Culture, politics, science, philosophy, Islam
25.10.2023. A lot of people woke up on October 7 as progressives and went to bed that night feeling like conservatives. What changed? Thus begins Konstantin Kisin his article The Day the Delusions Died (link in original):
When Hamas terrorists crossed over the border with Israel and murdered 1,400 innocent people, they destroyed families and entire communities. They also shattered long-held delusions in the West.
A friend of mine joked that she woke up on October 7 as a liberal and went to bed that evening as a 65-year-old conservative. But it wasn't really a joke and she wasn't the only one. What changed?
The best way to answer that question is with the help of Thomas Sowell, one of the most brilliant public intellectuals alive today. In 1987, Sowell published A Conflict of Visions. In this now-classic, he offers a simple and powerful explanation of why people disagree about politics. We disagree about politics, Sowell argues, because we disagree about human nature. We see the world through one of two competing visions, each of which tells a radically different story about human nature.
Those with "unconstrained vision" think that humans are malleable and can be perfected. They believe that social ills and evils can be overcome through collective action that encourages humans to behave better. To subscribers of this view, poverty, crime, inequality, and war are not inevitable. Rather, they are puzzles that can be solved. We need only to say the right things, enact the right policies, and spend enough money, and we will suffer these social ills no more. This worldview is the foundation of the progressive mindset.
By contrast, those who see the world through a "constrained vision" lens believe that human nature is a universal constant. No amount of social engineering can change the sober reality of human self-interest, or the fact that human empathy and social resources are necessarily scarce. People who see things this way believe that most political and social problems will never be "solved"; they can only be managed. This approach is the bedrock of the conservative worldview.
Hamas's barbarism—and the explanations and celebrations throughout the West that followed their orgy of violence—have forced an overnight exodus from the "unconstrained" camp into the "constrained" one.
Continue reading at The Free Press.
A cancer in the democratic body
02.09.2023. Yes, Coutts and other capitalist monoliths really are punishing people for being 'unwoke'. So there you have it. Nigel Farage really was given the boot from the prestigious private bank Coutts because of his political views. Because he is very pro-Brexit, is fond of Donald Trump and has been critical of Black Lives Matter. Because, in the words of an extraordinary internal dossier compiled by Coutts, his views 'do not align' with the bank's values. For the past fortnight the chattering classes have been chortling over Farage's claim that Coutts was persecuting him for his political beliefs. How dumb – worse, how complacent in the face of corporate tyranny – those people look now. Thus begins Brendan O'Neill, chief political writer at Spiked, his article Woke capitalism and its useful idiots.
Promoted by anti-democratic elites
05.05.2023. A new superclass of eco-globalists is making life miserable for the rest of us, writes Brendal O'Neill in his Spiked-article Globetrotting green elites are a threat to democracy .
Why did they debunk the lab leak theory?
17.03.2023. When the Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page lead story that the Department of Energy had concluded the COVID-19 pandemic resulted from a leak from China's Wuhan laboratory, you might have argued it was old news. The FBI had already, it turns out, come to the same conclusion and with a higher degree of confidence (moderate) than the Energy Department (low).
Those agencies' conclusions, moreover, came as a result of a May 21 directive from President Joe Biden to multiple intelligence agencies to review two "equally plausible scenarios" for COVID's origin, "whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal" (the zoonotic theory) "or from a laboratory accident" (the lab leak theory).
That should have been big news since the zoonotic theory, advanced early and widely accepted by government scientists and many journalists, had become entrenched as early as February 2020 when COVID first became big news.
Emails unearthed by a House committee and quoted by longtime New York Times science reporter Nicholas Wade showed that Scripps Research Institute scientist Kristian Andersen had written NIAID Director Anthony Fauci on Jan. 31, 2020, to inform him that he and other scientists had concluded that COVID-19 was "inconsistent with expectations from the evolutionary (that is, zoonotic) theory."
But former National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins emailed on Feb. 2 that if the lab leak theory were accepted, "the voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony." Thus, after a teleconference with Collins and Fauci, Andersen, in a Feb. 4 email, characterized the lab leak as one of an unnamed number of "crackpot theories." Later, on March 20, he said the virus was "not a laboratory construct."
So why the switch? Well, scientists like Andersen knew that Fauci and Collins controlled huge streams of research funding. Fauci and Collins knew that they had repeatedly approved funding at the Wuhan lab. The conspiracy was not to spread the lab leak theory but to suppress it.
Thus begins senior political analyst Michael Barone his article Lab leak story: How elite scientists lied and concealed the truth in Washington Examiner.
Fueling New Covid Variants?
14.01.2023. The virus appears to be evolving in ways that evade immunity. Public-health experts are sounding the alarm about a new Omicron variant dubbed XBB that is rapidly spreading across the Northeast U.S. Some studies suggest it is as different from the original Covid strain from Wuhan as the 2003 SARS virus. Should Americans be worried? It isn't clear that XBB is any more lethal than other variants, but its mutations enable it to evade antibodies from prior infection and vaccines as well as existing monoclonal antibody treatments. Growing evidence also suggests that repeated vaccinations may make people more susceptible to XBB and could be fueling the virus's rapid evolution. Thus begins Allysia Finley her WSJ article Are Vaccines Fueling New Covid Variants?.
Was turned into an NGO bonanza
12.10.2022. Four health organizations, working closely together, spent almost $10 billion on responding to Covid across the world. But they lacked the scrutiny of governments, and fell short of their own goals, a POLITICO and WELT investigation found. Thus begins the article How Bill Gates and partners used their clout to control the global Covid response — with little oversight.
When Covid-19 struck, the governments of the world weren't prepared.
From America to Europe to Asia, they veered from minimizing the threat to closing their borders in ill-fated attempts to quell a viral spread that soon enveloped the world. While the most powerful nations looked inward, four non-governmental global health organizations began making plans for a life-or-death struggle against a virus that would know no boundaries.
What followed was a steady, almost inexorable shift in power from the overwhelmed governments to a group of non-governmental organizations, according to a seven-month investigation by POLITICO journalists based in the U.S. and Europe and the German newspaper WELT. Armed with expertise, bolstered by contacts at the highest levels of Western nations and empowered by well-grooved relationships with drug makers, the four organizations took on roles often played by governments — but without the accountability of governments.
While nations were still debating the seriousness of the pandemic, the groups identified potential vaccine makers and targeted investments in the development of tests, treatments and shots. And they used their clout with the World Health Organization to help create an ambitious worldwide distribution plan for the dissemination of those Covid tools to needy nations, though it would ultimately fail to live up to its original promises.
The four organizations had worked together in the past, and three of them shared a common history. The largest and most powerful was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the world. Then there was Gavi, the global vaccine organization that Gates helped to found to inoculate people in low-income nations, and the Wellcome Trust, a British research foundation with a multibillion dollar endowment that had worked with the Gates Foundation in previous years. Finally, there was the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, the international vaccine research and development group that Gates and Wellcome both helped to create in 2017.
1 The four organizations have spent almost $10 billion on Covid since 2020 – the same amount as the leading U.S. agency tasked with fighting Covid abroad.
2 The organizations collectively gave $1.4 billion to the World Health Organization, where they helped create a critical initiative to distribute Covid-19 tools. That program failed to achieve its original benchmarks.
3 The organizations' leaders had unprecedented access to the highest levels of governments, spending at least $8.3 million to lobby lawmakers and officials in the U.S. and Europe.
4 Officials from the U.S., EU and representatives from the WHO rotated through these four organizations as employees, helping them solidify their political and financial connections in Washington and Brussels.
5 The leaders of the four organizations pledged to bridge the equity gap. However, during the worst waves of the pandemic, low-income countries were left without life-saving vaccines.
6 Leaders of three of the four organizations maintained that lifting intellectual property protections was not needed to increase vaccine supplies – which activists believed would have helped save lives.
Continue reading in Politico (long article).
Badly needed in an illiberal age
04.10.2022. Freedom of expression, cherished enough worldwide to be enshrined as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arises from freedom of thought. The tragedy of our times is that most contemporary thought is not truly free—it lies everywhere in a variety of shackles, most notably those created by a lack of genuine education. Freedom of thought, to be truly realized, demands enterprise in learning and discipline in reasoning. The default settings of an untrained mind prevent it from thinking freely; hence, its expression is not at all free. It contains all the toxins of a slothful mind: pettiness and prejudice, gross exaggerations and hasty generalizations, faulty reasoning and false certitude. These self-imposed intellectual restrictions, famously phrased by William Blake as "mind-forg'd manacles," limit our freedom to think freely and imaginatively. Freedom of expression has little meaning when not informed by freedom of thought. Thus begins Hamza Yusuf his article The Liberal Arts in an Illiberal Age — Freeing Thought from the Shackles of Feeling and Desire. He continues (all italics in original, except that I have added italics to the word trivium (which is explained in the text)):
The ability to think freely stems from a mind educated in the arts of qualitative thought, which can be enhanced greatly by quantitative reasoning but are essentially arts of quality. And these are the liberal arts, a phrase that, at root, means the arts of freedom. The three basic liberal arts, the trivium, are the qualitative arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The damage that we now see in our civic life ensues from the loss of these "arts of communication" and was foretold over half a century ago by Mortimer Adler:
Where men lack the arts of communication, intelligent discussion must languish. Where there is no mastery of the medium for exchanging ideas, ideas cease to play a part in human life. When that happens, men are little better than the brutes they dominate by force or cunning, and they will soon try to dominate each other in the same way.
Brutishness now characterizes our public discourse, while intelligent discussion of important ideas finds little resonance. If we are to remain a civil society, committed to reason, debate, and persuasion, then the arts of freedom will be needed more than ever. We should not mistake means for ends: these arts, although studied for their own intrinsic worth, are, nonetheless, tools for perceiving reality; freeing our minds; and disciplining our intellects, wills, and appetites. Our form of government, meant to be built upon consensus—and failing that, upon compromise—depends upon the ability to communicate and its requisite skills. These arts are those necessary skills.
America was an idea born from the liberal arts. The founding fathers and mothers were generally people of great learning in the arts of freedom, especially in the trivium: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The trivium was the foundation of all education in early America. It encompassed an education in quality, while an education in quantity was embodied in the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Both were held as essential, and together they comprised the liberal arts. Today, the phrase liberal arts has come to mean "the humanities" and to describe an education centered on literature. Traditionally, however, being fully educated entailed not simply an education in the humanities but being fully conversant in both language and numbers, which obviously entailed the ability to reason well in both.
Continue reading in Renovatio — the journal of Zaytuna College.
Hamza Yusuf is a leading proponent of classical learning in Islam and president of Zaytuna College, a Muslim liberal arts college in Berkeley, California.
Leads to tyranny
31.08.2022. A new intolerance is spreading, that is quite obvious. There are well-established standards of thinking that are supposed to be imposed on everyone. Pope Benedict XVI in conversation with Peter Seewald: Dictatorship of Relativism (no less relevant today than when published in 2010).
Misogyny and authoritarianism
28.08.2022. Those black-clad Bristol activists reveal the misogyny and authoritarianism of the trans movement. Thus writes Jo Barthosch in The rise of the Black Pampers.
It's time to take down the flag
29.06.2022. With this eyesore flag flying on every street, London feels like a city under occupation. Thus begins Chief political writer Brendan O'Neill his article It's time to take down the Pride flag. He later continues (link in original):
The rainbow standard is no longer the flag of choice of a voluntaristic movement for equality. Rather, it has become the prime emblem of our intolerant woke rulers. There is a palpable compulsion now to wave the Pride flag. Pity the business, bank or government building that fails to display this symbol, especially during Pride month. Indeed, Ockbrook and Borrowash Parish Council in Derbyshire landed itself in hot water when it refused to fly the flag. 'Anger as Pride Month flag snubbed by Derbyshire council', said a BBC News report last year. That's right – these days you'll make the news if you fail to raise the rainbow. One observer said the absence of a Pride flag in Ockbrook and Borrowash meant some people would not 'feel safe to come to the village'. In short, Pride-less towns are suspect. They're heathen territory. Venture there at your peril.
Clearly the Pride flag means something more than 'I support gay equality'. It has now become the means through which individuals and institutions advertise their virtue. More importantly, it's how they demonstrate their devotion to the politics of identity, to the woke worldview. Fundamentally, waving the Pride flag is an oath of allegiance to the new ideologies of the ruling class. Raising this flag at your workplace, your school, your bank or your business lets the world know that you harbour no heretical thought. That you accept, fully and faithfully, the neoliberal creeds of identitarianism, genderfluidity and recognition, and that you too welcome the cancellation of anyone who raises so much as a whisper of doubt about these ideas. Keen to avoid the Ockbrook and Borrowash fate – where you'll be branded 'unsafe', unfit and basically morally unhygienic if you do not fly the rainbow – every political and capitalist institution now adorns itself in Pride paraphernalia. 'Look, I am righteous! I am a believer too! Cancel me not!', they're essentially crying.
