Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Quebec Election

The recent Quebec election, of course, is good news for Canada. If we could only put the issue of Quebec separation clearly behind us, a major drag on Canada’s economy and a major distortion to its political life would be gone.

Does the PQ third-place finish mean the threat of separatism is over? I think there is a good chance it does. Let’s analyse this: with growing immigration, the appeal of the PQ and of separatism rather naturally declines in the big city ridings of Montreal: none so patriotic as the recent immigrant. Meantime, with the rise of a viable conservative party, the PQ will probably be unable to compete in the “pur laine” rural ridings, who are naturally conservative, while the PQ’s social stance is somewhere near the NDP’s.

I expect to see Quebec’s politics rather quickly return to normalcy, which is to say, a competition between left and right, not between federalism and separatism.

Indeed, there seems to be a shift going on in the Francophone world generally: Nicolas Sarkozy leads in the French presidential sweeps, and seems to represent a new conservatism rather more like the Anglophone sort.

A few years ago, the conventional wisdom was that American culture and European culture were drifting further apart. I disputed that at the time. I thought, and think, what was really happening was that something new had been born in the US, a new cultural movement, and, the US usually being in the forefront of such things, the US and Europe were diverging temporarily until the new ideas spread to relatively backward Europe. In the case of Canada—also seen as diverging—I even thought a time limit was indicated by past history. Canada is more or less seven years behind the US in terms of the acceptance of new ideas.

George Bush was elected in 2000, signaling a conservative turn, the triumph of neo-conservatism. That meant a conservative movement should come to power in Canada in about 2007.

It happened a year early.

Now, the conservatism that is now dominant in the Anglosphere—the US, Canada, Australia, Britain, Ireland, New Zealand—is spreading to the Francophones. Europe will probably be a very different place in five years, politically, than it is today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CBC Panic Watch

The following paragraph appeared in a CBC story I read today on the effects of global warming on the Northern Canadian ice cap:

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It's a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.


Now here are a few things I don’t understand. The Arctic is so cold that few things can live there. Why is it a “catastrophe” if it warms up, perhaps enough that more things can? Is rain in a desert a catastrophe?

A catastrophe for polar bears specifically? Why? Surveys show their numbers have been exploding in recent years. In the Davis Strait area, the bear population has grown from 850 in the 1980s to 2,100 today. It does seem a little premature to call this a “catastrophe.” Is the problem a lack of school places, or what?

A catastrophe for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters? To begin with, archeologically speaking, Inuit culture seems to be about 600 years old. Which does not seem to me to qualify as “ancient,” except perhaps in French.
Which might explain it—ancient in the French sense of “former.” Because there is of course, rather little left of the “traditional” culture of the Inuit, the culture as it was before the arrival of food, clothing, housing, vehicles, and government money from the south. Not many Inuit are likely fool enough to stay with the old traditional food, clothing, or housing today. It is hard to imagine that now warmer temperatures would be the one thing that might tip the balance into “catastrophe.” In any case, with all due respect, any culture that cannot handle such environmental change, that literally “depends on frozen waters,” probably should not survive, for the sake of those who might otherwise be shackled by it.

So, darn the luck, if Al Gore and David Suzuki are right, Canada’s Arctic is likely to melt to the extent that it will cut 60% off the sea distance between Asia and Europe. God forbid we might have the catastrophe of another prosperous Singapore developing in our northern archipelago. Not to mention the extension of agriculture and forestry northwards. Can Canadian culture itself survive?

Not if the congenital foolishness of the CBC is considered part of it, I suppose.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Peanuts and Pond Scum

… be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?
26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?
… 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(Matthew 6:25-31)


We humans are perverse. God says clearly he has provided amply for us, and yet we cannot accept this. Instead we seek for less useful things, only because they are rare. We prefer impractical gold to useful iron, mostly only because gold is hard to get. We prefer lobster to potatoes, though potatoes surely have more flavour; mostly because lobster is harder to get. When it was common, we threw it on the fields as manure. For our potatoes.

Especially the continual fretting about the world coming to an end, though manmade pollution, or overconsumption, or overpopulation, is of a piece with this sort of greedy consumerism in the end. We need to relax and trust God.

It is indeed time to consider the lilies of the field. It follows, from the truth that there is a God, that there must be ample food, clothing, shelter and fuel right under our noses, if we cared to look.

Consider, then, the lilies. Or not lilies, exactly; in Canada, our fields and lawns are covered instead with dandelions. And we hate them, because they are common. But really, no plant could be more completely useful. No part of the dandelion is without its use.

They are, to begin with, quite beautiful flowers; as pretty as any we cultivate. Children know all about their play potential: you can make bracelets, chains, all sorts of things from them. Rub them under your best friend’s chin, and you find out if she’s in love. A little later in the summer, you get to blow the seeds away.

For adults, the flowers make a wine remarkably like champagne; but rather less expensive. The leaves are great in salads, or cooked like spinach. The roots, roasted, make a drink like coffee. It has more beta carotene than carrots, and is loaded with potassium. And, of course, it makes great honey. The milk is said to soothe stings and sores; the tea to be good for diabetics.

And yet we go to great lengths to rid ourselves of it. God forbid we should have this golden treasure in our front yard.

We can, I think, extend this principle everywhere: whatever is most common and least commonly valued is probably the most useful thing available. The stone that is rejected is to become the cornerstone. The principle is itself, not incidentally, another proof of the existence of God.

I thought this again recently when I saw a short piece on algae—you know, pond scum. Not something we’re terribly fond of. We all, you may recall, stopped using phosphates because it encouraged the stuff. It seems to bloom and blossom at the drop of—actually, at a drop of anything. Here at our college, workmen laboriously empty all the fountains about once a month and clean out all the algae.

But guess what? Algae naturally suck up about ten percent of all the CO2 Canada produces every year. If global warming is real, simply encouraging more algae growth would in fact be far more effective than the Kyoto Accord. Let’s use more phosphates!

