Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Science, religion, etc.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Fred Singer:

tipping points occur quite frequently in science. I have personally witnessed two paradigm shifts where world scientific opinion changed rapidly — almost overnight. One was in Cosmology, where the “Steady State” theory of the Universe was replaced by the “Big Bang.” This shift was confirmed by the discovery of the “microwave background radiation,” which has already garnered Nobel prizes, and will likely get more. The other major shift occurred in Continental Drift. After being denounced by the Science Establishment, the hypothesis of Alfred Wegener, initially based on approximate relations between South America and Africa, was dramatically confirmed by the discovery of “sea-floor spreading.”

Thomas Kuhn: “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced.” Precisely.

Then and now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

News flash from 13,978,000,000 years ago

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Telegraph:

the Bicep2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation) telescope at the Amundsen-Scott polar base in Antarctica has found conclusive evidence for the existence of gravity waves, colossal ripples in space-time that pervade today’s universe and which were formed when the cosmos was just 10 to the minus 35 seconds old – a length of time shorter than it would take the Starship Enterprise to cross from one side of a grain of sand to another.

If this is confirmed, it will be the final experimental vindication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It will show once and for all that the notion that our universe began with a colossal explosion of matter and energy 13,978,000,000 years ago – the Big Bang – is correct. But the implications are more profound even than that. The existence of gravity waves is the “smoking gun” for the controversial theory of cosmic inflation, the idea that right at the start of the universe, nearly 14 billion years ago, everything underwent a colossally fast period of expansion – the “B of the Bang”, if you like.

If cosmic inflation, which we need in order to explain several weird facts about our universe, is correct, then this provides strong support for the notion of the “multiverse”; the idea that what we see when we look up at the night sky is but a gnat on the back of the elephant that is the true totality of creation. The existence of gravity waves is strong evidence that “our” universe may not only exist alongside an infinite number of parallel worlds, but may itself be infinite in extent, containing endless copies of our galaxy – and indeed our world and you and me – located countless trillions of light years apart…

why do we need inflation? It was first proposed in the early 1980s by cosmologists led by Andrei Linde and Alan Guth (who were at the press conference yesterday, looking very happy) to explain some problems with the original Big Bang idea. The main one is that deep space looks much the same in every direction. There are no gigantic “gaps” – no galaxies in some places and agglomerations in others – which is what you would expect if you had a simple explosion of matter and energy. Instead, the idea behind inflation is that right at the start of the “Bang”, a period of unimaginable, hyper-fast expansion, billions of times faster than light-speed would smooth out the unevenness, much in the way that pulling on a crumpled sheet will make it flat and even.

The implications of inflation are mind-boggling. Few cosmologists believe that if inflation happened it would have produced a universe only as big as the one we can see. The observable “edge” of our universe, the so-called “Hubble Volume”, is a sphere of space about 93 billion light years across, containing maybe half a trillion galaxies, each containing roughly the same number of stars (altogether about as many stars as there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth). A magnificent entity.

But that vast ensemble only encompasses the parts of our universe close enough for light to have reached us since the Bang. Inflation suggests that the original expansion created a volume of space-time much, much bigger – according to some equations, infinite. And the most extraordinary thing about inflation is that as you rip apart space you create matter and energy. Not only is our universe probably infinite in size, but it is studded with an infinite amount of stars and galaxies.

Wretchard has lots more. This is quite a decade. It was only two years ago that the existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed.

Through a glass darkly no more

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Scott Johnson has a Tough Guy vs. Wimp visual that is pretty funny but misses an important point. The so-called wimp can be a tough guy — here and here are evidence as to whom he despises and is more than willing to act against. This is consistent with the standard religion of leftism by the way, that the US is an imperialist bad actor that has created enemies abroad and repression at home. Exactly what the faculty lounge is all about, but quite a bit more intense and ruthless. (BTW, these fellows and gals are often seriously lacking in historical knowledge, but they fill in the blanks with ideology; after all, truth isn’t about truth, it’s about a technique to get power to enforce equality of outcomes.)

Ah, but how did we get so far away from the America many of us know in our bones? The answers are the university and the media. 3% of Yale donations went to Romney, which is pretty good, by the way. The media are 12-1 against conservatives, which we think slightly understates the case. Still, it’s kind of shocking that things have gotten this bad this fast; yet we only have to look back to the cases of Iran and Honduras to see that the pattern was fully formed and evident years ago. But still, this far this fast? Well, citizens, pause to consider a breathtaking exercise in projection from five years ago, and consider what, unfettered, this level of narcissism has wrought. And there you have it, this far this fast…

News from the insurance world

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Warren Buffett:

“I love apocalyptic predictions on it, because you’re right, it probably does affect rates. The truth is that writing U.S. hurricane insurance has been very profitable in the last five or six years. Now, the rates have come down very significantly, so we aren’t writing much, if anything, in the U.S.,” he said, adding that when it comes to weather impacts on Berkshire, “it hasn’t been true so far.”

