“Exploiting” the Third World

This is actually very close to a conversation that flipped a friend of mine.

Saw this posted on the innerwebs:

skilled workersNo.  Jobs are being sent overseas because skilled workers in other countries demand less for their labor, and they can because WE subsidize American unemployment too generously.

Let’s follow the “logic” of the poster.  It would, apparently, be better for the poor “exploited” non-unionized, third-world worker who now has an income he can feed his family on and maybe fix his roof … if we didn’t export that job and instead paid the flat panel TV, iPhone totin’, lavish retirement plan givin’, unemployment guaranteein’  wage to the guy here in America instead. It would also make his iPhone more expensive.

No, that third world guy would be MUCH better off doing seasonal work in a rice paddy somewhere exposed to malaria-ridden mosquitoes and foot fungus trying to scratch out a basic living for his family and maybe afford a used 1970’s transistor radio.  Because YOU deserve a higher wage.

Provide more value to the world than you are paid, and the work will come to you.  That is how wealth is generated, making the pie bigger for everyone.

Thatisall.

Explaining Academia: Egghead Economics

Another part of the answer to “why do profs believe their own bullshit?” has to do with how compensation works in the ivory tower.  Let’s talk $$$.

In my experience — so, yeah, this is anecdotal, but I have a lot of anecdotes — most professor types have no real world work experience.  Zero, zilch, zip, nada.  For the ones who didn’t go straight from high school to college to grad school to academia, the only brief stop on the tour was a resume-padding year or two at a nonprofit, or the Peace Corps, or Teach for America, or some such nonsense.

In other words: For these people, money has only ever come from one of two places

  1. Daddy; or
  2. The Government.

Is it any wonder why they have a hard time distinguishing between the two?  Having no experience with capitalism, it’s no surprise they don’t know the first thing about it.

monopoly guyNor can they get any experience with it in their “jobs,” even if they wanted to, because academic “work” by its nature lacks metrics.  Everyone who has ever sat through a corporate quality-control spiel (or followed a pro sports draft) hates the word “measurables,” but it’s a damn handy concept.  They’re an objective standard that’s used to determine compensation.  Academics don’t have those.

How could they?  Most jobs have actual outputs — mechanics have “cars fixed;” doctors have “patients cured;” even phone jockeys have “customers serviced.”  If it helps, think of professors like middle managers in a call center.  The phone monkeys* have to answer X number of calls a day, or per hour, or whatever, and that’s how you can tell how well they’re doing.  But how do you measure the managers?

Profs, of course, do have one “measurable” — papers published — and tenure committees rely on it almost exclusively.  But how much work goes into one of those things, and what’s the ratio between work hours and cash money?  For real-world jobs, the calculation is pretty easy — each phone call taken in X time is worth $5; each fan belt changed in X time is worth $15; a cured cold is worth $50; etc.  Obviously I’m oversimplifying the compensation process quite a bit, but we all understand that there’s at least some math in play, and that the ratios are at least kinda reasonable — even the best customer service guy in the history of the world isn’t going to get paid $500,000 a year to do it, and even the world’s worst (competent) doc isn’t going to work for $7.50 an hour.**

In other words, working joes understand that a direct, at-least-theoretically measurable relationship exists between “time spent using one’s job skills” and “the size of one’s paycheck.”  Academics don’t.

sQzKNnLet’s look at it from the back end. (I know, I know, I really should stop that).  Instead of trying to figure out how much work goes into getting a paper published, let’s start at the beginning, and measure, if we can, all the work that goes into getting into position to publish in the first place.  Let’s look at the becoming-a-professor process, and see if we can’t put a dollar figure on that.

First you have to go to graduate school, in which you have three interrelated objectives

  1. Finish your coursework
  2. Pass your comprehensive exams
  3. Write your thesis

Coursework, at least, has a number attached to it.  Most Humanities PhDs end up taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-100 credit hours’ worth of courses, split up between core courses in a specific field, ancillary requirements like foreign languages, and “thesis hours” for writing (these count as credit hours even though you don’t actually attend class in most cases).  An “hour” is exactly that – one credit hour equals one hour of your butt in a classroom chair.

In other words, getting your PhD requires about as much classroom time as a tough work week out in the real world, but spread out over five or six years.  Are you starting to see the problem?

It’s not all butt-in-seat, of course.  But that’s where things start getting really fuzzy.  A typical humanities course is a 3-hour seminar which meets once a week.  The typical workload — “homework,” if you will — is reading a book each week, plus writing a 2-3 page response paper on that book (in theory, you spend the three seminar hours talking about issues raised by the book, and all the books tie together in a comprehensive overview of the subject).  There’s also the “seminar paper,” anywhere from 15-50 pages of original work on the class’s topic.

Go ahead and monetize that for me.  How fast do you read?  How well do you write?

Comprehensive exams and theses/dissertations have no hours attached.  They can’t.  A comp exam, in theory, tests the depth and breadth of your knowledge of a subject area, and that’s what those “response papers” are for (if you do it right, they’re all the study notes you need).  Similarly, “seminar papers” should feed into your thesis, which does require a lot of additional research and writing in most cases.

All in all, it is — or, at least, can be — a lot of work.  Problem is, it isn’t compensated work.  All that is preliminary to getting hired, at which point you now have two completely contradictory objectives:

  1. Teach class; and
  2. Perform — and publish!– original research.

Your paycheck bears no relationship to either of these.  Good teachers — as measured by student evals and the occasional classroom visit — don’t get salary bumps.  You won’t get tenure if you don’t publish, but you don’t get comped for your research and writing time in any routinely-measurable way.***  How could you?  Most research, lab sciences most definitely included, is a dead end.  You could luck into the exact thing you need your first day, or spend months wading through stuff and never find it at all (this is why R&D budgets are such massive sunk costs, and why so many tech companies have effectively outsourced all their R&D to the universities).  The only thing that matters is that you publish.