But the story gets even more interesting. Algae are perfectly edible. Spirulina, one variety, is fully seventy percent protein—more than any other known food. And it is a complete source of all the vitamins and minerals a body needs, including four times more vitamin B12 than beef liver.

The cheapest conceivable food, in other words, is plainly better for us than the most expensive.

Since the earth includes far more water than land, algae represent a truly vast, almost untapped, food resource. Vaster than all the other foods we eat today. Remember, algae are in the very basement of the food chain. Each time we move a step up that chain, we reduce the food value available to us by about ninety percent: moving down multiplies it by ten each step. Algae is at least two steps down from most meat.

So there is surely enough algae to feed the world, and feed it a complete diet. Technically, an area of cultivation only about half the size of the state of Indiana would feed the world handsomely.

With biotechnology, algae may soon become yet more useful. It is a simple microorganism, and it reproduces quickly. So it is ideal for bioengineering. It seems likely algae could be fairly easily engineered to produce vast amounts of hydrogen, methane, or other fuels, replacing fossil oil. No more energy crises. Conversely, they could be engineered to devour oil slicks and other pollutants—turning them into food or usable fuel in the process.

I suspect scarcity is always a human construct. We need to start looking at nature with eyes opened by God. George Washington Carver, knowing that poor Southern blacks had land only good enough for peanuts, which grow on sandy soil and do not require many nutrients, locked himself in a laboratory and prayed to God, “Please, Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?” He quickly came up with three hundred uses.

And we haven’t even looked yet at the birds of the air…

Friday, March 23, 2007

J'Accuse

Kevin Whitrick, 42, of Shropshire England, hanged himself last night. Nobody would have cared, I expect. Except that he did it live on webcam.

Still, you have to read way down into the last couple of paragraphs of any of the nerwspaper stories to get any inkling of why he might have done it. His ex-wife helpfully says he was in an accident “in July 2006,” “and he never fully recovered.”

So that was the reason, right? That would explain it. A practical matter of ending physical pain, perhaps.

It couldn’t possibly have been that his marriage broke down a year ago—before the car accident—and he was living alone, while his two daughters were living with their mother. And he was, I expect, besides the pain of not seeing his own children, saddled with heavy alimony and child-support payments. Quite possibly, given the British courts, payments he could not possibly afford, and could not escape even by bankruptcy. No, not a hint of this possibility in any of the stories. Yet this is a very common story, in the UK as in Canada or the US. Indeed, it is the story of almost any man who has been divorced by his wife over the past several decades. And many, many, middle-aged man have committed suicide before him for just this reason.

But we don’t care if a man dies. That’s the bottom line. We do not care about male suffering.

Indeed, that “very serious accident,” coming only a few months after the breakup—couldn’t that have been an earlier suicide attempt? But not a hint of the possibility in any of the news accounts.

Nah—no chance. After all, men don’t have feelings, right? Or if they do, they have no business having them. They are only here to shut up at take what they’re given, right?

I hope Kevin Whitrick did not die in vain. But I expect he did. It will take more than thousands upon thousands of suicides to make society fairer to men, to fathers, and to their children. Because we have already had that, and things are still just getting worse.

Winston Churchill, who knew something of holocausts, once wrote, “There is no virtue in a tame acquiescence in evil. To protest against cruelty and wrong, and to strive to end them, is the mark of a man."

Today, that is an indictment of all of us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's on My iPod?

I have always been a bookish sort, and never good at getting my exercise.

At last, though, I think I have found a way to make it enjoyable. So much so that I have hopes I may at last actually stick with it.

And it’s so simple, really. It’s the iPod.

I just load it up with vintage folk, and off I go to the gym. The old treadmill, so obvious an image of futility that I could never before endure it, is suddenly no chore at all. I resist leaving until I’ve heard one more song.

I’m as happy as a hamster on his wheel.

What’s on my iPod these days? As I might have already mentioned, I’m an old folkie. Today, the iPod randomly selected some vintage Dylan, circa Blond on Blond; Stan Rogers; Ian and Sylvia. Johnny Cash—he is, to my mind, American Protestantism put to music. Peter, Paul and Mary—yes, I find them saccharine, but once you’ve gotten to know it, there’s no getting over Mary Travers’ voice. So rich and warm.

And Steeleye Span. If Mary Travers is rich and warm like burgundy, Maddy Prior is harsh and desperate like fresh poteen. Travers is a pleasant holiday before a crackling fire; Prior is truth.

Then the Dubliners sang “Drink Up, You Bastards,” and I figured it was time to go home.

A Blot on the Human Race

Barbara Kay, in today’s National Post, accuses Rosie DiManno of being “a blot on female journalism.”

She is far too kind. DiManno has written a personal attack on Barbara Amiel’s physical appearance for the Star which is almost nauseating in its bad taste and viciousness.

But, as Kay points out, female journalists have long been permitted to do this—to make outrageous personal attacks in print that a male writer would never be permitted. Thank God, it looks as though Anne Coulter at least may have finally gone too far, in calling John Edwards a “faggot,” and at last may be called to account. But I have seen too many other examples.

It’s time we applied the same standards to women as to men.

In the meantime, the enemies of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel are so obviously vile and despicable that it is impossible not to want to see them acquitted and vindicated, even if they are actually guilty of something.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Do You Know Your Baltimore Catechism?

Try the quiz.

Technical Difficulties

Sorry about the recent difficulty in posting comments. I was trying to set up comment moderation, at Jeff's suggestion, but inadvertently restricted comments to team members as well. It should now be possible again to post your comments.

I will be checking them before they appear, though, as Jeff requested, for anything purely pejorative--against other posters, and against other identifiable individuals and groups. Notably including George Bush and the Catholic Church.

I do suspect Jeff will be the only person affected by this. But since it is at his request, I trust he does not mind.

Fast Food: Threat or Menace?

