which are harmful to society.
8. Stop obsequious accommodations; start defending secular values. Tolerance is not the supreme virtue. The mindless toleration of intolerance is simply stupidity. Too much is enough, already.
9. Be aware that acts of extreme "tolerance" often represent, primarily, an exercise in smug self-congratulation. The chief concern is not the good of society, but the kudos to be gained: how will one be perceived -- how may one be applauded for one's exceptional virtue and impressive compassion? When the Edmonton police welcomed the hijab, a spokesperson admitted that part of the motivation was to counter a "redneck image" of Alberta.
10. Refer to "Christmas," and celebrate "Halloween" without worrying whether those from other cultures will be perplexed, upset, offended, or surprised. They will get over it.
11. Don’t be afraid to say – as long as you are armed – that you think Allah is, as deities go, significantly overrated.
12. Don’t worry so much about "diversity." True, plywood derives its strength from an aggregation of thin sheets of wood arranged so that the grain alternates in different directions. But sheets of wood alternating with peanut butter and raspberry jam, glued together with whipped cream, are unlikely to make a satisfactory floorboard. Don’t be afraid to distinguish between wood and peanut butter.
13. Wave the Wand of Merlin, and transform Mr. Trudeau from a blithering idiot into a harmless muppet. Failing that, obtain for him a one-way ticket to a pleasant, sunny, tropical island where he can drive his Mercedes, raise his family, and think vapid, inconsequential thoughts for the remainder of his vapid and (then, thankfully) inconsequential life.
14. Institute a mandatory study of comparative religions in high school. If students are exposed to a variety of foolish beliefs, they are likely to come to the conclusion that no one of them is worthy of unthinking devotion. This would, perhaps, be the single most beneficial thing that could be done for Canadian society.
We see these reforms to be simple and easily instituted. The alternative is simply to adopt Sharia Law, and get it over with.
*See Diary, October 1, 2014
See also the Parable of the Peacebilians, Diary, February 14, 2011
|The Shootings at Canada’s Parliament Part II
(October 24, 2014)
If you should be in Rome, live in the Roman manner; if you should be elsewhere, live as they do there. (attr. St Ambrose)
After writing our reaction to the shootings in Ottawa yesterday, we went with a friend to a nearby restaurant in Hamilton. The lady at the restaurant asked our opinion: she was about to place a sign outside which included the words "Godspeed, Nathan Cirillo." She wondered whether anyone might find the sentiment offensive. She noted that, on an earlier occasion, she had used the term "Christmas" in a promotion of an event at the restaurant, and had been urged to replace it with the word, "Holiday."
We, of course, do not find the terms "Godspeed" or "Christmas" at all offensive. "Godspeed," in the context, does have a suggestion of religious belief – it is an expression of goodwill in anticipation of an endeavour or journey. Corporal Cirillo’s only remaining journey might be considered as towards another existence, as promised by many religions, or simply as a symbolic move into the great unknown.
"Christmas" certainly refers to a religious belief – but, in the current era, may be considered primarily a cultural reference. It refers to a traditional solstice celebration which has its origins in antiquity, but which has long been associated with a religious story. Referring to such traditional celebrations does not necessarily imply religious belief – but simply acknowledges the name associated with them in a culture which has been significantly influenced by Christianity.
The lady remarked how careful one had to be – these days – in one’s speech. Canadians must constantly monitor their expression lest it be deemed offensive by others from a culture foreign to our own.
In the course of the meal, we described our reaction to the shootings in Ottawa, and our concern about the influence of foreign cultures – most often associated with Islam – which are based on assumptions quite different from those we embrace.
Our culture is – despite a few nominal references in old documents – primarily secular. The inspiration for legislation does not come from religion; religious dogma does not take precedence over secular values. We have decided, unlike the Catholic Church, that opportunities for men and women should be equal. We have decided that aspects of human sexuality considered "intrinsically disordered" or "morally problematic" in current Catholic teaching, are more reasonably seen as natural variants which should not be seen as "sin," or wilful perversity.
We have decided – with some hesitation based on our idealistic notion that no one should ever feel offended – that it is better to have freedom of speech, than to muzzle the expression of sentiments which may not be in accord with religion, or with the thinking of the government in power. Another freedom is the ability to engage in an exploration of how the world actually works, rather than be inhibited by preconceptions of how it should work. Francis Bacon trumps divine revelation.
|All these ideas and freedoms seem natural in a society which has
created wealth, comfort and content never experienced before in the
history of mankind.
How different are those cultures in which religion – usually Islam – is dominant. Over the past centuries, scientific enquiry has been discouraged. Why bother looking into things, when the answers have already been provided by an infallible religious source? Governance is based, ideally, on Sharia Law, which in turn, derives from religion. Women are not equal, but subservient. In Saudia Arabia women may not drive. In Iran stoning is considered an appropriate punishment for adultery. Iran hangs homosexuals. Pakistan has the death penalty for blasphemy.
In general, it would appear that freedom of speech or any other kinds of freedom are not highly regarded where the certainty of religion is assumed.
Honour killings – that is the murder of women in order to assuage some perceived insult to family honour – while not specifically religious, are often associated with cultures which value religion over common sense.
It is not surprising, perhaps, that those living in Islamic cultures would want to move to Canada.
What is surprising is that Canada makes no attempt to determine whether those immigrants are primarily motivated by the potential lifestyle, or the potential freedoms. Nor, apparently do we make clear to prospective immigrants that the lifestyle and the freedoms are interdependent. Like love and marriage in the old song – you can’t have one without the other.
What is even more surprising, is that Canada, in a frenzy of self congratulatory virtue, seeks to accommodate the cultural practices and beliefs of immigrants at every turn. It seems to involve a peculiar sense of self-loathing. We evince an almost desperate anxiety to curtail our own culture in favour of those manifestly less successful at creating wealth, comfort and freedom. It is absolutely bizarre.
Thus we have the lady at the restaurant, wondering whether some ordinary, banal expression will attract offense – either on the part of those from other cultures – or on the part of those who are the guardians of our political correctness – those believe that no one should ever be offended, who believe that a limitless tolerance is the chief among virtues.
At the conclusion of our diatribe, our friend posed an interesting and worthwhile question:
All right, in view of all this, what actual concrete changes would you propose?
(To be continued...)
|The Shootings at Canada’s Parliament Part
I (October 23, 2014)
We see the murder of Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa yesterday as the result of two kinds of misplaced idealism.
First there is the idealism of the killer, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who is described as a "recent convert to Islam." The problem with Islam, as we see it, is that it seems particularly vulnerable to fanaticism. That fanaticism pretends to an easy solution to the real difficulties of human existence – an untempered belief in Sharia Law, and a violent response to unbelievers. In essence, it suggests that the salvation of modern society is to be found in the limited perceptions of a religion conceived amid the multiplicities of ignorance current in the seventh century.
We have little doubt that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was motivated by the notion that those who did not share his peculiar misconceptions about reality were fit subjects for summary execution.
On the other hand, there is another kind of idealism which has made the fanaticism of those like Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau more possible. That idealism is the implicit requirement of multiculturalism -- which is that all cultures are equal: no attempt should be made to criticize cultures which are, in greater or lesser degree, hostile or antithetical to our own.
This idealism expresses itself in smugness and stupidity. We are not sure whether the smugness leads to the stupidity, or the stupidity leads to the smugness. Let us say the two conditions seem inextricably connected.
