Friday, March 07, 2014

Between Cynicism and Faith

Because science is science, it can never be settled. Nor can it have any absolute content per se. That is, it is a relentlessly skeptical enterprise that progresses by doubting what we think we know.

For example, if no one had doubted the commonsense geocentric model of the solar system, we wouldn't have the counterintuitive heliocentric. If no one had questioned the crystal clear Newtonian paradigm, we wouldn't have the transparently obscure quantum-relativistic.

So science has content, but it is by definition preliminary and tentative because falsifiable, at least in principle. No matter how many white swans we see, there is always the possibility of a black one, especially if the DOJ gets involved.

However, human beings cannot live in a world of pure doubt. Or, adequation to the world cannot consist of unalloyed doubt, or it would imply that ultimate reality is the purely dubious. But in reality, there must be a reality prior to our doubt. Analogously, an optical illusion is not a hallucination.

A good working definition of scientism is the metaphysic that transforms science from concrete method to abstract doctrine.

AGW would be a quintessential example, because its advocates insist that it is somehow unscientific to doubt the theory, when doubt is precisely what makes the scientific world go 'round. So, who's being unscientific?

Although natural selection has its place in the scheme of things, I seriously doubt that it can account for everything unique and important about man. To believe that it can is another instance of scientism. Likewise the belief that mind may be reduced to brain, or that homosexuality is "genetic."

Chagnon came up against precisely this perversion of science when he publicized his findings. As far as Big Anthropology was concerned, the science was settled: human behavior is a consequence of culture, not genes, and human conflict is caused by scarcity of material resources -- i.e., primitive Income Inequality -- not anything intrinsic to man.

You will no doubt have noticed that this perversion of thought may begin in the mountain rivers of academia, but it doesn't stay there. Rather, it flows into the creeks and sewers of the left, all the way down into the stagnant, disease-ridden ponds of journalism and public education.

Thus, for example, the left cannot comprehend Islamic terrorism, because they think it must be caused by something we did to, or took from, the terrorists. Palestinian culture can't just be evil. Rather, they just want their dirt, or rocks, or olive trees back. Likewise, Putin is not a nasty SOB. He just wants stuff. If we give it to him, he'll go away quietly.

Learning a discipline begins with an implicit internalization of what is considered important, what is settled, and what must not be questioned.

For example, in the last 40 years, the origins of homosexuality has gone from a fascinating question to an insistent and belligerent answer, with nothing in between. It is as if all the previous research just doesn't exist, because the questions can no longer be asked.

One of my favorite aphorisms of Don Colacho is I have seen philosophy gradually fade away between my skepticism and my faith. Religiosity is not typically seen to be an exercise in skepticism, but it certainly is for me.

I suppose one normally thinks of faith and skepticism as being at polar extremes, but I see them as complementary, almost like catabolism (tearing down) and anabolism (building up).

Now science, as alluded to above, is relentlessly catabolic. It is nearly omnipotent in its ability to tear down even our most precious illusions. Love? Just a trick of the nature to induce us to reproduce. Children? Just the survival of our genes. Religion? Just fear of the unknown (or scientifically pre-known).

The problem with science is not the catabolism, but rather, the absence of proper anabolism. Because it cannot legitimately accomplish the latter (in any final way), scientism simply elevates its own substitutes to the teleological ends of science, where everything is settled and the idolatrous soul finds its rest.

Yes, but I am a cynical lad. I see through these idols, and can see how these tremulous scientists, so fearful of ambiguity, cling to them in the dark night of tenure.

But I am not only cynical. Rather, like the scientistic believer, I too have faith. Except my faith conforms to the Absolute Real and not the absolutely dubious.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What's the Big Idea?

One more post on the Noble Savages and ignoble ones. I wanted to say savage Nobelists, but no anthropologist has ever been awarded one. Plenty of savages, of course.

We've been discussing the unfair, intellectually dishonest, and ideologically motivated savaging of Chagnon's work. What about honest and disinterested criticism? When the most vocal critics are such depraved bullies, it's easy to instinctively support the victim, but sometimes, as in the war between Iran and Iraq, one wishes both sides could lose.