Everybody with me?  Input bears no quantifiable relationship to output.  Indeed, the only professorial activity that might kinda sorta have a mathematically identifiable relationship with your bank account is grading papers, and — here’s the kicker — you did the exact same thing to pay the bills back in grad school, for about 10x less pay.

Such cute little proletarians

What a deal, right?

The point, again, is that you have no idea what your labor is actually worth.  Neither quantity nor quality of man-hours worked has any easily identifiable relationship with your paycheck.  Nor does the quality of the product determine compensation, because how could it?  Free markets are great, but how much are Friedrich Hayek’s ideas worth?  What’s a fair market rate for three hours of, say, Tom Sowell’s cogitations?  Even published papers, the sine qua non of academia, don’t operate according to market principles — you don’t get paid to publish articles, and nobody gets rich writing academic books.  There’s no market, in other words, and so nobody ever has to say “no, no, my thoughts are far too valuable to sell to your journal at that price; double your offer or I’m going to the next publisher.”

And yet.. professors do get paid.  Handsomely.  And they’re lavishly compensated in other ways, too, as our friends at Harvard have so thoughtfully illustrated for us.  And that’s why Sowell’s definition of an “intellectual” (which is a pretty good tl;dr summary of this post, incidentally) is “one whose ‘work’ begins and ends with ideas.”

So let’s bring it all together.  You’re actually paid pretty well, but you have no idea that you’re actually paid pretty well, because “pay” isn’t really a thing in your world.  Money has always kinda just, you know, appeared, in the form of Daddy’s allowance, or student loans, or research grants, or your university paycheck, which you get for…. doing… .stuff.  Sort of.  You’ve never had the experience of asking for a raise, or negotiating a contract, or selling a product in an open market (indeed, there’s such a glut of PhDs relative to jobs available that turning down a job offer is almost unheard of; you take what the college offers and thank your lucky stars you got it).

Come at it from that perspective, and so many ivory tower attitudes start to make sense.  Why shouldn’t the minimum wage be $25 per hour?  Why shouldn’t there be a “maximum wage,” and why shouldn’t we just confiscate the “excess” money from “the rich”?  Why shouldn’t “health care” be “free”?  And why do our taxes keep going up, the more we vote on lavish government spending?

 

 

*No offense to phone monkeys.  I’ve been one.

**Obviously my comments apply to the liberal arts only.  Lab science professors tend to be leftists, too, but I have no idea why.  They work in very different conditions, and their work is testable, replicable, and often results in patents, some of which are quite lucrative indeed.  I have no idea how they get infected with the Social Justice Virus.

***Typically, you have to apply for “research grants,” usually from the Feds (further reinforcing the Government = Daddy equation).  The problems outlined in the rest of that paragraph still apply — you might get a grant for $5000, find exactly what you need on the first day, and bank the rest.  Or you might blow the whole wad and find nothing.  Grant size has no relationship, in other words, to even the amount of work you do, much less its quality.

 

Explaining Academia: Jargon

Nate Winchester asks

Will the next part in the series be an explanation for when/how the professors go from doing the job, to actually believing in their own BS?

To which I replied that a full answer is beyond my ken, as I’m not a developmental psychologist.  I was only half kidding — the dictum that “liberalism is the lifelong effort to make high school turn out right” nears Platonic perfection in the ivory tower.  But I can offer at least a partial explanation, and it has to do with jargon.

Or, if you prefer, esotericism.  I’m using “jargon” here in the pejorative sense, like when you go to the emergency room and some know-it-all young resident rattles off a bunch of portentous Latin at you.  “You’ve sustained a transverse fracture of the fourth metacarpal with dorsal angulation” instead of “you broke your hand.”  But it doesn’t have to be pejorative.  “You broke your hand” works for most people, but the injury described is also known as a “boxer’s break,” and if you actually are a martial artist, you need to know that, since you’ll need to lay off certain specific activities longer.  And if you’re a professional martial artist, and you’re going under the knife, the surgeon will definitely need to know both the type (transverse) and location (4th metacarpal) of the fracture.  Jargon, then, can be not only useful, but necessary.

indexEsotericism, on the other hand, is jargon that’s designed to baffle the uninitiated.  It’s not bad in itself, necessarily — as any number of horror stories have shown, you don’t want the demon-summoning instructions just sitting out on the coffee table — but in most cases its true function is to preserve the priesthood in power.  Think Scientology.  Who would ever join if they hit you with the Galactic Overlord Xenu stuff straight out of the gate?  You need to master a formidably dense array of technical terms (and, not coincidentally, pay a whole shitload of money) before you get to the sci-fi.

This, when you come down to it, is jargon’s primary purpose within the ivory tower.  To be able to critique, say, radical feminism — and I really can’t recommend McCain’s series enough — you need to understand what they’re saying.  And that can be a full-time job.  For instance, McCain quotes this juicy bit of lunacy

“Far from being ‘natural,’ phallic sexuality is a moral and political activity. . . . Men’s sexual behaviour is not caused by hormonal dictates. It is because the penis serves the ideological function of symbolizing ‘human’ status that it is so heavily charged with erotic energy, and not because it is driven by testosterone. Men must keep using it because they need to keep proving that they exist, that their ‘humanity’ is inextricably entwined with penis-possession; women must be constantly used by it to prove that men exist, that the sum total of a man is his penis. . . . Anything and everything must be subordinated to penile activity if men are to be what phallic ideology requires them to be.”