The hectoring, ideological element of the Pride flag is even clearer in this current Pride month. For now, the trans colours have been added. And the trans ideology is something that many people feel uncomfortable with. Many women do not accept the idea that a man can become a woman, or that these 'female-identifying' men should have access to women's spaces and sports. Many homosexuals also disdain the replacement of the biological reality of sex with the swirling subjective feeling of 'gender', and they worry about what impact this will all have on the rights of same-sex-attracted people and on the very idea of same-sex attraction. After all, if someone with a dick can claim to be a lesbian – that is, if a straight man can claim to be a gay woman – doesn't that make lesbianism ridiculous, and virtually obsolete? Perhaps it is fitting that the trans colours in the new Progress Pride flag seem to stab angrily at the gay colours of the old Pride flag.
And yet people's discomfort with the trans ideology – or with the identitarian ideology more broadly – counts for nought in the eyes of the new elites. And in this sense, the Pride flag really has become a hostile flag. It is an elite-designed flag that is hostile to us and our apparently old-fashioned preference for sex over gender, science over feeling, and solidarity over the Balkanising dynamic of identity politics. This is why traversing London under the watchful glare of this arrogant new standard feels so discomfiting – because I just know, as many others also know, that this omnipresent flag really represents the new ruling class throwing its political weight around and reprimanding the ignorant hordes. They call us flag-shaggers if we wave the national flag or the English flag, because in their eyes the only flag that matters today is the one that emphasises our differences and which elevates personal identity over national identity. This is now an arrogant, divisive and fundamentally foreign flag – take it down.
Read the entire article in Spiked Online.
On a path to 'catastrophic failure'
26.06.2022. An interview with the renowned social psychologist on the perils our nation faces and how we might combat them. Jonathan Haidt: We are on a path to 'catastrophic failure' of our democracy if we don't change.
Can it be fixed?
01.05.2022. There are many ways to fracture a people. But one of the best is to destroy all the remaining ties that bind them. To persuade them that to the extent they have anything of their own, it is not very special, and in the final analysis, hardly worth preserving. This is a process that has gone on across the western world for over a generation: a remorseless, daily assault on everything that most of us were brought up to believe was good about ourselves. Thus begins Douglas Murray his article Fractured: can the West fix itself?:
Take our national heroes – the people who used to form the epicentre of our feelings of national pride. Twenty years ago, Winston Churchill easily won the BBC's competition to find out who the nation thought to be the Greatest Briton. Today whenever the BBC runs a piece about Churchill it includes the 'case for the prosecution': a set of tendentious and fallacious arguments now frequently made against him. This has consequences. When the outburst of iconoclasm began in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, Churchill's statue was one of the first to be assaulted. Indeed it was attacked so often that the statue in Parliament Square was boxed up, and only got unboxed when the French President arrived in London for the day.
It isn't just Churchill who gets this treatment. Almost everyone in our history does. Again and again, largely due to importing some of the worst ideas in modern American life, we are told that we need to scour our past and purge whatever fails to satisfy our current urges.
Anybody found guilty of living in American history is torn down in a similarly remorseless way, from Christopher Columbus to Theodore Roosevelt. Absolutely no one is safe. The Founding Fathers have been rewritten. A couple of generations back, few Americans may have known that Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. Today it is almost the only thing anyone knows about him. Again, this has consequences. Last autumn the statue of Jefferson that had stood in New York City Hall since 1833 was ignominiously removed, boxed up and wheeled out the back door. According to one council member Jefferson no longer represents US 'values'.
It is hard to think of anyone from two centuries ago who would. But in the relentless war on everything to do with western history at least the tactics are now clear. Aristotle and Plato have been denounced for not having 2022's views on race. Similarly all the Enlightenment philosophers, so that David Hume's name has come off buildings in Scotland. The charges are always the same: having views not exactly in line with those of the 21st century, being complicit in the slave trade, being complicit in colonialism. Or just being alive while these things were going on. When the evidence isn't there, the anti-western 'scholars' of our day have shown themselves perfectly willing simply to invent it.
Of course, unity is not the only thing you need in a nation, as Putin has demonstrated. But it's not nothing either, as President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have shown. The key question any country and any culture has to answer is whether it wants to keep going. Most of the western powers have been told in recent years that we should keep going in order to find our way to greater equity, equality, diversity and a whole pile of other meaningless guff, including 'diversity': an entirely anti-western concept from its foundations.
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
Has lost its way?
12.04.2022. The city of Oxford in the 1980s was pretty unanimous about a lot of things. One of them was that deterrence was bad and that NATO was the work of the devil. Almost all my neighbors had posters in their windows or bumper-stickers on their cars denouncing plans to deploy nuclear-tipped US cruise missiles in Britain. They seemed to think that these missiles were going to be used against us. Without going into the forgotten details of that controversy, I can say with confidence that this was a misunderstanding. The deployment of cruise missiles in Britain turned the hinge of the Cold War and ultimately defeated Soviet power in Europe. Thus begins Peter Hitchens his article How NATO Lost Its Way:
It was during this era that I had a midnight argument on this very subject with my late brother, Christopher. Mocking President Ronald Reagan passed for serious argument in such matters back then. Jeering at my concern for the liberties of Europe, Christopher remarked airily to my wife and me that he didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses in Hendon, a suburb of London. Of course, I knew he didn't mean this literally. The Red Army had even then become the Soviet Army. It had no horses to speak of, and there isn't much water in Hendon. He was just saying that my concerns about Soviet power were overdone. I am pretty sure that he would, if he were still with us, now say that I am not as concerned as I should be about the Russian threat.
I reminded him of this exchange a few years later, in the Clinton era, when we were both on the same news show—and he laughed. But when I brought it up again after Sept. 11, 2001, he chose to take it as a deadly slur, denounced me as a liar, and refused to speak to me for several years. I have come to think that this episode, which even involved a blundering intervention by David Frum, offers a key to the change that has overwhelmed Western politics and diplomacy since the turn of the century. Around September 2001, left-wing idealism dropped its old peace-loving nature. Instead, it became an armed crusade to democratize the world, with NATO as its weapon. The old conservative view of armed conflict—war as deterrence and then, if that failed, reluctant defense—was swept aside by an almost joyous desire to begin the world over again, this time using bombers.
Famously, the only time Article Five has ever been activated was after the 9/11 terrorist massacre. In that case, it was the non-American members who—sort of—fulfilled their obligations to the United States. For many reasons, it was difficult for them to attack the culprits of the outrage. So instead, we had the long, failed engagement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Afghanistan, perhaps as far from the North Atlantic as it is possible to get.
But by this time, NATO had already gone beyond its original purpose, when it attacked Serbia in the spring of 1999. Here was a paradox. Surely NATO's steadfastness had led to the liberation of Russia and Russians from their secret police oppressors, its greatest achievement. Yet among those who denounced the 1999 operation was none other than the voice of Russian liberty, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who thundered that NATO members were aggressors who had "kicked aside the United Nations, opening a new era where might is right."
People should have worried more about this. NATO had, in 10 years, moved from being a soft-spoken, apolitical, practical bulwark of actual liberty, whose main job was to exist, to being the activist and rather noisy instrument of a new idealism. We have all heard about beating spears into pruning hooks, but NATO has done something much more adventurous. It has beaten a shield into a sword.
Read the entire article in Compact.
The slur loved by totalitarians
11.04.2022. Both the Putin regime and woke Westerners are addicted to branding their opponents 'Nazis'. Thus begins Chief Political Writer Brendan O'Neill his Spiked-article Now we know just how dehumanising the 'Nazi' slur can be (links in origianl):
Woke Westerners had a field day when Vladimir Putin criticised the attempts to cancel JK Rowling. This was proof, they said, that Putin is anti-woke, and therefore that anti-woke people in Britain and the US are his bedfellows, whether they realise it or not. There was a grim irony to this smearing by association, to this nonsense claim that anyone who thinks it is wrong to hound, demonise and threaten the likes of Rowling for stating biological facts is basically in the same moral camp as Moscow's warmonger-in-chief. Which is that if anyone in the West is borrowing from the Putin playbook, it isn't the critics of wokeness – it's the intolerant left itself.
There is a moral tactic that binds together the woke set in the West and the supposedly unwoke regime in Russia – 'denazification'. Both the moral crusaders of the West's new elites and the authoritarians of Putin's regime share in common an unhinged obsession with 'Nazis'. Both see Nazis everywhere. Putin sees Nazis in every nook and cranny of Ukraine, while our censorious new establishment sees them in the throngs of people who voted for Trump and Brexit or who bristle against global institutions like the European Union. And both have set themselves the moral task of standing up to these 'Nazis', of eradicating them from public life. Now that Putin's barbarous war in Ukraine has made clear just how dishonest and dehumanising the false accusation of 'Nazism' can be, will Westerners who cynically fling this insult around stop and think about what they are doing?
The Nazi slur is designed to dehumanise the people of Ukraine, to depict them as the lowest of the low. This became clear this week with the revelation of a deeply hateful article published by the Russian state-owned media agency, RIA Novosti. Written by the political consultant Timofey Sergeytsev, it insists on 'the necessity for denazification [in] Ukraine'. It explicitly argues against making any distinction between the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people, claiming that 'a significant part of the people – most likely the majority – has been absorbed and drawn into the Nazi regime'. So we cannot say 'the people are good, the government is bad', it says. The 'Nazified mass of the population', the corrupted 'popular masses', bear some responsibility for the wickedness of the Ukrainian government, says Mr Sergeytsev, and so they must be punished. To fully denazify the warped masses of Ukraine, Ukrainian sovereignty must be suspended and ideological repression and censorship must be enforced, he says.
As for the masses who voted for Trump, or for Brexit, clearly they had been brainwashed by neo-fascistic propaganda. The vote for Brexit was 'in the fascist tradition', said the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then there were self-styled 'anti-fascists' like Paul Mason, who said Trump had tapped into a 'plebeian mass base for American fascism'. Those fascist-leaning masses. Mason also argues that in modern-day Britain 'the psychological traits' that made Nazism possible in the 1930s are now most commonly found among 'working-class people and the urban poor'. This is surely only a more polite way of saying 'Nazified masses', of suggesting that the throng, the mob, is susceptible to fascist-style brain invasion. Pro-war Russian thinkers claim the people of Ukraine have been corrupted by Nazi thought; our own chattering classes claim the people of Britain and the US, especially the poorer ones, posses the 'psychological traits' that are amenable to far-right ideology.
No, our elites are not agitating for violence against the 'Nazified masses'. And yet they share something deeply disturbing in common with the Putin regime and its extremist supporters – an addiction to writing off vast swathes of people as fascists, or at least 'fascist-adjacent'; a compulsion to dehumanise certain politicians and their voters through the language of the 1930s. The tragedy of Ukraine has shown just how toxic the Nazi slur can be. Those Russian soldiers who appear to have murdered citizens in Bucha will have been fed the lie that these people, like all Ukrainians, are a Nazi menace to civilised society. They will have been told, essentially, that they're subhuman, for that is the role the Nazi accusation plays today – to depict certain people as morally inferior, as lesser, as lacking the intellectual and moral resources required to function as a decent member of society. It seems to be a terrifyingly small step from believing that somebody is a Nazi to believing that they deserve to be shot like a dog in the street.
Read the entire article in Spiked Online.
Finally Boris Johnson is talking sense
10.04.2022. Was it really so hard to say that biological sex matters? Thus begins Joanna Williams her article Finally, Boris is talking sense on trans issues (link in original):
Finally, Boris Johnson has found the courage to defend women's sex-based rights. During an interview at a hospital yesterday, he said that 'biological males should not be competing in female sporting events'. 'I also happen to think that women should have spaces – whether it is in hospitals or prisons or changing rooms or wherever – which are dedicated to women', he added.
Is Boris Johnson's declaration of the importance of sex more pragmatic than principled? Probably. But if it means protecting children, saving women's sports and safeguarding women's access to single-sex spaces then few will care. The fact is, the prime minister has listened to women.
Read the entire article in Spiked Online.
06.04.2022. The idea of 'women with penises' is Orwellian, misogynistic drivel. Thus begins Chief Political Writer Brendan O'Neill his Spiked-article Everyone who has a penis is a man (links and italics in original):
Remember when it would take a probing question about economic policy or whether we should keep or ditch our nukes to stump a politician? Not anymore. Now the political class is flummoxed, struck almost dumb, by a far simpler query: What is a woman? It used to take a 30-minute televisual grilling by Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Neil on failed policies, broken promises and sex scandals to take the wind out of our political leaders – now it just takes a simple question about biology that most five-year-olds could answer. I'm going to try it. Next time my path crosses with a politician I find annoying, I won't badger them about their betrayal of Brexit or their failure to defend free speech. I'll just say 'Hey, what's a woman?' That's kryptonite to the political elite.