High school used to be all about indoctrination, not learning. But things have changed.

Now college too is all about indoctrination, not learning.

If, for example, my students are to write an essay, the topic proposed, regardless of the textbook, is always the problem of pollution. Or it is the effects of TV violence on the young. Or it is the evils of smoking. Or the evils of fast food.

Students groan, at the sameness of it all. Yet they do get the indoctrination, more or less. They all know smoking is bad, and pollution is bad, and TV is bad. Whether it is or not. The essential point that these matters are beyond dispute gets across.

But, here in the Arab world at least, my students are not always as capable of saying why. Recently, for example, we were assigned the task of writing on “the causes and effects of fast food” And they all knew that fast food was bad, and had only bad effects. And they all knew that one of these effects was that it was unhealthy.

However, they were shakier on exactly why it was unhealthy. Most thought it was because they reused oil. Some suggested it was because they used cheap ingredients. Many thought it was dirty, compared to a conventional restaurant. More than a few came right out and asserted that there was poison in the food. One woman insisted that all fast food should be outlawed.

But then again, really, why do people feel fast food is unhealthy? Is it, really? Of course, there is no poison in the food. A fast food franchise is probably cleaner than a regular restaurant. It must pass not just one, but two inspections: that of the health department, and that of the franchising company. And, unlike most sit-down restaurants, the kitchen is visible: you can see and judge the cleanliness for yourself. I can’t think what the health problem would be with re-using oil.

The official reason why fast food is unhealthy, I guess, as stressed in the film “Super-Size Me,” is that it is not a balanced diet, and it is heavy on the fats and oils. So a regular fast-food diet, presumably, makes you fat.

But is even this true? Some fast food is fatty—french fries, surely, and fried chicken. But doesn’t that depend very much on what you order? And I don’t mean just salads. Surely the classic fast food is the hamburger. A Big Mac has—how did the rhyme go?—two all-beef patties, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, on a sesame-seed bun. I count all the basic food groups, and nothing especially oily there. A Subway sandwich also more or less exudes health. So does the average pizza.

Now, if it all depends on what you order, how can we possibly blame “fast food” per se, as opposed to individual choices? Indeed, if we told those people who choose to order fried chicken with French fries and a shake at a fast food outlet to eat instead at home or at a conventional restaurant, why on earth do we think they would suddenly make better choices? And the fast food business is built on responsiveness to customers’ demands; if we were prepared to choose even healthier alternatives, they would probably show up at fast food outlets very quickly.

So why is it, really, that the college indoctrination process so despises fast food?

I think the answer is that college is designed specifically as an indoctrination into the proper attitudes of the ruling class—to which, if you have a college education, you can begin to aspire. And important among these is contempt for the working class, for the poor. After all, if you do not show the proper contempt for the poor, you may not be reliable in upholding the class interests.

Fast food is, almost above all, cheap food. It is a chance for the poor to eat out. Therefore, it is to be distained. Worse, it is a chance for a small businessman to succeed, even perhaps move up socially—franchises are invariably “Mom and Pop” operations. Just as TV is to be distained, probably exactly because it is free entertainment, and so entertainment for the poor. Just as smoking is to be distained, because cigarettes, unlike more dangerous things like skiing, yachting, or hang gliding, are a pleasure even the poor can afford. And pollution? As long as you blame the big factories, as is commonly done, it too becomes a matter of distain for the poor. That is where they find their employment.

The seal hunt? Wrong, because something done by rednecks, poor fishermen who would otherwise be unemployed. Same for hunting and owning guns—farmers often need guns, and poor farmers need the meat. Farmers are working class.

Choose anything considered beyond the pale by the left, and considered an important part of the indoctrination of college students, and I think you can detect the same theme.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Visions of the Afterlife




A couple of traditional prints, showing in the good old-fashioned way a man on his deathbed with intimations of the afterlife--a good man seeing heaven, a bad man seeing damnation.

Friday, March 16, 2007

California's New Primary

California has now definitely moved its primary up to February 5, right after the New Hampshire primary. New Jersey, Florida, Missouri, Michigan and Texas are considering doing the same.

If this happens, it will make the US Presidential nomination race a very different ball game. There will no longer be enough time for an insurgent candidate to build momentum. Name recognition and an early lead in fundraising will be crucial. At the same time, there will be less opportunity for a frontrunner to be tested and found wanting, or to self-destruct.

Barring a stumble, it will be a big boost to Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain.

Bits and Stems in Response to EJ

EJ:
Now, haven't we suffered enough at the hands of extremist ideologies?

SR:
To blame “extremism” for the world’s problems may be comforting to the vast majority of humanity, who just go along to get along; but it is not a reasonable position. Extremism is not a vice, and thinking the same way as everyone else is not a virtue; unless it happens that the majority is right.

In his context, Wilberforce was an extremist in seeking to end slavery. So was Lincoln when he was elected. So was Winston Churchill, in his opposition to Nazism. So was George Washington, in his opposition to the crown; or Thomas Jefferson, in his belief in individual liberty. So was Martin Luther King in his day, and Oskar Schindler in his.

We have perhaps not suffered nearly enough at the hands of extremist ideologues. In the Soviet Communist party, the extremist ideologue was Trotsky, not Stalin. Stalin was the centrist. Hitler was considered the great moderate within the Nazi Party, and Nazism a more “moderate” alternative to Communism.

EJ:
… Next, you say murder is wrong regardless of how one feels. However, a conscience is in fact a feeling. We evolved to have a conscience, to feel love and empathy, to care for things besides ourselves.

… When I was four, I accidentally killed my pet rabbit (roughhousing with a friend). The devastation and guilt haunts me to this day. … I would go as far as saying that people without a capcity for guilt or shame are less evolved. … we have evolution to thank for this capacity, as we have developed bigger brains than other base animals.