President Bush's critics, for example, were so detached from reality, that many conservatives defended him despite the fact that he was never a conservative (i.e., he had some more or less conservative positions, but was never part of the movement).

According to Isaiah Berlin, every important thinker is ultimately motivated by One Big Thing. If you can find the Big Thing, then you have discovered the key that unlocks their work. I certainly wouldn't call Chagnon an important thinker (few thinkers are), but he is clearly organized around a Big Thing, that thing being sociobiology or evolutionary psychology.

These are synonymous terms for (what should be) the uncontroversial idea that human beings are (at least in part) products of their evolutionary environment. The idea was quite controversial when he began using it, but why?

Again, his critics were not religious fundamentalists, but secular crypto-Marxists. As Chagnon puts it, he was considered "a heretic, a misanthrope, and the object of condemnation by politically correct colleagues, especially those who identify themselves as 'activists' on behalf of native peoples because I describe the Yanomamö as I found them."

One problem, I think, is that the idea of genetic determinism has obviously been misused in the past (always by progressives, mind you) to justify evils such as racism. Therefore, better to close off that avenue of thought entirely. Think of academia as a ski resort with groomed slopes. Venture off them at your own peril.

Charles Murray, for example, got a taste of this with his book The Bell Curve. If I remember correctly, it shows that different ethnic groups have different collective IQs. I suppose it's acceptable to point out that Asian Americans or Ashkenazi Jews are a standard deviation (15 points) above the average (100). However, as in Lake Woebegone, everyone must be above average. If some groups are below average, then we had better be quiet about it.

This is another fine example of the vociferously anti-science attitude of the left. I mean, as Thomas Sowell has often said, it should be a banality to point out that some groups are better at certain things than other groups. For this very reason, it is not at all historically uncommon for certain ethnic groups to dominate certain trades or activities.

I'm sure it is unacceptable to say this, but I don't think the dominance of blacks in the NBA can be attributed to physical factors only, e.g., height. Rather, I suspect a certain form of intelligence must required, similar in a way to the form of intelligence needed to be a (perhaps not coincidentally) jazz master. This intelligence combines spontaneous pattern recognition within a complex flow of information.

When I played basketball as a kid, I had no problem playing one on one, or making baskets. Still have no problem. However, when I attempted to play organized basketball in high school, I immediately found myself overwhelmed by the amount and intensity of information. Everything was happening all at once -- very much unlike, say, baseball. If one attempts to impose linearity on the chaos of basketball, one is immediately overwhelmed. So, I'm not cut out for basketball. Does that make me a racist?

Anyway, back to Chagnon. The general Raccoon position is that man has both horizontality and verticality, and that genes are necessary but insufficient to account for the ladder. I mean, it's just a banal scientific fact that human beings are genetically distinct from all other species. However, irrespective of how genetically "close" we are to any other species, we are vertically quite distant. On the vertical scale, all other species are number two or lower. Much lower.

So, it seems to me that Chagnon's critics are basically criticizing him for taking Darwinism seriously. However, what is odd is that his adversaries have no theory at all as to what makes us human. That is to say, they want to pretend that there is a purely vertical ideological world, untethered to bodies and genes. It is as if they are pure idealists, even though, at the same time, they are pure materialists. Thus, their One Big Idea is One Big Contradiction.

Speaking of which, Isaiah Berlin says that the One Big Reason leftism doesn't work is that there can never be One Big Scheme that applies to everyone. That is to say, we are all different, for which reason the only just political system must maximize liberty.

Or in other words, leftism too is One Big Contradiction, in that it pretends it is possible to reconcile two opposing values, i.e., liberty and egalitarianism. You can't do that, for the same reason it would be tyrannical to impose racial quotas whereby, say, no NBA team could have more than 15% blacks, or 2% of rodeo clowns must be Jews.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Praise Marx and Pass the Ammo

It seems that Isaiah Berlin, whose first book was a biography of Marx, never got over the experience.