Believe it or not, this would qualify as straightforward prose in the ivory tower.  Very little of it is coded.  In the vulgate, this passage says that men stick their dicks in women because the only way men know they exist is through the act of dick-sticking.  If you’re not actually pumping and thrusting at the present moment, fellas, you aren’t really real.

If you’re not actually doing that, guys, please go find a vagina — stat! — so that we can continue.  Ladies, please be patient…. Everybody back?  Ok.

Let’s observe a few things about this passage, starting with the bolded terms.  Decoding the jargon, we get this:

Phallic sexuality implies that there are other kinds of sexuality — vaginal sexuality, for instance, and I suppose oral and anal sexuality, too (sorry for being crude, y’all, but it’s really unavoidable when you’re talking about this stuff…which is also one of the functions of jargon).  Which I suppose is true enough, if you take it in a “natural” sense — men and women have evolved quite different mating styles, as a brief scan through a thoughtful “game” blog will show you….

But Thompson, our author, specifically denies that she’s talking about biology.  That’s why “natural” is in quotation marks up there.  Instead, she claims that “phallic sexuality” — for which we’ll read “masculinity” — is moral and political.  Those terms are so overused in academia as to be nearly meaningless, but they still have an important implication: That all of this — by which, again, I mean masculinity — is conscious and voluntary.  (Nobody is unconsciously political, or moral on autopilot).  In other words, I don’t see this

aliceevestartrekintodarand automatically feel a rush of hormones.  I have to decide that I find this woman attractive, and the thought “gosh, I sure would like to have sex with her!” isn’t mental shorthand for all the chemical stuff going on in my gonads.  That’s nature, my friends, and according to our author, it doesn’t exist.  Understood as a moral and political act, my thought — “gosh, I sure would like to have sex with her!” — is incomplete, and therefore meaningless.  It needs to be followed with “because that would prove, to me (and, coincidentally, to her) that I exist.”

No, I’m not kidding.  Go back and read it again.

What we’re talking about, then, is ideology, which in academese means “moralized politics.”  This is one reason why communication across the political divide can be so tough.  For conservatives, “ideology” means “set of first principles.”  So, we can say things like “free markets are a part of our ideology” and mean nothing more than “we are convinced that free markets produce better results than the alternatives.”  But leftists use the academic definition.  For them, “ideology” is always mixed up with morality, so when they hear “I believe in free markets,” they also hear “because I hate the poor / favor increased inequality / fuck minorities.”

And then there’s this:

 It is because the penis serves the ideological function of symbolizing ‘human’ status that it is so heavily charged with erotic energy, and not because it is driven by testosterone.

Let’s contemplate that for a sec.  Pretend this is a freshman dorm, and it’s two in the morning, and we’ve all had a few bong rips.  What does signal “human status,” anyway?  Like, with animal rights and stuff.  Surely a healthy chimpanzee has a higher quality of life than a comatose human with irreparable brain damage?  Anything you can say about the chimp to deny it its rights — it doesn’t have moral sensibilities, it doesn’t have political responsibilities — can also be said of Brain-Dead Brad, no?

I’m not trying to be cute or facile, y’all.  I really want you to think about it.  What makes you human?  And then contemplate Thompson’s answer: Having a dick.  According to her, one is only human — one is only a conscious, political agent — if one has a penis.

Again, I’m not kidding.  Read the passage again.  Tell me how that doesn’t follow from what she wrote.

But wait.  Notice the underlined term it.  What does that mean?  This pronoun is used five times in this short passage, and every time it means — or, at least, could mean — something different.  Or it could mean nothing.  The word first appears in the sentence I just quoted, where it refers to… what, exactly?  The ellipses don’t help (the sentence McCain left out reads: “Men do have a choice and they can be held to account when they exercise their freedom to choose at women’s expense”).  So no help there, because the very next sentence is all about the penis being charged with erotic energy.  And then “it” appears again in the next sentence, not being driven by testosterone.  I think she’s referring to the dick there, but I’m not willing to put money on it.

And that’s the one of the purposes of the words “charged” and “erotic energy.”  If you don’t know what those mean — and there’s no way to tell from the quoted passage — then it’s very hard to follow the pronoun shifts.  Are we still talking about the “human status” that is supposedly signaled by the penis?  Is it the penis which is somehow charged with this mysterious erotic energy (but not plain ol’ testosterone, which you can see in a test tube)?  Or are we still in the realm of “ideology”?

From thence, this:

Men must keep using it because they need to keep proving that they exist, that their ‘humanity’ is inextricably entwined with penis-possession; women must be constantly used by it to prove that men exist, that the sum total of a man is his penis

On the surface, the first part of the sentence is a straightforward — though crazy — ontological and epistemological claim.  Men only know (epistemology) that they exist (ontology) through the act of dick-usage.  But, again, what is the “it” which is being used?  The penis?  Phallic sexuality?  Ideology?  Human status?  Or the mere symbol of human status, which is coextensive with, but not identical to, a penis?

The part after the semicolon only adds to the confusion.  Again, what is the “it” that is constantly using women?  And no matter what value we assign to “it,” Thompson seems to be claiming that men actually cease to exist — that they actually blink in and out of existence like quarks — if they’re not fucking.

Right?  I mean…. right?

