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.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How Much Would You Spend to Save Your Soul?

This morning I was reading an editorial over at entitledThe Modern University Has Become Obsolete, by Froma Harrop. In it, she argues that "the modern university is a relic that will disappear in a few decades," something that was predicted by the recently departed business management genius Peter Drucker, and something I've been saying for years to uncomprehending friends.

Of course, there was a time when the university was a physical necessity. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied, "because that's where the money is." Likewise, people attended university because that was where the knowledge was.

But frankly, ever since the development of the printing press, this has gradually become an increasingly dubious proposition. Even before the liberating miracle of the internet, I used to say that a disciplined and self-motivated individual with a clear educational program in mind could profit more by spending four years systematically loitering at a Borders book store than at a typical elite university.

(Perhaps I should emphasize that I am talking about the humanities, not about things like medical school, where you actually do obtain useful knowledge that must be transmitted by an expert. Most knowledge is clearly not of this variety: history, english literature, political science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, etc., not to mention entirely fraudulent fields such as gender studies, African American studies, queer theory, et al.)

Harrop notes that there is a company that sells "a virtual major in American history -- 84 lectures on 42 audiotapes -- at the bargain price of $109.95. It covers everything from 'before Columbus' to Bill Clinton, and the lecturers are top-drawer. Some of them teach at Columbia University, where a single history course runs you $3,207." She quotes Herman Melville, who said that "a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard": "Melville didn't need college to write 'Moby Dick.' He needed to read and spend time in the world. Before sailing out on a whaler in 1841, he had already worked on his uncle's farm and as a cabin boy on a ship to England. Drucker urged high-school graduates to do likewise: Work for at least five years. If they went on to college, it would be as grown-ups."

The title of the book escapes me at the moment, but I remember a historian who argued that all societal instruments are eventually reduced to institutions. That is, cultures develop various instruments to cope with the needs of society--religion, a legal system, an educational system, military, etc. While they always start off doing their job, they eventually become mere institutions whose primary task is self-preservation.

In short, institutions no longer perform their instrumental tasks, or else perform them poorly. In the case of our contemporary universities, not only do our children fail to obtain a true education, but they are often taught pernicious nonsense by the likes of Juan Cole or Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. At most elite universities, over ninety percent of the liberal arts faculties are composed of such academic frauds and intellectual sociopaths. Imagine actually paying money to have your child exposed to the malignant thoughts of Ward Churchill?

First we must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of a liberal education? Clearly, it is to liberate the mind from its default parochial outlook and to provide a kind of universal knowledge that completes the self and makes us more thoroughly human. It is to become acquainted with the best that mankind has thought and written, in order to come through the other end with a "well furnished mind," a storehouse of ideas and concepts that allow us to think clearly, to exercise philosophical discrimination, to deepen the self, and to make choices that enhance the quality of life. But how many people actually attend college for these reasons, and how many colleges would be able to provide these things even if one were inclined to seek them?

Ironically, we have turned our universities into giant, thoroughly corrupt secular temples that have simply supplanted the religious authorities they were designed to replace. Some university presidents -- who are in competition for the most spineless and craven members of our society -- make over $1 million per year, not because of their ability to ensure educational excellence, but for their ability to fundraise and to appease various tribal interests within the faculty.

Imagine if the situation were reversed, and one could walk over to a local university on Sunday morning and hear Noam Chomsky speak for free, but have to spend $100,000 in order to obtain a truly comprehensive and fruitful religious education. Chomsky would be seen for what he is, which is not even worthless, which is to say harmful.

Many studies have demonstrated that human beings overvalue what is expensive and undervalue what is free. In my own case, I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but despite the expensive education, if I were limited only to what I had learned in my eleven or twelve years of college, I'd have a pretty impoverished intellect.

