The Book!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Winter Cherry





after Chuei Hu


Last year, on this mountain,
Poetry was a cherry garland on her shoulders,
Redder as her face grew deeper red.

I return; she is nowhere, only dreams.
But look--in verses, cherries are in blossom.
Surprising, vivid pink against the snow.

-- Stephen K. Roney


The Munk Debate





I have now had a chance to see the Munk Foreign Policy Debate among the three main Canadian party leaders. Much less interrupting this time, but the clear offender again was Justin Trudeau. This to me made him the loser, even though he made better points than in the past. Canadians are too polite by nature to accept that.

Mulcair also lost in the likability stakes, I think, because his motions and the way he holds his hands look so unnatural. He seemed repressed. The camera caught expressions that looked angry when he watched Trudeau. He got in a few zingers that made him sound smart, but they were also harsh and undignified. Canadians famously love humour, but Canadian humour is conspicuously good-natured and unbarbed. This was probably not to the audience's taste.

On likeability grounds, by contrast, Harper turned in a performance that was almost flawless. So I call him the clear winner, on the grounds that usually most matter.

This debate was unusually substantive, so it is just possible that the parties' stands on the issues will make the difference. But here, I think, Stephen Harper also has to be the clear winner. It is almost inevitable for a party in power: being in power, and if they intend to stay there, the government can seize the more popular side in any current debate. If the opposition comes up with a new idea that gains interest and approval, they can co-opt that too. They do this by actually introducing legislation; which the opposition cannot do.

As a result, the opposition parties are generally left saying they would do mostly the same things, but do them a little better.

Accordingly, it is always hard for the opposition to win on the issues. If an opposition wins, they usually win, in Canada, because of a good, juicy scandal, or because of a general odour of corruption in the government. Or they win because the sitting government has given an impression of general incompetence.

Harper has done pretty well at looking competent, and certainly did in the debates.

The opposition must rely on a general odour of government corruption.

Is it there, and is it there plainly enough? Either way, this debate did not show it. On its own, it has to help Harper's Tories.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Bethany





Although I know all 'mantical love’s a mare-drawn pantomime caravan,
Casting fortunes in the dust, leaving settled acres bare;
Although I know possession's one point love, and nine points testament,
And testimony must not love a face;
Still I know the sorry angel that's in Bethany's blue eyes,
And, though suffering is no excuse for love,
Her eyes are on my wallpaper tonight.

-- Stephen K. Roney


Fiorina Lies. Or Not.








Carly Fiorina had the most memorable moment at the second Republican candidates debate, everyone seems to agree, when she said, of the Planned Parenthood videos, “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” Planned Parenthood, in response, quickly declared that “every part of what she said was false.” Gloria Steinem wrote that it was a “100 percent lie.” George Stephanopolis demanded she retract, saying a fact checker had been through all ten hours of the tapes and found no scene anything like this. And on and on. Just yesterday, Chuck Todd confronted Carly Fiorina on Meet the Press demanding that she admit it was not true.

This strikes me as odd, because when she said that in the debate, I knew immediately which scene she was describing. How can that be so if it is 100 percent untrue? If it is nowhere on the tapes? For that claim to be fair, there would have to be no live foetus, and no brain harvesting. Both were featured in that segment. Fiorina, I admit, did have one detail technically wrong: the voice said they had to keep it “intact” to harvest the brain, not “alive.” But in the situation, the two amounted to the same thing. If the child was not crushed in utero, it was born alive.

Based on comments by Todd and Christopher Wallace, I gather that the claim among pro-lifers that the whole thing is a lie is based on the argument that the baby we see with its legs moving is not the same baby being discussed re brain harvesting. Wow. Big, meaningful difference. But if you read the transcript of what Fiorina actually said, she did not even make this claim. Her “it” may have referred to “the foetus” as a generic entity.

So why this strangely intense insistence that it was all a lie? Indeed, what would it prove or even matter if Fiorina got some detail wrong?

I am reminded of a quote from Shakespeare: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The “lady,”in this case, being not Fiorina, but all the backers of Planned Parenthood. It's like O.J. Simpson, on the stand, stating that he “absolutely” did not kill his wife. An innocent man would not have thought of that “absolutely” as appropriate or meaningful.

Nor “100 percent,” nor “every part” a lie, nor “nowhere on those tapes.”

They know they have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Their conscience is after them.

It is an odd element of conscience, too, that it tends to crave exposure. Their insistence that Fiorina is lying is, in the end, self-defeating. It is keeping the Planned Parenthood issue in the limelight, and prompting many more people to look at the videos. Fiorina's campaign has even seized the opportunity to feature the relevant parts in a campaign ad.



Eventually, they will have to admit the truth about Planned Parenthood, and about what abortion means. And will find themselves miraculously sleeping better at night.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sijo of the St. Lawrence




Morning on the river.
As I launch my boat
Four herons rise and circle.
I alone believe
There is somewhere to go.

-- Stephen K. Roney

Clinton Looks for a Cloth







In her email scandal, Hillary Clinton is consistently breaking a basic rule of PR: if there is bad news, get it all out at once, so you can then beyond it.

Do you remember the Chicago Tylenol murders? Perhaps not. Seven people died from taking store bought Tylenol that had been laced with poison by a serial killer. Within a week after the first death, Tylenol pulled all its product, issued a warning not to use it, ceased advertising, stopped making it in capsule form. They and everyone else starting putting seals on the pill containers. A year or two later, Tylenol was back on top. Quick and smart PR prevented what could have been a permanent association of Tylenol with poisonings.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign have been doing the exact opposite. They keep putting out lame falsehoods minimizing the affair. These then serially get disproven step by agonizing step, keeping it all in the news for one more cycle. Just last week, we learned that her private server was not, in fact, “scrubbed,” or not competently. Her emails were probably recoverable. Friday, we learned that a large new cache of emails regarding Benghazi has been discovered, were missing from her previous “full disclosure.” She is establishing one fact clearly in the public mind: she cannot be trusted.

Why would she do this? Unless …

It is impossible, ultimately, to rule out pure incompetence. Most people find it difficult to admit guilt, even minor guilt. For a similar political PR disaster, we have the example of Watergate, a supposed “third rate burglary” which nevertheless brought down a president.

But frankly, I suspect Watergate was far more than that, there was a reason for all the covering up and stonewalling, and there was more than altruism in Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. The preemptive pardon ended the investigation. Who knows what it might have turned up?