And here’s where you see the usefulness of jargon, in all its glory.  Because you could, of course, read Thompson’s statement as an at least somewhat reasonable — though stridently and clumsily expressed — comment on our society.  Are men who can’t get laid subject to all kinds of social ostracism?  You know, omega males and all that?  And at least some part of attractiveness is culture-bound, right?  I mean, I find this chick smokin’ hot

belly-dancers-23abut Rubens would no doubt find her scrawny and malnourished.  It’s not all hormones, in other words.  And yes, I do have a choice not to leer at her, just like I could choose not to re-post this

sQzKNnbecause, really, it’s just prurience, and I am objectifying her (and I am enjoying it, not least because she complains so much about being objectified).

Jargon, in other words, gives you plausible deniability.  If someone with the power to shut down Ms. Thompson’s program were to ask her “do you really believe — and teach your students — that men pop in and out of existence like quarks, depending on if they’re in the process of fucking?”, she could straight-facedly deny it.  “Of course not!  I’m just highlighting the social construction of gender.”  Followed by some UVa / Duke Lacrosse-style “fake but accurate” bullshit.

If, on the other hand, Ms. Thompson needed to play the more-radical-than-thou game — like, say, for publication or tenure purposes — then yes, men do pop in and out of existence like quarks, because the Ideology of Phallic Sexuality requires it.  “It” is a moral and political act, after all — what’s so hard to understand about that?

Ok, I'm just being a jerk now

Ok, I’m just being a jerk now

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is at least part of the reason why eggheads start to believe their own bullshit.  As I hope I’ve shown in that sentence-by-sentence analysis — and I’m sorry for putting y’all through that — it’s almost impossible to argue with this stuff.  If you don’t speak the code, it seems outlandish… but that’s probably because you don’t speak the code, right?  I mean, after all, this woman has a PhD; there’s gotta be something to it.  Maybe if you knew what “erotic energy” and “ideology” meant.  On the other hand, even if you do speak the code — and, alas, I do — you still can’t decipher it, because constantly-shifting pronouns and very careful use of the passive voice mean you’re never on firm ground.  Where the hell did this “phallic ideology” even come from in the first place?  Beats my pair of jacks…. maybe it’s somewhere else in the book, but who has time to go fishing for it?  Meanwhile, the paper’s due in two days — you better get something down, and it better be what the prof wants to hear!

Explaining Academia: “Social Constructions”

I urge you all to peruse the comments on Morgan’s post.  First, because of this

sQzKNnAnd then because of this:

And this makes some people [i.e. liberals] just pig-biting mad. They want to see frumpy pear-shaped women in pant suits — or, no women at all — in any position that has visibility. Ultimately, what they want to do is eradicate gender, because gender is a definition.

They’re related, I promise.

All due respect to Morgan (who along with Philmon is my blog-godfather), but he’s wrong on this.  Gender’s not a definition, and they most definitely don’t want to eradicate it.

Let’s start with that magnificent piece of ass up there.  What, is that offensive?  The lady in question sure seems to think so — she’s on record as being against “objectification.”  And yet, there she is, bent over the hood of a car in a bikini and stripper heels.

Now, normally this is where I’d write “thus proving cognitive dissonance is bullshit” (sorry, Gary).  But that’s not the case here.  What Ms. Patrick is incoherently expressing when she talks about “objectification” is what these people have drilled down to a mantra — the “social construction” of gender.

IMG_1072Sorry about the image (and that’s the last time I’ll do that to you without warning, I promise), but the premise behind both pictures is the same, and it’s important.  These young ladies aren’t objectifying themselves by writing “slut” on their chests, for the same reason Danica Patrick isn’t objectifying herself by dry-humping a Porsche — you can’t objectify yourself.

____

Karl Marx wrote:

The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.

This is Leftism’s core concept.  Without it, Leftism is nothing but the loose, self-contradictory conglomeration of petty grievances that we all know and love.  With it, those grievances cohere into dogma.

Most Leftists don’t cite this dictum of Marx’s anymore (I doubt that most of them have ever actually heard it), because it’s so obviously a Gem — we can only know what our social position allows us to know, and therefore we don’t know things as they really are.  But if you change that bit about “social being” into “social construction,” it not only sounds less Gem-like, but it even seems true.  It comes out of the realm of philosophy and into the real world.

So many of our social norms and conventions are just that, and a great deal of our behavior — almost all of it, in fact — can be reduced to either conformity with social norms, or rebellion against them.  And it’s plain as day that these change over time — If you fell out of your cradle into a time machine, for instance, and got warped back to 10th-century Scandinavia, you’d grow up a Viking, right?

Your behavior — indeed, your very identity — back then would be “socially constructed” Viking-ness, just as your identity now is socially constructed American-ness.  Capisce?

Gender works the same way.  In India, for example, male friends hold hands, and the beauty salons you see on almost every street corner are presumed to be men-only (the ones that also serve women specify “unisex”).  American men generally find this weird, just as Indian men no doubt find it weird that American men consider this

1253293349to be macho behavior.

If you understand it in that sense –and that’s how it will be presented for the first five minutes of your freshman Humanities course — it’s interesting and useful.  It explains why your great-grandma can’t balance a checkbook, why your grandpa can’t cook, why your mom and dad looked at you funny when you busted all this out for them over your first Christmas break, why you’re an American and not a Viking.

The problem, of course, is that lots of folks don’t stop there.  If it’s all a social construction (which we’re taking as read), and if society can change (as experience shows), then the potential to change people themselves is theoretically limitless.