On the other hand, in the course of writing my book One Cosmos Under God, I feel that I obtained a kind of spiritual education that was truly priceless, and which I could never have obtained in the philosophy or theology department of any major university. Not only that, but in my ongoing self-education since completing my formal education in 1988, I have had to unlearn much of the nonsense I learned in college.

It is disheartening that my generation (the "baby boomers"), the most educated generation in history, should be the most willing to perpetuate the bogus mystique of an elite university education. Having had the experience, they should be the first ones to see through the scam.

Not so for my father, who had only eight years of formal education in England before immigrating to the US at the age of 21. He sent four sons to college, because to him college represented some kind of mysterious, olympian ideal. I'm sure he must have felt self-conscious about his lack of formal schooling, and yet, he had infinitely more wisdom than the average university professor or New York Times editorialist.

As for myself, I have a seven month old son and yes, my in-laws have started an educational fund that will probably assure that he will be able to attend any university he chooses, if he so desires. But I will not be emphasizing that with him. I personally do not care if he attends Harvard or a local community college, or no college at all, so long as he develops a love of truth and a love of learning, neither of which have any necessary relationship to college.

And along the way, I hope I will be able to provide him with a true education that will correct and compensate for the nonsense he picks up in his formal education. In particular, I hope I am able to help him ground knowledge in a much wider and deeper spiritual framework, so that his spirit isn't damaged by the corrupting influence of secular fundamentalism. But only if he's willing to sign over that educational trust fund to my name.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Limericks, Song Parodies and Gags

I've posted many hundreds of gags at LGF, some less worthy than others, but some worthy of being laughed at one more time before being permanently retired and disappearing into cyberspace. For example, there was the story of the elderly Malaysian chronic adulterer whose punishment, consistent with sharia law, was a caning to the privates. I wrote a limerick for the occasion:

There once was a randy Malaysian
Whose libido was frankly amazin'
They took old Abdul
And caned on his tool
And now it's just one big abrasion.

And then there was the story about Islamic rap groups, for which I submitted the following urban poetry:

It couldn't be any cleara'
I seen it on al Jazeera
Da' crusades neva' ended
Holy soil gotta be defended
We cut on da' throat
Of da' Christian invada'
Show all da' world
'Dat allah's da' greata'

Then there was the story about the proud Palestinian mother whose splodeydope daughter had just murdered a few innocent Israelis. Sung to the tune of the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper":

Things are different today
I hear Arab mothers say
The pursuit of coexistence seems a bore
So she waves her hand grenade
and a gun that's Russian-made
Seething in her U.N. shelter
With her deadly Mother's helpers
And she's such a sorry sight
In her self-inflicted plight

Another song parody about the farcical "truce" between Hamas and Israel, to the tune of "At Long Last Love":

Is it a hudna,
Or simply a crock?
Will they condemn suicide,
Or keep throwing rocks?
Is it authentic,
This new peaceful road?
Or just a new way, to say, "Reload!"?

Speaking of which, I imagine that in the Palestinian territories, one of those subtle, tasteful mortuary ads might sound something like this: "One phone call and we take care of the rest. A n angry mob, gun-toting fanatics, assurances of revenge, and a wild-eyed, bloodthirsty imam for your time of need."

Bumper stickers seen in the Palestinian territories:

-Practice premeditated acts of violence and gratuitous cruelty
-My Other Car is a Truck Bomb
-Jihad is not healthy for infidels and other vile creatures
-Follow me, I'm lost
-My son graduated Summa Boom Loudly from Arafat Hi
-Pray for world conflagration

Top ten--well, seven anyway--ways you know Hamas and Islamic Jihad have become too moderate:

7. Nobody cares that they're running out of rocks.
6. Days of Rage downgraded to Days of Irritation.
5. People go to car swarms just to pick up chicks instead of body parts.
4. Starting to ask themselves, "are you sure this is how Gandhi did it?"
3. Layoffs at the bomb lab.
2. Hamas and Islamic Jihad putting on delightful joint production of Fiddler on the Roof.
1. Nobody buying the autobiography of Arafat's widow, A Goy Named Suha.

