ideas spreading

Some reaction-friendly articles that have been linked on Arts and Letters Daily lately:

Heather MacDonald on the diversity craze wrecking science.

scientist at UCLA reports: “All across the country the big question now in STEM is: how can we promote more women and minorities by ‘changing’ (i.e., lowering) the requirements we had previously set for graduate level study?” Mathematical problem-solving is being deemphasized in favor of more qualitative group projects; the pace of undergraduate physics education is being slowed down so that no one gets left behind.

The New York Times (!) respectfully notes Michael Houellebecq’s critique of the sexual revolution.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, widely seen as a liberation movement, is better understood as the intrusion of capitalist values into the previously sacrosanct realm of intimate life. “Just like unrestrained economic liberalism … sexual liberalism produces phenomena of absolute pauperization,” he writes. “Some men make love every day; others five or six times in their life, or never.”

Matthew Crawford introduces Hedgehog Review readers to the intricacies of virtue signaling.

The ongoing ferment on campus reveals the university as the site where the paradox of bourgeois society is most acute. As gatekeeper to the upper middle class, the elite university has as its primary social function the sorting of the population. (And it seeks rents commensurate with occupying such a choice position.) It detects existing inequalities, exacerbates them, and certifies them. And whatever else it does, it serves as a finishing school where the select learn to recognize one another, forging a class consciousness that has lately hardened into a de facto caste system. But for that very reason, by the logic Furet identifies, it is also the place where the sentiment that every inequality is illegitimate must be performed most strenuously.

The term shibboleth is interesting. Its definitions include “a peculiarity of pronunciation, behavior, mode of dress, etc., that distinguishes a particular class or set of persons” and “a common saying or belief with little current meaning or truth.” It is a random Hebrew word that acquired its present meaning when it was used by the Gileadites as a test to identify members of an enemy tribe, the Ephraimites, as they attempted to flee across the Jordan River. Ephraimites could not pronounce the sound sh (Judges 12:4–6). I think it is fair to say that one’s ability to pronounce the word diversity with a straight face, indeed with sincerity made scrupulously evident, serves as a shibboleth in this original sense. It answers the question of whether one wants to continue as a member in good standing of those institutions that secure one’s position in the upper middle class.

This article by James Poulos in National Affairs contains some strong criticisms of the liberal project.  It is poorly organized, as if the author doesn’t want his readers to realize what his real business is.  As I see it, the two most interesting points are 1) the liberal drive to put institutions at the service of individuals neglects the role institutions must play in the pro-social formation of these individuals, and 2) the end result of liberalism’s desire to “save humans from their humanity” is rule by algorithm.

Tribal motivations are rational

For some time, I’ve been trying to reclaim the virtues of tribalism for the Church.  To survive and flourish, a group needs the habitual loyalty of its members.  Liberal critics of Catholic loyalty speak as if identifying an opponent’s behavior as “tribal” is equivalent to showing that it is irrational.  In fact, there is nothing irrational about tribalism; it merely supplies another set of concerns to guide our reasoning.  One sign of this is the fact that liberals do not apply the same anti-tribalist critique to the groups and loyalties they really care about.  They certainly do not think that their fellow liberals should seek out and carefully consider criticisms from their professed enemies.  Such critics are dismissed as irrational preachers of hatred, and it is considered important that they have no mainstream platform that might “legitimate” their views.  This is, indeed, a rational strategy for them in pursuit of the critical goal of space-control.  That Leftist beliefs about democracy, race, and sex roles cannot be questioned in the public square is a tremendous advantage to the Left, one that they would be foolish to forfeit.

Catholics are just as rational in summarily dismissing negative claims made about the Church in anti-Catholic outlets like the New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter.  Consuming enemy propaganda is needlessly demoralizing, and there is danger in giving one’s less discerning brethren the impression that these are credible sources of commentary about the Church.

Hostility to foreign ways is rational if one wants to preserve a culture.  To function, a culture must be normative, must be taken-for-granted, within some social space.  Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the effects of alcohol and marijuana are identical.  I may nevertheless reasonably want alcohol to remain legal and pot to remain banned for purely tribal reasons.  Beer and wine have a long history among Western peoples.  It is part of our rituals and festivities, and we have developed some widely-known guidelines to govern its use.  Even its overindulgence is familiar to us, and, within bounds, we have learned to deal with it.  Pot is what the other tribe, the goddamn hippies, use.  It’s come to function as a sort of flag for their “counter”-culture.  I’m perfectly happy to have it illegal just for that reason, as a claim of my tribe’s ownership of the community.  If it’s legal, they’ll sell and perhaps use it in public, imprinting the public square with their foreign ways.  God knows the damned hippies do everything in their power to assert their ownership of the public square and to drive us from it.

I actually don’t particularly care about marijuana.  My point is that a person who doesn’t want it legalized just because he associates it with commie-loving hippies is not necessarily being irrational, acting blindly on emotion, or violating some universal ethical principle.

Liberalism promised there could be a truce, with nobody owning the public communal consensus.  It turns out this is incoherent; the only way to do without consensus is to do without community, and liberal rhetoric turns out to be just one more weapon in the perpetual war for hegemony.

more humanities lament: it’s the politics, stupid

The Chronicle of Higher Education has yet another article combatting the supposed loss of status of the humanities to STEM.  Also, Evolutionist X reviews Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise lamenting the public’s insufficient docility toward the authority of experts.  About the Chronicle article and Nichols’s book, I will have nothing to say.  They make a number of interesting and perhaps valid, but ultimately tangential points.  As in my review of Prof. Fish’s article, what strikes me is the odd omission of what is clearly the main issue:  politics, the question of loyalty, of friend vs. enemy.  I don’t trust sociologists and literary critics not because I don’t see the use of what they’re studying, or because I imagine that every opinion no matter how uninformed is as good as any other.  I don’t trust them because they are clearly hostile partisans.

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Franco’s bones

From the Catholic Herald

The Archdiocese of Madrid has warned the Spanish government against plans to exhume the remains of the country’s late dictator, General Francisco Franco, without obtaining agreement from interested parties.

“We want a solution which helps build a peaceful country,” said Rodrigo Pinedo Texidor, archdiocesan communications director, noting that the archdiocese is not for or against the removal of Franco’s remains.

“We are against moves which don’t have his family’s consent and don’t consider what the Church has to say,” he told Catholic News Service after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed plans to remove the remains from a state mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen, near Madrid, by the end of July.

Fr Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, bishops’ conference secretary-general, told journalists that the proposed exhumation had been discussed by Sanchez and conference president, Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, in talks at Madrid’s Moncloa Palace on June 25.

Cardinal Blazquez had confirmed the bishops’ conference would not oppose the move, which was “not up to the Church to decide one way or another,” Fr Tamayo said.

The greatest hero in the history of Christendom, and this is the best we can do for him.

If the men of the Church had any honor at all, they would not only not oppose this move; they would actively promote it.  Spain is no longer worthy to host the holy remains of General Franco.  His remains should be transported in the greatest pomp and splendor to Rome, where an appropriate shrine to the holy relics can be erected.  Pilgrims could come to Rome and pray to the General, from his place in glory among the heavenly host, that he ask God to make haste and send us a dictator, a new Augustus, to rescue Christendom from republican degeneracy.