Friday, March 24, 2023

Funding Viral Warfare 

For SOME??? Reason, we are still funding "Gain Of Function Research", the kind of reasearch that nearly certainly gave us Covid19. 

At the heart of such research lies an idea that can be difficult to understand: danger is not an incidental byproduct of the research; it is central to it. “The nature of this work is to start with a potential pandemic pathogen and enhance either its ability to transmit or its ability to cause disease,” says Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers who has been a vocal opponent of gain-of-function research. “These are pathogens that are not present in nature, not circulating in nature, not circulating in humans or in livestock, in crops or even in the wild. These are pathogens that might not come to exist in years, decades, centuries or millennia, but which are brought into existence through laboratory manipulation.”

This notion — creating viruses that can cause a pandemic in order to study how they behave — is easy to miss because there is no scientific equivalent, even in weapons research. Ebright, also a member of Biosafety Now, characterizes this laboratory risk as “existential, extinction-level risk.”

And much of it is, of course, funded by taxpayer dollars; even today, there is still almost no congressional oversight into what kind of virological experimentation is being done, or how it’s funded.

So we are funding, allowing research to continue even in populated areas, and the crazy train is still running! At least there are some probably useless attempts to stop it.  

The pandemic changed that calculus, upsetting the status quo in ways that even loyalists find difficult to resist. In Congress, this has translated into a wave of oversight that the biodefense sector has never before encountered. In 2021, Iowa senator Joni Ernst introduced the Fairness and Accountability in Underwriting Chinese Institutions (FAUCI) Act that would ban gain-of-function research funding. Jim Comer, now chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have used their powers to bring new information to light, including with calls for testimony. And Florida senator Marco Rubio last year called for Harvard to clarify its involvement with Fauci and the Chinese real estate firm Evergrande (in response to my reporting for The Spectator).

One of our Iowa senators has at least attempted to keep us from paying for "existential, extinction level risk".  Thanks Joni! If there are two choices for human extinction in the next 100 years; 1. Climate Change 2. Release of a "global" killer enhanced virus, I think #2 is an easy bet.  

So WHY???? 

What’s clear, however, is that the political impetus remains squarely on one side of the aisle. That is largely to do with an equivalent of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” that we might call the Fauci Effect. “Antho
ny Fauci had the great privilege in 2020 of sharing a screen with Donald Trump,” says Ebright. “He face-palmed on television once and that made him a Democratic Party icon to those unaware of his actual role and his actual actions.”


While Fauci’s famous face-palm at a March 2020 press conference certainly helped his cause, it’s only part of the story. The other part is money. As biodefense funding has ramped up, a quiet but effective lobbying effort has bloomed around it. The heavyweight in the field is the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, or BCB, an organization whose “team” web page lists a who’s-who of DC powerbrokers, including co-chairs Joseph Lieberman and Tom Ridge and commissioners Donna Shalala, Tom Daschle and Fred Upton. Donors include Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic, which makes vaccines for viruses like monkeypox and Ebola; the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a biotech trade association; and Open Philanthropy, the philanthropy of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz and his wife Cari Tuna.

We are just not a serious nation, TDS is a disease that may prove fatal to human life ... so I guess that is Trump's fault since he was so evil as to inspire the hate. Right? I'm sure that makes sense to the left. 

Regardless of new pushback, gain-of-function research isn’t going anywhere but forward. What’s clear is that the public is awakening to the gain-of-function arms race — some military, some private, some scientific. Unlike the nuclear arms race, which requires massive resources, this race can be pursued in tiny spaces, with relatively small budgets. Despite this, the effects of error or unforeseen outcomes will be nothing short of global.

It could "just" be about the massive wealth that could be created by killing a few more millions with a virus like enhanced Ebola, and then selling an actual vaccination for huge amounts of money. Covid ought to have shown people of even less than average intellect that the elites care nothing about the masses. They will lock them down no matter what the cost to those that aren't billionaires ... in lives, hopelessness, loss of their livelihoods, damage to their children, etc. 

We are told that Climate Change is an "existential threat". It isn't hard for me to imagine the .01% deciding that killing everyone else to save the planet, and starting all over again with a utopian world is really best for everyone in even the medium term. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Matter With Things Volume 2

 To quote an Oxford professor from the dust jacket, "This is one of the most important books ever published, and yes, I do mean ever".

I'll be following Iain McGilchrist as I do Jordan Peterson ... which means I'll be reading a couple more of his books and attempting to keep of with as much of his thinking as I can. 


A quote from the heading of his channel (which can be found from the link with his name above): 

I believe that we are engaged in committing suicide: intellectual suicide, moral suicide and physical suicide. If there is anything as important as stopping us poisoning our seas and destroying our forests, it is stopping us poisoning our minds and destroying our souls.