Canada – so we are led to believe – continues to allow immigration from countries in which many elements of the culture are hostile to our own. We would point out that a country like Pakistan has laws against blasphemy, with death as a possible penalty. Those found guilty are often released from prison, so that a mob can carry out the execution. Is it wise to allow immigrants from such a culture easy access to Canada without any attempt to determine their views on religion, blasphemy, mob justice, and the death penalty?
Apparently it is. So much for stupidity.
There is a smugness involved. There is an assumption that those with differing views, encountering the fresh air of reason on Canadian soil, will, after a single inhalation, abandon the prejudices of a lifetime. Further, it is considered ill-mannered and un-Canadian to express any criticism of those prejudices. That would be "intolerant." Tolerance, rather than being seen as appropriate or inappropriate in varying degrees, according to circumstance, is hailed as an absolute good. Tolerance is the supreme -- and supremely Canadian -- virtue. Tolerance can never know excess – too much is never enough.
Along with such idealistic assumptions goes the assurance that, because of our unimpeachable virtue, we are bullet-proof. We are simply too nice to be attacked. Since we will never be attacked, there is no point in caution, or prudent security. It’s a vicious circle. Stupidity leads to smugness, and smugness leads to more stupidity.
If we were entirely high-minded, we would avoid the taint of politics, and refrain from pointing out that Mr. Trudeau is the perfect exemplar of our peculiar Canadian combination of stupidity and smugness.
(We beg forgiveness; there are times when high-mindedness should defer to realistic honesty.)
It is Mr. Trudeau who recoiled at the notion of describing honour killings as "barbaric." It is Mr. Trudeau who visits radical Mosques in search of votes, claiming that he is merely in a process of "engagement" with those of different cultures. The "engagement" involves a happy smile, and a vigorous nodding of the head. It is Mr. Trudeau who seeks to explain the Boston Marathon Bombings with the "root cause:" it is not a question of evil ideology – it arises from the fact that someone feels excluded. (The solution is likely to be found, we suppose, in more inclusive lunch programs in elementary school.) It is Mr. Trudeau who sees no need to send aircraft to confront those devoted to murder in seeking to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Canada’s moral purity is such that actual combat is a defilement. Canada will enhance its virtue -- and maintain its immunity to attack – by "engaging" in humanitarian aid to the victims. An pound of compassionate cure is better than an ounce of vigorous prevention.
Indeed, just before we heard of the shooting on CBC radio, we heard Mr. Trudeau in conversation with Jian Ghomeshi, extolling the virtues of Canadian multiculturalism as opposed to the oppressions of the American melting pot.
The question now presents itself: will the shooting yesterday lead to a re-assessment of the flaws of Canadian idealism? It is interesting that, at the height of the crisis, the Ottawa police sent a note of reassurance and concerned "engagement" to Muslim leaders. A letter from Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bourdelau reads (somewhat illogically), in part:
We understand that the recent tragic event in St. Jean de Richelieu and today may be challenging for members of our communities, and that this incident may exacerbate these challenges.
We wonder whether, if Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau were described as a United Church militant, the police would be sending out soothing words to United Church Ministers, and referring, in encouraging solidarity, to "our" communities.
Somehow, we think the forces of smugness and stupidity are fairly deeply entrenched. We are not overcome with waves of giddy optimism.
P.S. (October 24) It has been learned that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau has been described as "troubled," which is the current euphemism for "mentally incompetent." It is also true that his terror was not part of an "organized" attack. Thus, some might argue he is not an "Islamic terrorist." But Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau did not shoot himself, or random shoppers in a mall. The symbolic nature of his targets, taken with his recent conversion to Islam strongly suggest a political/religious motive. We would maintain that the attack is still proof of the persistence of a way of thinking which has been insufficiently challenged and discouraged. The bullet from a deranged jihadist is as deadly as that from a "sane" jihadist -- if any jihadist can be considered actually "sane."
(We include below some of our relevant observations over the last four years.)
#342. Idealism is the problem: a little bit may lead to improvement; too much invariably leads to a Procrustean bed of cruelty and oppression, or the opposite, a refusal to confront evil. Sometimes it leads to both at the same time. Oh, for a reliable -- and universal -- recipe!
#319 A politically correct pretence is like a tightrope over a volcano.
#234. Tolerance extended to intolerance looks very much like stupidity.
#109. From the violent response to perceived insult, it is clear that many Muslims have no expectation that respect for their religion will arise freely, from admiration -- but rather must be compelled by threats, fear, and intimidation. Thus is shown the tyrannical nature of their belief.
#101.Tolerance is like alcohol: in moderate amounts, it softens hard edges, and lubricates the machinery of social interaction; in excess, it leads to foolishness, incoherence, the annihilation of principle, and the destruction of the essential self.
#88. 'Smugitude’ is that certainty of moral superiority evinced by the politically correct. (The affliction is generally thought to be intrinsic, and incurable.)
#87. It is a conceit of the modern liberal multicultural society that being nice to people with bad ideas and horrifying beliefs will result in harmony. On the contrary, such folly will end in the conflict which inevitably accompanies the unchecked spread of bad ideas and horrifying beliefs.
#75. There is a peculiar sense of self-loathing in societies which have achieved, by historical standards, almost paradisal circumstances; adults in the sixties, with much mea culpa, deferred to ignorant and idealistic youth; today we defer to the practices of any culture that demands we do so.
#72. The ideal of loving one’s neighbour is significantly impaired if, in fact, he is plotting to kill you.
#61. Muslims are as deluded as the followers of any other religion; what distinguishes them is the considerable faction which has acquired a rather tasteless penchant for blowing up those who disagree with them.
#4. It is a matter of enduring wonder that modern western democratic societies, which have created environments so attractive to the rest of the world, seem eager to modify their cultures in favour of those which have created environments measurably less desirable.
|The Catholic Church as we sees 'er.
October 21, 2014
There has been a little fooforaw lately, with the Church enticingly waving the possibility of a change in attitude towards family matters, and then, on a little further reflection, wafting the proffered possibility speedily away.
We noted, in our Diary of October 14, that a synod of Bishops had suggested that the Church might be more welcoming towards the "intrinsically disordered," might recognize the "positive" aspects of civil unions, and do a little wriggling on the matter of contraceptive measures.
It was as if the old Dowager, who now lives ensconced in her library in the Ivory Tower, seeing the world – a bit like the Lady of Shalott* -- through images cast on a carefully constructed mirror – had been enticed by the new, pastoral Lancelot, to step out onto the street to encounter real people in their daily lives.
This was a big step, and must be seen in context.
Even as a young girl, she was always a bit daft. She believed in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the casting out of Devils, and any number of speculations about a life after death. On the other hand, in those early times, very little was known of the world. As has been observed, where there are gaps in knowledge, religion – or any other bit of fancy – tends to seep in. Thus her predilections for fantasy were not as much remarked as they would be if they suddenly became apparent today.
Much later, it is said that she had a bit of a mid-life crisis – entering upon Crusades which were far from a delicate business – in order to respond to Islamic conquest and regain the Holy land, which she had inconveniently lost in 638. When that failed, she went through a significantly psychotic episode of inquisitorial madness, attempting to stamp out what she considered to be heretical beliefs.
Lately, she has been calmer, responding, in part, to increasing knowledge and scientific advances. These appear to have acted as powerful anti-psychotic medications, and relieved her of some of the more troubling symptoms of megalomania.
Her time has been spent in the library of the Great Tower, embellishing upon certain theoretical diagrams and wonderful conceptions about human society.
One of the most important of these diagrams is entitled Sex and Human Nature. It consists of depictions of perfectly round holes into which the square pegs of human experience cannot possibly fit. No matter – fiddling with the diagram keeps her occupied long into the evening hours, and preserves her from the debilitating experience of watching re-runs of Columbo, and Murder, She Wrote.
