Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
July 15, 2007 - July 8, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Evolution Mess

Dawkins Zotzing God.

ENNUI. I'm a big fan of, which is always smart and funny. It surprised me that one of Wuzzadem's most prolific contributors, Mrs. R,†would willingly step into the hornet's nest called "Evolution." It didn't surprise me at all that the comments section began to fill up with the usual chaff, which is always delivered with scarcely concealed contempt and that superior grin which, like the Cheshire cat's, is always somehow visible even when its owner isn't. You know the grin I mean.

The smirking skeptics who defend official science with derision.

They're on all the Discovery/TLC documentaries where unconventional theorists are proposing ideas at odds with official science, from Bigfoot to UFOs to ghosts to various blasphemies against the official narrative of Evolution. The superior grin seems to represent their only emotion, which suggests that these are some of the narrowest minds in recorded human history. And their written works always seem to embody the grin perfectly, a not quite humorous amusement about how stupid everybody else is -- anybody, that is, who doesn't automatically accept their own assumptions and pronouncements.

I've been here before -- long before Mrs. R's fairly mild chastisement for the sin of making sport of evolutionary orthodoxy -- and the useful brevity of her challenge to Richard Dawkins as the high priest of Evolution prompted me to learn from her and try a new tack on the question that just might get us past all the reductionist labelling used by the Defenders of the Dawkins Faith.

Let me give it a try.

Those who question evolution as it is taught in school are more or less automatically slapped into one of two categories -- creationists or advocates of something called 'intelligent design,' which has by dint of repetition (see the grinners above) become synonymous with, well, creationism, but in a diluted and more politically acceptable form.

I believe this has happened because only the creationists and some of their more astute allies have been brave enough to run the gauntlet of grins. The superior debating skills of the scientific establishment have therefore succeeded in making it seem as if one must choose between two or three fixed positions, of which theirs is the only one backed by hard data and meaningful proofs.

This is not true. The deepest objection to evolution as described by the grinners is not religious or irrational or blind, but elementally intuitive. The story evolutionary biologists are determined to sell us is that the extraordinary complexification of life forms is entirely accounted for by entropy -- that is, the natural tendency of all things in the universe to decay and fall apart.

Genetic mutation is decay. A functioning life form exists, its description is encoded in its genes so that it can reproduce, but entropy insists that this description gradually but inevitably falls apart. According to the scientists, this falling apart results in changes which are actually advantageous and are therefore retained. The progressive falling apart of genes through the aeons thus results in the transformation of one-celled organisms that can only be seen in a microscope into large, physiologically sophisticated, reasoning creatures with sufficient intellectual power to effect deliberate, dramatic changes in the planet that gave rise to them. Somehow.

This is a theory that makes no sense to most people, whether they admit it or not. We've all seen buildings slowly fall to ruin, cars rust away to useless flakes, and every form of mechanical device and system fail in the absence of maintenance. This is entropy. Model-T Fords do not 'fall apart' into Lamborghini supercars. Steam boilers do not 'fall apart' into computerized climate control systems.

What does make sense to the intuitive mind is that in our own human experience, increasing complexity and variation are driven by the intervention of intelligence. It is intelligence which elaborates on the abacus until it is the computer on your lap. It is intelligence which endlessly reinterprets smoke signals until they become the cell phone in your hand.

What's more, whatever process of 'evolution' produced humankind also produced the intelligence that has resulted in our own conscious refinement of raw materials and homogeneous species into highly complex machines and highly specialized varieties of plants, dogs, and other domesticated animals.

Beyond this, no grinning evolutionary biologist has ever produced a successful experimental proof or description of the process by which chemical matter became alive.

Now then. The grinners would have us believe that their story of evolution is so well documented and proven that it is no longer a theory but a fact. They can't explain the all-important beginning of life. They can't explain why a process which produces intelligence cannot possibly rely on intelligence of any kind itself. And they cannot demonstrate how a complexity so vast as that of the human mind and body -- still a long way from being fully understood, else why would we still suffer from disease? -- is achieved solely through the continuous falling apart of all physical constructs larger than an atom.

