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The Dark Ages Are Coming

Winter is coming

The death, or at least the Dark Age of Western Civilization is quickly approaching.  We’re surrendering in battles that we’ve fought for decades, even centuries.  And they’re conflicts in which the West was heading towards overwhelming victories.

It’s not too long ago that the Muslim world seemed poised to join Western civilization.  The United States and its allies had forced democracy on Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pakistan seemed ready to elect a female Prime Minister, Benazir Bhuttotruly a revolutionary act in a misogynist society.  The Palestinian Authority spoke about peace with Israel, as they continued to receive massive amounts of aid.

But less than ten years later Pakistan is as hostile to the West as ever, with its Intelligence forces protecting, rather than hunting for terrorists.  The Palestinian Authority has united with Hamas, a terrorist organization.  The Afghan government, brought into being by western intervention, was growing hostile to the West even before the United States traded for the freedom of some of its most brutal enemies. The government in Iraq is collapsing, as its second largest city, Mosul, has been taken by the Islamist forces now advancing on Baghdad.

(The main character in the novel Quantum Cannibals is based on the historical leader of the Academy in 16th century Mosul.  She flees to avoid brutal invaders who impose an oppressive religious code.)

Does it matter?  American voices are already rising, saying ‘hands off; it’s not our problem.’  But it is.

  1. Iran, the arch-nemesis of western secular democracy, is stepping in to help the Iraqi government.  This is logical, as Shia Muslims make up the majority of both nations. If the West throws Iraq under the bus, Iraq would likely establish an alliance with Iran, greatly strengthening its power and influence.  This would be bad for anyone on the planet who is not a Shia Muslim.
  2. The capture of Mosul ushers in the birth of a Sunni (not ‘sunny’) caliphate.  ISIS, i.e. the Islamic State in Iraqmosul execution and Syria wants to restore Islam as a dominant power of the world.  While the name speaks of Iraq and Syria, its leaders are not necessarily Iraqi or Syrian.  The mastermind of the capture of Mosul is a Chechen, half-Christian by birth (Moscow must be thrilled with a Chechen-led insurgency).  Whether it’s a Sunni caliphate with expansionary ambition or a Shia theocracy with apocalyptic dreams, we can count on the region being a staunch opponent of Western values such as reason, rights, liberty, progress, and secular democracy.
    The territory of the caliphate is somewhat similar to that of the Assyrian Empire twenty-seven hundred years ago.  The Assyrians were brutal, laying waste to the nations that opposed them.  There are debates among scholars as to whether they imposed their religious practices on the lands they controlled.  There is no such debate about the contemporary terrorist caliphate.
  3. Iraq is the second largest oil producer of the OPEC cartel.  As the country stabilized, its oil output has steadily expanded.  Putting its production in the hands of Islamist radicals, (whether Sunni or Shia) will de-stabilize oil prices, which will destabilize Western economies.

The West is not as dependent on Muslim oil as it was forty years ago, when an OPEC oil embargo brought the American economy to a virtual stop.  Gas was rationed, heating oil was expensive.  The increased cost of energy was a key factor in the terrible economic inflation and high interest rates which followed, costing many people their jobs and homes.no gas

But the West is not as independent as it could be.  The environmental movement has kept Europe, the United States and Canada from properly developing its own energy wealth.  It forgets that affluence is a precondition for protecting the environment.  The poor have other priorities.

The Ukraine and Poland have extensive gas reserves, which could break their dependence on Russia and Middle Eastern suppliers.  Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has opened up vast new sources of energy throughout the West, but environmental propaganda, funded in part by Middle Eastern oil producers has limited Western energy independence.  “Many oil-rich nations stand to lose a substantial amount of income if fracking opens up an alternative fuel source inside the United States.”  The actor Matt Damon seemed sincerely surprised that his anti-fracking movie was funded by Mid-East oil interests.

In Canada, much of the opposition to pipelines that could transport Alberta oil is funded through the Tides Foundation, an entity which collects big money from anonymous donors, which it redirects to its targeted causes.  Ironically Tides works with the Rockefeller Foundation, which represents big oil money. Old oil and gas producers have harnessed the energy of environmentalists to suppress competition. In a further irony, Russian aggression in the Ukraine has softened European Union opposition to Canadian oil, and the infrastructure necessary to get it to Europe.