Our dominant value – sometimes I fear our only value – has, very clearly, become that of power. This aligns us with a brain system, that of the left hemisphere, the raison d’ĂȘtre of which is to control and manipulate the world. But not to understand it: that, for evolutionary reasons that I explain, has come to be more the raison d’ĂȘtre of our – more intelligent, in every sense – right hemisphere. Unfortunately the left hemisphere, knowing less, thinks it knows more. It is a good servant, but a ruinous – a peremptory – master. And the predictable outcome of assuming the role of master is the devastation of all that is important to us – or should be important, if we really know what we are about.

Even if we could, by some miracle, reverse the course on which we are set, unless we change our way of thinking, of being in the world – the way that is destroying us as we speak – it would all be in vain. This is why I have written the last long book I will ever write: The Matter with Things: Our Brains, Our Delusions and the Unmaking of the World.

In it I search out what it is we have lost sight of, all that is there for us to see, if only we were not blinded to it: an inexhaustibly, truly wondrous, creative, living universe, not a meaningless, moribund mechanism. By bringing to bear up-to-the-minute neuropsychology, physics and philosophy, I show not only that these are in no way in conflict with one another, but that they all lead us, time and again, to the same insights. And that this is not in opposition to, but rather corroborates, the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions across the world.

All this converges on a vision that is necessary if we are to survive; and, even more importantly, if we are to deserve to survive. What I hope for my readers is that, if they are willing to accompany me on this adventure, they will never see the world in quite the same way again.

I am largely in agreement with his analysis, and those that have followed my blogs know this to be the case. His ability to present two key models of thought is invaluable. 

  • The clear difference between the left  and right brain views of the world.

  • The increasingly observed physics and philosophical view that what we perceive as matter is actually a series of quantum fields. Quantum Field Theory (QFT), possibly described a bit in the book "Helgoland".
The analogy of our brains being more like a TV set receiving fields from some universal underlying field or set of fields, finally gives me a model that makes sense to me of "God, the universe, and everything". It is a way to explain consciousness that I had never considered. Being stuck in the Cartesian body/mind dualism model of our consciousness/spirit being a "ghost in the machine", with the brain being a sort of wetware computer that somehow generated consciousness, I just didn't have a model that I really believed to be reasonable.

A mind bending assertion is that we need to give up our conception of matter: 
Page 1053, "If you believe matter is the only reality, and you then learn that matter as you think of it is illusion, you will conclude that reality is illusory. But it is not. It is matter as we think of it, that is an illusion. And there is more to reality than matter. It was your thinking that misled you. 

No, I haven't become a believer in Climate Change, and man "destroying the planet", but rather view that narrative as merely another play for power. Since I'm at least somewhat a right brained guy, I could be wrong.  

Chapter 28 gets into "The Sense of the Sacred". On 1194, 

"How does it come about that there is a process. or motion, or a point in time at all - now or ever" The answer to this question cannot be answered in terms of a physical entity or process, because that already presupposes what we are questioning -- why there are physical processes and entities. The proper object of of this question is that which underlies timelessly and eternally, whatever is: in other words, the ground of Being." 

Humans all have some concept of this, covered in "The Elementary Forms Of Religious Life". 

Page 1295 is tragic. 

"It is in dealing with death that that one is most forcibly we have yielded hands down to the forgetting of Being." 

Even though McGilchrist can't practice religion for some reason, when his parents died, he and his brother wanted words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to be repeated as written,  but the priest was unable to comply. "Too gloomy". 

Appendix 8: "Incompatibility" of Science and Religion points out that the religion of our times is Scientism, and it is arid in the extreme. 

"That the religious, both communally and individually are happier, and dramatically healthier both mentally and physically, as well as better adjusted, more resilient and more prosocial in their habits, also does not prove that religion is true. But it suggests that we and our societies function poorly when we neglect it, and that human thriving and fulfillment depend on it to a considerable extent." 

 I want to help reconcile the critical need for religion in the lives of individuals, families, communities, countries, and the world. This book is the best I've seen to date as a way to help move our western culture from the materialist path to destruction we are on.

Based on my life, and what I observe today, a quote from page 1333 seems critical to moving to unified truth. "... it is dogma we must avoid at all costs. Dogma is the besetting sin of the age; and if one wanted one, it would be be hard to find a better expression of left hemisphere's take on the world than dogma. 

Matt 23 11-15 

11 The greatest among you will be your servant. [ the left brain is to be the servant of the right ]

12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 

15  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

The left brain is the Pharisee brain, and since our society post the Enlightenment is left brain biased, we are biased toward dogma in everything ... religion, philosophy, science, politics, interpersonal relationships ... we are living on half a brain, and it is killing us, temportally and eternally. 

