[T]here does seem to be some trouble in this country in judging who is smart and who isn’t. The main problem may be confusing “simple” with “dumb.”
If something is simple, then dumb people will believe it. And if dumb people believe something, then soon some conclude that smart people should believe something else. There’s a flaw in that philosophy.
Why shouldn’t you touch a hot stove? There’s no complex, smart answer to that. You’ll get roughly the same answer from Stephen Hawking that you’d get from Forrest Gump: It’s hot, and it will hurt.
But say you were going to argue that you should touch a hot stove. That would have to be a very complex answer, since it defies basic logic. And some people could run with that, talking in detail about pain receptors and the brain’s reaction to stimulus, and come up with a very smart-sounding argument on why touching a hot stove is a great idea.
Others will go further and mock all those ignorant people in the flyover states for their irrational fear of hot stoves and announce, “The most enlightened thing to do is to press one’s face against a hot stove.” Those people are what we call intellectuals.
Similarly, when someone comes up with a well-reasoned argument backed by top economists that two plus two equals five, there’s no brilliant way to refute it. The only response is: “No, you’re an idiot; it’s four.” But if you say that, you’ll be called anti-smart people.
In a fascinating admission today, David Brooks claims that of all the GOP candidates the one “who comes closest to my worldview is Newt Gingrich.”
Despite his erratically shifting views and odd phases, he continually returns to this core political refrain: He talks about using government in energetic but limited ways to increase growth, dynamism and social mobility.
So why doesn’t Brooks support Gingrich for president?
In the first place, Gingrich loves government more than I do. He has no Hayekian modesty to restrain his faith in statist endeavor. For example, he has called for “a massive new program to build a permanent lunar colony to exploit the Moon’s resources.” He has suggested that “a mirror system in space could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways.”
I’m for national greatness conservatism, but this is a little too great.
If this sort of Big Government conservatism scares a Big Government-loving conservative like Brooks, you can imagine how those of us with less love for Leviathan feel about Gingrich’s surging popularity. The most troubling aspect is that Newt combines his views with an excess of enthusiasm. As I noted last year, this is the exact opposite of what we need. In the coming election we don’t need the second-coming of Teddy Roosevelt to fan the flames of National Greatness. What we need is a Coolidge clone that is able to brandish a wet blanket. In fact, we need a Wet Blanket movement—an enterprise of inactivity designed to sap any and all enthusiasm for political and governmental robustness.
Sadly, there is only one man who could lead such a movement and he died back in 1933. I’m speaking, of course, of our greatest modern president: Calvin Coolidge.
The title of the feast has sometimes led to confusion about who was being immaculately conceived, many thinking it was Jesus through Mary’s virginity. Not so; it was Mary herself, being conceived without the effects of original sin from which Jesus saves us all. She received this gift of salvation “retroactively,” so to speak, therefore being born without stain or any touch of the unsanctified. This concept troubles those who would say that the Gospels and other scriptures say nothing of this, that it is a concoction by fervent devotees of Mary. However, there is a great deal of biblical support for why God would do such a thing for this one human person.
I asked the great New York collector Agnes Gund how she would feel about her artworks if their value suddenly halved. “I wouldn’t feel they would have changed,” she said, explaining that most of her pictures are promised to museums. Then I asked how she’d feel if their value doubled instead, and her story changed. “Obviously, it’s wonderful to see the price rise,” she said, since that’s confirmation of the object’s cultural worth.
I’m convinced that most collectors spend their surplus millions on art because they have a genuine belief in its aesthetic value. “We don’t consider art an investment. We get a psychic reward—I love to come home and look at our walls,” says Eli Broad, a prominent collector from Los Angeles, taking a break from shopping with his art-loving wife at the fair in Miami. (They’d just bought some early Cindy Sherman photos, for sale at Metro Pictures for a modest $150,000.) Aesthetics are the bedrock the art market is built on. But, for want of any other reliable measure, they often get tallied in dollars. One of New York’s biggest dealers told Velthuis, the Dutch sociologist, that collectors “permanently have to explain to themselves why they spend so much money on art, sometimes up to 40 percent of their total net worth. So that they want to hear all day long that it makes sense what they do.” And the easiest way to gauge the aesthetic “sense” of an art purchase is to check out the “cents” the thing is selling for. When you’re looking for great art, you may spot it by its price tag.
The adjective that economist Friedrich Hayek famously called a “weasel word” is alive and well in the feel-good phrases social business, social justice and the social gospel.
In all three of these phrases, the common weasel word sucks some of the essential meaning out of what it modifies by implying that business, justice, and the Christian Gospel are a-social, or even anti-social, until conjoined with a mysterious something else. If only the confusion were of merely academic interest. Unfortunately, the failure to see that business, justice and the Gospel are intrinsically social has led to all kinds of mischief in people’s efforts to organize society — most recently in the Circle of Protection promoted by Jim Wallis and his friends on the left.
