Thursday, 7/21/22

Newsie

Good guys with guns

[A] common argument in favor of "high capacity" magazine bans is that defensive gun use never needs more than a few bullets. Here, the good samaritan used ten bullets, and he could have needed even more. In California, for example, magazines are limited to ten rounds. Had the good samaritan needed one more bullet to drop the assailant, he would have been out of luck in California.

Update 2: The Greenwood Police now report that the Good Samaritan acted quickly. In the span of 15 seconds (not 2 minutes), he fired 10 rounds, eight of which hit the assailant. And his first shot hit the assailant from 40 yards!

That is some top-level accuracy.

Josh Blackmun

I wasn’t going to say much about this until I saw that second update. That was the first time I heard that 8 of 10 shots hit the terrorist, one from 40 yards. It kind of boggles the mind.

Covid vaccination breakthrough?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in people age 18 and older, clearing the last regulatory hurdle before the shot’s widespread distribution in the U.S. Novavax’s two-dose vaccine relies on well-established vaccine technology, providing an alternative for people reluctant to take the newer mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. The U.S. has purchased 3.2 million doses of the Novavax shot.

The Morning Dispatch makes a good point about the likely nexus between new mRNA technology and vaccine resistance. I thought mRNA, which I didn’t really understand, was a lesser evil than Covid, but some other opinions varied.

News you can abuse, ignore

In the parts of the world where monkeypox is newly spreading, like the United States and Europe, the people currently most at risk of getting the disease are gay and bisexual men. A recent update from the World Health Organization noted that cases in newly afflicted countries have mainly been among “men who have had recent sexual contact with a new or multiple male partners.” In Europe, just 0.2 percent of the men who have gotten the disease identify as heterosexual. Reports from the center of the U.S. outbreak—New York City—show that “the number of monkeypox cases has nearly tripled in the last week, nearly all of them among men who have sex with men.” The infectious-disease and LGBTQ-health journalist Benjamin Ryan notes that though the U.S. is, frustratingly, not collecting demographic details on monkeypox patients, Britain is, and the numbers there are clear: “Half of men screened for monkeypox tested positive; women, by contrast, tested positive only 0.6 percent of the time.”

Opening paragraph of U.S. Messaging on Monkeypox Is Deeply Flawed.

If AIDS was the first politically-protected disease, Monkeypox is the second. Most of our media and government simply cannot find the integrity to speak plain, helpful English about diseases that are sexually transmitted among gay men. They’re probably trying to protect them; as so often, they may accomplish the opposite of their intention.

Politics and Legal Wrangling

Contraception, Sodomy, Same-sex marriage

I agree that “[n]othing in [the Court’s] opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

For that reason, in future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell. Because any substantive due process decision is “demonstrably erroneous,” … we have a duty to “correct the error” established in those precedents. After overruling these demonstrably erroneous decisions, the question would remain whether other constitutional provisions guarantee the myriad rights that our substantive due process cases have generated. For example, we could consider whether any of the rights announced in this Court’s substantive due process cases are “privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Clarence Thomas’s concurrence in the Dobbs case (which overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey).

I looked this up because I doubted news stories that said Thomas had "called for" re-examination of these other "substantive due process" decisions. I publish what I found to acknowledge that he did call for that, and to provide context:

  • Justice Thomas’s dictum tacitly invites challenges to these other "substantive due process" decisions, but I’m not sure he’ll get any challenges unless some government in the U.S. tries to undermine the court-decreed rights to contraception, consensual adult sodomy or same-sex marriage. Unlike the situation with abortion, I’m just not sure there’s anywhere left in the U.S. where a legislative majority could mistake opposition to these for a winning political position. In other words, how would SCOTUS get a case challenging contraception, consensual adult sodomy or same-sex marriage? Am I missing something?
  • You can certainly accuse Thomas of pedantry in his criticism of "substantive due process" while explicitly leaving open a door to recognizing the selfsame rights as "privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," but that strikes many as a better legal foundation. Liberal Yale Law School Professor Akhil Amar heartily respects, perhaps even embraces, that approach.

Where should America go legislatively on abortion?

I’ve said that any legislative resolution will have greater constitutional legitimacy than did Roe‘s bogus constitutional pretexts, and I meant and mean that.

But I now should add the qualifier that I’m not sure this is a fit subject for national legislation on the circumstances where abortion should or shouldn’t be lawful. Maybe there’s room for some Congressional legislation, like maybe protecting the right to travel (which already is judicially recognized, be it noted), but historically, abortion is a matter for the states. (I’d say the same, by the way, if Congress was weighing restriction rather than liberalization.)

I’ve always assumed that once Roe was out of the way, we’d eventually reach some ideologically-unsatisfying legislative compromise, as have western European nations. I don’t think my opinionating could change that.

A Bill with exceptions exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother was introduced in Indiana’s Special Session Wednesday (a Session called to rebate some of our budget surplus, but expanded after Dobbs). Legislators who are fighting against those compassionate exceptions (and there are some) are likely to pay a political price.

Democracy and distrust

The Secret Service reportedly told the January 6 select committee on Tuesday that it cannot recover deleted text messages from the days surrounding the Capitol attack after all, and has no new messages to provide. The agency says the messages were lost as part of a technology upgrade. The National Archives has asked the Secret Service to report within 30 days on the “potential unauthorized deletion” of agency records, including what was lost and how.