This does NOT (as is covered many times in the book) mean "there is no such thing as truth", or "anything goes" ... it is the opposite. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. Humility. 

Pray without ceasing. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Matter and Consciousness

 I continue to somewhat struggle and significantly enjoy the 1375 pages of "The Matter With Things" -- I'm on page 1225, so God willing, I'm going to make it. 

It is undeniable that there is significant hard work in reading, meditating on, noting, attempting to understand,  a work like this. I regularly reflect that real life was never intended to happy, easy, distracting, entertaining, etc. Only in the very latest of modernity has it been possible to very nearly do nothing at all. Our water, food, sanitary systems, electrical power, transportation, shelter, communication, entertainment, etc are increasingly effortless. This is all courtesy of our left brain that sees the world as a problem to be "solved" either by physical means or an equation, a project to be completed, a challenge to be defeated, an enemy to be conquered, or an unmeasurable "thing" to be ignored. 

The left brain has been a servant that has provided us much, however, as McGilchrist laments it is increasingly our master, converting our enchanted universe to a DISenchanted one. Well described by Charles Taylor in a nearly as massive book, "The Secular Age", probably best approached via a an attempted summary

So what are "we"? 

Conscious beings with no clue what consciousness is. Our left brain helpfully finds a simple solution based in the material world to get this supposed problem out of the way as rapidly as possible. Perhaps consciousness is an illusion that doesn't really "exist", since it can't be measured, and in a materialist universe, things that can't be measured do not exist by definition (according to the left brain)? No problem to even solve! 

Perhaps it "somehow emerges" when you get enough neural stuff together ? 

On page 1037, McGilchrist provides a simple model that blew my mind. 

"But do we know that matter can give rise to consciousness? This is merely an assumption. When a TV set malfunctions, it can distort the image or sound it relays in a large number of ways, depending where the system malfunction lies. To an engineer, the nature of the distortion may be a clue to the location of the problem, as the nature of brain pathology is to the neurologist. To an observer from another planet, it might prove impossible to tell if the TV set did not generate, but merely transmitted it's output. Pull the plug and the show ceases to exist. 

The intimacy of the relationship between two parties has in itself nothing to say about its nature. In the history of the cosmos, matter might give rise to mind, or mind to matter; or each might equally give rise to the other interdependently; or might run in parallel, because they are different aspects of some ultimately unified phenomenon. When it comes to the brain, the intimate relation between brain activity and states of mind cannot in itself help distinguish between theories of emission, transmission, and permission as its basis. In other words, the same findings are equally compatible with the brain emitting, transmitting, or permitting consciousness. (the last two are similar, excerpt that permitting substitutes the the idea of a constraint that is creative, fashioning what it allows come into being, for the merely passive idea of transmission)." 

McGilchrist goes for the latter explanation as most likely. The commonly accepted first option is based on the left brain idea that while we don't understand consciousness, we do understand matter, ergo ... It must all be matter! 

This is akin to the drunk looking for his keys under a streetlamp because the light is better there. The sad part here is that there is no "streetlamp" which the left brain assumed! Quantum Field Theory (QFT) has now assured us that we DON'T understand matter, and the left brain has again thrown up "helpful" models like the "many worlds", which postulates 10 to the 400th<400> universes. More comforting for modern man to believe than "God" (or another "thing" we don't understand,) although explaining nothing. What caused all those universes to happen? 
<400>The BIG model shift is to one where mind PRECEDES matter! It turns out that many of our famous physicists; Einstein, Pauli, Bohr, Feynman, etc either hinted at, grasped faintly, or decided that "it's all fields".  No particles, thus no "matter" in the sense we think of it. 

Consciousness seems to be a field rather than a "thing" (matter). If the base of the universe is a field rather than stuff, what do we refer to it as? "The Force"? 

It seems that every civilization has an "un-word" that is sacred and if spoken, spoken in awe ... Logos, Tao, li, Brahman, ri, Allah, YHWH -- and "God". "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name".  “And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am". I found that Harold Bloom gave some insight into some of the "naming issue" in "Jesus and Yahweh. The Names Divine". 

The title "The Matter With Things" shines out as increasingly appropriate. We have been duped by our left brains into believing a hopelessly meaningless materialist view of life, the universe and everything, while our right brains scream "Is this ALL there is???". We think all is matter, and therefore, a "thing". Our materialist model is so deep it affects everyTHING (I'm not going to keep doing that, but you get the point -- our very language is materialist) even increasingly, our religion. 

We are drawn to a materialist view of God as some sort of old guy in the sky, and the Bible as a history book of THINGS and literal events.  If someone can cast doubt on the material "fact" of anything in the Bible it isn't "true". We confuse "truth" with a materialist chain of actual material events, even though the Bible itself really tries to dissuade us.