Few environmentalists have thought about how their activities relate to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  If they would pay attention, they would understand that the limits to fracking, the delays in building pipelines, have made the new caliphate a much greater problem for Western civilization.  The caliphate is a new incarnation, the third wave of a very old threat, made more powerful by Western indifference.

The Crusades were Christianity’s attempt to undo earlier Islamic conquest.  Wars raged backMarcantonio Bragadino and forth, the tide ebbed and flowed for centuries.  (The novel Quantum Cannibals incorporates a particularly brutal event in that struggle: the Siege of Famagusta of 1570.)

 

At the Siege of Vienna in 1683 Islam seemed poised to overrun Christian Europe.  Three and a half centuries later, has it succeeded?

In 2011 they (Muslims) constituted 25 percent of Rotterdam, Marseilles, and Amsterdam; 20% of Malmo; 15 percent of Brussels and Birmingham; and 10 percent of London, Paris, Copenhagen, and Vienna.”

The Catholic Church recently invited a Muslim Imam (along with a rabbi) to offer prayers at the Vatican.  While there is some debate over what the Imam actually prayed for, we can be confident that no Christian religious leader will ever be invited to invoke Jesus in Mecca.  Is the Vatican, by its own initiative, on its way to becoming the next Hagia Sophia?  The next center of Christianity to be taken over, or in this case turned over to Islam?  While the Pope and Church leaders may consider the invitation to the Imam as building bridges, they may have forgotten that bridges are often important routes for conquest.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople)

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople)

It’s worth noting that something similar happened at another focal point of Western civilization about a week earlier.  The father of an American accused of desertion uttered an Islamic invocation in the White House, while standing next to the President.

A bridge was recently built between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.  The former is a terrorist organization; the latter an organization of former terrorists.  Their partnership allows huge amounts of Western money to pass into the hands of Islamic radicals.  This doesn’t bother the President of the U.S., the acting leader of the free world.

This indifference of the accession of Hamas to the PA is consistent with Obama’s policy toward Turkey, Egypt, Iran and Libya, in which, through engagement and acquiescence, we have seen the strengthening of viciously anti-American forces.”

Acquiescence, appeasement seems to be the guiding policy of the west.  Act peacefully, and others will reciprocate with peace and friendship.   It’s not just appeasement of the Muslim world, though.  The “reset” of relations with Russia convinced its leaders that America was no longer an obstacle.  Russia could take whatever actions it wished on the international stage, whether by annexing the Crimea, keeping a vicious despot in power in Syria, or arming the Islamic terrorist government of Iran.   Appeasement unfortunately is working as well for the Obama administration as it did for Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

It’s the consequence of a utopian vision of the world, where reason becomes religion.  It’s an imperial vision because it requires everyone to think the same way as you, to have the same values as you.  That they don’t should be obvious to most intelligent people.

Concepts such as reason, nature, rights, truth, morality, liberty and progress became the hallmark of Western civilization during the Enlightenment, known to its participants as the Age of Reason.  In England and the United States, the Enlightenment philosophers were for the most part deeply religious people, who understood the importance of freedom of religion.  One of them, George Washington, stated in his Farewell Address:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

The French Enlightenment philosophers were for the most part virulently anti-religious.  While England and the United States led the world in scientific innovation and political freedom, France developed the Reign of Terror followed by the despot Napoleon.

With reason as the religion of the West, Judeo-Christian beliefs fall to the wayside.  People aren’t invested in the faith of their ancestors, of their community, and so an alien religion, hostile to their own, is not something to be defended against.berg-phil

The West has lost the will to strength.  The recent commemoration of the Allies’ invasion of Normandy caused one analyst to speculate on the question of whether such a venture could successfully be launched now:

“Obviously not by Obama and Cameron and Hollande, for their uncertain trumpets invite the ridicule of enemies, not the resolve of allies.  But leaders aside, could what America, Britain and Canada did on D-Day be done by Americans, Britons and Canadians today?  Is the spirit of courage and shared sacrifice sufficiently widespread to permit such a thing to be contemplated today?  There is reason to fear the answer to that question.”

ship ram

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel rams a Vietnamese ship in disputed waters

Russia has that spirit of courage, and is exercising its power.  Secured by its financial strength, Communist China’s military is rapidly expanding its size and reach, provoking skirmishes with its former ally Vietnam, and its long-time foe, Japan. The dramatic rise of the Islamic fundamentalism that today dominates global security concerns began with the abandonment of the despotic Shah of Iran by President Carter, under the banner of promoting human rights.  Islamic fundamentalists are not known for their respect of human rights.