The Morning Dispatch.

This story has me as frustrated as any recent story. I would have thought the Secret Service above such stuff. Everything Orange Man/Reverse Midas touches turns to merde.

Norms

We no longer honor norms; we weaponize them.

Jonah Goldberg on Bari Weiss’ Honestly podcast Election Denial: A Roundtable. Jonah had Bari laughing out loud so many times (e.g., Trump "Tweeting like a monkey escaped from a cocaine study") that I see one of two futures:

  1. Jonah becomes a frequent flyer with Bari; or
  2. Bari, fearing loss of gravitas, never invites him again.

For what it’s worth, I found her laughter delightful.

Why we need philosophers

Over forty years, Kant taught this lecture series forty-eight times. In his Physische Geographie, as the series was called, Kant insisted that knowledge was a systematic construct in which individual facts needed to fit into a larger framework in order to make sense. He used the image of a house to explain this: before constructing it brick by brick and piece by piece, it was necessary to have an idea of how the entire building would look. It was this concept of a system that became the linchpin of Humboldt’s later thinking.

Andrea Wulf, The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World.

Note that Kant was referring to knowledge, not just scientific knowledge.

Why we don’t need end-times opinions

“We may have another year, maybe two years, to work for Jesus Christ, and [then] . . . it’s all going to be over,” he said in 1951. Two years later he said, “I sincerely believe, if I can study the Scriptures aright and read current events and keep with my current reading, that we are living in the latter days. I sincerely believe that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.”

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America

I admired Billy Graham. Now, I’d call him "consequential" rather than "great." Maybe that’s hair-splitting.

Self-sabotage

Many years ago I had a student who took several classes from me and never got anything better than a C. At the beginning of his senior year he came to my office and asked me why. I reminded him that I had always made detailed comments on his paper; he said, yeah, he knew that, but he had never read the comments and always just threw the papers away. So I explained what his problem was. He nodded, thanked me, went away, and in the two classes he had from me that year he got the highest grades in the class.

improving – Snakes and Ladders

Organic towns, functional cities

Town and city are no longer the organic growths they once were. They have begun to operate on a purely functional level that has little to do with what actually brings grace into our lives. You eviscerate a habitat of its culture and the species it supports will find it increasingly difficult to survive or else they’ll mutate into something else.

Marius Kociejowski, A Factotum in the Book Trade, via Prufrock

Why do we so mythologize the sixties?

So why do those that would lead us treat the sixties as though they were our Heroic Age?

My theory is very simple: it is the last time that any of them mattered.

Those on the left pretend that society can be guided with the right policies from powerful institutional centres. They flatter themselves otherwise, but so do those on the right, even if their versions of ‘right policies’ often involves slimming down some institutional centres. The seventies taught us a harsher lesson. They ended one of modernity’s founding political myths, the idea that the vast bureaucratic engines the modern state uses to intimately order the lives of millions could be understood as a variation on the Greek city-states. They cannot: a modern state is a different order of being. It cannot be controlled by institutional centres, and even those centres can no longer be controlled. Any attempt to limit them only renders them more powerful. Nowadays, even the Machine’s smaller cogs are too big for human hands. This is the truth that our ‘leaders’ cannot even whisper. For if social institutions have become invulnerable to meaningful control, then their entire caste – politicians, journalists, civil service managers, researchers, and all – serve no purpose. To admit their pointlessness would end them. So, liberal and conservative alike, they retreat to the sixties and pretend that it matters as they launch into another round of culture war. It doesn’t matter and they don’t matter. They cannot prevent the end that is coming.

FFatalism, The culture wars were irrelevant by 1976


If people have always said it, it is probably true; it is the distilled wisdom of the ages. If people have not always said it, but everybody is saying it now, it is probably a lie; it is the concentrated madness of the moment.

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Monday potpourri, 12/13/21

Wrongful convictions

“Sprinkle some junk science onto a faulty identification, and it’s the perfect recipe for a wrongful conviction,” Hammond said.

40-year-old Syracuse rape conviction at the heart of author Alice Sebold’s memoir is thrown out

It appears that Alice Seybold was honestly mistaken in her identification of the defendant. I’m surprised, though, that the conviction was overturned decades later without DNA evidence.

Collapse of the West

Who would believe that the whole Western world, in whose image, for better or for worse, all nations seemed to hurry to refashion themselves, would collapse, not battered from without, but sagging into lethargy and indifference and stupor from within?

Anthony M. Esolen, Out of the Ashes.

Inventing existential foes

Because Trumpians live in a state of perpetual war, they need to continually invent existential foes ….

David Brooks, who gives what I consider the best explanation to date on how American conservatism produced President Donald Trump. (The explanation is not hopeful for the GOP.)

Ignoring the Classics

Of course, the classics are neither progressive nor conservative—to argue that they are one or the other is to superimpose a useless framework on them, though Featherstone is right that conservative students are the ones usually defending them. This makes sense because conservatism has a coherent theory for why the past is valuable; progressivism less so, which is why contemporary progressivism has so thoroughly abandoned the classics, even if your old-school Marxist knew his Euripides as well as anyone.

