Serious Social Disease

Here’s the problem with all these false dichotomies: At bottom, they come from, and reinforce, illiteracy. And while sophisticates can, and too often do, produce their own exquisite forms of barbarism, widespread illiteracy probably inexorably leads to barbarism. A scientist who doesn’t understand anything about epistemology, or religion, or philosophy, and gets on his soapbox is a joke. A scientist who does all these things and as a result is on best-seller lists and gets published in The New Yorker is a symptom of a serious social disease. Never mind the science-versus-religion debate,” such as it is — widespread confusion about science’s epistemological framework) is producing a lot of shoddy science, and that should have us all concerned.

That Krauss, while singing the praises of an epistemic of doubt, blithely evinces absolutely none about the nature or value of human life — he only needs to know what religious” people oppose to know what he’s for — merely shows that he’s ignorant and intellectually lazy. That he can write this in the pages of a magazine that is supposed to be a beacon of American intellectualism without rebuke, or even throat-clearing, from his ideological fellow-travelers shows that the illiteracy is widespread and cultural.

Now, none of this is to say that there is a God (though there is) or that abortion is wrong and should be illegal (though it is, and it should be). But it is simply to demonstrate that we have arrived at a peculiar moment when our elite institutions and discourse seem to be utterly ignorant of their own philosophical and cultural legacy. The institutions we live in and through, whether the scientific revolution or liberal democracy or the concept of human rights, were built and explored by great thinkers, who in turn were grounded in great traditions of rational speculation (that is to say, of philosophy), and it is mystifying and, frankly, very scary that we have arrived at this moment of what can only be called cultural amnesia — an amnesia so profound that we have not only forgotten, we’ve forgotten that we’ve forgotten.

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Errors of the Militant Atheist

April 10, 2020

Immoralists, faux moralists

[A]t present, the legislature is itself divided into two factions. Both claim to embody popular rule, which in the strict sense is impossible. But the leftist faction is wholeheartedly allied with unelected technocrats, and wants to employ coercion to displace the traditional morality, while the other faction is merely ambivalent about technocracy and morality.

J. Budziszewski

Heck of an unpleasant choice: immoralists vs. faux moralists.

April 9, 2020

Partisan Judicial Divide?

In public comments, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. often insists that the justices don’t work as Democrats or Republicans.” But he and his fellow Republican appointees have frequently voted to restrict voting rights in ways that have primarily helped Republicans.

Adam Liptak, Nasty Partisan Divide’ Seen In Court’s Wisconsin Ruling

Might that be because Republicans primarily control Statehouses?

April 8, 2020

Sean Hannity at the Pearly Gates

Rod Dreher fulminates Against Coronavirus Free Riders, such as some Pentecostals in his city, Baton Rouge:

In the 11th Pandemic Diaries entry, which appeared on March 26, a reader in Oklahoma wrote:

My in-laws are old-time Pentecostals of the claim the blood of Jesus and go about your business” tribe. They did so, in spite of our respectful then increasingly insistent warnings. Between bad theology and Fox News, both are now in the hospital.

The reader wrote this afternoon to say:

Just wanted to let you and readers know that, grief upon grief, both my in-laws have died — may Perpetual Light shine upon them. My MIL passed on March 27 and my father-in-law joined her in eternal rest this morning, April 7. We are undone, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope.
It takes my breath away that there are still people who do not believe this is real.

There is no law in this world to hold Fox liable for the deaths it is causing, but I would not want to be Sean Hannity at the Pearly Gates.

April 7, 2020


[S]kipping the news lets you ignore a president who, as the British writer Nate White points out, has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honor and no grace” and now, in a national crisis, shows himself to be an ignorant bumbler and con artist focused on weeding out non-yes-men in the White House.

The Founders never considered this. They provided for impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors but not for blinkered stupidity.

Garrison Keillor

April 7, 2020


I don’t take responsibility at all,” said President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden on March 13. Those words will probably end up as the epitaph of his presidency, the single sentence that sums it all up.