The governments of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the new caliphate- all the petty and powerful despots, the terrorists and their lackeys understand that the West, especially the United States, has become a paper tiger.  They know that President Obama’s red lines are drawn with disappearing ink; that the West is tired of war, tired of being the world’s bully.  As long as its foes are willing to negotiate, the West won’t fight.

If it’s going to survive; if its values are to endure, the West must re-learn another lesson from the first American President:

washington

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

 

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Hey God! What the Heck Are You Doing?

There’s a generally accepted principle in classical physics that the closer you sit to the fire, the warmer you’ll be.  So why is it that Winnipeg, Manitoba was recently colder than the surface of Mars?  Winnipeg, by virtue of being on Earth, is about seventy-eight million kilometres nearer to the fire (our sun).  That should have made Mars a lot colder.

ship stuck in ice

They made the ice disappear by not expecting it… Whoops!

A little to the south, much of the central U.S.  is listening to the sound of records breaking, as temperatures reach unheard of lows.  A lot further south, global warming advocates got stuck in the ice as their expedition sought to prove the extent of climate change.  Perhaps their faith prevented them from seeing the dangerous ice conditions which contradicted their models.  These scholars failed to note that the sea ice has been expanding and contracting for centuries.  They had to be rescued from their willful ignorance, and then their rescuers had to be rescued.

So what the heck are You doing, God?  Why are You messing with the minds of the people trying to save the planet from anthropogenic global warming?  They’re people willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the world.  They’re encouraging other people to realize the dangers of fossil-fuels, and also make sacrifices.  Never mind that much of the world would be uninhabitable without fossil fuels.  Why do You torment these priests and prophets?

North America’s been warming up since the retreat of the last glaciers about eleven or twelve thousand years ago. Scientists say increased carbon dioxide caused that warming, but are at a loss to explain where the CO2 came from.  The Indians paddling their canoes too hard?  Buffalo flatulence?

Actually, atmospheric carbon levels have been pretty much on the decline for the last six hundred million years.  Is it possible that man is not responsible for the climate?  That his influence, if it exists at all, is minimal?  Solar variability (such as sunspots), minuscule changes in the inclination of the planet towards the sun, volcanic activity, all kinds of things that are out of the hands of mankind may be the drivers of  climate, which has been warming and cooling and warming again for hundreds of millions of years.

This isn’t the first time mankind has claimed to be in charge.  Not too long after the flood, Noah’s descendants decided the heavens, and the authority attributed thereto, belonged to them.  We know what God's response- Tower of Babel,  by Bruegelhappened back then.

Is the weather of January, 2014 another slap-down of human arrogance?  There’s no way to tell if God is punishing– deliberately mocking the prophets and acolytes of global warming doom.  So how can we know what to do?

Well, don’t be like Professor Chris Turney and his ship of fools blindly sailing into ice-filled seas.  Crank up the furnace.  Cover your skin, not your eyes when stepping outside in below-zero weather.  Don’t let your faith in the carbon-sinfulness of man lead to meaningless sacrifices: jobs, warmth, well-being… don’t think they will impress God, or even ‘mother earth.’

“You do not delight in sacrifice and offering; You open my ears to listen.” (Psalms 40:7)

Open your ears, your eyes…  open your mind.

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Oh Sorcery! Oh Sociology! Cast Your Protective Spell O’er Me

dangerous sorcery lurks in the forests

original art by Esti Mayer; used with permission.

The distinction between religion and magic was often a fine, often an invisible line.  In the primitive world, the two were means to supernatural influence over events.  In the medieval era, devout Muslims, Christians and Jews depended on amulets and talismans to conscript God’s assistance in an unpredictable world.

An unpredictable and dangerous world.  In the nascent towns and cities, fire was an ever-present threat.  Disease, wild animals, accidents…  all seemed beyond human control.  And of course, there was the economy: mostly dependent on the weather, but also subject to the whims of tyrants.   Too many capricious events could turn people’s lives over in an instant.

