Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Secular Spirituality

This pair of related essays does a good job at times capturing an idea that I've been mulling around for awhile: how secularists pick and choose aspects of religion that are mostly aimed at becoming more effective managers of their time and emotions, so they can grab small snippets of quiet in between the extended bouts of productivity and consumerism that dominate their lives.  When compared to the collective nature of historical religious traditions, this individualistic effort leaves people alone and isolated in their spiritual journey, and usually lacking the peace they seek.

"This plundering reflex — where the secular raids the spiritual for booty — has been noted before. In Susan Sontag’s essay Piety without Content, the great critic derides the tendency of intellectuals to vaguely pick and choose spiritual and religious ideas without actually committing to any of them:

This is piety without content, a religiosity without either faith or observance….for the modern post religious man the religious museum..is without walls; he can pick and choose as he likes, and be committed to nothing except his own reverent spectatorship.
- Susan Sontag

Still, living in the largely non-religious west, I have sympathy for those who will take sources of meaning and belonging wherever they can get them. There are riches in religious traditions that can be life-giving elsewhere, and striving to be healthy and productive are laudable goals. But Sam Byers’ book made me realise that at worst the use of ‘spirituality-lite’ in service of this goal is a kind of cultural appropriation which severs fruits from roots and leaves you with an armful of dead flowers.

Spirituality which just equips us to be better foot soldiers in a market society characterised by desperate consumption and expressive individualism is not spirituality at all."

"To see at work the contradictory impulses and injunctions we’re daily expected to reconcile, you might begin by immersing yourself, as Maya does, in our collective online existence. Here, through a kaleidoscope of inspirational Instagram quotes, revolutionary praxis, artfully prepared food and effortless-seeming yoga poses, profound contradictions are reconfigured as a series of seductive adjacencies. The language of rebellion and anarchy merges seamlessly with the language of self-help. We are encouraged to challenge power, punch up, resist. And yet at the same time we are exhorted to grow and glow, strive, achieve, become. The result is an excruciating double bind. Only through a more robust sense of self, we believe, can we muster the rebellious energy by which the unjust world around us might be changed. And yet, deep down, we know the truth: that our unjust world depends for its survival on the very project of selfhood in which we’re all so desperately over-invested.

Many of these tensions collide most spectacularly in the world of wellness, where disciplines such as yoga and meditation, which once took as their goal the dissolution of the self, are pressed into the service of a bolstered ego and enhanced productivity. In this telling, freedom, like the equally mythologised idea of “happiness”, is no longer a collective goal but a small and fiercely defended box of personal space, accessed through a crushing regimen of self-improvement, in which we are free to be our best imaginable selves"

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Downsides of Outlawing Spanking

What happens when countries outlaw spanking/corporal punishment for children.  Sweden was the first country to do this, and the predictable effects are now coming out as successive generations figure out how to game the system.  When adults have no recourse of control that children will respect or listen to, they become a mob where the only accepted violence is at the hands of children and vigilante justice rules the playground and streets.

I can't tell you the number of people who told me that I was evil for administering corporal punishment to my children when they were young.  Nobody complains anymore because my kids are older and don't need much discipline, let alone corporal punishment, but I must admit to a touch of freudenschade when people who condemned me so harshly raise hellions and my children get universal praise from their peers and teachers/coaches/adult authority figures. 

Those who don't understand the difference between spanking and abuse are unlikely to be able to create diverse spaces where children feel safe and protected.  It may work in elite neighborhoods where people self-select on the basis of income, but the implementation across broad swaths society and criminalizing parents like me brings only disaster.  It may take a generation or two, but it will come.  Nature will have a say in the end.  You can only live off the culture built by your dead ancestors for so long before the fact of your inability to successfully build a culture becomes obvious.  The body of Apsu may keep culture alive for a generation or two, but Tiamat always takes her revenge.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Dhimmis in the Making

Donald Trump pretends to be a strong guy, even admiring actual strongmen, but what will he do when confronted with an opportunity to stand for civil rights, etc.?  He caves like all modern negotiators.