In a good way. He tips his hand in the introduction, with a remark from Bishop Butler that was apparently never far from Berlin's mind: "Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be: why then should we desire to be deceived?"

That one's for you, Karl.

Well, you can always ignore the question by -- to paraphrase the man himself -- dazzling the useful idiots with a little dialectic, or by simply rejecting the premise. In which case, you are probably a Man of the Left -- assuming you have done so consciously and willingly, as opposed to doing so because of mental illness, coercion, material gain, the lust for tenure, intoxication, or brain damage.

Many people are coerced to see things as they aren't, especially in childhood. However, if you are sensitive, you will be aware of a ubiquitous social pressure to see things in a certain way, to line up like metal filings in a magnetic field. You might say that this is what makes us a "social (or political) animal." We couldn't be a social animal if not for "forces" that are at a right angle, so to speak, to a competing -- or complementary -- force of individuation.

There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the social force, because without it we wouldn't be human. It's the invisible glue that makes a people indivisible, i.e., "one." But obviously, just as there are pathological individuals, there are pathological groups; it's not so much the force but the content that is problematic.

Again, unless you are a Man of the Left, in which case you reject the premise of a norm or standard for human individuals and groups (or pretend to reject it; more on which below).

It sounds preposterous -- or polemical or exaggerated -- to people hearing this for the first time (especially liberals), which I suppose is why Chagnon was so blindsided when he found himself pulled into the gears of the academic leftwing hate machine. For the wheels of Social Justice may grind precipitously, but they grind mercilessly. Nobody expects the Spurious Inquisition.

"Somewhere along the way," writes Chagnon, "the anthropology profession was hijacked by radicals who constituted the 'Academic Left,'" as discussed in the 1994 book Higher Superstition. In 1994, I myself probably still had one foot in the barackish pond of higher superstition, the other foot cautiously dipping into the mountain spring of Things As They Are.

Was it religion or God or O that finally saved (or ruined) me? In this realm we can only discuss correlations, not mechanistic or linear causation. I can say that in 1995 I made the conscious determination to devote the remainder of my life to the search for God. I suppose that may sound courageous or romantic, but seriously, what else is there for an adult? In any event, afterwards the Changes accelerated.

I suppose the Marxist would say that 1995 is when I plunged into a pernicious addiction to the opium of the masses -- the opium that prevents us from seeing actions and consequences as they are and will be. For what they are is material, and what they will be is determined by class conflict. Thus, I am not seeing things as they are, but how the ruling class wants me to see them. I am a tool.

Chagnon gives no evidence of being a religious tool. Rather, just empirical. Common sense. Plain speaking. Nevertheless, he was treated as a religious heretic. For according to the academic left, the proper role of anthropology is to "focus on the 'crimes' committed by previous anthropologists and what they must now do to provide restitution to the victims of their 'scientific' research."

Which brings to mind our President's crack about "white man's greed running a world in need." I mean, one doesn't pick up such insanity in church!

Oh, wait...

It's such a cliché, but it nevertheless applies: the anthropologist regards all cultures as uniquely beautiful except his own. Again, to ask the question posed at the top: why this desire to be deceived? We are seeing a version of this in the reaction of many prominent leftists to Putin's invasion of the Ukraine: "who are we to lecture him, when we are guilty of the same kind of aggression in invading Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Panama, or Grenada?" Or, to paraphrase a commenter at American Digest, who were we to invade the South and free the slaves?

The first thing one wants to say is: if only you opposed Putin's aggression as vociferously as you did Bush's! At the same time, using their formulation, I should be as enthusiastic about Putin's aggression as I was about America toppling Saddam, because I am simply animated by violence and imperialism. Therefore, I am the hypocrite. (Sounds crazy, but I heard Dennis Kucinich make this argument just yesterday.)

"Moral retardation" is too mild a term for this kind of perversion.