But conservatives have turned from the classics, too. Your average attender of the Conservative Political Action Conference likely couldn’t hold a candle to a mid-century Burkean in terms of reading. Policy has become king on both sides of the aisle. A few notable exceptions aside, most conservative donors are more likely to give money to political campaigns, think tanks, and partisan publications than to programs in classical education or the humanities.

Micah Mattix, Prufrock (part of Spectator World) commenting on The Left Should Defend Classical Education

Kamala “Mindless Ramble” Harris

I trace [Vice President Kamala Harris’s] decline to when she went to Guatemala and Mexico in June for meetings on immigration. Near the end in what should have been a highly prepared meeting with the press, she launched into a sort of mindless ramble in which she kept saying we have to find out the “root causes” of illegal immigration. She said it over and over. “My trip . . . was about addressing the root causes. The stories that I heard and the interactions we had today reinforce the nature of these root causes. . . . So the work that we have to do is the work of addressing the cause—the root causes.”

There is no one in America, including immigrants, who doesn’t know the root causes of illegal immigration. They’re coming for a better life. America has jobs, a social safety net, public sympathy for the underdog. Something good might happen to you here. Nothing good was going to happen at home.

That’s why immigrants have always come. Studying “root causes” is a way of saying you want to look busy while you do nothing.

She seemed unprepared, unfocused—unserious.

Peggy Noonan, Kamala Harris Needs to Get Serious.

The paradox of diversity

It can be hard to know where to go on that if diversity is a key component of a well-rounded education but an indefensible burden on the very people representing the diversity.

The idea, again, is that there’s something offensive about a Black person being asked to arbitrate the Black view on a given issue — but what if white writers don’t ask? Isn’t their asking what we were hoping for?

John McWhorter, How Can Something Be Racist but Not Racist at the Same Time?

Higher Education

I was enthused by the announcement of the University of Austin, with President Pano Kanelos coming from St. Johns. But I’m also a bit burnt out on downright enthusiasm for universities and liberal arts colleges.

I had very high regard for Hillsdale College, for instance, only to watch it go Trumpist (Michael “Flight 93 Election” Anton on faculty) and now demagogic in its fundraising letters (most recently, surveying recipients on the socialist menace).

I think I’ll watch carefully before I dig into my wallet for UofA.

Loudon County Culture War

Since Trump came on the scene, Democrats have dominated the most affluent communities in America, winning all 13 of the richest congressional districts (mostly by wide margins) in 2018 and 41 of the top 50. Republicans as recently as 1992 regularly won over half of these districts. Lately, though, in places where voters have money and college educations, Republicanism has become a stigma on the order of bestiality or syphilis …

The Loudoun mess had a lot to do with race, but it was no simple sequel to old civil rights battles. This was a brand-new tale about multidimensional racial tensions, beginning perhaps with the impatience of affluent intellectuals toward a quiet immigrant community whose chief crime, as ham-handed as this sounds, was believing the American dream. For that offense, they were sentenced to the rudest of awakenings. Loudoun doubled as the ultimate media malpractice story, in which the public across years of salacious controversies was told everything but the most important bits.

Matt Taibbi, ‌Loudoun County, Virginia: A Culture War in Four Acts

First-world problems

Normally, an internet-connected feeding machine dispenses kibble for them at noon, but the felines’ bowls were empty and clean. The gadget hadn’t worked because of an outage at Amazon[]’s … cloud-computing unit.

“We had to manually give them food like in ancient times,” said Mr. Lerner, a 29-year-old small-business owner who lives in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Amazon Outage Disrupts Lives, Surprising People About Their Cloud Dependency – WSJ

So obvious (now that he points it out)


[H]ypocrisy is too universal to be interesting …

Liel Leibovitz, ‌Treason of the Intellectuals


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Amazing: No Politics

Innovation then and now

Henry Ford happily allowed his children to be chauffeured around town in the mass-market vehicles he pioneered, but today, Silicon Valley executives protect their children from smartphones and send them to schools without screens—a telling sign of their opinion of their own products.

Gladden Pappin, Advancing in Place

Pappin is an integralist or integralism-adjacent, so I read him guardedly. Still, it’s hard to resist that little ad hominem.

Pornification failure

Much later, Playboy magazine came along, in which girls removed their underwear and a boy could drive to a drugstore in a part of town where he was not known and tuck a copy into a Wall Street Journal and peruse it And later came Tropic of Cancer and Portnoy’s Complaint and now porn is freely available online though to me it has all the erotic allure of watching oil well pumps pumping in North Dakota.

Garrison Keillor

Le mot juste is "shibboleth"

I generally don’t like "why didn’t he write about this?" objections, but I think John McWhorter missed the boat by not using the term "shibboleth" in this piece.

Put not your trust in jury verdicts

There is a dissonance between what we invest in a trial and what it resolves. We rely on the criminal-justice process for the airing of important aspects and arguments around many public controversies that deeply divide us. The trial and its attendant litigation become our historical record. But in the end, a criminal proceeding settles only a very narrow point: Did the state present proof beyond a reasonable doubt to support the charges it alleged?

In the Rittenhouse trial — in what I continue to believe is a case that should never have been a criminal prosecution — the state did not meet its burden. That narrow finding is critical, and the jury made it.

