Gelernter Gives up Darwinism

Yale Computer Science professor and—as I found out today—Trump supporter David Gelernter has given up on Darwinism, finding it to be a “beautiful” but flawed theory.  Gelernter acknowledges that species make small adjustments based on their environment, etc.—adaptation—and that Darwin was correct in that regard, but that the process of new species developing from existing ones is mathematically impossible, even if the universe is trillions of years old.

For conservative Christians, skepticism of Darwin’s theory of evolution is something you keep quietly to yourself, lest you’re mocked roundly, or that you militantly espouse, which tends to turn people away—they tune out.  Regardless, the world at large has bought into Darwinism completely, even with holes in the theory (like the lack of a plethora of pre-Crambrian fossils that should, according to Darwin’s theory that all life descended from a common ancestor, be present given the Cambrian Explosion).

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Losing the Faith

I’ve written quite a bit about the “God hole” in modern Western life, and how that place—intended for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit—is being filled with everything but.  We desperately search for meaning wherever we can find it—politics (for the progressives and some conservatives), witchcraft, power crystals, celebrity, money, sex, etc.

Part of this state of affairs stems from the persistent onslaught of postmodern, relativistic ideas that permeate our culture, so much so that they effectively infiltrate even our churches.  The ethos of “if it feels good, do it” sinisterly insinuates itself into Christian teachings in a form of Christology that reduces Jesus to a spiritual boyfriend who is unfailingly supportive of our bad life choices.

But Jesus is not a soy boy, and Christianity is not a pick-and-choose faith that is copacetic with sin.

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Unspeakable Horror

Blogger photog has a piece up at his blog, Orion’s Cold Fire, entitled “What I Took Away from the Weekend Horror Fest,” which sums up the root causes of this weekend’s two terrible shootings: fatherless, isolated young men with few prospects, few role models, and an excess of narrow ideology.

As I wrote way back in January, I don’t typically write about shootings, because I don’t have much to add, and because the discussion always (incorrectly) focuses on controlling guns, not on addressing the real underlying issue.  The United States doesn’t have a gun problem; we have a God problem.  More precisely, we’ve jettisoned any sense of a transcendent moral order in favor relativism and a form of neo-paganism.

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Box Wine Aunties for Williamson

Yesterday I wrote of a “New Great Awakening,” an awakening of the fast swath of forgotten men and women to the realities of the progressive Left’s destructive ideology.  Blogger photog at Orion’s Cold Fire inspired the post with his piece “The Great Awakening,” which brought to mind a key point about our national debates:  our concerns are primarily theological, not political, in nature.

I’ve written quite a bit about Americans’ desperate search for meaning (also here), for a deeper spiritual Truth that motivates our culture and our lives.  Increasingly, Americans are abandoning traditional Christian faith, embracing instead alternative forms of spirituality, from the mundane and trite —“living your best life”—to sinister, like witchcraft.

It’s no surprise, then, that the dark horse—or, perhaps, the black cat—candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries is self-help guru and author Marianne Williamson.  Williamson made waves during the first set of debates with her “Love is a Battlefield” pronouncement, and has become something of an Internet meme.

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Ideas Have Consequences – Introduction

Tomorrow is the last day of my History of Conservative Thought class for the summer term.  It was a fun course to run, though if I offer it in the future, I’m hoping to firm it up and make it a bit more organized, with some lecture slides to go along with the document readings.

To end the course, students are reading the “Introduction” to Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences (1948), one of my favorite books of all time.  I reread the introduction before the start of every school year, especially if I’m teaching Philosophy, as it helps remind me why knowledge and learning are important.

They’re writing short papers about the “Introduction,” which we’ll discuss in class tomorrow.  To aid them—and, hopefully, to convince you to read Ideas Have Consequences yourself—I’m briefly summarizing Weaver’s ideas in this post.

Weaver starts his book declaring that it “is another book about the dissolution of the West.”  He argues that due to the “widely prevailing Whig theory of history,” modern man has come to believe that history is always proceeding in an upward direction—that is, that things are always getting better.

