Monday, December 19, 2005

On the Contempt of the Left: You Are Not Worthy!

Last Friday we posted on envy, a ubiquitous but underappreciated factor in human affairs. In fact, that post elicited a comment that touches on today's topic, contempt. That is, someone pretending to be a psychoanalyst (either that or he's not the brightest of Freud's children) left a comment asking that I "not abuse psychoanalytic terms in the simplistic ways that you have done," adding that "It is obvious from what you have written that your understanding of Psychoanalysis has been gleaned from books and you have not experienced a personal analysis yourself. I would sincerely advise you to undergo an analysis before you write further on Analysis." He concludes on an authoritarian note, asking me to "Kindly desist till you have a fuller understanding of Psychoanalysis." Without adding anything to the debate, this immature and anonymous poster triumphed over me through the use of contempt, control and triumph, the "manic triad."

As with envy, contempt is a term of art that has some overlap with the dictionary definition. It is considered one of the manic defenses, in that it functions to keep feelings of depression and loss at at bay, and to protect the ego from despair. Even more importantly, manic defenses such as contempt are primarily directed against psychic reality, and therefore against truth itself. Through the use of contempt, one may reverse a situation by devaluing the object in question, so as to avoid feelings of guilt, loss or depression. As Hanna Segal writes, "an object of contempt is not an object worthy of guilt, and the contempt that is experienced in relation to such an object becomes justification for further attacks on it."

Obviously, some things are worthy of contempt. But when contempt becomes a habitual state of mind, I find that it is always a defensive structure that is concealing something deeper. I remember a recent interview with Christopher Hitchens, who said words to the effect that his writing revolved around waking up every morning and feeling overwhelmed with anger, contempt and disgust, and just taking it from there. But in Hitchens' case, he has a deep respect for the truth, not to mention great talent as a writer. While I'm not sure I would want to be him, at least his contempt seems to be a righteous contempt, in that it is in the service of truth and creativity.

But what if you just have a boundless reserve of contempt but no talent, not to mention little regard for truth, such as in the case of a Maureen Dowd, or the Air America hosts? Then I think we're talking about contempt as a very dysfunctional state of mind signaling deeper problems.

This weekend on realclearpolitics there was an interesting piece by Thomas Lifson, entitled The Mask Slips. In it, he notes that:

"The past year has seen a spate of shocking statements revealing hatred and contempt for President Bush and his supporters on the part of important media figures who claim objectivity and sneer at conservatives unafraid to characterize themselves as such. Regrettably, we cannot credit a sudden outbreak of honesty for this phenomenon, and thereby anticipate improved news coverage from these folks. A pathology is at work."

Indeed, a pathology is at work. It is out-of-control contempt as a cover for something more important that is going on under the surface--some kind of emotional loss. What could it be? Lifson, who is not a psychoanalyst, plunges right ahead anyway:

"A sudden loss of status and influence is a profound shock to most people who have spent their lives aimed at the acquisition and enjoyment of sociopolitical standing. Relieved of the ability to shape the consciousness and behavior of others, a certain number unburden themselves of the inner restraints which kept them from openly voicing the condescension and scorn they have for those whom they regard as their social, intellectual, and moral inferiors."

Lifson ceases to desist in his analysis:

"The rise of alternate media... has not simply allowed competing voices to be heard in the public square, it has robbed many media grandees of the ultimate reward of their striving after careers as shapers of mass opinion. Some have become unbalanced mentally, and emotionally overwhelmed by the loss. They strike out with blind fury at their 'enemies' (the subjects whom they have covered as 'unbiased' journalists), and thereby let the mask of objectivity slip from their faces, revealing spiteful, arrogant and bigoted visages. By dismissing those who disagree with them as unworthy of consideration, they expose to light the long-hidden dark vision of the rest of humanity that enables them to regard themselves as worthy."

Lifson cites a number of examples, but focuses on the disgraced former editor-in-chief of the New York Times, Howell Raines, who is so consumed with contempt that it is palpable. Raines gave a recent speech which "allowed light to shine on the lunatic obsessions which colored his performance as one of the most influential figures in American media for many years," revealing his obsession "with the Bush family as the embodiment of evil, a multigenerational conspiracy in league with the Dark Force."

In this talk, Raines embraces "the 'false consciousness' explanation of the foolish behavior of the masses, an excuse beloved of Marxist intellectuals to explain the failure of the proletariat to embrace their rightful vanguard.... In this excuse for the stubborn popularity of conservative ideas, the foolish yahoos are being manipulated by Wall Street puppeteers (not Jon Corzine or Robert Rubin or George Soros, of course)." Feel the contempt that Raines has for you:

"The Bushes believe in letting the hoi polloi control the social and religious restrictions flowing from Washington, so long as Wall Street gets to say what happens to the nation’s money. The Republican party as a national institution has endorsed this tradeoff.... He [George W. Bush] adopted the full agenda of redneck America."

Think about this use of the term "redneck" to contemptuously dismiss those with whom he disagrees. As Lifson writes, "After all the years of pretending he was a racially unbiased friend of all humanity, Raines lets the mask slip and demonstrates his raw hatred for white people who haven’t overcome their misfortune in being born in the South..... The unwashed subhumans from whom he escaped the accident of birth are so stupid that even as transparently dull and evil a man as George W. Bush can fool them.... Raines, unconstrained by his former professional role, and writing for a presumably friendly audience overseas, demonstrates race- and class-based scorn for people whose values differ from his. Precisely because Raines is a Southerner who had to prove his bona fides to northern liberals by outdoing them, he demonstrates his contempt for Southern Whites."

Think of it this way. When you read the New York Times (or most any other MSM source), you might believe that you are doing so in order to be informed. But that's only if you agree with their world view. In other words, the unhinged contempt that we are witnessing in much of the MSM is a preview of how they will feel about you should you dare to question them. (This is similar to the dynamic between narcissistic celebrities and their audience--the celebrity is a "somebody" who is ambivalent about requiring the narcissistic mirroring of a bunch of contemptible "nobodies" in order to feel like a somebody.) Therefore, what these media are doing is indistinguishable from indoctrination and control, for if you resist the indoctrination and think for yourself, you immediately become an object of their contempt.

So remember, when you read the New York Times, you're mainly doing it to avoid being contemptuously dismissed by them as a redneck racist, religious fanatic who is too stupid to even recognize what is in your own self-interest. And you probably need more personal analysis as well, until you have uncovered the secret source of your pathological resistance to leftist ideas handed down from your moral and intellectual superiors.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Paranoia Runs Deeper Than I Thought

I don't spend a great deal of time trolling around the liberal side of the liberal media, since I find that the MSM provides more than enough material that defies rational analysis and is suitable for putting on the couch. But today I went searching for some material for tomorrow's post, so I lifted a couple of left-wing cyber-rocks to see what I could see, and the magnitude of the psychopathology was quite shocking.

And I don't hesitate one second to call it psychopathology, any more than I would hesitate to call racism or any other kind of hate-filled paranoia a form of psychopathology. Among other things, such beliefs are fixed and unalterable. They are not prehensions of reality, but projections upon reality. They are not about trying to understand the world, but about managing the disturbing content of one's own psyche. And they are always accompanied by a cluster of defenses centering around smugness, contempt, triumph and control--again, not toward the external world, but toward one's projections onto the external world. These projections reveal nothing about the world, but much about the minds of those who do the projecting.

This one is by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jane Smiley, who, in classic paranoid fashion, suddenly had an all-explaining "revelation" that makes sense of her frightening world. That's right: it turns out that President Bush is not a dry drunk, not a drunk-drunk, not a narcissist, not a madman, and not even an idiot! No! His countless mistakes--which are contemptuously and peremptorily dismissed as mistakes--are all intentional! They're all part of a big design, a master plan to destroy the country!

As she warms to her conspiracy theory, she feverishly contemplates all the quote-unquote mistakes that the Bush administration has supposedly made such as,

"1. Hobbling the government with debt by combining an expensive, prolonged war with perennial rounds of tax cuts.

2. Destroying the bureaucracy by making it impossible for neutral, expert, or objective bureaucrats to keep their jobs, replacing them with incompetents.

3. Destroying the integrity of the election system, state by state, beginning with Florida and Ohio.

4. Defanging the media by paying fake reporters, co-opting members of the MSM (why did the New York Times refrain from publishing stories unfavorable to the Bush administration before the 2004 election?)

5. Destroying the middle class by changing the bankruptcy laws and the tax laws.

6. Destroying the National Guard and the Army by deploying them over and over in a futile war, while at the same time failing to provide them with armor and equipment.

7. Precipitating Iraq into a civil war by invading it.

8. Accelerating the effects of global warming by putting roadblocks in the way of mitigating its effects.

9. Denying healthcare and prescription medication to an increasing number of Americans, most specifically by ramming the prescription drug legislation through Congress, but also by manipulating Medicare and Medicaid so that fewer and fewer citizens are covered.

10. Encouraging the people in the rest of the world to associate the US with torture, military incursion, and fear, by a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, by vociferously maintaining the right of the US to do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and by refusing to accept international laws."

Ah ha! It all makes sense! Bush wants to destroy the government, dismantle the bureaucracy, ruin the electoral system, bring the media to its knees, lay waste to the middle class, wreck the military, create a civil war in Iraq, devastate the environment, make people get sick and die, and cause the world to hate us!

Don't you see?! It all a big conspiracy! Even the New York Times is in on it!

Smiley knowingly asks, "How else are we going to interpret the satisfaction the President continually expresses in the results of his policies so far?" How else, I ask you? Hmm?

You see, "When the government has been shrunk to nothing and drowned in the bathtub, the citizenry will be entirely powerless--that is the real goal, not an unintended consequence."