One small example ... John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. ...". First he says "I AM" (hint, hint), then "the way", clearly not a material path, then "the truth" ... he is at that point a "fully man" physical person (but what is physical?), that is also the conceptual truth, and "the life" -- which gives us another good hint that we are beyond words here. Materialistically today, we don't know what "life" is, only that we can't create "it". It certainly isn't an "it" (thing"/matter). 

No, there seems to be WAY more. Our "seemingly physical" bodies, and our much more real consciousness may be much better represented as "eddies" in the universal conscious field, that is "God".  

Tragically, the important "sense" does not translate into words hardly at all. Music, art, awe, poetry ... all much better, and unfortunately all of which I am grossly untutored and therefore insufficiently appreciative of.  I'm hoping the last few hundred pages move me along, but in all probability, it may be something like attempting to describe "blue" to a man blind from birth.. 

To a writer, the fact that text is a left brain, dangerous abstraction from the wonder, mystery, awe, and deep meaning of the much better right brained "whole" is disconcerting. Is it too late for me to become a poet? Perhaps writing with appropriate warnings that what I'm struggling to express is ultimately beyond textual representation.

Monday, March 13, 2023

White What?

 "Privilege" you say? 

I'm still waiting for mine. Why do we have an MLK day, when his values have been brutally rejected? 

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” (MLK) 

This Spectator article does a decent job of explaining why it is a very bad idea to judge people by the color of their skin.
Underlying the white-privilege thesis are two basic claims: first that “white” is a useful category in which to place everyone from Elon Musk to a cleaner in a Tesla factory, and second that being in such a category imbues people with privileges denied to those outside it.

Are Jews "white"? Are Asians? This article points out the fact that US colleges discriminate against Asians and Jews ... and it is increasing.  Why? Based on merit, the majority of our top universities would be Asians or Jews. Are they smarter? No, they have a culture that values education, hard work and strong families, even  when living in a country that in general values neither. High achieving Black students are often castigated by their same race peers as "acting white"? 

JD Vance covered some not so privileged whites in "Hillbilly Elegy". 

There are a lot of poor white people that have started to have the same culture as is common among blacks ... broken homes, addiction, welfare, no parental or community push to be educated, etc. 

Could the real factor be culture, community, family, hard work, and the concept that nobody owes you anything at all? Nah, it must be my White Privilege thinking heresy like that! 

We are already at the front edge of the time where your pilot or surgeon might have been more a product of DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity)  ... of course they prefer the acronym DEI, because when your surgeon was primarily "qualified" by his contribution to the high DEI score of the hospital, DIE may be a bit too accurate. 

It MUST Be Climate Change

 I had never heard of an "Atmospheric River", but of course they are all the rage now. Here, the WaPo helpfully tells us how Climate Change will make them "worse". 

In 2022, the problem was record drought

The WaPo story, posted in early January, proclaimed that although these Atmospheric Rivers were providing a lot of water, they were providing less snow. 

Atmospheric rivers play a critical role in supplying mountain snowpack, which serves as an important source of freshwater as it melts in the spring and summer. Some research shows the weather systems provide about a quarter of the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. Yet as temperatures rise, snowfall is decreasing.

 On March the 3rd, the NY Times helpfully reported that California was getting record snowfall and freezing temps. 

Record snowfall and freezing temperatures have altered the landscape and lives of millions of people in California in recent weeks. The mountains behind the iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles are dusted in white. Yosemite National Park is closed to the public, and mountain roads are coated with black ice.

Vineyards in Napa Valley were dusted with powdery snow. Snow met the sand on a beach in Santa Cruz.

The climate industry still really pushes "Global Warming" as "The Science", but in brilliant marketing, they have rebranded as "Climate Change".  Heads I win, tails you lose. 

The climate tech market was $13.8 billion in 2022, with a healthy CAGR of 24.2%, it should be $147.5 by 2032. Compare that growth rate with how your stock portfolio is doing! 

We have learned so much about climate in the past few years ... things we were unaware of before. Record cold is now caused by "Polar Vortexes" which are a result of Climate Change. I'd never heard of a "Derecho" until one hit Iowa in 2020.

"Haboob" is another term that has showed up in the past few years. 

We used to use pedestrian terms like "lots of rain". "cold weather", "high winds", and "dust storm". How could we be so stupid to use such non-descriptive terms when the master communicators are much more precise with terms like "Atmospheric River"! It pretty much nails what you need to know! 

Keeping the suckers off balance by changing what things are called is a way to make them think something new is happening. Well, the WORD is new ... or at least it's public use is new. 

One of the most read posts from my old blog was "-36, It's Toasted" that gives a bit of insight into the relationship between marketing and reality. 

