William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Page 3 of 758

The World Is Flat Again

Our dear and most beneficent government has lied to us before. It has exaggerated. It has abused its authority. Its crimes, negligence, improprieties, and its many others sins are brought readily to mind. They are present in daily life and on the increase. Gay “marriage”, anybody?

All this is so. But it does not follow that the government, staffed with souls supplied from its breeding grounds the universities, lie to us all the time about everything.

The government and universities are not lying to us about the earth not being flat.

Yet there is a growing contingent of people—fine people, driven to despair and distrust of all authority—who say the earth is flat. (It all started here, same some.)

Now I say “fine people”, but the nouveau flat-earthers also includes celebrities. Basketball behemoth Shaquille O’Neal was heard saying “It’s true. The Earth is flat…Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see, and what you hear…I drive from coast to coast, and this s— is flat to me…I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity…”

After he was reproached, Shaq claimed he was joking. Either way, his comments set off a wave of nervous hand-wringing from our betters, fretting about “what is all means.”

It means little to nothing. Except for one key point, it is a belief almost completely harmless. It is an eccentricity. The original Flat Earth Society was, of course, a joke, a means by which to tease the over-confident and self-satisfied. Every time some over-earnest establishment-type railed against a Flat Earther, an angel got its wings. Or at least it had a good laugh.

Unlike the original Flat Earthers, the nouveau flat-earthers (NFEs) are in earnest. But since none of them can act on their eccentricity, nothing much will come of their insistence the earth is a pancake. Except, as I say, for one difficulty, about which more in a moment.

Now I do not here, nor anywhere else, propose to defend spherical geometry, physics, or basic astronomy. Arguing with somebody who believes the earth is flat is, in one sense, like disputing with somebody who claims two men can be married (to each other). It is futile.

That comparison will sting, because, almost completely, the NFEs are on the political right; indeed, the alt-right. And none of them would ever say two men could be married.

But they will say the earth is flat. Why?

Well, there are many resources for arguing the world is flat. Many rave about Under the Dome, a program that, if you knew no physics, is quite convincing. The theories presented there, and on dozens and dozens of other videos, are inventive and clever.

And they are always presented as if you were being lied to, and these folks are sick unto death of being lied to. The government, universities, and powers that be want you to believe the lie that the earth is round(ish). NASA is particularly blameworthy, routinely releasing photographs which purport to show a round earth, but which are shown, through the filter of NFE theory, to be purposeful frauds.

A logo favored by the UN shows—does it not?—a flat earth, a crepe of land and water surrounded by an impassible Antarctica. Everybody knows Antarctica is a forbidden land. Why? Because the UN does not want people wandering over the edge!

The UN is even more stuffed full of wild blueberry muffins (ten points to those who catch this reference) than is the United States government. They are surely willing to lie, and have lied. So, say the NFE crowd, they are lying about a round earth.

None of the NFE folks have been able to offer a good reason why the government or UN would lie about the shape our planet. Their serial mendacity and routine roughshod treatment of reality is proof enough they are lying now.

We finally reach the difficulty. The “alt-right” is not a homogeneous entity, despite the picture painted of it by the media. In reality, it is comprised of everything from nihilists to socialists to monarchists, people advocating anything from passive acceptance to armed resistance. In truth, not everybody in the alt-right is in the alt-right!

But in the elite’s eye, it is one undifferentiated mass. It is that common (and false) picture of the alt-right, reactionaries, and hardcore conservatives which is the difficulty.

The trend is to say everybody to the right of, say, John McCain is a member of the “alt-right”, and is therefore a bigot, is probably a white supremacist, or at least has sympathies with Nazis. And now we have a fringe of alt-righters, folks justly suspicious of modern authority, but who have come to a false but harmless view of geology.

It is thus obvious that the elites will begin calling everybody on the right flat-earthers in its literal sense. And we who hold to Reality and Tradition will have to waste our precious time quashing rumors about domes, alien control, lizard people, or whatever.

Come on, fellas. There are bigger battles to be fought, and we haven’t the energy to fight losing ones. Believe the earth if flat if you wish, but please, for the sake of our cause, keep quiet about it in public.

Married Priests And The Impending HR Disaster — Guest Post by The Blonde Bombshell

The so-called vocation crisis has been reported on here, here, and here.

The irreligious press has an answer. Of course, they say, the Catholic Church has to get with the times and either allow women to be ordained or let male priests marry. Translated from media-speak, “let priests marry” is “let them have sex”—which nicely dispatches with that troublesome vow of celibacy. In the media’s current narrative, of course priestly men will marry women; but one could very well expect to see male priests with blushing male “brides”.

The atheistic media is off to bad start in offering their (unasked for) prescription to combat the declining number of priests. They succumb to the temptation to equate “vocation” with “job” as in “vocational training.” In the religious sense, a vocation is related to God’s calling to direct one’s life in a particular way in the service of the Church. Lost in the debate is that marriage itself is a vocation. What the secular press is suggesting, if not demanding, is that a man have two vocations—two callings—two directions for his heart.