(Now panting and perspiring): Yes, yes! "The outcome of such policies will be a dictatorship or a tyranny.... Bush is about enhancing the power of himself and his cronies and dismantling any countervailing entity. The Bushies are not shy about acting on their craving for power or about talking about it.... [T]he ruthless drive for power of Bush and his cronies is really not about ideas, and in fact views ideas as a kind of trash, even, according to witnesses, the ideas expressed in the Constitution."

Smiley is not being polemical or metaphorical, much less hysterical. No people, this is REAL: "Do they actually plan to disenfranchise everyone but their reliable base? Well, yes they do.... If they have control of the electronic voting machines, they can. Do they actually plan for their associates and cronies to skim off vast quantities of the taxpayers’ money? Well, yes they do.... Do they actually plan to let New Orleans, that blue spot in a red state, slip away? Looks like it. Do they actually plan to destroy the middle class? They are making good progress--poverty was up twelve percent last year, and the “booming economy” is strangely low on job growth... "

There is simply no way this kind of thinking can be taken at face value. I am actually somewhat hesitant to psychoanalyze those with whom I disagree, as it's too easy to simply use that as a way to avoid debate. But what's to debate here? You can't argue with such a person. It would be idiotic. This kind of thinking demands psychoanalytic interpretation. It cannot be explained in any other way.

It is also amazing to me that the left routinely dismisses conservative thought as "simplistic." What could be more simplistic than an all-encompassing, overarching paranoid theory that explains everything?

What is perhaps even more disturbing is all of the enthusiastic agreement in the posts that follow Smiley's piece. Paranoia on the left runs much deeper than even I had thought. They fervently, and apparently routinely, believe things that would have to possess much more reality and logic to even be considered implausible.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Envy of the Left (or No Good News Goes Unpunished)

One of the most important but little known concepts in psychoanalysis is that of envy. It is a term of art, not to be confused with the dictionary definition. While potentially present in all people, it becomes much more problematic when aggravated by primitive defense mechanisms such as splitting and projective identification. It is one of the most important "mind parasites" discussed in my book, One Cosmos Under God.

According to Webster's, envy is defined as "malice," and a "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another, joined with a desire to possess the same advantage." The psychoanalytic understanding of envy is that it is an unconscious fantasy aimed at attacking, damaging, or destroying what is good, because of the intolerable feeling that one does not possess and control the object of goodness. As such, it is an aspect of what Freud called the death instinct, since it ultimately involves a destructive attack on the sources of life and goodness. Particularly envious individuals cannot tolerate the pain of not possessing and controlling the "good object," so they preemptively spoil it so that they don't have to bear the pain.

What is critical--and so perverse--about envy, is that it is not an attack on "the bad" or frustrating, but a hateful attack on what is good. As a result, the psyche of such individuals confuses what is bad and what is good, and cannot experience a sense of gratitude toward the good, the sine qua non of happiness and mental health. The envious person does not want to have a relationship with the good object, but wants to be that object. If it cannot be the object, then it attacks it to eliminate the tension.

Yesterday was an instructive but disturbing case study in the many ways of envy. Here we had such wonderful news coming out of Iraq, but the left found a multitude of ways to devalue, attack, and "spoil" the news through their excessive envy--by ignoring it, by downplaying it, by qualifying it, and by completely assaulting it with near-psychotic delusions.

I went trolling around the darker precincts of the blogosphere yesterday in search of envious attacks on the good news, and they weren't difficult to find. These samples are mostly taken from dailykos and the Huffington website. Note the specific quality of infantile spoiling:

--"Both sides are participating in these elections to screw the other side and not for any real reason beyond that (although promises to end the occupation, even if lies, represent a tasty carrot)."

--"This is our last chance to leave on terms where we can still claim some marginal success. Because it's all downhill from here. It's the Joke of the Week. An inside joke that few seem to get."

--"Democracy isn't elections. Many a dictator has won an 'election' by overwhelming landslide."

--"This is precisely what BushCo want us to believe. Distract us from the violence and the deaths, of both U.S. and coalition forces and the Iraqi people, by staging these phony elections and giving us these photo ops."

--"Earlier this week, on Air America, I heard about a truck of ballots being intercepted on it's way from Iran.  With Iran & the U.S. both wanting a desired outcome, I don't think it matters what the Iraqis want.  Either Iran or the U.S. is going to win this election, votes be damned."

--"As far as the election goes, the whole thing stinks to me... purple fingers be damned... I've become a bit of a cynic in the last five years..."

--"Bush’s false claims of 'bringing democracy to Iraq' cannot be the prerequisite for ending the occupation and bringing home all the U.S. troops. The invasion and occupation were and remain illegal, and it is our obligation to fight to end it now."

--"This Election is to Make People Forget about the Occupation

--"If the election was successful, troops will come home immediately. Otherwise 'success' is just a Bush lie. Another lie. Bring the troops home now."

--"If Kerry were president, this day would have come much sooner. And far less money and human life would have been wasted."

--"You warmongers cannot have it both ways. If the election was a success, the U.S. is done. If there is a democracy there, the U.S. has no business staying there. It's either a democracy, or a country occupied by the U.S."

--"The IRAQ Elections are rigged... rigged elections is THE ONLY THING repugs are good at!"

--"This time the sunnis participated"... wonder why? No purple finger = no food... You didn't know that? That's right, goebbel's nazi US MSM never tells you that... or anything of value for that matter."

--"This election, as the others, is a farce. The 'victory' Bushpigs are crowing about hasn't happened, and can't happen unless we leave Iraq and they're able to carry out peaceful elections on their own. Does anyone think that they're anywhere near being able to do that? I certainly don't, but then unlike the Bushpigs, I don't have my head up my ass.

--"If the supreme traitors had not stolen your and my vote on 12-12-2000, of course none of this would have happened.... especially 9-11 which was perpetrated by bush. I know, it's a tabou subject in nazi US, but NOBODY in the rest of the world believes the 9-11 fairytale (Why did wtc 7 come down?)."

*************

Envy is such an important but generally ignored concept, probably because people don't want to consider the sinister ways it operates in their own lives. But it is a key that unlocks many mysteries, particularly in politics. So strong and ubiquitous is envy, that you cannot have a political system that doesn't accommodate or find some way to manage envy. You might say that one party will generally represent the envied, the other the envious. Guess which ones.

UPDATE--

Victor Davis Hanson has a typically outstanding piece today that highlights the power of envy in shaping people's perception of reality--of their need to spoil the good. He writes:

"For some time, a large number of Americans have lived in an alternate universe where everything is supposedly going to hell. If you get up in the morning to read the New York Times or Washington Post, watch John Murtha or Howard Dean on the morning talk shows, listen to National Public Radio at noon, and go to bed reading Newsweek it surely seems that the administration is incommunicado (cf. “the bubble”), the war is lost (“unwinnable”), the Great Depression is back (“jobless recovery”), and America about as popular as Nazi Germany abroad (“alone and isolated”).

But in the real adult world, the economy is red-hot, not mired in joblessness or relegating millions to poverty. Unemployment is low, so are interest rates. Growth is high, as is consumer spending and confidence.... The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on....

Nor are we creating new hordes of terrorists in Iraq — as if a young male Middle Eastern fundamentalist first hates the United States only on news that it is in Iraq crafting a new Marshall Plan of $87 billion and offering a long-oppressed people democracy after taking out Saddam Hussein. Even al Jazeera cannot turn truth into untruth forever....

The world does not hate the United States. Of course, it envies us. Precisely because it is privately impressed by our unparalleled success, it judges America by a utopian measure in which anything less than perfection is written off as failure."

********

To put it in psychoanalytic terms, I would simply change that last paragraph to read, "The world hates the United States because it envies us. Precisely because they cannot tolerate our unparalleled goodness and success, they attack it and turn America into a uniquely bad object. In doing so they have destroyed the good and conflated good and bad, but at least they don't have to feel the pain of envy."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Moral Inversion

Yesterday Michael Medved made a somewhat passing comment as to how one of the biggest hurdles for the left is that so many people are repelled by their habitual "moral equivalency." For example, I well remember back in the '70's and '80's, when leftists argued that the United States and Soviet Union were morally equivalent--that they were just two giant empires that ran things slightly differently (which is why they were outraged--morally outraged, I might emphasize--when President Reagan had the audacity to refer to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire").

And the left had a ready response to any objection. What about exploitation of the population? "We do the same thing, except that we hide our exploitation in third world countries--El Salvador, Nicaragua, The Philippines, etc." What about economic freedom? "Meaningless. In Cuba and the USSR they have free health care and no illiteracy." What about political prisoners? "Don't be naive-fifty percent of our prison population is black. Most of these are political prisoners, like Tookie and Mumia." What about their aggressive, expansionist military policies? "Hey, we're the only country that's ever used the nuclear bomb. We're the biggest terrorist on earth."

In my opinion, this kind of thinking goes beyond moral equivalence--it is moral inversion, or literally turning the moral order of the world upside down. "Moral equivalence" sounds too bland and passive, whereas these moral inverts may well be more passionate about their morality than you or I, just as a child molester may be more passionate about his sex life than you or I. All emotionally mature people understand that sexuality can be a dangerous and destructive force when unhinged from any moral framework. But few people seem to understand that a much worse type of destruction can occur when the moral impulse becomes unhinged.

People typically think that the right represents the party of sanctimonious and judgmental morality, but this is hardly the case. In fact, this is an exact reversal of the situation. Morality in and of itself is neither moral nor immoral. Sometimes--perhaps more often than not--a moral system can actually be a source of great evil. One of the things that sets human beings apart from animals is that we cannot avoid making moral distinctions. There seems to be a built in need to distinguish between right and wrong. This impulse is just as strong and ubiquitous as the sex drive, and, just like the sex drive, can become distorted and perverted. With the left, we are generally not dealing with immoral people, but with quite serious moral perversion. And I say this in all seriousness and with all due respect.