SR:
You continue to misunderstand the theory of evolution by natural selection. Evolution, without a God involved, should be completely random. It will not move towards greater order or greater morality or greater consciousness. Only towards greater chance of survival. If it indeed nevertheless does move towards greater order, morality, or consciousness, you have proof of God’s existence.

Moreover, how could such an “evolution” have produced a conscience which acts as you describe it here? If natural selection works, survival preference should be strongest for those who look out for themselves first; a secondary consideration would be the survival of progeny, possibly even of the species. But concern for other species? A conscience telling us to put ourselves second? Prima facie, a disadvantage in the quest for raw survival. Yet we humans, like you yourself have experienced with your pet rabbit, invariably or almost invariably feel it.

EJ:
That Jesus told his followers murder was wrong is a blatant example of hypocrisy. First, in a scripture not included in the bible because of the "criteria of embarrassment", a teenaged Jesus kills another boy, just because the boy made fun of him.

SR:
Okay, let me get this straight: if any writing says Jesus is God, or represents him as a good person, or says he told his followers murder is wrong, that writing is false and a “myth.” But if any writing throws doubt on this thesis, or represents him or his father doing anything apparently disreputable, or says he killed someone, that account must be true.

I get it. You just assume the conclusion as a given, and accept only evidence that supports it.

Works for me.

EJ:
4) All arguments that supposedly prove god existence assume the antecedent of his existence in the first place.

SR:
Let’s make this clear, Jeff: you keep citing this idea of “assuming the antecedent” as if it invalidates the conclusion. Not so; assuming the antecedent is the standard procedure in solving a logical problem. All scientific theories, for example, are developed by assuming the antecedent and then testing the hypothesis.

My guess is that you really mean to say the arguments are tautological. You need to demonstrate that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Sky is Falling

Global warming is getting right up there with the tulip frenzy and the South Sea Bubble among classic examples of mass hysteria.

If you don't think so, check out this recent Gallup poll: 55% of Democrats believe global warming will lead to the end of life on earth.

Those who have seen Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth owe it to themselves to watch this rebuttal from Britain's TV 4.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How "Hate Laws" Promote Hate

A Turkish national has recently been convicted in Switzerland of the crime of denying that there was a deliberate holocaust of Armenians in Turkey in the early twentieth century. Oddly enough, it is a crime in Turkey to say there was such a holocaust.

The argument in both cases is essentially the same. In Switzerland, it is “Hate Speech” against the Armenians to deny this Holocaust. In Turkey, it is “Hate Speech” against the Turks to accept it.

Surely this demonstrates the insanity of “Hate Laws” generally?

It is illegal in Canada to deny that there was a Nazi holocaust against the Jews, or indeed to claim it was less systematic than generally believed. To do so is considered a “hate crime” against Jews. But isn’t it just as arguably a hate crime against Germans, a promotion of the idea of German “blood guilt,” to insist that the holocaust did happen, and was as systematic as generally believed?

After all, it is considered hateful to say that Jews killed Jesus; Jewish anti-defamation groups attacked Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ on this ground even though it was pretty accurately reflecting the Bible on this point. Why is blood guilt for the goose not blood guilt for the gander?

One might argue that the claim that there was a Nazi holocaust is simply true beyond doubt, while the claim that the Jews killed Jesus is simply false. Perhaps so; but how can we be confident of this, once we have silenced all possible debate or contrary findings? And deliberate holocausts do, in fact, tend to be hard to prove. Understandably, the perpetrators rather prefer to cover their tracks.

It seems to me certain that no “Hate Law” is ever going to be used to prosecute anyone saying anything popular. It will only ever be used to prosecute unpopular speech. Therefore, it is never going to prevent hatred against any group that is generally hated; making it, at best, useless.

Indeed, we do not even tend to see speech criticizing unpopular groups as hateful. Jeff Harmsen has written, in this very blog’s comments section, that “millions have been tortured and slaughtered in his [Jesus’s] name.” Of “millions of examples of torture and massacre predicated by religious righteousness.” Does he face two years’ imprisonment for spreading hate? Even though these claims are fairly certainly historically untrue? Surely not. But had he said this of the Jews? Quite a different matter. Similiarly, nobody faces trouble for saying “men are violent by nature.” But should this be said of blacks or aboriginals? Two years in prison. Yet one claim is about as likely to be true as the other; the same evidence that is commonly used to show that men are “violent,” the number of criminal charges and convictions, would equally show that blacks and aboriginals are.

As a result, Hate Laws will do absolutely nothing, ever, to prevent a real holocaust. Instead, they only become another weapon in the arsenal of those who seek to oppress some group. Had there been “Hate Laws” in Nazi Germany, you can be sure they would have been used to prosecute Jews who said anything against Nazis, never to prosecute Nazis who said anything against Jews.

The people who are currently prosecuted seem, invariably, to be at worst harmless eccentrics, at best the best among us, honest men who dissent from social norms and refuse to be silenced. The very sort of men who would have dissented from the Nazi holocaust at the time

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hot Words on Global Warming

Some strong words on global warming from a prominent authority.

What Faith Is and Is Not

EJ writes:

Most religious people themselves say, "It's a matter of faith," when asked about their beliefs. They are referring to blind faith because they can not show or prove their god. The reason none of the faithful can show or prove their god is because the concept is based on myth and fantasy.

SR:

No, Jeff. You misunderstand what religious faith is all about. No surprise; it is a common misconception. Common enough that it is perhaps worth clarifying matters here.

The existence of God is not in question; it is apparent to reason, and can be directly experienced beyond possible doubt. It is not the subject of faith. Faith is, rather, acting accordingly: putting your life in God’s hands. Just as, if I say “I have faith in you,” it does not mean I believe you exist. It means I am prepared to put my trust in you to do the right thing.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Created in God's image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of ‘converging and convincing arguments,’ which allow us to attain certainty about the truth.

Man's faculties make him capable of coming to a knowledge of the existence of a personal God. But for man to be able to enter into real intimacy with him, God willed both to reveal himself to man, and to give him the grace of being able to welcome this revelation in faith.

Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Pollution Solution

EJ:
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why right wingers are so in favor of pollution?

SR:
Jeff, you pose this question, then give no answer. Instead, you yourself demonstrate how improbable the claim is. Why indeed would right-wingers be in favour of pollution?

Simple, Jeff. They aren’t.

The dispute between right and left on this issue is between proposed solutions. The left believes, as David Suzuki’s talk makes plain, that the solution to pollution is to limit development, to return to the conditions of the past. The right believes the solution to pollution is to accelerate development.

Buckminster Fuller explained it all in a speech I heard him give. The essence of development is improved efficiency. Our MP3 players today, for example, do much more with far less material and far less power than our reel-to-reel tape decks of fifty years ago. The essence of improved efficiency is less waste. Waste is inefficiency. Waste costs money; waste kills profits.

Therefore, if we let development proceed unhindered, we will, over time, have less and less pollution. The market demands it.

If, however, we hinder development, we will increase pollution.

The strategies offered by reactionaries like David Suzuki, therefore, will have the effect, if implemented, of increasing pollution.

They will also, not incidentally, by inhibiting development, freeze social inequalities in place: they will serve to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. For the desperately poor, they may mean death.

A big city like London, three hundred years ago, was so polluted a modern would find it unspeakable: black with coal dust, open sewers in the streets, no plumbing, no clean water. We have far less pollution now. Similarly, the developed world—North America, Western Europe, Japan—is vastly less polluted than the underdeveloped world today.

C.S. Lewis's Proof from Desire

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (Mere Christianity, Bk. III, chap. 10, "Hope")


I find this proof compelling, personally. But I suppose it depends on whether the individual is or is not conscious of such an unquenchable thirst or hunger—a “hunger and thirsting after righteousness.” My guess is that not everybody feels this. But for those of us who do, it can be an overwhelming thing.

Assuming there is not a God, it is hard to see how random natural selection could leave us with such a compelling thirst. At best, it serves no conceivable survival need; more likely, it distracts us from the matter of our survival.

But it makes profound sense if there is a God.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Building a Better Yesterday

Our Canadian campus, transplanted here to the sands of the Middle East, would not think of making a big deal out of Christmas. That would be a cultural imposition. But Earth Day? Forget about it. A week’s festivities, the campus festooned accordingly, a free screening of “An Inconvenient Truth,” among other movies, activities, quizzes, contests, and a live lecture by David Suzuki, shipped in ‘specially from Canada at great expense in CO2 emissions.

I could not attend the talk, exactly—it was SRO, and I had to watch it by closed circuit from an adjoining room.

What struck me most forcefully was the extreme conservatism of Suzuki’s position. He spoke only of stopping things, of preventing things, or protesting things. When he spoke of the “sacred elements,” he meant, not the elements in the periodic table, but the ancient Greek elements earth, air, fire, and water; and his god is Gaea. He is advocating, in effect, a return to pre-Christian paganism, turning the intellectual clock back 2,000 years. He felt, speaking of the Newfoundland seal hunt, that five hundred years was much too short a time to have established a traditional culture. And, most strikingly, the clarion call on which he ended his speech was “I want to preserve a world with all the richness and opportunities it had for our grandparents.”

Let’s see; Suzuki was born in 1936. Allowing thirty years to a generation, his grandparents would have been born in 1876 or thereabouts; and would have come to maturity in the last years of the 19th century.

A world of richness and opportunity? Opportunity to die of tuberculosis, or smallpox, or scarlet fever, or to be crippled by polio, I’d say. In 1900, world GDP per person was $680 US. In Canada, it was $2,758. Try to live on that. Today, it’s $6,500; $34,273 for Canada. In Qatar, the average life expectancy would have been about 35. Most Canadian homes in 1900 lacked electricity and running water.

That’s rich.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Einstein's Proof of God's Existence from Design

…every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe -- a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.


Make no mistake: Einstein did not believe in a "personal" or "anthropomorphic" God, but he did believe in God.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Religion as a Cause of Conflict

My atheist friend Jeff Harmson has claimed several times, in the “Comments” section of this blog, that “90%” of all wars are caused by religion, that all terrorists are inspired by the Bible, and that most, if not all tyrants, are religious.

If Jeff alone believed this, it would not be very important. But it is not just him; the mass media generally seem to be pushing the same line. Just one example: the other day, in one of our student reading rooms, I picked up a copy of BBC Focus magazine. It had an article titled “the ten worst inventions of all time.” Number ten turned out to be “religion,” purportedly for spreading conflict.

The claim seems bizarre: all the great universalist faiths preach peace.
But how might we test the thesis objectively?

With regard to tyrants and warmongers, I happen to have a book in my library, a bit of recreational reading, titled The World’s Most Notorious Men. Not a scholarly work; but a handy objective list of the people popularly considered the worst tyrants of history.

Let’s look at their list, and try to determine the religious affiliations involved, to test Jeff’s thesis. Ninety percent, according to him, should be devoutly religious.

Idi Amin - nominally a Muslim convert, but apparently only for the sake of massive aid from Libya. His mother was a shaman, and he seems to have inherited her views.

Pol Pot – atheist.

Jean Bokassa – also converted formally to Islam, also apparently for the sake of massive aid from Libya. But he practiced cannibalism, apparently as a shamanist rite.

Papa Doc Duvalier – shamanist.

Josef Stalin – atheist.

Attila the Hun – shamanist.

Genghis Khan – shamanist.

Tamerlane – Muslim.

Ivan the Terrible – actively anti-religious, apparently Satanist. “Ivan founded a pseudo-monastic order: he was the 'abbot' and his Oprichniki were the 'monks.’ They regularly performed sacrilegious masses that were followed by extended orgies of sex, rape and torture.”

The Ottoman Sultans – Muslim.