Still, the trial has very little to tell us about the unrest on the streets, what caused it. It doesn’t address how the government dealt with, or rather was derelict in, its duty to provide security. It has nothing to say about prudential or moral questions unrelated to the proof vel non of charged crimes — e.g., should Kyle Rittenhouse have been on the violent scene in Kenosha that night, should he have been armed, and what does the fact that we can’t agree on these questions — indeed, can’t even seem to discuss them civilly much of the time — portend for our society? Nothing, because we’ve always been a rambunctious bunch, or disaster, because our disagreements are growing more fundamental?

Verdicts in a criminal case do not begin to address those matters.

But they are essential just the same. We can’t address anything effectively without the rule of law. Today, the rule of law won.

Andrew C. McCarthy, *‌Thoughts on the Rittenhouse Not-Guilty Verdicts *

Two paths of the novel

If the novelist cannot provide a window into reality, then he must ultimately write about himself; and his technique, or politics, or personal problems come to the forefront of his work. Like the postmodernist Pompidou Center in Paris, with all its pipes, wires, and elevators on the outside, the postmodern novel refuses the “hidden” artistry of the realistic tradition in order to flaunt its bag of tricks.

Gregory Wolfe, Beauty Will Save the World

A charitable surmise

One of the reasons that Pope Francis sometimes seems so frustrated with the state of the Church today may be that, in his experience, too many Christians tend to confuse doctrine and law and rituals and structures with the real experience of faith.

Abp. Charles J. Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land

If Archbishop Chaput’s surmise is correct, I’ll give the Pope his props for a change — with a caveat: the "real experience of faith" can be absent even in a saint, and even for long "dry" spells. Witness St. Theresa of Calcutta, who suffered depression for decades, rarely if ever feeling God’s presence.

Deep paradox

In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all.

C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory in The Weight of Glory

Tell me why I’m wrong

Having avoided the divisive topic of politics, I turn to the divisive subject of religion.

When I consider a story like David French’s The Moral Collapse of America’s Largest Christian University, I think that public-facing Evangelicalism is almost entirely religiopreneurs getting ego strokes and money, lots of money, and lots of — oh, never mind. This is a family blog.

Oh, those guys plus followers who will follow their leaders anywhere, including perdition, if the metrics are good (since good metrics are confused with God’s blessing).

I know there are faithful pastors laboring away far from the limelight, but the tone is set by the bozos, isn’t it?

Thinking much about politics

A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for the one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.

C.S. Lewis, Membership, in The Weight of Glory


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Gleanings

From Deschooling Society

  • Hope, in its strong sense, means trusting faith in the goodness of nature, while expectation, as I will use it here, means reliance on results which are planned and controlled by man. Hope centers desire on a person from whom we await a gift. Expectation looks forward to satisfaction from a predictable process which will produce what we have the right to claim. The Promethean ethos has now eclipsed hope. Survival of the human race depends on its rediscovery as a social force.
  • Classical man framed a civilized context for human perspective. He was aware that he could defy fate-nature-environment, but only at his own risk. Contemporary man goes further; he attempts to create the world in his image, to build a totally man-made environment, and then discovers that he can do so only on the condition of constantly remaking himself to fit it. We now must face the fact that man himself is at stake.
  • I know a Mexican village through which not more than a dozen cars drive each day. A Mexican was playing dominoes on the new hard-surface road in front of his house – where he had probably played and sat since his youth. A car sped through and killed him. The tourist who reported the event to me was deeply upset, and yet he said: “The man had it coming to him”. … At first sight, the tourist’s remark is no different from the statement of some primitive bushman reporting the death of a fellow who had collided with a taboo and had therefore died. But the two statements carry opposite meanings. The primitive can blame some tremendous and dumb transcendence, while the tourist is in awe of the inexorable logic of the machine.

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society.

This is the first Ivan Illich I’ve read. It’s mind-expanding, but my mind is not yet capacious enough to find many of his proposals for alternatives to "schooling" realistic.

Perhaps that means that my mind is captive to the schooling mentality, but I can’t help but note that the suggestion is both ad hominem and circular.

On at least one thing do Illich and I agree: As one who identifies as auto-didact (one much provide one’s identity these days, right?), I agree that most of what I know I learned outside of school. And that goes double for important things (beyond basic learning skills).

That should disabuse us of any servility to schooling.

A Counterworld

The Church’s function is not to adapt Christianity to the world, or even to adapt the world to Christianity; Her function is to maintain a counterworld in the world.

Nicolas Gomez Davila, Escolios a un Texto Implicito, via John Brady’s Rags of Light e-newsletter.

And if you understand that, you should understand:

  • The case for The Benedict Option; and
  • That The Benedict Option is, as many have said, "just the Church being the Church."

How badly must Trump botch this notion to disenthrall his acolytes?

DWAC, the Trump Social-Media SPAC, Soars in GameStop-Like Frenzy
Shares of Digital World Acquisition more than doubled to $94.20 Friday after trading as high as $175; have risen nearly tenfold in two days

Maybe losing beaucoups bucks will disenthrall Trump’s sycophants. Something needs to.

Decadent Jazz & Journalism

Jazz has been compared to “an indecent story syncopated and counterpointed.” There can be no question that, like journalism in literature, it has helped to destroy the concept of obscenity.

Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences.

Even the greats can be wrong sometimes — about jazz, not journalism, of course.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff at here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

A few thoughts

I’ve had major, major computer woes over the past eight days and blogging went on the back burner, but I have read a bit a clipped a bit and, well, I have thoughts.