Let’s take another example from academia.  Here’s Frankfurt Schooler Erich Fromm, trying to duck the obvious historical fact that Marxist regimes are police states:

Marx saw that political force cannot produce anything for which there has been no preparation in the social and political process. Hence that force, if at all necessary, can give, so to speak, only the last push to a development which has virtually already taken place, but it can never produce anything truly new. “Force,” he said, “is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.”  It is exactly one of his great insights that Marx transcends the traditional middle-class concept — he did not believe in the creative power of force, in the idea that political force of itself could create a new social order. For this reason, force, for Marx, could have at most only a transitory significance, never the role of a permanent element in the transformation of society.

The last sentence, which I’ve highlighted, is the crucial one.  If force is “at all necessary,” Fromm assures us, it won’t be permanent force.  Which, after all, is embedded in the concept — once you’ve sufficiently changed men’s social being, then their consciousness will be permanently altered.  You don’t have to keep breaking eggs once the omelet is made.

Notice what’s missing from that sentence, though.  Indeed, it’s missing from the whole paragraph.  Who is the subject?  Who, in other words, is doing the forcing?  Who uses the force?

19a01zcazkzh1jpgThis is the key verbal slight-of-hand of the phrase “social construction.”  When you put it in terms of force, as Fromm does, the trick becomes obvious — his essay was clearly written as an apologia for the KGB.  Construction, on the other hand, is a positive word.  And yet it, too, is active, which is why “social” is always attached to it.  Society is doing the constructing… and society, as we’ve seen, is infinitely malleable.

This phrase does two useful things for the Left.  First, and most important, it maintains that sense of plausible deniability, that carefully crafted passivity, that keeps individual Leftists from taking responsibility for their actions.  “Society” is an abstract noun, and “construction” can mean almost anything.  It allows the Left to act without fear of consequences.  Something they don’t like is “constructed,” you see… but if the specific “solution” they go to the mattresses for ends up making the problem worse, then in comes “social” to bail them out.  It’s the emotional — and moral — equivalent of the old saw about selling populist policies to dumb voters: Privatize benefits, socialize costs.

The second benefit is related to the first.  Since we can’t define “society” (or, really, “construction”) this phrase allows the Left to be both victim and victimizer, subject and object, simultaneously.  Danica Patrick can cash the check for appearing nearly nude on a magazine cover, and whine about being “objectified” by the “patriarchy.”  Dan Rather can use the phrase “fake but accurate” without his head exploding.  Above all, you can call yourself a “Progressive” without ever defining a goal, even though the word “progress” is by definition teleological — in normal English, “to progress” always implies “toward something.”  Best of all, everything is always malleable, always in flux — it’s “constructed” — but since it’s social, you can change the “construction” by bossing people around.  Change their social being, after all, and you’ll change their consciousness.

This is why “gender” will always remain undefined, and always with us.  They don’t want it to go away, but they do want it to mean whatever they need it to mean, whenever they need it.  It’s a definition that’s subject to change without notice, and the changes will always have the force of law, even if today’s definition is 180 degrees away from yesterday’s.  Because it’s “socially constructed.”

On Atheism – UPDATED 2x

This is kind of a placeholder post — it’s the least I can do that isn’t a straight-up SNUL —  but Morgan had an update on something that I find perennially bothersome, so…

Y’all know that “atheism” is logically impossible, right?

I don’t mean that it’s logically necessary that there be a God — though I do actually maintain that.*  It’s the whole “proving a negative” thing.  For either sense of the word “believe,” you’re screwed.

1) If you “believe” in the nonexistence of God in the same way you believe in the nonexistence of aliens, then the best you can do — logically speaking — is agnosticism.  Yeah, the current “evidence” for their existence — abductions and probes and the like — is beyond flimsy.  And yeah, every single term in the Drake Equation is an ass-pull.  But if an actual flying saucer landed in your backyard, and little bald extraterrestrials with big eyes really started doing unspeakable things to your bottom, you’d have to believe.  Right?  Otherwise, you’re dealing with

2) The dogmatic sense of the word “believe.”  You’re saying that there is no possible evidence that could convince you.  No chain of reasoning is so tight, no standard of proof so precise, that you’d believe it.  Even as you’re strapped to the table, and the Grays are slugging it out with the Reptilians over who gets first crack at your sphincter, you’ll remain utterly, dogmatically certain that it’s a practical joke, or swamp gas, or a weather balloon.  Which is exactly the kind of thing Christofascist Godbags do, no?

What “atheists” really mean when they say they don’t believe in God is that they don’t like Christians.  Or, more typically, they really don’t like one particular Christian who plays a prominent role in their lives (usually Daddy).  And because the gap between “a logically necessary Creator” and “the Being described in the Bible” really does require a leap of faith to cross, wannabe-atheists take “lack of scientific proof for Jesus’s miracles” to mean “Christianity is false.”  Which entails that Daddy is full of crap, which is really all they wanted to assert in the first place.

But because every teenager in the history of ever has thought his or her father full of crap, and because agnosticism doesn’t get you any freethinking rebel street cred, they have to ramp all this up to “there is no God” to temporarily find themselves interesting.

And that’s sad.

 

*St. Thomas Aquinas’s famous five proofs for the existence of God are more than enough to show that a Creator was — and is– logically necessary.  You don’t need to plow through the Summa to get them, either.  Eward Feser sums them, and the most common objections to them, up very nicely in his Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas, and develops them at length in his The Last Superstition.  It’s true that Thomism isn’t easy, but a lot of that is due to a whole bunch of Scholastic technical vocabulary.  But sometimes technical vocabulary is necessary to describe how things actually are — if you’ll forgive a poor joke, life has a certain irreducible complexity, and you need the right words to describe it.  But nothing should be too daunting for the giant intellects of freethinking sophomores, and that’s doubly true of the liberal ones, who are far, far Smarter than the Angelic Doctor could ever have hoped to be. Go ahead — give it a whirl.  Show that medieval so-and-so who’s boss.