This list is obviously incomplete. No Hitler? Let’s augment it with “The World’s Most Notorious Despots,” courtesy of FactMonster:

Maximilian Robespierre – he imposed a state religion of “Reason.” Atheist, probably.

Adolf Hitler – neopagan.

Mao Zedong – atheist.

Nicolae Ceausescu – atheist.

That’s it. I would have included Slobodan Milosevic and the two Kims, Il-Sung and Jong-Il, all atheists. But let’s stick with what we’ve been handed, to ensure our conclusion is unbiased.

So here’s the tally:

Atheists: 5 (counting Robespierre)

Shamanists/pagans: 4 (6 if you count Amin and Bokassa—as we probably should).

Muslim: 2 (4 if you count Amin and Bokassa).

Satanist: 1

Christian: 0

A case might be made from this that, as the universalist faiths go, Islam is a violent religion. But still not as violent as atheists and shamanists. The clearer result is that, contrary to Jeff's assertion, it is atheism and shamanism that promote and abet tyranny.

Leave aside Islam as a special case, and the great universalist faiths seem to quite effectively prevent despotism and violence: they have produced no tyrants at all. No Buddhists; no Jews; no Hindus; no Sikhs; no Christians.

Most striking is the lack of Christian despots, since Christianity is the largest world religion, and the Christian world has been the most militarily powerful for several hundred years—the sort of place where a despot could really do something world-class.

Now let’s look at it from the opposite side of the spectrum: for, to determine who is and is not violent, it is also important to see who stands up against violence. For that, a reasonably objective test is the Nobel Peace Prize. Discounting awards to politicians for merely stopping a war they began, and awards to institutions, who tends to predominate, atheists or the religious?
Here’s the list of those who’ve won, and whose religious affiliations or lack thereof are readily accessible on the Internet, back to 1970:

Jimmy Carter – devout Baptist.

Kim Dae-Jong
– devout Catholic.

John Hume – devout Catholic, ex-seminarian.

Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo – Catholic bishop.

José Ramos-Horta – devout Catholic.

Rigoberta Menchu – Catholic.

Aung San Suu Kyi – observant Buddhist.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev – atheist.

The Dalai Lama – Buddhist spiritual leader.

Elie Wiesel – devout Jew.

Desmond Tutu – Anglican bishop.

Lech Walesa – devout Catholic.

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – devout Catholic.

Mother Theresa – Catholic nun.

Mairead Corrigan – devout Catholic.

Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov – agnostic.

Here we have almost the mirror image of the stats for tyrants and warmongers—neatly confirming our findings there.

Christians: 11 (a striking 9 Catholics)
Buddhists: 2
Atheists: 1 (2 allowing Sakharov)
Jews: 1
Muslims: 0
Shamanists: 0

So there you go; 70% Christian. You want world peace, you want more Christians and fewer atheists.

What about terrorism?

There, our work is done for us. The MIPT Terrorism Database keeps stats by “group classification” going back to 1970. According to them, of terrorist incidents worldwide since that year:

4867 were by Nationalist or Separatist groups.

3749 were by Communist or Socialist groups—broadly atheists. An additional 433 were by “leftist” groups. Total 4182.

2641 were by Religious groups.

Anarchists, anti-globalisation activists, environmentalists, racists, and rightists account for a further handful each.

So religious motivations account for only a fraction of terrorist attacks; atheists again account for a much larger proportion.

Further, when one examines the names of the groups listed by MIPT as “religious terrorists,” you find that they are almost exclusively Muslim (or rather, Islamist). Discount the Islamists, and all other religions seem virtually devoid of such activities.

Now let’s look at the examples Jeff offers in support of his thesis that religion causes ninety percent of the world’s violence:

He cites, as religious tyrants, George Bush and Osama Bin Laden. He cites, as religious wars, the current war in Iraq, the Israel-Arab conflict, Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland, the Crusades, the Inquisition [sic—not a war], “Christians vs. Jews,” “Christians vs. pagans,” “ongoing war in Africa,” Serbian Muslim massacres, the Holocaust, and “India.” He does not cite any Christian “terrorist” groups.

Let’s look at each of his examples in turn:

George Bush
Not, by dictionary definition, a tyrant. To see him as a warmonger, it would be necessary to see the Iraq war as a case of unambiguous aggression. This claim is, shall we say, controversial. Certainly it is absurd to put him in the same category with Hitler or Idi Amin. He is a devout Christian.

Osama Bin Laden
Also not, by dictionary definition, a tyrant—he is not even in power. Clearly, he is an advocate of violence. But is he actually religious? His training is in engineering; he appeals to Muslim values, but his Islam seems heretical.

The Current War in Iraq
Not religious. Saddam’s regime was strictly secular and actively anti-clerical. Of the US State Department’s original list of thirty coalition partners, six were majority Muslim nations; two were majority Buddhist. On the Christian side, the Vatican opposed the invasion.

The Arab-Israeli conflict
The press loves to portray this as religious, but the characterization does not hold up to scrutiny. It is an ethnic conflict. On the Arab side, thirty percent of Palestinian Arabs are Christian. The PLO is officially secular. Al Fatah, until recently the largest Arab political unit, is officially secular and Marxist. So is the PFLP. Hamas, a religious or pseudo-religious party, has come to the fore only recently—since last year. It was created only in 1987.

On the Israeli side, Israel was founded, not by religious Jews, but by secular Marxists, as a Marxist state—hence the kibbutzim. The most devout Jewish sects still do not recognize its existence as legitimate.

Marxists fighting Marxists; atheists fighting atheists.

Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland
The situation here is very similar to that in Israel: the press wants to make it a religious conflict, but it is not. It is a conflict between colonizers and the original inhabitants of the land. The IRA is not a Catholic organization; it is officially secular and Marxist. It is condemned by the Catholic Church. Most of its leaders, and most of the leaders of the Irish Independence movement, have been Protestant. On the other side, we have the “Reverend” Ian Paisley—but his religious credentials are similar to those of Bin Laden. He is self-ordained, and is not recognized as a minister by any established Protestant denomination.