So too with Hillary. The simplest explanation is that something hiding in those emails would, if known, kill her presidential hopes, if not have her fitted for an orange jumpsuit. Why else would she have opted for a private server in the first place? She is just hoping against hope it isn't found.

The fact that she did not hand over al lthe emails regarding Benghazi specifically may be a clue...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Legend of the Emilie Bell






What is it about big bells?
The thrill of the deep sublime
The terrible voice of iron
Remembering fire?

Each big bell, the aged women say
Requires a sacrifice;
Something young and virginal to keep the metal supple; or it cracks.
An unwanted child, perhaps.

Listen carefully, then, when you hear the toll of bells:
Or for that matter, any lesser music.
Listen for that sweet high undertone.
You hear a small child set aflame
Crying for a heedless mother.

-- Stephen K. Roney

The Lion and the Unicorn





The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town

Trudeau and Mulcair have both now said, publicly, adamantly, that they will not prop up the Conservatives in a minority situation. This, pundits prognosticate, means that the Conservatives must get a majority, or they are out.

Not so fast. At this stage, neither alternative party wants the public to think that a vote for them is a vote to keep the Conservatives in. Simple principle: anyone who wants the Conservatives in is voting for the Conservatives.

But what actually happens if the Conservatives win more seats than anyone else?

Harper would have the right to be appointed Prime Minister by the Governor-General. It would be a public scandal if he were not. Then it is up to the other parties to vote him down. Let's say they vote him down. Then, if the election has been quite recent, the Governor-General would properly go to the leader of one of the other parties to see if they can form a government. He might instead violate tradition and call an election, but if he did, the waste of money and apparent lust for power would be a big issue, and the Conservatives would not be the ones blamed.

Now, while it may not be in the interest of either the Liberals or the NDP to see the Conservatives stay in power, it is much less in their interest to see the other alternative party given a chance at government. Since they compete for more or less the same ideological constituency, this would be a crippling blow, perhaps a death blow. It tags their rivals as the apparent alternative.

Therefore, it becomes in their interest not to force it to this point. Given that the Conservatives do not bait them with something they cannot support without looking duplicitous, the party in third place when the election is over is pretty sure to vote with the government for the first six months at least—until it would look as if the Governor General would have to call an election if the government fell.

They could insist, of course, that they are not "propping up" the government at all, but merely supporting this or that specific measure which they feel is in the best interests of Canadians.



You Don't Talk Politics When You're a Guest





A lot of folks are irate that Pope Francis did not mention abortion or gay marriage explicitly in his speech to the US Congress. The same folks are irate that he did not mention human rights or political prisoners while he was in Cuba.

These people still do not get Pope Francis. He is a pastoral pope. His approach is not to confront, but to find common ground.

As wise grandmothers tell us, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Proverbs







It is impossible to accuse another of lack of humility without hypocrisy.

Whenever the problem is with “all foreigners,” the problem is not with foreigners. Whenever the problem is with “all men,” the problem is not with men.

If you want to get lost, follow a woman.

If you agree with someone, they are nuanced. If you disagree, they are splitting hairs.

What most people believe is usually the opposite of the truth.

Eternity is a mountain in time.

-- Stephen K. Roney


Gifts of the Spirit










John Boehner was sobbing through much of yesterday's papal speech to congress.

I know just how he feels. Really. I had the same reaction to Pope John Paul II when I attended the papal mass in Toronto in 1984. The immediate presence of the Spirit can do that to you. It turns out Boehner is not just a cynical pol. He has a soul.

The ability to evoke this response is no Catholic monopoly. Wasn't it the essence of a Billy Graham revival, for example? But it does speak well of the church, that the charism—the gift of the Holy Spirit—does seem to be predictably present in its leadership.

More generally, isn't it undeniable that Catholics tend to be charismatic? Marco Rubio, for example, stands out among the current contenders for the US presidency as charming, as did John F. Kennedy in his day, or Pierre Trudeau in Canada. All Catholics, born, and, importantly, bred. An Evangelical Protestant background can produce something similar: Elvis, Bill Clinton, Mike Huckabee, Martin Luther King Jr. But in either case, surely, you can sense the religious upbringing in the man.

Charisma is plainly not a guarantee of individual goodness. Hitler, after all, was said to have it. And this makes sense. It is, after all, by definition, a “gift.” It is not a reward for good behaviour.

What it is about is not moral goodness, but an inner awareness of fundamental truth. A charismatic person radiates “savoir faire,” which is to say, an unshakable sense of knowledge of some ultimate. Such a sense must most naturally and fully come from true religion.

This, not incidentally, is why Hitler cannot be excused by suggestions that he simply had his own consistent morality of survival of the fittest, and stuck to his peculiar principles. No, his very charisma shows that he knew the Truth with that capital T, and so knowingly turned from it, like Faust. This is what gives Lucifer his charisma in turn: he has known the true presence.

Lucifer departs the divine presence.

So charisma can be used for good or ill. Either way, it is powerful. Someone who is in touch with ultimate truth is less likely to be swayed or frightened by immediate events. The bomb goes off behind him, but the guy with charisma does not flinch, continuing to walk steadily toward the camera.

So, no surprise, that “tough guy” roles seem to be something of a Catholic specialty in Hollywood. Gary Cooper, Nicholas Cage, James Cagney, Liam Neeson, Sean Connery, Clark Gable, Mel Gibson, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Gregory Peck, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Martin Sheen, Sylvester Stallone, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent, The Prisoner—perhaps the most charismatic actor ever), Jean Claude Van Damme. Not everybody—Humphrey Bogart, for example, was Episcopalian—but an impressive showing for a minority group.

Patrick McGoohan's stage presence was so powerful that Leo McKern reputedly suffered a nervous breakdown from acting the role of his adversary.
Now how about the most charismatic women? Here, the case is perhaps best made by beauty pageants, which measure not just beauty, but poise and presence. How often have they been won by Miss Venezuela again? Answer: for Miss Universe, Venezuela 7 times, second only to the US with 8. And the US has home field advantage. Catholic Puerto Rice third, 5 times. For Miss World, Venezuela leads with 6 wins. The UK, with home field advantage, comes second. For Miss International, Venezuela leads with 6 wins, Catholic Philippines second with 5. For Miss Earth, Venezuela is in a three-way tie for first place with Brazil and the Philippines, all Catholic countries. On the screen, we can cite Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jessica Alba, Katharine Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Suzanne Somers, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Mae West, Mary Pickford ...