For example, yesterday on LGF, Charles linked to a photo gallery of the anti-death penalty demonstrators outside San Quentin Prison Monday night. Here are examples of some of the signs that were carried by protesters: "Tookie Has Done More For Kids Than Arnold." "Arnold is a Nazi. Terminate Him Now." "America is Still Murdering Blacks. Slavery: 1492-Present." "Tookie = Greater Integrity. Worth 100 Times as Much to Our World as All of the Neocons, Hypochristians & Fascist Pigs of Profit."

So clearly, there is an extraordinary amount of moral passion behind these sentiments. And yet, it is an insane and deranged moral passion. The philosopher Michael Polanyi pointed out that what distinguishes leftism in all its forms is the dangerous combination of a ruthless contempt for traditional moral values with an unbounded moral passion for utopian perfection. The first step in this process is a complete skepticism that rejects traditional ideals of moral authority and transcendent moral obligation--a complete materialistic skepticism combined with a boundless, utopian moral fervor to transform mankind. However, being that the moral impulse remains in place, there is no longer any boundary or channel for it.

We can see the deadly combination of these two--“skepticism and moral passion,” or “burning moral fervor with hatred of existing society”--in every radical secular revolution since the French Revolution--from the Bolsheviks to nazi Germany to campus unrest in the 1960s. If society has no divine sanction but is made by man, men can and must perfect society now, while all opposition must be joyfully crushed--with moral sanction, of course. We saw this Monday night, with the peaceful anti-death penalty protestors joyfully intimidating and attacking those few proponents of capital punishment in the crowd, and with cadres of Nation of Islam goons intimidating anyone in the crowd who looked or behaved normally.

I was trying to think of all the ways the contemporary left are morally inverted. I'm sure you will be able to think of many I have missed. I'm a little pressed for time at the moment, but I'll add some during the day, as they come to me.

For example, John Murtha insists that there is a sharp distinction between terrorists and the "insurgents" we are fighting in Iraq--even (or especially) when these "insurgents" have no other purpose but to murder innocent civilians. But this has long been a policy of the left--for example, insisting that Palestinian terrorists somehow belong to a different category than other terrorists.

Of course, seeing any similarity between President Bush and Hitler, or Ariel Sharon and Hitler, is quite morally insane. One hardly knows how to respond to such individuals. And yet, there are millions of leftists in America and Europe who believe it.

In promoting his new movie Munich, Steven Spielberg has made a number of comments indicating his belief that there is no real distinction between terror and Israel's response to it. In general, leftists are genuinely unable to see the vast moral gulf that exists between Israel and her Arab enemies.

Or how about our elite universities, who are fighting to prevent military recruitment on campus, but welcome anti-Semites and terrorist sympathizers of all stripes, many of whom are on their faculties?

A "lie" has now been redefined to mean a statement one believes to be true at the time, but is later unsubstantiated. I believe any morally intact child would be able to understand the immorality of this kind of perverse morality, but the left are again genuinely unable to draw the distinction.

Or Ted Kennedy says that nothing has changed in Abu Ghraib prison--that it is simply "under new management." Dick Durbin says our military is no different than Pol Pot or Stalin.

Of course, leftists routinely compare Islamofascists to Christians whom they believe wish to impose a theocracy on the United States.

We are in danger of failing as a society if we cannot equip half of our citizens to reason coherently in the most rudimentary moral categories.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Paranoia Runs Deep, Into the Left it Will Creep

One of the hallmarks of paranoia is that the paranoid individual becomes inordinately frightened of the object into which they have projected their paranoia. That is, paranoia is fundamentally an infantile defense mechanism through which the "bad" or unwanted content of one's own mind can be displaced and located elsewhere, so that one may gain a spurious sense of comfort and safety.

However, we can't really "project" what we don't want out of our own minds. In other words, paranoid projection is an unconscious fantasy in which one part of the mind is actually projected into another part of one's own mind. For example, if I project all evil into Shrinkwrapped, that doesn't mean my projections have actually left my head and lodged themselves in him. Rather, I simply imagine that my own "badness" is outside of me, while in actuality it is now located in another part of me.

Because we cannot actually project our badness out of ourselves, it always returns in a hypertrophied, monstrous form (I won't go into all of the technical details as to why this happens). Paranoids always think that they hate the object of their paranoia because the object is evil. But it's the other way around: they believe the object of their paranoia is evil because they hate them, and simply fear the "boomerang" of their own hatred coming back to them. This process is very transparent in children, but if you are perceptive, you have undoubtedly observed it occasionally operating in yourself. Think of someone you've been very angry with, and the discomfort you might have felt in being around them, as if they are going to lash back "in kind." (For example, once I was very mad at Petey, and began thinking he was going to put in an anonymous complaint about me to the Board of Psychology.)

This process is pretty much at the core of Bush Derangement Syndrome. In fact, the further leftward you travel, the more it becomes the central organizing principle of their political life: projection of hatred and a near delusional fear of backlash. For the more intensely you project into the other, the more intensely overblown will be the resultant paranoid fear: the object of paranoia will be capable of anything: lies, deceit, civil rights violations, wiretapping, tax audits, imposition of theocracy, murder, you name it. (You will note that the identical process occurred with certain loony elements of the right during the Clinton presidency. Most on the right simply regarded him as a poll-driven narcissist with an extremely elastic set of values, whereas people on the extreme far right actually believed that Clinton had left a pile of murder victims in his ruthless wake. To them he wasn't just a rudderless opportunist, but a serial murderer who eliminated anyone who got in his way!)

One of the hallmarks of the paranoid style is a distorted conception of the power of the fantasized enemy. At times, the enemy is seen as an omnipotent, tireless, demonically competent adversary (The Republican Attack Machine! The Rovian Puppet Master Orchestrating World Events!), while at other times the same enemy is felt to be weak, decadent, and on the verge of collapse (Bush is stupid, his second term is over, he has lost the support of his own party, etc.). Likewise, the image of one's own self (or country) may vary between a godlike supremacy and a terrible, childlike vulnerability, with no ability to integrate (or even notice) these contradictory images.

This same paranoid style absolutely dominates the mindscape of the Muslim Middle East in a completely unchecked way. Obviously, the psychic economy of radical Islam has a special place for Jews and for Israel. Indeed, Arab discourse on the subject of Israel is so psychotically violent, so grotesquely distorted, that their perennial desire to "liquidate the Zionist entity" can only be understood in developmental terms as the lost entitlement of a wrathful infant. In his book The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy, Daniel Pipes provides example after example of the type of preoperational, magical, paranoid thinking style that pervades the Muslim world. Even sophisticated Middle Easterners "interpret great public issues through the prism of conspiracy theories" which are "virtually immune to rational argument."

Just like the typical paranoid one might encounter in a mental health clinic, these Muslim conspiracy theorists don't employ what we would call the usual methods of logic, critical thinking or analytical rigor. Contradictory beliefs are freely entertained, with no seeming discomfort or even awareness of the cognitive dissonance. There is a tendency to divide the world into absolute categories of good and evil, followers and infidels. There is a decided lack of a sense of humor, a dour sensibility--almost as bad as Air America, but not quite. Conspiracy seekers also believe that appearances are always deceptive and complex, and that there is no such thing as a coincidence. And yet behind it all there is a simple explanation: a demonic, omnipotent, clever and far-sighted, and yet somehow vague enemy, motivated by a malevolent desire to destroy Islam.

Thus, many in the Muslim world believe that Zionism is a bloodthirsty, expansionist conspiracy bent on world domination. For example, the cartoon-like charter of the PLO reads that Zionism is a "constant source of threat" to the entire world, "racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods," "strategically placed" to combat Arab liberation and progress. During a recent weekly televised sermon, a Palestinian cleric taught that among the evil deeds of the Jews was the Holocaust itself, which was "planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy."

Similarly, the charter of Hamas, the Islamist terror gang, informs us that wealthy Zionists have taken over "control of the world media . . . they stood behind World War I. . . . They also stood behind World War II . . . They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council . . . in order to rule the world by their intermediary" and "liquidate Islam." But at the same time, Jews are seen as corrupt, feeble and morally weak. For example, an Egyptian high school textbook noted that Israel "shall wither and decline. Even If all the human race, and the devil in Hell, conspire to aid her, she shall not exist."

Can you see how the delusional fear of Israel--which craves nothing more than peaceful coexistence with her neighbors--results from the projected hatred, not vice versa?

Let's take a random example from our own country. I plucked this from realclearpolitics.com on Sunday. It's by Joan Vennochi, a columnist for the Boston Globe, entitled It's Macho Time in America.

She starts of with the familiar paranoid refrain that "When Democrats challenge the Bush administration regarding its policy in Iraq, Republicans challenge their patriotism and toughness." This statement by Vennochi represents unvarnished paranoia--I have yet to see a single example of President Bush or anyone in his administration questioning anyone's patriotism, no matter how deserving. However, the left has engaged in nonstop questioning of Bush's patriotism, for if it isn't unpatriotic to intentionally deceive the country in order to lead it into a needless war and kill American servicemen, what is? That's beyond unpatriotic, it's a high crime, a misdemeanor, and frankly treasonous. So naturally, if one projects murder and treason into President Bush, it shouldn't be surprising that the projector will experience a fantasied backlash.

Next, Vennochi complains about the new Republican video, featuring a white flag of surrender accompanied by the statement: ''Our country is at war. Our soldiers are watching, and our enemies are too. Message to Democrats: Retreat and Defeat is not an option." The video highlights recent critical comments about the Iraq war made by Howard Dean, John Kerry, and Barbara Boxer. No tricks or distortions at all, just their actual words, and yet, this somehow represents a sinister ploy designed to castrate Democrats and depict them as cowards. In fact, many prominent Democrats are calling for surrender. Vennochi's claim that the ad is calling Democrats "cowards" is a classic case of "methinks thou dost protest too much," Shakespeare's clumsy way of saying "I'm rubber and you're glue."