The Crusades
Here we have a conflict genuinely motivated by religious ideals. But it was a just war; the Crusaders were summoned in the name of collective security to defend the Byzantine Empire as it was being overrun by the Seljuk Turks. It is immoral not to fight a just war—just as it would have been immoral of Britain and France not to come to Poland’s aid in WWII. And the overall effect of a just war is to reduce the future likelihood of war.

All this could be said, indeed, of the current Iraq conflict.

The Inquisition
Not a war, as noted, but violence was involved. How much? According to the curator of the Museum of the Spanish Inquisition in Lima, Peru, about one thousand fatalities, worldwide, over three centuries. To get some idea of how significant this is, note this is about the number of people currently executed by the (atheist) government of China every month.

It’s wrong to kill anyone for their beliefs; but in the broad historic context, this is almost trivial.

Christians vs. Jews
There have been many pogroms against the Jews in Christian countries over the past two thousand years. But is the impetus religious, as opposed to ethnic? The evidence suggests not. For, before the Jews were persecuted by Christians, they were at least as actively persecuted by, in turn, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the pagan Greeks, and the pagan Romans. The worst anti-Jewish persecution in history came at the hands of the Nazi regime in Germany, for whom the issue was expressly race, not religion. Conversely, other minority groups have been similarly persecuted without any plausible religious motive: the gypsies in Europe, the Hakka Chinese in Southeast Asia.

Christians vs. Pagans
There seems to have been quite active persecution of Christians by pagans in the first three centuries of the Christian era. Some time after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, paganism was officially outlawed, but there does not seem to have been widespread persecution.

Jeff may have been thinking of the witch trials in Europe. But this, again, does not seem to have had anything to do with the witches being “pagan”—if they were. After all, witches are commonly put to death in African shamanic society even today. Witchcraft is no more popular among pagans than among Christians.

“Ongoing War in Africa”
I’m not sure what Jeff is referring to here. Darfur is often in the news, and the media have portrayed that as a Muslims vs. Christians struggle. But this is false: it is a struggle between camel herders and settled farmers; most on both sides are Muslim.

Then there is the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. It has some features that look Christian; but it is really shamanist. The leader, Jospeh Kony, claims to be a spirit medium, which is to say, a shaman; so did the founder, Alice Auma.

Serbian Muslim Massacres
Again, ethnic, not religious, conflict. After all, the Serbs were at least as eager to massacre Croats, who are fellow Christians.

The Holocaust
Perpetrated by a neopagan, anti-Christian government, for expressly racist reasons. No religion involved.

India

There is some interreligious friction in India. But how bad can it be, when the president of this predominantly Hindu country is Muslim, the prime minister Sikh, and the leader of the largest party Christian?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Disgusting Photo




"Take a look at classical nudes of Venus. I find her body grotesque" - Jeff Harmson.

Classical statue of Aphrodite, Turkish National Museum, Istanbul.

Isaac Newton's Proof of God from Design

The planets and comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits given in kind and position, according to the laws above explained; but though these bodies may, indeed, continue in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular position of the orbits themselves from those laws.

… This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. … And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems.


Not really a full proof, but an interesting meditation.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Globe Warms to Gore

Unexpectedly, I recently got to see parts of An Inconvenient Truth. It was shown on our campus as part of our extensive Earth Week celebrations.

How extensive? This extensive: they brought in David Suzuki. Here. In the Persian Gulf. On the one day of the year he is surely in greatest demand.

My first impression from the movie is, if this was not intended by Gore as a launching pad for a presidential run, I’ll be an Arctic ringtailed monkey’s uncle. Lots of humanizing warm fuzzy clips of Gore’s childhood and family, which otherwise have nothing to do with the purported subject of the film. Of course, he might still not run; depends on how well the film works for him. But winning a couple of Oscars surely helps.

To cap it off, he has now been nominated for the Nobel Prize. And there are at least two active “draft Gore”websites.

At one point in the film, he shows a dramatic chart of the past several hundred thousand years, based on core samples from glaciers, on which rises in levels of CO2 correspond very neatly with rises in the world’s temperature. He concludes by showing the current CO2 level, then that projected for the next forty years, rising off the chart. He rather unsubtly emphasizes the point by using a crane to lift himself up to the final, high point in the graph.

Now, watching this, one question occurred to me immediately: before man started burning fossil fuels, what was causing these regular dramatic rises in CO2 levels? This point Gore did not address.

A new British made-for-TV documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, suggests an answer. In it, paleontologist Ian Clark points out that the rises in CO2 in the core samples actually follow the rises in temperature by about 800 years—a small enough gap not to be apparent on a graph spanning hundreds of thousands of years. But enough to make it certain that the rise in temperature caused the rise in CO2. And not the other way around.

Apparently, when oceans heat up, they emit higher levels of carbon dioxide.

If so, this seems to throw the entire premise of “greenhouse gases” causing the current global warming into confusion. No; it is then global warming that is causing the greenhouse gases.

More info on the new movie here and here.

Some choice quotes:

“billions of pounds is being provided by governments to fund greenhouse effect research, so thousands of scientists know their job depends on the theory continuing to be seen as fact.”

“in science the experts are usually wrong.”

"The few millions of dollars of research money from multinationals can’t compare to government funding.”

"At the moment, there is almost a McCarthyism movement in science where the greenhouse effect is like a puritanical religion and this is dangerous."

