If you hadn’t heard, Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, resigned after an uproar about a modest donation he made in support of an anti-gay marriage referendum (which passed!) six years ago in California. The ostensibly-right-wing response to this was as anemic and ineffective as it is to everything else; they objected that liberals were behaving illiberally, exhibiting intolerance, silencing free speech, etc. Libertarian useful idiot Nick Gillespie went so far as to generously qualify his “ambivalent” feelings about Eich’s resignation by adding that it was a clear case of the market responding to consumer signals (presumably he is either ignorant or lying about the fact that these “signals” are deliberately coordinated by the government).
Now, non-liberals accusing liberals of illiberalism for demanding the resignation of a “homophobe” strikes me as being rather like atheists berating Christians for being “un-Christian” on account of their not hugging half-naked gay men in public with sufficient enthusiasm. It’s worse than incorrect, it’s hubristic for the average non-liberal (which, yes, excludes present company) to imagine that he somehow intuits the demands of liberalism better than those who are psychologically and socially conformed to it. Most of them aren’t exactly free thinkers: if liberalism demanded differently of them, they’d do differently. But it doesn’t, so they don’t.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen, instead, to Joseph Shaw, who chimes in with an excellent four-part series (one, two, three, and four) on the futility of non-liberals trying to restrain leftist excesses while operating within the leftist consensus — a futility which arises from the non-liberals’ own failure to fully comprehend the monster they’re dealing with. He also has some useful conclusions: namely, quit acting as if liberalism is the only intellectual game in town.
Go check it out.
God willing, I shall be confirmed a Catholic at the Vigil of Easter. In preparation since September, I have (among other things) read and studied the Catechism. It’s been edifying to have the Faith completely spelled out, at least in outline. I’ve learned that as a traditional Anglican, the orthodox theology to which I have long adhered is thoroughly Catholic – at least with respect to those doctrines of the Faith that I had yet tried to understand.
One domain of doctrine I had not ever much thought about or understood concerns Mary. Anglicans venerate Mary, of course, but are not as fascinated with her as Catholics. So I’ve been studying up a bit on Mary. I’ve not been concerned so much with this or that controversial Marian dogma, as with far more general questions of how we ought to think about her – e.g., what is her function in the plan of salvation, what is her status in the economy of Heaven (including this little cosmos), and so forth. I figured that if I understood that, then the rest of Mariology would fall into place without too much fuss.
Culture – memetic variation and selection – is the medium of Lamarckian evolution. Culture is the way that humans pass along acquired characteristics – learned ideas – to their fellows and heirs. And ideas have consequences. Our ideas shape how we live, and thus where, when, and how long we live, how many children we have and how we raise them, or not, how we coordinate our activities, and so forth. The structure of social coordination evolves.
As factors of prosperity and reproductive success, ideas have genetic consequences. And those genetic consequences feed back into the selection of cultural memes.
So there is coevolution of genes and culture. Men prosper in cultures to which they are physiologically well fitted, and cultures prosper among men who are physiologically equipped to enact their memes. Their physiological equipment includes the structure and organization of their nervous systems.
Men and women of a given thede, then, are likely to be better adapted physiologically to the cultural forms historically predominant in that thede. This is why Swedes do better than the Ik at Social Democracy.
[This is a much-revised version of an article that originally appeared some years ago at The Brussels Journal.]
Prologue: Contemporary popular culture is as jejune as contemporary politics, with which it is more or less indistinguishable: Strangled by political correctness and by contempt for form and etiquette, “pop” culture eats away like acid at what remains of courtesy and memory. But the past of popular culture – in literature, illustration, and the movies – has much nourishment to offer. One of the most widely read authors of the Twentieth Century, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 – 1950), had a penetrating insight concerning the health of the body politic and the positive relation of a vital culture to its founding traditions. The author of Tarzan (1912) and its many sequels, the inventor of the extraterrestrial sword-and-sandals romance, ex-cavalryman, admirer of the Apache and the Sioux, anti-Communist, anti-Nazi, self-publishing millionaire entrepreneur, religious skeptic, “Big-Stick” patriot, Southern California real-estate baron, sixty-year-old Pacific-Theater war correspondent, Burroughs has, with a few ups and downs, maintained an audience from his authorial debut in 1912 to the present day, nearly sixty-five years after his passing. Burroughs has a place in the culture wars, standing as he does for the opposite of almost everything advocated by the elites of the new liberal-totalitarian order. I offer, in what follows, a modest assessment of Burroughs’ work.