First, an interesting bit of tonic contrariness:

> Frankly, a big problem in our society is that many of our institutions are still too trusted relative to the amount of trust they deserve. Think about blue chip brands like GE or Boeing that were once synonymous with American can-do business, but are now joke companies. The response to the coronavirus should have revealed to everyone the institutional incompetence of much of our public sector. And I’ve been on record for years as writing that most communities would be better off if half of their non-profits disappeared. > > I plan to write an entire future Masculinist on why we should in many cases cease to identify the public good with the continuation and propping up of our failed institutions. As Alasdair Macintyre put it in After Virtue, “A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium.” > > Care for your neighbor or the American people does not necessarily have to equate to maintenance of the American “imperium.”

Aaron Renn, The Masculinist


Second, an introduction that’s better, in my opinion, than the overall article that follows:

> People complain about QAnon, but truly lasting, impactful lunacy is always exclusive to intellectuals. Everyone else is constrained. You can’t fish on land for long. Same with using a chainsaw for headache relief. An intellectual may freely mistake bullshit for Lincoln logs and spend a lifetime building palaces.

Matt Taibbi, Marcuse-Anon: Cult of the Pseudo-Intellectual


On sitting out the new culture wars:

> An actress who rose to prominence in a sport I loathe had been fired from a television program I have no plans of ever watching on an online streaming platform that I would never subscribe to for employing a tired but once-popular Holocaust-derived analogy in an argument about — well, I really don’t know, but I was supposed to be thrilled that she is now engaged in an unnamed new film venture with another journalist whose work I despise. Sandwiched between these two incidents was at least one other pseudo-controversy involving the inconsistent application of privacy rules at the aforementioned paper. It led to a once-pseudonymous blogger, who was supposed to be the subject of an abandoned profile, outing himself and then being written about in a somewhat nastier manner by the same publication. This in turn gave rise to dozens of impassioned defenses of the unlucky scribe by countless other 40-something male bloggers, including one prominent defender of polygamy.

Matthew Walther

I’m about 80% sitting them out, too. The remaining 20% is a weak presumption that any conservative who got cancelled is ipso facto a pretty good ole boy or gal.


Beam me up, Lord:

> An Israeli startup that is developing 3D printers for meat undertook a successful fundraising round that will allow it to distribute its products to restaurants this year. Redefine Meat combines 3D meat modelling, food formulations and food printing to build complex-matrix “meat” on its machines, made from proteins found in legumes and grains and fat from plants. The steaks resemble the texture and taste of choice cuts of beef, but with no cholesterol. Bill Gates this week called on rich countries to switch to “100% synthetic beef” in order to lower greenhouse-gas emissions from the cattle industry.

Business this week | The world this week | The Economist

The "meat" photo with the article looked very good, but I’m really not keen on faux meat. When fasting from meat, I avoid fake meat 99% of the time, especially now that the fakes are so like the real thing.

And seriously, Bill Gates: Is it really all that obvious that synthetic beef is better for the environment (and/or cows) than pastured beef?

As Michael Pollan says, if it’s made of plants, it’s food; if it’s made in a plant, it’s not food.

Eat food.


You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here. It should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly, should you want to make a habit of it.

Same God?

Hang on here. I purposefully meander a bit today, which is a fitting way of sharing a little epiphany I had while reading un-Christmassy stuff (Thomas S. Kuhn and Ian Hacking, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: 50th Anniversary Edition) on Christmas Eve.

Do we, however, really need to describe what separates Galileo from Aristotle, or Lavoisier from Priestley, as a transformation of vision? Did these men really see different things when looking at the same sorts of objects? Is there any legitimate sense in which we can say that they pursued their research in different worlds? Those questions can no longer be postponed, for there is obviously another and far more usual way to describe all of the historical examples outlined above. Many readers will surely want to say that what changes with a paradigm is only the scientist’s interpretation of observations that themselves are fixed once and for all by the nature of the environment and of the perceptual apparatus. On this view, Priestley and Lavoisier both saw oxygen, but they interpreted their observations differently; Aristotle and Galileo both saw pendulums, but they differed in their interpretations of what they both had seen.

(Page 120, Kindle edition)

These sorts of questions could be extended to other areas, which was why Stanley Fish so insistently schooled Nico Perrino, on one So to Speak podcast:

[Stanley]: Do you believe in the distinction between faith on the one hand and reason or empirical investigation on the other?

Nico: Yes.

Stanley: Yes, I thought you would.

Nico: Of course, I do. So, I’ve fallen into your trap.

Stanley: Because I don’t. I taught a course yesterday on Inherit the Wind. It’s a movie about the Scopes Trial in the early part of the 20th century.

Nico: Yeah, Scopes Trial.

Stanley: That’s a movie produced and directed by Stanley Kramer who is a stalwart First Amendment liberal. The entire dramatic rhetoric of the movie depends on the distinction between faith on the one hand and reason, especially reason associated with scientific experiments, on the other hand. That distinction doesn’t hold up for a second. That distinction doesn’t hold up. What’s you’re dealing with in science as opposed to let’s say orthodox Christianity or something else are two different faiths.