Why is it important to take a stand on this? First, because we must never let fear win. It's as clear as day why so many people are reluctant to state the truth that 'women don't have penises' – because trans activists and their army of allies in the woke set have built a culture of tyranny around this issue. They harass, hound, demonise, censor and threaten anyone who questions their warped ideology. They have successfully stymied debate. They have silenced women – pesky, pain-in-the-arse women – in particular. A Daily Mail headline this morning says top female cyclists are 'too scared to speak out' over the inclusion of male cyclist Emily Bridges in a women's cycling competition this weekend. That's because they know they will be called whores and bitches and will possibly be threatened with rape and death, as JK Rowling and other women have been for questioning the idea that men can be women. Countering this sexist, censorious climate of fear is one of the most essential tasks facing genuinely progressive people today.
Secondly, there's the Orwellianism of it all. 'Women with penises' is Newspeak, plain and simple. It represents a sinister top-down manipulation of language to the end of altering how we speak and even think about sex, gender, family and community. If they win on 'women with penises', they will have established their right to shape reality as they see fit, and to re-engineer the masses, with threats of censure and violence if necessary, to think in the 'correct' way. 'Women don't have penises' is one of the most revolutionary, anti-elite statements a person can make in the 21st-century West.
And thirdly, it is just really misogynistic to say that someone with a penis can be a woman. What this statement really means is that people with penises – men – should be free to define themselves as they see fit, and to do anything they damn well please, and that any woman who gets in their way is a bigoted harridan who deserves the punishment of social ostracism and possibly a touch of violence. You say: 'Of course a woman can have a penis.' We hear: 'Of course men can do anything they want, including pretending to be women, going into women's spaces, taking women's places in sport, and shutting down any person with a vagina who dares to get in their way.' Hysteria, unreason, censorship and prejudice should always be called out. And for that reason, let's say it loud and clear: 'If you were born with a penis, you are not a woman, and you never will be.'
Read the entire article in Spiked Online.
Why his laptop really matters
30.03.2022. The real scandal was the elites' ruthless and authoritarian attempt to bury the laptop story. Thus begins Chief Political Writer Brendan O'Neill his Spiked-article Why Hunter Biden's laptop really matters (links and italics in original):
The real Hunter Biden laptop scandal is not the laptop itself. It isn't the sordid contents of this computer that was dumbly handed in to a repair shop in Delaware. It isn't the fact that the hard drive contains lewd images of Hunter and others doing drugs and having sex. It isn't even the fact that the laptop contained a trove of emails showing that Hunter was not averse to namedropping daddy – who was then vice-president in the Obama administration – to secure sweet deals with foreign businesses. No, it's the fact that America's media elites studiously ignored the whole damn thing and even flat-out censored it. The scandal is the fact that the scandal was buried, on the grounds that nothing, not even the truth, could be allowed to scupper Joe Biden's ascendancy to the White House.
The laptop scandal is back in the news. And for quite extraordinary reasons. The New York Times, finally, 18 months after the laptop story first broke, following months and months of America's liberal elites running the other away the minute anyone mentioned this cursed computer, has confirmed that the laptop is real. Buried a thousand words into a long report on federal authorities' investigation into Hunter's business antics, the Gray Lady casually mentions emails 'obtained by the New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr Biden in a Delaware repair shop'. These emails, says the Times, are 'authentic'. No shit, Sherlock.
This is an about-face of epic proportions. This is the same NYT that cast doubts like confetti on the Hunter laptop story when it was first covered by the New York Post in October 2020. It turned a blind eye to this explosive story of a presidential candidate's son leaving his incriminating computer in for repair. Or it just denounced the whole thing as a 'politically motivated dirty tricks campaign'. Yet now, quietly, and possibly with a hint of shame (if that's an emotion the NYT even knows), America's paper of record has fessed up that the whole thing was true. [...]
It really is worth reflecting on this scandal. No, not on Hunter's bad behaviour (that can wait), but on the way the elites colluded to ensure that this scandal did not blow up. The reaction to the New York Post's revelation of the laptop and its contents in October 2020 was astonishing, and chilling. Joe Biden and Donald Trump were fighting it out in the presidential election, and the broadsheet media, liberal broadcasters, political campaigners and billionaire overlords of the world wide web were not about to let a story about a laptop cast Joe in a bad light. So they squashed it. They even outlawed it. In an act of alarming anti-democratic intolerance – the seriousness of which many people have yet to grasp – the social-media oligarchs even prevented people from sharing the New York Post's story.
Twitter went so far as to lock users out of their accounts if they shared this piece of journalism that was clearly in the public interest. It locked the Twitter accounts of the actual White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, and the New York Post itself. Here we had the spokesperson for the democratically elected president of the United States and the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in America being cast out of social media for the crime of sharing a story that was true. This was surely the most egregious, arrogant interference in democratic politics and press freedom carried out by corporate elites in recent times. [...]
That's the scandal here. Sure, the infamous laptop threw up some grim and worrying things, not least Hunter's ties to Ukraine through his work with the gas company Burisma, some of which is now being investigated. (Hunter's 'entangled business dealings are becoming hard to ignore', says the Guardian, after ignoring them for ages!) But it was the elites' brutal stomping on this story that should worry us more. It confirmed that the new woke elites will do whatever it takes to crush inconvenient facts, to bury stories and ideas and beliefs that pose a threat to their power or their interests. And it confirmed that Big Tech billionaires will happily engage in explicit political censorship to protect their allies and sponsors from scrutiny. If an established newspaper like the New York Post can be forcefully locked out of the 21st-century public square, just imagine what could be done to you or me if we ever happened upon some facts the elites would prefer to keep hidden.
Read the entire article in Spiked Online.
Could stand in the way for true equity
13.02.2022. Plato's Old Idea — Eliminating the Family — Aligns With the Most Cherished Visions of Equity Across the Political Spectrum. Thus begins Joe Mathews his article My modest proposal for universal orphanhood in California,
If California is ever going to achieve true equity, the state must require parents to give away their children.
Today's Californians often hold up equity—the idea of achieving a just society that is completely free from bias—as our greatest value. Gov. Gavin Newsom says he makes all decisions through "an equity lens." Over the past year and a half, institutions from theater and dance ensembles to tech companies and media conglomerates have publicly pledged themselves to equity, along with diversity and inclusion.
But their promises of newly equitable systems—and the growing industry of equity consultants—are no match for the power of parents.
My solution is simple, and while we wait for the legislation to pass, we can act now: the rich should give their children to the poor, and the poor should give their children to the rich. San Francisco Socialists can sell their kids to Lassen Libertarians, and owners of large homes might swap children with their homeless neighbors.
Read the entire article in Zocalo (also available from VC Star: California should abolish parenthood, in the name of equity).
The DIE ideology is demolishing education and business
06.02.2022. The appalling ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity is demolishing education and business. Thus begins Jordan Peterson his article Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto (links and italics in original):
I recently resigned from my position as full tenured professor at the University of Toronto. I am now professor emeritus, and before I turned sixty. Emeritus is generally a designation reserved for superannuated faculty, albeit those who had served their term with some distinction. I had envisioned teaching and researching at the U of T, full time, until they had to haul my skeleton out of my office. I loved my job. And my students, undergraduates and graduates alike, were positively predisposed toward me. But that career path was not meant to be. There were many reasons, including the fact that I can now teach many more people and with less interference online. But here's a few more:
First, my qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students (and I've had many others, by the way) face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers. This is partly because of Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity mandates (my preferred acronym: DIE). These have been imposed universally in academia, despite the fact that university hiring committees had already done everything reasonable for all the years of my career, and then some, to ensure that no qualified "minority" candidates were ever overlooked. My students are also partly unacceptable precisely because they are my students. I am academic persona non grata, because of my unacceptable philosophical positions. And this isn't just some inconvenience. These facts rendered my job morally untenable. How can I accept prospective researchers and train them in good conscience knowing their employment prospects to be minimal?
Second reason: This is one of many issues of appalling ideology currently demolishing the universities and, downstream, the general culture. Not least because there simply is not enough qualified BIPOC people in the pipeline to meet diversity targets quickly enough (BIPOC: black, indigenous and people of colour, for those of you not in the knowing woke). This has been common knowledge among any remotely truthful academic who has served on a hiring committee for the last three decades. This means we're out to produce a generation of researchers utterly unqualified for the job. And we've seen what that means already in the horrible grievance studies "disciplines." That, combined with the death of objective testing, has compromised the universities so badly that it can hardly be overstated. And what happens in the universities eventually colours everything. As we have discovered.
All my craven colleagues must craft DIE statements to obtain a research grant. They all lie (excepting the minority of true believers) and they teach their students to do the same. And they do it constantly, with various rationalizations and justifications, further corrupting what is already a stunningly corrupt enterprise. Some of my colleagues even allow themselves to undergo so-called anti-bias training, conducted by supremely unqualified Human Resources personnel, lecturing inanely and blithely and in an accusatory manner about theoretically all-pervasive racist/sexist/heterosexist attitudes. Such training is now often a precondition to occupy a faculty position on a hiring committee.
Furthermore, the accrediting boards for graduate clinical psychology training programs in Canada are now planning to refuse to accredit university clinical programs unless they have a "social justice" orientation. That, combined with some recent legislative changes in Canada, claiming to outlaw so-called "conversion therapy" (but really making it exceedingly risky for clinicians to do anything ever but agree always and about everything with their clients) have likely doomed the practice of clinical psychology, which always depended entirely on trust and privacy. Similar moves are afoot in other professional disciplines, such as medicine and law. And if you don't think that psychologists, lawyers and other professionals are anything but terrified of their now woke governing professional colleges, much to everyone's extreme detriment, you simply don't understand how far this has all gone.
Just exactly what am I supposed to do when I meet a graduate student or young professor, hired on DIE grounds? Manifest instant skepticism regarding their professional ability? What a slap in the face to a truly meritorious young outsider. And perhaps that's the point. The DIE ideology is not friend to peace and tolerance. It is absolutely and completely the enemy of competence and justice.
And for those of you who think that I am overstating the case, or that this is something limited in some trivial sense to the universities, consider some other examples: This report from Hollywood, cliched hotbed of "liberal" sentiment, for example, indicates just how far this has gone. In 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscar people) embarked on a five-year plan (does that ring any historical bells?) "to diversify our organization and expand our definition of the best," They did so in an attempt which included developing "new representation and inclusion standards for Oscars," to, hypothetically, "better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience." What fruit has this initiative, offspring of the DIE ideology, borne? According to a recent article, penned by Peter Kiefer and Peter Savodnik, but posted on former NY Times' journalist Bari Weiss's Common Sense website (and Weiss left the Times, because of the intrusion of radical left ideology into that newspaper, just as Tara Henley did recently, vis a vis the CBC): "We spoke to more than 25 writers, directors, and producers — all of whom identify as liberal, and all of whom described a pervasive fear of running afoul of the new dogma. … How to survive the revolution? By becoming its most ardent supporter. … Suddenly, every conversation with every agent or head of content started with: Is anyone BIPOC attached to this?"
And this is everywhere — and if you don't see it, your head is either in the sand or shoved somewhere far more unmentionable. CBS, for example, has literally mandated that every writers' room be at least 40 per cent BIPOC in 2021 (50 per cent in 2022).
We are now at the point where race, ethnicity, "gender," or sexual preference is first, accepted as the fundamental characteristic defining each person (just as the radical leftists were hoping) and second, is now treated as the most important qualification for study, research and employment.
Need I point out that this is insane? Even the benighted New York Times has its doubts. A headline from August 11, 2021: Are Workplace Diversity Programs Doing More Harm than Good? In a word, yes. How can accusing your employees of racism etc. sufficient to require re-training (particularly in relationship to those who are working in good faith to overcome whatever bias they might still, in these modern, liberal times, manifest) be anything other than insulting, annoying, invasive, high-handed, moralizing, inappropriate, ill-considered, counterproductive, and otherwise unjustifiable?
Finally, do you know that Vladimir Putin himself is capitalizing on this woke madness? Anna Mahjar-Barducci at MEMRI.org covered his recent speech. I quote from the article's translation: "The advocates of so-called 'social progress' believe they are introducing humanity to some kind of a new and better consciousness. Godspeed, hoist the flags, as we say, go right ahead. The only thing that I want to say now is that their prescriptions are not new at all. It may come as a surprise to some people, but Russia has been there already. After the 1917 revolution, the Bolsheviks, relying on the dogmas of Marx and Engels, also said that they would change existing ways and customs, and not just political and economic ones, but the very notion of human morality and the foundations of a healthy society. The destruction of age-old values, religion, and relations between people, up to and including the total rejection of family (we had that, too), encouragement to inform on loved ones — all this was proclaimed progress and, by the way, was widely supported around the world back then and was quite fashionable, same as today. By the way, the Bolsheviks were absolutely intolerant of opinions other than theirs.