There are some who have slipped into the Catholic priesthood through the Anglican backdoor. The fact that there are exceptions doesn’t mean that the rule has to be changed. Additionally, the permanent diaconate offers a path to ministry for married (or single) men over the age of 35. It is categorically false that married men are being shut out from serving ministerial roles. In fact, if the crisis is so crippling, this is an avenue that should be more thoroughly investigated.

With these considerations set aside, imagine that starting tomorrow married men can enter the church to serve as priests, and by extension, brothers. Of course it would be discriminatory to allow priests to marry but not the friars. Things to consider:

1. Wages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps in all clergy, with a median salary of $45,740 (2016). Salaries for Catholic priests can fall about $10,000 behind, in part because they are not expected to support a family. It is potentially much more profitable to be a rabbi or Protestant minister, but less so for imams.

2. Housing. Catholic priests can live in the rectory, or if they are brothers, in a priory. Adding a wife and children to the equation is going to strain Church resources, and small children necessarily interrupt a life of meditation and prayer. Will they live communally? Will other arrangements have to be made?

3. Healthcare. Having a wife in most cases means having children, and childbirth costs in the United States are more than anywhere else in the world. Someone is going to have to pay for it.

4. Education. Some provision will have to be made for educating the children of the priests. At the very least, there should be tuition relief for Catholic schooling, from K-12, and perhaps even at the college level.

5. Moving costs/change of station. If bishop says, “Go”, the priest can no longer put his belongings in a modest bag and catch the next bus, but he will have to fold up his marital assets (i.e., worldly possessions) and incur the expense of moving house and home, which will be billed to the diocese.

6. On call/time off. The priest or brother doesn’t have a “weekend” as most people do, and even on a day off, a priest know that an emergency can arise and he will have to flee to someone’s bedside or hold someone’s hand. Ah, the secular press will cry out, but do not Protestant pastors have to juggle family needs with that of the flock? A Protestant can happily die without last rites, but for a Catholic to pass beyond the velvet curtain without the extreme unction is a completely different matter.

7. Marriage during seminary. If priests can marry, maybe they will when they are at seminary. Before seminary? How will the female factor affect the formation, not only of the man but also of his cohort?

Married priests will be a substantial drag on the Church’s purse almost immediately. To cope, more land, buildings, and treasure will be have to be sold at a much faster clip than they are now to cover these (perfectly avoidable) expenses. While there may be a net increase in the number of priests, there will be fewer actual churches for them to serve in.

What is missing from this debate is God. What is God’s plan? Recall the words of one Joseph Ratzinger:

From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning…Undoubtedly it will discover new forms of ministry and will ordain to the priesthood approved Christians who pursue some profession. In many smaller congregations or in self-contained social groups, pastoral care will normally be provided in this fashion. Along-side this, the full-time ministry of the priesthood will be indispensable as formerly. But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world. In faith and prayer she will again recognize the sacraments as the worship of God and not as a subject for liturgical scholarship.

Vocations are declining, except for orders like the Dominicans, who openly embrace tradition. One solution to the crisis is to look backward and not forward, and to try to recapture and revive what has been drowned in the backwash of contemporary culture. It would be a costly and foolish mistake to do otherwise.

Campus Idiocy Roundup I

Harvard, circa 2018?

For busy readers, here’s the conclusion: Nuke ’em from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.

Headline Those ‘Snowflakes’ Have Chilling Effects Even Beyond the Campus.

Like Antony Esolen, Heather Mac Donald gets it. She understands we are dealing with a violent enemy, using the power it has been given. These are not snowflakes. These are social justice warriors. True, as warriors, they’re anemic pantywaist filled-diaper bugwits—but they are still dangerous. One rat is not a threat, but a swarm of them can kill. What’s the over-under on the number of months until somebody is killed at a campus event?

Campus intolerance is at root not a psychological phenomenon but an ideological one. At its center is a worldview that sees Western culture as endemically racist and sexist. The overriding goal of the educational establishment is to teach young people within the ever-growing list of official victim classifications to view themselves as existentially oppressed. One outcome of that teaching is the forceful silencing of contrarian speech.

At UC Berkeley, the Division of Equity and Inclusion has hung banners throughout campus reminding students of their place within the ruthlessly competitive hierarchy of victimhood…Another opined that physical attacks against supporters of Mr. Yiannopoulos and President Trump were “not acts of violence. They were acts of self-defense.”

Headline Students who avoid making eye contact could be guilty of racism, Oxford University says.

Long-time readers will know we predicted that in future (as the Brits say), to avoid being labeled “homophobic”, one would have to admit to having at least experimented with gay sex. This prediction is re-emphasized here.

