Thursday, 3/5/15

  1. New atheist ignorance: understandable, incorrigible
  2. The new Aspirin
  3. Abortion and Maternal Health
  4. Atheist credulity
  5. Helicopter Parenting: It’s the Law
  6. Illegitimi non carborundum

1

[N]one of [the New Atheists] has read Scripture closely, and none of them has read anything much of Orthodox Theology (at least nothing deeper than Wikipedia). I mention this specifically, because New Atheists aim their criticism against Christianity in particular, and often make huge errors in what they think Christianity is, or what Christianity says.

(Fr. Jonathan Tobias)

Well, on the one hand, Fr. Jonathan is right. On the other hand, mistaking the loudest mouths for the most authentic spokesmen is hardly unexpected. (And, yes, traditional Christians have been calling “b*llsh*t” on the loudmouths, but to no avail. For the fewness of our numbers, we fail to rise above the din.)

And that suits both sides just fine because that means the New Atheists loudmouths and Krustian loudmouths get to go on TV and do their mutual smack-downs for fun and profit. But the Krustians should be mindfull of some inspired words about “millstones.”

2

Wow! It’s deja vu all over again, man! Science has Popular Media have discovered a new wonder drug, of almost universal efficacy. And here’s what’s really cool: You smoke it!

3

A progressive cure for multiple social ills is looking a little shopworn.

Laws protecting the unborn, and therefore less permissive in regard to abortion, are controversial because they allegedly lead to hidden, illegal abortions and an increase maternal deaths.

However, a new study conducted in 32 Mexican states and published in the open access version of the British Medical Journal (BMJ Open) challenges this notion. It found that Mexican states with less permissive abortion laws had 23 percent lower overall maternal mortality, and up to 47 percent lower mortality from complications of abortion.

The study, conducted by the MELISA Institute along with an international panel of researchers, compared a standard indicator of maternal health known as the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) between 18 states with less permissive legislation and 14 states with a more permissive law, during a 10-year study period between 2002 and 2011.

Data vs claims

According to Monique Chireau, Ob/Gyn and epidemiologist at Duke University, “diversity of abortion legislation and the availability of virtually complete vital records in every Mexican state allowed for a unique natural experiment assessing whether populations exposed to less permissive abortion legislation also exhibited higher MMR. Data showed exactly the opposite.”

(MercatorNet: Maternal health is better where abortion is restricted) I do not expect so inconvenient a study to go unchallenged, and I probably should acknowledge that I haven’t spent time analyzing the soundness of the methodology.

4

In 1929, the Thinker’s Library, a series established by the Rationalist Press Association to advance secular thinking and counter the influence of religion in Britain, published an English translation of the German biologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1899 book The Riddle of the Universe. Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.

The Thinker’s Library also featured works by Julian Huxley, grandson of TH Huxley, the Victorian biologist who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” for his fierce defence of evolutionary theory. A proponent of “evolutionary humanism”, which he described as “religion without revelation”, Julian Huxley shared some of Haeckel’s views, including advocacy of eugenics. In 1931, Huxley wrote that there was “a certain amount of evidence that the negro is an earlier product of human evolution than the Mongolian or the European, and as such might be expected to have advanced less, both in body and mind”. Statements of this kind were then commonplace: there were many in the secular intelligentsia – including HG Wells, also a contributor to the Thinker’s Library – who looked forward to a time when “backward” peoples would be remade in a western mould or else vanish from the world.

But by the late 1930s, these views were becoming suspect: already in 1935, Huxley admitted that the concept of race was “hardly definable in scientific terms”. While he never renounced eugenics, little was heard from him on the subject after the second world war. The science that pronounced western people superior was bogus – but what shifted Huxley’s views wasn’t any scientific revelation: it was the rise of Nazism, which revealed what had been done under the aegis of Haeckel-style racism.

It has often been observed that Christianity follows changing moral fashions, all the while believing that it stands apart from the world. The same might be said, with more justice, of the prevalent version of atheism.

(John Gray) That last paragraph seems pretty fair. As recently noted, Christianity has not infrequently been the resistance to “scientific” barbarism.

5

Lenore Skenazy, a New York journalist who wrote the article “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone,” told the Post, “The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’”

“The Meitivs, as it happens, are ‘free-range parents’ who have a very coherent philosophy about giving children more independence,” Hannah Rosin wrote yesterday for Slate. “They had let their children walk home alone that day only after practicing and felt the kids were ready. What they learned from the latest CPS decision, Danielle Meitiv wrote me, is that ‘teaching independence clearly IS a crime.’”

I don’t know if Meitiv is completely correct, however. Our culture champions individualism and independence. Perhaps the larger lesson here is that teaching trust is a crime.

(Gracy Olmstead)

6

Mary Ward and the Women’s Anti-Suffragist Movement had pretty well-reasoned arguments – if you’re willing to step into their juncture in history and consider their view of democracy as a means, not an end.

That did not prevent them becoming pariahs, losing friends and jobs, suffering abandonment by political champions, and sliding into history as mere spectral presences (at least so far; perhaps they’ll rise again).

The story is a long one, with modern parallel.

The bad news: the way things are going, my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren are likely to find me an embarrassment (or worse) for following the timeless maxim illegitimi non carborundum (nobody remembers their un-famous great-great-grandparents). So while history may someday vindicate Robert P. George, Ryan T. Anderson, Sherif Girgis, Roger Scruton, Maggie Gallagher and others, I won’t even make the footnotes.

Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.