"This, I believe, should call to mind some of what we are witnessing now. Looking at what is happening in a number of Western countries, we are amazed to see the domestic practices — which we, fortunately, have left, I hope — in the distant past. The fight for equality and against discrimination has turned into aggressive dogmatism bordering on absurdity, when the works of the great authors of the past — such as Shakespeare — are no longer taught at schools or universities, because their ideas are believed to be backward. The classics are declared backward and ignorant of the importance of gender or race. In Hollywood, memos are distributed about proper storytelling and how many characters of what color or gender should be in a movie. This is even worse than the agitprop department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union."
This, from the head of the former totalitarian enterprise, against whom we fought a five decades' long Cold War, risking the entire planet (in a very real manner). This, from the head of a country riven in a literally genocidal manner by ideas that Putin himself attributes to the progressives in the West, to the generally accepting audience of his once-burned (once (!)) twice-shy listeners.
And all of you going along with the DIE activists, whatever your reasons: this is on you. Professors. Cowering cravenly in pretence and silence. Teaching your students to dissimulate and lie. To get along. As the walls crumble. For shame. CEOs: signalling a virtue you don't possess and shouldn't want to please a minority who literally live their lives by displeasure. You're evil capitalists, after all, and should be proud of it. At the moment, I can't tell if you're more reprehensibly timid even than the professors. Why the hell don't you banish the human resource DIE upstarts back to the more-appropriately-named Personnel departments, stop them from interfering with the psyches of you and your employees, and be done with it? Musicians, artists, writers: stop bending your sacred and meritorious art to the demands of the propagandists before you fatally betray the spirit of your own intuition. Stop censoring your thought. Stop saying you will hire for your orchestral and theatrical productions for any reason other than talent and excellence. That's all you have. That's all any of us have.
He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind. And the wind is rising.
Read Jordan Peterson's article in its entirety in National Post. A shorter version can be found at The Daily Wire.
Leaving its own ideals
02.02.2022. In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the 'Greater Male Variability Hypothesis' (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin's research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom. Thus begins Theodore P. Hill his article Academic Activists Send a Published Paper Down the Memory Hole (links and italics in original):
Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.
Darwin had also raised the question of why males in many species might have evolved to be more variable than females, and when I learned that the answer to his question remained elusive, I set out to look for a scientific explanation. My aim was not to prove or disprove that the hypothesis applies to human intelligence or to any other specific traits or species, but simply to discover a logical reason that could help explain how gender differences in variability might naturally arise in the same species.
I came up with a simple intuitive mathematical argument based on biological and evolutionary principles and enlisted Sergei Tabachnikov, a Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, to help me flesh out the model. When I posted a preprint on the open-access mathematics archives in May of last year, a variability researcher at Durham University in the UK got in touch by email. He described our joint paper as "an excellent summary of the research to date in this field," adding that "it certainly underpins my earlier work on impulsivity, aggression and general evolutionary theory and it is nice to see an actual theoretical model that can be drawn upon in discussion (which I think the literature, particularly in education, has lacked to date). I think this is a welcome addition to the field."
So far, so good.
Once we had written up our findings, Sergei and I decided to try for publication in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the 'Viewpoint' section of which specifically welcomes articles on contentious topics. The Intelligencer's editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and the History of Science at Smith College. She liked our draft, and declared herself to be untroubled by the prospect of controversy. "In principle," she told Sergei in an email, "I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one. After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protestors had read the book they were protesting, we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard, and providing links to them."
Professor Senechal suggested that we might enliven our paper by mentioning Harvard President Larry Summers, who was swiftly defenestrated in 2005 for saying that the GMVH might be a contributing factor to the dearth of women in physics and mathematics departments at top universities. With her editorial guidance, our paper underwent several further revisions until, on April 3, 2017, our manuscript was officially accepted for publication. The paper was typeset in India, and proofread by an assistant editor who is also a mathematics professor in Kansas. It was scheduled to appear in the international journal's first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation. All normal academic procedure.
* * *
Coincidentally, at about the same time, anxiety about gender-parity erupted in Silicon Valley. The same anti-variability argument used to justify the sacking of President Summers resurfaced when Google engineer James Damore suggested that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley hi-tech jobs. For sending out an internal memo to that effect, he too was summarily fired.
No sooner had Sergei posted a preprint of our accepted article on his website than we began to encounter problems. On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women. "As a matter of principle," she wrote, "I support people discussing controversial matters openly … At the same time, I think it's good to be aware of the effects." While she was obviously able to debate the merits of our paper, she worried that other, presumably less sophisticated, readers "will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas…"
Educators must practice what we preach and lead by example. In this way, we can help to foster intellectual curiosity and the discovery of fresh reasoning so compelling that it causes even the most sceptical to change their minds. But this necessarily requires us to reject censorship and open ourselves to the civil discussion of sensitive topics such as gender differences, and the variability hypothesis in particular. In 2015, the University of Chicago's Committee on Freedom of Expression summarized the importance of this principle beautifully in a report commissioned by none other than Professor Robert Zimmer:
In a word, the University's fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.
Supporting documentation for this account can be found here.
Read the entire article in Quillette.
Woke media is bad news
21.12.2021. Batya Ungar-Sargon provides a devastating takedown of the US media. Thus writes Jenny Holland in the introduction to Woke media is bad news for democracy.
Not tolerated by the LGBT brigades
19.11.2021. Two weeks ago, I resigned my post as philosophy professor at Sussex University. For three years, I've faced bullying and harassment for my views on sex and gender. More recently, this intensified into a full-blown campaign. Posters and graffiti went up denouncing me. Masked students held protests, set off flares and gave interviews saying they felt unsafe with me around. The problems all started when I began making such controversial statements as: 'there are only two sexes' and 'it's wrong to put male rapists in women's prisons'. I even went as far as worrying out loud about the consequences of children being given body-altering drugs based on potentially temporary inner feelings. It has been all too much for certain colleagues. My critics have produced an apparently unstoppable narrative, according to which I'm a bigot and a terrible danger to trans students. What they lack in evidence, they make up for in conviction. Eventually any hopes I could lead a relatively normal life on campus were definitively extinguished. My feelings are mixed. What exactly I've lost has yet to sink in, but there's also some exhilaration and a new sense of freedom. Finally, I can admit to the really heretical aspects of my character. For instance: I've never read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Thus begins lesbian feminist Kathleen Stock her article How to be a heretic:
For years now, I've criticised academic feminism for its failures: the internal contradictions, the unacknowledged class interests, the rampant narcissism of the few, the careerist capitulation of the many. In particular, I've criticised some academics for their enthusiasm about gender identity theory: roughly, the theory that, in every conceivable context, inner feelings of a misaligned 'inner' gender identity are more important than material facts about 'outer' biological sex. With this, a feminism focused on women and girls in the original sense was instantly defined out of existence. In return, academic feminists have attacked me, hard: I'm unkind, I'm intellectually second-rate, I can't have read 'the literature'. Don't I know that sex is a spectrum and the notion of a sex binary a colonial plot? And so on. It's been a turf war, not just a terf war. Outside the academy, most people look on with blank incomprehension. Sometimes education really can make you more stupid.
Since my resignation, I've been supported by many outside the university. One wonderful friend, on hearing of the posters on campus proclaiming my 'transphobia', rushed there with a scraper to take them down herself. I've received supportive emails, letters, flowers, booze, food, music, cosmetics and an expletive-decorated cake. It has been both the worst and best of times.
In between ploughing our way through delicious gifts of food, my wife and I have been watching the documentary Blair and Brown: The New Labour Revolution, and have reached the episode about the Iraq war. I'm reminded that in 2003, 54 per cent of British respondents thought going to war was justified; but when asked again in 2015, only 37 per cent remembered it that way. This offers a possible answer to a question which frequently troubles me: how, in future years, are people going to get out of the identity-based corner into which many have painted themselves? How will they deal with their recollected support for the placing of male rapists in women's prisons, or the performing of double mastectomies on teenage girls, or the crowding out of female athletes from sporting competitions, or the pressuring of lesbians into sexual relations with males who say they are women? If it means we can put this nonsense behind us, perhaps we should bring on the convenient collective forgetting.
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
The disguised friend of Islam
19.11.2021. Religious restrictions on the scientific teaching of evolution have no place in a balanced society, writes Mohammed Alassiri in his article Evolution is the disguised friend of Islam (published in Nature Human Behaviour, volume 4, page122 (2020)).
Dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth
14.11.2021. Institutions dedicated to the search for truth have ossified into havens for liberal intolerance and administrative overreach. Thus writes Niall Ferguson in his article I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken (links in original):
If you enjoyed Netflix's "The Chair" — a lighthearted depiction of a crisis-prone English Department at an imaginary Ivy League college — you are clearly not in higher education. Something is rotten in the state of academia and it's no laughing matter.
Grade inflation. Spiraling costs. Corruption and racial discrimination in admissions. Junk content ("Grievance Studies") published in risible journals. Above all, the erosion of academic freedom and the ascendancy of an illiberal "successor ideology" known to its critics as wokeism, which manifests itself as career-ending "cancelations" and speaker disinvitations, but less visibly generates a pervasive climate of anxiety and self-censorship.
Some say that universities are so rotten that the institution itself should simply be abandoned and replaced with an online alternative — a metaversity perhaps, to go with the metaverse. I disagree. I have long been skeptical that online courses and content can be anything other than supplementary to the traditional real-time, real-space college experience.
However, having taught at several, including Cambridge, Oxford, New York University and Harvard, I have also come to doubt that the existing universities can be swiftly cured of their current pathologies. That is why this week I am one of a group of people announcing the founding of a new university — indeed, a new kind of university: the University of Austin.
Read the entire article at Bloomberg Opinion.
On group-think and fundamentalisms of every kind
27.09.2021 (updated 06.10.2021). Here are some excerpts from various sections of Alister McGrath's book The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (except for the first one, the section headings below are those used by McGrath; footnotes and references are not included; emphasis added):
Some [people] are content to accept the prevailing wisdom of their peers. In an act of tribal loyalty, they align themselves with the ideas and values of a social group which is seen to be powerful or fashionable. Truth is here seen primarily as an act of intellectual and moral loyalty to a community into which we are born, or which we choose to enter. Truth is thus collusion with a group-think – about 'what it is good for us to believe', or what we are required to believe if we are to remain in good standing with those we regard as important and influential.
It's neat and simple, the ideal creed of people whose status depends on acceptance by a social 'in-group', or of politicians anxious to retain the support of voters or party selection committees. Yet it stifles independence of thought, in that this conflicts with loyalty to a social group. So we end up locked within some cultural 'in-group', and as a result are unwilling to take seriously the views of other communities. That's why fundamentalisms of every kind (whether religious, anti-religious, political or cultural) encourage social and intellectual isolation. It's so much easier to dismiss alternative perspectives if you believe that their advocates are evil, warped or deluded. That allows you to ridicule them without taking their ideas or their personal integrity seriously, and makes it easier to argue for their exclusion from the public domain.
As I have discovered from some rather depressingly sterile conversations, not everyone likes [Carl] Sagan's idea [that science 'counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts']. Dogmatic atheists and fundamentalist religious believers don't seem to like taking any intellectual possibilities other than their own seriously. People who are just intellectually lazy or who are aware of the vulnerability of their beliefs get round the problem by dismissing those with alternative viewpoints as deluded fools. To take the ideas of such people seriously, they argue, would simply contaminate their own intellectual and moral purity. We already know they must be wrong, so why waste time reading their ghastly books? They're little more than the infantile ramblings of stunted intellects.
The rest of us, of course, do not consider ourselves to be lesser human beings for failing to embrace these fundamentalist certainties, which generally turn out only to be 'certain' within their own ideological and cultural bubbles – bubbles that everyone knows will one day burst. Such fundamentalists already know that they are right, so they regard the exercise of even thinking about 'alternative hypotheses' as pointless and debasing. 'Don't insult me by asking me to consider such a ridiculous idea.'
Not surprisingly, both anti-religious and religious fundamentalists seem to have lists of 'safe' authors and books, and treat everyone else as heretical, deluded or just plain stupid. Bullying rhetoric implies that anyone taking these ideas seriously is a traitor, a liar or a simpleton. 'I wouldn't be caught dead reading such rubbish!' is presented as if it were a moral or intellectual virtue, when it is little more than a rhetorical fig leaf covering an embarrassing ignorance, culpable lack of curiosity, or a suppressed intuition that my own ideas might be wrong. Yet within these bizarre fundamentalist bubbles, this vice is seen as a virtue. This, of course, is exactly how cultural 'in-groups' work. Both the New Atheists and religious fundamentalists tend to demonise anyone they regard as a threat. They may each use their own vocabulary, but the same basic strategy underlies them both: portray your opponents as mindless, mad or evil.