Weaver disagrees, of course, arguing that “modern man has become a moral idiot.”  He laments that, not only are people able to agree on the facts of their situation, they are utterly incapable of recognizing their own fallen state.  Despite that moral idiocy, man “has been not only his own priest but his own professor and ethics, and the consequence is an anarchy which threatens even that minimum consensus of value necessary to the political state.”  Put another way, people have decided subjectively that they know right and wrong, independent of any transcendent moral order or God, and the results are personal and political chaos!

Weaver goes on to recount the horrors modernity and self-deification have wrought:  massive wars, ruined cities, lost lives, and a general, nagging sense of powerlessness.  Weaver references specifically the destruction of the Second World War (though not by name), suggesting that the optimistic Whiggish interpretation of history is, on its face, verifiably false.

So, who is to blame for this general malaise in Western civilization?  According to Weaver, the “best representative of change… over man’s conception of reality” is William of Occam.  Most readers will know Occam from the concept of Occam’s Razor, the notion that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

Weaver, however, focuses on Occam’s doctrine of nominalism, a doctrine that “denise that universals have a real existence.”  In other words, there are no true universal, transcendent ideals—justice, mercy, grace, virtue, etc.—and no metaphysical Truth or higher power.  Further, nominalism “banish[ed] the reality which is perceived by the intellect… to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses,” setting man “on the road to modern empiricism,” the idea that only that which we experience is “true.”

Weaver proceeds to take us down that road:  nature comes to be seen as fully intelligible, merely a set of “rational mechanism[s]” to be uncovered and understood; man comes to believe that does suffer from original sin, but is rather a perfectible being; any flaws from which humans suffer are necessarily due to their environment, not their own choices.

Most significantly, belief in God and religion—a higher Form of Truth that binds together the cosmos—become reduced to “‘humanized’ religion,” like deism (the belief in a Creator that set the universe into motion, but who never intervenes with His Creation).  These reduced religions are little more than venerable institutions with the veneer of respectability, but which succumb to the materialism of the humanist.

Soon humans lose all free will, becoming the materialist machines of nature like any other animal.  Institutions crumble, which man “rationalizes with talk of emancipation,” believing himself to be free from the restrains of the benighted past.

An interesting point that Weaver makes is that, in order to feel some semblance of the old virtues—ideals that men sense they should uphold, but which they cannot understand or articulate—they fight wars with “increased frequency,” invoking ideas like justice, honor, and valor in service to materialist ends.

Of course, there are those who champion modernity.  These “apostles of modernism,” as Weaver calls them, “usually begin their retort [to Weaver’s position] with catalogues of modern achievement, not realizing that here they bear witness to their immersion in particulars,” as opposed to transcendentals.  That is the source of my own critique of capitalism, the best socioeconomic system that materialist modernism can offer.  Weaver notes that many great civilizations have shown with effervescent splendor in their dying gasps of relevance, so merely having beautiful, ingenious stuff doesn’t mean a civilization isn’t dying.

Perhaps the best passage from Weaver’s “Introduction” is what I call “Weaver’s drunk,” located on page 15 of the 1984 paperback edition linked here.  Weaver argues that the material wealth and comfort of modernity holds within it its own destruction—the more comfort we have, the less willing we are to do the work necessary to maintain it.  Weaver compares this situation to that of the drunk who is so addicted to his drink, he is incapable of doing the work necessary to sustain his addiction.  He may succeed for a time, but the more besotted he becomes, the less capable he is.

There are so many nuggets of wisdom and Truth in just the “Introduction” to this work, and I haven’t touched on all of them.  I encourage everyone to read through the full “Introduction”—and the entire book—as soon as possible.  Reading it now, some seventy-one years after its original publication, is sobering due to its prophetic nature.  The situation Weaver described has not improved.  It is imperative, now more than ever, that we consume Weaver’s work and begin pushing for a revival of religious belief and a traditional view of the cosmos, and our place in it.

 

Lazy Sunday XVIII: SubscribeStar Posts

For the past few weeks I’ve been pushing my SubscribeStar page more regularly, as readers have no-doubt noticed.  I’ve picked up one subscriber; naturally, I hope more will sign up!