Two different kinds of faiths undergirded by radically opposed assumptions and presuppositions. But it’s presupposition and assumptions which are generating the evidence and facts on both sides. Again, you have – I can tell and say this with all the generosity – you are deeply mired in the basic assumptions and presuppositions of classical liberalism. Anything else that is brought to you, anything that is brought to you by some kind of retrograde sinner like me sounds outlandish and obviously perverse.

Nico: No, not necessarily. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be having this conversation with you.

Stanley: Good point.

Nico: But, you know, we’re at the corner of what? 5th and 12th Avenue. Are you telling me it’s not a fact that we’re at the corner of 5th and 12th Avenue?

Stanley: Oh, come on. Come on. Look, have you ever read The Structure of Scientific Revolution?

Nico: I have not.

Stanley: Okay. Do you know what it is?

Nico: No.

Stanley: Okay. It’s a book that is probably the most influential book in the social sciences and humanities for the past 75 years. That’s not an understatement. That is not an overstatement. Kuhn, his project, is the history of science as his title suggests. What he does is challenge the picture that I’ve already referred to where he says that science is not an activity in which one generation because of using its powers of observation and experiment adds to the details of the description of nature that was begun by previous generations.

What he’s saying is that scientific knowledge is not cumulative in the way that the usual picture of science suggests. Instead, scientific knowledge, that is the establishment of scientific fact, depends on what he calls paradigms. What’s a paradigm? A paradigm is the set of in place assumptions and authorized methodologies that govern and are in fact the content of scientific investigation at any moment. Paradigms rather than any direct confrontation between the observer and the world. Paradigms are what produces evidence and interpretations.

Finally, interpretations that are persuasive and successful for a while until that paradigm, for reasons that he details, is dislodged by another. When that happens, when the paradigm within which scientific observers work Kuhn says changes. One might say without exaggeration that without the world in which the scientific practitioner works has itself changed.

Nico: See, I don’t buy it though because there are things that scientist do maybe through this paradigm that produce a tangible result that only come as a result of. Changing the paradigm won’t change the result.

Stanley: Tangible result is itself along with other talismanic phrases like that – tangible result will be recognized as one depending on what pragmatic point of view you are situated. What Kuhn would say, he’s not the only one and I’m not the only one, is that any conclusion that you might reach and be confident in is not supported by some correspondents between your methodological, descriptive protocol and the world. Rather it’s produced by the paradigm within which you are ensconced and of which you are in some sense an extension.

I really urge to read this book because he considers – he’s not debunking science. He’s not debunking scientific achievement. He’s just giving a different picture of it which challenges what he thinks of as the over simplified picture, again, of a world out there waiting to be correctly described. We, as rational observers, having the task to describe it.

Having now read a bit more than half of Kuhn, I understand what Stanley was saying, and I’m less inclined to agree with with Nico.

Anyway, one extension of the “paradigm” (or “gestalt,” as Kuhn so often has it) is the continually vexed question of “whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God,” which I have visited several times in the past (here, here, and even here in passing).

My paradigm, which led me to say “of course they do“ is monotheism strictly and literally speaking: There is only one God, howsoever He may be misunderstood. Those who say they do not worship the same God strike me as tacitly embracing henotheism, usually with some vehement tribal pride thrown in about the superiority of our God.

But in fairness, the paradigm of the “different God” folks is perhaps doctrine, and “common parlance” rather than strict and literal monotheism. A sufficiently different understanding of God (as the Islamic understanding differs from the orthodox Christian) is, figuratively, “another God,” much as scientists after a gestalt shift are figuratively in “a different world,” according to Kuhn (and Fish?).

Further, my paradigm is apparently flexible. I sometimes ruminate on how the “loving God” I met in bedtime Bible stories as a child, and in childhood Sunday School, got displaced by an “angry God,” prickly, even furious, at how our screwups besmirch His dignity, as if He were a feudal lord. They do indeed feel like different Gods. (I found the loving God again, once and for all, in Orthodox Christianity, but that story is too tangential today.)

Likewise, a “progressive Christian” profession that Matthew 25 is the “heart of the Gospel” arises from a different hermeneutic than mine and, I suspect, is a convenient way of making Christ’s incarnate deity an optional doctrine and doing away with “the scandal of the Cross.” In their paradigm/gestalt, Matthew 25 being the heart of the Gospel is almost axiomatic, and the stupendous paradox we celebrated yesterday is at best tangential, likelier credulous or even incomprehensible. They and I are divided by our nominally common (“Christian”) faith. (It also makes Christian sexual morality, which rivals the Cross for scandal-giving these days, optional.)

And then there are the Jews. I and they, too, worship different Gods if you want to be very figurative about it, though their non-Trinitarian God is pre-Christian rather than anti-Christian. I wonder, though, how many of the “Muslims-worship-a-different-God” folks even think about the Jews when blasting the Muslims?

So what? So can we, on this second day of Christmas (indeed, on all days) be less hasty with expressions that needlessly divide us with intimations that The Other believes as he believes because he’s pure evil rather than out of a very different, good faith, perspective?

That doesn’t mean we all unequivocally worship the same God, for God’s sake, but might our divisions can produce yearning instead of angry denunciations?

* * * * *

Sailing on the sea of this present life, I think of the ocean of my many offenses; and not having a pilot for my thoughts, I call to Thee with the cry of Peter, save me, O Christ! Save me, O God! For Thou art the lover of mankind.