Sagan was right: it may be intellectually uncomfortable, but we need to respect other perspectives, and avoid demonising those ideas, or those who hold them. It makes polemics difficult. But that's how universities work. That's how science works. And that's how religion should work as well.
Let's look at science, and see why this matters so much. The phrase 'scientific orthodoxy' sends chills down my spine. Why? Because it has come to mean the dominant scientific view of an age, which self-importantly believes it is correct, and seeks to exclude alternative perspectives – for example, through the high degree of control exercised by peer-review journals, which generally select articles favourable to the status quo. It is notoriously difficult to publish an article which questions a widely accepted theory, or presents data that is anomalous in terms of current understandings. Yet, science works so well precisely because it changes its mind in response to evidence and theoretical development, which means abandoning what one generation believed to be 'orthodoxy'.
There are just too many examples of this for comfort. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker pointed out how many scientists routinely betray the core values of science in order to align themselves with 'morally progressive' ideas. In doing this, they abandon any pretensions to objectivity and neutrality, and become 'moral exhibitionists', denouncing their fellow scientists who fail to conform to their social and moral values. Ideas are not evaluated in terms of their truth, but in terms of their consistency with the prevailing progressive ideas of racial and gender equality. Failure to conform to this orthodoxy means you aren't a member of the 'in-group'.
A good example of this cultural bias is found in the initial responses to Edward O. Wilson's classic Sociobiology (1975), which was widely interpreted on its publication by leading scientists and cultural commentators of the late 1970s as colluding with (if not actually openly advocating) racism, genocide and slavery. Pressure mounted for these views (and Wilson himself) to be excluded from university campuses. That political posturing now lies in the past, even if other views are now demonised in this way; nevertheless, it is a disturbing reminder of how a group-think can emerge, even within what many hope might be the most open-minded of disciplines: science.
In science, as in most other areas of life, certain 'alternative hypotheses' that ought to be kept open as genuine possibilities are rejected for social and political reasons, in that they do not conform to cultural norms – as if these were somehow arbiters of truth. It's all too easy to become a slave to intellectual fashion, letting transient cultural norms determine what's right through a process of alignment with individuals who are seen to embody cultural virtues of the moment.
In the final chapter, McGrath introduces the below sections as follows (page 196): "As I bring this work to a close, I see three points that have clearly emerged from the chastening of human rationality that we have considered in this work. None are religious in themselves, yet all are religiously significant. They all call out for further thought."
In a powerful visual image, Paul of Tarsus speaks of the limits of our vision of reality. We now only 'see in a mirror, dimly' (1 Corinthians 13:12). To be human is to see only part of a 'big picture' of reality, and to learn to live with a deep sense of frustration that we cannot see more, mingled with some slight satisfaction that we can see anything at all. The enemy here is not faith, but arrogance – the conceited belief that our limited view is right, and for that reason others are wrong.
Nobody knows for certain [what lies beyond death], although I know what I believe and hope – and why. But that doesn't mean that I regard others who disagree with me as deluded fools. I gladly leave that sort of rhetoric to cultural fundamentalists.
For perhaps the most important point to appreciate from such a line of thought is this. Given that life's great questions remain tantalisingly open, we need to be generous towards those whose answers do not coincide with our own.
Our sense of wonder at the solemn stillness of a starlit night, or the crystal purity of a northern landscape, elicits more than an experience of beauty; it discloses the limited capacity of our minds, and invites us to expand our mental vision to embrace the universe as it actually is, rather than to try and reduce it to what we find convenient or manageable.
This book has reflected on the great mystery of human identity, and especially our attempts to make sense of ourselves and our world as we journey on the Road. The proper human response to that mystery is a sense of humility in the presence of something greater than us; an intellectual generosity, not a narrow dogmatism, in trying to make sense of it; and perhaps above all, a feeling of awed wonder that we are temporarily placed within such a vast and beautiful universe, and are capable of reflecting on its deeper significance – as well as our own.
It is easy to be drawn to ideologues who try to short-circuit or bypass the problem of our 'all too limited human mind', offering us the cosy and smug certainties of in-groups or the strident slogans of fundamentalists. These imagined certainties demand a God's-eye view of reality, to which neither they nor we have access. Our place is on the Road, not on the Balcony – not a settled habitation of detached privilege, but a process of journeying in hope through an opaque and puzzling world.
McGrath, The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning.
26.09.2021 (updated 27.09.2021). Modernity is an effort to suppress religious superstition and authority, right? Not really, says Michael Allen Gillespie in The Theological Origins of Modernity (pages xi - xii, emphasis added):
Indeed, since the time of the Enlightenment modernity has thought of itself as an effort to suppress religious superstition and authority, encapsulated in Voltaire's famous imperative: 'Ecrasez l'infame!'
In Europe this has meant a continual diminution of the importance of religion, confining it first 'within the bounds of reason alone,' as Kant put it, then attempting to put it out of its misery by declaring God was dead, and culminating in the exceptional decline in religious belief and practice in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Even in America, where religion continues to play a much more important role than in Europe, the attachment to religion is often perceived, especially by intellectuals and academics, as atavistic and unseemly, especially when it takes on a fundamentalist or evangelical tone. And even in America, the idea that religion should guide public life continues to meet widespread opposition.
This opposition to religion in the modern age, however, should not be taken as a proof that at its core modernity is antireligious. It is certainly true that modernity has consistently struggled against certain forms of religious doctrine and practice, including the cult of the saints, teleology, the natural law teachings of scholasticism, the geocentric vision of the natural world, and creationism, but I want to suggest that this does not mean that it was therefore a rejection of religion as such.
The argument presented in this book suggests that it is a mistake to imagine that modernity is in its origins and at its core atheistic, antireligious, or even agnostic.
Indeed, I will show in what follows that from the very beginning modernity sought not to eliminate religion but to support and develop a new view of religion and its place in human life, and that it did so not out of hostility to religion but in order to sustain certain religious beliefs.
As we shall see, modernity is better understood as an attempt to find a new metaphysical/theological answer to the question of the nature and relation of God, man, and the natural world that arose in the late medieval world as a result of a titanic struggle between contradictory elements within Christianity itself.
This quotation from Gillespie has been copied from Concept of Barakah in Qur'ān and Sunnah: Towards its Realization in Modern Discourse, by Serdar Demirel & Hikmatullah Babu Sahib.
The Uniqueness of Western Civilization
29.08.2021. Muslim intellectual Ikram Hawramani remarks that historian Ricardo Duchesne has «a very negative view of Muslims». This does not prevent Hawramani from writing a favorable review of a book written by Duchesne. Here are some excerpts from the article, entitled The Uniqueness of Western Civilization by Ricardo Duchesne (links and italics in original):
There are times when you read a book that completely change your understanding of the world, answering questions you have had for most of your life, and even better, answering questions you did not know you had. This is such a book. Duchesne unites economic analysis, anthropology, history and philosophy in order to make a compelling argument for why Western civilization is truly unique and unlike any other civilization.
The "Wickedness" of the West
According to the currently fashionable ideology at the sociology departments of Western universities, the West is uniquely evil. It doesn't matter that the Chinese colonized the lands of ethnic minorities and sometimes massacred them; it is the Western colonization of other lands that is unforgivable. It doesn't matter that the native Americans slaughtered and enslaved each other, or that the Aztecs practiced mass human sacrifice; it is the intrusion of the West into this utterly evil and inhuman social system that is unforgivable. It doesn't matter that Africans used to enslave each other by the millions; it is the fact of Westerners buying these slaves that is unforgivable. [...]
The action of the Europeans on the world scene over the past few centuries were clearly motivated by much greed for wealth and power. But a person who does not have an ax to grind against Westerners will see them and their actions as no worse than those of the rest of the peoples of the world. And not just that, but such a person will also appreciate the uniquely positive and humane contributions that the West has made to make the lot of non-Westerners better. It was the British who spent vast amounts of wealth, and large numbers of the lives of their own, to police the seas in the 19th century to put an end to the slave trade. Yes, the British engaged in it before, like almost all other peoples. But it was they, and not the Chinese, Indians, Muslims or Africans who developed an anti-slavery ideology that ensured that slavery would be abolished throughout the world. But to those who are moved by hate against the West, this is irrelevant. The West is evil, and the facts do not matter.
"Eurocentrics" like Duchesne have been characterized as believing that the West achieved its supremacy without any debts to other cultures. But Duchesne clearly opposes such a view:
By 1200, Europe had recovered much of the scientific and philosophical accomplishment produced within the rest of the world. Persian, Byzantine, Chinese, Indian, African, and Islamic cultures were essential ingredients in Europe's ascendancy. Affirming the uniqueness of Western civilization in no way implies the idea that Europe can be viewed as a self-contained civilization. A major secret of European creativeness was precisely its multicultural inheritance and its wider geographical linkages with the peoples of the world.
Humans as Passive Animals
One of Duchesne's major efforts is to refute the popular academic conception of humans as passive actors in world history, controlled by circumstances and environments that made them what they are. Duchesne argues that Westerners were active agents who sought wealth and prestige, not passive agents who couldn't help doing what they did due to economic circumstances.
The view of humans as passive animals stuck in their circumstances is often associated with Marx, although I believe that we can detect the same strains of thought in many other highly influential 19th and 20th century intellectual movements, almost all of them led by Jewish thinkers.
- Marx: Humans are passive animals controlled by economic class conflict.
- Freud: Humans are passive animals controlled by sexuality-based conflict within families.
- The Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse): Humans are passive animals controlled by social pathologies peculiar to the Western-Christian mentality.
- Betty Friedan aka Bettye Naomi Goldstein: Humans are passive animals controlled by sex-based class conflict (Marxism translated into feminism).
- Louis Brandeis and Ronald Dworkin: Humans are passive animals who do not know what is good for them; the elite must gain control of the legal system to force upon them what is good for them.
- Leo Strauss and his neo-conservative students: Humans (meaning ordinary Christians) are passive animals to be controlled by an atheistic philosophical elite behind the scenes.
- Jacques Derrida: Humans are passive animals controlled by dominant discourses that maintain power structures.
- Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank: Humans are passive animals controlled by dominant "world systems".
- Jared Diamond: Humans are passive animals controlled by environmental forces.
The only major non-Jewish intellectual who espoused similar ideas is Michel Foucault. It appears that there is something about Jewish culture that makes these intellectuals prefer removing human agency from their explanations of human behavior.
It should go without saying that this view of humans as passive animals controlled by circumstances is wholly foreign to Western civilization, which has always celebrated human agency. The thinking of these intellectuals can therefore be characterized as an importation of a foreign, Jewish view of humans into Western discourse, and the results are as anyone would expect.
All of the above radical movements (the most important today being the mix of cultural Marxism and postmodernism that rules in academia) are pests on intellectual development and scholarship and will ultimately be squashed by the constant, restless, innocent search for truth that continues to characterize many Westerners, and today, non-Westerners. I have high hopes in the increase of Muslim participation in intellectual fields. Muslims who follow Islamic morality will reject the relativization of truth and the reduction of humans to mere animals and will continue the Western tradition of respecting the inviolable dignity of humans.
The Westernization of Islamic Studies
A very interesting aspect of the spread of Western aristocratic egalitarianism is the way Muslim intellectuals and scholars today have started to challenge the scholarly tradition of Oriental despotism that characterized Islamic studies in the past. What we have today are thousands of intellectuals and scholars throughout the world who are bravely challenging long-held beliefs in their individualist search for truth. They have, for example, defended women's right to divorce and the right of Muslims to leave Islam without being molested, not by discarding Islamic teachings out of a desire to live up to Western standards, but by recognizing that Islam actually supports these views.
In the case of Christianity, the individualist search for truth meant that it suffered persistent attacks on its foundations as philologists in the 19th and 20th centuries subjected its texts and beliefs to rigorous scholarly study and debate. The view of many Westerners unfamiliar with Islam is that Islam too will have its foundations weakened as its study becomes more scientific. But the reality as I see it is quite the opposite. If Islam is really "true", then it will survive the process intact.
And that is what I see all around me. Having benefited from the latest Western studies of Islam, my view of Islam's validity has only strengthened. Those who look forward to the secularization of the world may take comfort in the history of the weakening of Christianity, believing that Islam will go through a similar process. But my view is that those hopes will never materialize. Western students of Islamic studies such as Jonathan Brown and Umar Wymann-Landgraf, who have subjected the Islamic scriptures (in their case the Hadith literature) to rigorous Western-style analysis have actually ended up converting to Islam.