Erdogan's security detail assaulted and sent people to the hospital, on American soil during his last visit.  Did that change Trump's tune toward him?  Not at all.  Did it change Obama's tune toward Erdogan when his security detail assaulted people outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington during his watch?  Not at all.  They are both cowards who refuse to stand up for the pride of America and her citizens.

This last week, Saudi Arabia decided to recall all ambassadors over a tweet by the Canadian prime minister calling for the release of a Saudi civil rights activist.  If our leaders were men and women of courage and conviction, every Western leader would coordinate a response repeating the same tweet in solidarity with Canada for representing Western values.

I'm not holding my breath.  We are led by craven cowards more interested in feathering their own nest than preserving freedom in their home territories.

As an aside, Canada only did this because they viewed it as consequence free virtue signalling.  They are busy going after their own ideological heretics at home (e.g., Trinity Western University, Jordan Peterson, and anyone like Lindsay Shepherd who dares propose that his ideas are open for discussion).


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

CS Lewis, Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Douglas Murray and the Quest for Religious Truth

I took my oldest kid to see a play about CS Lewis last week because I wanted him to get a small taste incredible intellects that have accepted and propounded upon Christianity for the last 2000 years.  A man who can read Homer in the Greek, Virgil in the Latin, the German skeptics in the German, Dante in the Italian, and Voltaire in the French (and understand them) is not a man to be scoffed at or dismissed out of hand.  Intellectuals today often dismiss Genesis as irrelevant fable and act as if Darwin put the nail in the coffin of Judaism and Christianity by proving that the Bible isn’t literally true, but everyone who knows anything about Christian history knows that great men like Augustine and Origen acknowledged the allegorical nature of Genesis 1500+ years before Darwin.  It is only straw men that Sam Harris is fighting with, but his near absolute ignorance of history and ancient cultures doesn’t allow him to see that.

And this is why I find Jordan Peterson such a frustrating intellectual adversary for Sam Harris.  He almost *never* references writings outside of the psychological literature which are older than say the mid 1850’s.  Formed in youth by fundamentalists who took Genesis literally, he knows little about the cultures into which the Bible was given.  His interpretations of Scripture are focused on the psychological and often lack any sort of depth or understanding beyond the psychological.  It’s like he’s spent his entire career studying the Great Salt Lake as a biologist and is purporting to explain what life in Oceans is like.  This is still better than Sam Harris, who pretends that seeing a few puddles in the desert gives him the knowledge necessary to dismiss the existence of oceans, but it is a far cry from a truly intellectual take on religion.

What Jordan Peterson does get, similar to Douglas Murray, is that the “moral atheism” Sam Harris propounds is impotent to stand in the way of truly murderous political ideologies like atheistic Marxism and deistic Islam.  The “moral atheism” of Sam Harris leads men to wealth through the study and application of science when instantiated in cultures such as ours, but it is inherently unstable because it relies on a moral and cultural framework inherited from his Judeo-Christian ancestors.  When that broad societal Judeo Christian moral foundation is cut off from its source, there is little to help people find meaning and the moral framework necessary to maintain an open and free society.  A few people might be able to do so, drawing on the wisdom of the past (usually their christian societal roots), but broad society can’t.  Lacking meaning and purpose, Europe can’t even reproduce enough to perpetuate their culture.  Such cultures are unfit for survival according to the 2nd of Darwin’s twin pillars: sexual selection.  And what will replace the western culture we’ve built?  I think we’re getting a taste of it now: tribal warfare.  We can try and sanitize it, but make no mistake, we are headed for a very nasty future if society doesn’t come up with a way to help people find meaning and purpose and build actual families with children.  In a world where 20% of women *never* have a child, the average woman needs to bear 2.7 children to maintain population levels.  Short of that, populations shrink and cultures wither and die.  It may take a few centuries, and it may appear to not be so bad at first due to immigration from cultures that haven’t yet succumbed to the meaningless that doesn’t even allow people to reproduce, but population decline is a geometric function just like population growth.  Once it gets going, it is very difficult to stop.  And how will countries respond to aggressive cultures which believe in polygamy and send their excess men abroad in an acknowledged bid of conquest?