I don't have to be a creationist to be a skeptic of the evolutionary narrative. I don't have to believe in the God of Genesis. I don't have to believe in magic, or fairies, or extra-terrestrials. All I have to be is observant enough to say that there is some part of nature and the laws of physics that the evolutionary biologists haven't tumbled to yet. Isn't it possible -- and intuitively persuasive -- to suggest that if nature herself produces intelligence that she may also employ intelligence (i.e., planning, design, and purpose) in whatever complexifying force obviously exists as a counterbalance to entropy?

That's it. The whole argument. I do not believe Yahweh created the earth and everything in it in seven days. I do not even think that if intelligence is involved in evolution it mandates a supreme being we'd have to characterize as a god. But I do believe Mrs R is absolutely right. If teachers teach evolution to their students, I don't see the harm. But I do expect that the smarter kids are going to learn how to ask harder questions when they've had time to think about the "facts." And I expect they will also conclude that intelligence of some kind is at work in our universe.

All right. Come on, you grinners. Have at it.

P.S. Zotz! was a book and a movie. One of those silly paranormal things. The wielder of the Zotz power could point his finger at someone and instantly cripple them with pain. If he actually said the word 'Zotz" while doing so, the target died. I'm pretty sure Richard Dawkins falls asleep every night wishing for that power. But I'm a fantasist of the first order, as everyone knows by now.

UPDATE. Yes, the anticipated grinner has shown up in the Comments section. I thought you'd like to see the proof of what I'm talking about, so I'm reproducing his comment here and my response. This is the only time I will do this. They're too myopic to understand the real substance of the objection. Behold one of the prisoners in Plato's Cave:

"Genetic mutation is decay. A functioning life form exists, its description is encoded in its genes so that it can reproduce, but entropy insists that this description gradually but inevitably falls apart. According to the scientists, this falling apart results in changes which are actually advantageous and are therefore retained."

It is not decay, or falling apart. Evolution is not part of a closed system, there's no second law violation. Model-T Fords don't turn into Lamborghinis, but they don't eat or reproduce either.

Those who question evolution as it is taught in school are more or less automatically slapped into one of two categories -- creationists or advocates of something called 'intelligent design,' which has by dint of repetition (see the grinners above) become synonymous with, well, creationism, but in a diluted and more politically acceptable form.

It's not a coincidence that "Intelligent Design" was become synonymous with creationism, and it has nothing to do with repetition. Of Pandas and People was the ID textbook. It led to the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. This is a textbook that Michael Behe, one of the leading lights of ID, contributed to. Interesting thing about that textbook, the first place where the phrase ďintelligent designĒ appeared in its present use, is that it merely replaced the word "creationism" with "intelligent design". This was entered into evidence in the Dover trial. Not to mention every other well-known ID proponent. (Dembski, at the time of Dover was working on a sequel to Pandas with Behe, the Discovery Institute and their "Wedge Strategy"...)

I don't have to be a creationist to be a skeptic of the evolutionary narrative.

No, you just use their talking points. Like conflating evolutionary theory with abiogenesis.

I really don't care if they grin or not. If they never smiled, I've no doubt they would be criticized as close-minded sourpusses. But you're making some pretty elementary mistakes there.

As usual, yours is a presumptuous and careless argument that ignores essentials to wax superior about details addressed conveniently out of context. Of course genetic mutation is a Ďfalling apart.í Itís the failure of a gene to be correctly copied, hence a mistake. You can say that the propensity for mistakes is wired in and rename it random variation, but if, as is the case, most variations have no positive effect and all are without purpose, thereís nothing incorrect about describing the accepted theory of evolution as building complexity through accidental mistakes in gene copying that are saved or discarded because of environmental conditions. The definition of entropy is not exclusively confined to its computational role in the second law of thermodynamics, and it has been used in its broader sense by your own evolutionary biologists.

I never said evolution was a closed system. Iím aware a Model T Ford is not an organic system. Iím also aware that even your own leading academics frequently describe the principle of adaptive response in terms analogous to the historical development of the automobile (or animal husbandry, plant hybridization, etc); that is, in terms of features designed for some advantageous purpose. After they have explained the survival value of some feature in a way that appeals to intuition, they then backtrack and erase the concepts of design and purpose from their description. This kind of dishonest manipulation of human intuition is epidemic in the selling of contemporary evolutionary theory. Thatís my point about the counter-intuitive nature of the theory as it presently stands. That you must consistently misrepresent your theory to make it seem more plausible is proof that it doesnít sound quite right even to its most fervent advocates.