There are further paranoid hallucinations in this editorial. For example, Vennochi states that the Bush administration has similarly attacked "opponents of torture" (a double hallucination, for there is no evidence whatsoever of the widespread so-called torture she is fantasizing about). She suggests that "opponents of torture" are "labeled as weaklings and cowards if they suggest that stooping to the enemies' tactics is poor policy that so far achieved poor results." Again, I don't believe she could identify a single example of anyone in the Bush administration labeling opponents of torture "weaklings and cowards." But if you're attacking Bush for something he didn't do, it's likely that you will fantasize that he is attacking you in a similarly delusional manner.

Vennochi then veers into embarrassingly transparent psychosexual material, complaining that "Democrats who question administration policy regularly find their manhood under attack. It happened to Kerry during the last presidential contest, even though he was the Vietnam War veteran running against an opponent who served stateside in the National Guard.... Just last month, Vice President Dick Cheney thought nothing of questioning the backbone of Representative John P. Murtha.... " Of course, no one questioned Kerry's or Murtha's "manhood," but that is entirely beside the point. It is simply the boomerang effect of having spent five years questioning Bush's manhood: childish mind, immature world view, petulant, stubborn, living in the shadow of his Daddy, all-around simpleton.

I long ago stopped reading the paper--that is, liberal papers--in a conventional way. Rather, as James Joyce might have done, I look at the paper as a sort of crazy dream that the liberal world had the previous night. As with any patient, it's my job to interpret the dream, to make sense of the distortions, symbolic displacements, fundamental conflicts, repetitive themes, etc. A few years back, a clever fellow wrote a book called A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, chronicling all of the statistically illogical ways that people interpret the news. A psychologist ought to do the same thing with the liberal media. I can't do it, because I'm afraid they'll come after me, inspect my library records, and question my manhood.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Eternal Life in Three Easy Steps!

Virtually all spiritual practices, from whatever tradition, may be broken down into the three-part process of purification, illumination, and union. The first part, purification, is referred to in Christianity as "metanoia," or repentance. Repentance has taken on some unfortunate connotations, but the literal meaning of metanoia is to "change one's mind," specifically, to turn away from the surface world of illusion to the world of the Real. It means to turn toward another world that now is, about a micron or two away from the surface world. This other world "shimmers through" the familiar world, but we must purify ourselves in order to reliably see it. When the Bible talks about the "light shining in the darkness," this is the light it's talking about--it is similar to the noetic light that shines through a great poem or painting, and which cannot be detected by our Darwinian eyes.

Before purification or metanoia take place, we live in a kind of horizontal freedom that is in reality a form of imprisonment. We are actually locked inside our own mind. To be perfectly accurate, a psychologically healthy person is not an entirely closed system, but is an open system with other minds. But still, the mind as such forms a closed system unless it is open to vertical energies that transcend its limitations. Purification is necessary because our purely mental conceptions interfere with the ability to see what transcends them. This is why it is said that the wisdom of God is folly to the Greeks--to the rational mind.

Richard Smoley, author of Inner Christianity, describes it thus: "In ordinary life, attention is directed outward, toward the world of sensations, thoughts and feelings. With a certain shift in attention, the mind is directed within, toward the center of being, beyond all thoughts and representations, where God meets the individual self. Such 'repentence' may indeed involve a change in one's way of life, but from an esoteric point of view, such changes are likely to develop organically out of an increase in consciousness. As you see and understand more of the inner worlds, love, kindness, and compassion become more spontaneous and natural." So technically, we can "repent" on the way to illumination, or repentance and the positive character changes that follow can flow naturally from a deepening of consciousness.

Contrary to what scientific materialists believe, with purification, one actually begins to see the world as it is. In other words, the world disclosed by science is fine as far as it goes, but we must never forget that it is an abstraction from the fullness of reality--it is not the thing itself, but an abstract representation of it. The Real Thing is so impossibly rich and multifaceted that it could never be "contained" by the linear categories of science.

There are many ways to practice purification--meditation, contemplation, prayer, ritual, certain types of reading (lectio divina), etc. If successful, you should be able to experience a bit of "levitation," as you are lifted from this plane and offered a glimpse of the adjacent World. You may not be able to fully inhabit that world, but you can certainly know of its existence, as it becomes increasingly clear, luminous and transparent. This is called "illumination," "awakening," or being "born again from above." It signifies the breakthrough of vertical energies, an awakening to higher truth, love and beauty. This may be confusing, because it doesn't mean to posit two entirely different worlds. Rather, it is to see another world within this world (actually, "around" this world; this world is contained within it).

In this regard it is somewhat similar to modern conceptions of the unconscious in psychoanalysis. In Freud's older model, the unconscious was literally thought of as a sort of separate realm, with a horizontal line between the ego--the conscious part of ourselves--and the unconscious "below." But now we understand that there is more or less of the unconscious in every conscious thought, emotion or act. It is more of a "holographic" model, in which various dimensions of the psyche are copresent and interpenetrating.

The same is true with respect to the logic of Divine presence. In one respect it is "above," in the sense that it is ontologically and developmentally higher. Nevertheless, it is an immanent, "embodied above" that interpenetrates the "below." That is why, as I said above, it is just a micron away--just a tiny shift in perception brings it out, like a small movement of a kaleidoscope brings a new pattern into view.

Illumination can be a lifelong process, since the realm of spirit is literally inexhaustible. We use language and other symbols to translate it into a local representation, but this is simply going to the river with a bucket. Don't confuse your little bucket with the boundless River of Light.

The promise of the final stage is union, known in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as "theosis," in Vedanta as "moksha" or "samadhi," or in Kabbalistic Judaism as "Yecidah" ("single one"). It's what happens when you die. Of course, if you arrange to die before you die, then you can experience it while you live. Or so we have heard from the Wise. But in any event, there's nothing to worry about. One way or another, you'll get there, either heart first or feet first.

In One Cosmos Under God, I tried to capture some of what we're talking about here in a more poetic and metaphysically humorous form, at the very end of the book. Here is some of it, rendered in verse instead of prose*:

If your powers of deception were cleansed
Then nothing would appear as it isn't.
No body crosses the phoenix line
Lest it be repossessed and amortized.
Some by fire, some by flood,
But all buy the farm & bury the form.
Eloha, that's a good bye
For the Love that removes the sin and other scars
(speaking allegheirically).

*(If anyone can decipher all of the puns and literary allusions packed into this little snippet, I hereby grant you one indulgence for any past or future foible, peccadillo, or indiscretion.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bush Lied, Logic Died

It's amazing to me that the "Bush Lied" meme has gained as much traction as it has. Roughly fifty percent of the population believe it, and it is fair to say that the belief is both unsupportable and ineradicable. In fact, if there were actually a little evidence for the belief that Bush lied about WMD, the assertion would be less believable, because the evidence would then have to be weighed against all of the other considerable evidence that the WMD existed. Thus, by actually having no evidence, the Bush-lied conspiracy theorists can imagine a secret "smoking gun" of such massive proportions that anyone who saw it would know in an instant that Saddam absolutely had no WMD. And the imagination is much more powerful than reality--especially the paranoid imagination.

The conspiracy theorists have it exactly backwards. The burden of proof should be on those who are making the accusation that Bush lied. As it stands, the accusers are getting a free ride, since they are making an ex post facto argument to the effect that, since WMD have not been found, ergo Bush was lying about them. This is such a perverse substitute for thought. In reality, of course, one must consider only the evidence that President Bush had before him at the time he made the decision to invade. Therefore, it is necessary for those who argue that Bush is lying to present us with the evidence that proves that Bush knew the WMD did not exist.

In fact, no one has identified, nor will anyone ever identify, the supposed evidence that President Bush had to have had in his possession that trumped all of the other intelligence and convinced him that there were no WMD in Iraq. For that is what the conspiracy theorists are asking us to believe. If Bush is lying, his lie is necessarily based on some evidence that only Bush and no one else has seen--not the CIA, not the UN, not any of the other intelligence agencies in the world. And it had to be extremely powerful, compelling evidence to overturn all of the counter-evidence. So where is it?

One of the problems is that politics in general, and the Democratic party in particular, is dominated by lawyers, especially trial lawyers. (Ambulance-chasing trial lawyers such as John Edwards are the largest donors to the Democratc party.) And lawyers are trained to think legalistically, not morally. More ominously, they can just as well use an argument to attack truth as a means to arrive at it. This is not necessarily their fault. It is what they do. But we should be able to see through this kind of false logic.

I have a great deal of familiarity with how unscrupulous lawyers think and behave, because I do a fair amount of forensic work in psychology. Apparently, what I would call inexcusably unethical behavior, they would call "being an effective lawyer." This would include muddying an issue rather than illuminating it, twisting logic rather than applying it, and attacking truth rather than honoring it. (Obligatory disclaimer--the field is also full of unethical psychologists, just as there are many fine and decent lawyers.)

Few cases in the field of forensic psychology are absolute "slam dunks." Rather, one takes a detailed history, reviews medical records, administers psychological tests, and conducts a mental status examination, so that there will be a wealth of different kinds of evidence and information to arrive at an opinion. Once you have been convinced that a certain opinion is true, you don't present the opinion as being fifty-one percent true, or seventy-five percent true, but as simply true. In other words, you present the argument as strongly as you can. You give countervailing arguments their due, but with logic, evidence, rhetoric and presentation, you make the strongest case you can

Clearly, this is what the Bush administration did with regard to their belief that Saddam possessed WMD. Undoubtedly there were countervailing arguments, but nothing that outweighed the mountain of evidence pointing to their existence. Therefore, just as in my job as a forensic psychologist, they made their argument as strongly as possible, based on the weight of the evidence. Bear in mind that at no point was the threshold of evidence one hundred percent, or even seventy five percent. Rather, in a life-or death situation such as this, the threshold may not even have had to be fifty percent. For example, what if someone told you that there was a twenty-five percent chance you had a brain tumor? Would you go to the doctor? Or would you wait until you were one hundred percent convinced? What if there was a twenty-five percent chance Saddam would possess nukes within five years?

