Social Media, Woke Culture, and the 2020 Election

Do you find yourself wondering what just happened?  The last four years are bewildering without some coherent theoretical framework by which to make sense of them.  I want to share with you an article which for me, at least, significantly helps me to understand the time we live in.

After the 2016 election I saved a half dozen opinion pieces by national columnists who identified an important factor in Donald Trump’s election to the presidency, namely, his skill in exploiting the resentment which many Americans felt toward political correctness and the superior attitude of most American elites.  At no time since then have I seen any indication that the Democrats were conscious of that phenomenon.  But now here is an opinion piece that helps to explain why the Democratic Party is so out of touch with exactly half of the American populace: “Slouching Toward Post-Journalism: The New York Times and other elite media outlets have openly embraced advocacy over reporting,” by Martin Gurri, City Journal, February 13, 2021 (https://www.city-journal.org/journalism-advocacy-over-reporting).

Gurri reports that the Times had given Hillary Clinton an 84% chance of winning the 2016 election.  The actual outcome was profoundly disorienting for them.  “In a somber column published the morning after, Liz Spayd, public editor, announced that the Times had entered ‘a period of self-reflection’ and expressed the hope that ‘its editors will think hard about the half of America the paper too seldom covers.’  The reflective mood quickly passed.”

Indeed it did, and it never returned.  Gurri shows how social media delivered a one-two punch to traditional journalism and produced what he describes as “an extinction-level event.”

Do you remember Marshall McLuhan’s “The medium is the message?”  What about Neil Postman’s Entertaining Ourselves to Death?  Ever wonder why critical race theory and woke culture don’t die a natural death, given the tsunami of penetrating critical analysis they have attracted?  Here it is.  READ. THIS. ARTICLE (if you want to).

https://www.city-journal.org/journalism-advocacy-over-reporting

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Review: Ben Stein documentary, “Expelled”

[The following essay was written in fulfillment of an assignment for a class I took at Reasons Institute in the spring of 2020.]

Critics of the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution are systematically denied a fair opportunity to present their views in and through established science organizations.  That is the major premise of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a 2008 Ben Stein documentary.

Through a series of interviews with scientists on both sides of the creation-evolution divide, Stein establishes that Intelligent Design theory (ID) is suppressed in the science establishment.  The scientists whom Stein interviews are well-credentialed and articulate, but they are almost to a person taken from one or the other of two classes, namely, Discovery Institute fellows, or the victims of anti-ID persecution.

Stein’s authorities claim that in private, leading scientists will sometimes acknowledge concerns about the truth of neo-Darwinism.  There are numerous published writings which show that such admissions do not occur in private only, and it would have advanced Stein’s argument considerably had he mentioned them – or better yet, interviewed their authors.

It also would have been useful had Stein spent more time explaining ID and demonstrating its religious neutrality.  This is especially the case in view of the justification which evolutionists typically offer for suppressing ID, namely, that it is just religion in disguise.

Perhaps the most serious weakness of the film, however, is the extravagantly bad light in which mainstream science is presented.  It is true that ID advocates are censored and persecuted by the science establishment, and the western public needs to be aware of it.  It is also true that Darwinism was a significant contributor to Nazism abroad and euthanasia in this country, and that it helps to sustain the right-to-die and abortion movements.  These are all important circumstances.  They are even marginally relevant, but Stein makes far too much of them.

The premise that evolution is necessarily progressive and that it is driven forward by a process whereby only the fittest organisms survive to propagate – the “survival of the fittest” – has indeed led to a phenomenon known as “social Darwinism,” according to which the extermination of certain classes of humans by other classes of humans is regarded as a good thing.  But Stein does not here so much critique social Darwinism as use it to damn his opponents by association, which is a type of ad hominem fallacy.  Darwinism isn’t false merely because it has effects which most people deplore.  It is possible, moreover, to believe in Darwinism while energetically opposing the death cult in all its forms, and some leading scientists do exactly that.

What is probably worst of all is that almost all of this propaganda is not conveyed in the script, but as part of the visual accompaniment of the relatively innocuous verbal material.  Such a device reaches the audience at an emotional, not a rational level. 