David Frum

April 7, 2020

A little perspective, please

Terry Mattingly wins the internet for his headline today:

Angry preachers fight shelter in place.’ #NEWS Major religious groups follow rules? #SOWHAT

April 7, 2020

Money still can’t buy you …

Larry David is saying you can have as much money as you want and not only are you still unhappy but you’re still unhappy about the most picayune things — jealousy and envy and all these venial sins,” Mr. D’Addario said. That is something that puts a smile on my face, as opposed to celebrities telling you to be happy from inside their gated communities, which engenders rage.”

Maureen Dowd

April 6, 2020

Let’s politicize this crisis bigly

I really disagree with the notion that a crisis shouldn’t be politicized’ — I think this is usually something people say to derail a debate rather than a deeply and sincerely held sentiment. If you’ve been arguing all along that X is a better way to do things, and a crisis rolls around that in your (humble, of course) opinion X would have prevented or ameliorated, then of course you’re going to renew your call for X in a freshly energized manner. Of course people can politicize a crisis in an insincere or disingenuous manner or offensive manner, or have ideas that are simply silly to others, but if so that’s the problem — not the act of attempting to draw a connection between a given situation and one’s preferred policies.

So, forgive me, but: I think the coronavirus crisis should be politicized.

Jesse Singal

He has some ideas on how it should be politicized, too. I neither endorse nor repudiate them, but let the proposals run down like a river.

April 6, 2020

No big deal

Why do I feel underwhelmed by the Trump administration’s first designation of a white supremacist group as terrorists? Might it be because the group is Russian and poses no threat to us?

Why is the New York friggin’ Times treating this as if it actually meant something?

April 6, 2020


As is the case with regard to other positions … it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general,” the president said in a letter to Congress. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.” Mr. Atkinson, who was appointed to his post by Mr. Trump in 2018, became a key figure in the impeachment inquiry last year when he shepherded a whistleblower complaint from a Central Intelligence Agency officer about the president’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Under law, Mr. Trump is allowed to remove the inspector general of the intelligence community 30 days after notifying the congressional intelligence committees of his intention and justification for doing so.

Wall Street Journal story on Trump’s intent to fire the Inspector General for the intelligence community,” with the paraphrased justification that he pissed me off.”

If you want to serve this President, you cannot keep your conscience or uphold your oath of office.

April 4, 2020

Banal Vermeule

[M]y deepest objection to Vermeule’s anti-constitutional philosophy is not that it is harmful and antihuman, but simply that, in the end, it is so banal. This movie has had more remakes than A Star Is Born. The opening scenes are always set amid the delicate towers of Saint Augustine’s imaginary (sic) City of God; but the last scene takes place, every time, in dank basements soaked with very real blood.

Garrett Epps. I just need to memorize that and stop worrying about Vermeule.

April 3, 2020

Ideological violence

There were certain fleeting moments in the late twentieth century in which one could almost think that the problem of ideological violence had come to an end. The trick only ever worked in elite circles and usually required equal measure of selective attention and strong drink. There was, however, a certain baseline prosperity, stability, and consensus that made the problem feel, for some, a bit less pressing.

Samuel Kimbriel, Habits for Ideological Times

April 3, 2020


You can fault George W. Bush in any number of ways, but he did not spend the months before 9/11 repeatedly telling the public that there was absolutely no threat of a terrorist attack on our soil or boasting that he had it all under control, or claiming Osama bin Laden was a liberal hoax to delegitimize his presidency and wreck the economy.

Bret Stephens

April 3, 2020


You’ve done a lot of work to educate Christians around evolution and in other scientific issues. Why is there such a resistance between faith leaders and scientists?

Science and faith were closely aligned 300 to 400 years ago for the most part, with a few exceptions like that Galileo thing. [Galileo Galilei’s discoveries in the 17th century were met with fierce opposition from the Catholic Church.] …

Francis Collins, head of N.I.H., interviewd in the Washington Post.

The confident repetition of a vastly over-simplified myth is not reassuring. But then Sarah Pulliam Bailey inexplicably is helping build a new myth: Christians (undifferentiated) as Typhoid Mary.