I also did not suggest that there is much difference between creationism and intelligent design as most of their proponents describe them. I said that all objecters to evolutionary theory are dismissed as belonging to one of these two similar camps. Your comment proved this crude debating tactic yet again.

I did not conflate evolutionary theory with abiogenesis. I know damn well you want to ignore the latter while claiming near omniscience about the former. You can deny any connection between these two topics on whatever hair-splitting grounds you like. But for people who recognize hair-splitting when they see it, the origin of life and the subsequent evolution of life are very closely related topics. And when your leading lights insist that they know so much about the mechanics of species origin and change that they are entitled to be scientific proselytizers of atheism, as Dawkins is doing at this very moment, then you cannot avoid being asked how you can claim to know everything important about life (e.g., that it is wholly chemical and generally random) without offering any description of the initial conditions which set such a dynamic system in motion.

As you must be aware, the initial conditions of an open system are MORE important than the initial conditions of a closed system, not less, because itís much easier to infer the ultimate boundaries of a closed system by observing it in operation. But you deny the relevance of initial conditions in the dynamic open system you presume to know so much about. Itís like saying that because you know for sure that no software application Ė no matter how Ďexpert,íself-regulating, or integrated with other applications -- displays real intelligence in operation, itís safe to say thereís nothing intelligent about the computer system it runs on, its operators, or the origin of the computer itself. That might be a meaningful distinction for a certain kind of software maven, say, a video gamer. But itís meaningless and wrong for people who are interested in computer technology.

Iím only responding to your comment because you have provided such an excellent illustration of the manner and tactics of evolutionary biologists. Iím not going to get into a back-and-forth with you on this. Life started small and simple and got big and complex and amazingly diverse over a long long period of time. Evolution defined simply as change is self-evidently true. My belief is that science does not yet know enough to claim that it has a thorough description of how that change occurred. Iím not waiting for a miracle. Iím waiting for more science to reveal a deeper, fuller picture. In that expectation, the history of science is on my side, not yours. Every time scientists declare theyíve gotten to the bottom of things, theyíve eventually been proved wrong in ways -- big and small -- that transform their understanding. The more time they spend reflexively defending rather than actively looking for errors and omissions in their current models, the longer it takes them to achieve the next breakthrough. Thatís a fact youíre not going to repeal by dogmatic and condescending rhetoric.

The naysayers will cease to be a thorn in your side when your explanations make more sense. It's not us you should be concerned with. It's the science. If you could relearn the fact that there's a big difference between explaining and explaining away, you might discover that your subject is still an open book to be studied, not a closed one best used as a projectile or a throne for your self-satisfied ass.

UPDATE 2. Thanks to GuyT for this assessment of the "Dawkins Delusion." Apologies to JJ, who was clearly trying to say something, though no one here can imagine what. It should be noted, though, that we are familiar with both chaos theory and complexity theory -- and their impacts on evolution. Perhaps that's what JJ was seeking to reference. At any rate here is what Guy gave us, God bless him:

[NB: Guy, you haven't collected your check for some time. Is everything okay? {If you're having an emergency, contact us at sigmazrn |at|} Isn't it time we spoke in person? The payoffs are just killing us, Guy. Seriously. Get in touch.]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Coulter Test

She's our Medusa.

WOMEN. It's so easy to be a conservative who disapproves of Ann Coulter. In fact, it's almost required. It's how conservatives of a certain stripe try to prove they're as civilized as their liberal friends.

Some have other motives. Mrs. IP can't stand her, even though Mrs. IP makes Coulter look like a wimp on many matters of public policy. For example, Coulter -- to my knowledge, at least -- has never been in favor of killing all the muslims just because. Mrs. IP dislikes the Hated One because she's a bit loose with her research and seems to enjoy appearing on TV with her avowed enemies too much. Those are valid criticisms. But they're not sufficient for people -- myself included -- who pay close attention to politics on a daily basis and know what's going on in the mainstream media.

Here's the bottom line. If you claim to be a conservative, the only position you can take with regard to Ann Coulter is as a cheerleader. Why? Two reasons.