You may imagine, therefore, her shock and temporary discombobulation when the new Pope, wearing a Lancelot mask, enticed her – for the first time in many years -- down from the Tower to the bustling street below. For it is hard to look an "intrinsically disordered" person, a Catholic couple with the clear mark of illicit cohabitation on their foreheads, or an impecunious family of eight expecting to become an even more impecunious family of nine, without having those perfectly formed round holes fade, somewhat, from the mental landscape. There must have been a subliminal recognition of the difficulty of the perfect roundness of the holes, and the squareness of the disordered examples of humanity which are supposed to fit into them.
Indeed, some of the Bishops sent out little messages of altered tone, as we have described above.
However, it would appear that the Dowager, her mental state always delicate, always balanced precariously on the knife edge between reality and fantasy, claimed confusion and an imminent danger of falling over the edge, into the abyss. She may have expressed her fear of becoming a dissolving house of cards with no possibility of regaining the facade of a full pack, of being configured as an edifice of reliable authority. Many Bishops responded to her anguished cries, and led her, trembling, back to the safety of the calm quiet of the library in the Great Tower.
In the Confusion that followed -- initially -- the welcome mat of the confused Bishops to the "intrinsically disordered" was withdrawn, and a "pastoral attention" mat was put in its place. But, according to the National Post, (October 20) the old Lady, still shaken from her ordeal, has decided to leave the matter of mats -- whether welcoming or procedural -- entirely aside.
Similarly, the possibilities for changing Church practices on other matters were relegated to the limbo of majority voting insufficiency.
The other day, we speculated on the future of the Church, asking: can the integrity of the house be maintained if some of the walls are admitted to be cardboard rather than concrete?
The Church is, truly, a house of cards, but illusion is often preferred over reality. What the old Lady knows is that, if you keep repeating a story often enough, and pay no attention to the gaps and flaws, people will be impressed by your stick-to-it-iveness. If the story suggests that the listeners, too, can fit comfortably into a round hole -- and then live happily ever after -- a surprising willingness to suspend disbelief may emerge.
Another thing the old Lady knows is that human beings have a great potential for guilt. Suggest to them that they are responsible for being square, that with a lot of effort and God’s Grace they can become smooth and round – give them a challenge to self-improvement – and they will respond.
In the end, we would like to believe that cardboard, in the rain of reality, eventually softens, displays its true nature, and collapses into a grey, soggy, lifeless, mound.
In the meantime, it may well be that sticking to the story, insisting that the cards are concrete -- even in the rain -- is the best policy. These claims and pretenses may keep the Ivory Tower, the library -- and the great House itself -- standing for a bit longer yet.
|Discovering the truth requires considerable vigilance.
(October 10, 2014)
We were significantly a-tremble the other day to hear Lisa LaFlamme, on CTV news, warn of the dire machinations of the Conservative government. According to Ms. LaFlamme, in a typical surreptitious Conservative plot -- a plot brewed by the light of the full moon by the Three Witches Division of the Beelzebub Conservative Policy Committee -- it had been decided that a change to the copyright law should be unobtrusively slipped into a large omnibus budget bill.
There, the measure would hide amongst the pots and pans of finance, burrow beneath the kitchen cutlery of routine expenditures, and blend seamlessly into the uneven landscape of fiscal measuring cups. It would wait, breathlessly, to be hauled into the unsuspecting city of Federal politics.
Once there, it would leap from its place of concealment, smiting the unsuspecting opposition parties, and, with any luck, deliver a death blow to the bearer of benign bromides, the pure and innocent Prince of Platitudes, his Leftiness, Justin Trudeau.
For the surreptitious measure would allow the Conservatives to use, with impunity, short excerpts from news broadcasts in advertisements.
We confess we had a sleepless night of anguished contemplation of the dastardliness of it all. The thought that Mr. Trudeau might be felled by his own words seemed a cruel and unusual punishment, certainly one unsuited to the other side of the Rainbow, the cherished location of his principal residence.
However, we have now received the other side of the story.
According to Brian Lilley, of the Sun News Network, the Liberals, in 1988, forced the media networks to carry attack advertisements against the Conservatives – advertisements which used excerpts from previously televised debates. The networks claimed that they had copyright of the excerpted material. They appealed to the Supreme Court, but lost. (Sun News , October 10)
Today, the media networks are making the same claim. The impetus for their revived claims of copyright apparently stems from the widespread airing of an interview between Peter Mansbridge and Justin Trudeau which concerned the bombings at the Boston Marathon in April of 2013.
In that interview, Mr. Trudeau revealed his devotion to the notion of "root-causery," – a bedrock belief of left-wingery -- that the perpetrators of evil deeds and horrifying acts are, essentially, innocent. The "root cause" of their disruptive behaviour may always be found in a flaw in society as a whole – a society culpable because of its failure to be sufficiently caring and compassionate. The notion of plain human stupidity, selfish perversity, or evil ideology has no place in the intellectual universe of the Big Rock Candy Mountain, which is found on the benign side of the archetypical rainbow.
|Mr. Mansbridge was upset, and conveyed his concerns to Jennifer
McGuire, General Manager and Editor-in Chief of CBC News. Ms. McGuire,
obligingly, formed an alliance with CTV, Rogers, and the Global network.
The four Mouseyketeers resolved that none of them would broadcast
advertisements showing previously aired clips – unless they expressly
In fact, of course, such claim of copyright is not legal. It is considered legitimate "fair dealing" to take short excerpts from previously published material without permission.
Ms. McGuire has admitted as much in an email:
In the past we have all argued against this legally using copyright infringement. Our legal team is confident with the shifts in case law w.r.t. fair dealing this might not be a successful route.
Instead, the Mouseyketeers have wrapped themselves in the pure white banner of journalistic integrity:
As news organizations, the use of our content in political advertisements without our express consent may compromise our journalistic independence and call into question our journalistic ethics, standards and objectivity.
This would appear to fall under the category of "nice try."
It looks as though any change to the copyright law by the Conservatives serves merely to reinforce the existing legal status, and is aimed at rebutting the claim that journalistic integrity might be compromised if short excerpts of broadcasts are used in order condemn speakers with their own words.
Looking at the evidence, it would appear that the chief media outlets are revealing a bias -- unseemly largely because it is so covert and unadmitted.
For it is neither Mr. Harper nor Mr. Mulcair who has displayed a penchant for displays of public toe-tasting. Rather, it is Mr. Trudeau who constantly makes statements which suggest that his view of the world consists of ideas retrieved from the blue box of an earlier era. Those ideas – crumpled sheets of mindless multiculturalism, old bottles of root-causery, jagged cans of dictatorship-envy, and stained pizza boxes of Canada-as-Peacemaker-only – all were destined for a recycling in the light of current realities. But they have found a warm welcome in Mr. Trudeau’s intellectual –if it may be so deemed – universe.
Those ideas do, of course, have a certain nostalgic appeal – and they can be proclaimed soothingly to an unthinking audience -- with the strains of a Judy Garland melody in the background.
It seems to be the choice of the mainstream media not to allow those ideas to be viewed in a context of criticism. Let the Prince of Platitudes rule!
|Virus hits Liberal Ranks
(October 8, Special to Forward News)
The highly contagious Incoherencis Gravis, the debilitating Virus which first struck Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on October 2, has spread quickly through the entire Liberal Caucus.
Mr. Trudeau, genetically susceptible to a variety of intellectual maladies, first showed symptoms of Incoherencis Gravis a few days ago, when he deplored the ravages of ISIS, but claimed that Canada’s role should be restricted to humanitarian aid to its victims.