We have gotten a lot more gullible since 2017. At this rate, we soon won't even know what a woman is! ... oops

I don't post much on climate anymore, after all, unless you are some evil denier, IT'S SETTLED! 


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Christian Nationalists

The linked article is intended to put "the fear of God" or maybe more precisely, 
fear of the Godly" into WaPo readers. Most likely it makes many of them quite afraid. 

Earlier this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican, addressed the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, whose purview runs from this small resort city up along the Washington state border. Before she spoke, a local pastor and onetime Idaho state representative named Tim Remington, wearing an American-flag-themed tie, revved up the crowd: “If we put God back in Idaho, then God will always protect Idaho.”

I'm not convinced at all that this particular movement is "the one", however the fact that a few people are organizing to attempt to alter the downward spiral of America is hopeful to me. Is there likely to be a price? Almost certainly. Was the 30 years war too high a price for allowing people to read and follow the Bible? I'm not going to judge that, I'm just saying that religious freedom came at a cost. 

What about "nationalism"? Historically, and even today, many people are patriotic ... to America, to  Canada, to Ukraine, to Russia, etc. 

Morality requires a shared set of standards. Adams assumed Christian morality found in the Bible. Officials are still sworn in on the Bible, although today, few of them even know of, let alone attempt to practice the moral principles found there. We once were a nation founded "under God", even though that didn't go into our pledge until 1954, largely to clearly differentiate the US from the USSR which was proudly atheistic. 

A scan of the article contains a lot of things that I definitely don't agree with, however this summary paragraph is more comforting. 

While sectarian varieties of Christian nationalism certainly exist, the version most ascendant — and the kind activists say is working its way through the state legislature — relies not on theological purity but an alliance between conservative Christians who collectively oppose liberal policies and what they deride as secular culture

I'd like to have a modern Christian revival where in somewhat MLK fashion, there could be a a leader and organization following a  sort of -- "I have a vision of an America founded on a transcendent God, where "love your neighbor as yourself" was shared by nearly all. Where being Christian meant following the Bible, and Secularists honestly declared that they had no fixed moral principles rather than falsely claiming to be "Christian"". 

That is a "flavor", not intended to be even close to what a reality of such a statement might be. 

While it certainly sounds corny, the Beatles "All We Need Is Love" if it is interpreted as all we need is love of God, might even be in the running. If you love God, you love your neighbor. Every religion other than Islam could fit under this banner. Reading the "Regensburg Lecture" by Pope Benedict gives a decent understanding as to why Islam is an issue. 

Secular Humanism? I'm probably overly optimistic that the rise in drug use, suicide, crime and hopeless broken lives may cause more people to understand the folly of that ideology, as they have at least began toi understand the problems with the totalitarian ideologies oif fascism and communism. (they have a longer path to understanding the problems with the world oligarchy they live in). 

Are we ripe for the flowering of revival, or "ripe" in the sense of stinky rotten decay? A seek must fall to the ground and die before a new shoot of life can grow ... let us pray for the cleansing sunlight of God's power. Much like the start of foundation of Christianity through Christ, the trieals of the "Dark Ages", the Reformation, and the founding of America, to road that God has decreed as been promised to include much pain in the way to Christ's return. Based on the path traveled so far, it does seem mostly a downward spiral, however it is not entirely a dark path. 

We WILL suffer, however it is our mission to reduce that suffering where possible. 

John 16:33 NIV

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Buttige Hurt In Ohio

Stolen from Powerline

"Instead of going to East Palestine, Biden jetted off to Ukraine and Poland, thus prompting a chorus of “America last” criticisms. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was already a laughingstock. As some have said, he has done such a bad job that for the first time ever, Americans know the name of the Secretary of Transportation."

The Biden administration is so incompetent they can't even pull off a gimme photo op, 

A number of left wing figures have pointed out that Ohio voted for Trump, "so what do they expect!". Some of that is along the lines of "if you vote for the wrong party and something bad happens ... well, don't ask us for help!". Some of it is "well Trump reduced environmental regulations, some of which contributed to the accident" ... there is no evidence of that, however a left winger making a statement "without evidence" is never labeled as "without evidence". That is just government/media policy. 

If one wants to waste some time digging just a bit however, there may be some counter actual evidence

The head of the National Transportation Safety Board – the lead agency investigating the crash – has said that the improved braking system wouldn’t have applied to the train that veered off its tracks in East Palestine, but environmental groups are pushing for the Biden administration to reinstate the rule anyway.
I know, I know, why would we we trust the head of the NTSB? Well, I don't, but it is "evidence", I didn't say it was GOOD evidence! Even if some reduction in regulations can be attributed to an accident, rational people recognize that LIFE is a rist/reward tradeoff ... even living in a padded room doesn't insure complete safety. (like think a bit ... the building the room is in could burn down, be flooded ...) 

