Getting over Vatican II

What the Church desperately needs with regard to the Second Vatican Council is to embrace the Hermeneutic of Forgetfulness.  But how to get there?  Attitude will be crucial.  Let us take one of the bromides of the conciliar era, “pastoral”, and turn it to our use.  Vatican II was a pastoral council.  Everyone says so.  But what does “pastoral” mean?  Or, rather, what meaning do we wish to give it?

1) pastoral = “popularized”.  Pastoral means effectively reaching people, which means being accessible, which means (so we shall imply) being dumbed down.  Vatican II theology is for people who can’t cut it with “manual” Thomism.  It’s like popular science books for nonscientists.  Scientists will all say that it’s good that such books exist, but they definitely have less authority than the technical work they are meant to distill.  If somebody read in a popular science article about spacetime being like a rubber sheet and thought we was then qualified to critique actual general relativity textbooks, we would laugh at him.  Similarly, Vatican II, as popularized Catholicism, has no authority to critique the real pre-conciliar theology.

Sly implication:  People who talk up VII and quote its texts are stupid.

2) pastoral = “sanitized”.  Real Catholicism is shocking and intense, and it can be too much for some people at first.  Vatican II is like those edited-for-TV movies where they take out the gore and swearing and nudity.  Usually this doesn’t affect the movie much, unless one makes a big point of the lack of such offensive material.  So, a theologian claiming that there’s no inconsistency between Catholicism and liberalism based just on Vatican II is like somebody seeing the edited-for-TV version of Die Hard and then writing a term paper about John McClane being a hero who doesn’t swear.

Sly implication:  People who talk up VII and quote its texts are sissies.  And stupid.

Of course, the trick is to insinuate these things rather than say them outright.  It’s more effective that way.

Is it even possible to know what is offensive anymore?

Can anyone tell me what this guy said that was supposedly so offensive?  From what I can tell, it’s pure PC.  If I had written any of it, I would think that I had sold my soul completely to the Left.  He criticizes Richard Feynman for being a “sexist”, but says that those were horribly sexist, patriarchal times from which we have now been happily delivered, and Feynman was no worse than anybody else in that horrible, horrible age.  The accusation itself seems to be without merit, in that it consists wholly in Feynman being a womanizer, and I can’t think of what principle the Left could use to denounce that.  From what I can tell, the writer is towing the feminist line but was fired for not being hysterical enough.  Or was there something there that I missed?  It’s frightening to think that I wouldn’t know how to avoid PC offences even if I tried.  Selling one’s soul to the Left is actually difficult to do.

Some of the comments at isteve are interesting.  For example

But you gotta love that YouTube video of Gell-Mann putting to rest the mythical Feynman. He makes Feynman out to be a pretentious actor always trying to be cutesy. (An aside: I am always skeptical of people who have a lot of funny occurrences happening to them). I love the bit about how Feynman ridiculed Gell-Mann and called him an ordinary person, a salesman-type, for washing his hands after urinating (Feynman thought hand washing after urinating was unnecessary and superstitious).

When I was a kid I wondered about this too.  It seemed to me that my hands were likely to be dirtier than my penis, since it was my hands that had been out touching foreign objects.  I went ahead and washed my hands anyway (and–don’t worry–I still do), but it’s gratifying to know that I’ve had at least one Feynmanesque thought in my life.

Science finds its moral compass, alas!

I can remember from my childhood the waning years of the Left’s ambivalence toward science. Of course, the Left saw itself as the party of Reason, so it couldn’t be openly anti-science.  However, in those times, people’s attitude toward science was shaped largely by their attitude toward new technology. Scientists were seen as magicians who had proven that they could do just about anything, and what’s more, they would do just about anything if somebody asked them to and gave them the money.  Brilliant but amoral.  The shadow of the Manhattan Project lasted a very long time.  The Left had already established themselves as the guardians of morality, and they found it hard to forgive scientists giving America all those H-bombs to point at the Workers’ Paradise.