We are also seeing a possible trend of anti-Islam activists converting. Joram van Klaveren, a close ally of the anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, in the middle of writing an anti-Islam book, ended up converting. What other religion in the world has such a power? Another far-right convert is Arthur Wagner. Yet another is Arnoud van Doorn.
Why are these lovers and defenders of Western civilization converting to Islam if Islam is inherently opposed to Western values?
It is my view that these activists, feeling embattled by the constant attacks on Western values, and recognizing that Christianity offers no hope, realized [that] Islam is actually the best hope for the survival of their civilization.
Read the entire article by Hawramani at his website.
HonestThinking comments: I take issue with Hawramani's conclusion that Christianity «offers no hope». While Christendom in general seems to be in dire straits, I am not yet convinced the situation is so bad that all hope is gone.
Returns with a vengeance
27.08.2021. Writes philosopher Neven Sesardic in his blog entry An amazingly short history of philosophy (6.12.2020):
- In the beginning everyone searching for knowledge was doing philosophy. There was nothing else.
- Then, gradually, one scientific discipline after another started separating themselves from philosophy.
- Eventually, philosophy was "expelled" from so many domains that its main theoretical subject matter reduced to three areas: (a) history of philosophy, (b) various conceptual questions, and (c) metaphysics (which scientists were not interested in appropriating because it was resistant to the scientific method and was also widely regarded as being just a bunch of nonsense).
- Today, frustrated with the too-narrow research area that was left to them, philosophers are rebelling and getting back to discussing questions that were once rightfully theirs. Unapologetically, and even brazenly, they are injecting themselves into debates about various topics in physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, law, political science — you name it.
It's as if the Roman Empire came back and re-established its (partial) control over the territories that were under its rule many centuries ago.
Philosophy returns with a vengeance!
Copied from Neven Sesardic.
Challenges and possibilities
25.08.2021. Excerpts from the Renovatio essay On Migrating to Lands of Melancholy by Abdal Hakim Murad (aka Professor Timothy Winter; italics in original):
Pebbles which the waves suck back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Ever since its 1867 publication, which provoked the dismayed disapproval of what was then a still firmly Christian England, Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" has been known as one of the most iconic and wistful anthems of the modern loss of faith. As the lines gently move the reader on, a note of weltschmerz appears and grows, as the poet sorrowfully compares the ebbing Channel tide to the decline of the once rich and meaningful Christian worldview, which, to the poet, seemed to be increasingly undermined by science and the critical study of scripture.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd;
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.
Since Arnold's time, a century and a half of extreme events and cultural upheavals have left us so far on the other side of modernity that the girdle has fallen away and the once-loud roar itself seems hardly audible to most, submerged as we are in an age of postmodern non-referentiality in which all claims to truth are savored only as ironies, while humanity seems no longer conscious of the evident fact that it was designed, or has evolved, to swim in a spiritual sea.
Dover's shingled beach is still there, of course, but it has become, in our traumatized and unsteady twenty-first century, the site of a different and unexpected wave, this time of a distressed refugee humanity. By the middle of 2020, more than two hundred migrants every night were making the hazardous and illegal Channel crossing to where "the cliffs of England stand." Today's Dover Beach is littered each morning with abandoned life vests and sometimes with the bodies of the drowned, as Border Agency staff lead the surviving castaways up the slope toward the town's police station.
Europe no longer has a God, and hence it hears everything as the roar of broken fragments whirled around in meaningless though strangely evocative cycles of advance and regression.
It is an irony and a calamity of our times that ninety percent of those who complete this odyssey and stagger up the beach are Muslims. The great symbol of a departing Christianity seems to have become an emblem of an arriving but destitute Islam. Let us, in this essay, ponder this strange circumstance by tracing the imaginary but emblematic case of one such voyager: let him be a Syrian, drenched and fatigued yet wary and alert, praying that God should help him during the Home Office inquisition that is sure to come. Let us call him Ishmael.
Ishmael must also learn his own story and grasp its recent decay. The man in the life jacket who stands on Dover Beach has been scarred by more than the minefields of Greece and the razor wire of Hungary: his city of origin may be smashed, and his memory of how Ishmael was always schooled to be in its indigenously self-governed past may be faint, warped, or even nonexistent; he has been alienated from his classical Muslim identity and selfhood. For several generations, the heritage, the turāth, has been banalized and homogenized by regime curricula and nationalized religious hierarchies led by muftis of the Vicar of Bray type, while the shallow nationalist discourses of the Third World nation-states have ensured that a messianic modernism and a naive cult of Progress have dented the natural self-confidence of the believer, who ought to look back with both pride and hope on the story of Muslim civilization. In some places, this alienation has been deepened further by the reactive fundamentalism of the new extremists, who have devastated entire provinces and even countries: much of the Middle East, in the aftermath of the Iraqi and Syrian fundamentalist zombie apocalypse, is now trembling and shaking spiritually, much as Europe did after Auschwitz. Many refugees and asylum seekers arrive in a profoundly traumatized state, and this adds to the danger of their amnesia about the broad, merciful, mystical, and diversity-loving Islam that prevailed before the modern period. Ishmael is not himself.
A stronger historical awareness of how Muslim discourse was, say, in the time of the seventeenth-century genial genius of Damascus ¢Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī will be essential not only in restoring Ishmael to spiritual health but in convincing the milder Islamophobes that the shriveled fundamentalist caricature is not what Islam needs to be or has normally been. Our Europe is tragically post-Christian, but arriving Muslims are, in varying degrees, post-Islamic as well, their religion warped by the long trauma of contemptuous foreign rule followed by the hypocritical ideologies of the regimes until it became, in many cases, little more than a flat ideology of alienation and resentment, an existentialism sustained by the aura of a jargon of authenticity. The theology of European Islam ambitiously proposed by Charles-André Gilis identifies Ishmael as a divinely gifted witness and liberator who will save Europe from the dark night of its soul;19 but which Ishmael? We may ask: Will the real Ishmael stand up?
Unlike the atheistic melancholy depicted for us by Lars Von Trier, the melancholy of the self-jailing Muselmänner as stigmatized and defeatist subaltern subjects is not incurable. Therapists working with insecure Jewish women who had been intimidated by prejudice report that a renewed public display of Jewish identity had a therapeutic benefit in reducing self-hate. Increased hijab wearing would form part of an equivalent Muslim strategy to seek healing in confidence and not in the humbled internalizing of state and liberal negativity. A greater assertiveness in Muslim authorship and leadership would also do much to reinvigorate Ishmael's vibrancy and restore his natural and life-giving optimism.
Finally, the rejuvenation of Islamic assertion in the unhappy liberal Babylon must require the intention of healing. Those who "migrate for dunyā," for worldly gain, as the hadith puts it, are likely to be miserably assimilated and crushed; while those whose intention is noble, who are willing to see and understand and heal, can serve a redemptive purpose. In the old Muslim stories Potiphar's wife Zuleikha seeks to tempt Joseph, but through his self-mastery he finally converts and marries her, and their fruitful union revives all of Egypt, and this he has only been able to achieve by finding the strength to forgive her sexual harassment and continuing to value the wounded humanity that always lay beneath. Hating the seducer—whether it be an alien world or the world in its worldliness—is a frequent theme of modern Islamism, but it is foreign to Ishmael's best inheritance.
So Dover Beach has become a liminal site of the new and fecund wave of Abrahamic arrival, which Muslims must hope presages a divinely purposed resurrection of Europe as a land restored not only to demographic health but to God and to optimism. Amid the ruins of the secular, and in hopeful fellowship with serious believers of other religions, Ishmael may serve as this catalyst, just as the first Ishmael and his mother once brought the holy well unexpectedly to life in the arid valley of Mecca; but this must be preceded by a noble struggle against the ego and its fears and frailties. "Do people think that they will be left alone to say, 'We believe,' and that they will not be tested? We tested those who came before them; and God will certainly know those who were sincere, and those who were speaking falsely" (29:2–3).
Read the entire essay in Renovatio (the journal of Zaytuna College).
Brave New World
07.08.2021. Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963), interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958, shares his visions and fears for this brave new world. Youtube (28 minutes).
Accusing rape victims of racism
21.06.2021. A lawyer today accused Oxfam of suggesting reporting rape is 'contemptible' after a training document said 'privileged white women' were supporting the 'root causes of sexual violence' for wanting offenders jailed because it disproportionately affects minorities. Thus begins The Daily Mail its article 'The message seems to be [that] a woman who reports rape is a contemptible white feminist': Outrage at Oxfam staff training document blaming 'privileged white women' over root causes of sexual violence (link in original):
The charity, which has been hit by a slew of sex scandals including claims that employees used teenage prostitutes in Haiti, compiled the PowerPoint presentation through its LGBT network after the group complained to bosses that the debate about women's rights was part of a 'patriarchal and white supremacist narrative'.
Accompanied by a cartoon of a crying white woman, the PowerPoint claims that mainstream feminism supports 'the root causes of sexual violence' by painting white women as 'victims' and that this in turn justifies excessive punishment for 'black and other marginalised people'.
Naomi Cunningham, a discrimination and employment law barrister, said the training - which uses extracts from a book written by Sussex University gender studies professor Alison Phipps - had shocking implications.
'The message seems to be that a woman who reports a rape or sexual assault to the police and presses charges is a contemptible ''white feminist'',' she told The Telegraph.
She added: 'I think any woman could make an arguable case that this has created or contributed to ''an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment'', which is how the Equality Act defines harassment.'
Continue reading in The Daily Mail.
Did people or nature open Pandora's box at Wuhan?
26.05.2021 (updated 13.06.2021). The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: the political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel. In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China. By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze. Thus begins author and journalist Nicholas Wade (a science writer who has worked on the staff of Nature, Science and, for many years, on the New York Times) his long article Origin of Covid — Following the Clues. He concludes as follows (link and italics in original):
If the case that SARS2 originated in a lab is so substantial, why isn't this more widely known? As may now be obvious, there are many people who have reason not to talk about it. The list is led, of course, by the Chinese authorities. But virologists in the United States and Europe have no great interest in igniting a public debate about the gain-of-function experiments that their community has been pursuing for years.
Nor have other scientists stepped forward to raise the issue. Government research funds are distributed on the advice of committees of scientific experts drawn from universities. Anyone who rocks the boat by raising awkward political issues runs the risk that their grant will not be renewed and their research career will be ended. Maybe good behavior is rewarded with the many perks that slosh around the distribution system. And if you thought that Dr. Andersen and Dr. Daszak might have blotted their reputation for scientific objectivity after their partisan attacks on the lab escape scenario, look at the 2nd and 3rd names on this list of recipients of an $82 million grant announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in August 2020.
The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Dr. Shi's coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. One can imagine the behind-the-scenes conversation in which the Chinese government says "If this research was so dangerous, why did you fund it, and on our territory too?" To which the US side might reply, "Looks like it was you who let it escape. But do we really need to have this discussion in public?"
Dr. Fauci is a longtime public servant who served with integrity under President Trump and has resumed leadership in the Biden Administration in handling the Covid epidemic. Congress, no doubt understandably, may have little appetite for hauling him over the coals for the apparent lapse of judgment in funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
To these serried walls of silence must be added that of the mainstream media. To my knowledge, no major newspaper or television network has yet provided readers with an in-depth news story of the lab escape scenario, such as the one you have just read, although some have run brief editorials or opinion pieces. One might think that any plausible origin of a virus that has killed three million people would merit a serious investigation. Or that the wisdom of continuing gain-of-function research, regardless of the virus's origin, would be worth some probing. Or that the funding of gain-of-function research by the NIH and NIAID during a moratorium on such funding would bear investigation. What accounts for the media's apparent lack of curiosity?
The virologists' omertà is one reason. Science reporters, unlike political reporters, have little innate skepticism of their sources' motives; most see their role largely as purveying the wisdom of scientists to the unwashed masses. So when their sources won't help, these journalists are at a loss.
Another reason, perhaps, is the migration of much of the media toward the left of the political spectrum. Because President Trump said the virus had escaped from a Wuhan lab, editors gave the idea little credence. They joined the virologists in regarding lab escape as a dismissible conspiracy theory. During the Trump Administration, they had no trouble in rejecting the position of the intelligence services that lab escape could not be ruled out. But when Avril Haines, President Biden's director of National Intelligence, said the same thing, she too was largely ignored. This is not to argue that editors should have endorsed the lab escape scenario, merely that they should have explored the possibility fully and fairly.