By their fruits, ye shall know them.

Nice fruits, eh?


That Jones girl.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why Is It God?






Why is it God
That every poem I ever wrote
Broke on the way home?
--Stephen K. Roney


A Possible Rubio Cabinet?




Lincoln with his "Cabinet of Rivals"

It is upsetting to watch the current Republican matchup in the US, for the rare reason that there are too many good candidates. Sad that only one of them can win the nomination, let alone the presidency. My sense of loss was heightened by the recent withdrawals of Rick Perry and Scott Walker, both of whom had every right to be considered prime presidential material.

But on the bright side, just think of what the eventual nominee, if he or she takes the presidency, might have to work with as cabinet lumber. "Carpy Deyum," as we used to say at good old Gananoque Secondary School. Here are some suggestions for seizing the opportunity:

President: Marco Rubio. He looks like having the best chance to unite the various strands of the party. He should play well against any of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Joe Biden, projecting youthful energy. He nails down Florida, a swing state. He's got charisma. He shows he knows his stuff.

Vice-President: John Kasich. For reasons given elsewhere: he perfectly balances Rubio and may nail down a second crucial swing state, Ohio. Also great on TV.

Secretary of State: Jeb Bush. I admit this is something of a consolation prize. As the favourite of the party establishment, I feel you cannot offer him anything less. He has the connections to do a good job with this. He will be respected by allies. Calmness in this role is a plus.

Homeland Security: Carly Fiorina. She radiates reassurance, a sense of being on top of things. In this role, she would benefit from echoes of the popular character played by Clare Danes in the current series Homeland. Good place for a bit of a fire-breather.

Treasury: Mitt Romney. God knows, this is where they need a turnaround specialist. Again, like a good neo-classic bank design, Romney projects calm reassurance.

Defense: John McCain. McCain was born for this, if he'll take it. I think he might. It would make a good career cap after his many years in the Senate. Wouldn't we all feel more secure with John McCain in charge of the military?

Commerce: Rick Perry. Perry did an outstanding job boosting business and employment in Texas. Let him bring the same skills to the national level. He's a salesman.

Energy: Newt Gingrich. We need to slot Gingrich somewhere around the cabinet table; he's the ultimate idea guy, and a cabinet needs an idea guy. He could fit in lots of places, but energy policy has been a special interest of his.

Education: Bobby Jindal. Jindal is a past president of the University of Louisiana; he knows the field. His work on school vouchers in Louisiana is impressive. And he may need a career parachute, given that his popularity in Louisiana has declined recently.

Labor: Scott Walker. Let him implement the labour platform he announced just before dropping out of the race. He's the tough guy you need to do it, too.

Attorney-General: Rudy Giuliani. He's a prosecutor at heart. Again, a voice we want around the cabinet table, and a reassuring presence to the public. Let him clean up the US the way he cleaned up New York.

Interior: Sarah Palin. She has shown her love of the outdoors. Her media presence makes her a great spokeswoman.

Health and Human Services: Ben Carson, of course. Obviously, we want this guy in the cabinet, and this is what his background suggests.

Housing and Urban Development: Donald Trump. As obvious as Carson, above. Of course, Trump will probably refuse the position. If so, give it to George Pataki. He's looking for something.

Agriculture: Mike Huckabee. If this position is too lowly for him, Thaddeus McCotter. Anyone remember him? A House Rep, he ran for president in 2012, then failed to even qualify for the Republican primary for his congressional seat. He's a city boy, but I think he has the proper corn-pone presence to resonate with farmers. He's just fun to listen to.

Transportation: we need someone managerial and business-minded, but without any ties to any particluar  branch of tranportation, for fear of favour. So how about Herman Cain?
Veterans' Affairs: bring back David Petraeus. He has paid for his sins, and his great talents ought not to go to waste. He can move up later.

White House Chief of Staff: Dick Cheney. If he'd do it, he knows the ins and outs better than anyone else alive. One hopes he might agree as a public and party service to serve at least for the first year or two to ease the transition.

Not everyone is on the list. On the whole, I have tried to avoid pulling people who are already doing fine in some elected position--we are using them well enough there. So, nothing for Ted Cruz, or Lindsay Graham, The one obvious exception is Scott Walker, becvasue his labour policy is just too good to let go. And Rubio and Kasich have already made their choices to move up if they can.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Clock Hoax

Autumn Winds






I set my face against the cold hard rain.
I will not turn.

-- Stephen K. Roney


Class and Class




Modern Times
The public schools transparently do not teach us what we need to know to be successful in life. This has to be deliberate, since the private schools to which the rich send their scions almost always do.

The first thing you really need to get somewhere, in any field, is training in rhetoric. This may sound fancy and arcane: if you prefer, call it “salesmanship.” Same thing. Warren Buffet, who did not benefit from a private school education, claims that he learned everything he needed to know for business success, not in college, but by taking a Dale Carnegie course. You have to be able to persuade, one on one or before an audience, and there are known rules and techniques for doing this. Why shouldn't everyone learn them?

For current examples of the power of rhetoric, consider how effective Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump have seemed in the ongoing presidential stakes in the US. They may or may not have had formal training in rhetoric—Trump, having been a private school kid, almost certainly did—but their business success was necessarily built on special talents in this regard, and these talents show through on the political stage. They may be outsiders to politics, but their ability to sway an audience has been honed in boardrooms and in presentations to employees. Steve Jobs is another great master of the craft.

Is there something disreputable about all this? Only if it is not guided by moral principles. Any good pastor, too, must develop skills at rhetoric. That's what gave us Mike Huckabee.


Early assembly line

The second thing you need is parliamentary procedure. If that sounds fancy, try “how to run a meeting.” As per Robert's Rules, or Bourinot's Rules of Order. Without this, it is impossible to organize others to get anything done. It therefore seems quite sinister not to teach students at high school age how meetings work; it seems to deliberately exclude them from power. While that might make school administrators' lives easier, the lack of knowledge of proper procedure is therefore endemic in our organizations, public and private. The price we pay for this is appalling. People commonly come out of meetings not knowing what, if anything, has actually been agreed upon, and certainly without a sensed moral commitment to do anything. As a result, usually nothing gets done. Businesses atrophy, and democratic politics tend not to work.