Moving on to our own terror enablers at the New York Times, I must say I still love the city of New York, proving that one rotten bunch can't spoil the whole apple.

One good thing about democracy in the Islamic world is that Muslim politicians all promise to bring less pork to their constituents.

One of Saddam's lawyers was quoted as saying, "I don't mean to play devil's advocate... oh, wait a minute, yes I do."

Before he became a Muslim, Cat Stevens wrote the music for the film Harold and Maude, the story of a morbid, death-obsessed young man bent on killing himself to get back at others. The more things change....

How about Ward Churchill? The fact that this America-hating academic fraud was drawing a six-figure salary at taxpayer's expense brought to mind the words of another Churchill: "Never have so many owed so much to a faux Sioux."

By the way, Churchill never said he was an indian--what he said was that he had "a patchy work history." Either way, I knew the left would turn him into their latest cause s'lob.

The Europeans seem almost helpless to stop the spread of nuclear weapons into the Muslim world. On the positive side, they did agree that nuclear suitcase bombs must be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

Did you hear about the uproar over the Pakistani woman refusing to wear a two-piece bathing suit in the Miss World contest? Well, they agreed on a compromise. She's actually going to wear a two-piece after all: a burka with a snorkel.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Adultolescent Left

Regarding the leftist misuse of language, reader Bryan observed, "There must be something in this kind of nihilism that speaks very deeply to some very strong desires of a lot of people, despite the fact that I cannot understand it at all." He concluded with the question, "I can understand why one might want to be free of the limitations of human nature or economics or gender, but why would one experience meaning itself as fascist?"

My initial reaction was astonishment that anyone is reading my blog. My next reaction was that Bryan had asked an excellent question. I provided an off-the-cuff response, noting that "language is a double-edged sword. Although it is what rescues us from being enclosed in the body and engulfed in the senses--think of the liberation Helen Keller felt when she first learned the sign for water--language can also be experienced as a new kind of prison.

Most people do not speak language, but are spoken by it, and thereby experience it as a restriction on their infantile omnipotence. Think of it as analogous to the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics, from infinite potential to particularized being. If you are something, you can no longer be everything."

Petey has this way of directing me to books and ideas I need when I'm thinking of a particular problem. In this case, he called my attention to the book Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, by Thomas de Zengotita. In it, de Zengotita essentially confirms what I touched on above regarding the infinite plasticity of language.

Remember, this is a problem that only seems to affect the left. If practices such as deconstruction are just unalloyed B.S., then they should result in roughly equal amounts of left wing and right wing B.S. But instead they result in virtually one hundred percent leftist B.S., so obviously, the practice "preselects" a certain kind of individual who is then "spoken" through deconstruction. In other words, leftists don't just use deconstruction; rather, it uses them.

One of the points of de Zengotita's book is that we live in a media-saturated age, to such an extent that it is almost impossible for people to have "unmediated" experiences anymore. In other words, we are shut off from the real, and are surrounded by images and messages directed toward us, which facilitates both narcissism and solipsism: "Everything is firing message modules, straight for your gonads, your taste buds, your vanities, your fears."

This is such a sharp change from previous generations, that we have failed to appreciate its effect on consciousness, on our very being. One of the effects is that the media present us with so many options of how to be, that we become detached from who we are.

de Zengotita makes a direct connection between our postmodern, mediated selves and academia, noting that one can well understand “why destabilizing fixed categories and opening up multiple readings” is “all the rage at the university.” He calls it “intellectual shopping,” that is,

“perpetually entertaining options among undecidables, exercising them provisionally, in accordance with a context and the needs of the moment.... One may lease, as it were, a reading, but one never buys, for interpretations are bound to multiply, and no definitive documentation, no historical condition or authorial intent, will ever secure a settled meaning and resolve the play of language--any more than the purpose of soap or shoes can restrain the way commodities are packaged and marketed as representations of something or other, or the way you construct yourself over time by choosing among all these options--soap, shoes, health practices, readings, relationships, careers, whatever.”