Continue reading

More on white guilt

Reparations for slavery

It can’t happen because the whole idea is that white should pay our debt.  But if we pay our debt–with some sufficiently big one-time check, even one big enough to reduce the white population to penury–then we will have paid our debt.  That would mean things would be square between whites and blacks.  Whites would no longer have anything to be ashamed of.  This, of course, can never be allowed.

The mystery of Harper Lee

From the Guardian:

In a move which has shocked Monroeville, Lee, who resides in an assisted-living facility in the town, is bringing a lawsuit against the local museum, accusing the small, not-for-profit institution of exploiting her fame and the prestige of her Pulitzer-winning book without offering compensation. The museum is fighting back, condemning Lee’s lawsuit as “false” and “meritless” and warning that the legal action could destroy an institution that honours the author’s legacy and provides an economic boost to the town.

Let me explain things to inhabitants of Monroeville who are “shocked”.  Anyone who has read To Kill a Mockingbird knows that Harper Lee hates you.  She hates all white Southerners.  Demonizing you has been her life’s work.  Of course she doesn’t mind delivering an economic hit to the town.

What does it mean to say that we are a “nation of immigrants”?

It means that our culture, and by extension we ourselves, have no real connection to this land.  Trace back anybody’s ancestors far enough, and one finds that they came from somewhere else, but that doesn’t make everybody an immigrant.

I wouldn’t worship that god either

Reading this

Since God is our Heavenly Father – we can consider how an earthly father might hope that his children should regard and address him – especially if that earthly father’s wish was for his sons and daughters to grow into unique and developed personalities who would at some point undergo a transition from child dependent to adult ‘friend’.
Taking this perspective, it seems clear to me that a good father would hope for love of course, and also respect and due deference – but not ‘worship’, submission, abasement, grovelling or anything of that sort – which would more appropriate to a tyrant than to a father.
my first thought was that it is sheer Luciferian blasphemy, implying that worship, adulation, submission, and recognition of utter dependence could ever become inappropriate responses to the Ground of Being, Subsistent Existence and Goodness (and that therefore it is a tyrannical vision that “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all“).  Then I remembered that Bruce’s idea of God is very different from this.  He is merely another finite being in the world, rather than a Creator apart from it.  He lacks the classic divine attributes, and at least some beings aren’t dependent on Him for their existence (making one wonder why this God could not be removed altogether with a justifiable blow of Occam’s razor).  “Loving father” or not, I am not inclined to worship this being either.  In fact, I have no use for him whatsoever.  I already have a human father with whom I’m satisfied, and I’ve reached the point in life anyway where I worry less about having a loving father than about being one.
I hate to pick on Bruce in particular, a man from whom I’ve learned a great deal and one who has always treated me respectfully.  Many other versions of theistic personalism are open to similar criticisms.  However, Bruce is a sort of mentor to the Orthosphere, so his writings always get more special attention from me.  The fact is that it’s very hard to come up with a conception of God that fosters what we know is the proper attitude toward Him.  It is Bruce’s primary critique of the classical conception of God that it supposedly doesn’t help us relate to Him properly.  Now he himself sees that his own conception has a tendency to undermine the elementary religious emotions of awe, worship, submission, the sense of one’s own nothingness before the Infinite.  So both conceptions have their pitfalls, and one must be wary in giving too much authority to any particular idea or picture of God.
Talking about God, one must walk a narrow line between reducing Him to just another person on whom we are not fundamentally dependent (in which case how could He give meaning to our lives or have anything to do with morality?) or reducing Him to a metaphysical abstraction like the Platonic Good or One on the other (in which case one could not relate to Him personally with gratitude, love, or repentance).  Our only positive knowledge of God comes from analogical thinking based on finite creatures.  When playing this game, we must remember not to sneak into our idea of God the limitations inherent in the beings from which we draw analogies.  A good human father wouldn’t demand worship and ritual sacrifice, presume to forgive sins of which he is not the victim, predestine some souls to heaven, or punish unrepentant sinners with eternal damnation, but the God of the Bible certainly does.

Thinking for oneself is overrated.

I’ve watched others do it.  I’ve seen the results.