The third thing you need is some knowledge of fair debate. Everyone should be able to recognize and explain the classic logical fallacies. Without this, for all practical purposes, you cannot think. If you cannot think for yourself, you are too easily led. You can be taken in by any unprincipled party. Or you can be pushed around. Debating skills are like intellectual martial arts.

Public schools claim all the time that they want to teach their students how to think, to foster “critical thinking skills”--which lie is why I feel obliged to call this subject “debate” instead of “critical thinking skills.” Because schools commonly conceal under that latter title its opposite, indoctrination in approved political positions. “Debate” at least implies that, as standard practice, two contrary positions are both examined on equal terms, by the same objective criteria.

The fourth thing you need, and are systematically not taught, is mnemonics. How to remember is, quite simply, how to learn, and it is deliberately suppressed in public schools. The term blatant malpractice comes to mind. The reasoning commonly given is that memorization is simply and purely mechanical. Very well; if so, so is mathematics. So is being able to read.

New model assembly-line school, 1913.
 
But it is not so. Properly used and properly understood, mnemonics involves the development of the imagination. It is a fundamentally creative activity. And if you are going to go on to study medicine, or law, or science, or anything at all, you are going to need it.

The fifth thing you need is cultural context. That is, you need to know the basic history of your culture, and its important cultural milestones, as understood by the upper classes. Without these, you are effectively excluded from the conversation at these higher levels, because, as E.D. Hirsch has demonstrated, it is largely written and spoken in a cultural code based on such shared knowledge. Perhaps it is wrong that this is so. Perhaps not; some ideas are probably too complex to express except through allusion. Nevertheless, either way, this is so. You need to be aware of at least the plots of the most important pieces of literature, and at least the outline of history. You need to know the choicest quotes from Shakespeare and from a variety of other important figures. Without them, you are going to miss all the allusions. Reading, perhaps you can now Google it. Speaking, you cannot. In any case, terms like “sour grapes,” “Pharisee,” “Pyrrhic victory,” or “Orwellian” tend to be too complex in their implications to be quickly picked up on the fly.

It is telling, surely, that the public schools are currently systematically removing history and canonical literature from the classrooms.

So there you have it: the five essential high school subjects. Rhetoric, parliamentary procedure, debate, mnemonics, and cultural literacy. I add theology and ethics for any religious school, and all schools should be religious on principle. Other stuff is window dressing, and I include science and math. There is probably not the time for this. The “three R's” should be under their belts by this time. They need now to finish this basic platform. Specialization can be left to the tertiary level. As has often been observed, most people never need to use either the math or the science they learn in high school.

Next question: why are the public schools systematically failing to educate students in what they most need to know? Individual reasons are given for cutting out this and that, but it all adds up to something that looks like a deliberate attempt to keep the average student down. And that is because it is.

The “progressives” of Woodrow Wilson's time, back in the early years of the assembly line, saw the new efficient factory model as the ideal model for education as well. No more one-room school houses. They decided the public schools were there to produce the little cogs and willing wheels needed by industry. We simply did not need a nation of leaders. Best not to let the peons think above their station. This tradition is continued, energetically, in the current fetish for STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math). These things will earn you a good pay packet, sure, for a few years or maybe more, but not a seat in the boardroom. The tradition is also well entrenched in the growing fetish for the idea of “efficiency” in education, and for clear, measurable results. Teaching must be a “science.” Except, of course, for their own kids.

It may well be true that we only need so many leaders. I frankly doubt that. My impression is that we are training too few. As globalization and automation increase, leadership may be the only career available. On the other hand, if so, these leaders ought not in a democracy be selected by right of birth. Every child who shows the capacity for it ought to be educated for potential leadership, and let the best man or woman win. The society as a whole would benefit.

Confucius had it right. “A gentleman,” he observed, “is not a tool.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Special on at Ogilvy's




On my way out of Ogilvy's, I got caught in the revolving door
And never left.
I still forever see my reflection in the glass
Going the opposite way.
It stays eight as I grow strangely old.
Again and again and again we spin
Between the warm interior full of jewels
And the frosty, jostling street that goes one way.

-- Stephen K. Roney


The Decline and Fall of Everyone




Not the way it usually works.

Contrary to what you commonly hear, social Darwinism, the idea that survival of the fittest applies to human nations and cultures, was no perversion of Darwin's original theory. Darwin himself was the first social Darwinist. It was the subject of his later book The Descent of Man. Leading pretty directly to the First and Second World Wars.

In Descent, Darwin makes the interesting observation that, when cultures are no longer, for one reason or another, competitive in the evolutionary struggle, they are not necessarily defeated militarily by some neighbouring tribe. They often seem instead to simply lay down and die. Darwin cites a Mr. Sproat, who observed the Native Indians of Vancouver Island, over time, become “bewildered and dull by the new life around them; they lose the motives for exertion, and get no new ones in their place.” (Darwin, p. 542). That sounds, indeed, like what has happened to native cultures in North America generally.

Soon, fertility declines. Darwin tracks the rapid fall in the number of Tasmanian aboriginals. Far from being exterminated by the Europeans, according to Darwin, the Tasmanian government took every effort to keep them going. Nevertheless, the native islanders seem to have simply stopped reproducing. “At the time when only nine women were left at Oyster Cove, … only two had ever borne children: and these two had together produced only three children” (p. 548). Among the Maoris of New Zealand, similarly, Darwin quotes figures that, in 1844, there was one child for every 2.57 adults; in 1858, only 14 years later, there was one child for every 3.27 adults. In Hawaii, after contact with the Europeans, fertility fell to “half a child for every married couple in the whole island” (p. 552).

Last four Tasmanian aborigines, 1860.

I don't think these examples bear out Darwin's theories; they suggest a spiritual instead of a material cause for the rise and fall of nations. Do animal species die out from ennui? But they are of interest in showing how depression works, and that it is primarily a loss of meaning. A culture or an individual, coming into contact with a new culture, is automatically challenged in their prior assumptions. If that new culture is different enough, and seems to offer plainly superior results in some fields, this is necessarily powerfully so. Everything seems, to the individual in the less developed culture, to become pointless, as all the old signposts and destinations seem disproven. This, I suspect, is what African cultures refer to as “loss of soul.”