First, because she's a natural lightning rod. Every single time the lefties accuse conservatives of of being heartless and mean, their first citation is of Ann Coulter -- because there's no other they can cite. Their constant repetitions of the same old crap prove how threadbare their case is. "She wanted the 9/11 terrorists to blow up the New York Times Building." (Cool.) "She called John Edwards a fag." (Accurate.) "She had the nerve to diss cancer-stricken Elizabeth Edwards when that great lady confronted her about scorning John Edwards." (Poor boy.) What an awful bitch. Except that she's not. She's just a counter-puncher with an honest-to-God sense of humor. The best one we have. Conservatives have become sissies. Hit them and they bleed. Ask them who hit them and they can never remember the numbers on the license plate or even what state the offending vehicle came from. Kansas State is perpetually cowed by a hit-and-run driver from Harvard. If that were just an anecdote, it wouldn't be a problem.

It isn't just an anecdote. All the Republicans are from Kansas State. They never have the guts to accuse Democrats of anything. They continue with the "my great friend from Massachusetts" shtick while their "great friend from Massachusetts" accuses them of everything under the sun, including illegal earmarks just like the illegal earmarks senators from Massachusetts live on. Coulter's willingness to whomp on this kind of bullshit gets her pilloried on a regular basis. And it deflects the abuse conservatives would receive if they admitted that John Edwards is a callow, empty suit and Hillary is a cold-hearted castrating cunt.

Second, because the libs are right. Coulter is a killer, Clint Eastwood in a skirt. She has the guts to say what most conservatives won't. She's a good attorney and a smart woman. She's posed questions no one else will. (No one but us, that is.) Why did we ever give women the vote? It's been downhill for freedom and limited government ever since. Why do we insist on pretending that America-hating traitors like Schumer, Kennedy, Reid, and Pelosi have to be regarded as patriots when they're clearly our enemies? Their dearest desire is for the United States to lose the war we're fighting. Why aren't we supposed to notice that or call it what it is? Treason. I hate to say it but Mrs. IP is wrong for once. Coulter enjoys taking the heat for speaking the truth. That's why the lefties hate her so much.

Yeah, it is impolite to call traitors treasonous. Real democracy is all about pretending that traitors are mostly patriots, just coming at the great issues of the day from a whole different perspective. Right.

Here's what all real conservatives know. Coulter says what most of us think. She's mild and incredibly diplomatic in what she says. All the outrage conservatives express about her is nothing more than the guilty fear of the politically correct and the politically frightened. Coulter uses humor to blunt the ferocity of her disdain, not to exacerbate it. Like every other conservative who actually cares about whether the United States survives or not, she speaks her piece because she has to, not because she's trying to make a buck. Every day, she moderates her language and selects humor over pure rage because she's decided that pure rage is counter-productive.

Right now, though, I'm thinking she might be wrong. Yeah, I agree she should brush up on her research. Her LEXIS/NEXIS searches are suspect. And maybe she's getting too long in the tooth for incredibly short pencil skirts. (A lot of us men, believe it or not, are more interested in what's inside her head than what's up her skirt...) But her female intuition is dead on the money. Maybe she should prefer charges instead of jokes. She does still have a law degree, doesn't she? If she started using it again, that would be fun.

Do you have the balls to stand with her and defend her? I thought not.


UPDATE. So, today, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner said she wished she could kill George W. Bush. She's Irish, of course. Actually, I don't mind that she's a pagan savage. What's one more ruthless killer bitch in the mix? Nothing. It's just that if you were to cite her as an example of the fact that lefty 'pacifists' can't ever seem to stop talking about murdering, raping, and castrating their political opponents, the usual chorus of lefty bloggers would instantaneously sit up on their hind legs and recite all the terrible things Ann Coulter has said. This seems like a good place to point that out. And the fact that Coulter has never claimed to be a pacifist. As far as I know, she's pretty thoroughly in favor of killing. Especially phony pacifists.

Me too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Please send money:

Exploring the Roots of InstaPunk
We Scots have poetry in our souls.

PSONG 61. I don't know why this is, but both my parents spent their whole lives turning their back on their Scottish roots. They said they were Americans and so didn't need to afflict themselves with horrific bagpipe music. They claimed they were happy to be part of the great American melting pot. From my perspective, though, they weren't Americans so much as Anglophiles who lived in America. More than half Scottish, they were nevertheless Church of England and raised me that way, even though the family mythology was that we had come here in the first place as fugitives from the last gasp of Scottish nobility who had supported Bonnie Prince Charlie. The last Scottish "Catholic Pretender" to the throne of England. Well. I've always taken some comfort from the ongoing negotiations between the Church of England (C of E) and the Papist Autocrats of the Vatican (PA of V) for the purpose of healing the great divide. Imagine my shock when the Pope announced yesterday that Vatican II was just kidding. There is only one church and its name is RC. Like the cola, but without quite as cool a bottle.