Stein is justifiably upset about the establishment’s refusal to permit ID theory a fair hearing; but I think he has missed an opportunity to make a more winsome, and perhaps a more effective appeal.  Darwinists viewing this film are likely to see Stein’s choice of means of persuasion as outrageous and, as always, to dismiss his arguments summarily – if they finish watching at all.  So much for winning over one’s opponents!

I doubt that I would recommend this film to anyone.  It contains a lot of important information about discrimination against perfectly competent scientists who happen to recognize the scientific status of ID, and I would like to see that information disseminated as widely as possible.  But I am afraid that the less an individual knows about that already, the more likely he or she is to be influenced by the propagandistic features of the film, and to become incensed at mainstream scientists.  And that can only make the work of the more circumspect more difficult.

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Letter to Mary

For Christmas 2019 my daughter-in-law gave me Andrew Roberts’ biography of Winston Churchill. This is the letter I wrote to thank her.

March 7, 2020

Dear Mary,

I just finished Andrew Roberts’ Churchill and I want to say again, thanks!

It was quite a few years ago that I first realized how indebted we are to “the Greatest Generation,” and I have since then had a heightened interest in the history of the 50-year period prior to my birth in 1949.  One of my regrets is that I did not quiz my parents more about their experiences.

But now I realize for the first time the extent to which we owe our freedom and prosperity to one man.

Roberts concludes by saying (p 975) that if Hitler had delayed the Anschluss [the annexation of Austria] and Czech crises for a few years, Churchill’s moment would have passed.  Halifax would have become Prime Minister, and he would have sought, quite reasonably, to discover Hitler’s terms of peace.  Those terms might not have been very onerous, since all Hitler needed at that moment was a single front.  Churchill saw that if the Soviets were alone, they would more likely face defeat; whereupon there would be nothing to prevent Hitler from disavowing the settlement with England, who then would in turn also be alone.  Then it would have been too late for the US to re-arm.

Churchill maintained that it was the British people who had the lion heart, and that he merely “had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”  Roberts denies that: “[I]t was much more the case that Churchill had the lion heart and also gave the roar, and in so doing taught the British people to rediscover the latent lionheartedness in themselves.”  (p 980.) 

Whether one believes in Providence, as I do, we can only regard these things with gratitude and awe.

By the way, thanks, too, for the WhatsApp call the other day for Leona to chat with us.  So great to see her walking and flourishing as she is clearly doing in every way.  Thanks for thinking of us.

Love,

Tom

Posted in Spirituality, The Existence of God | 3 Comments

The Infinite Complexity of Cells/Is Following Jesus a “Politic”?

Two essential reads from this morning’s mail:

Excerpt — The Infinite Complexity of Cells

Is Following Jesus a “Politic?”

Posted in Evolution, Politics, Science and faith, Spirituality, The Fine-tuning of the Universe | Leave a comment

And this on “White Fragility”

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/dehumanizing-condescension-white-fragility/614146/

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User-friendly Reorganization!

You may have noticed (or if you haven’t, please do) that the website has been reorganized by subject area.  Formerly it was merely chronological, which was pretty useless in finding anything unless you already knew when it was published.  Now, you can find archived material much more easily.

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What is “Systemic Racism”?

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Existential Reasons for Believing in God

Everyone should check out Paul Copan’s web site, Worldview Bulletin Newsletter (https://worldviewbulletin.substack.com/), and in particular, in the July 26 edition, Clifford Williams’ “Existential Reasons for Believing in God.”

I am provoked to think: If God exists; if He created us; and if He loves us; then it is more likely that discovering what He wants for us will lead to our fulfillment.

Does believing in God solve all our problems?  Of course not!  But is there any peace in relief from guilt, shame, and fear?  Is there any joy in beholding the exalted character of the Son of God, or from imagining ourselves becoming like him?  There is!  And when we experience that joy and peace, it confirms what our reason has already shown us: God is with us!

 

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Fine-Tuning for High-Tech Civilization

Astronomer Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe (reasons.org), of whom much is heard in these pages, has long emphasized that all of natural history prior to mankind was fine-tuned to prepare the cosmos not for mankind simply, but for mankind and his development of high-tech civilization.  He even categorizes the features of the physical universe by their tendency to foster either simple, single-celled life, or large, air-breathing organisms, or human civilization, or – high-tech human civilization.