People round the world who have been pretty much confined to their homes for the last year might like a better answer than their media are giving them. Perhaps one will emerge in time. After all, the more months pass without the natural emergence theory gaining a shred of supporting evidence, the less plausible it may seem. Perhaps the international community of virologists will come to be seen as a false and self-interested guide. The common sense perception that a pandemic breaking out in Wuhan might have something to do with a Wuhan lab cooking up novel viruses of maximal danger in unsafe conditions could eventually displace the ideological insistence that whatever Trump said can't be true.
And then let the reckoning begin.
Read the entire article at Wade's web-site on medium.com.
Nicholas Wade has also published (a slightly modified version of) this article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
- Should we discount the laboratory origin of COVID-19?.
There is a near-consensus view that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, has a natural zoonotic origin; however, several characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 taken together are not easily explained by a natural zoonotic origin hypothesis. These include a low rate of evolution in the early phase of transmission; the lack of evidence for recombination events; a high pre-existing binding to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2); a novel furin cleavage site (FCS) insert; a flat ganglioside-binding domain (GBD) of the spike protein which conflicts with host evasion survival patterns exhibited by other coronaviruses; and high human and mouse peptide mimicry. Initial assumptions against a laboratory origin by contrast have remained unsubstantiated. Furthermore, over a year after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, there is still no clear evidence of zoonotic transfer from a bat or intermediate species. Given the immense social and economic impact of this pandemic, identifying the true origin of SARS-CoV-2 is fundamental to preventing future outbreaks. The search for SARS-CoV-2′s origin should include an open and unbiased inquiry into a possible laboratory origin.
Here we address the main arguments in support of a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 and outline the various points which support the alternative, that a laboratory origin is still a valid possibility that should not be discounted. To help prevent future viral pandemics, it is of pivotal importance to identify the source of the virus, and this is only possible with an unbiased analysis of all data available. We couple this work with calls from recent opinion pieces and comparative studies questioning a zoonotic origin (...) via a review of the latest literature and propose an alternative to the natural zoonosis hypothesis.
Segreto, R., Deigin, Y., McCairn, K. et al. Should we discount the laboratory origin of COVID-19?. Environ Chem Lett (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10311-021-01211-0
- Liberal media's dramatic flip-flop!. A year after left-wing news TRASHED theory that COVID originated from a Wuhan lab when Trump supported the suggestion - outlets now throw their SUPPORT behind the idea (scroll down a few pages). By Harriet Alexander.
- Could an accident have caused COVID-19? Why the Wuhan lab-leak theory shouldn't be dismissed. I have reported on safety lapses at elite U.S. labs. There is no reason to believe they aren't happening at labs in other countries as well. By Alison Young.
- The Lab-Leak Hypothesis. For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if …? What happened was fairly simple, I've come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist's well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed. Many thoughtful people dismiss this notion, and they may be right. By Nicholson Baker.
- Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible. The source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery. But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory — has gained new credence. How and why did this happen? For one, efforts to discover a natural source of the virus have failed. Second, early efforts to spotlight a lab leak often got mixed up with speculation that the virus was deliberately created as a bioweapon. That made it easier for many scientists to dismiss the lab scenario as tin-hat nonsense. But a lack of transparency by China and renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab have led some scientists to say they were too quick to discount a possible link at first. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) from the start pointed to the lab's location in Wuhan, pressing China for answers, so the history books will reward him if he turns out to be right. The Trump administration also sought to highlight the lab scenario but generally could only point to vague intelligence. The Trump administration's messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims. As a reader service, here is a timeline of key events, including important articles, that have led to this reassessment. In some instances, important information was available from the start but was generally ignored. But in other cases, some experts fought against the conventional wisdom and began to build a credible case, rooted in science, that started to change people's minds. This has led to renewed calls for a real investigation into the lab's activities before the coronavirus emerged. By Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker, The Washington Post.
- Investigate the origins of COVID-19. Jesse D. Bloom et al. Science 14 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6543, pp. 694.
Growing Censorship of Christian Viewpoints
18.04.2021. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez warned Thursday that as U.S. politics and culture become more "aggressively secular," America risks losing its soul. "Sadly, some of our leaders seem to want to close our society off from Christian ideas and values," Archbishop Gomez said in an online keynote address to Catholic advocates gathered at the Minnesota state capitol. Thus begins Thomas D. Williams (Ph.D., professor of ethics, degrees in economics, philosophy and theology) his article Los Angeles Archbishop Decries 'Growing Censorship of Christian Viewpoints'. He continues:
"I am troubled by the growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media and the marginalization of believers in other areas of our public discourse," the archbishop said. "These trends and directions in our society amount to a rejection of America's founding principles, and the consequences are not healthy for our society."
"America's founders were wise; they understood the realities of human weakness and sin," he continued. "The democracy they built depends on the virtue and morality of citizens."
"The founders presumed that our public morality would be grounded in individual religious beliefs and practice," he said. "And they knew that without solid religious and moral foundations, America's commitments to human equality and freedom could not be sustained."
The archbishop's words addressed a growing effort to silence Christians by labeling them as "white supremacists," "Christian nationalists," "theocrats," and "religious extremists" — simply for embracing a biblical worldview.
They also followed on a worrisome trend in Big Tech and elsewhere to stifle the Christian viewpoint on marriage, the right to life, religious freedom, and gender.
The loss of religious faith both in its private and public dimensions does not bode well for the future of Western society, the archbishop warned.
Continue reading at Breitbart.
HonestThinking comments: In my home country Norway we see the same signs, and there are clear indications that liberals are now going after Muslims as well.
Dogmatism and totalitarian tendencies
17.04.2021. 'Some Christians believe homosexuality is a sin — get over it.' I feel like this needs to be made into a poster. Or put on the side of a bus, perhaps. Because, amazingly, there are people out there who seem not to realise that traditionally minded Christians think it is wrong for a man to lie with a man as he would with a woman. Consider the mad controversy over Keir Starmer's visit to Jesus House in London on Good Friday. Jesus House, in Brent, is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal 'megachurch' founded in Nigeria in the 1950s. It has a large following among traditionalist African Christians in particular. And — brace yourselves — it isn't the world's biggest fan of gay sex or gay marriage. Shocking, I know. Thus begins Brendan O'Neill his article Keir Starmer's bizarre Black Lives Matter re-education. He continues (italics and link in original):
When Labour lefties and gay-rights activists saw that Starmer had dared to mingle with these Christians who believe the message of the Bible — 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination', Leviticus 18 — they whipped up a storm. His visit was 'unacceptable', declared the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights. One leftie said Starmer's shoulder-rubbing with Jesus House proves he has 'zero integrity'.
And lo, Starmer apologised. For visiting a Christian church. On Good Friday. When will he apologise for not having a spine? Bowing and scraping before his critics, Starmer said 'I apologise for the hurt my visit caused'. It was a 'mistake', he repented.
He also took down the video of the visit, which had only shown him meeting black Christians and praising them for the work they have done in their local community, which includes helping to roll out the Covid vaccine and running the local food bank. But these good, charitable works count for nothing, it seems, because 'these people' have the wrong views on homosexuality.
The Christians at Jesus House are guilty of nothing more than holding traditional Christian beliefs. Just look at the coverage of this daft controversy. 'Keir Starmer criticised over visit to church where pastor opposed same-sex marriage', says the Guardian's headline. In other words, 'Starmer criticised for visiting a Christian church that adheres to Christian doctrine'.
This is crazy. Over Easter I also visited a church that opposes same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church. Just a couple of weeks ago the Vatican reiterated that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, because God 'does not and cannot bless sin'. So Starmer should never visit a Catholic institution, either?
In apologising for visiting Christians who hold Biblical beliefs about homosexuality Starmer has insulted vast numbers of people. It is he who has behaved in an intolerant way, because he has essentially said that he will not associate with any religious group that doesn't agree with his views on same-sex issues. To turn your back on good people because they disagree with you on sexual or social matters is a species of dogmatism, too.
Also, does this mean Starmer will stop visiting mosques? Many imams are against same-sex marriage. 'And as for the two of you men who are guilty of lewdness, punish them both', says the Koran. Starmer will have a hell of a lot of explaining to do if he ever again visits a mosque or Islamic institution that believes homosexuality is sinful, which of course he will.
It was wrong for Starmer to apologise for visiting Jesus House. In a pluralistic society like ours, politicians will frequently meet and mingle with people and groups whose views they don't fully approve of. The alternative is to draw up blacklists of individuals and institutions who are apparently so evil that they must be dodged at all costs. It might be traditionalist black Christians today, but who will it be tomorrow?
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
Dogmatism and totalitarian tendencies
17.04.2021. So now we know what happens if you criticise Black Lives Matter. You'll be packed off for re-education. You will be sent to have your mind cleansed of foul, dissenting thoughts. You will be reminded of the First Commandment of the strange year of 2020: Thou Shalt Not Question BLM. That's the lesson of Keir Starmer's bizarre confession this morning that he will submit himself for unconscious bias training after he dared, ever so mildly, to criticise a few aspects of the BLM worldview. Thus begins Brendan O'Neill his article Keir Starmer's bizarre Black Lives Matter re-education (from 2020, but still very relevant). He continues:
Last week Starmer referred to the BLM protests of the past few weeks as a 'moment'. That was crime No. 1. In reducing this movement to a moment, Starmer, according to the warriors against anti-BLM blasphemy, was being dismissive of the incredibly important events that have taken place since the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Worse, Starmer said the idea of defunding the police, which has become a rallying cry of BLM supporters, is 'nonsense'. This outraged some, which is bizarre: did they think a former Director of Public Prosecutions and generally middle-of-the-road politician was going to line up behind an anti-police worldview?
This is bizarre on so many levels. Firstly, why can't we criticise BLM? It's a political movement. It's an ideological grouping. Its policy agenda includes not only challenging police brutality (great) but also dismantling the nuclear family and overthrowing capitalism. Guess what — loads of people disagree with those stances! And yet if a public figure raises a peep of concern about BLM, he'll be mauled.
The second mad thing about Starmer's self-re-education is the use of the phrase 'unconscious bias'. If we are calling criticism of BLM a case of 'unconscious bias', then we are seriously running the risk of pathologising perfectly legitimate political viewpoints.
There are many people, white and black, who are made uncomfortable by some of BLM's demands and by the behaviour of some BLM activists. Are they all unconsciously biased? There is something borderline totalitarian in this urge to depict dissenting or difficult views as a kind of mental malaise, an unconscious failing, a sickness of the mind that requires, in Starmer's case, training and erasure.
Not only does this slyly delegitimise certain views — it also risks diluting the seriousness of racism where it does exist.
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
A natural endowment of the human species
13.04.2021. Unlike many of my contemporaries in the intellectual world, I see religion as a natural endowment of the human species—a way of understanding the world and our own place in it that brings the stability and solace that we need. Without religion, we risk being lost in the pursuit of pleasure and advantage, tempted away from all durable commitments and without the virtue on which societies ultimately depend, which is the virtue of sacrifice. Ever since Durkheim's great study of the "elementary forms of the religious life," it has been apparent that religion bestows on us, in addition to a comprehensive way of understanding the world and the God who created it, the comforts of belonging. And this kind of belonging is not simply a matter of signing up to a group, or paying your subscription to receive certain benefits, but an existential commitment, a giving of yourself, of a kind that is beautifully summarized in the Arabic word islām. Thus writes philosopher Roger Scruton (1944 - 2020) in his essay Sacred Truths in a Profane World. He later concludes as follows:
In this way we have entered a condition in which the secular culture, far from being the inclusive thing that the Founding Fathers intended, has become the property of an increasingly censorious liberal elite, intent on closing the old paths to meaning and stability. Any reaction against the liberal stranglehold is likely to be dismissed as "populism," while the universities and media seem to find nothing amiss with punishing those who deviate from the liberal agenda.
How should we respond to this? As in all times of conflict and besiegement, the first need is for alliances, not only between people of faith but also between them and those who have lost their faith but not their values. Zaytuna College has set a welcome example with its excellent publication, Renovatio, in which the three revelations—the Judaic, the Christian, and the Islamic—are brought together in ways that show their intrinsic harmony, despite all the real differences. The purpose, as I understand it, is not to judge religion by secular values—to say, it is OK to believe so long as you do not disturb the secular status quo—but to embed the idea of citizenship in our religious traditions, to show that the values on which our lives as good citizens depend are themselves rooted in something deeper than our choice to accept them. Of course, nobody today can ignore the fact that it is possible to commit crimes in the name of faith, and to murder, rape, and pillage while believing that God Himself commands these things. But that form of behavior is rooted in despair—it too is a form of disenchantment, an attempt to void the world of its significance and to set beside the absolutes of religion a merely empty everyday world. If the secular world is reduced to a mere mechanism, in which sacred moments and loving obligations have no place, then we may easily begin to think that it invites destruction and that God will command this destruction as the last way to recruit His friends. In the face of this, we must show that the way of faith does not mean turning away from the secular reality. The true face of religion belongs to the re-enchantment of our injured civilization; faith is a way of filling all the spiritual spaces in our damaged world with the vision of a loving God, the God described in the Qur'an as al-Raĥmān al-Raĥīm. Our world is damaged—no one can deny it. But, in the eyes of the One who looks down on it, it is also holy, and will always remain so.