But just as in my job, it is very easy for a clever lawyer with no interest in the truth to attack some small portion of the argument, so as to convey the impression that the entire argument has been toppled. You will note that this was the strategy of O.J. Simpson's diabolical legal team. By attacking this or that small aspect of the evidence, it was easy enough to sway an invincibly stupid and credulous jury that was predisposed to believe in Simpson's innocence anyway. Simpson's attorneys gave the jury "permission" to believe what they wanted to believe.

The MSM and their political action wing, the Democratic party, are using this identical strategy in putting forth the "Bush lied" meme to a dim and/or credulous population in the throes of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Everyone thinks that Johnnie Cochrane was motivated by some great love of black people and their cause. In reality, he had such utter contempt for them, that he knew that his courtroom trickery would snow them. Likewise, Democratic elites have such contempt for the intelligence of the average Democrat, that they know all they have to do is throw out a couple of bogus arguments, and they can lead them by the nose, much as they have cynically done with minorities over the past forty years.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Vertical Church of the Perpetual Bob Scrapped

When I first began writing One Cosmos Under God, I thought I might have to invent a new religion in order to convey my ideas about spirituality. This would have meant becoming a guru, corralling a bunch of fawning disciples, or "bobbleheads", soliciting constant love offerings (i.e., cash) from my flock, and deputizing Petey to be my official spokesperson.

However, as I immersed myself in Higher Things, I happily discovered that all of the available "big box" religions are perfectly capable of taking you just as far as you want to go in the realm of Spirit. These things aren't necessarily advertised to the masses. Rather, you have to go deep into your tradition, way past the mere Words department, so that you may forego the pastorized milk in favor of drinking directly from the sacred cow.

Christianity is a case in point. If you're anything like me, then it is likely that you internalized a dysfunctional version of Christianity as a child, warping your ability to see it as anything other than a bunch of quaint fairy tales for the slack-jawed masses. From my earliest exposure to Christianity in Sunday school as a child, I had some real problems with it--not because of Christianity, but because of the people presenting it. Something is wrong if religion is conveyed by an adult to a six year-old in such a way that the child thinks to himself, "Geez, what an idiot. Does he really believe this stuff?" It is fair to say that I struggled with some version of this smug and misguided six year-old attitude for the subsequent thirty years or so, which is what undoubtedly prompted me to initially seek metaphysical nourishment elsewhere, in eastern religions. I'm sure this is a common pattern.

As I say in my book, I see spiritual reality as a sort of invisible topology with innumerable "springs" dotting the landscape and bubbling forth vertically from another dimension. Fortunately for me, in the course of writing my book, I stumbled upon one of these springs that allowed me to appreciate the great beauty, power and truth of Christianity. I look at the different religions--real religions--as analogous to, say, telescopes or microscopes in the realm of science. Just as the scientist uses a microscope to enlarge invisible entities so that they may be seen, we "look through" the great religions in order to see another kind of invisible reality that normally cannot be detected. I used to think that you only practiced a religion if you believed in God. Now I understand that you practice a religion in order to know God.

If you are using your religion as a successful macroscope, then it will awaken hidden layers of the soul, which in turn will provide you with the means necessary to see more deeply into the Divine. As this happens, you will experience a compelling influx of new ideas, capacities, sentiments, and aspirations that cannot be explained in any other way. Religions are full of "secret" knowledge that is inaccessible to those who do not take the time to practice one.

In order to allow the things above to be reflected in the things below, you must create a mirror that is clean and stable: "The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep" (Chuang Tzu). Effort is required, but effort alone is insufficient. And it is an unusual kind of effort, because it is actually more like a "non-effort." That is, one must first learn to silence the mind and unknow one's thoughts. There is a reversal of figure and ground, so that silence becomes the context out of which thoughts arise and pass away. Effortless silence is anterior to spiritual knowing, but it is a concentrated and expectant silence, a foreknowledge of as yet undiscovered things.

Thankfully, the cosmos is not a closed circle, but an open circle with an entrance and exit. An unknown Christian friend says that the key to reconciling personal effort and spiritual reality is to master concentration without effort and transform work into play. This is why I say that my eight month old is my new spiritual advisor. With single-minded playfulness, he busies himself along that vast shoreline where the infinite sea washes up to the edge of our finite shore, where this world ends and another begins. There is no other moment than this one, and never has been. It just gets deeper.

Friday, December 02, 2005

How I Cured Myself of Leftism

Yesterday, reader Julian asked an excellent question: "How is that I used to be a liberal but then changed? Why are some of the smart people I know still wedded to the Kool-aid, but others not? Is it some sort of blend of inertia and fear of the unknown?"

The first thought that comes to mind is that I knew this would happen once people started tinkering with the definition of marriage. Soon enough, people would be wedding Kool-aid.

Seriously, I used to think this was a purely psychological question, but it can't be that simple. Like you--like almost everyone--I also began as a leftist. I guess I'll have to start with analyzing my own awakening, and then determine if it has any general applicability to others.

At this point in time, I am more inclined to think of leftism as an intellectual pathology rather than a psychological one (although there is clearly considerable overlap). What I mean is that it is impossible to maintain a priori that a conservative person is healthier or more emotionally mature than a liberal. There are plenty of liberals who believe crazy things but are wonderful people, and plenty of conservatives who have the right ideas but are rotten people. However, this may be begging the question, for it is still puzzling why people hold beliefs that are demonstrably untrue or at the very least unwise.

One of the problems is with our elites. We are wrong to think that the difficulty lies in the uneducated and unsophisticated masses--as if inadequate education, in and of itself, is the problem. As a matter of fact, no one is more prone to illusions than the intellectual. It has been said that philosophy is simply personal error on a grandiose scale. Complicating matters is the fact that intellectuals are hardly immune to a deep emotional investment in their ideas, no less than the religious individual. The word "belief" is etymologically linked to the word "beloved," and it is easy to see how certain ideas, no matter how dysfunctional--for example, some of the undeniably appealing ideas underpinning contemporary liberalism--are beloved by those who believe them. Thus, many liberal ideas are believed not because they are true, but because they are beautiful. Then, the intellectual simply marshals their intelligence in service of legitimizing the beliefs that they already hold. It has long been understood by psychoanalysts that for most people, reason is the slave of the passions.

Underneath the intellectual's attachment to the dysfunctional idea is a more insidious fear that their entire intellectual cathedral, carefully constructed over a lifetime, will collapse in ruins. Religious people are not as prone to this same fear, because they accept it that their religion is ultimately based on a leap of faith. One can see how this is playing out, for example, in the intellgent design debate that has philosophical materialists frothing at the mouth. Intellectuals live under the illusion that their system is based solely on facts and logic, which is easily disproved, even with regard to mathematical knowledge (for example, Godel's theorems prove that there is no formal system that does not contain assumptions unwarranted and unproveable by the system). For most intellectuals, understanding actually precedes knowledge. In other words, they have a certain feeling about the world, and then only pay attention to knowledge that confirms that feeling-based view.

That liberalism is a new pseudo-religion seems quite obvious to me. While it is true that the conservative intellectual movement includes religious groups, it has been my experience that conservatism actually maintains a far clearer separation of religious and political impulses than liberalism, simply because it acknowledges a sharp difference between the two. Since leftism denies the existence of spirit, it ends up conflating politics and gnostic spirituality into a single ideology that is neither politics nor religion, but a monstrous hybrid of the two.

As Jonah Goldberg has observed, "Like many spiritual movements, liberalism emphasizes deeds and ideals over ideas. As a result, when liberals gather there’s a revivalist spirit in the air, with plenty of talk about fighting the forces of evil and testifying about good deeds done." The philosopher Eric Voegelin coined the phrase “immanentizing the eschaton” to describe the messianic liberal impulse to remake mankind and to create heaven on earth. Goldberg cites several examples, such as "the spiritual nature of the environmental movement; the quasi-messianic treatment of Martin Luther King Jr.; Bill Clinton’s invocation of 'covenants' with the American people; Hillary Clinton’s 'politics of meaning,' which claimed to redefine what it meant to be a human being in the postmodern world — all of these are examples of what Voegelin would describe as the neo-Gnostic effort to make the hereafter simply here." Similarly, "It should be no surprise that Hillary Clinton justified her Senate candidacy on the claim that she was more 'concerned' about the issues than her opponent. And of course her husband won the presidency by arguing he was better at 'feeling' pain."

At the same time, for the person who is not under the hypnotic psycho-spiritual spell of contemporary liberalism, it is strikingly devoid of actual religious wisdom or real ideas. As such, it is driven by vague, spiritually infused ideals and feelings, such as "sticking up for the little guy," or "war is not the answer." On the other hand, conservatism is not so much based on ideas, but on simply observing what works, and then generalizing from there. It is actually refreshingly free of dogma, and full of dynamic tension. For example, at the heart of conservatism is an ongoing, unresolvable dialectic between freedom and virtue. In other words, there is a bedrock belief in the idea that free markets are the best way to allocate scarce resources and to create wealth and prosperity for all, but a frank acknowledgment that, without a virtuous populace, the system may produce a self-centered, materialistic citizenry living in a sort of degenerate, "pitiable comfort." Thus, there is an ongoing, unresolvable tension between the libertarian and traditional wings of the movement.

There is no such dynamic tension in liberalism. Rather, it is a top-down dogma that is not dictated by what works, but by how liberals would like reality to be. This is why liberalism must be enforced with the mechanism of political correctness, in order to preempt or punish those who deviate from liberal dogma, and see what they are not supposed to see.