Apparently the time has come for us Scottish-Americans to abandon the whole stupid melting-pot idea and start demanding our proper place in the diversity-sphere of the newly balkanized American 'mosaic.' In the past this site was just a bunch of ill-mannered punks who offended all and sundry because we didn't know how to be polite to our intellectual and cultural superiors. From this day forward, we're Scottish-Americans who offend all and sundry because that's our hard-won cultural tradion. What's more, we're issuing a demand for money. For two reasons. First, because we're owed reparations for all the awful abuse Scots have taken from the other ethich groups who claim we can't think, write, dance, play sports, laugh, or otherwise participate in civilized society. And second, because we've now remembered that we're Scots, and we like money a great deal.

We are facing something of a technical glitch. Our webmaster is Irish, which means he won't like our new assertion of ethnic identity. Worse than that, he's defintely a papist, and it's possible that he'll sabotage the PayPal algorithm to direct any funds we receive directly into the hands of the savage Hibernian terrorists who want to blow the British mainland, including Scotland, into oblivion. I can't remember how the incredibly costly Scottish resistance against he English mongrel pagans has hurt the cowardly Irish in any way, other than freeing them from military service for a thousand years or so, but I've never been very good at keeping track of the irrational grudges of potato eaters who think whiskey should be sweeter than RC Cola. Anyway, my protestant side forces me to warn all of you to contribute "at your own risk."

The good news is that the unpleasant side of this post is completed. All that's left is reminding all the other hyphenated Americans of the brilliant contributions Scots have made to civilized, and even American, culture. I'm not even going to mention the steam engine. Or capitalism. Or all the ways Scots actually invented the systems and technologies that have made modern life possible. Instead, I'm going to dwell on the only things contemporary Americans value: entertainment and, well, entertainment.

For example, the world would be a poorer place without Scots to make fun of. Who else can Americans laugh at anymore? What other ethnic group is willing to be made fun of without filing a single lawsuit or sending some damned Irish mackerel-snapper onto Fox News to complain about anti-Catholic bias? Not that the Irish are the only other ethnic group. There are some others, but they're all equally stupid and annoying, as many Americans have learned from the mostly unfunny show called The Simpsons.

What I'm saying is, what other group would sit still for the kind of ridicule we Scots have accepted in pieces like this sorry-ass spoof of Star Trek? What none of you can know or empathize with is how much discriminatory nonsense like this hurts Scottish-Americans -- because we don't have any more idea what the actors are saying than you do. Our fear is that it's just utterly awful. Or not that funny. Take your pick.

We know that our ancestral way of speaking isn't wuite as euphonious as some others. It doesn't mean we're not artistically gifted. We are. It's only because of decades of discrimination that Scottish literary feats don't get as much attention as the so called poetry of lesser peoples. Let's face it. The French always get a free ride, and the damn Germans think poetry is about browbeating everyone else into believing it. But what fair-minded person could think that the English, the Irish, the Welsh, and even the Americans are better at using our common language than the Scots? It defies belief. And unlike many of those others, like, say, the Welsh, we also do plays.

There's no question that Scotland has failed at the propaganda game. The English have a whole channel, BBC Antiamerica, devoted to convincing Americans that they hate America as much as the best educated Americans do. Ireland has a charming little weekly show on PBS called "Ireland Hates America, Too," presided over by an arch leprechaun of woman who lives in a New York City penthouse and knows exactly what to say in her all-too-decipherable brogue. Scotland has only a pitiful little PBS scrapbook of a show called "TartanTV ," which offers informational nuggets such as the fact that all supposed Scottish tartans are basically 19th-century English forgeries, like all Americans who consider themselves descended from notable Scottish clans. Probably true, but not exactly a PR bonanza.

If you're going to appreciate Scotland as a diversely wonderful part of the Old World, you have to look beyond PBS. Here, for example, is a Scottish Tour you just won't get on the mainstream channels. Looking deeper, you can also find examples of the kind of judgment that enabled Scotland to lead the Industrial Revolution into the modern era. Which doesn't mean that Scots haven't also been in the vanguard of modern etiquette.