Update 1/1/2015: This started as a reply to Robert Mitchell Jr., but I thought it was widely-enough applicable to warrant inclusion above the fold. Mr. Mitchell says:

[religion] is a coherent belief system that is logical

To which I say: Exactamundo.  David Stove — an atheist — explains the problem I have with anti-religion* folks in a nutshell, in an essay called “What is Wrong with Our Thoughts?”  He starts by making fun of the famous (among theologians and early-medieval historians) argument that led to the Schism between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Churches: the filioque controversy.  The question is: Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father alone (the Eastern position) or the Father and the Son?

Stove points out that this question can’t be solved by logic alone.  If it could, the medievals — who were monomanically focused on logic — would’ve solved it.  Whichever side of the question you choose, the logic will be impeccable.

Now, Stove says this is a prime example of thought gone bad, precisely because it’s so logical. If you find the statement “the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father alone” to be nonsense, good luck using syllogisms to prove it.  You have to attack the terms: “Holy Ghost,” “Father,” and “proceeds.”  And those, too, are impervious to logic.  They’re also impervious to empirical proof — which is why Stove thinks they’re nonsense — but formal logic has nothing to do with it.

But most people badly misuse the word “logical” — which was the point of my post.  This JapanYoshi guy, for instance, claims to have logically concluded that God doesn’t exist.  Which is impossible, in the same way it’s impossible for me to logically conclude that the Holy Ghost does exist, or that It proceeds from the Father alone.  Or, if we want to stick with the metaphor of the original post, the way it’s impossible to logically conclude that aliens don’t exist.

You can’t prove a negative.

28228-Thats-Unpossible-Ralph-wiggum-PcuIWhat this fellow wants to assert, I’m sure — and if I’m misreading you, buddy, feel free to come on back and correct me — is that it’s reasonable to conclude that God doesn’t exist, or that it’s likely God doesn’t exist, or that there is no evidence for the existence of God (for certain carefully selected values of “evidence”).  All of which are reasonable enough propositions; they’re the same ones we mean when we say aliens, unicorns, and/or honest Democrats “don’t exist.”  They’re just not logical, in the strict, formal sense I’m using.

Or, alternately (and I suspect this is the case), he’s trying to assert that the Being described in the Bible doesn’t exist.  Which, again, is a reasonable enough proposition — not even Aquinas, whose proofs for the existence of a Creator I find indisputable, would argue for the existence of the Christian God from formal logic.  But you can’t disprove Him with formal logic, either.  We simpy can’t know all the attributes of the Creator from pure reason (though we can know a surprisingly large number of them; again, see Feser’s Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas).

Which is why I put the asterisk behind “anti-religion” up there.  Every “atheist” I’ve ever met has only been concerned with his (and it’s always his) culture’s dominant religion.  It bothers Western atheists not a whit that Hindus (supposedly) believe in 330 million gods; they only ever want to talk about Jesus.  And this is a testable hypothesis — invite a Western atheist to schlep on down to the local mosque and have a heart to heart with the folks there about the nonexistence of Allah. In just the same way, the Indian “atheists” I’ve met don’t care about Jesus; they either want to bang on Hinduism or Islam (or both), depending on which part of the Subcontinent they came from and the vitriol of their personal politics.

Again, all of which is fine.  Disbelieve in Christianity all you want.  Make fun of Christians all you want.  Christianity has had thousands of defenders; if none of that changes your mind, then you’re not going to see the light on a blog with about four regular readers.  But don’t come in here talking about logic.  That dog won’t hunt.

[And if, by some miracle, you really do think God’s nonexistence is demonstrable by means of formal logic, and you’ve got a proof all worked out on paper, then by all means take it to your local university.  Or, heck, take it up with Edward Feser.  He’s got a blog; I’m sure he’d love to hear from you].

UPDATE 2x (1/3/2015):The Superficial “Logic” of Atheism

This started as a reply to Nate Winchester, but I also think it has above-the-fold applicability:

As Mr. Winchester points out, there sure are a lot of conventions, fanfic, etc. for the tv non-show “Off.”  Which, again, shows that this is not a logical position.  Logic stands or falls on its own.

All men are mortal;

Socrates is a man;

therefore Socrates is mortal

is true whether nobody defends it, or if we hold a giant “mortality of Socrates” rally in Wembley Stadium.  Similarly,

All men are mortal;

Socrates is not a man;

therefore Socrates is immortal

doesn’t hold, no matter if ditto (“Socrates” could be the name of my pet goldfish; and goldfish are most certainly mortal).

I think “atheists” get caught up on points like this, especially when expressed formally:

All A are B; A; therefore B

is universally valid, but

All A are B; ~A; therefore ~B

isn’t.  This is no insult to the intelligence of “atheists” — or, if it is, it’s an insult to my own intelligence, too, because I surely thought the second statement was valid back when I took Logic 101, and had to go to the prof’s office hours to get it explained to me.  It sure looks right there on the page — especially to the non-mathematically inclined like myself — but is easily shown to be false when you plug in real-world examples (e.g. my pet goldfish, “Socrates”).

Alternately, lots of “atheists” might think it’s believers who are getting caught up in this kind of thing (All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal; therefore Christianity is illogical).

Which, again, is fine — Christianity is illogical.  That’s why it depends on faith.  If you want to maintain that belief in the divinity of Jesus is illogical, knock yourself out.  As I’ve said, I’ll even agree with you!  But that’s a far different thing from saying God does not logically exist (and you’ll note, just for the record, that “All men are mortal; Jesus was a man; therefore Jesus was mortal” isn’t sufficient to “prove” atheism, since this is a tenet of faith among Jews and Muslims).