He also likes Keystone. And in a weird moment, he revealed he bought his first stock just after Pearl Harbor.

Strange yet again

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Were the Italian and Austrian stolen passports of MH370 used by Asians? There’s more to learn here: Wretchard has some good links to twitter feeds and pilots that are interesting.

AA587, TWA800, ValuJet 592, Alaska 261, Swissair 111, Egyptair 990, that Air France flight from a couple of years ago: the list is so short that we know the flight numbers of many incidents. And a forgotten incident from nine years ago, when an Egyptian was arrested in Memphis with a uniform and a DVD telling airline pilots how they should act in public.

Fatal air incidents have become so rare in recent years due to technological improvements that suspicions are warranted when aircraft just disappear. We’d be very surprised if the B777-200 in the Malaysia case turns out to be anything other than foul play.

21st century thinking

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

AFP:

In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: “The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.” “Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department. “It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy,” he added in the document seen by AFP. He urged all “chiefs of mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem….We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do,” he said. It was, he said “our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit.”

WRM also notes the tragic and morally inverted worldview of the self-styled intelligentsia.

Gas attack

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

What passes for wisdom today: “in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room…if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits.” Fellow sure likes the sound of his own voice, and he’s far from alone in his naïveté. It’s what they really believe inside the beltway, the media, the media, and the academy. There’s a war on, but only one side is fighting.

Smokin’ dope

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Wow. Watch the first few minutes of this interview of the Secretary of State. It features this:

It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century…You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests

Why not? And what’s with this 19th century business? Have human nature, national interests, and the will to power all disappeared recently? WRM comments on the strange views of the academy, media and policy elites.

Cognitive dissonance?

Friday, February 28th, 2014

It has been said that humans are not a rational animal, but a rationalizing one. So when we see a comment like this — “there’s plenty of horror stories being told. All are untrue” — we wonder why the stridency? Of course, these are politicians, not the brain trust, but we also see such stridency in certain parts of the academy. Why the rigidity and over-reaction on the part of some? Just a case of nasty personalities? Or maybe that, as true believers in the religious doctrines, they are more than a little discombobulated when reality veers from their desired, indeed predicted, outcomes. Time will tell.

It is better to light one kindle than to curse the darkness

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

So said the Christophers many years ago, or something like that. Now Krauthammer is getting his own version of the Steyn treatment. We think there should be a rumble to settle all scores. Lets the 9800 oxygen and nitrogen guys join with the 900 argon guys and beat the tar out of those 4 carbon oxygen creeps. That’ll show ‘em. (The shouting to ban heresy from the public discourse shows you can start a religion out of just about anything.)

Reality versus fantasy again

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Wretchard:

Ladies and Gentleman, I bring you Professor Arithmetic and Engineer Murphy. Screw up and stuff happens. America has been screwing up and therefore Q.E.D. Of course none of these turnabouts should surprise us. The Soviet Union (remember them?) were going to take over the world all the way up to the moment it collapsed. How could they have collapsed when they had the KGB, the Red Army and half the papers in their pocket? Well they were overmatched. Dr. Evil, however powerful he imagines himself to be, always loses to God, Reality, Professor Arithmetic, Engineer Murphy — whatever you want to call them, because that’s the way things work. But before anyone breaks out the champagne, remember this doesn’t mean that “we” will always win. We are not always on the side of reality. The disaster visited on Chavez might just as soon overtake anyone who thinks he can print and inflate his way out of economic destruction. We will share their fate should we imitate their corruption, because reality doesn’t understand “too big to fail”. The world is partial to competence; as mathematics is partial to correctness; as natural selection favors the survival of the fittest. People knew that once.

At some time in the fairly recent past, truth stopped being a virtue. It was replaced by daft utopianism. The US can go further away from reality than most countries, courtesy of the reserve status of the dollar. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a day of reckoning.

“Hello. Fantasy, is that you? Reality is calling.”

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Recent quote: “climate change can now be considered the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Meanwhile, there are Iran and Syria. Oh yes, there’s Venezuela too. Did we mention Ukraine? Wazzup with these things? Isn’t the planet supposed to be healing by now? (Final point: there are “indispensable men” and indispensable men.)

Two papers in one

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

NYT:

The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00…An increase in the minimum wage…would restore the purchasing power of bottom-tier wages. It would also permit a minimum-wage breadwinner to earn almost enough to keep a family of three above the official poverty line. There are catches, however. It would increase employers’ incentives to evade the law, expanding the underground economy. More important, it would increase unemployment: Raise the legal minimum price of labor above the productivity of the least skilled workers and fewer will be hired. If a higher minimum means fewer jobs, why does it remain on the agenda of some liberals?