Upon examination, Mr. Trudeau gave evidence of the double vision and fuzziness of perception which is so often wrought by the disease. He implied there are two classes of nations, those of inferior mettle which are only fit for the grunt work of physically opposing the tanks and weaponry of the enemy, and superior countries like Canada, which are too delicate and high-minded for such involvement. Those admirable jurisdictions should only engage in the noble and charitable acts which give relief to victims.
For Canada to engage in physical combat, he suggested, could only be regarded as an unseemly display of machismo – a strutting and engorged display of the tools of war.
Efforts to contain Incoherencis are, traditionally, of varying effectiveness. A clear sign of the spread of the malady was shown in a recent interview of Liberal candidate, Andrew Leslie, by Evan Solomon, of the CBC. Questioned about a possible role for Canada in the fight against ISIS, Mr. Leslie, a former Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Forces, gave his opinion that "armed" humanitarian aid was the best option.
Further, when asked about the about the greatest security threat to Canada, Mr. Leslie declared:
Probably the largest single threat to Canada is the ungoverned, those poor desperate people tucked up against the Turkish border, who if they get the sense of abandonment, and get frustrated and get panicky even more so than they are now, that will act as a fertile breeding ground for the next wave of fundamentalists, who may decide to do unpleasant things to those around them or to us ... (Sun News, October 8)
Once again, the terrible effects of Incoherencis were displayed: the unfortunate victim of the malady is unable to distinguish white from black, good from evil, or friend from foe. The greatest threat to Canada, according to Mr. Leslie, comes not from the beheaders, but from the beheaded.
From a single lightning strike, the virus now appears to have spread like wildfire through Liberal ranks. Reports of fever, failing vision, and Babilis Incomprehensis among Liberal Members are now widespread. The incontestable triumph of the virus was shown On October 7, when almost the entire Liberal caucus voted against the Government motion to send fighter planes to Iraq.
Medical experts are dismayed and puzzled by the rapid spread of Incoherencis. There is no vaccine for the virus; bed rest and quiet contemplation the only treatments available at this time.
|Enabling the Volcano
(September 21, 2014)
Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit
We must conclude that there is a murderous, destructive impulse in mankind, a molten lava of rage most often repressed, but always seeking a vulnerability, an unencumbered path to eruption.
The usual repressions of civilized conventions may be weakened by alcohol, and by the emotions displayed by a mob. What is unthinkable as an individual action becomes permitted if it appears that one is giving expression to a general sentiment espoused by others in a state of excitement.
But -- having used the word "sentiment" -- it is clear that an idea of some kind gives the necessary oxygen for conflagration.
The ideas may be of greater or lesser validity. Engaging in war to protect the homeland against invasion seems reasonable. There seems to be a justifiable relationship between the motivation and the response.
But more interesting – and more important -- are those motivating ideas which are rooted in fantasy.
Fantasy is the most powerful oxygen precisely because it is not subject to rational objection. And, perhaps most importantly, a fantastic idea can claim a kind of purity and nobility beyond anything can be realized in the real world.
These musings have been prompted by recent events in Pakistan and Iraq.
In Pakistan, a Muslim scholar, Muhamed Shakil Auj, was shot in the Street in Karachi on September 18. Mr. Auj was dean of Islamic Studies at the University of Karachi, but he had given a speech in the United States which was considered – by some – to be "blasphemous." (National Post, September 19)
Mr. Auj had received death threats, and a religious seminary in Karachi had issued a fatwa, calling for his death. In response, Mr. Auj had lodged a criminal complaint against four professors – one of whom had previously held his position as dean at the University.
One of the wonderful things about Pakistan is that it has laws against blasphemy, with death as a penalty. Blasphemy, of course, is simply expressing disagreement with a religious idea – an idea which has no foundation in reality – but is based on supposition, conjecture, and wishful thinking. In another word: fantasy.
Apparently the death penalty for blasphemy has never been carried out – but mobs have killed fifty-two people – for blasphemy – since 1990.
It is well-known that the blasphemy laws have become a tool for those who wish to settle personal grudges. What could be more convenient? Argue that some expression is slighting or disrespectful of something which cannot be discussed in rational terms anyway – and you have a sure winner.
The murderous rage is given clear justification. All that is good, pure, and noble has been defiled: not only is murder to be done with a clear conscience – it rises to the level of duty, to the level of the sacred.
The same psychological mechanism may be seen with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The aim is to create a Caliphate – a state based on religious principles. Those principles are immutable, unassailable, and subject to no dispute. True, they are fantastical and unworkable in the real world – but it is from that very divorcement from reality upon which their nobility and purity rests.
ISIS, therefore, has no compunction about murdering those who refuse to assent to their particular fantasy.
Of course, not all religious fantasies need lead to evil. It depends upon how antagonistic the religion is to the necessary flaws of the real world.
Ideals may be useful in improving the lot of mankind. The great test of one’s humanity lies not in the strength of one’s devotion to an ideal, but in one’s ability to distinguish between reasonable ideals and oppressive fantasies.
It is fantasy which, too often, enables the volcano.
|A Sermon on Equality (Sunday, September 14, 2014)
That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane man has ever given his assent. (Aldous Huxley)
Although we have rejected conventional religions as nonsense – a nonsense which, regrettably, most of mankind seems to require -- we do think there is a place for sermons. There is something inherently satisfying about a sermon – it takes a text which focusses on a general point of morality, develops the idea with felicitous examples, and ends with a laudable exhortation.
The satisfaction occurs, of course, not when one is on the receiving end of a sermon – but when one is at the lectern, railing at a suitably cowed congregation, declaiming against the follies of mankind, and indicating one’s righteous fervour with an occasional thump on a compliant but resonant pulpit.
Most of our sermons have to do with the battle between the real and the ideal – for it is the balance between the two which is the most difficult to achieve in human society. The topic is a large one, and has many aspects.
Today, we will preach on Equality, a most vexed topic which few seem to understand. We hope that, at the end of our homily, the reader will be much wiser, and go out into the world less vulnerable to a particularly pernicious folly – an uncomprehending belief in Equality.
We take as our text, the words of W.S. Gilbert – to be found in The Gondoliers – in a song about a King who lived in olden times. We reprint the full text of the song below, but the outline is probably familiar to most.
Once upon a time, there was a king who had the most exquisite sensitivity to the social inequalities of his time. When he had Rhenish wine to drink, it made him very sad to think that others had to make do with undistinguished plonk. He had an enormous sympathy for his fellow man – in his heart he found an undiscriminating place for all the erring human race -- and every wretched fellow.
In short, that king represented the very epitome and flower of egalitarianism.
Fortunately – or so he thought -- because of his position, he was able to take concrete steps to put his ideal vision of Equality into place: to the top of every tree, he promoted everybody.
Thus the dream of leftists everywhere was achieved: everyone was able to bask in the glory of exceptional achievement. Lord Chancellors were cheap as herring, and Bishops, in their shovel hats, were as plentiful as tabby cats.
But, alas, the king overlooked an important function in the equation of human happiness. That which is obtained easily and without effort is not valued. "When every blessed thing you hold is made of silver or of gold, you long for simple pewter." Rarity is valued above the commonplace.
Indeed, when one considers carefully the oft-expressed desire for Equality, one can see that it is false and misleading. Is the coal miner satisfied when he suddenly becomes a Bishop? His happiness lasts only as long as he can consider himself superior to his fellow miners, struggling and sweaty in the pits. Once he realizes that they, too, are Bishops, does he rejoice in the Notion of Equality?