Hence the shock and depression in these cases almost entirely hits the aboriginal, not the European, culture.

The same effect, not incidentally, can be achieved by surrounding an individual with consistent lies, which challenge his own common sense and experience, as happens in a dysfunctional family. It can happen on a broader, social level when a culture for whatever reason departs generally from common sense and common experience, with or without any outside pressures upon it.

The culture or the individual is then caught between a spiritual Scylla and Charybdis. He dares not leap nor stay behind. There is the same sense of purposelessness as with the “lazy Indians,” or for that matter, the “lazy negroes,” like a car that cannot get into any gear. Hence the lack of interest in sex, which is really a lack of interest in procreation and childrearing. To have a child is a vote that the future will be better, not worse, than the present.

First point: the reality that these things happen disproves the idea of cultural relativism. All cultures are not equal, or culture shock would be more evenly distributed. Second point: such things are not the superior culture's fault. Time to get rid of notions of “cultural imperialism” and “cultural genocide.” Third point: there is a cure to depression, and it is to make the leap.

In other words, broadly, the residential schools were the right idea, and our current drive to resegregate and revive aboriginal cultures will only prolong the problem.

It is also interesting to see that the clearest symptom of this problem on a cultural level is a decline in fertility rates.

We have such a decline, of course, currently across the West. Our culture generally has strayed too far from common sense and common experience. If it does not correct itself, it will die, as did these others.

But who will replace it? Fertility rates have fallen even more disastrously in East Asia. And they are falling in South Asia (i.e., India). And in the Middle East. In Russia, they have long been alarmingly low. So much for possible competing civilizations. In fact, fertility rates seem to be falling just about everywhere.

All of this is actually prompted by an article from David P. Goldman, “Spengler,” on the demographics of modern Iran. Fertility there has fallen from 7 children per woman in 1979 to 1.6 in 2012. This is a bigger decline than has ever been seen before in a large, developed country.

Clearly, there is something very wrong with the spiritual climate, and there are as yet no solutions in sight.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Happy Leonard Cohen Day



Today, our national poet turns 81. 

For the occasion, I've put together a compendium of memorable moments from his songs, as available on YouTube.






No Muslims Need Apply






So now Ben Carson is in trouble, for saying he could not “advocate” a Muslim as president of the US.

His critics are right that there is no legal bar: there can be no religious test for office, according to the US Constitution. But that is not what Carson was saying. Carson was saying he would not vote for a Muslim, nor campaign for one, for the Presidency. That is a different matter, and well within anyone's right. There is a difference between “can” and “should.”

His critics are wrong, I think, to say that this is just prejudice on Carson's part, comparable to prejudices against Catholics holding office in the US, or Jews, or Mormons. It sounds like prejudice, but Carson seems actually to be quite knowledgeable on the subject, probably better informed than his critics. Prejudice is passing judgment in the absence of complete information. Carson has informed himself on the matter.

In fact, there really is something special about Islam in this regard. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Hinduism, all presume in one way or another the separation of church and state. Islam does not: Mohammed was both a civil ruler and a religious prophet. For Islam, theocracy is the prescribed norm, and anything else is failure. The religious authority is supposed to be the civil government, and vice versa.

This makes it difficult for a Muslim to separate his religious views from his politics, in a way that it is not for Jews, Catholics, or Hindus. The thought of doing so is fundamentally against Islam.

The Emir of Dubai is one example of a secular Muslim ruler. Within his realm, he has boasted, everyone has their choice. They can go to the mosque, or they can go to the tavern. It is their own concern.

But the Emir is not popularly elected.

A Muslim colleague of mine, by no means a “fundamentalist,” indeed quite Westernized, and nominally in favour of liberal democracy for the Muslim world, commented spontaneously on the depravity of this. “Then what,” he asked, purely rhetorically, “is government for?”

You give the average Muslim the franchise, and, as we have seen again and again, he is not going to vote for a secular government. He cannot, in good conscience.

There is a Catch-22 here. Any Muslim who does strictly separate his religious views from his politics, is being, in the terms of his own religion, immoral. This is not the sort of Muslim one would want in power and in command--one with no principles. Yet any Muslim who is properly observant will feel obliged to try to make sharia law, for example, the law of his adopted land, and cannot accept other faiths as having equal rights. This is not the sort of Muslim we probably want in command either.

A Muslim government can be democratic, no problem. It can believe in human equality, no problem. But you cannot really reconcile Islam with the “social contract” theory of government on which the US and the US constitution is based. Government, for Islam, is not a social contract among equals: it is properly imposed by God. And must follow His rules.

Ben Carson may be wrong. Turkey and Malaysia, for example, are trying to forge a secular course, if that is desirable. They may even succeed in the end—the jury is out. But he has his reasons.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Great Leap Forward




A commune canteen during China's "Great Leap Forward."

Let's have a look at the new “Leap Manifesto," shall we? This could actually be fun. Didn't our grandmothers warn us to look before we leap?

1. The leap must begin by respecting the inherent rights and title of the original caretakers of this land, starting by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There are no inherent aboriginal rights. First, the concept of “aborigines” is perfectly arbitrary, and second, all men are created equal. We are bound by treaty in some cases. No more, no less.

2. The latest research shows we could get 100% of our electricity from renewable resources within two decades; by 2050 we could have a 100% clean economy. We demand that this shift begin now.

In a nation that has the world’s second-largest reserves of oil and gas, why would we want to? Nor is “renewable” the same thing as “clean.” Nuclear is probably the cleanest energy, but is “non-renewable.” Biomass is probably the most disruptive to the environment, but is “renewable.”

3. No new infrastructure projects that lock us into increased extraction decades into the future. The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn’t want it in your backyard, then it doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.

This “iron law” would prevent the construction of a lot of things of general value: cemeteries, prisons, mental hospitals, halfway houses, community living for the mentally retarded, town dumps, landfill sites, and so forth. It would also probably prevent the building of any factories or farms, which might have some detrimental effects on the economy.

4. The time for energy democracy has come: wherever possible, communities should collectively control new clean energy systems. Indigenous Peoples and others on the frontlines of polluting industrial activity should be first to receive public support for their own clean energy projects.

Small, locally run public utilities obviously lose any economies of scale. Is there any upside? And why need the government be involved?

5. We want a universal program to build and retrofit energy efficient housing, ensuring that the lowest income communities will benefit first.