NYT:

The minimum wage is specifically intended to take aim at the inherent imbalance in power between employers and low-wage workers that can push wages down to poverty levels. An appropriate wage floor set by Congress effectively substitutes for the bargaining power that low-wage workers lack. When low-end wages rise, poverty and inequality are reduced. But that doesn’t mean the minimum wage is a government program to provide welfare, as critics sometimes imply in an attempt to link it to unpopular policies. An hourly minimum of $10.10, for example, as Democrats have proposed, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by 4.6 million, according to widely accepted research, without requiring the government to tax, borrow or spend. IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE? No.

We observe that over the last 30 years, the government-university-media complex has become virtually disconnected from many of the facts that harsh human history teaches. Our guess is that there’s all manners of reckoning coming pretty soon. HT: PL

Two for two

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Reuters:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who has the final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic, declared again on Monday that talks between Tehran and six world powers “will not lead anywhere. Hours later a senior U.S. administration official also played down expectations, telling reporters in the Austrian capital that it will be a “complicated, difficult and lengthy process” and “probably as likely that we won’t get an agreement as it is that we will.

Meanwhile, in Syria “all of the most dangerous chemicals should have been shipped out of the country by December 31 last year. In fact, barely 11 per cent” have been. No surprise. HT: PL

Living in fantasy

Monday, February 17th, 2014

AP reports on the Secretary of State in Indonesia:

China and the United States are the biggest sources of emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that cause the atmosphere to trap solar heat and alter the climate. Scientists say such changes are leading to drought, wildfires, rising sea levels, melting polar ice, plant and animal extinctions and other extreme conditions.

We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts,” Kerry told the audience at a U.S. Embassy-run American Center in a shopping mall. “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.

The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,” Kerry said. “We don’t have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society…This city, this country, this region, is really on the front lines of climate change,” Kerry said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that your entire way of life here is at risk.”

He added: “In a sense, climate change can now be considered the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

No doubt about it, the guy likes the sound of his own voice. Note also that the AP reporter repeats the CW of the self-anointed cognoscenti of today. Sigh. They may actually all believe the same rubbish, or (we hope) it’s a cynical plan to make some money.

Breaking news from a century ago

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

From 1919:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Good news! Almost 3/4ths of Americans know that the earth revolves around the sun. Cowabunga dude. In related news, top government officials are warning that we are reaching a tipping point of no return on AGW. Gosh that’s scary. Steyn has some comments. Meanwhile, Thomas Sowell has an excellent but depressing piece as we slouch toward Gomorrah. Finally, a US president said: “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” Any guesses?

Blast from the past, or, the days of twerps and twerks

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

From the NYT, in the days before the “twitter revolution,” in the days when scholars knew nonsense when they saw it but many others did not:

No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point…As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch.

Hmmm. The “student of history” didn’t reference the other things Adams wrote or what the third president did to deal with the Barbary pirates, a problem since at least 1492 (see second paragraph).

It’s now six long (and increasingly dangerous) years since America became a TV show. Where are the serious people? Not in the political world or the media evidently.

Rural climate hubs?

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

CNN:

“For generations, America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have innovated and adapted to challenges,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. However, he said, rural communities face more complex challenges today because of climate change. “USDA’s climate hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate,” Vilsack said. The hubs will be in Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon and New Mexico. Additional sub-hubs will be set up in various other states, including Michigan and California. Climate hubs will focus on regional issues, and will equip local communities with knowledge to help them adapt. “Sub hubs will support the hub within their region and focus on a narrow and unique set of issues relative to what will be going on in the rest of the hub,” the White House said in a statement. Rural communities have been especially hit by climate change.

What an intrusive religion is leftism.

Unbridgeable until…..

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

Just this morning we were thinking about the former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. He’s written books, has a heck of a CV, and has received oodles of honors from very prestigious institutions. And yet there’s something missing from the résumé of the Job Czar: he’s never had a job in the private sector. It’s a remarkable thing, and atypical of US history, though quite typical of today’s utopians.

But the media don’t notice; in an important sense, they have also never worked in the private sector. Do the journalists ever talk to the ad sales people? It’s an unbridgeable gap, that between the media-academy-government mindset and those who came up in what was once called the real world. The universities have become detached from their original missions. All this has been dramatically exacerbated by the rapid progress of technology, which creates for the young a believable metaphor that their generation is not just the luckiest, but the wisest in human history.

This will end, but in all likelihood, it won’t end well. Wretchard points out a few ways things could change. Good luck to all!