Religion gave mankind a calming handle on terrifying, intractable fate.  Rituals gave man the sense that he was doing something (however ineffective) to alter his destiny, while accepting that for all intents and purposes, it was out of his control.

In Europe, especially in England, the Reformation ripped that handle out of people’s hands, as it harshly denied religion’s ability to manipulate any aspect of God’s power.  The Catholic Church was mocked for having transformed consecration into conjuring and enchantment.  Religion, the reformers said, was meant to entreat, not coerce God.  It was a terrible loss of the one instrument of control (however feeble) people had over their destinies.  It wasn’t a loss they were willing to accept .

The Reformation concept that every detail of life was in God’s hands provided a small measure of comfort: at least people’s suffering had meaning.  The world was portrayed as a moral order reflecting God’s purpose, and was sensitive to the conduct of human beings (a theme still popular among environmentalists).  But that wasn’t enough to stop the commoners, the nobles, even many of the clergy from turning to wizards, wise-women, and snake-oil salesmen to locate lost objects or people, temper the weather, counter sorcery, or bring good fortune.

Life is still capricious.  Illness, unemployment, typhoons continue to wreak havoc with our lives.  But we do have more control.  Building codes and running water have reduced the risk of fire while improving sanitation.  Constitutional government has tempered the fickleness of would-be tyrants.  People can purchase insurance against many hazards of life, transforming them from disasters to mere dilemmas.

But there was something comforting about magic that we haven’t let go of, and that’s the sense of impotence in confronting forces beyond one’s control.  In the past it was the weather, plague, war…  Today forces are one’s upbringing, an unjust social system, cultural disadvantage or gluten intolerance.  The supernatural powers of ancient days have been replaced by social or psychological factors.  The wizards and wise men are in the universities, explaining the world through the arcane language of the social sciences, offering remedies that at best have proven harmless, but are at times as poisonous  as the worst witches’ brew.  These magicians offer comfort and excuses to those who need life to be capricious.

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Orson Scott Card Goes Bible Shopping at Costco

the Bible: holy truth or wholly fiction?

holy truth or wholly fiction?

Science-fiction enthusiasts and geeks consider themselves for the most part as enlightened, progressive people, but Orson Scott Card, author of the award-winning novel Ender’s Game, has taken a Christian-principled (conservative) stance against homosexual marriage.  When the Ender’s Game movie was released, the progressives faced a conundrum.   How can you support an author who respects the Bible?  Should they see the film?  Boycott it?  There were many discussions.

A heavenly sign at a Los Angeles Costco helped them out: an alleged labeling error discovered shortly after the movie’s release tagged the Bible as “fiction.”  Atheist progressives took it as ‘truth in advertising.’

Was it a labeling error?

According to Judaism, the Bible should not be treated literally.  Jews understand scripture through its interpretations, which more often than not clearly read the text in the light of the time in which the commentators lived.   In Christianity, Biblical literalism is more of a post-Reformation phenomenon.  As Orson Scott Card says,  “Our scripture demands that it be read as literature.”  It should be examined as a rhetorical document, not a proof-text; religious doctrines often reflect the times in which they’re expressed.  “We Mormons are not troubled by the discovery that something we used to believe isn’t true because we receive further light and knowledge.”  If a religion says something confusing and illogical, there is no obligation to believe it, according to Card.

There are indeed many who take their holy books literally, and they can usually be identified by the volume of their outrage.  While their loudness does not establish their authenticity, it does identify a convenient target for comedians and satirists.

The progressive geek community can disagree with Card on homosexual marriage.  They can disagree with him on the significance of scripture.  The biggest disagreement though, is how to come to truth.  While Card, along with many religious leaders place their trust in the scientific method (many religious leaders don’t), the boycotters, the secular crusaders often rely on building consensus through personal innuendo and ad hominem attacks.

Card probably wouldn’t be too upset by a Bible labelled as fiction.  He knows there are deeper, verifiable truths.  When Christians, when members of any religion are constantly outraged by fake controversies, they look foolish and have no credibility to speak into real issues.  The progressives should take note.

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Religious Fanatics Rain Sickness and Death Upon Children

banned-golden-riceReligious fanatics don’t care about anything apart from their faith, and they’re outraged if it’s challenged.  As Carl Sagan describes it in his essay “Antiscience,” they “…regard the questioning of its credentials as due to wickedness of the heart.”