Not a bit! He might, perhaps, be satisfied to be a Lord Chancellor. But that exaltation would soon pall when he realizes that all his fellow miners have also become Lord Chancellors.
As Mr. Gilbert notes: When every one is somebodee, Then no one's anybody!
And that, of course is the point. Despite what people say, they do not want Equality -- they want improvement.
This is the distinction between the ideal world, and the real one. In the ideal, imaginary world, people have no greater desire but for Equality; in the real one, they have no interest in Equality: they want advancement. The real world is one of struggle to achieve advancement, or superiority. Achievement which is free, and therefore common has no value; achievement which is obtained with effort and ingenuity-- and therefore rare – is given high value.
We confess that we feel more than a little silly in stating the obvious. We only do so because we have heard people of considerable intelligence, and who should know better, ask: "but aren’t we all equal?"
The answer is, of course, a resounding "no."
While Equality may exist in nature, it does so only at the most primitive level. While we are not intimately acquainted with the characters of electrons and neutrons, we will make no objection to the claim that electron "A" is equal to electron "B."
|Indeed, we might go so far as to assent to the
proposition that single-celled organism "Amanda" is equal to the
single-celled organism "Beatrice."
But, from the evidence, it would appear that, millennia ago, a Parliament of single-celled organisms was called in order to vote on the proposition of equality. It read thus:
Resolved that single-celled organisms be content with their present equal status, and make no attempt to bind, clump together, or otherwise achieve superiority over their fellows.
That proposition was overwhelmingly defeated, and, ever since, organisms have struggled into a multiplicity of cells, and have engaged in battle for increasing, successful, complexity.
Equality is not to be found among sentient beings -- or any living organisms beyond the most primitive.
Thus, not only are we not equal: we never have been, never will be, and never can be. Equality is not in the process by which the world has come to its present state. The world has come to its present state through a selection of what configurations work better than others. Merit --or the workable – is rewarded; failure – or the unworkable -- is discarded.
Those who pine for Equality, yearn for a lost golden age – the age of the single-celled organism – the age of paucity, uniformity, and, quite frankly, unutterable boredom.
What then, is the place of the term "Equality" in our social discourse?
Well, Equality seems to be a laudable – if not always achievable – ideal in the realm of opportunity. It seems fair to attempt to provide equal access to opportunity, while recognizing that the result may not provide "Equality." Thus – should women be permitted to study law and take courses in forensic accounting? Of course. Should we expect there to be equal numbers of men and women practising law or forensic accounting? What utter nonsense!
Should the number of left-handed female forensic accountants be equal to the number of right-handed female forensic accountants? Or should the left-handedness among female forensic accountants be representative of left-handedness in the population as a whole? That way, madness lies.
Secondly, it is appropriate for citizens to be treated equally before the law. This is, perhaps, more easily proclaimed than achieved. The rich man may hire a lawyer more competent than that available to the poor man. But attempts to minimize that disparity seem worthy.
Inasmuch as merit can be determined, people should be treated according to their merits, rather than according to some category to which they belong. Very often those who express the most fervent desire for Equality, seem to believe that it is to be achieved by favouring some groups, and discriminating against others. For them, the road to Equality is paved with the stones of bias.
Considered carefully, it will be seen that the concept of the queue is a wonderful symbol of the principle of equality. Those who arrive in a queue, should be dealt with according to their time of arrival – excepting extraordinary circumstances such as might be found in an Emergency Room – rather than according to their social status.
Despite the fact that Equality is, in a sense, antithetical to progress and the improvement of wealth, it is only human to seek a greater justice than the universe seems willing to provide. One of the great attractions of religion is that it suggests a final judgment through which the inequities and inequalities of life are purged.
It seems legitimate to mitigate elements of inequality in society. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that full "Equality" is neither achievable nor desirable.
A wonderful example of over-reaching is shown by a human rights commission decision made, in 2010, in the case of Marise Myrand. Ms. Myrand, an obese woman in poor health managed to obtain – by appeal to the commission – a parking spot at her condominium building which was close to the entrance. The spot was, by government fiat, taken away from another owner. The motivation would appear to be to compensate Ms. Myrand for her disabilities – to bring her closer to a situation of Equality. The principle of prior possession was sacrificed on the altar of the God of Equality.
On the basis of this judgment, there would be an infinite meddling by government in the most minute details of our lives in order to lessen disparities.
Look carefully when you encounter the word "Equality." Does it refer to opportunity, or result? In context, to what extent is it attainable or desirable?
Of all ideals, Equality is perhaps the most apparently desirable, but the most deceptive, and, arguably, the most dangerous.
|THERE LIVED A KING
From "The Gondoliers"
(Libretto by William S. Gilbert / Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan)
There lived a King, as I've been told,
|He wished all men as rich as he
(And he was rich as rich could be),
So to the top of every tree
Lord Chancellors were cheap as sprats,
And Bishops in their shovel hats
Were plentiful as tabby cats --
In point of fact, too many.
Ambassadors cropped up like hay,
Prime Ministers and such as they
Grew like asparagus in May,
And Dukes were three a penny.
On every side Field-Marshals gleamed,
Small beer were Lords-Lieutenant deemed,
With Admirals the ocean teemed
All round his wide dominions.
And Party Leaders you might meet
|That King, although no one denies
His heart was of abnormal size,
Yet he'd have acted otherwise
If he had been acuter.
The end is easily foretold,
When every blessed thing you hold
Is made of silver, or of gold,
You long for simple pewter.
When you have nothing else to wear
But cloth of gold and satins rare,
For cloth of gold you cease to care --
Up goes the price of shoddy.
In short, whoever you may be,
|His Majesty, 1999 - September 8, 2014
We record here the passing of His Majesty, the resident feline at the Lumpenbangen Studios.
It was in 1999 -- at Wind-in-the-Pines -- that we received a telephone call from our friends in the upper apartment of the city duplex. They had encountered a kitten, abandoned in a parking lot -- would we be interested?
The kitten was black, with a white slash across his nose, white paws, and a white throat. The fur was soft, of medium length. He was a tiny little thing, with short legs, and a short tail. He was immediately dubbed "Shorty" but -- with a typical fierceness of determination -- he grew into a large black cat with a huge, bushy tail, which he carried proudly aloft -- a symbol, perhaps, of his refusal to be negatively defined.
As a kitten, he was mischievous and strong willed, as an adult, he was a loyal and faithful companion.
In his early years, he did not seem to mind travelling, but as he grew older, he came to dislike the long trip in the Serviceable Six from the city to Wind-in-the-Pines. He was not hesitant about expressing his displeasure with loud vocalizations through most of the journey. He could always tell when a trip was planned, and always hid well in advance of the departure time. When his hiding place was discovered, he did not put up any fierce resistance. Often he purred. It was as if he had taken courses in passive resistance. He simply wished to make his preferences known.
At Wind-in-the-Pines, he loved to "go for a little walk." He understood the words perfectly, and would tag along, making little independent forays here and there, then, with a rush, catch up. Occasionally he would make a great, exuberant run at a large tree, climbing about eight feet, then suddenly stopping, as if uncertain as to what to do next.
When he was very young, we had taught him how to come back down – back feet first. He never got into the ignominious "stuck up a tree" position.
It has been well said that dogs think they are part of the family, but cats think you are staff.
His Majesty found that going to the door would always elicit a response from staff. But the response could also be re-directed. Once staff was on its feet, His Majesty might wish to go out. But he also might go over to his food dish. Going to the door was simply a way of overcoming staff inertia.