It is in your self-interest to make your home energy efficient, to save on utility bills. Accordingly, no government intervention is necessary. This is just a handout to homeowners and landlords. You take the money out of their pockets, and then put some of it back in again.

6. We want high-speed rail powered by just renewables and affordable public transit to unite every community in this country – in place of more cars, pipelines and exploding trains that endanger and divide us.

This is technically impossible as written. A train that stops at every community cannot reach high speeds. Not sure what an “exploding train” is. It sounds bad. How will we ensure that the high-speed trains do not also explode? How does public transit replace pipelines?

7. We want training and resources for workers in carbon-intensive jobs, ensuring they are fully able to participate in the clean energy economy.

Carbon intensive jobs? Presumably, jobs in the oil patch. Those guys are making good wages. They are not likely to quit their jobs to go back to school to train for another job that pays less. In any case, they don't need our tax money.

8. We need to invest in our decaying public infrastructure so that it can withstand increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Bridges and roads and such do need to be tended to regularly. On the other hand, politicians hardly need to be reminded of this. It is their prime opportunity for porkbarrelling and graft.


Think globally, act locally: backyard blast furnaces during China's "Great :Leap Forward."

9. We must develop a more localized and ecologically-based agricultural system to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, absorb shocks in the global supply – and produce healthier and more affordable food for everyone.

Probably the worst way to avoid shocks in the supply chain is to try to get all your food locally. This is an almost literal example of putting all your eggs in one basket. That, and the eggs will probably cost more. And you will have little but eggs to eat.

10. We call for an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects.

By this same logic, we should stop buying from shops, and make everything ourselves at home. That ought to make life better. It worked for our neanderthal ancestors. No, wait, the neanderthals died out, didn't they?

11. We demand immigration status and full protection for all workers. Canadians can begin to rebalance the scales of climate justice by welcoming refugees and migrants seeking safety and a better life.

What, exactly, is “climate justice”? What does it really have to do with getting a cheaper gardener? Do we really want to limit immigration to workers, not their families, or is that just doubletalk?

12. We must expand those sectors that are already low-carbon: caregiving, teaching, social work, the arts and public-interest media. A national childcare program is long past due.

What do all these “sectors” have in common? There is nothing obviously “low-carbon” about them. Heck, kids in childcare are not just carbon-based life forms: they tend to exhale and excrete carbon dioxide from every orifice. Not to mention requiring heating and electricity. No ,what these sectors have in common is that they are commonly imposed involuntarily by government. They also seem to approach the ideal of the proverbial town where everyone made a good living taking in each other's laundry. That ought to work.

13. Since so much of the labour of caretaking – whether of people or the planet – is currently unpaid and often performed by women, we call for a vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic annual income.

A universal basic annual income is not by itself a bad idea. It could be a cheaper alternative to the huge bureaucracy that has grown up around redistribution of wealth, and might see more money actually ending up in the hands of the poor. But the first half of the sentence above suggests why it might not work out so well: it could break up families, by undermining the role of the husband and father.

14. We declare that “austerity” is a fossilized form of thinking that has become a threat to life on earth. The money we need to pay for this great transformation is available — we just need the right policies to release it. An end to fossil fuel subsidies. Financial transaction taxes. Increased resource royalties. Higher income taxes on corporations and wealthy people. A progressive carbon tax. Cuts to military spending.

I thought the whole idea of preserving the earth was to leave a small footprint? Not to consume?

These people can never have been poor. For the poor, ”austerity” is not a “fossilized form of thinking.” It is the necessary means for survival. It is the poor, above all, who cannot afford a government that is spending recklessly. There really is a tomorrow.

15. We must work swiftly towards a system in which every vote counts and corporate money is removed from political campaigns.

Removing corporate money from political campaigns—so long as that includes all corporations, not just business corporations, i.e., also unions, professional associations, and non-profits—would be a good thing, it if were possible. But it is not. You cannot make a law, however draconian, and it would have to be draconian, that is without loopholes. Since it is not possible, transparency is probably the best we can do.





Saturday, September 19, 2015

Trump Refuses to "Defend" Obama







So now, for a change, Donald Trump is in trouble, as he observes, for saying nothing. A questioner referred to Obama as a Muslim, and Trump did not correct him. This, it seems, was a very bad thing for Trump not to do. It has been contrasted, unfavourably, with a moment in the 2008 campaign when a questioner called Obama an Arab, and John McCain jumped in, saying his opponent was a decent man with whom he simply disagreed on policy. McCain even ignored the rest of the woman's question.

It seems that is how a proper gentleman of the upper class behaves: lecturing the unwashed voter on such matters.




But who is being prejudiced here?

First of all, religion is a deeply personal matter. Nobody can properly speak for anyone else here, because it would presume knowing the others most intimate thoughts. The simple truth is, Trump does not know, and cannot know, what Obama's religion is.

But more importantly, what is .wrong with being Muslim? McCain's answer actually implies one cannot be both an Arab and a decent man. Trump, by contrast, makes no such assumption regardiong Muslims.

His critics plainly do.

Boys Don't Matter



Barbara Kay explains.


Told Ya So


The first legitimate poll coming out after the recent US Republican candidates' debate seems to confirm my own impressions regarding winners and losers. Carly Fiorina is the big winner, and now ties Trump. Rand Paul is the big loser, Jeb Bush also down significantly.



The Globe Canadian Leaders' Debate







Trudeau lost. That is what matters.

I have now had a chance to see the Globe & Mail Leaders' Debate. It ran overnight in my time zone, so I had to wait until someone made it available on YouTube.

The main impression left by the debate was the shouting, which often drowned out any comprehensible points. This was terribly unseemly, and not something that will sit well, I think, with Canadians. We are a polite people. We follow the rules.

And Trudeau seemed to be the one most responsible for it. Worse, because he seemed so much younger, it looked worse for him than it would have been for either of the others. Worse still, much of what he said did not seem to make sense, and was repetitious. He seemed overexcited, like a kid on a sugar high. I almost felt like calling for the gong.

On points, Mulcair won. He got off a few really fine lines: on Trudeau “knowing all about” smoke. On the snooze button versus the panic button. He also avoided the creepiness of the first debate. However, I think he lost ground by joining aggressively in the shouting match. And I think Trudeau winged him badly by suggesting that his talk of no deficits was just political boilerplate, that he would get in to power and declare, as always happens, that the books are far worse than he thought, and the promise would have to go. Well done, Trudeau—except that the point probably helps Harper more than the Liberals.