Did you forget that we Scots also created the greatest sport yet invented? This will remind of that fact, and provide you a rare glimpse of the only known instance in media history when Robin Williams was actually funny. Only Scots can precipitate such unlikely events.

How can we do that? Because we have such a keen sense of comedy ourselves. We're even prepared to pretend that female comedians can be funny. It's not easy, but we do it. Because we're fiercely determined to. It helps that we can't understand a word they're saying either.

Incomprehensibility is a big part of our whole culture. Like our history. You probably thrilled to Braveheart as much as anyone else. And understood it pretty much the same way we did.

Actually, understanding isn't the point. Does anyone understand dance? Yet the world has long bowed to the beauty of classical dance. And modern dance. And American dance. Some of you -- oddly -- even think the Irish do something like dance. Well, if you like that fey elven sheep-jumping crap, give yourself a chance to appreciate the kind of stomping around that Scots call dance. Once you've had enough real whiskey, it's far superior. You'll even want to join in.

Of course, the real mark of an advanced culture is music. The way the media are in America, you'd be excused for thinking that all kinds of countries have been better at music than the Scots. It's not true. The Italians get a lot of credit for sentimental crap like this. Who knows why people listen to French pap like this? Pure barbarians like the Poles, Germans, and Austrians are ridiculously overpraised just because their music is beautiful and intellectual at the samw time. Big deal. The English have never had any music of any kind, which should give you a hint about the musical capabilities of the Welsh and the Irish, too. It's almost a miracle -- given the pitiful record of Celts in general -- that the Scots have been able to produce the greatest music in the whole history of western civilization. But we have.

It's always at a price, though. Whenever Scots make a huge contribution, they're required to die for it. Explain that to us.

Better yet, give us some money. At least until the postal money order we're expecting any day now arrives. Is that too much to ask?

Monday, July 09, 2007


The Global Warming Horror Show.

THE GODS. It's not news by now that the worldwide Live Earth concerts were a bust. It's not all that surprising either. Global Warming has to be the dullest crisis ever, championed by the dullest demagogue ever. The closest I came to watching it was sitting through the first half of a rerun of the South Park Manbearpig episode last night. When I chanced this morning to hear an audio clip of Al Gore's pledge speech (seven points!) at one of the concerts, he sounded exactly like the fruity illiterate Stan and Kyle were trying to avoid.

What's really odd is that I think the South Park boys were actually on to something with Manbearpig. The obvious absurdity masks a subtler but nevertheless quite real absurdity. And mask is the right word. The mask of Global Warming is science, but the underlying passion that's driving it is paganism. Manbearpig is a classic pagan god, two parts animal, one part human, adding up to an archaic godhead. And Global Warming is really an outgrowth of a pagan yearning. How else is it that this cobbled-together -- and remotely consequential -- theory has become part of a cluster of 'progressive' causes that most notably include gay rights, hard-line feminist rejection of 'the patriarchy' (excepting Islam, of course), anti-Christian campaigns that are disingenuously positioned as expressions of secularism and humanism, extreme sexual libertarianism, an obsessive focus on health and nutrition as if they were morality, and an irrational Luddite condemnation of all things technological (excepting cell phones, the internet, and MP3 players)?

Would the scientists who think their rationalism is saving the planet from mankind's baser instincts be happy to know that their most ardent followers are the same people who wear crystals, read auras, channel ancient eastern spirits, dance Wiccan spells naked under the full moon, and perform imaginary Druid ceremonies at Stonehenge during the solstices? Or that some of their most vocal fellow travellers are defying the imperatives of evolution by engaging in non-reproductive sexual activities which have been scientifically proven (more than Global Warming, anyway) to reduce their chances of survival by 30 to 60 percent?

What's going on here isn't an enlightened transformation of medieval superstition (Christianity) into rational planetary consciousness (green progressivism). It's an act of reversion to pre-conscious paganism -- a violent divorce of theology from morality, a sundering whose ultimate purpose is 180 degrees antithetical to science. Why? Because the opposite of science is magic, which is based on the notion that purely symbolic actions can have an impact on matter at a distance, without physical contact or logical cause and effect. What's the difference? The cultures of antiquity (including the increasingly self-righteous native peoples of North, Central, and South America) employed human sacrifice as an act of magic, a brutal and bloody transaction that had to be repeated every time Gaia or Quetzalcoatl seemed to be punishing the earth. Christians elevated sacrifice to a divine concept, one that was performed once, to perfection, and so needed never to be performed again except in symbolic form. Because its purpose was not to slake the appetites of a vicious nature god like the sun or the storm, but to imbue the human spirit with an internal sense of right and wrong and transcendant truth.