Read the entire essay in Renovatio (the journal of Zaytuna College).
Tearing the USA (and the rest of the West) apart
15.03.2021. Affluent parents, terrified of running afoul of the new orthodoxy in their children's private schools, organize in secret. Thus writes Bari Weiss in her feature article The Miseducation of America's Elites, first published in a shorter version in City Journal.
A troublesome topic
14.03.2021. Had science, history and the myth of racial purity been so clearly presented to Dylann Roof, the Charleston shootings might never have happened. Thus begins Kathryn Paige Harden her review article in The Spectator A book that could save lives: Adam Rutherford's How to Argue with a Racist reviewed.
Manjit Kumar has written a review article of the same book in The Guardian: How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford review – we're all related.
Catalan translator dropped because of 'profile'
12.03.2021. A translator from Spain says his version of a poem read at US President Joe Biden's inauguration was rejected because he had the wrong "profile". Víctor Obiols was commissioned to work on the Catalan translation of Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb last month. But after he completed the project, the publishers said they wanted a translator who was "a woman, young, activist and preferably black". Thus opens BBC its article Amanda Gorman's Catalan translator dropped because of 'profile'.
Headed for even bigger problems?
25.01.2021. Any friend of America must wish Joe Biden well in his efforts to unite his country. But an honest friend must also admit that he starts his presidency in a truly feeble position.
Never mind that the US economy has in the past year been wrecked by the Covid pandemic, that unemployment has soared and that homelessness on a developing world scale is now visible in many American cities. There is also a simple question of competence.
On the day of the inauguration, former president Barack Obama tweeted a photo of himself and his former vice-president with the message: 'Congratulations to my friend, President Joe Biden! This is your time.'
His time? Frankly nobody in America – Republican or Democrat – thinks it ideal that Biden is starting the toughest job of all at the age of 78. During my recent tours of the US, I spoke to many Democrats who admitted to deep misgivings – in private. They knew about Biden's forgetfulness, his wandering trains of thought and his ever-more obvious mental frailty. Many doubted he would make it through a full term in office.
But they were willing to overlook all this, so desperate were they to get Donald Trump out. That has now been achieved. The world now has to face up to the reality of the Biden presidency. And it isn't looking good.
Thus begins Douglas Murray his Daily Mail article The Left can't stop fawning over Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but I fear this won't end well for America... or Britain.
Can no longer conceal its power
18.01.2021. To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle,' George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is 'quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously'. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that 'for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective'. Thus begins Niall Ferguson (the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University) his article in The Spectator: The tech supremacy: Silicon Valley can no longer conceal its power.
The Beautiful Message of The Qur'an
30.10.2020 (updated 01.11.2020). We are living in dangerous times. The West has by and large turned its back on God, and is gradually crumbling under a combination of decadence and wishful thinking (in several areas).
It's about time we start thinking honestly about God and existential questions in general, as well as Christianity and Islam in particular. Godlessness leads to foolishness (at least at the societal level), and the West is - unfortunately - a prime example of this.
Too many people have only the faintest ideas of what kind of a message is really found in the Qur'an. This applies to islamophobes and Islamic fundamentalists alike, as well as to many of those who belong somewhere between the just mentioned extremes.
Please refer to the compendium The Beautiful Message of The Qur'an (containing some 500 thematically ordered verses taken from Muhammad Asad's magnificent English translation), to see why I believe the above statement is warranted.
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
05.08.2020. On 7 July Harper's Magazine published A Letter on Justice and Open Debate from more than 150 academics and intellectuals. It begins as follows:
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
Read the entire letter in Harper's Magazine.
Deceiving the masses
26.04.2020. Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad sharing his thoughts on the topic of Age Of Mass Deception (newly released five-minute video from an event in 2016).
A moral fault - according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer
23.04.2020. A family member of mine recently sent me the following text (which seems to have originated here):
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German pastor who was surrounded by the atrocious evil of Nazi Germany and who was murdered at their hands, regarded stupidity as more dangerous than outright evil, since stupidity is a type of irrationality, a chosen ignorance of what is real and true. Against such willed ignorance we are often defenseless, since any reasoning that appeals to transcendental moral truth finds no traction, carries no weight, and has no effect. The devil, then, seeks first of all to stupefy people, that is, to drug them or flatter and persuade them to think that there is no need to engage in serious thinking or to humbly question their assumptions... As William James observed: "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." The antidote to unthinkingly accepting the biases and inculcated prejudices of the world is to humble ourselves by learning to sincerely respect the Reality of God: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and correction" (Prov. 1:7).
For Bonhoeffer, stupidity is a moral fault, not an intellectual deficiency; it is the result of a willful ignorance and cynical laziness. He wrote: "If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature... that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem" (Bonhoeffer: Letters from Prison).
The Journal of Zaytuna College
24.03.2020. It is an unusual name for a publication, but we chose the Latinate term renovatio, from which we derive our English word "renovation," as an aspirational title for the ambitious project we have in mind. The prefix re means "again," and the base word is derived from the Latin novus, "new": "to make new again, to restore to good condition as if new again, to repair, to reinvigorate, to refresh, revive." Thus begins Hamza Yusuf, Editor-in-Chief of Renovatio and President of Zaytuna College, his article Letter from the Editor Why "Renovatio?". A bit later he continues (italics in original, boldface emphasis added by me):
It is our contention, that, in essence, the foundations of the Abode of Islam are sound, but the house that harbors this civilization has fallen into deep dereliction. It is in need of renovation, not reformation. To try the analogy further, the foundation is solid, but the walls are crumbling, the amenities are in disrepair, the plumbing no longer works, the water has been shut off, and many of the inhabitants are truly suffering. How then do we begin?
In the case of Islamic civilization, its crisis has been addressed largely in superficial political or socio-economic terms that have always been unsuccessful because they fail to see the metaphysical crisis at the root. Thus, to change our condition, we must first identify today's metaphysical crisis and, more importantly, the metaphysical foundations that were in place when the Muslims were vibrant and thriving. Then we can begin to renovate and restore them.
We thought it appropriate to launch Renovatio with a focus on the crucial role of metaphysics in understanding the world, its source, and our place in it. The term tajdīd in the Islamic tradition (see the Arabic calligram in our logo), means "to make new again," of which our Prophet ﷺ said, "In every generation, there will be those who renew the faith." May we all aspire to be among them, and may we do our part in deepening our faith, refurbishing its rich tradition of understanding revelation through reason, and restoring its rightful place as a source of solace for all people.
The essence of Islam is a triad of faith, action, and being: imān, islām, and iĥsān. Each relates to the qualities of truth, goodness, and beauty, which are at the core of every great civilization in human history. Imān (faith) is a commitment to the truth once realized through the intellect, which is the prerequisite of faith; islām (submission to the will of God) is to act according to that faith with good deeds; and, finally iĥsān (beauty) is to be in a state of witnessing beauty and majesty that will be reflected in our words and deeds during our time on earth.
Many of us who straddle two great civilizations, the Judeo–Christian and Muslim, see a deep crisis in our own Western culture. It is perhaps most obvious in the calamitous environmental situation, but the troubles are in plain sight: our obsessive and deleterious patterns of consumption; our vacuous and violent entertainment industry; our relentless technophilic addictions; our opioid epidemic; our class, race, and gender problems; and countless other ills. These too have metaphysical roots worth examining. Neither of our two civilizations can afford to ignore the crisis of the other, as both have profound impacts on one another. The interdependent nature of our globalized world means we no longer have the luxury of a nostalgic isolationism.
Islam, in its profound legal, spiritual, and cultural glory, faded as it might appear today, has much to offer the Western world as it confronts its own troubles. For many, Islam appears old and decrepit, evidenced by the dire straits of most Muslim societies that have fallen far from its dynamic and living traditions that they once embodied. But for those steeped in its intellectual and spiritual heritage, Islam is viable and relevant, and contains time-tested guidance and wisdom that can help us navigate contemporary challenges, including those dealing with tensions between science and faith, as well as ethics, justice, and pluralism. Just as Muslim civilization once helped nurture a backward and desperate European civilization out of its malaise, now both civilizations need each other's help to make well the world again.
We hope, in our own modest attempt with this publication, to be part of the desperately needed "renovation" of our own personal faith, of the tragically derelict Abode that today houses almost a fourth of humanity, and of this marvelous globe that we all share and inhabit as God's creatures. And though it may look like it is dying, "it's hardly been born;" for now, it is the best and only one we have.
Read the entire article at the Zaytuna website.
See also: What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf (53 minute video).
Academic fascism on the rise
23.02.2020. Western universities have become places of personal fear and intellectual terror. Formerly sanctuaries for open inquiry, instead fierce ideological minorities have been setting red lines of orthodoxy in the face of a silent or, worse, compliant academy. Education -- from ex ducere, to lead out -- has been increasingly eroded by ideological fundamentalism and an attempt to determine not only what actions are acceptable, but even words and thoughts. Thus begins Giulio Meotti his article Europe's New Academic Fascism. Later he continues:
Freedom of expression is increasingly at risk in France by effectively creating new crimes of opinion. If your personal opinion coincides with the official one, you have nothing to fear. If your ideas conflict with the official ones, you risk becoming ostracized and your mere existence in the public sphere scandalous.
"The new academic fascism," is how Natacha Polony, a television host and editor of the French weekly Marianne, has described it. If you dissent, educators, political leaders, the media and the mob will try to destroy you, just as they destroyed Giordano Bruno in 1600 for saying that the universe could have many stars.
"Small radical groups create a climate of terror to impose opinions and silence their opponents," Polony wrote. "They enjoy infinite mercy from some political and media circles insofar as they claim to embody the Good. Who would dare to challenge them?"
An appeal by some French intellectuals, including many Muslim thinkers such as Boualem Sansal and Zineb el Rhazoui, criticized this "intellectual terrorism." It recalls, they wrote, "what Stalinism did to the most enlightened European intellectuals.
"Our cultural, academic and scientific institutions are now targeted by attacks that, under the guise of denouncing 'colonial' discrimination, seek to undermine the principles of freedom of expression and of universality inherited from the Enlightenment".
Defending the freedom to think and the possibility of an open conversation -- both currently mutilated in Europe -- is the foundation of Europe's civic life. Without free expression, there can be no circulation of ideas, no increase in knowledge, and therefore no progress. The basic principles of liberal society are undermined.
The United States, upon declaring their freedom from a repressive England in 1776, understood well the primacy of freedom of speech. George Washington told his army officers in 1783: "the freedom of Speech may be taken away — and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter."
On US campuses it has become commonplace to cancel or protest invited speakers whom a handful of activists consider intolerable. The administrators are evidently too frightened of their own students to ask for the students' suspension, let alone their being expelled or requesting police support. This same type of censorship, regrettably, can now be seen throughout Europe. Minority groups claim "safe spaces", but the ones who really need safe spaces are those who disagree with the reigning orthodoxy.
The European university -- which should be the home of open pluralism, debate, research and thought -- has instead become the paradise of intellectual sectarianism and terror. This new radicalism will reinforce not only political correctness, but also submission to coercion, "like sheep to the slaughter", in the West.
Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute.
Some of his enemies now rejoice over his problems
19.02.2020. Ironically, the anti-Petersonians now seem far more fanatical than Peterson's most faithful fans. This became clear in recent days, when some of Peterson's critics — including, amazingly, a professor at the University of Ottawa — went online to express satisfaction that Peterson is being treated for dependence on benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication. Thus writes Jonathan Kay in his article On Jordan Peterson and his critics.
Bernie Sanders field organizer praising Soviet-style gulags
15.01.2020. A Project Veritas video released Tuesday showed a man identified as a campaign organizer for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders saying "cities burn" if President Trump wins reelection and predicting violence against police at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Asked what would happen if Mr. Trump is reelected, the man described as Sanders campaign field organizer Kyle Jurek said, "F–ing cities burn," adding, "I mean, we don't have a lot of time left, we have to save f–ing human civilization." In the undercover video, the first in the Project Veritas #Expose2020 series, he also expressed support for ideological reeducation Trump voters; compared such Americans to Nazis; praised Soviet-style gulags; and predicted police would be "beaten" in riots at the party convention. Continue reading in The Washington Times; Project Veritas: Sanders staffer says 'cities burn' if Trump reelected, predicts violence at DNC.
See the video: Project Veritas Action. Kyle Jurek, Field Organizer, Sanders Campain (YouTube).
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