According to Chagnon, the "new anthropology" came down to a forensic search for the Bad Guys. True, but it's not much of a search, since the bad guys are always us. It's a foregone conclusion. One wants to say that this seems a bit intellectually lazy, but laziness alone can't account for an inversion of reality. It takes real work to be that crazy.

"A whole generation of students and teachers became convinced that everything, including scientific inquiry, is inextricably political because knowledge itself was inextricably a social -- i.e., a political -- phenomenon" (Gross, quoted in Chagnon).

And for the left, politics is just war by other means, which means that anything is permitted in order to secure victory. That is, in wartime, one is permitted to commit acts that would be considered crimes during peacetime.

No, not actual murder (at least in the US; for the most part), but certainly murder of the enemy's reputation: "Because your cause [is] moral and theirs [is] not, you [may] use false claims against competitors based on your presumed authority" (Chagnon).

Note the ironic recourse to moral authority, when objective morality is precisely what the new anthropologists deny. Another irony is that this is precisely how Chagnon describes the Yanomamö -- they have no compunction whatsoever about lying, stealing, and deception, not to mention rape, kidnap, infanticide, murder, you name it.

In reading the book, it occurred to me that the Yanomamö happily live in total contravention to every Commandment -- which is fine, since we shouldn't be imposing our own tyrannical and repressive morality on them.

Nor should we expect "humane" or "enlightened" behavior on the part of the left. Rather, we should respect the ways of their tribe, and not pretend to judge them in the light of a higher standard that doesn't exist.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

My Time Among the Savages of the Left

Upon returning to 1966 after his seventeen-month time-travel to the Stone Age, a colleague invited Chagnon to lecture her class on his findings.

Yesterday I mentioned that Chagnon seems a little naive about the uncommonly rotten core of academia, but how many people realized what was going on there in 1966? The notion of a left-wing takeover of academia would have been regarded as either 1) paranoid, or 2) about time!

So, Chagnon innocently presented his academically incorrect findings about the violent and girl-crazed Yanomamö. Afterwards, the colleague presented him with an offer he would be ill-advised to refuse: "You shouldn't say things like that. People will get the wrong impression."

Excuse me? I thought this was a university. Aren't we engaged in a search for truth? (Those are my words. Well, almost. What I would really want to say is bitch please. Don't make me go all Yanomamö on you.)

"We shouldn't say that native people have warfare and kill each other. People will get the wrong impression" (Professor I.M. O'Toole).

That's political correctness in a nutshell: it always revolves around a revealed, gnostic, a priori truth that is not to be questioned. One may deduce other truths from it, but one is not permitted to make empirical observations that lead inductively to a conclusion that challenges the alpha dogma at the top. Do that, and you're barking up the wrong tree and consigned to the doghouse, as Chagnon would soon enough find out.

And who are these "people" who are susceptible to the "wrong ideas?" I suppose it is the LoFos who are supposed to believe as told by the academic priesthood. Which is another irony, because this surely resembles what the left always says about, say, the Galileo affair. Let's leave aside the fact that they never discuss what actually happened, but have instead constructed a self-congratulating myth about Speaking Truth to Power.

Using their own (albeit intellectually dishonest) terms, Chagnon is Galileo and Big Anthropology is the medieval church, terrified that its subjects might question its dogmas. I mean, one question tends to lead to another, as in the Global Warming scandal.

Nowadays the left's power is so complete that a Chagnon would simply not be allowed to rise up among the rank and foul. Using an analogy from my field, imagine a naive graduate student who was truly curious about the settled science of homosexuality. Well, first of all, curiosity is precisely what is not permitted by the academically correct, so you'll have to indulge me.

This graduate student decides to do some original fieldwork by living amongst homosexuals in, say, San Francisco or West Hollywood. She has no preconceptions or biases, but is simply there to blend in and record her empirical observations about their attitudes, customs, and behaviors.

Upon her return, she is asked to give a lecture on her findings before an introductory psychology class. Maybe she even has careful and extensive photographic documentation of her subjects, like the estimable Ms. Zombie.