(From A Psalter for Prayer)

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Thoughts on Complete Education

Your work and career are a part of your life,” he said when I met with him and the Santa Fe president, Mark Roosevelt. “Education should prepare you for all of your life. It should make you a more thoughtful, reflective, self-possessed and authentic citizen, lover, partner, parent and member of the global economy.” I love that assessment — the precision, balance and sweep of it.

Frank Bruni, writing about St. John’s College (emphasis added). During his visit to the Santa Fe campus and his eavesdropping on some classes:

Three dynamics stood out.

The first was how articulate the students were. Something wonderful happens when you read this ambitiously and wallow in this many words. You become agile with them.

The second was the students’ focus. A group discussing Homer’s “Iliad” spent more than 10 minutes on the phrase — the idea — of someone having his “fill of weeping.” If digital devices and social media yank people from one trumpet blast to the next, St. John’s trains them to hold a note — to caress it, pull at it, see what it can withstand and what it’s worth.

The third dynamic was their humility. They weren’t wedded to their initial opinions. They weren’t allowed to be. And they moved not toward the best answer but toward better questions. In the “Iliad” and in life, is there any catharsis in revenge? Any resolution in death? Does grief end or just pause? Do wars?

Jack Isenberg, a senior, told me that St. John’s had taught him how much is unknowable. “We have to be comfortable in ambiguity,” he said.

What a gift. What an education.

(Emphasis added)

It’s now official: if I get huffy and drop the New York Times again, Frank Bruni is part of what I’d miss, along with his more conservative brethren Ross Douthat and David Brooks. (Heck, I already miss Brooks because he’s on “book leave” or some durn thing.)


I added emphasis to the preceding item for a reason:

The end of education for the religious-minded person might be seen, depending on his or her particular religion, as, say, the salvation of one’s soul, the glorification of God, the attainment of holiness or enlightenment, that is, something distinctly transcendent or spiritual. For the secular-minded person, it might be career preparation, the material betterment of humanity, self-fulfillment, that is, something distinctly temporal and material … [B]oth extremes and those in between consider education as primarily a means to these all-important ends. For this reason, they tend to characterize the transmission of knowledge and skills as the right and only model for education, with right answers, whether spiritually or materially regarded, and the most useful skills, aimed at the good of the soul or the good of the world, the only proper curriculum.

In this view, questions and questioning are important, but only when they give rise to and are aimed at definite answers. And liberal-arts disciplines, such as logic and literature, are generally a good thing to learn, but only when directed to securing desirable spiritual or worldly goods. In this way, the priority of answers, especially the right answers, and useful skills, in a school’s curriculum and pedagogy tends to render other types of questioning and other, not-so-useful skills obsolete. Open-ended questioning, speculative contemplation, and philosophical enquiry, and those skills that are deemed “useless,” such as a capacity for wonder, an appreciation of the true, the good, and the beautiful, and a grasp of the world as a whole, are either a waste of time and money, or just mere means to obtaining “right” answers and useful skills.

Thaddeus Kozinski, Questions Are Better Than Answers: On the Socratic Method.

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Tighten up, now

I would like to call attention to the Religion News Service report that was posted with this headline: “Employees quit American Bible Society over sex and marriage rules.” The overture is quite strong:

(RNS) — One of the oldest nonprofit organizations dedicated to distributing Bibles around the world will soon require all employees to adhere to orthodox Christian beliefs and heed a conservative code of sexual ethics.

Employees are resigning in protest of the new policy, which will effectively prohibit sexually active LGBT people and couples in cohabitating relationships from working for the American Bible Society. But the organization stands by it as a measure intended to bring “unity and clarity.”

The key word in that lede is “orthodox,” with a small “o.” It would have been possible, I guess, to have used phrases such as “ancient Christian beliefs” or even “traditional Christian beliefs.” Both would have been accurate in terms of history. In this context, the use of “conservative” is fine, since there are “liberal” churches that have modernized their doctrines on these subjects.

However, strange things start happening soon after that strong, factual opening, Note, for example, the end of this paragraph:

The American Bible Society, founded 202 years ago to publish, distribute and translate the Bible, presented its “Affirmation of Biblical Community” to employees in December. It requires employees to “refrain from sexual contact outside the marriage covenant,” which it defined as man and wife.

Now, let’s be clear. It is accurate to state that the American Bible Society document defines “marriage covenant” in this manner. However, the implication is that there is something unique or controversial about that doctrine – as opposed to it being a restatement of 2,000 years of basic Christian moral theology

It is … crucial to note why the American Bible Society, and many other religious groups, are putting these kinds of doctrinal specifics into print. They aren’t doing this because they want to do so, they are taking this step because of emerging legal realities.

The roots of these decisions can be found in recent government actions and court decisions (think HHS mandates) requiring religious nonprofits to be much more specific about the doctrines that define their voluntary associations. In other words, there are now solid legal reasons for being more candid, as a defense strategy when being sued by those who oppose these doctrines.This story isn’t going away. So be careful out there.

(Terry Mattingly, emphasis added)

Let me put this another way: When organizations like the American Bible Society find that an employee is cohabiting or sexually active with members of the same sex, if they dismiss or otherwise discipline them, they don’t want the employee, sincerely or disingenuously, claiming that they had no idea that doing so violated a general rule that employees are to conduct their lives outside of work “consistently with Biblical morality” or some such general, umbrella standard.