Take a look at the link to see what leadership looks like. 

What a competent leader does

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Church History In Plain Language, Bruce Shelley

 I believe I read this book in the early to mid 1980's. It was before I marked up my books, and it was pre-Internet, blogs and such ... I was too lazy to take notes. 

I was in my questioning everything phase at that time. Being raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church ... no dancing, no drinking, no movies, no smoking, etc, I started to look at Christianity as "the religion of don'ts". Possibly, "You shall know them by what they DON'T do!" would have been a good creed for that particular sect. They were certainly not "creedal" ... we didn't even learn the Lord's Prayer. That was something the supposedly  Satanic Catholics learned! If the Catholics did it, we DIDN'T! 

I loved my parents and I loved a lot of people in that church ... this was fortunately not the age of "cancelling", although my first "love" relationship was cancelled by a Catholic dad. We were not THAT serious, but he wasn't taking any chances! 

 Thinking of this time made me think of a favorite Professor, Richard DeGrood who I took a philosophy class from. He worked fairly hard for me to change my major to philosophy. I sometimes wonder what might have been, rather than me being focused on climbing the corporate ladder and suppressing/denying my anxiety and depression. 

I found this review, that at least gives some pointers and a very top level summary of the book.

It is a very popular book, probably mostly because it is "relatively short" (495 pages) for a book of this scope, and written in a style that is easy to follow and as entertaining as this sort of book can be. 

On page 100, he talks of a subject near and dear to my heart ... "What does it MEAN!", a concern shared by Origen (one of the church fathers) ..."He held that there are three levels of meaning in the Bible: the literal sense, the moral application to the soul; and the allegorical or spiritual sense, which refers to the mysteries of the Christian faith". 

I suspect that there are a LOT more than "three levels" ... for one, there is the fact that it was written at the first level from either inspiration, eye witness, or second/third/?? hand. For those of us living today, it was translated, (maybe multiple times), it is "contextualized" both in terms of the culture at the time it was written/translated as well as in the context of how we think today. While we believe in "God with us" through the Holy Spirit, believers need a lot of grace to connect with Christ through the Bible and church. All of the authors, copyists, translators, etc, also needed a lot of help from the Holy Spirit. 

We don't tend to think about our thinking (epistemology). Often there are many levels between what is "seen" or "inspired" and what is written, translated, interpreted, etc. As humans, we deeply want to put our hand into the side of the risen savior like Thomas, but in John 20:29 "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." We are commanded to believe without anything close to direct sight or touch ... in fact, other than the Holy Spirit (which must be our guide), we are asked to believe through writings that are thousands of years old and have been translated a number of times. 

We clearly NEED the Holy Spirit, and it would be nice if our pastors/teachers in the here and now, understood that it ISN'T "as plain as the nose on your face". We protestants don't take Matthew 16:18 literally. "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." We choose to take what was said in verse 16 "Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”" ... Peter's confession, as the real foundation of the church. (while Catholics take the literal text) 

As a lapsed Baptist and a student of history, I hungered for as much historical connection to the truth of the Christian doctrine as I could find ... which I assumed meant Catholicism, because that is what it was sold as, AND because it had withstood the test of time. Without the Catholic Church (and no doubt God's protection of it), we would not be discussing this today.  It is a bit amazing that I never joined the Catholic Church, or actually read this book with a bit more rigor. On page 380, it covers the doctrine of papal infallibility ... which became a dogma in 1870 because the church was no longer superior to the state -- the church was in dire need of authority. Infallibility met that need. On December 8, 1854, Pious IX declared the dogma of the immaculate conception ... that MARY was conceived without sin. 

Once you are "infallible", you can declare a lot of things. As a Christian, I dearly hope that the Pope will never declare gay "marriage" as a proper sacrament. It would not change my belief, but looking at Vatican II, I have to assume a lot of Catholics would follow that teaching. 

As a person who really thinks that the 18 year old Scotch is better than the stuff that just dribbled out of the still, tradition matters to me. "New and improved" sounds more like marketing than theology. Tradition matters, but it isn't all that matters. 

While we are at it, how about praying to Mary? The earliest reference is the "Sub tuum praesidium" 259 AD, so not exactly "new". In the catholic. (universal) church, the saints are with us at least as we take Holy Communion ... so Mary and the other saints are more "alive" than we are. We often ask other Christians to pray for us, and since Mary is certainly alive in Heaven, and revered among all women, it doesn't seem "wrong" to ask her to pray for us. The danger is that while it isn't likely that we will be tempted to worship any Tom, Dick, or Harry that we ask to pray for us, the same is not true of Mary. Be not drunk as to wine, nor of Mary. 