It's difficult to imagine her receiving a comment as gentle as "You shouldn't show things like that. People will get the wrong impression." Rather, she'd probably have to be escorted off campus through a gauntlet of rock-throwing primitives.

The lesson here is that the evidence of your eyes might contradict the dogma of the Church of Liberalism, and if your eyes offend us, then you'd better pluck them out before we do.

There's so much I want to say about this subject, but one of the supreme ironies here is that the academic left is exactly in the position of another of their mythological demons, the dreaded Creationists.

As with the Galileo incident, the left has systematically distorted the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in order to forge another foundational, self-serving myth. For in point of fact, as explained, for example, in Siegel's excellent Revolt Against the Masses, this was by no means a simplistic debate between Enlightened Science and religious yahoos.

The whole thing was a contrivance from the start, but if anything, the lawyer chosen to represent the prosecution, William Jennings Bryan, was a populist man of the left who was deeply concerned about the cultural, economic, and political implications of a doctrine that reduced man to an animal and revolved around "a merciless law by which the strong crowd out the weak." For him, naked Darwinism, shorn of any higher ethic, represented "a license for unbridled capitalism."

So, "the irony of the Scopes trial," writes Siegal, is "that it led liberals to tag Bryan, who was in many ways a proto-New Dealer, as a 'right wing authoritarian.'"

Conversely, an A.L. Mencken -- "the rabidly anti-democratic and sometimes anti-Semitic supporter of eugenics who admired both the Kaiser and 1930s Germany" -- would be regarded as a champion of liberalism for his passionate support of iconoclastic Darwinism -- that is to say, not Darwinism as science, but Darwinism as general philosophy (which it obviously can never be, except for Nazis and other Progressives).

Now fast-forward to the 1980s and '90s. One of the main issues that made Chagnon a demon of the left is the suggestion that man isn't an infinitely malleable blank slate, able to be bent, crushed, or mutilated into any form by the state.

Rather, there are these things called genes and this thing called human nature. Thus, he came face to farce with the "widespread biophobia built into cultural anthropological theory, which results in deep suspicion and contempt for biological ideas."

Now, if man is what he is, then there's not much the state can do about it (well, maybe abortion and other forms of eugenics). Thus, apologists for statism must attack any idea suggesting that man has a nature. Therefore, they accuse their adversaries of being apologists "for almost everything hateful in the history of Homo sapiens: wars, fascism, racism, colonialism, capitalism, eugenics, elitism, genocide, etc."

Or in other words, like Bryan in the Scopes trial, they can't object to the science, but rather, the ideological implications of the science. Ironically, natural selection is under attack from two equally misinformed sides, the Christian fundamentalists and the cultural Marxism of institutional anthropology.

Conversely, the Catholic Church, for example, has no issue with natural selection, so long as it is kept in perspective and integrated into the totality of human knowledge. I mean, all truth comes -- must come -- from God, so the more the merrier. Let it all in. The religious, of all people, shouldn't be afraid of the Light -- including any light that natural selection may shed on the human condition.

One more irony. A cultural Marxist is obviously a materialist. But wait -- isn't a metaphysical Darwinian also a materialist? So, why are the materialists at each others' throats? Well, it seems that the materialism of the anthropologists is a "biology free" materialism. Which is a strange materialism, being that man is composed of biological material. Not to mention psycho-pneumatic material.

But their materialism is refracted through the prism of postmodernism, whereby "'truth' and 'facts' are merely subjective categories, ideological constructs, inventions of the subjective observer. Science and the scientific method are viewed by these cultural anthropologists with skepticism, suspicion, and even disdain."

Indeed, even "the very notion that the external world had an existence independent of its observer was challenged." In this ideological darklight, science becomes an exploitive ideology "designed to keep the poor, the disenfranchised, ethnic minorities, and women in subordinate social positions" (Chagnon).