Of course wise and beneficent employers take care to ensure that staff are reasonably content, so that food and door services are provided on a continuing and timely basis. Thus, His Majesty would invariably accompany staff at bedtime for a short period of amiability and purring. He would then return, solicitously, in the morning -- to ensure that staff was awake, and ready to perform any necessary duties -- particularly that of facilitating egress to the outdoors.
Outdoors, he never strayed far, and almost always appeared shortly after being called. At night, his little white nose would appear –whether at the Lumpenbangen Studios or Wind-in-the-Pines -- at the glass door Sometimes his appearances seemed to involve a telepathic message and response. Staff might suddenly have His Majesty come mysteriously to mind, look towards the door, and discover that, indeed, there was His Majesty -- ready to come in.
As with any individual, His Majesty had a number of idiosyncrasies.
On garbage night, he seemed quite anxious to oversee the transporting of garbage bags and blue boxes to the curb. Why he did not trust staff to carry out these duties without supervision seems unclear.
His Majesty also seemed remarkably attuned to the subtleties of his journeys in the Serviceable Six. An unexpected slowing of traffic would cause him to complain; a diversion from the usual route would elicit signs of consternation. He was always able to anticipate the arrival at either of his two homes, climbing onto the dashboard in an eagerness of expectation.
For a brief period in his youth, at Wind-in-the-Pines, he would follow along the shore when staff went swimming. Eventually, he appeared to conclude that staff would probably return without incident, and that further supervision was unnecessary.
Also at Wind-in-the-Pines, there was a favourite spot in the woods – a hidden resting place of rock reached through a short path of thick, green, soft moss. There, staff and His Majesty would contemplate and laze -- for a short time feeling far removed from the distractions of hustle and bustle -- quiet observers of the natural world.
Last June, His Majesty stopped eating, and was taken to the veterinarian for assessment. He had lost weight. The tests were inconclusive. However, miraculously, His Majesty seemed to recover. Although he showed signs of his advanced age, he returned to a state of relative normality.
But in the few days leading up to September 8th, he stopped eating again. His movements were slowed. He retreated to the basement of the Lumpenbangen Studios. An assessment suggested kidney failure, or possibly lymphoma. He was thin, weak, listless, and miserable.
Staff decided that, in the light of His Majesty’s age, heroic measures of investigation should not be undertaken, but that the inevitability of his passing should not be postponed.
Readers of these pages are doubtless aware that we view the world as devoid of any ultimate meaning. The universe is not hostile, nor yet is it friendly. It is simply indifferent.* Meaning is only that which we can create in our limited period of sentience. There is no beneficent manager, no afterlife -- paradisal or otherwise.
On the other hand, the world of the imagination, while not real,
may yet provide comfort. In our world of the imagination, His Majesty
is, once again, in the flower of his exuberant youth. He roams the
woods, occasionally rushing towards large trees, climbing them to
a height of at least eight feet. His white nose is sometimes pressed
towards the glass, and staff, suddenly aware, gets up from his chair, eager to welcome
* (Rev'd. John H. Holmes, 1879 - 1964.)
|Going to the Dogs. (August 31, 2014)
The world has been going to the dogs for sometime now – but we think that a Muttocracy will soon be established, and yelping will become the dominant mode of communication.
Indeed, we found ourselves in yelping mode just last evening, after pulling into a large Petro Canada service station at Port Severn. We were driving the Serviceable Six, our practical van of cargo-hauling. It would, if allowed a full draught from empty, absorb about a hundred and twenty dollars worth of fuel. We frown on such displays of gluttony, and generally restrict it to exactly half that amount.
Allowing even sixty dollars of real cash to pass through our hands we find an emotionally challenging experience; thus it is out habit to use our well-worn credit card.
We try to hit exactly sixty dollars on the machine – giving ourselves imaginary gold stars when we are successful, and blaming a poorly calibrated or insensitive machine when we go slightly over the mark.
Then we proceed to the booth with our credit and "points" cards, to engage in the last stages of the familiar ritual.
We should not discount, we think, the soothing effects of such ordinary little rituals of everyday life. Every time we follow the familiar steps, we affirm our position in a reliable world in which we have had, do have, and will forever have – a comfortable part.
It was then, a considerable surprise last evening -- upon lifting the filling nozzle, and selecting the gasoline grade -- being told – by the machine – to return the nozzle to its resting position. A further instruction indicated that we would have to "pay at the pump" or prepay at the booth.
We were overcome with surprise and disbelief. There had been a glitch in the machine. It had confused us with someone else. We repeated the steps which, so often in the past, had resulted in the satisfying slurp and gurgle of the Serviceable Six in replenishment mode.
But the machine was adamant. Our familiar ritual was to be denied We were not to be trusted.
Our first impulse was to drive away. Our second thought was that there might not be another station nearby, and that we might spend considerable time trying to find an alternative. Sometimes it is worth fighting for principle; sometimes, practicality should be given its due.
Now, we are sure that "paying at the pump" does not require the intelligence of a neuroscientist, or the sleuthing and computational skills of a forensic accountant. Nevertheless, it is a procedure we have only successfully accomplished many years ago, under duress, in the United States.
We are troubled by some questions. How will we be able to register our "points?" Will we, with our limited intelligence, be baffled by instructions which others find elementary? Will we, in our anxiety, make an error in giving our pin number, be unable to make the necessary correction? Will our credit card disappear into a machine which has already expressed its distrust and disdain, never to be recovered?
No, "paying at the pump" is not an option, except under a circumstance threatening death, dismemberment, or long-term disability.
We proceeded to the booth.
"The machine says I have to prepay," we said.
"Yes," said the man behind the counter, as if it were the most natural and obvious thing in the world. There was just the slightest hint that he had concluded that he was dealing with someone whose intelligence was somewhat below that of the average neuroscientist.
It is our observation that most interactions among human beings involve the recognition of an imbalance of power. He who has the lesser power, quite naturally, wishes to redress the balance. We had already indicated our weakness. We had not driven off. Cravenly, we had obeyed the machine. Our resistance was token, and petty:
"As a token of my displeasure, I will buy only twenty dollars worth. You can be sure I will never come to this station again."
Again, the superior being behind the counter was unperturbed. After all, twenty dollars is better than nothing. He was carefully and correctly pleasant. Doubtless he was used to dealing with craven, petty beings; there is no point in descending to their level.
As we gave the Serviceable Six its appetizer, we wondered, vaguely, whether its somewhat untidy and dishevelled appearance had triggered the disapprobation of the machine, or whether the machine was without prejudice, and simply the symbol of a changing culture.
We suspect that it is the latter. Logically, if purchasers of gasoline are dishonest, and take flight without paying, it only makes sense for the operator of the business to ensure payment in advance.
We would do the same.
At the same time, we regret the loss of our little ritual, and we mourn the passing of a more trusting era.
When we were growing up in Moore Park in Toronto in the 1950's, we never had a key to the front door of the family home. It was always unlocked. There were six in our family, and so there was usually someone home. On the other hand, there must have been many occasions when the house was empty, and unlocked.
Such a circumstance seems unthinkable today.
We will, of course, continue to patronize those stations which trust us – as long as they continue to exist. But it would not surprise us to discover a diminishment and eventual disappearance of their number.
Sic transit fiducia mundi.
|Lumpenbangen Institute holds Press Conference
August 23, 2014. (Special to Forward News.)
A hastily called press conference was held at the Hamilton office of the famed Lumpenbangen Piano Institute today.
Citing security and privacy concerns, Dr. Idel Dreimer, president of the Institute, appeared wearing the full burka, and was partially hidden behind a decorative wooden screen.