“The value of a generation must be somewhat determined by its progeny, for a generation is partly responsible for what legacy it passes on,” says Stephen Masty in an entertaining rant against the “cult of the ‘Greatest Generation.’” And what did the Greatest Generation leave behind? Baby Boomers.
America’s so-called Greatest Generation is great only in comparison to the rubbish that followed them, which frankly and literally they begat. The rest is mostly sentimentality, projecting onto an entire generation what we may more rightly respect about our own dear relations.
While it may sound ungrateful to the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, from where did these ghastly Boomers come? Did they spring like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, fully-armed with credit cards, neuroses and BMW motorcars? Or did they have parents?
The so-called Greatest Generation created Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that metastasized welfarism and made permanent the culture of entitlement. They created or enabled the Permissive Society that shattered millennia-old values leading to the decline of marriage, a level of narcotics-abuse never seen before in a developed country, an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases and the industrial-scale production of bastard children. They ran America when Roe-v-Wade opened the floodgates to 50 million abortions since.
Too nice to argue and too weak to put their foot down, they spoilt their offspring with the kind of good-natured generosity and blind tolerance that is far more harmful than parsimony and even cruelty.
How broadly, though, do we want to use the adjective “Christian”? I don’t make Christian art: I’m a Christian who makes art. Heard that line before? I have too, and usually as a justification for bad art. But the Christian chiseling away at the marble has unique and privileged access to the universe, and you’d think that would be good for something.
If realism means the representation of life as it is actually lived, I do not see why lives which are actually lived on a higher emotional plane are not so eligible for representation as those lived on a lower plane.
[I]t’s true that the average guy on the street doesn’t understand economics, and it’s also true that we [economists] don’t understand economics. We just have a more sophisticated lack of understanding than the guy on the street.
Religious liberty is also prior to the state itself. It is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will. Instead, religious liberty is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one of us by
our Creator. Thus government has a perennial obligation to acknowledge and protect religious liberty as fundamental, no matter the moral and political trends of the moment. This insight as well is reflected in the laws and traditions of our country from its very inception. The Declaration of Independence boldly proclaimed as a self-evident truth that our inalienable rights are “endowed by our Creator”—not by the State.
—Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops before the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution.
For the ancients, man was bound by but not wholly defined as part of nature. The studies of natural phenomena and human affairs had to be distinct disciplines, for all of the reasons that nature and man are distinct in kind. On this view, “political science” was a distinct form of study from that of natural phenomena, requiring very different assumptions and approaches. The inauguration of the modern period was marked, among many other things, by the belief that human beings could be wholly understood through the same methods as natural things; thus, a new “science of politics” based upon the ideals of predictability and even control and manipulation of human beings was seen not only as possible but greatly desirable. The modern period also saw the reason for scientific inquiry shift from merely understanding how nature was governed to understanding how human beings could master it. Nature became not subject but object; and human inquiry was set not only in service of understanding politics, but manipulating nature for political ends.
It ought to come as no surprise, then, that these ideas might be carried further, so that human beings, as merely part of nature, could also be regarded as natural objects for manipulation. Man, too, could become no longer just subject but object. Many of the great horrors of the last century — from economic failures of all sorts to eugenics and worse — arose from this understanding. But a new movement today, calling itself transhumanism, carries these notions to their logical conclusion: human beings are not only manipulable objects, but raw, manipulable material; man himself, his very form, might be tinkered with, enhanced, and “reengineered,” like a species of crop or livestock. What becomes of the political animal when politics seeks not to meet his ends but to unravel them — not to serve him but to remake him?
“First World problems” is a term recently popularized on the Internet to designate the frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. A prime example is the bizarre reaction to Siri, the new iPhone’s intelligent personal assistant app. If you ask Siri, “Where can I get an abortion?” the digital assistant currently responds with, “I don’t see any abortion clinics. Sorry about that.”
Because a depressingly signficant number of people were freaked out by the idea that a phone app might not be pro-choice, the CEO of one of history’s greatest tech companies felt the need to issue a mea culpa. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook offered an apology to Nancy Keenan, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, because a “glitch” on the phone did not direct people to abortion clinics. As Dave Barry would say, “I’m not making this up.”
From the news coverage this has received, you’d think that one of the most pressing issues in America is that women who want to kill their unborn child have to endure the horrific inconvenience of pressing a button on their smartphone and using Google to search for the location of the nearest abortion mill.
Averaging across the psychologists’ reports of their own and others’ behaviour, the alarming results suggest that one in ten psychologists has falsified research data, while the majority has: selectively reported studies that “worked” (67 per cent), not reported all dependent measures (74 per cent), continued collecting data to reach a significant result (71 per cent), reported unexpected findings as expected (54 per cent), and excluded data post-hoc (58 per cent). Participants who admitted to more questionable practices tended to claim that they were more defensible. Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they had doubts about the integrity of their own research. Breaking the results down by sub-discipline, relatively higher rates of questionable practice were found among cognitive, neuroscience and social psychologists, with fewer transgressions among clinical psychologists.