So it wasn't that Chagnon's science was wrong. As in the Scopes trial, that is utterly beside the point. Rather, if you contradict the truth of the left, then you are denounced as a "racist, sexist, biological determinist" (ibid). Denunciation and slander displace reason and evidence.

Which anyone who has spent time among the savages of the left already knows.

Part Two.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Ignoble Savages and Tenured Apes

I have barely any time this morning, so I can only lay a foundation for the insultainment to follow.

Noble Savages provides fascinating insight into the Stone Age savagery out of which civilization evolved, and the tenured savagery to which it has devolved.

I'm not sure which type of sadistic violence is more harrowing, that which takes place among the higher -- which is to say, pre-Chávez -- primates of Venezuela, or in the ivy-covered jungles of academia.

"When Napoleon Chagnon arrived in Venezuela’s Amazon region in 1964 to study the Yanomamö Indians, one of the last large tribal groups still living in isolation, he expected to find Rousseau’s 'noble savages,' so-called primitive people living contentedly in a pristine state of nature."

But "instead he discovered a remarkably violent society. Men who killed others had the most wives and offspring, their violence possibly giving them an evolutionary advantage.

"The prime reasons for their violence, Chagnon found, were to avenge deaths and, if possible, abduct women. He spent years living among the Yanomamö, observing their often tyrannical headmen, learning to survive under primitive and dangerous conditions" (Professor Backflap).

But in the archaic environment of academically correct cultural anthropology -- a malignant leftist fantasy world of crude neo-Marxism, soul-destroying deconstruction, tenured superstition, and hostility to science -- such observations, let alone conclusions, are Impermissible. Thus,

"When he published his observations, a firestorm of controversy swept through anthropology departments. Chagnon was vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork."

The one thing I can criticize Chagnon for is being more than a little naive about academia. You see, those tenured barbarians obviously evolved from the Stone Age ones. In fact, this is true of all of us. We all carry the prehistory of man, not just in our genes, but in our psyche (one way of looking at "original sin"). The more one is aware of this, the less likely is it to overwhelm us, either covertly exerting a malign influence or hijacking the ego altogether.

But the first thing that occurred to me in reading the chapters about the ordeal with his fellow anthropologists was that the latter were behaving exactly as the savages he had studied in the physical jungle: they were paranoid, vengeful, sadistic, and homicidal. They were out to kill -- no, not his body, but without question his ideas and his career.

Instead of doing anything -- up to and including murder -- to ensure the survival of their genes into the next generation, his credentialed assassins were willing to destroy a man -- to symbolically murder him -- so as to ensure the survival of their memes -- their precious ideas -- into the next generation of idiot college children. Same tune in a different key.

In fact, Chagnon became quite ill amidst the controversy, due to the stress of fending off these barbarians. I'm sure he would say that the incredible struggle of living in the jungle -- one time for 17 straight months -- was a cakewalk in comparison to having to deal with the violent barrage of tenured kooktalk.

For me, the more interesting question is why the left behaves in this way. Again, it is a truism in psychoanalysis that -- to express it as simply as possible -- we are composed of higher and lower selves, and that the lower can never be eliminated (because it's really one self that gets split in two for a variety of reasons). Rather, the task before us is to integrate it, hence the commonality I see between religiosity (especially the Judeo-Christian stream) and psychological development.

Indeed, for me, the Incarnation implies that Jesus truly embodies and integrates the complete human spectrum, from the lowest to the highest -- hence, for example, his easy interaction with prostitutes and even the IRS, not to mention the full post-Crucifixion descent into hell. Take the latter literally or figuratively, but the principle is the same: Jesus is a bridge spanning all degrees of human existence, rejecting none.

But we should never be surprised to find someone who pretends to be living on one of the higher rungs secretly living on a lower one. Take a Bill Clinton, who pretends to be adept at policy wonkery when he's really in it for the phallus wankery. Like the Yanomamö, it all comes down to accumulating women and avenging slights. If you should cross the Clintons, one way or another you will end up f*cked.

Sorry to leave you with that crude image, but this barbarian has to pretend to be civilized and get ready for work.

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