Of course, the purpose of adolescence used to be to sort through the various possibilities of identity, and to eventually settle on one. But now, it seems that people become permanent “adultolescents,” identifying with one’s options rather than a real identity.

The problem is, in the postmodern world, reality is “ironized,” so that people are too detached and reflexive to make a commitment to it. Everything is placed in quotes, so to speak, so that sophisticated people no longer speak of patriotism but “patriotism,” not truth but “truth,” not identity but “identity.”

Beginning especially with the 60’s generation, all of these and other categories were thrown so radically into question, that now they are no longer seen as quite real. I don’t want to suggest that I was unaffected by this. For example, I’m quite sure it was one of the reasons why I waited until relatively late in life to have children--children represent one of our last connections to the real--they are simply “given” in the same way that primordial nature is, thereby sharply limiting one's options. Children--especially very young children who have not yet been corrupted by mediated images of themselves--simply are.

Furthermore, once you are a parent, that is it. One experiences the same thing to a certain extent in getting married, because that too forecloses the limitless choices ahead of us. But nowadays, even marriage has been destabilized by the nagging thought that there is someone else, somewhere, some other choice, who will better complete the self. There are so many choices that we are affected by "buyer’s remorse" in every single area of our being--relationships, religion, career, truth. Everything can be different than it is, and we are existentially haunted by that fact.

The postmodernists are half right about language, truth, identity and being. It is true that, in the past, we were naive about the infinite nature of language and about the diverse possibilities inherent in human existence. Where the postmodernists go wrong is in using this fact to throw out the possibility of Truth--that some interpretations and identities are truer than others.

In other words, while past generations may have prematurely foreclosed the world by insisting on one particular truth, postmodernists foreclose the possibility of transcendent Truth by insisting on absolutizing the relative. Ironically, this is why progressives make progress impossible, because progress is measured by its approximation to transcendent Truth. Instead, they give us only "progress."

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Logopathology of the Left

It is corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth. It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance. --Father Seraphim Rose

The moral and intellectual pathology of the left revolves around its misuse of language. It is not so much that leftist thought consists of lies, as that it is based on a primordial Lie that causes it to enter a parallel universe where, even if they say something that is technically true, they aren’t saying it because it’s true, which makes all the difference.

The primordial lie is the nullification of the covenant between language and reality, so that language is used for its effect rather than as a tool to convey truth. For the left, good language is effective language, whether it means ridiculously exaggerating the danger of heterosexual AIDS in order to increase funding, brazenly lying about George Bush supposedly lying about WMD, or blaming hurricaine Katrina on Bush's environmental policies.

Of late, the left has come under the influence of a new guru, Berkeley professor George Lakoff, who argues that the reason the left’s ideas are so unpopular among Americans is that they simply fail to frame them properly. Conversely, the right is successful simply because they trick people into endorsing things that are against their own self interest by framing ideas in a deceptive way.

If you listen, you can hear Lakoff’s influence in action all the time. For example, you now hear the left trying to frame issues in terms of “values,” since that is something that people seem to care about. Therefore, Howard Dean’s new mantra is that Democrats care about morality more than the Republicans do, because, unlike Republicans, their values do not include making children go to bed hungry at night or forcing people go without health insurance.

In fact, George Lakoff’s analysis of the problems of the left is exactly backwards, because the left is actually incapable of simply presenting their ideas without framing them in a deceptive way. Nor are they able to discuss conservative ideas without mischaracterizing them in a deeply misleading, condescending, and generally insulting way.

The argument about conservatives actually wanting children to go to bed hungry is a case in point. There is not even the pretense of engaging with the merits of the conservative argument on how best to combat poverty. Rather, before the argument can even begin, conservatives are tarred as inherently evil people who enjoy making children suffer. Why even argue with such a sadistic person?