Sunday, July 22, 2018

Maternal Brain Changes

I read a fascinating article the other day.  Apparently, women's brains change so much after childbirth that researchers are able to distinguish between women who had given birth and a control group of women who hadn't just by looking at brain scans, and the changes were persistent enough that they could still distinguish between mothers and non-mothers two years later, from brain scans alone. 

Also, "the more brain change the mothers experienced, the higher they scored on measures of emotional attachment to their babies, a finding that echoed past studies. And the changes in most brain regions remained two years later.

The researchers also scanned men, those who became fathers during the study period and those who did not have a child, and found no comparable change in gray matter volume. (Other studies have found that fathers, including gay fathers raising children without maternal involvement, experience significant changes in brain activity, but those changes depend on exposure to the child. The more time a man spends as primary caregiver, the more activated the parental network in his brain becomes, and researchers suspect a similar effect may be present for others in a parental role.)

The brain scans seemed to validate the rapid, pronounced, long-lasting change in mothers that a much bigger body of animal research has found. Reviewing a range of studies, Pawluski and her coauthors wrote in a 2016 paper that as a developmental period, pregnancy is as formative as puberty.  “Under healthy conditions, the female brain transforms into a motivated, maternal mechanism,” they wrote."

I'm convinced that females evolved not to optimize female performance alone but the mother-infant duality.  Connections like this pop up all the time, and we ignore them at our peril.  I'd be very curious to see the nature of the changes in gay men who are full time caregivers compared to new moms.  I'd bet $1000 that they aren't as widespread or persistent.  That's just now how primates evolved.  Mothers really are irreplaceable.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Social Progress

“There were a lot of tears when it came time to put my 3 month old daughter in daycare,” my old coworker told me.  “But I told my wife that she’s the one with the title ‘Dr.’ in front of her name.  If anyone is going to be staying home with the baby, it is me.”

I shut my mouth and tried to keep a straight face as I turned back to my monitor to check on the test data.  It was a professional environment, and I didn’t want to come off as judgmental toward people I’m working with on an important job, but my gut clenched up, and I died a little inside after hearing him say that.

Does my old coworker really think that men and women are interchangeable to the extent that it doesn’t matter who stays home with the infant?  Doesn’t he see that a woman who wants to stay home so badly that she is crying is actually more suited to do so?  Doesn’t he understand that a woman’s body is flooded with ocytocin bonding hormones as she breastfeeds that baby, creating a bond so tight that it would provoke this reaction, and that, no, it isn’t the same to just place the infant in the hands of another adult, even the father?  Doesn’t he see that the personality differences that we can measure between men and women are in large there because of the mother-infant duality, and that they are often most pronounced in such settings?  Are the cars and fabulous house really worth more than his wife’s and infant’s happiness?  Couldn’t he have suggested instead that if she really wanted to stay home with the baby, then they could think about how to reprioritize their lives?  He makes more money than me.  Together, they are a power couple.  But no, he didn’t think it was a viable option. 

In an age of modern day feminism and empowered womanhood, this is what we get.  Women doctors who return to work full-time instead of part-time or taking an extended leave of absence because the men in their lives expect them to be providers.

I can’t help but think that we are putting a woke feminist label on the age-old barbarous practice of ripping infants from the arms of their crying mothers.

Friday, June 08, 2018

FB and Silicon Valley vs. Privacy

The NYT has a great piece on privacy and social networks/phone manufacturers.  I've been thinking a lot about this, but I'm not sure which way to go.  There don't seem to be very good replacements for social media apps.  Blogging was clearly a better way to disseminate and discuss information than FB.  However, part of its usefulness was that people actually used it.  Will people return if they abandon FB.  I'm doubtful, but I honestly think something has to change.  The manipulation of people through artificial newsfeed sorting and the blacklisting of "fake news" stories which are actually true (e.g., the suppression of Live Action undercover videos of PP employees discussing the sale of baby body parts) is also very problematic on social media sites run by far left silicon valley liberals.