On page 456, Shelly declares relative to the 18th amendment; "This was probably the last successful evangelical crusade for a moral America". Given Christ's first miracle at Cana, I'm not sure that the 18th had murch to do with actual morality, but "whatever". 

On 460, he gets into a discussion about how some claimed that more "born again" Christians would improve the morality of America. Arthur Schlesinger jr had declared of Jimmy Carter that he thought Carter ought not have brought up his "born again" religion in the campaign, stating "If you feel that, then bully for you, but it is totally irrelevant". Looking around today, it seems pretty obvious that being short on Christians is a bad thing for a culture. 

I would argue that Dobbs is a good example of a cultural victory involving Christians of both Catholic and Evangelical types, with the credit, as always, being God's. 

It isn't at all clear that Christ much improved the general public morality of the Jews, nor the Roman Empire until maybe Constantine (got rid of burning Christians for light and gladiators) if ever. Christ declared that his kingdom was NOT of this world. The Middle Ages, when the Church largely WAS the State, are not seen as particularly moral by Biblical standards. 

The end of the book drifts off into the "social gospel" and the idea that unity is more important than theology, or truth for that matter. On page 468 we see; "Through all these years, the most persistent critics of conciliar ecumenism were the conservative Evangelicals. Holding staunchly to the authority of the Bible, Evangelicals know that Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, but they question the federation form of Christian unity". 

UNLESS there is at least significant agreement on the authority of the Bible for more than just a couple quotes taken out of context, any idea of "Christian unity" is foolishness. If everyone would just agree with ME, we could be unified! It reminds me of Biden claiming he came to "heal" when what he really meant was HEEL! If you deplorable ultra MAGA, racist, fascist, uneducated scum would just HEEL, the divisions would end. Heil Biden!

The imagined "unity" in the middle ages was achieved through the power of the state and the church being combined. Thousands were slaughtered, burned, tortured, etc so that "unity" could be achieved. The price of that sort of "unity" seems too high to me if it is achieved via either the church, the state, or a partnership.

I dearly desire much more unity among Christians. Certainly we have doctrinal differences, but it seems that at least those of us who attempt to accept the Bible as the word of God, believe in Christ born of the Virgin Mary, crucified for our sins, and saving us through that sacrifice, could be unified in at least as much love as we are commanded to have for even our enemies! 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Tearing Us Apart, How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing

 Here is a review of the Book From National Review

As the review says, this book is an invaluable reference for anyone who is pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family, pro-equality and ACTUAL choice (as in, not being pressured by "baby dads", employers, etc), pro-doctor, pro-Constitution, pro-democracy, and pro-culture. 

The chapters of who is harmed by abortion are" 

  • The Unborn Child
  • Women and the Family
  • Equality and Choice
  • Medicine
  • Rule of Law
  • Politics and the Democratic Process
  • Media and Popular Culture
Effectively countering the drumbeat of "choice" and "Constitutional right" is a tall order,  but they do it well. 

It's a book that can be used as a reference to explain why abortion is a main root of the division in our nation. A nation that condones the death of its most vulnerable is not a nation "under God", and as Reagan so correctly said, "If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, we will be a nation gone under". 

We were founded as a nation endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights, which means the rights come from the Creator(God) and not from Government. Unalienable rights are endowed, self-evident and not to be taken by Government, but secured by Government.

The document that secured those unalienable rights was the Constitution, and Roe declared that new "rights" could be created from"penumbras and emanations" conjured by the SCOTUS, whose oath was to defend the written Constitution. 

As Justice Kennedy stated in Casey: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." 

For a longer explanation of why we are where we are beyond "we forgot God", "The Rise and Triumph Of The Modern Self" does a good job. 

If you believe that life is sacred, buy it! 

Friday, February 10, 2023

The Matter With Things, Our Brains, Our Delusions, and the Unmaking of the World

Get it on Amazon, my wife graciously purchased the two volume hardcover for my Christmas present! This post refers to the first 778 page volume 1. 

I am often humbled by the multifaceted nature of our modern tragedy, especially the lack of understanding (or even the belief in) Human Nature. Our founding fathers were very aware of the fragile timber of man, and the horrible difficulty of governing a nation made up of such imperfect creatures. Go scan this list to scratch the surface of the kind of knowledge they based their decisions on. 

Looking for and quoting statistics would be counter to the message of this book. We all actually KNOW in our "hearts" (right brain) that the number and "quality" of the books that we read today is FAR lower than it was even in "1960". This is the age of distraction and blind allegiance to some dogma. 

A key objective of these writings is to help us understand ... 

Introduction, page 3

 "that the brain's left hemisphere is designed to help us ap-prehend  - and thus manipulate - the world; the right hemisphere is to com-prehend it - see it all for what it is." 