Divorce is sinful too, not just remarriage

Some clerics have taken to emphasizing that it’s not divorce per se that the Church condemns, but only divorce followed by remarriage during the life of the original spouse.  This is technically correct, in that it is the remarriage that constitutes adultery, an intrinsic evil.  However, to leave things at that is to deceive by leaving out much of the truth.  After all, what we promise in our marriage vows is a great deal more than sexual fidelity, and to repudiate any of these vows is gravely sinful.  Thus, even the separation of spouses, which the Church admits, is gravely sinful when pursued against the will of the other spouse except in the most exceptional circumstances.  And even in the case of a permanent separation, it is usually a grave wrong to file for a civil divorce.

In making that last statement, I know I am setting myself against the vast majority of Catholic priests in the West, who are known to advise separated spouses (if the party in question is the woman and the priest judges her to be the wronged party–and I’ve never known a priest not to judge the woman to be the wronged party, no matter who does the separating) to get a civil divorce in order to protect their assets (and usually milk the husbands of theirs).  It’s just a legal formality, right?  The Church herself says civil divorce doesn’t change anything, so signing that form doesn’t mean anything, right?  After all, a girl has got to protect herself, and divorce is just how asset-splitting is done in the West.

Well, getting divorced does make you a client of an evil system.  Now, this in itself isn’t always intrinsically evil.  It’s not sinful in itself to get a routine exam through Planned Parenthood or to work out a mutually beneficial exchange with Ursula the Sea Witch, but you should really ask yourself if that’s the sort of thing you want to associate with.  Maybe in dire circumstances, but the circumstances should be dire.

You should also ask yourself whether filling out those divorce papers doesn’t make you a liar.  After all, what our law and society mean by divorce is that a marriage is ended and the parties are free to contract another one; you know that this is false.  You can tell yourself that that’s not what you mean by signing the form, but what others think is not incidental.  The whole reason you’re signing it is to get the law and the ambient culture to act according to the false meaning.

Suppose every statement of divorce spelled out what is intrinsic in this claim that man can and may terminate what God has joined.  Among other things, it would state that Christianity is therefore false, that the man Jesus Christ was a fraud or a madman.  Do you still feel okay about signing the form?  After all, those words you’re putting your name to aren’t what you mean by this act.  For that matter, what’s the big deal about offering a pinch of incense to Caesar?  There’s nothing intrinsically wrong in doing something like that.  You don’t think the Emperor is a god, and you’re not responsible for how other people interpret your actions.  After all, a girl has got to protect herself.

It nevertheless may well be that many divorces encouraged by priests are morally licit given the alternatives and the understandings of the parties involved.  It is certain though that every divorce makes the culture of marriage weaker and the culture of divorce stronger.

Here’s another idea.  There are lots and lots of Catholic lawyers out there.  Instead of just reminding women to collect their cash and prizes, suppose we set our lawyers to working out ways to financially protect abandoned wives without corrupting ourselves with the “D” word.  When people say “Catholics don’t believe in divorce”, we do more harm than good by saying “No, no.  We just don’t believe in remarriage.”  The simpler “don’t believe in divorce” really does capture the heart of it.  We do not believe in what everybody today means when they say “divorce”.

Our funny neoreactionary friends

An exchange between Zippy and me:


I actually felt embarrassed for the neoreactionaries reading that post at Some of the better-known neoreactionaries have identified their movement with “neo-cameralism” by which they mean reconceiving government along the model of a business corporation as you describe. That is, the problem with liberalism in their view is that it hasn’t taken the desacralization of sovereignty far enough, a position that hardly makes an old-school reactionary like me want to sign up for their movement.

As for Moldbug himself, I’ve read a lot of his verbiage. All your complaints about his writing style are true (and deliberately so, since he and his followers see themselves as passing on esoteric knowledge which they would not want to debase with excessive clarity), but I often enjoy it nonetheless. I am perplexed that such a large group of bloggers regard him as their main inspiration and theoretical guide. I just don’t see it as being profound or revolutionary on that level.

