Wednesday 4/23/14

    1. Blind obedience
    2. 200 years: down the memory hole in 25
    3. The vicious human rights bigots of yesteryear
    4. Father Revolutionary
    5. Autonomy? No, obediencen


Another poll on scientific knowledge, another abject failure of Americans to please our reigning priesthood:

The scientists shouldn’t fret too much. As Scott Galupo wrote a year ago about Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon’s own Young Earth Creationism,

For the vast majority of human beings, even modern cosmopolitan professionals, beliefs about the geologic timescale, the processes of biological adaptation, paleontology, cosmology, etc. exist comfortably outside the scope of their core competencies. I get twitchy when scientific illiteracy creeps into the top ranks of our political class, but, at the same time, I’m forced to recognize that a country in which only four in 10 people believe in theory of evolution seems to function pretty well on an everyday basis.

… Yet when the AP interviewed laymen about their cosmological confidences, they received such answers as “But when it came to Earth’s beginnings 4.5 billion years ago, he has doubts simply because ‘I wasn’t there’” and “when it comes to the universe beginning with a Big Bang or the Earth being about 4.5 billion years old, she has doubts. She explained: ‘It could be a lack of knowledge. It seems so far’ away.”

These don’t sound like Bible-thumping religious fundamentalists; they actually sound more like skeptical empiricists. Truth be told, relatively speaking almost no one in the United States is competent to judge the physics that go into judging the Big Bang’s credibility. For the rest, blue state scientific adherents as much as red state fundamentalists, it’s a leap of faith, or at least a trusting in the judgment of others. The Origin of Species has almost no relevance to the everyday life of a person, the age of the Earth even less so. Whether the Big Bang tests out and multiple universes are the logical result, absolutely none. It makes scientific prophets comforted to see their creeds affirmed by the masses, but such popular affirmation has little relevance to the priests of science making measurements in the laboratories.

(Jonathan Coppage)

In other words “blind obedience” is only “blind” when you’re obeying the “wrong” authorities.

I agree pretty thoroughly with Coppage, by the way. I won’t pledge allegiance to Charles Darwin any more than I pledge allegiance to the flag (which I don’t, which probably betrays that I’m weak on Jonathan Haidt’s “loyalty” emphasis for conservatives, or have a least one little vein of libertarian contrariness). Fidelity to Charles Darwin is even less relevant to my day-to-day life than is the flag; I have taken the attorney’s oath, after all.

What’s the point of professing beliefs in things 40+ years behind me? Proving I’m one of the cool kids? I’m not. On the other hand, if you want me to affirm that having essentially all scientists working with the theory of evolution has produced an heckuva lot of scientific progress, I’ll cheerfully admit that “so I’m told, and I have no reason to doubt it.”

Ask me to affirm the Nicene Creed, though, and I’ll do it in a heartbeat. It’s relevant to my life every day.


And don’t you forget it!

[S]hould Putin annex Eastern and Southern Ukraine all the way to Odessa, he would simply be restoring to Russian rule what had belonged to her from Washington’s inaugural in 1789 to George H.W. Bush’s inaugural in 1989.

(Pat Buchanan)


Big-time bigotry?:


(Barend Vlaardingerbroek)

Let’s take a look at the exact words used:

UDHR: “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family.”

ECHR: “Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.”

ACHR: “The rights of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to raise a family shall be recognized, if they meet the conditions required by domestic laws, insofar as such conditions do not affect the principle of nondiscrimination established in this Convention.” (The Convention lists as grounds for discrimination “race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or any other social condition.” )

Two important observations emerge from these statements. First, the right to marry does not exist in isolation but is tied to the right to ‘found’ (in the American convention, the near-synonym ‘raise’) a family.


Godly men like Guatemala’s late Fr. Andres Girón de Leon are why I’ll no longer parrot propaganda about land reform being communistic.

According to Laura Saldivar Tanaka and Hannah Wittman of the Land Action Research Center, “Guatemala’s rural populations suffer from one of the most unequal land distributions in Latin America.  Less than 1% of landowners hold 75% of the best agricultural land, 90% of rural inhabitants live in poverty, and over 500,000 campesino families live below subsistence level.” Fr. Girón would help raise donations and help acquire low interest loans to alleviate the plight of the Mayan people and to help purchase back their land. This earned him the title, often repeated in western news publications in the 1980s, of “Father Revolutionary”.

Andres Girón de Leon was not only trusted to protect indigenous land rights, but was also seen as a spiritual leader. After coming into conflict with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, he was excommunicated in the mid-1990s. Several years ago, after a period in a non-canonical Orthodox group, he and hundreds of thousands of indigenous Mayans converted to canonical Orthodox Christianity. This now makes Guatemala the most Eastern Orthodox country, per-capita, in the western hemisphere. According to St. Vladimir’s Seminary, there are 338 newly Orthodox churches, now under the omophor of Metropolitan Athenagoras of Mexico, and approximately 500,000 faithful attending them.


Some thoughts on Stanley Milgram’s infamous experiment where Subject A (the real subject) dosed Subject B (a shill) with as much as 450v to help him “learn”:

Milgram concluded that, for people to be brought to the point of performing such an action, they must first relinquish their autonomy and enter into what he calls an agentic state in which they see themselves as no longer responsible for their own actions and as nothing more than an agent for carrying out someone else’s instructions.

Some subjects did indeed end the experiment early. These, Milgram concluded, had succeeded in breaking with authority and reasserting their autonomy. But at least two of the subjects believed otherwise. The first of these was an unnamed professor of Old Testament at a major divinity school, who ended the experiment early for ethical reasons. Why? As he himself put it, “If one had as one’s ultimate authority God, then it trivializes human authority.” The second was a Reformed Christian immigrant from the Netherlands who had lived through the occupation of his homeland during the war.

Although Milgram accurately recounted these two cases, he badly misfired in assuming that the subjects had recovered their presumed “autonomy.” In reality, autonomy–the capacity to act morally without reference to authority– does not and cannot exist. Those defying authority always do so based on another authority deemed superior to the first.

This is heartening. I’ll take my comfort where I can find it.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.