There’s nothing new about this. For twenty centuries now, the Church has defined its teachings more rigorously when some sort of challenge arose to what previously had been, if not universally understood, at least not openly defied and disputed. From Arian heresy through iconoclastic heresy, that’s the background of the Ecumenical Councils of the undivided church.

The only thing that’s changed, it seems to me, is that tens of thousands of denominations and parachurch groups are going to have to do this one-by-one now, the clear and visible unity of the church having been blurred and obscured beyond possibility of an ecumenical council that all would recognize as binding.

* * * * *

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

(Philip K. Dick)

The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.

(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)

Place. Limits. Liberty.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

Imposter Syndrome

A gem of an essay at Aeon:

‘Impostor syndrome’ describes a problem I don’t especially wish to solve. Its remedy is to recognise that one does in fact belong. Yet I can’t convince myself I want to fully belong – indeed, I would experience belonging as a loss. The reasons for this are several, though all converge on a conviction that being ill-adapted has a value I would not forfeit.

Lately, academia has grown more sensitive to how its culture flattens and normalises those who populate its ranks. Impostor syndrome is a way of explaining how non-standard identities can provoke alienation. Class is one such structure of exclusion, alongside race, gender, sexual identity and disability. But what are the epistemic costs of ‘fitting’? If we look only at alienation, we ignore the ways in which that subtly enforced sameness diminishes understanding.

In his exquisite poem ‘Digging’ (1966), Seamus Heaney observes his own descent from men who laboured. Of his father digging potatoes, he writes:

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

Against this raw strength, Heaney registers with melancholy humility: ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them’ and the poem concludes:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

The poem’s beauty is its ambivalence, its reluctance to mark a generational shift from spade to pen as unambiguous progress. I long to wield both, and rue how often academic life would strip spades from those who have them. And that, more than anything else, is what I suspect betrays me as an impostor, though not in the anxious, normalised way.

Impostor syndrome rides on the perception, most fundamentally, that one is getting away with something. I struggle to grasp just why this sleight-of-hand ought be counted a bad thing. I sometimes still feel a fraud in academic environments, but neither do I mind it much. Indeed, taking a little pleasure in getting away with things is something I come by honestly – a family legacy, if you will.

None of my academic bona fides reassure me more than counting myself a squatter

(Amy Olberding, How useful is ‘impostor syndrome’ in academia?, Aeon Essays)

Update:

Did you ever feel like an imposter in Church?

The Rooted Faith in Wendell Berry’s Fiction.” Jack Baker and I write about how Berry’s exemplary characters root themselves in order to bring healing to damaged places:

Berry describes himself as a “marginal” Christian, and his position on the outskirts of our dominant, consumerist culture makes his a voice from the wilderness—one many evangelicals with more orthodox theology might do well to consider. Perhaps the greatest threat to the church today isn’t falling for doctrinal heresy but implicitly adopting the consumerist, self-centered assumptions of our Western culture. It’s all too easy for American Christians to assent to the right doctrines on Sunday while inhabiting a counter-Christian economy the rest of the week, loving ourselves more than God and neighbor.

(Jeffrey Bilbro, for whom also a tip of the hat for pointing me to Amy Olberding’s essay)

* * * * *

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.

A man … is only a bigot if he cannot understand that his dogma is a dogma, even if it is true.

(G.K. Chesterton) Be of good courage, you who are called “bigots” by those who are unable to conceive seriously the alternatives to their dogmas.

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.

The age of bloodless assassination

[C]harges of bigotry function these days in the same way assassinations did during the 1930s. George Orwell was disgusted by the ideological brutality he witnessed while serving on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War. One did not discuss; one eliminated. A similar spirit is at work today. What happened to the professors at Yale targeted by black students? What happened to the Claremont McKenna dean who was forced to resign over charges of racial “insensitivity”? They were not killed. We live in a bloodless era, thankfully. Instead, they were professionally assassinated. Professor James McAdams at Marquette was assassinated in this way. Some at Duke Divinity School tried to use the method of professional execution to get rid of Paul Griffiths.

The assassinations are by no means limited to the poisoned groves of academia. We see it happening elsewhere. James Damore was recently assassinated at Google, and before him Brendan Eich at Mozilla … These assassinations create an atmosphere of fear, which is the goal. We should be grateful that the left does not put bullets in the back of the heads of those who dissent. But let’s not kid ourselves; it is a velvet terror, but still a reign of terror.

Michael Sean Winters got into the assassination game. Our publication of Romanus Cessario’s review of a translation of Edgardo Mortara’s spiritual memoir (“Non Possumus,” February) stirred up controversy. A sharp debate followed. Winters is not interested in debate. He wants an execution. “Dominican Fr. Romanus Cessario, professor of systematic theology at St. John’s Seminary, associate editor of The Thomist, senior editor of Magnificat, and general editor of the Catholic Moral Thought series at the Catholic University of America Press, should be sacked. Not permitted to retire early. Not permitted to resign. He should be sacked and sacked publicly.” The reason for this public hanging? We need to adopt a “zero tolerance policy against anti-semitism by clerics.”

The reign of terror works in part because conservatives too often play along ….

(R.R. Reno)

* * * * *

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

Where I glean stuff.