Here’s the pitch:  I post a new, original essay exclusively to my SubscribeStar page every Saturday.  I also made #MAGAWeek2019 a SubscribeStar exclusive—that’s four posts about people or ideas that made America great (this year’s listJohn Adams, Alexander Hamilton, President Trump’s Independence Day Speech, and fast food).  For just $1/month, you get access to these essays.

To put that in perspective:  I’ll probably buy a pizza today for $12.  That’s what a one-year subscription to my SubscribeStar page will cost.  That’s at least fifty-two (52) original pieces, not including bonus content and current and future #MAGAWeek posts.

Even if you can’t read them on the Saturday they’re released, they will always be there!  And with new content every week, your subscription gains value with each post.  Right now there are ten SubscribeStar exclusive posts, including the #MAGAWeek2019 ones, and that number will continue to grow.

I’ll also post additional special content from time-to-time, in the vein of the #MAGAWeek2019 posts.  The long-contemplated Portly Politico Podcast, should it ever launch, will also be exclusive to SubscribeStar.

With all that said, this week’s edition of Lazy Sunday is dedicated to looking at the great SubscribeStar Saturday posts that are already on the site (excluding the #MAGAWeek2019 posts, which were the subject of last week’s Lazy Sunday).

  • The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2019” – The long-awaited successor to “The Portly Politico Summer Reading List 2016,” this list of recommended summer reads will give you plenty of conservative brain food to feed your mind and your soul.  I give detailed reviews of my four recommendations.
  • Asserting Conservatism” – This essay argues for defining conservatism in positive—that is, on its own—terms, rather than as merely against the Left.  Standing athwart history, shouting “STOP” was a necessary step in the Buckleyite days of old-school National Review, when international Communism threatened to infiltrate and topple our institutions.  Culture Marxists have accomplished what Soviet Marxists could not, and it’s time to push back, not merely stem the tide.  Doing so will require a vigorous articulation and defense of conservatism—and a willingness to fight against Leftists.
  • Christians Protect Other Faiths” – Christianity gets a bad shake, considering it built Western civilization (with an alley-oop from ancient Greece, Rome, and Israel).  The tolerance Christianity teaches is a boon to believers of other faiths, as Christ teaches conversion through persuasion, and the basic dignity of all people, Jew and Gentile.
  • Immigration and Drugs” – This piece pulls from a couple of posts at VDARE.com, which linked illegal immigration from south of the United States border to the opioid crisis.  One solution from the author:  bomb the poppy fields in Mexico, not just Afghanistan.
  • Mid-Atlantic Musings” – During #MAGAWeek2019, I was in New Jersey.  This post is a reflection of my visit (spoiler alert:  I very much enjoyed it).  It also details my one-day trip to Coney Island, which is basically Myrtle Beach in Brooklyn.
  • The Real Color of Environmentalism is Red, Not Green” – Yesterday’s post, in which I compare Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ludicrous Green New Deal to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal.  Both rely on excessive federal and executive power, and the Green will ruin the economy and our nation just the way the original one did.

So, there you have it!  There’s a lot of great material, with more coming every Saturday.  Please consider subscribing to my SubscribeStar page for just $1 (or more!) per month to gain access to these and other essays.

Happy (and Lazy!) Sunday!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

The Desperate Search for Meaning, Part III: Progressive Power Crystals

As I watch my niece and nephews grow up, I often think about their practical and spiritual educations.  It’s heartening to hear the older two sing hymns of praise to God.  In an age of progressive indoctrination in public schools, they’re going to need a lot of prayers and Christian parenting to grow up to be men and women of God.  Fortunately, my brother and sister-in-law are no-nonsense Christian conservatives.

Unfortunately, many Americans 40 and under grew up with a great deal of relativistic hogwash, and have imbibed deeply from the solipsistic brew of the “if it feels good, do it” and “I can define my own truth” culture.  Satan comes as a being of light, surrounded by overpriced power crystals.

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TPP Review: First Half of 2019

It’s been a busy week for yours portly as I’ve been on uncle duty.  The little ones are back to their folks, and TPP is wiping away the baby spittle and Cheerios dust—and, hopefully, getting back on schedule.

This Monday, July 1 will kick off #MAGAWeek2019, which will be a SubscribeStar exclusiveJust subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more to get access to these posts about the men, women, and ideas that made America great [again]!  And don’t forget tomorrow is SubscribeStar Saturday, the day of the week subscribers get a post just for them.