It was Christianity's focus on mind and spirit that liberated science from the shackles the originating Greeks had constrained it with. The idea of a relationship with the divine that was not based on transactions but an aspiration to know the beauty of creation inspired every scientist from Newton to Einstein. Now we are reduced, once again, to the level of mere animals. Good is what makes us feel good -- sexual gratification, prolonged physical health, the comfort of rituals that make no demand on minds that have grown weary of complexity. For their excessive demands on our minds, the gods of complexity must be destroyed, utterly, by the most potent and ancient of magic. All their mores must be trampled. All their virtues must be mocked. Everything must be turned on its head. Rich must become poor. Evil must become good. Man must become woman, woman must become man, commandments must be broken, and the rituals we perform must be magical, not spiritual.

So they accept the ridiculous magical notion that a concert can change climate -- provided that we say and do all the right things along the way, regardless of the facts. It's the performance that matters, not anything like a chain of cause and effect as scientists might understand it.

What's actually amazing about all this is not the conduct of the crazies, but the ambivalent reactions of the people you don't expect to be crazy. That's where you see the real power of magic and paganism and the irrational generally. I won't be forgiven for this (but who cares?), and besides it was Camille Paglia in our time who has made the strongest case for the theory that men invented rationality as a defense against the native paganism of women, which is another way of saying that if you want to see the cracks in the edifice of rationality, look first to the women.

I've previously commented here on the peculiar response of the famous Ann Althouse to Al Gore's idiot Global Warming movie. Today, we have her equally ambivalent response to the Live Earth concerts. Yes, she knows the whole exercise was silly. But:

I watched some of the show. I TiVo'd everything, then fast-forwarded through most of it. I enjoyed Crowded House and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And everyone likes Madonna now. She works so hard. She's still willing to get out on the dance floor flat on her belly and writhe until we are entertained.

Everyone likes Madonna now? No. Sorry. Not everyone does. Some of us think Madonna is as much of a woman as Al Gore is of a man, and we're not comfortable with either of them. And the idea that time somehow alchemizes old vice into present-day respectability is uniquely female -- and definitively amoral. Men who once thought Madonna physically attractive but whorish haven't changed their perception of anything but her attractiveness. Once a whore, always a whore. It's only from the women that you hear the excuses and qualifications -- but she's been so successful, for so long, and she keeps reinventing her.... what? Her whorishness.

To most men I know she's reached the worst stage of whorishness -- she's reached the stage of kidding herself that a bunch of superficial makeup -- a British accent, authoring children's books, playing the grande dame expatriate from her native Queens -- will somehow undo the nights she spent cruising Manhattan in her limo picking up gigolos for wanton sex. That's an act of magic that makes sense to a large number of women, but not to men. To men, you are what you do. To women, you are what you can convince other women you are.

And if Madonna is somehow slowly transmogrifying -- like other English women -- into a man, women are also strangely comforted, it seems, by the fact that so many men, Al Gore included, are gradually morphing into the sitzenpissers of Germany. To the pagan mind, which resides deep in the minds of many, this is the ultimate victory against rationalism, a milestone in the return to the prehistorical times that are supposed to have been matriarchal, when the Eleusinian Mysteries prevailed, and men were subservient to women throughout the course of a single, endlessly repeated year in which no history occurred, no writing disrupted the cycle of the moon, no manufactured art competed with naked breasts, and the earth was a merciless mother who still managed to screw every man, woman, and child like a satyr.

Deep down, though, that's what most women still want. The Return. Scroll through Ms. Althouse's site, with special emphasis on her photography, and then look at this. Then take a look at this and this, and tell me how much faith you have in women to rescue western civilization with their more highly evolved values.

Richard Dawkins actually thinks he's winning. You can take it from me, he's losing the house, the barn, and the car.

UPDATE.  A new controversy. And more yuck.

Keith Richard? No.

But we all love her now, right? Right.

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