I have long wished for some elucidation from Ross as to the reasons he considers high-tech civilization in particular to be the goal in God’s creative activity.  An answer has occurred to me; and while I can’t say I actually heard this from Ross, it strikes me as something he would probably readily endorse.

The last 70 years has seen an explosion of scientific discovery, fueled, to a large extent, by the development of science technology that has enabled us to study the cosmos in ways that were not possible until now.  That science technology – the space telescopes, the super-colliders, the computers – would never have been developed by itself, apart from the advance of technology generally.  Modern science is indeed the invention of a broadly high-tech civilization.

And what have we discovered with our sophisticated and very expensive new kit?  Everywhere we look, we find the unequivocal signs of active intelligence.

So I think Ross would say that God prepared a planet for advanced civilization so that we would find him.

It gives a fuller understanding, it seems to me, of Romans 1:20:

[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Those invisible divine attributes – God’s existence, his divinity, and his power – were evident even to primitive man.  Our study of Creation continues to make God’s power, genius, wisdom, and love more and more obvious; yet somehow men still deny him.  Can judgment be far off?

Posted in Science and faith, The Fine-tuning of the Universe | Leave a comment

Toward an Epistemology of Love

N. T. Wright, Loving to Know: The 2019 Erasmus Lecture (First Things Magazine, February 2020, pp. 25-34.)

 

To transcend the divided field of knowledge – the antitheses between fact and value, objective and subjective, reason and faith, science and religion – requires an epistemology of love – a love, that is, which recognizes the material universe for what it is, “the loving gift of a wise creator.”

N. T. wright places the origin of these antitheses in ancient Epicurean philosophy, which held that “The gods may exist, but they are in an entirely different sphere to ourselves, taking no notice of us and certainly not intervening in our world.” He traces this view of the cosmos through the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution to the present.  To this day, he says, “most Westerners – including, alas, many Christians! – don’t realize that they are looking at the world through Epicurean spectacles.”

The intellectuals of the Enlightenment were receptive to Epicurean philosophy because it justified their “antipathy to  [hierarchical] top-down social, political, cultural, and religious systems . . . which were perceived as denying a proper aspiration for freedom.”  What they failed to realize, and what many today also do not realize, is that Epicurean cosmology is just as “top-down” as divine creation.  It says, essentially, that since the gods are not involved in mundane things, the universe must therefore create itself – “so that the evolution of species was approached not simply as a newly discovered bit of inductive knowledge from below but as the necessary postulate from . . . the Epicurean assumption that if the gods do not act within the world then the world must make itself.”

Wright’s observations help explain how it is that modern science acquired its naturalistic bias.  It is indeed a thing requiring some kind of explanation.  It is completely evident, after all, that naturalism – the prejudice that the material world of space, time, matter and energy is all that exists – is not something that science has discovered.  It was not found in a test tube, or on a distant planet.  Where did it come from?

Epicurean philosophy pre-dates modern science by more than 1800 years, so it was ready and waiting when the Enlightenment philosophers needed it.  Wright says that this helps to show that “modern Western culture is not a new thing based on modern science as is so often assumed, but an ancient worldview with some modern twists and footnotes.”

Wright’s antidote is to view the cosmos as a gift from a loving Father, and he has an answer for those who charge that theism’s openness to divine activity in the universe discourages scientific inquiry:

An epistemology of love, seeing the creation as the outflowing of divine creative love, must pay attention to that creation.  It isn’t enough to know that it is God’s creation, and so to infer that we already know all that’s important to know about it.  Love demands patient curiosity.  Love transcends the objective/subjective divide, because as the image-bearing stewards of creation, as liturgists of creation’s praise, as prophets called to speak creation’s reality, we humans are called not to a cool, detached appraisal of the world, nor to a self-indulgent grasping of it, but to a delighted exploration and exposition, in which respect and enjoyment go together.

. . . .

. . . Our delighted, sensitive, respectful, and curious exploration of creation is the response of love to the love we have received.

 

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