July 1 will also mark the halfway point of this year, so I thought I’d use tonight’s post to do a little looking back.  This post will be the 180th consecutive post, which means I have an entire secondary school academic year’s worth of posts in 2019.  I might should start compiling those into a book—the Portly Manifesto, perhaps?

Regardless, here are the five most viewed posts of 2019 up to this point.  Enjoy!

5.) “Nehemiah and National Renewal” – Not only is this post about Nehemiah, the great leader of the Israelites who coordinated the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s dilapidated walls in the face of overwhelming opposition, a reader favorite; it’s one of my favorites as well.  Nehemiah trusted in God, and when God commanded him to rebuild the walls, Nehemiah did so faithfully.  The parallels with the Trumpean program of building a wall and seeking national renewal are hard to miss.  I also wrote a fairly popular follow-up to this post, which explores the spiritual aspects of Nehemiah more thoroughly.

4.) “Hump Day Hoax” – This post garnered a great deal of attention because I linked to it in the “comments” section of GOPUSA, a conservative news and opinion website.  The site featured a piece on my adopted home town’s mayor, who claimed that the heavy pollen on her car was part of a deliberate hate crime.  You can’t make this stuff up.  In the wake of the Jussie Smollett hoax, it seemed at the time like Her Dishonor the Mayor was grasping for some race-based discrimination fame of her own.  I’m pretty sure my mayor reported the story to Newsweek herself, even though county and State law enforcement confirmed that the mystery substance was, indeed, pollen.  Gesundheit!

3.) “Secession Saturday” – This post explored the totalitarian nature of Leftism, particularly the idea that, should our cold cultural civil war ever turn hot, the Left would never allow for a peaceful separation.  Even though they hate us, part of that hate is due to their unwillingness to let us live our lives as we see fit.  As such, there would never be an amicable parting of ways, because progressives can’t stand for people to disagree with them.

2.) “Gay Totalitarianism” – This piece pulled from—as all of my best posts do—the excellent American Greatness website.  It explored a couple of hoaxes involving gays or lesbians concocting incidents of violence to garner media attention and fawning support, all in the service of pushing an increasingly unhinged queer agenda.  Jussie Smollett’s ability to stage a ridiculously clumsy “hate crime” against himself, then to walk scot-free, shows how being gay, black, and famous serves as a talisman against even criminal prosecution.

1.) “The Desperate Search for Meaning” – The most popular post of this year owes its popularity to clicks from Dalrock’s blog.  I posted the link to it in a comment on one of his pieces, and his superior content and traffic spilled over to this piece, which focused on the antics of a New Age charlatan and her female acolytes.  The posts discusses how people (and, in this context, specifically women) are desperately searching for something deeper than empty materialism, to the point that they will endure abuse and slave-like work conditions for the chance to be close to someone offering spiritual fulfillment, even if it’s counterfeit.

So, there you have it.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog this year.  Here’s hoping I can keep the momentum going.

Happy Fourth of July!

–TPP

SubscribeStar Saturday: Christians Protect Other Faiths

There’s been a debate raging on the Right between David French and Sohrab Ahmari that is ostensibly about civility in the political arena.  What it’s really about is a struggle for who will dominate conservatism:  the plucky culture warriors of the populist, Trumpian Right, or the hand-wringing sellouts of Conservatism, Inc.

That’s a story for another SubscribeStar Saturday, but is relevant to this topic.  Ahmari and other First Things writers signed their names to a manifesto in March detailing their resistance to and struggle against the prevailing liberal-progressive orthodoxy.  In his controversial follow-up piece, “Against David French-ism,” Ahmari soundly rejects hyper-individualism (and the kind of weak-willed ineffectualism of libertarian solutions to political and social problems) and vaguely calls for a state more attuned to Christian principles.

Critics are accusing him of advocating for a Catholic theocracy, which is, of course, completely unworkable in the pluralistic United States.  But I don’t think that’s precisely what Ahmari has in mind (although it’s a bit unclear).  He is correct that the United States was founded to be an implicitly Christian country.

To read more, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or higher.  Surely you want to read how I support such a sweeping claim, yes?