Part of it, I suppose, is a difference in what I think the major questions are. The Orthosphere focuses on ethics and political philosophy. Neo-reaction does this only incidentally. Its main focus is sociology: identifying elites and how they gain and maintain power. Hence, I once said that Moldbug reminds me of Pareto.

From time to time, the neoreactionaries start arguing about the essence of their movement, and I watch from the sidelines. I am a taxonomer of the Right, remember, so I have an academic interest in these things. They’re in the middle of another bout of introspection now, by the way. They very much like to talk about themselves. These discussions never come to a satisfactory conclusion, because they have nothing to compare themselves to except Leftism and libertarianism. They don’t realize that other schools of the Right have theoretical cores worth engaging, so they have no way of saying how they differ from us. When they try, it’s just to boast that they have an intellectual system while we unsophisticated normal reactionaries presumably don’t (not that they’ll ever bother to check).


That is, the problem with liberalism in their view is that it hasn’t taken the desacralization of sovereignty far enough, a position that hardly makes an old-school reactionary like me want to sign up for their movement.

That tracks the mirror-of-Marxism idea too, when you think about it. The problem isn’t modernity, it is that we just haven’t tried the best things about modernity quite hard enough yet.

As for Moldbug himself … but I often enjoy it nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s got some really funny zingers. I’ve just never actually made it through an entire post. And building an ‘intellectual movement’ around him seems like building an ‘intellectual movement’ around a comedian. The image I can’t escape comes from the ridiculous movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, where a future society is based entirely around the lyrics and music of a rock band started by a couple of stoners.

Unlike great rock star comedians like Brian Regan or John Pinette or Jerry Seinfeld, Moldbug just doesn’t know when to take a bow and exit. He just goes on, and on, and on, and ZZZZZZzzzzzz.


Descent of man: Bruce Charlton solves Fermi’s paradox

Thanks, Bruce, for giving me something else to be gloomy about.

Not knowing much about biology, I’m used to thinking of natural selection as something that improves species (at least by the measure of ability to successfully reproduce), but BC points out that, because of the continual accumulation of deleterious mutations, one actually needs a continual culling of the herd just to keep a species “in place”.  As in, he thinks that before the Industrial Revolution of order 3/4 of humans died before successfully reproducing (most during childhood), with the more fit having a slight edge, and that this was necessary to avoid genetic decline.  With the end of infant mortality and the ability of just about anyone to successfully reproduce, mutations are now accumulating and genetic IQ declining precipitously, a process that will continue until civilization collapses and the death of most children re-establishes itself as the norm.  Industrial civilization is, thus, an intrinsically transient thing.

What to make of this?  Bruce won’t appreciate the comparison (although it is meant positively), but I think the situation here is analogous to global warming.  In both cases, the effect being described certainly exists to some degree.  Nobody doubts that CO2 is a greenhouse gas or that humanity is dumping huge amounts of it into the atmosphere, and now that I’ve had mutation load explained to me, I must admit that turning off selection must have the effect BC describes, at least at some nonzero rate.  What’s more, the mutation overload theory is impervious to many escapes.  One can’t say “well, maybe modern civilization can get by with a lower-IQ population”, because the process continues until the disaster comes.  One might actually hope that it takes a pretty high IQ to maintain industrial civilization, because although we hit “giga-death” sooner, we leave with more mental capacity intact.  Saying that the accumulation of mutations is slower than BC thinks doesn’t help either, because with no positive selection one must hit the disaster eventually.  One might imagine an aggressive eugenics program as a way to save civilization, but it would have to be more draconian than anything anyone today would stomach (although presumably not as bad as pre-industrial unguided eugenics, which measured fitness only by the loosely correlated economic status).  For both global warming and BC’s scenarios, there remains a great deal of doubt regarding both observations and models.  For example, I’m still not sold on the assumption that the relation between reaction time and intelligence is constant in time.  (Not that I disbelieve it; I just remain agnostic, and because I haven’t really studied it, my agnosticism doesn’t mean much for the claim itself.)  However, for both theories, just because there are uncertainties doesn’t give us any reason to assume that things must be less bleak than the models predict or observations indicate, that truth is always on the optimistic edge of all the error bars.