The word "designed" here is intentional. McGilchrist scrupulously denies God (in this book, not the second), however he recognizes what current physicists, and increasingly biologists, are not seeing any way out of "design/direction/purpose/etc". The models and numbers simply don't "add up" to us being here "looking" at what our split left biased post "enlightenment" brains perceive to be "reality". 

Our current world is highly left brain biased, which is highly dangerous. The left brain is literal, takes things apart, is concerned with "what works" rather than implications of that "working", and sees the world in absolutes ... black and white.  As I repeat too often, the left brain (science) is the tool used for building a nuclear weapon. It has precisely NOTHING to say about if it is "good" to do so, let alone if it is "good" to use it. For the left brain, "good" is a synonym for "works, computes, agrees with a hypothesis, fits a model, etc".  Woe to any who question the logic of the left brain. 

It is ironic that as I am writing this, ChatGPT is a very hot topic. An AI program/system that looks for patterns in big data and attempts to answer questions "like a human". To some extent it can write software, poems, music, etc. It already has some people wondering "what is thought"? Or even "what is creativity"? 

In a left-brained culture, this looks GREAT!

Certainly some right brained artists like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Paul Dukas (the Sorcerers Apprentice), or even James Cameron (Terminator) have issued a few warnings, but what do they know? The left brain KNOWS it is right because only a philistine or neanderthal fails to "believe the science"!  The left brain is amoral ... if you can do it, and you want to, go ahead! If you disagree, you are clearly not "intelligent" ... you are standing in the way of what works, and what is desired! 

As I've heard, if you think things like art, literature, religion, poetry, etc are somehow "important", perhaps you ought not use electricity, modern medicine, or any of other fruits of left brain technology. Aren't you being a hypocrite if you do? 

On page 40 McGilcrest states; "Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge." 

As Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Or as Socrates says; "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing".

Or Daoism "discard knowledge, forget distinctions, reach no-knowledge".

There are thousands of quotes like this ... many in the book. At one level, the book is looking at the "wetware" of the brain via the hemisphere model exposed by brain damage, scans, surgeries, etc and seeing what effect those physical damages or studies have on the subjects perception of "reality". 

McGilchrist keeps reminding us that we are an integral part of what we are perceiving. There is no "view from nowhere" in physics, philosophy, psychology, etc. Wherever we look, there we are. 

We live by "models/analogy/stories/myth/etc". "Moral Believing Animals" is a good (and much simpler) book to understand the limitations of our thinking, and hopefully encourage more compassion for our fellow man. Our left brains are not interested in compassion, so neither is our current left brained culture. It is interested in POWER! Individual freedom! Escape from old ideas! 

p627, "A myth was never intended to be an accurate account of of an historical event; it was something that in one sense happened once, but that always happens all the time".  

To look at this scientifically, Brian Williams "Fabric of the Cosmos" gives a model of "is, was, and always will be" in physics terms. 

As a Christian thinker, Computer Scientist, wannabe philosopher -- understanding why both our religions and our cultures have come to such left brained dogmatic views which constantly deride "myth" as "fantasy" using language and math which are also abstractions. The abstraction is never reality. The map is not the territory.

On page 235, a little example is instructive. A researcher questions a Russian peasant: 

Q: All bears are white where there is always snow; in Novaya Zemlya there is always snow; what color are the bears there?

Peasant Ans: I have seen only black bears and I do not talk of what I have not seen. 

Q: But what do my words imply? 

Peasant Ans: If a person has not been there, he cannot say anything on the basis of words. If a man was 60 or so and had seen a white bear there and told me about it, he could be believed.

The peasant is correct. They understand the difference between analytic and synthetic propositions. Pure logic cannot tell us anything about facts, only experience can. 

page 712; "Even those who revolt against tradition are doing so as part of a now venerable, tradition -- that of the 17th. to 18th century Western Enlightenment. You cannot NOT belong to a tradition!  

As he says earlier on that page, " ... the Enlightenment had a prejudice against prejudice. Prejudices cannot be done away with, they are only replaced by other prejudices ...". 

"Prejudice" has a bad name today ... "world view", "assumptions", "generalizations" may all be better terms. We have preconceived notions of everything ... some of them are correct most of the time, some of them are false all of the time, and everywhere in between. Very close to none of them are correct all of the time, because they are models of whatever reality is as seen by our brains that we don't understand. 

Page 751; "In our culture, all mores have been abandoned;  and what should remain implicit and in the realm of embodied skill is foregrounded as a "problem" to be consciously solved - with the result that we grossly simplify and omit what is beyond calculation. I remind you of Whitehead's insight: civilization advances by extending the important operations that we can perform without thinking about them." 

Can we know what a woman is without having to consciously solve a problem? 

How could he know?