There are two other superficially logical arguments for atheism that I can see, because I used to find them appealing.  The first goes something like this:

If God, who is all good, exists, there would be no evil in the world; evil exists; therefore God does not exist.

This is the famous problem of theodicy, and you don’t need a blog with four readers to run you through it.  But I will point out that if you use this argument, you’re putting yourself on the same kind of logical hook those stupid believers are on — if there’s no God, then Evil exists in the same way the speed of light exists, or gravity exists.  It’s just a physical constant; just part of the way the universe happens to be.  But if that’s the case, then it isn’t really Evil, is it?

The other one goes something like this:

All cultures have a notion of God, but might just be part of our wiring.  Our belief-in-God behavior is no different than a dog’s sniffing-other-dogs’-butts-behavior; belief in God is innate to human-ness the way butt-sniffing is innate to dog-ness.

Again, this is reasonable.  It might even be true.  But it’s only logical in the sense that it’s a tautology — we do what we do, because that’s what we do.  To go beyond this

we can only do what we are biologically capable of doing;

therefore God does not exist

is quite obviously a Gem (and not one of the prettier ones, either).  And if you try to weasel out of the tautology by saying “humans have a biological tendency to believe in God,” you’re succumbing to the Ishmael Effect — how did you, a human, escape humanity’s near-universal tendency to belief?  What makes you so special?

Obviously none of these prove the existence of God, let alone the Christian God (as I believe — heh heh — I’ve said about 3,000 times now).  Indeed, both the Gem and the Ishmael Effects, two of the most useful concepts I’ve ever come across, were developed by avowed atheist David Stove.  I’m sure he read the Thomistic arguments I find irrefutable; clearly they didn’t convince him.  And since Stove is obviously far smarter than me, it’s entirely possible that there is some IQ threshold above which it’s logically possible to prove a negative.

But if that’s the claim you’re making, champ, then you’re facing what I call The Fundamental Paradox of Internet Liberalism:

  • Conservatives are too dumb to understand liberal arguments;
  • If they were smart enough, they’d be liberals;
  • I’m arguing with them anyway

Compared to that, atheism is “logical” indeed!

Stolen Land

I find this interesting too….

Went to St. Charles for their Christmas Traditions Festival over the weekend.  Found a book, “Indian Story and Song from North America” by Alice C. Fletcher … a Victorian woman who did a lot of research on American Indian music around the 1890’s — by hanging out with them, listening to their stories.  I’ve always been interested in a lot of the cultural aspects of the American Indians.

So I bought the book.  And I’m reading along in it – she tells the stories behind the songs as told to her by tribe members.

“The He-du’-shka Society is very old.  It is said to have been in existence at the time when the Omahas and the Ponkas were together as one tribe.  There is a song with a dance which must be given at every meeting.  It is to keep alive the memory of a battle that took place while we were migrating westward, and where defeat would have meant our extermination as a tribe.  I will tell you the story.

One morning, the tribe, whose country had been invaded by the Ponkas, made an unexpected assault upon the camp of the invaders.  For a time, it seemed as though the Ponkas would fare badly at the hands of their assailants, who were determined to drive out or destroy the intruders;  but after a desperate struggle the Ponkas pushed their enemies back from the outskirts of the village, until finally their retreat became a rout.  Both sides suffered great loss.  The ground was strewn with the dead, and the grass stained with the blood of the warriors who fell in the battle;  but the victory was with us, and we had conquered the right to dwell in that country.”

There are those who insist on advancing the view that Europeans came across the ocean with some sort of unique “western” attitude that migration and acquisition of property by force to facilitate it means that the “white man” has no right to the land that he lives on today, many generations later.  This attitude is based on standards since set by those very “white men”.  We are judging the past through the lens of today’s standards, and we are leaving out important details to do that.

If we, the descendants of those who conquered this land have no right to it as it was obtained by conquest – and we obtained it from people who obtained it by conquest … where, exactly, does that chain of logic end?

D’Souza’s “America – Imagine A World Without Her” addresses this and many other memes.  It’s worth watching.

D3: Colonel Jessup Moment

Methinks the SJWs are about to have a Colonel Jessup Moment.

You want me on Twitter.  You need me on Twitter.

You want me on Twitter. You need me on Twitter.

Vox Day notes that the rabbits have come up with a “block list” for Twitter users they find offensive, with, it seems, a matching block-bot.  This is something I thought they would’ve come up with years ago, but now that I think about it, it makes sense.  You see, they need Vox, and Adam Baldwin, and above all #GamerGate.  It’s the only way they know they’re special.

There’s an analogue in the art world.  As David Thompson points out so frequently (and hilariously!), there is no “art” these days but state-subsidized art.  This is because our modern “artists” have embraced “transgression” — épater les bourgeois, if you want to be snooty about it — as their only value.  Which only works if les bourgeois give a shit.  Which they don’t, having been continually epatered (feel free to correct my French, humorless internet pedants) by the entire cultural establishment since about 1912.  When nothing’s shocking, then shocks don’t sell, and “art” is reduced to petitioning the government for a handout.

What the art establishment needs, in other words, is a truly influential Jerry Falwell type.  Someone who knows, and very publicly appreciates, the old forms, and is willing to pay to see them restored.  If the Koch Brothers went looking for a modern Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of their Führerbunker — that kind of thing.  If that happened, oh, the appreciation of “art” we’d see!  There’d be lines stretching halfway to Brooklyn outside MoMA’s doors.  You wouldn’t hardly be able to see Piss Christ for all the ironic facial hair clogging the galleries.  It’d be the best thing to happen to art since HUAC.