I think Harper won the debate in the terms these “debates” are usually won: on endearing himself to the public. If you were to try to pick the one guy up on that stage who did not sound as much like a conventional politician as the other two, it was--no doubt there is an irony here--Harper. He generally avoided the shouting match. He gave the impression that, instead of making wild promises, he was talking straight: “I never said everything was wonderful.” That tone, I think, will resonate.

Conversely, the points made against him in the debate mostly sounded like typical political jive. As the current race in the US, and the one just concluded in the UK Labour Party, have shown us, times have changed, and the old jive now no longer works. In the past, people were naively inclined to believe, if there was a recession, it must be the government's fault, and if there were good times, it must be the government's doing. Nowadays, we are more aware of what is going on in the world. So, when Trudeau gave the now-too-familiar line “are you better off now than you were ten years ago?” Harper's response was spot-on: “which country would you rather have been in over the past ten years?” Trudeau came off as the political hack, Harper as the straight talker. More notable is the post-debate attempt to nail Harper for using the term “old stock Canadians.” He use it neither approvingly nor disapprovingly. This is hyper-pc stuff, and Trump seems to have revealed, in the States, that there is no longer much of a constituency for it. Harper loses here only if he backtracks or apologizes.

However, it probably does not even matter that Harper won. Because Trudeau lost.

The Conservatives remain in the race because the alternative vote has been split almost evenly between two parties. If the Liberals now fall back, the beneficiary will be the NDP. For Harper to win, his gain will have to be bigger than the Liberals' loss.

Given Trudeau's performance, that seems unlikely.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Secretariat Laps the Field







Fiorina won it, going away. Two bright but fleeting moments will live in history: her passionate denunciation of Planned Parenthood, and her response to Trump's comments on her looks. Between them, they should end the Donald Trump surge and replace it with a Carly Fiorina surge. I hereby predict that now.

The rules have changed. Debates like this matter more than they used to. The viewership was through the roof.

With both these answers, Fiorina managed to convey real sincerity. As Bill Clinton might have said, sincerity is the most important thing in politics: if you can fake that, you've got it made. But that's not all. At the same time, she looked in her exchange with Trump as though she easily had the mighty Donald's neck in a collar. He looked small and she looked big. That impression will linger.

She also won the exchange with Trump over their respective business careers. You could see his face redden.



In his exchanges with Jeb Bush, on the other hand, I think Trump came off on top. Bush asking Trump to apologize to his wife was lame. It was a predictable politics as usual “gotcha” attempt, cementing the image of Bush as a tired pol of the old school, and it foolishly led into Trump's strength, that of resisting political correctness and defying politics as usual, by allowing him the delicious opportunity to refuse. Again, in their elbowing over casino gambling in Florida, all Bush had was “he said/she said,” but Trump seemed to own him with the comment “More energy tonight. I like that!”

Ben Carson helped himself, I think, by refusing to condemn Trump when the moderators were practically demanding it of him, on the vaccination issue. He handled it with brilliant tact, cementing his image as a non-politician and a nice guy. He has, in this, a lot in common with Ronald Reagan, and it might work very well for him as president. Of course, far from being a non-politician, he was really being politically astute. There is a real constituency out there of parents wanting the right to refuse vaccines. Double win for Carson.



Kasich came across as openly moderate. This may be smart. Everyone else in the field is thundering toward the right fence. By conventional wisdom, this ought to leave a good bit of running room toward the centre, even if this is a relative minority of Republicans. We shall see.

Christie scored by cutting in on Trump and Fiorina to turn the talk away from their records and to the current issues. The problem was, it was cutting in. It was not his place nor his turn. It may not help, given the prior suspicion that Christie is a bit of a bully.

Rubio came across very well, but without the crucial memorable sound bite. The same was so for Huckabee, and Cruz. Just the luck of the draw, and of the questions asked.

The biggest loser on stage was over on the left. Rand Paul again looked like a pipsqueak. His worst moment was his choice of code name, “Justice Never Sleeps.” Too grandiose and self-important by several orders of magnitude. His most memorable moment was Trump's elegant put down of his appearance. He actually looks like a frightened rodent, but this is so evident that Trump did not need to say so.



Walker also looked a bit worse by the end of the evening. His unprovoked, non sequitor attack on Trump as “an apprentice” was another example of hackneyed political operating. It was tone deaf to popular culture, too, because it got the premise of a popular TV show backwards. That can't help Walker with those seeking someone more like themselves. You can't rely on your Harley for that common touch forever.

The worst performers in the debate were the moderators. Almost exclusively, their questions, rather than seeking substance from the candidates, tried to set up personal spats. Or they were pure irrelevancies, the sort of thing you might expect of “Tiger Beat” magazine. What do you think your secret service code name should be? What woman should be on the ten dollar bill?

Really?

None of those stiffs should have a job tomorrow.

But as for Carly Fiorina, she is genuinely beginning to look presidential.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How Many Politicians Can Dance on a Razor's Edge?



News reports keep saying the Conservative Party of Canada campaign is in disarray and Harper’s chances of forming a new government are disappearing down the rabbit hole. And yet the poll numbers still show the three main federal parties neck and neck, as they have from the beginning of this long campaign.

If this is how Harper does in freefall, I’d like to see what happens if he catches a break.

It seems from this that Harper and the Tories have an absolute floor support of about 30%. But so far all the breaks have gone against the CPC; so we do not yet know really what their ceiling might be.

Of course, for them to stay competitive without their campaign catching fire, something else must happen. Thirty percent keeps you competitive in a three-way race. It will bury you in a two-way race. If they stay flat on their floor, they must count on the NDP and Liberals splitting the opposition vote, as they have so far, right down the middle.

For sheer sporting interest, you can't beat "first past the post."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

United Colours of Ryerson





The offense

Signs have appeared over the last few days all over Toronto, and are just as quickly being torn down. They say very little: “White Students Union!” and a web link. This, apparently, is “offensive” (U of T). “We don't condone this sort of thing,” (Ryerson).

Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? A visitor from another planet might easily suppose that “white students” are an oppressed group, not permitted to organize in their own defense.

And they would be right.