(Original title: Grace vs. Law: How to Make Sense of the Contradiction)
Why do many people reject Christianity? I believe the root cause could be called “fear of the Law.” Everyone knows that God makes demands on us, for morality is “hardwired” into our souls. The sum total of the behavior that God requires of us, written in Scripture, is commonly called the law. But man also knows that he does not keep the law, and this knowledge haunts him.
Christians know that God has solved the problem by providing salvation for us through the work of Jesus Christ. And yet not all professing Christians are aware of this solution, for man does not naturally understand or accept the gospel, which is both the complement and the antithesis of law. While law is what God requires us to do, gospel is what God, in Christ, has done for us: atone for our sins through the death of Christ. Since the gospel, unlike the law, is not something that man naturally understands, all non-Christians—and many professing Christians—view the law as the essence of religion. Some therefore love religion, and some therefore hate it, but all such people misunderstand Christianity.
In the latest of his ongoing Chronicles of Love and Resentment at the Anthropoetics website, Eric L. Gans discusses the evolution of resentment since the Middle Ages and shows the relation of a debased type of resentment to the reigning victimocracy. Gans argues that only a revival of the concept of sin can deliver us from the galloping totalitarianism of the victim-mentality. I strongly recommend the essay to Orthosphereans. The link is here: http://www.anthropoetics.ucla.edu/views/vw457.htm
[Note: This article originally appeared at The Brussels Journal under the title "The Vinland Voyages, the Market, and Morality."]
Scholarship places the composition of the two Vinland Sagas in the Twelfth Century, in the case of The Greenlanders’ Saga, and in the Fourteenth Century in the case of Eirik’s Saga. But like most of the saga-literature the two narratives reflect a non-mythic oral tradition, linked with the settlement and early chronology of Iceland and Greenland, the general (if not the minutely detailed) trustworthiness of which much research both literary and archeological over the last century has attested. Quite apart from scholarly and technical arguments, even the ordinary reader must take the wealth of circumstantial detail and the laconic matter-of-factness of the storytelling as signs of an essential veracity. The two Vinland Sagas reflect the Nordic people at a particular epoch: The transformational moment, namely, at the end of the Tenth Century, when the old warrior-ethos began yielding to the new Gospel ethos and when success in the market began replacing notches on a sword haft as the paramount sign of masculine status. Both The Greenlanders’ Saga and Eirik’s Saga represent this change in the generational differences that distinguish Eirik the Red on the one hand from his male children, especially his son Leif, on the other.
Materialist reductionism runs into all sorts of problems explaining such things as organisms on the basis of the properties of their constituent parts. This happens because materialism gets the direction of reduction wrong. A whole can account for the properties of its parts, but not vice versa. E.g.: a complete account of a salt molecule must include a full specification of the properties of its sodium atom; but a complete account of a solitary sodium atom cannot include a full specification of the properties of a salt molecule.
It’s not the tiniest conceivable parts that are basic, but the largest conceivable whole. The parts of reality supervene upon the whole of reality.
So reduction can work – if reality is causally coherent, it must – but only if, at least in principle, we reduce all things ultimately to God.
I recently set my freshman composition students the task of writing an essay based on each writer’s choice of a topic from a list of two hundred topics. I urged especially that writer-respondents to the assignment should strive to find interest in whatever topics they might select and that they should seek to discover the meanings in their topics. To prove that it could be done, I wrote the following essay on one topic from my own list – “Lemuria.” I append my list at the end of the essay. (TFB)
Suppose you were a wise, religious man living a century or two ago. You see that modernity is here and that it will not be stopped. You see the walls of civilization bowing, cracking, groaning before it. You see pitiless, red eyes searching out enemies. You see its thirst for fire and steel. You see purity surrendering to its overripe sensuality. What do you do?