I’m calling the recognition of this reality a “Colonel Jessup Moment.”  You know Nicholson’s famous speech from A Few Good Men:  “You want me on that wall!  You need me on that wall!”  Without les bourgeois to épater, there is no art.  With no #GamerGate to tweet bile at, you don’t get to be special.  No #GamerGate, and the whole social justice crusade turns into Work 227.

“If I can make something without adding any objects I feel more comfortable. It’s like, if I can’t decide whether to have the lights on or off then I have them both on and off and I feel better about it.”

Is that not the entire rabbitschauung in two sentences?  Semper fi, baby.

More Fun with #GamerGate: The Echo Chamber [UPDATED]

Note the “logic” here: Because lefty sites are repeating lefty talking points, the people who don’t mindlessly parrot the left’s talking points are — gasp! — irrelevant.

Look, there’s a reason I don’t read Rolling Stone, the Daily Beast, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Slate, The New Yorker, et al — I already know what they’re going to say.  About anything and everything.  I’ve heard it all already — on Facebook, on tv, in my work email, on the radio, in the lunchroom.  They’re all just iterations of “Air America.”  Unless I’m a little low on my USRDA of smugness and hipster douchebaggery, there’s zero reason for me to click over to any of them.

Which, you know, is all fine and good.  Some people need their ideological methadone clinics.  But — and this is the crucial thing — “gamers” never gave a shit about those sites in the first place.  And “gamers” are the ones that matter, because — get this — they’re the ones actually buying the games.

They’re not irrelevant.  They’re literally the only people who are relevant.  The software company which doesn’t make gamers’ opinions the alpha and the omega of their corporate existence will swiftly become an ex-company.  Money talks, bullshit walks.

I have to say, I never thought I’d give the slightest thought to what Cheeto-stained dudes who are one or two World of Warcraft sessions away from developing rickets had to say about anything.  But this is delicious fun.  It’s the clearest possible proof — if any more were needed — that the left’s sole debate tactic is: Point-and-hoot.  Disqualify, disqualify, disqualify.  Punish the nonbeliever.  Shun the rabbit right out of the warren.

Problem is, that doesn’t work on people who self-identify as “outside the warren.”  Your serious “gamer” takes it as a point of pride that people who read Rolling Stone think he’s weird and antisocial.  Point-and-hoot is actually an affirmation to these guys.

The SJWs don’t — can’t — understand that.  And it’s driving them so wonderfully, hilariously bonkers.

UPDATED 10/21/14: John C. Wright noticed the same thing, but expressed it much, much better.  As professional writers do.

No H8 N< U H8 HU I H8!

A friend asked what is going on with people when I pointed at this.

I thought about it a second … since I’d already given it some thought earlier today* …  and came up with this:

A splintering of people into aggrieved groups looking for badges to wear to garner respect from people they think they should respect and therefore you should too.

You don’t have to be honest and work hard and be reliable and fair and kind. You just have to hate the right people.

* you wanna talk about reducing people to a single aspect of their whole, how about reducing them to their genetalia?  Hmmm???

Beauty Pagents

Sun Tanned Sue - Zoë Mozert

Sun Tanned Sue – Zoë Mozert

Yet another haughty disparaging screed against Miss America/Universe/Vogon ….

American needs to lighten up.  Or — I should say, the self-anointed intellectual elite does.  Most of the rest of us never got all heavy about it.

I find it amusing in a sad way that lots of people stumble all over themselves to show everyone how non-judgmental they are by judging others, say, for making judgement they feel should’t be being made, even when people line up to do it voluntarily. “Hey, do what makes you happy. Follow your dreams. Unless it’s THAT!

We have here a bunch of people voluntarily self-selecting to compete in a contest where they will be judged based basically upon their physical beauty. And physical beauty is a thing — it exists in nature, it exists in flowers, trees, dogs, horses, and human beings. It is only one aspect of these things, but it is an aspect.

We have foot races, but nobody competing in a foot race is being dehumanized by reduced to his or her physical speed. You can extend this to pretty much all of track and field. And in aggregate, any sport.

Is the “best” guitar player in the world dehumanized by focusing on his or her ability to play the guitar? No. It’s only one part of the person. But it IS — undeniably a part.

Beauty pageants say pretty much nothing about how women are viewed in America or anywhere else today other than the fact that they are widely considered by people of both genders to be the fairer sex (which is why it is far more widely watched by both men and women than the Mr. America competition — which exists — but virtually nobody whines about). That’s just an aspect of being human — the appreciation of beauty — and both sexes tend to agree on it. The proof is that it is observable in every significant human population anywhere in the world.

Women and men are sums of the many aspects that make each of us up, and physical appearance is one of those aspects. My wife and most other women I know will comment on how beautiful particular women are. To ignore this, in fact, is DE-humanizing.

Women are, everywhere in the human race, valued partially for their beauty by both genders — moreso than men.  Because it is a quality that they, as a group, have more of. Fortunately, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and they are, like men, valued for many other things as well, and we choose our partners and friends accordingly.

It is one thing to sit and publicly pass judgment on random people, though all of us do it privately all the time. But these contests — they aren’t random people. They are there specifically to be judged on their beauty. It’s not like a big shock at the end, “hey, just kidding, we really wanted to know how well you could answer a question where the pat answer is ‘World Peace'”.

They do throw these things in to make sure you’re “not just a pretty face” (or body) but it IS about physical appearance and everybody knows it and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.