After all, student groups based on other ethnicities, real or imagined, are a common feature on campuses. Ryerson has an Albanian students’ association, a Muslim students’ association, an African students’ association, an Afghan students’ association, an Armenian students’ association, an Assyrian students’ association—and so far we are not even out of the “A”’s. U of T and York, being larger, have all these and more. Most Canadian colleges have not just courses, but entire majors, in fields such as “Aboriginal Studies,” “Black Studies,” “Women’s Studies,” and so forth. In most of these, white males might well feel rather uncomfortable. So why can it be so wrong, even unspeakable, to seek to form a “White Students Union?” Equality seems to demand it.

“Ah,” the opponents will say, “but white people are different. They are privileged. Therefore, they must be discriminated against to level the field.”

No doubt some people have an advantage over others because of their background. However, the logic of this argument, at best, is that two wrongs make a right. They do not. Moreover, while discrimination in favour of people with white skin in Canada is a theory, and debatable, the formal and institutional discrimination against them is, as in this instance, an indisputable fact.

And is anyone at all aware that the most severe cases of discrimination in history tend to be against groups which, like “white students,” are held to be privileged? It stands to reason, after all: first, since everyone knows in their conscience that discrimination is wrong, you need to have a rationalization such as this: you have to have a reason to claim they deserve it. Second, envy is a powerful emotion, more powerful than contempt. It is a stronger motivator to do harm to another. Third, there is a lot more money and stuff to be confiscated in discriminating against the rich and successful than against the poor and destitute.

The model case is the Jews. In most times and places, they have been discriminated against. And in most times and places, they have been better educated and wealthier than their neighbours. This was certainly true in Germany and Central and Eastern Europe just before the Nazi Holocaust. The claim was that the Jews were unfairly in control of everything. Just like “white males” today.

Privileged bourgeois skulls, Cambodia.

But there are lots of other cases, if you go through the list of the worst persecutions known to history. There are the class persecutions of the Communist realms: on the theoretical claim that the middle classes have historically persecuted the workers, millions of members of the “bourgeoisie” and “intelligentsia” were rounded up, stripped of all their possessions, and often shot, in the elimination of the kulaks, the Cultural Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, and so forth.

Privileged Tutsi skulls, Rwanda.

Often, as with the Jews or the “white students,” this envy of material success or educational attainment intersects with race. This does not make it morally better or worse; it just makes it easier to identify and isolate the victims. In Rwanda, the middle class was primarily Tutsis, and the poorer classes primarily Hutus. Was oppression involved? Perhaps; perhaps not. But the Hutus massacred the Tutsis. Just as the Russians massacred the Circassians, the Zanzibarian blacks massacred the Zanzibarian Arabs, the Sinhalese repressed the Tamils, the Equatorial Guineans massacred the Bubi, the Nigerians repressed the Ibo, the Cantonese and just about everyone else in Southeast Asia repressed the Hakka, and the Haitians, Tupacs, Yucatanese, and Boxers massacred the Europeans—the “whites.”

Yes, this usually happens when the group targeted for discrimination or destruction is a minority of the population. This is for obvious practical reasons. But “straight white males” are indeed a minority of the Canadian population, and that is what the target group has been whittled down to so far. It’s getting pretty close to being bite-sized.

We are left with two choices here: either we must allow “White student unions” on the same basis as everyone else, or we must ban all ethnic-based organizations. Of the two choices, the former is obviously preferable. First, it is far less intrusive, and, second, there is this little detail called the right to freedom of association, It is a basic human right, which means that no government may legitimately interfere with it. Unfortunately, it has been all but trampled in the mud for the past fifty years or so.

It means everyone has the God-given right to hang with whomever they want to hang with, given mutual consent.

Without it, democracy itself is not possible over the long term.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Immortal Hand or Eye?



Random collection of atoms.

Did Darwin disrupt the argument from design? New Atheists seem to think so.

The argument from design holds that the order in the universe demonstrates the existence of an intelligence behind it—aka God. The classic analogy is this: if you found a watch lying in a field, it would be obvious to you from the intricacy of the object that it was not randomly produced by the actions of wind and wave, but made intentionally by a reasonable being. Yet a giraffe, say, is in fact far more intricate than a watch. So…

Bu, New Atheists—and old ones too, no doubt—affirm that Darwin has given us an alternate explanation. Darwin, on this view, postulates a mechanism that can, given enough time, randomly produce a giraffe; hence no need for a watchmaker.

But that depends, in the first place, on what you mean by “random.” Darwin himself tends to us the term “chance.” Darwin certainly does not prove, nor can he really believe, that evolution is random in the higher sense: to Merriam-Webster, “an action that happens without order or without reason.” In fact, his theory itself, in presuming to explain how evolution works, presents it as an ordered process (evolution) with a reason (preservation of self and species). Moreover, he is not saying that evolution operates outside the laws of nature, which is to say, the established and accepted order in the universe. Indeed, with or without the giraffe, the fact that science works at all is proof that the universe is ordered and follows a design. If it did not, we would not be able to understand it or find rules behind it. As Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

Determining randomness in the absolute sense is not just beyond the purview of science; it would be a disproof of science. The very point of science is to demonstrate that nothing is random, that everything follows laws.

So it really does seem that, whatever even Darwin himself thought, whatever Darwinists think, and whatever atheists in general think, Darwin’s theory does nothing to refute or reduce the power of the argument from design. A “random” process in the strict sense still did not produce the giraffe, and the process that did, it would seem, has to have been programmed in to the system by some designer.

It is unfortunate that Darwin and Darwinism use the term “random mutation.” They can only have meant “random” in some relative sense, but they themselves seem to have tricked themselves into thinking it is meant in an absolute sense. There are, I think, only two possibilities Alvin Plantinga, quoting Ernst Mayr, argues that the meaning of “random” or “chance” in this context can only be, that said mutations are random in relation to the specific objective of survival of the species. In other words, the words of Sober, “there is no physical mechanism that detects which mutations would be beneficial and causes those mutations to occur.” The mutations occur not randomly, but based on some orderly and yet unknown mechanism other than pure survival value.

No issue here, in terms of the argument from design. God could use a spiritual mechanism to do this directly, and in any case his intentions are surely higher than mere survival of species. Kind of goes without saying from the fact that he allows species to die out.

So the giraffe remains an apparent proof of divine power. We are simply postulating some of the tools the watchmaker might have used.