April 3, 2020


Samaritan’s Purse has opened up a tent hospital to help New Yorkers deal with Coronavirus by taking overflow from Mount Sinai hospital. But Bill de Blasio and others are concerned. From Gothamist:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city will keep a close eye on the Christian fundamentalist group operating a field hospital in Central Park, amid growing fears that some New Yorkers could face discrimination and substandard care from the religious organization.

Gothamist notes that Samaritan’s Purse is run by a virulently” anti-gay and Islamophobic pastor Franklin Graham. Got that? The real virus is Evangelicalism. Councilmen are promising to monitor” the situation, fearing the practice of discrimination or substandard care.

The New York Times ran an op-ed earlier this week blaming Evangelicals for inflicting coronavirus hell” on Americans though they’ve since changed the title.

For decades, progressives have been saying: Why are Evangelicals so obsessed with sex? Why can’t they just do good works and help the needy?” But with New York in crisis, progressives have apparently decided that death would be better than letting disgusting, presumptively-criminal Evangelicals help them.

It’s interesting that Samaritan’s Purse is named after the Good Samaritan, who, in Christ’s parable, helps the injured man on the side of the road — despite the fact that he, as a Samaritan, is considered unclean and not part of the House of Israel.

At least New York is not the type of medieval society that blames hated religious minorities for plagues.

Michael Brendan Dougherty

April 2, 2020

Vincible, but inexcusible

Georgia’s governor proves that his ignorance is not invincible, but it’s still inexcusible:

While announcing a statewide shelter-in-place order on Wednesday, Georgia governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, said that he had just been informed that asymptomatic individuals could spread the coronavirus.

The illness is now transmitting before people see signs….Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt [symptoms],” Kemp said at a press conference. We didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”

We Didn’t Know That Until the Last 24 Hours’ (emphasis added for those with really short attention spans)

Does Georgia have a recall mechanism?

April 2, 2020

Unsurprising news

Court Dismisses Claims That Mormon Doctrines Are Fraudulent

Each of these alleged misrepresentations directly implicates the Church’s core beliefs. Because a statement’s falsity is an essential element of fraud claims, adjudicating these claims would require the court to do exactly what the Supreme Court has forbidden—evaluate the truth or falsity of the Church’s religious beliefs. This court can no more determine whether Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ or translated with God’s help gold plates or ancient Egyptian documents, than it can opine on whether Jesus Christ walked on water or Muhammed communed with the archangel Gabriel. The First Amendment prohibits these kinds of inquiries in courts of law.

April 2, 2020

Focus on your proper role, Mr. President

The nightly briefings are his stage. As bodies pile up, a worried public tunes in. He mistakes this for popularity. He tweeted: Because the Ratings’ of my News Conferences etc. are so high, Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers’ according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY.”

His self-absorption cannot be penetrated even by a national tragedy. This is, after all, the man who responded to 9/11 by noting that he guessed Trump Tower would now be the tallest building in Manhattan.

What the president should be doing is calling together the nation’s governors to request that every single state issue enforceable stay-at-home orders for a three-week period. If strictly adhered to, the lockdown would curtail the virus’s spread. While that was in effect, the president could focus on his proper role — not performing for the cameras, but managing the nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment for health-care workers and ventilators for coronavirus patients …

… When Governor Steve Bullock of Montana explained that his state was only one day away from running out of tests, the president became defensive and switched to pitch-man mode: We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests, and we come out with another one tomorrow that’s, you know, almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

If the president really believes that, it’s frightening, because pretty much every sentient person in the country is aware of the testing-kit shortage. If he doesn’t believe it, it’s even more alarming, because it shows that he has not abandoned the false reassurance he offered the country throughout January, February, and part of March.

Mona Charen

April 2, 2020

So absurd, only a critical theory intellectual could believe it

[Sophie] Lewis finds herself in a difficult situation. She has set out to write a book about pregnancy, but is determined not to refer directly to the class of people who can become pregnant. She pointedly avoids words like women” and mothers” and instead writes of people who can gestate,” with only occasional lapses. There can be no utopian thought on reproduction that does not involve uncoupling gestation from the gender binary” Lewis says in her introduction. It does not make for a promising start.

Louise Perry, reviewing Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family

March 31, 2020

View the archives