Although his voice was somewhat muffled by the heavy folds of cloth, Dr. Dreimer sounded, if not optimistic, at least somewhat relieved.
"It is well known, he said, "that our website has caused us much consternation in recent years. Although it was entirely intended as a bit of mild entertainment for our Aunt Myalgia, who has been committed on a long term care basis to the Shady Hollow Psychiatric Facility in downtown Toronto -- its popularity has grown.
Initially, an increase in traffic did not seem cause for concern. We reasoned that Aunt Myalgia, using the seductive charms of her famous grape jelly, had induced some of her fellow residents to visit the site. As long as we could suppose that those using the site were not productive members of society, but had significant cognitive or emotional deficits – having, in essence, nothing better to do with their time – our conscience could remained clear.
But as visits to the site grew, and our investigations revealed that the IP addresses of visitors indicated residency in the United States, China, Germany and Russia, we became worried. It was an ethical dilemma.
By any standard, the site is a complete waste of time. It offers nothing in the way of reliable information on any topic. No product – much less useful product – may be obtained by visiting the site. The entertainment value must be considered minimal – much of the site – we are thinking of the diary here – is written in a style so out-of-date, so eccentric, and so obscure, that it must surely frustrate rather than entertain.
|And even on other pages of the site, no allowance is made for the
limitations of the modern human brain, which tends to break down after
encountering 140 consecutive characters of print. Nor have been taken
into account those recent scientific studies which have shown that the
modern parietal cortex, through a long process of adaptation to verbal
pablum, is unsuited to the comprehension of words containing more than
two syllables, or of processing syntax more complex than that contained
in an average grade two reader.
True, there is music on the site – but it consists of simple melodies, indifferently played by Rufus Allthumbs. The melodies are of a quiet, reflective nature which are quite out of keeping with the hustle and bustle of the modern era.
Now, it is remotely possible that virtually all visitors to the site are cognitively challenged, or are not contributing members of society. If that happy circumstance is true, then we can remain relatively untroubled. The site is not taking up the time of those who might otherwise be doing something useful, or learning something worthwhile.
However, we should note that the average daily visits for August are on track to break a significant "round number" barrier. We only wish that our technology would permit us to determine what numbers of those daily visitors are gormless layabouts, and which would be best advised to spend their valuable time elsewhere. Perhaps that technology would also allow us to prevent the mentally competent and socially adequate from gaining access to the site.
We have, however, recently been cheered by an optimistic note. It comes in the form of a solicitation from a marketing firm in India. Here is an excerpt from that email:
My name is ______, Marketing Manager with a reputed online marketing company based in India. While studying your website I couldn’t help noticing it lacked any significant ranking in Google. As you already suspect, this means your site is virtually invisible to potential customers searching for a supplier in your field.
Thus, while we are troubled by the slow but steady rise in the number of visitors, we take comfort from the fact that we lack "any significant ranking in Google," and are "virtually invisible" in the busy scheme of the internet landscape.
The comfort may be small, but it will have to do."
|How can the average man -- or woman -- assess opposing views of climate change?
(August 15, 2014)
Beware of politics masquerading as science. (Observation # 298)
Last evening we saw -- on The Source -- Mr. Levant at the ninth International Conference on Climate Change held July 7-9th in Las Vegas.
This is a Conference for those skeptical of climate alarmism – and we saw Mr. Levant interview three skeptics --Tony Heller, James Delingpole, and Dr. Tim Ball. We confess that we ourselves have been skeptical of the alarmist position from the very beginning, and the remarks of all three skeptics seemed eminently sensible.
In the interview, Mr. Heller made claim that historical temperature records have been consistently altered to support the theory of warming. Seeking to find out more, we googled Mr. Heller’s name.
As we started to find out more about Mr. Heller, who has written more famously under the pseudonym, Steve Goddard, we came across differing views of his credibility. This, of course, poses a problem.
We are acutely aware that we have no background in science, much less climatology; our knowledge of mathematics begins to waver at the level of the twelve times table; we have no means, personally, of assessing the validity of a computer model which confidently predicts an imminent roasting.
Thus, we – like most other people – must assess the statements of those who claim to have more precise knowledge. We must determine what seems more likely to be science, and what seems more likely to be politics.
It would be nice to be able to point to facts – but even the fact that there has been no warming for the last seventeen years is interpreted differently. It is seen by the alarmists as an irrelevant pause, and by the skeptics as a fatal blow to the theory that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (which has been increasing) leads to global warming.
It seems to boil down, in the end, to drawing conclusions about the credibility of various individuals and organizations making their various claims.
In the matter of credibility, it seems to us that the alarmists have almost none at all.
In the beginning, we have the statement by the Club of Rome that climate change was deliberately chosen to advance a political agenda:
The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. ...The real enemy then is humanity itself. Democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. —From the Club of Rome’s "The First Global Revolution" p. 71,75 1993
Maurice Strong, one of the early and influential environmentalists, and a Member of the Club of Rome has stated clearly his ultimate agenda is to cause the collapse of industrial civilization:
Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?
We confess that our suspicions are aroused when we think the notion of global warming is linked to the deliberate destruction of both democracy and industrial civilization.
When we consider some of the subsequent proponents of climate change alarmism, credibility is not the first concept which springs to mind. First we have the International Panel on Climate Change, a Committee of the United Nations.
The United Nations has been earnestly diminishing its credibility year by year. It is not merely that it is a body dominated by dictatorships – where foxes are routinely assigned to guard henhouses – it is devoted to the notion that the world should be run by "experts" who are not accountable to the governed.
For example, the U.N. Agenda 21 states:
Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human [sic] impacts on the environment. (From the U.N. Agenda 21 Website.)
This statement does not suggest the tentativeness of science; it is a missionary call; it represents a determination to meddle wherever it can.
The notion of global warming seems to fit well with the world view of the United Nations. It is not surprising that, in 2012 Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General, reflexively attributed an event of weather, hurricane Sandy, to the cause of climate.
One hundred and twenty-five scientists were moved to scold Mr. Ban Ki-Moon thus:
...there has been no statistically significant global warming for almost 16 years...Global warming that has not occurred cannot have caused the extreme weather of the past few years. Whether, when and how atmospheric warming will resume is unknown. The science is unclear. Some scientists point out that near-term natural cooling, linked to variations in solar output, is also a distinct possibility.
It seems clear that, where the United Nations is concerned, science is the pretense, but politics is paramount.
Let us move to two of the most well-known proponents of climate alarmism, Dr. Suzuki and Al Gore. Both of these alarmists are shown to be hypocrites. They do not believe the dogmas they proclaim. They preach restraint for the masses, while clomping the earth with carbon footprints which can only be described as Sasquatchian. Mr. Gore is not, of course, a scientist, but a politician. Dr. Suzuki is an expert on fruit flies, and his appearance on Australian Television last year showed that his knowledge of climate change is extremely limited.* He is simply a publicist, relying on the pronouncements of the IPCC.
We should note that Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry are both fervent proponents of anthropogenic climate change. These are men noted for a certain reliability of judgment, a certain accuracy of perception, a certain record of success. We can think of no endorsements more damning to the validity of the theory.
Credibility is also an issue when we consider the inherent difficulties in making any predictions about the future. Predictions of future climate are made using computer models. The predictions, logically, are only as good as the validity of the data used and the assumptions made. Thus far, predictions have been resoundingly inaccurate. The global warming which was predicted to increase steadily has not. Forecasts of flooded islands, disappearing glaciers, thousands of climate refugees, droughts, and the submerging of parts of Manhattan, have simply not been borne out by circumstance.