We saw the same phenomenon last Friday evening, in the debate over the Murtha proposal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq. Interestingly, on Friday morning liberals were ecstatic about Murtha’s proposal, which was headlined in all of the large liberal papers (not to mention al Jazeera) in its completely naked, “unframed” manner. For example, in the Los Angeles Times, the headline read “War Hawk Calls for Immediate Withdrawal of Troops From Iraq.”

Naively believing that language refers to reality and means what it means, Republicans decided to call the Democrats bluff, and arranged for a vote on the matter. Sensing a trap -- the trap being having their stupid and dangerous idea actually taken seriously -- the Democrats immediately called upon their shape-shifting relationship to language, and magically reframed the debate. This wasn’t about Murtha’s proposal. This was simply about an attack on the patriotism of an American hero! The "swift-boating" of another brave veteran! (The presumption being that the Swifties had engaged in the first degree Murthing of Kerry.)

And of course, the press played along. This is because, as I have argued before, the Democratic party has been reduced to the political action wing of the MSM, which actually speaks for the Democratic party, sets its agenda, and covers its backside in situations such as this. The MSM, which is supposed to be comprised of people called “journalists” who have a more secure relationship to language, turns out to be a research and development lab for leftist experiments against reality.

On Friday morning, for example, my local paper carried the headline “House Combat Vet Urges Pullout,” accurately stating in the first paragraph that Murtha had “called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.” But Saturday’s headline was “House Divided Against itself Over Iraq War,” despite the fact that Murtha’s proposal was defeated nearly unanimously. And the paper characterized the resolution as a stunt by Republicans that mischaracterized Murtha’s call for withdrawal, saying that it wasn’t really a call for immediate withdrawal.

In short, immediate meant immediate when it suited the agenda of the MSM, but no longer meant immediate when it appeared that immediate withdrawal might not go over too well with the public, the vast majority of whom are not leftists.

Conservatives will just have to learn to live with being framed by the MSM and their Democratic operatives. If you are for low taxes on principle, you really just favor tax cuts for the rich. If you want to have control over your own retirement, you really just want to enrich large mutual fund companies. If you are for the liberation of Iraq, you are really just a colonialist who wants to steal their oil. If you want judges to interpret and not make law, you really want to destroy civil rights and return to the days of Jim Crow. If you are against affirmative action, it can’t be because you think it’s harmful and insulting to blacks, but because you are a racist. If you are uncomfortable with redefining marriage, it can’t be because you actually think that a child does best with a mother and father, but because you hate homosexuals.

You will also note that, when these sorts of accusations come from the left, the media will never make any effort to determine whether or not they are true. Rather, they will preface their story with “Democrats say,” as in “Democrats say George Bush lied about pre-war intelligence.” It wasn’t too long ago that the job of the press was to actually determine whether such statements were true before irresponsibly transmitting them to millions of citizens. In this case, it wouldn’t be difficult for a motivated press to establish the charge as a baseless slur, or, for that matter, to establish the fact that Joe Wilson is an inveterate liar with no claim to credibility.

And of course, this is why controlling the courts is of such vital importance to advancing the leftist agenda, because they need people “on the inside” who don’t believe that words mean what they mean. In the film Devil’s Advocate, there is a scene in which the Keanu Reeves character asks Al Pacino why satan would incarnate as a lawyer. I can only paraphrase Pacino, but he thunders something to the effect of, “because lawyers have a hand in everything!”

In the case of activist Supreme Court justices, it is like having linguistic termites at the constitutional foundation of the country, eating away at its meaning. By reframing the words of the Framers, they can unmoor the language of the constitution from its plain meaning, and thereby create a country based upon the rules of power and expedience. For when language cannot make an appeal to truth, it simply becomes a mask for power.