Zealots demand sacrifice; not just from themselves, but from everyone.  Refusal is a sign of wickedness.  In the ancient Middle East animal were sacrificed.  For the Aztec, humans (up to five percent of the population per year).

Now, the sacrifice is rice.  Well, not rice, but children.  Six thousand children die needlessly every day, according to the former head of Greenpeace.  Many people in countries such as India, Bangladesh and Indonesia depend on rice, but cannot afford the diversified diet that would provide the Beta –carotene needed for good health, for the ability to resist disease.  They could get it through Golden Rice, a genetically modified crop.  But Golden Rice is a GMO, and so it’s attacked as a plot for control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant evil corporations.  The free licenses available to the developing world are merely to tempt the poor into the clutches of the corporate, i.e. satanic domain.  Environmentalists protected them from this life-saving product by destroying Golden Rice field trials.

Fish is another form of sacrifice: smelt, suckerfish, the snail fishdarter…  The San Joaquin Valley of California, a region that was known as “the food basket of the world” has faced staggering losses of irrigation water, to protect the fish.  The losses to farmers have been horrific.  The loss to consumers, while not as direct, is also serious.  When lands that were rich in grapes, citrus, tomatoes, cotton and more are taken from production for lack of water, prices rise.  When prices go up in a declining economy, people suffer.

Of course, the National Resources Defense Council, the organization that spearheaded the reduction in irrigation water, blames the problem on insufficient piety:  man-made global warming.

So we have animal sacrifice, rice sacrifice, fish sacrifice- well the latter two are really human sacrifice, because it’s people that are suffering.  And the zealots are never satisfied, as they push for carbon sacrifice (AKA “tax”).  Al Gore, the tax’s chief evangelist (and a divinity school dropout), was described in a Christian magazine: “With the urgency of a Baptist preacher with a judgment day sermon, the former politician is spreading the bad news of global warming.”

It’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between spiritual leaders and snake-oil salesmen, between faith and zealotry.  A good way to tell them apart is to look at the sacrifices they demand.

Addendum: eating eggs or cheese is bestiality, milking cows is  sexual perversion, and women who wear fur deserve to be brutally raped, says a Jewish animal rights zealot, who compares eating meat to the holocaust.  Thanks to Blazing Cat Fur for the information.

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The Higgs Boson Comes to Life

Discovering the Higgs

Though the Higgs boson appears too briefly to be detected directly, physicists at CMS can infer its existence by studying the showers of particles left behind after proton-proton collisions. (T. McCauley, L. Taylor / CERN)

The speed limit for the universe is the speed of light.  The speed of science is a little slower.  Half a century ago, Prof. Francois Englert and his research partner Peter Higgs hypothesized the existence of the Higgs Boson to deal with an enigma in their formulas.  At first nobody took the idea seriously, but slowly, slowly, it caught on. A group of over one hundred nations invested ten billion dollars in the Large Hadron Collider designed particularly to find the Boson.  Construction began in 1998, and the device was turned on in 2008.  Confirmation of the existence of the Higgs Boson happened in 2013.

It’s a minuscule but critical particle, validating the last piece of the Standard Model used by modern physics.  Leon Lederman, a Nobel Laureate scientist, labeled the Higgs Boson “God Particle,” referring to its importance for physics, and its relation to the book of Genesis.  Fifty years after Englert and Higgs started the search, the scorn they initially received has been transformed into a Nobel Prize.

For Englert though, the redemption is for more than his science; it’s for his life.  Englert is a Holocaust survivor, who spent the war hiding in orphanages, running from his would-be murderers.  His survival was, in retrospect, a blessing for the advancement of all of mankind.  We cannot say that the Higgs Boson would have been lost without him.  But we can say that all together, the many Holocaust survivors, the many children of Holocaust survivors, have enriched all of our lives.  How much richer would the world be if all the victims had been survivors?

The Higgs Boson has always been with us.  We just didn’t think of it, so we didn’t see it.  The dignity of human life must always be with us.  We have to think of it more often; we have to look for it more diligently.

Brian Greene presents an elegant and clear explanation of what the Higgs Boson means in an article in the Smithsonian magazine, published July-August, 2013. A brief description of Englert’s Holocaust experience can be found in the archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.