Finally, we must ask whether climate alarmism has the walk, talk, or behaviour of Science.
Alarmism seems to have the quackery, rather than the quack of a duck.
Science, as we understand it, is based on evidence, and is cautious about drawing conclusions. A statement such as "the science is settled"-- so often heard from the alarmists -- is, in itself, suspicious. The science of the three times table may be reasonably settled: 3 x 8 = 24 seems to work fairly consistently, and we have considerable faith that it will in the future. But any "science" which has no history of efficacy, and which yet pretends to predict the future should be tentative and cautious. Real science welcomes contradiction, because only through a consideration of all evidence is there hope for a reasonably settled conclusion.
But the "scientists" of Climategate (2009) seemed preoccupied with preventing the publishing of opposing views, and colluding to enhance public acceptance of their own findings.
Subsequently, frequent appeals have been made to the bogus** notion that 97% of scientists believe in anthropogenic global warming. This is an appeal which, besides being false, is entirely irrelevant. The truth is not determined by popular vote; the fact that an overwhelming majority of scientists, doctors, Baptist ministers, or organ grinders believe in a proposition is irrelevant to its validity.*** Skeptics, like Dr, Tim Ball have been sued for their remarks – which suggests vulnerability rather than confidence on the part of the alarmists.
Indeed, the ferocity of the alarmists in the defence of their position suggests not the confident assurance of those supported by the facts of the case, but rather the indignation of religious believers, who, lacking evidence, have only their emotional fervour to protect them from a damaging truth.
We can scarcely conclude without referring to the tactical terminological twist, the weasily wobble of words recently employed by the alarmists. You may have noticed that the term "global warming" has been largely superseded by the words "climate change." There are three advantages to this shift. First, it is a prudent evasion in view of the fact that there has been no warming for the last seventeen years. "Climate Change" has been a constant over the millennia; it cannot be challenged as non-existent.
Secondly, the term "climate change" is still used to mean "global warming." Most people probably make this mental translation.
But most importantly, the term "climate change" -- because it is so broad -- can be more convincingly used to refer to a multiplicity of phenomena. Should there be a tornado in Oklahoma, a snowstorm in Quebec, or a hurricane in the Caribbean, climate change may be fingered as the likely culprit. Should there be a plethora of mosquitoes in Muskoka, an agglomeration of grasshoppers in Saskatchewan, or a marked decline in the number of jumping frogs in Calaveras county, we need look no further than climate change. And the remedy is clear: human sacrifice is required. Park the car in the garage, and bring out the skateboard. If possible, retreat to a cave, and subsist on berries and nuts.
We cannot say with complete assurance that anthropogenic global warming is not real, and not important. What we can say is that if those propositions are in fact true, then those advocating them have overwhelmingly suggested – through their actions, statements, and reputations -- that they are false.
We would not be at all surprised if, at some point in the future, global warming alarmism will be seen as one of the most extraordinary frauds ever perpetrated in the history of mankind.
September 25, 2013
|Ado about Nothing. A Pitfall of Language?
(July 19, 2014)
One of our favourite programs is Closer to Truth,* Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s exploration of cosmos, consciousness and God.
We have always been fascinated by the big, difficult questions, and have – at least for our adult life – considered the "God" explanation for any of them as an absurd cop out. As Richard Dawkins has said: "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."
The term "God" is a convenient black box into which all the big questions are often relegated – the concept conveniently absolves us of continuing to worry away at the great mysteries. For example, in terms of ultimate explanation, "God" is a very superficial idea – very few stop to ask: "But where did God come from?"**
In Closer to Truth, Mr. Kuhn often interviews clever men in prestigious positions who have a religious perspective on life. We are always astounded at how often they trot out the notions that God is omnipotent and omniscient – without seeming to give the least thought to how meaningless such terms are. Most people are familiar with the dead end of conundrum that such concepts lead to: If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and supremely benign, why is the world such a mess? Why is life so flawed; why is evil so prevalent?
The terms "omniscient" and "omnipotent" represent a sort of language trap. They are entirely theoretical concepts, which do not necessarily have anything to do with reality. They are notions, shadowy in form -- but one cannot imagine how they would actually function in reality. They are like the square root of -1, or the unicorn. One may have a conception of a goat-like creature with a single horn, but that does not mean that a discussion of its diet, mating habits, or political opinions is anything more than an exercise of the imagination.
Similarly, one can encounter logical difficulties with "omniscience" – which implies that present, past and future are a single knowable dimension. If the future is knowable, our cherished notion of free will -- the idea that we have real choice -- is destroyed. Indeed, we suspect that free will is chimerical. We can accept that possibility -- but the concept is rather at odds with any religious view of life. Thus the idea of omniscience, so beloved of the theologian, seems to render the idea of human choice and the possibility of moral improvement -- so important to religion -- invalid.
We might note that "omnipotence" suggests that any of the natural laws by which the universe seems to operate -- of gravity or of the speed of light -- are subject to arbitrary suspension.
To say that God is omnipotent or omniscient is meaningless; those concepts cannot be understood in terms of the real world. One might just as well say that God is a blue-horned unicorn.
The other day, one of the episodes of Closer to Truth dealt with one of our favourite notions: why is there something, rather than nothing? Indeed, we have always thought that "nothingness" is a more likely state than one which contains "something."
The question goes to the matter of the ultimate origin of the universe.
|We have always thought that the question of ultimate origin has two equally puzzling answers. The answers are puzzling,
largely because they do not make much sense in a world which seems bound by the notion of cause and effect,
in which every effect can be traced back to a prior cause.
These are the two alternative explanations for the beginning of everything:
(a) In the beginning there was nothing, and then something appeared out of nothing. (How can something come from nothing?)
(b) Something has always existed. (But, living in a world of cause and effect, we are driven to ask: where did the something come from? Isn't there a final point of beginning? But if there is a final point of beginning, doesn't that mean that nothing was there first? Sigh. Back to (a)).
Our memory of the discussion in the program – as is usually the case – is more than hazy. However, at some point we concluded that the term "nothing" in this context, is meaningless -- it is just like "omniscience."
The term "nothing" is useful in certain situations. We open the cupboard, and declare that there is "nothing" inside. What we mean is that there is no food – or – the electric kettle we were looking for is not there.
Or, we report that, when asked about the murder of his wealthy aunt, the suspect said "nothing."
In neither case does the word "nothing" mean the complete absence of anything – complete "nothingness."
The idea of complete "nothingness" is just like "omniscience" or a "blue-horned unicorn." It is theoretical. It is a concept that does not necessarily bear any relation to reality. Discussing "nothingness," "omniscience," or "unicorn" may afford a certain speculative delight, but will not further our knowledge of the real world.
Thus the question in (a) above is meaningless.
We are left with proposition (b). We confess that we are unable to explain where "something" came from. It came from the something which preceded it. And so on. But at least we can say with some degree of certitude that "something" exists. The pedigree of nothingness is highly uncertain.
We are pleased to have been able to eliminate – at least to our own satisfaction – the puzzling question: How could something come from nothing? The idea of "nothing" in the sense of complete nothingness is an entirely theoretical concept. Asking that question is like asking: how could the "something" of the universe arise from a blue-horned unicorn?
Has this insight brought us closer to truth? Perhaps a bit -- but we're still left with the notion that something has always existed--but still want to know where that something came from. We suspect that there are questions for which no answers are satisfactory.
And "God" is not a respectable option.
* I Channel on Saturday evenings.
** If the complexity of the universe demands, as explanation, an intelligent creator -- then, by the same reasoning -- so does the intelligent creator. (Observation # 301)