Just reading that in the type in front of you probably has some of you angry. Let me help you see why that is, and, in so doing, why caring for those with AIDS is part of the gospel mandate given to us in the Great Commission.
The statement that Jesus has AIDS startles some of you because you know it not to be true. Jesus, after all, is the exalted son of the living God. He has defeated death in the garden tomb, and defeated it finally. Jesus isn’t weak or dying or infected; he’s triumphant and resurrected.
Yes, but, what we’re often likely to miss is that Jesus has identified himself with the suffering of this world, an identification that continues on through his church. Yes, Jesus finishes his suffering at the cross, but he also speaks of himself as being “persecuted” by Saul of Tarsus, as Saul comes after his church in Damascus (Acts 9:4).
Death is, of course, the great atonement. I have commented before on how you only have to die these days in order to have all of your sins, both great and small, cast as far from you as the east is from the West. The late Ted Kennedy is a good example. So is Michael Jackson. Jackson, in fact, is an even more dramatic example of how death – particularly death in absurd circumstances at a comparatively early age – not only washes away one’s sins in the public eye but also lifts one’s modest talent to the level of that of the Olympian gods. Watching Gene Kelly in the wonderful film An American in Paris recently, I commented to my wife that Kelly could dance, he could really dance. In comparison, Michael Jackson was able to do what? Walk backwards with a certain amount of style? There is no comparison; yet Jackson is a god; Kelly is all but forgotten.
“Foes of gay rights are now seen by the press as fighting the bad war, roughly analogous to Vietnam,” wrote Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. “Pro-lifers are waging the good war, like World War II.” Timothy Dalrymple has an excellent post examining this analogy and shares a story that most evangelical editors can relate to:
Consider this little bit of anecdotal information. As an editor and director for a large religion website now, I can tell you: It’s substantially easier to find Christians and evangelicals to write on the abortion issue than it is to find ones who will write on same-sex marriage. Academics in particular are terrified that anything critical of homosexuality or same-sex marriage will come up before hiring or tenure committees. One of the first subjects we addressed in our “Public Square” at Patheos was the same-sex marriage debate, and nearly every person I approached to write on the topic had to ask himself or herself: “Am I willing to give up the next job, the next promotion, the next award, because of my views on this topic?”
In academic circles, you can question the morality of abortion and still be tolerated. But if you question the morality of homosexuality, you are an oppressor and an opponent of human rights. They’re perfectly justified in rejecting you, since your opinion is not only factually wrong but morally wrong, reprehensible and oppressive. By rejecting you, they’re not being prejudicial or intolerant; they’re protecting the rights of gay faculty and students.
Ah, but we just have to wait until these evangelicals are established in academia. They have to remain silent now, but once they gain tenure they find their courage to speak truth to power, right?
Sadly, no. I catch flack every time I point it out but it’s the shameful truth: Most evangelicals serving in the secular areas of academia will always be too frightened to stand up for unpopular moral truths. Though they may be our allies in secret, we have to relinquish the hope that they’ll slip from their Ivory Towers and come to our aid in the Public Square. We can stop looking to them for support; they ain’t coming. The most we can do is hold the line, and pray that God will ensure that future generations of evangelical academics are born with backbones.
Lawyers in Afghanistan recently came to the conclusion that the best way to strike a plea bargain for a rape victim is to grant her the option to marry the man who raped her. This option, they assure, will reduce her criminal incarceration from 12 years to three years at the Badambagh Prison located outside of Kabul.
At the heart of the case is a 21-year-old woman simply known as Gulnaz who was raped by her cousin’s husband several years ago. Prosecutors don’t doubt that she was impregnated by the rapist. Indeed, her child lives in prison with her. But, concern was raised, and her case scrutinized because she failed to report the rape in a “timely” manner. She waited a few months, debating very serious but equally problematic options. The U.S. State Department has commented on the case, stating, “Gulnaz’s situation is one no woman should have to face. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Gulnaz and her young daughter.”
The problem is that the options for rape victims in Afghanistan are draconian and barbaric at best. For example, Gulnaz was sentenced to 12 years in jail after the rape. Her crime? Being a victim of rape is considered a crime of adultery. The options for rape victims are deeply constrained in Afghanistan. Had Gulnaz remained silent, she might have brought dishonor on her family for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. That could have resulted in murder—an illegal, but nonetheless customary practice in dealing with women who “dishonor” their families. Indeed, women are stoned in Afghanistan. The other option might have been immolation—setting oneself on fire—which unfortunately is more prevalent than previously understood in Afghan society.