Consider this recent piece of work by that older piece of work, Howard Dean. He recently posted this summary of liberal beliefs and achievements on the DNC website. See if you can detect any substantive thought whatsoever. At the same time, note the crypto-religious, messianic tone:

--"Our leaders in the House and Senate... continue to pressure the administration for the truth about manipulating prewar intelligence, sending a strong message that Democrats will fight for what is right."

--"The DNC, the Democratic House and Senate leadership and Democratic mayors and governors are sitting at the same table to create policies and strategies for restoring honest government and fiscal responsibility to America."

--"We need to continue to work together on judicial nominations, environmental legislation, trade and jobs to send effectively the message that we are again ready to lead the American people with purpose and in a fundamentally new direction."

--"The key to winning is running a national campaign based on our different vision and the themes that Democrats around the country have put forward."

--"We will offer real ethics reform and election reform so that the Government Accountability Office can report in three years that we can have confidence in our voting machines."

--"We will offer a program for American jobs that stay in America... "

--"We will offer Americans real security. We all agree that 2006 must be a transition year in Iraq."

--"We will offer the American people a government that is honest in preparing for any deployment of American troops and honor their sacrifice when they come home."

--"Americans believe that using issues to divide us as a country to win elections is bad for America. We will restore America’s sense of community."

--"Most important, we will talk about Democratic values, which are America’s values."

--"Americans believe it is immoral that not everyone has some kind of health insurance. We agree."

--"The vast majority of Americans believe it is immoral to lets kids go hungry. We agree. The other party cuts school lunches (they just can’t seem to leave that one alone.)"

As an aside, have you noticed that leftists always believe they are "speaking truth to power" when they are actually "speaking lies to the powerless"? It occurs to me that Dean works so closely with the a-holes at moveon.org, that after his chairmanship is over he'll be able to switch his specialty to proctology. With that last wisecrack about conservatives having a value system that places a priority on making sure that children go hungry, what can you say but: Physician F**k Thyself. Immediately.

Where was I, anyway? Oh yes. I was about to describe my journey from the darkness of contemporary liberalism to modern conservatism. Next post, I guess.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Conscience, Superego, and Huk al Berri

The psychoanalyst W.R. Bion developed a model of the mind that was a radical departure from previous psychoanalytic models, centering around the importance of truth as opposed to drives, repression, aggression, sexuality, etc. He did not conceptualize the mind in mechanistic terms, but more like an organism whose function is to metabolize and synthesize its fragmented elements into a coherent whole. It was his belief that the mind grew through exposure to truth. For him, therapy consisted of investigating the various ways in which truth either evolves or is blocked. People and groups evade truth for a variety of reasons, usually to avoid pain. And when they do, the consequences, both individual and collective, are catastrophic.

One area where Bion differed with Freud was over the nature and function of the superego, the part of ourselves that Freud believed was responsible for our morality. The problem with Freud's conception is that the superego will reflect the particular family in which one grew up and the particular society in which one lives. As such, the superego is not necessarily moral at all. It is essentially amoral, in that it may well punish the individual for morally good behavior and reward him for morally bad behavior, depending on the culture.

Here we can understand why the emphasis on truth is so vital. For in the Arab Muslim world, they are so inundated with vicious lies about America and Israel that it would be immoral for them not to hate us. In a racist or anti-Semitic society, the superego will actually demand that its members be racist and anti-Semitic. For example, the nazi movement in Germany was animated by extremely high ideals, without which they could not have engaged in their project to exterminate the Jews. Once the lie is established as truth, then the superego takes over, impelling the individual to act in a "moral" way, consistent with the implications of the lie.

Clearly, a casual survey of history will establish the fact that most of what people have believed down through the centuries has been untrue. We see case after case of corrupt superegos that sanction and condone slavery, witch hunts, racism, anti-Semitism, jihads, all based on one vital lie or another. All the superego does is enforce consistency between beliefs and actions. If the beliefs are false, then the actions will likely be immoral. People rarely believe they are evil, no matter how evil they are. You can be assured that bin Laden feels morally superior to you or I, which is what permits him to murder in the name of his "truth."

I believe that the conscience is not identical to the supergo. Rather, the conscience is nonlocal and universal, while the superego is local and particular. The superego is simply a mechanism we evolved in order to get along in small groups. In reality, morality is universal and transcendent, applicable at all times and in all places, such as "thou shalt not murder."

In his book Freud, Women and Morality: The Psychology of Good and Evil, Eli Sagan uses a wonderfully illuminating example from Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck is in the midst of a moral dilemma between what his superego wants him to do--return the slave Jim to his master, Miss Watson--and what his conscience is telling him--that Jim is a human being just like him, and that it would be evil for him to assist in re-enslaving him. First we hear Huck dealing with an attack from his superego as he considers returning Jim:

"The more I studied about this the more my conscience [actually, the superego] went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared."

Clearly, Huck is under assault by his tyrannical superego for violating the racist ethic of his culture. The omniscient superego ("watching all the time") slaps him in the face, accuses him of wickedness, and causes him to become immobilized with fear. He proceeds to write a letter telling Miss Watson where Jim can be found. But as he does so, his conscience--not superego--begins to nag him. He lays the letter down and "set there thinking":

"And went on thinking.... and I see Jim before me all the time... we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him.... I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me... and see how glad he was when I came back out of the fog.... and would always call me honey and pet me, and how good he always was... and he said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world... and then I happened to look around and see that paper."

Caught between guilt from doing something at variance with what the superego is demanding, and an awakened conscience telling him to do the right thing, what will Huck do?

"I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied it a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: 'All right, then, I'll go to hell'--and tore it up."

Huck revokes the lie, stands up to the superego, and makes the decision to do wrong, to "take up wickedness again" by helping to free Jim.

One can only wonder. How many in the Arab Muslim world are ready to give themselves over to sin by making peace with Israel? How many are prepared to bear the guilty attacks from the superego for treating women equally? How many will stop confusing the lies of the imam with the truth of God? How many will "go the whole hog" and toss a brick at al Jazeera?

Me? I done tore up my New York Times four years ago and been takin' to wickedness ever since. And it ain't been no easy road. Fact, if'n it waren't for old shrinkwrapped, I'd a-never knowed any lowdown evil headshrinkers, 'cept'n my own poor self.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why Do They Hate Us?

The other day Chris Matthews gave a college speech in which he asked the question that always puzzles liberals, that is, "why do they -- our millions of enemies in the Muslim world -- hate us?" Matthews made it clear that he was concerned not just with outright terrorists, but with rank-and-file Muslims throughout the Arab world.

It is odd that the only people who ask this question are suffering from the same logopathology that causes us to be hated in the Arab Muslim world: Quite simply, they hate us because they believe lies about us. Just as Palestinians hate Jews because they believe terrible lies -- delusions, really -- about them, leftists hate President Bush because they believe lies about him.

In this regard, it doesn't really matter if the hatred engenders the lie, or the lie fosters the hatred. (More on that tomorrow.) The end result is the same: banishment to a negative psychological space, a parallel universe ruled by lies and hatred instead of love and truth, and where emotional and intellectual growth are impossible. The Arab Muslim world is immersed in a sea of lies about almost everything you could imagine (as catalogued by memri.org), which is the real source of their spiritual sickness.

In order to grow, the mind requires truth. Similarly, a culture or nation that is deprived of truth will literally become spiritually ill. The mind, although it is not a physical entity, nevertheless has a function, just like any other organ. Your heart functions to pump blood. Your lungs function to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the environment. And the mind functions to metabolize truth so that it may grow.

A mind nourished on lies will still grow, but it will grow in a monstrous way analogous to a tumor. Rather than being a unity, it will be an agglomeration. It will be riven by contradiction, and there will be no true synthesis of its elements.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to argue with a leftist. Such an individual will freely believe all kinds of mutually contradictory things, such as "our soldiers are engaged in a genocidal war based on lies, and I support the troops," or "President Bush lied about WMD, and President Clinton was telling the truth about them," or "we should have prevented North Korea from obtaining nukes, and Saddam was not a threat to obtain them."

At the same time, the leftist will unconsciously "attack" the connecting links in your own psyche, giving you the subjective experience of what it must be like to be them.

It is almost impossible to read a leftist editorial without these kinds of irreconcilable contradictions. Yesterday, for example, Tom Friedman's editorial argued that Bush is arguably the worst president in US history, but that "we [we!] are about to produce the most legitimate government ever in the Arab world." He notes that it is "appalling to watch Bush and Cheney act like two Rove attack dogs" (that is, to have the audacity to respond to slanderous charges against them), but that the much harsher Democratic attacks on the President must be overlooked because "they are not in power." (Apparently, power is absolute. The left and the New York Times are utterly powerless today, just as the Republican party was powerless during the Clinton presidency. Right.)

Friedman claims that to "accuse anyone of lacking seriousness on Iraq is disgusting," but that President Bush has disgustingly "fought this war on the cheap, always putting politics before policy." Always. Of course, Friedman doesn't explain why President Bush would want to cynically pursue a policy he doesn't believe in just to garner a 30% approval rating, but it doesn't matter. Friedman is smarter than you or I. He has an important job at the New York Times.

Friedman's thinking is so chaotic and contradictory, one hardly knows where to begin. Plus, it's all wrapped in an aura of intellectual superiority which is the real message of the article.

That is, if you are a therapist, you don't listen just to the meaning of the words, but the emotional tone that is being conveyed. In Friedman's case, the message he wishes to convey is of moral and intellectual superiority, the conviction that all badness may be located outside himself and in President Bush and his corrupt cronies, and that he (Friedman) is not, I said NOT an immature and childish thinker taking pot-shots at the grownups. (In the same article he asks, "Where are the adults?," unconsciously referring to himself.)