What didn't quite work for McCarthy might work for Gore.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Richard Swinburne’s Proof from Beauty

God has reason to make a basically beautiful world, although also reason to leave some of the beauty or ugliness of the world within the power of creatures to determine; but he would seem to have overriding reason not to make a basically ugly world beyond the powers of creatures to improve. Hence, if there is a God there is more reason to expect a basically beautiful world than a basically ugly one. A priori, however, there is no particular reason for expecting a basically beautiful rather than a basically ugly world. In consequence, if the world is beautiful, that fact would be evidence for God’s existence. For, in this case, if we let k be ‘there is an orderly physical universe’, e be ‘there is a beautiful universe’, and h be ‘there is a God’, P(e/h.k) will be greater than P(e/k) ... Few, however, would deny that our universe (apart from its animal and human inhabitants, and aspects subject to their immediate control) has that beauty. Poets and painters and ordinary men down the centuries have long admired the beauty of the orderly procession of the heavenly bodies, the scattering of the galaxies through the heavens (in some ways random, in some ways orderly), and the rocks, sea, and wind interacting on earth, ‘The spacious firmament on high, and all the blue ethereal sky’, the water lapping against ‘the old eternal rocks’, and the plants of the jungle and of temperate climates, contrasting with the desert and the Arctic wastes. Who in his senses would deny that here is beauty in abundance? If we confine ourselves to the argument from the beauty of the inanimate and plant worlds, the argument surely works.


I think, in the end, the argument from beauty is the one that is strongest for me personally.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The “Watchmaker” Analogy: Arguing from Design

Voltaire:

“If a watch proves the existence of a watchmaker but the universe does not prove the existence of a great Architect, then I consent to be called a fool."


Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy:

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. (...) There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. (...) Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.


The regularity in nature discovered by science, therefore, demonstrates the existence of an intelligence behind it. This, indeed, was what science is for, according to its founders: “to discover the footprints of God in nature.”

It could be objected that there is no control here: if we see design in culture, that is, the works of man, and design in nature, that is, in that not made by man, what is left that does not show design? And, if there is nothing we perceive that does not show design, how can we know that the design is in the object of perception, rather than in our minds; that is, the design of our minds being projected on all that we see?

But if it is just from our minds, it does not matter—for we know we did not make our own minds. A design intrinsic to our minds equally shows the presence of an intelligent creator.

It could be objected that, if everything shows design, we cannot really distinguish design at all. For things are defined largely by their opposite, and we then have no true examples of chaos or randomness with which to compare.

And yet we do have relative examples: we can, as human artificers, do better or worse. We can see that some of our attempted designs are inferior, and some superior. And we can see when we lack all intention to design that we can come up, literally, with garbage.

And with this we can indeed fairly compare what we find in nature. Does it look like a pile of garbage, an upturned bucket of ink, like our artificial randomness? Or does it look more like an elaborate structure following regular principles?

Science’s success suggests the latter.

Friday, March 02, 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas’s Proof of God’s Existence from Universals

There is found a greater and a less degree of goodness, truth, nobility, and the like. But more or less are terms spoken of various things as they approach in diverse ways toward something that is the greatest, just as in the case of hotter (more hot) which approaches nearer the greatest heat. There exists therefore something that is the truest, and best, and most noble, and in consequence, the greatest being. For what are the greatest truths are the greatest beings, as is said in the Metaphysics Bk. II. 2. What moreover is the greatest in its way, in another way is the cause of all things of its own kind (or genus); thus fire, which is the greatest heat, is the cause of all heat, as is said in the same book (cf. Plato and Aristotle). Therefore there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things and of the goodness and of every perfection whatsoever---and this we call God.


This proof, as St. Thomas makes clear, is originally from Plato. If we are able to evaluate one thing as better than another, Plato argues, this implies some absolute standard of goodness against which both can be measured. The relative implies the absolute quantity.

At first glance, this does not seem right. After all, the fact that we can measure a field and find it a furlong, does not imply that there is some being of maximum length against which we are measuring it. Any other entity of relative length—a yardstick, for example—will do.

But to grasp what St. Thomas and Plato and Aristotle are actually saying, I think, you need to grasp the idea of the ideal form (or, to use Aritotle’s term, the “category”). Plato is saying that in order to perceive some quality such as length, as distinct from a long object, and therefore to measure it, there must be an independently existing entity which is length itself, independent of all individual lengths. To perceive relative heats, we must be aware at some level of an absolute entity, heat itself.

Francis Bacon proposed that these things could actually be abstracted from the physical world itself, from repeated experience. This claim has, I think, been definitely exploded, in philosophical terms. Ideas cannot spontaneously generate themselves out of stones and stars. We start with the idea, and then test and measure the stones and stars against it (and it against them); this can even be shown to be true by practical experiment.

Now the quality of goodness or the quality of quality must itself have its pre-existing, eternal paradigm. That is God; by definition.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Aquinas’s Cosmological Proof of the Existence of God

In the world of sensible things we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or one only. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, or intermediate, cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.


This proof rests not only on what I trust is the self-evident proposition that, by definition and logical necessity, there is no first member of an infinite regression; but that, in the matter of cause and effect, if there is no first member, there also can be no subsequent members of the set, because each effect relies for its existence on the prior cause, and the prior existence of the cause.

Therefore, the mere fact that anything at all exists proves the existence of a first, uncaused cause of all—a Creator God.

This proof is more or less from Aristotle and Plato, and so has stood without being disproved for over two thousand years.

Some believe it was disproved by Hume’s attack on cause and effect itself—Hume argues there is no such thing. It seems to me, though, that Hume’s argument against cause and effect is itself self-contradictory. He argues that cause and effect cannot be proven to exist, but may merely be assumed by us through long habit of seeing one event succeed another. Yet the connection between the two may be something other than the first causing the second, for all we know.

Problem: in order to make this argument, Hume is assuming it is _caused_ by a specific perception, that of one thing following another. I.e., he is already assuming cause and effect. Without already assuming cause and effect, his argument that they do not exist falls apart. Hence his argument contradicts itself.

Hence, the cosmological proof is still valid.

Even were it not so, too few notice that, if Hume’s position is correct, the most immediate casualty is science, not the existence of God. If Hume is right, science is impossible. Yet it works; empirical proof that Hume is wrong.