But all of these assertions are self-refuting, in that they are reactions to a deeper, painful truth that Friedman unKnows but is unwilling to face. Editorials this passionately disjointed are painful to read, but that's part of the process. Through the process of projective identification, we must bear the pain he cannot. It is left to us to try to put together his broken fragments of emotion-driven thought and make sense of them, just as one would do with a child or patient. Like Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman or the persecuted hosts of Air America, his emotions are obviously quite serious, even urgent. That much is clear. Just don't take his thoughts seriously.

More tomorrow on the relationship between lies, hatred, emotional growth, and the conscience.

UPDATE--via Shrinkwrapped, a very helpful guide to the techniques of propaganda posted at strategypage.com. For example, in Friedman's editorial alone, I counted seventeen out of twenty two propaganda techniques: Guilt By Association, Backstroke, Misinformation, Over Humanization, Name Calling, He Said, She Said, Unproven "Facts," Lying, Subtle Inaccuracies/Dismissive Tone, One-One Punch, Volume, Coordination, Preemptive Strike, Framing the Debate, Token Equal Time, Interpreting, and Withholding Information. No wonder these guys can only publish a couple of short editorials a week. It takes a lot of time and effort to squeeze in all those techniqes and be concise about it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Hard Bigotry of No Expectations

HonestReporting.com. has a story about The Dubliner, which claims to be "widely regarded as the definitive guide to Irish culture", publishing an op-ed piece that "not only disputes Israel's right to exist but also denigrates Jewish history and culture at the same time":

"In the immediate aftermath of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call to 'wipe Israel from the face of the map', this magazine's November issue publishes an opinion piece alluding to the same idea by former Irish Labor Minister Justin Keating. While couched in less violent terms than Ahmadinejad, Keating claims 'the Zionists have absolutely no right in what they call Israel, that they have built their state not beside but on top of the Palestinian people, and that there can be no peace as long as contemporary Israel retains its present form.'

Keating not only takes issue with Israel's right to exist but, unlike any serious historian, also questions the entire Jewish historical and religious connection to the land, asking. 'Did the Jews of the Old Testament come from what is now Israel? The answer is No.' .... Keating portrays the Jews as 'people who occupied some land two thousand years ago for a historically brief period, to the detriment of those who have been there since.' .... Keating even states that the UN Resolution of 1947 did not give Israel the right to exist as a sovereign state, claiming 'they [the Zionists] have continuously and relentlessly violated that resolution for more than half a century, so that any tatters that now remain are void, by their action.'"

Ever wonder why the United States and Israel are the most hated countries on earth, or why Judaism and Christianity are the most despised religions? If you listen to the American or European left, they feel absolutely no compunction or hesitation to spew the most vile and bigoted rhetoric about America, about President Bush, or about our history of "genocide" and "imperialism." Since anyone with a shred of common sense or historical perspective can see that this is nonsense, one has to ask, "what is going on?" It's not that these critics are stupid, or uneducated, or necessarily even bad-intentioned. And yet, they believe things that are not only untrue, but cannot possibly be true.

As I may have mentioned before, as a psychologist looking at history, I am not particularly interested in ignorance, which, after all, is perfectly understandable and can afflict anyone. It simply means that you don't know something. What is far more interesting from a psychological standpoint is what I call motivated stupidity, that is, the promulgation of some patently false belief based on underlying emotional need.

Every day we hear about the horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam, and yet, the left ignores them. Or, if they do pay attention to them, they try to explain the horrors as having been warranted by something we must have done to them. This happened just the other day, when Chris Matthews made some particularly idiotic statements during a college speech about how we must try to understand "why our enemies hate us."

You will notice the reverse is never true. It never occurred to Matthews to say that Islamists must look within and ask themselves why we might have some hostility toward them. No one on the left asks, "Gee, I wonder what Saddam must have done to deserve getting toppled by President Bush?," Or, "I wonder why Israel needs to build that big fence?" There is a sort of barrier to natural curiosity, a rigid psychic defense that curtails rational thought and says STOP! DON'T GO THERE!

This leftist attitude actually betrays more than a "soft bigotry of low expectations" toward Islam. Rather, it is a hard bigotry of no expectations toward the Muslim world.

For example, I believe the Palestinians receive no criticism from the left (and the world community at large), not because they think so highly of them, but because they have think so badly about them -- in fact, they actually have no expectations whatsoever about them.

In other words, it is not because the Palestinians are so wonderful that they are immune from criticism, but because everyone knows that it would be absurd to hold Muslims to the same standards as Christians, or Jews, or Zen Buddhists -- to any standards of decency at all, really. No one is shocked at the barbarity of the Islamic world, whether it is committed by terrorists, or perpetrated in the name of the Saudi or Iranian governments.

For example, if a single Christian soldier in Iraq went nuts and killed a single Muslim, there would be riots and protests all over the world. Why? Because we expect certain behaviors from Americans and from Christians.

So in a perverse way, the more we are hated by the left, the more it is a kind of tribute to us. Imagine being foolish enough to have any moral expectations of the Chinese, or the Palestinians, or the Saudis, or the North Koreans. We expect them to behave barbarously. And they never fail us. And when they do behave in their predictably bestial way, it is never their fault. It is either overlooked completely, or blamed on some provocation, some "underlying cause." But it would be ludicrous to think that a leftist would ever look for an exculpatory "root cause" of Israel's behavior toward their bloodthirsty Arab neighbors.

You will notice how this plays out in the U.S. When an idiot like Pat Robertson makes one of his predictably foolish statements, he is lambasted by comedians, and rightfully so. But why are there no jokes about someone who was not just a moron, but truly evil, like Yasser Arafat? Likewise, Christianity is fair game -- note, for example, all of the jokes about the Catholic church's homosexual priest problem. (Correction -- because of the dictates of victimology, that scandal had to be fraudulently changed into a "pedophile priest" problem to make it acceptable for ridicule.)

Why is there a blackout on jokes about Palestinians, who are so eminently jokeworthy? Most of my attempts at good-natured humor on this site would never be considered acceptable to the MSM, who go out of their way to treat Islam not just the same as other religions, but better than other religions (and yet, somehow more fragile at the same time).

This is so ironic, because it obviously has nothing to do with the secular left's affinity for religion, which they otherwise despise. In other words, Islam is not a protected species because it is a religion. It is protected because it is anti-Western, because its adherents tend to have slightly darker skin than caucasians, and because it has been granted victim status. Therefore it is untouchable.

The fact that we don't mercilessly make fun of our enemies is part of the same syndrome that has prevented Hollywood from making any movies about the war on terror, for fear of insulting Muslims (and, of course, because they don't want to show our military engaged in a heroic struggle against evil). We live in a morally upside down world, in which making fun of the Islamist ideology is forbidden, but committing mass murder in the name of Islam is explained away.

So if I ridicule Palestinians, it is because, despite all evidence to the contrary, I still have some expectations of them. This is unlike the bigots of the left -- bigots like Juan Cole, who heap scorn on the United States but make every excuse imaginable for the moral failings of Islam. We will know that Muslims have come a long way when they can start making fun of themselves in the same way that Americans have always made fun of themselves, their institutions, their politicians, and their religion.

Oh well. What can you do but laugh about the situation?

Do you remember when Arafat died, how his wife, Suha, rushed from Paris to be by his side? Turns out that was actually part of the pre-nup: they had agreed to be together over his dead body.

Jeopardy answer: "Thuggery, buggery, and skulduggery."
Question: "What were Yasser Arafat's favorite activities?"

At least they have a right to medical care in the Palestinian territories. One lady brought her 13 year old to a psychiatrist, worried that he had become obsessed with not killing himself. And they're trying to do something to rid their classrooms of the psychotic anti-Semitism. I don't know if I like that idea. It means their children will have to learn bits and pieces of genocidal ideology from each other, instead of from an expert.

They keep saying that the problem is that Islam has just been "hijacked" by the terrorists. I don't know about that, but maybe Israel needs to Lojack the Palestinians, so they know where they are at all times.

But anti-Semites have it so easy. If you want to boycott the Palestinians, what are you supposed to do, put off purchasing that new suicide belt?

And now the Palestinians even use teenage girls for suicide bombers. In fact, the girls don't actually use suicide belts. Rather, they call them "chastity belts," because it's the only way to be certain they'll never be seen holding hands with a Christian boy.

Bottom line: in Palestine, it's every parents' nightmare to die before their children.

But I give the Palestinians credit. They've evolved from primitive kinship structures to barbarous gang affiliations. With luck, they can eventually became a racket, and then perhaps a crime syndicate. Evolution doesn't happen over night.

Now the Palestinians are complaining that it's unfair for us to withhold funds until Abbas institutes some meaningful reforms. I guess they have a point. It's like we're biting the hand that steals from us.

At least with Abbas, they finally have a moderate in there. Sure, he's a Holocaust denier, but at least he's a moderate holocaust denier. That is, he believes that six million Jews were inconvenienced in WWII.

So much conversion to the Nation of Islam goes on in American prisons, it's more accurate to call it them "Islamic gated communities."

It's making some judges a little concerned. One guy was sentenced to eleven years behind bars, double that for good Muslim behavior. And Farrakhan insists that they have their own chaplains in prison. They bow their heads and say, "Let us prey.... on Jews and other infidels."

But we need to be fair. According to CAIR, when Muslims give money to charity that ends up in the hands of terrorists, it's no different than when charitable donations end up in the hands of the military wing of the Salvation Army.

On the positive side, CAIR has issued a strongly worded statement that unambiguously condemns sawing off heads by either side in Iraq.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Unintelligent Debate

Er, one topic I don't think I'll be posting about again is Intelligent Design. It just doesn't generate a fruitful dialogue, because the debate seems to consist of "true believers" on both sides. If you take a moderate position, as I do, then the extremists on either side see you as arguing against them, and you simply end up talking past one another, like one of those political TV programs.

There are radical secularists just as there are religious fundamentalists, and I certainly belong to neither group. People in my camp (which it should go without saying does not include literal creationists) are perfectly willing to concede every single point of genuine scientific discovery, but those on the anti-ID side are unwilling to concede a single point of metaphysical reasoning or acknowledge a single one of the genuine problems that plague a purely reductionist view of life and consciousness.

I do not believe there is any evidence that will convince a true creationist that evolution has occurred, any more than I believe there is any evidence that will persuade an anti-ID reductionist that science is competent to explain only a very proscribed plane of existence.

Again, I am specifically saying that I draw a sharp distinction between the method of science (which I endorse unreservedly) and the metaphysic of scientism (which in reality was abandoned by serious philosophers long ago, when it was understood how intellectually impoverished the program of logical positivism was).

I fully accept what science discloses as true, but then ask what it means, fitting it into a larger framework that includes the other planes of being. But the extremist anti-ID crowd seems intent on trying to disprove the existence of God by using science, which is metaphysically incoherent. As soon as you opine on the general meaning of science, you have left science behind and are engaging in metaphysics.

And once you are engaging in metaphysics, you are playing by other rules. For example, if you actually believe that the universe behaves only according to rigid laws, then all of your assertions are merely the result of rigid laws, so there’s no reason to believe they are true.

Thus, if you believe that only empirically verifiable statements are true, then you've just made an empirically unverifiable statement. If you believe in logical atomism, then there is no way to account for the unity of consciousness. If you believe that human beings are nothing more than Darwinian machines, there is no way to account for all of our "luxury capacities" that only emerged long after our brain had stopped evolving. Quite simply, if you believe that human beings may know truth, you have left materialism far behind.

To some it will undoubtedly sound like an argument from authority, but in this case, I will just have to say that God exists, and that it is impossible to have a universe or a scientific discovery incompatible with that fact. In other words, I would never use science to try to prove the existence of God, as God's existence is proven through other methods. Rather, I am interested in how science reflects the existence of God, which was actually how science got underway originally -- with the scientifically uwarranted belief that a divinely ordained rational beauty inheres in the cosmos, and that the same beautiful rationality dwells within us, allowing us to obtain knowledge about the world in a completely unproblematic way.

In fact, it is almost as if we were designed to know things like higher math or to make fine distinctions in the realms of art, music, poetry, and all sorts of other things that have no Darwinian utility but which reveal the splendor of a nonlocal reality shining through our own. I certainly see it. But not with the eyes that came about through natural selection. Those eyes see only what the materialist sees.

Intelligent Design (11.25.10)

Several readers have asked me to comment on the issue of “intelligent design.” This is a debate that sharply divides even conservatives. For example, last week Charles Krauthammer wrote a blistering editorial claiming that ID was nothing more than a "tarted-up version of creationism" which "may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological 'theory' whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God." He goes on to say that ID "violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

Respectfully, while Krauthammer is brilliant with regard to politics, here he is simply mischaracterizing ID in order to heap scorn upon it. It is not surprising that many conservatives reject ID, because conservatives are generally logical people. However, one can prove anything with logic, so long as the conclusion follows logically from the premise. If your premise is faulty, then so too will your conclusion be faulty.

Perhaps I should emphasize up front that I wholeheartedly agree with Krauthammer that intelligent design should not be taught or even discussed as science per se. For intelligent design accepts what science discloses as true, but then asks what it means on a "meta" level. It's like the difference between studying history vs. studying the meaning of history, two entirely different things. Science generates only tentative conclusions, which is as it should be. It is the job of theology and philosophy to decipher the meaning of what various disciplines disclose about reality. Science itself is devoid of meaning, which is, again, as it should be. In itself it can make no pronouncements whatsover on the origin of the cosmos, the genesis of life, the meaning of consciousness, the purpose of human existence, the purposes to which science should be put, etc. It's just a shame that children are no longer taught philosophy, and instead are taught idiotic and fraudulent things like African American studies, feminism, multiculturalism, etc.

Bottom line: teaching intelligent design in a science class may be good metaphysics but it is bad science. However, at the same time, using science to justify a materialistic philosophy is junk metaphysics, because doing so is simply dressing up assumptions as conclusions. In fact, we could take Krauthammer's exact words and apply them to scientific reductionism: "it is simply a tarted-up version of materialism which may be interesting as a sort of godless theology, but as philosophy it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological stance whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge--in this case, evolution--they are to be filled by chance. Materialism violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be philosophy--that it be logically coherent. How does one logically disprove the proposition that pure chance was behind the lemur, or evolution--or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

Science is simply a method designed to quantify and measure objective realities. By its very nature, it is barred from addressing subjective reality, nor can it measure qualities (without reducing them to quantities). Scientific fundamentalists who dismiss ID generally elevate the methodological reductionism of science to an ontological reductionism, which is completely unwarranted and inappropriate. It is to announce that what science systematically ignores cannot exist.

Krauthammer suggests that ID is a closed system, when in fact, the opposite is true. The very reason why science, when elevated to a metaphysics, generates so much paradox and absurdity is that it is a closed system, regarding only the material realm as real. Therefore, everything outside materiality escapes its purview. In point of fact, science, if taken to its logical extremes, undermines its own assumptions in several ways. That is, science has run into several “limit cases” that long ago proved its inability to account for the whole of reality. In my book I go into a lot more detail, but I will simply hit some of the highlights here.

One of these limits is disclosed by modern physics. Bell’s theorem proves that reality is nonlocal, meaning that the universe is internally related and that it has connections that transcend space and time, the implication being that the universe itself cannot be contained within our artificial bounds of space and time. Physics provides us only with a mathematical net or “container,” but not the content, which slips through the container like water through a sieve. The world, even at its most fundamental level, exceeds our ability to measure or contain it. Science begins with the assumption that the cosmos is composed of externally related parts (logical atomism), while modern physics shows that the universe is fundamentally an internally related whole that has the capacity to operate "vertically" in a top-down manner, i.e., from whole to part. Indeed, this newer understanding of wholeness allows us to get past many scientific paradoxes and blind alleys in a way that materialism never will.

Another limit of science is called the “Universal Complexity Barrier (UCB),” an idea developed by David, I mean William, Dembski. In addressing the origins of life, the real problem is the origins of information, not just any information, but the staggeringly complex information found in the DNA of the simplest living thing. There are only four ways this complexity could have come into being: 1) chance, 2) necessity, 3) some combination of chance and necessity, or 4) design. Not too long ago, scientists simply assumed that chance would have eventually resulted in the emergence of life. However, this was before it was understood that life has only been here for 3.85 billion years, and that the planet was too hot to sustain life prior to about four billion years ago. Therefore, there was only a window of about 150 million years for chance to operate, which is far too short a time.

The problem encountered here by scientific fundamentalists is that the hypothesis of chance runs aground against the dictates of the UCB. To take an example, a hundred monkeys pounding away at a hundred pianos will never produce the works of Duke Ellington. At most, they may produce a few bars of Take the A Train, but there will always be an upper limit on how much “complex specified information” (CSI) will result from pure chance, and beyond which the monkeys cannot go.

Other scientific theories to account for the emergence of life are just variations on the same theme, but they all come up against the UCB. For example, the combination of chance and necessity can result in a little more CSI, but nothing approximating the complexity of life. Scientists have also been searching for an “evolutionary algorithm” in nature that can account for the emergence of life, but no matter what they try, they cannot surpass the UCB. In short, it is a completely scientifically accurate statement to say that the simplest living cell could not have come about through any neo-Darwinist scenario of chance and necessity. Therefore, one may safely conclude not that God exists, but that the universe was either full of complex specified information from its very origin, or else that it cannot be a materially closed system subject only to “horizontal” causes found within nature. However, if you simply leave the matter there, you are a curiously uncurious person. Personally, I have no difficulty at all positing the existence of a cosmos with more dimensions than four, and which has both horizontal and vertical causation. After all, this is how our minds operate vertically to control the horizontal processes governing our material bodies.

Also, one must remember that natural selection is proposed in a medium called language, which natural selection is helpless to explain. To be perfectly accurate, either language explains natural selection, or natural selection explains language. Both cannot be true, for if language is reduced to a completely materialistic explanation, there is no reason to believe that it is capable of encoding and transmitting truth, so the assertion becomes logically self-refuting.

Another limit of science is Godel’s Theorems, which forever proved that there is no mathematical system that doesn't contain assumptions that cannot be justified by the system. The implication of Godel's theorems is that any consistent logical system will be incomplete, while any complete one will be inconsistent. Godel also believed he had proven that semantics--that is, meaning, or quality--can never be reduced to syntax--that is, mere order, or quantity. As such, the mind can never be reduced to matter, and the mind's ability to know far surpasses any reductionist explanation. Roger Penrose later used Godel's theorems to prove that the mind cannot be a computer, and that the mind exceeds the ability of any formal systen to capture it, much in the same way that nonlocality shows how reality exceeds the formal system of quantum physics.

Godel further believed that any scientific theory that tried to eliminate all paradox and inconsistency was doomed to failure and that "sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless justified in a certain sense."

Bottom line: if blind materialism is true it is untrue, for it can never account for how matter may know the truth of itself. And if it is only matter speaking, what reason do we have to believe what it is saying? There is no knowledge at the level of the senses. Once you acknowledge that human beings are capable of knowledge--which is another name for truth--then you have lifted yourself out of any mere materialistic explanation. When matter is placed over spirit, all qualities are reduced to quantities, semantics to syntax. You thereby circle around and meet with the cognitive pathologies of the left, which also deny transcendent Truth.

Intelligent design does not prove the existence of God. There are much better ways to do that. It's just that science, properly understood, doesn't disprove it, and I think this is what animates the misguided impulse to try to teach ID as science proper. The God that is dismissed by the detractors of ID is simply a caricature, a "straw god" that they apparently internalized somewhere along the way due to an unfortunate encounter with some bone-headed or debased version of religion. And with people like Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton running around loose, those versions of religion are not difficult to find these days.