The university’s Equality and Diversity Unit has advised students that “not speaking directly to people” could be deemed a “racial microaggression” which can lead to “mental ill-health”.

Other examples of “everyday racism” include asking someone where they are “originally” from, students were told…

“Essentially people are being accused of a thought crime,” Dr Williams told The Telegraph. “They are being accused of thinking incorrect thoughts based on an assumption of where they may or may not be looking.”

There’s nothing “essentially” about it. Not looking is now thoughtcrime. And so is looking. Looking objectifies, as universities also assert. The obvious conclusion is that our enemy wants us blind.

Last year Oxford law students were told they could skip lectures covering violent cases if they feared the content would be too “distressing”.

Earlier this year it emerged that Cardiff Metropolitan University banned phrases such as “right-hand man” and “gentleman’s agreement” under its code of practice on inclusive language.

Psst, realityophobe. Hey. Over here. Want to hear something really “distressing”? Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Headline Students demand administrators ‘Take action’ against conservative journalists

In an open letter to outgoing Pomona College President David Oxtoby, a group of students from the Claremont Colleges assail the president for affirming Pomona’s commitment to free speech and demand that all five colleges “take action” against the conservative journalists on the staff of the Claremont Independent.

The letter, written by three self-identified Black students at Pomona College…

“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions. It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry,” they write…

The students also characterize truth as a “myth” and a white supremacist concept.

Would it do any good to ask these simpleton students if it is true that truth is a white supremacist concept? The answer is no. It would not. And that is the truth. Take it from me, a white man.

Incidentally, here is the opening of the student letter: “We, few of the Black students here at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges, would like to address…” If you seek to criticize, don’t. Grammar is also racist.

In reference to the protests of Mac Donald, the open letter explains that engaging with Mac Donald’s speech would have amounted to a debate not “on mere difference of opinion, but [on] the right of Black people to exist.”

Yes, exactly. Black people have no right to exist. That is precisely what Mac Donald was trying to say. How did these geniuses figure out Heather’s secret message? Got some extra bright folks here, friends. Give ’em all PhDs in Raceology!

Can’t resist quoting this gem from the end of the letter: “To conclude our statement, we invite you to respond to this email by Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 4:07pm (since we have more energy to expend on the frivolity of this institution and not Black lives).”

Admit it. Go on, ‘fess up. You, like me, are wondering where these kiddies heard the word frivolity.

Homework: Examine the letter and see if you can guess whether these students knew what the word praxis meant.

Summary Against Modern Thought: Human Souls Begin At Conception Part I

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

The next several chapters are devoted to the question of when does human life begin. The answer is at conception. Why this is so will be proved, but we’ll have to have patience. It’s not so much the subject is subtle, but it is very large. We will not finish this week, so only answer the arguments made in this section; do not anticipate. The first paragraph sums up the situation with elegance. Also, there is in all of this ample and robust refutation of all modern misconceptions of the soul. For that reason alone,
these next few weeks will more than repay your time investment.

Chapter 82 That the human soul begins to exist when the body does (alternate translation) We’re still using the alternate translation.

1 Now, since the same things are found both to begin to be and to end, someone might suppose that, because the human soul will not cease to exist, neither will it have begun to exist, but, on the contrary, has always been. And it would seem possible to prove this by the following arguments.

2 That which will never cease to be has the power to exist forever. But no such thing can ever be truly said not to be; for the extent of a thing’s existential duration is exactly commensurate with its power of existing. But of every thing which had begun to exist, it is at some time true to say that it is not. Therefore, that which will never cease to exist, at no time begins to be.

Notes Understand that Aquinas is presenting the “other side” here. He’ll answer these arguments much later. These sort of ambiguities are cleared up using the literary device in Summa Theologica, where you always know where you are in an argument.

3 Moreover, just as the truth of intelligible things is imperishable, so is that truth, of itself, eternal; because it is necessary, and whatever is necessary is eternal, for what is necessary to be cannot possibly not be. Now, the imperishable being of the soul is demonstrated from the imperishability of intelligible truth. Hence, by the same reasoning, the soul’s eternity can be proved from the eternal being of intelligible both.

4 Also, a thing that lacks several of its principal parts is not perfect. But, clearly, the principal parts of the universe are intellectual substances, in the genus of which human souls belong, as we have shown above. If every day as many human souls begin to exist as men are born, then, obviously, many of the principal parts of the universe are added to it daily, so that it lacks a multiplicity of things. Consequently, the universe is imperfect. But this is impossible.

Notes Above, I said “don’t anticipate”, but I do not mean you shouldn’t try to refute these arguments before you see how our good Saint does (starting in paragraph 8).

5 Then, too, some draw their arguments from the authority of Sacred Scripture. For in Genesis (2:2) it is said that “on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made: and He rested from all His work which He had done.” But, if God made new souls every day, this would not be true. Therefore, no new human souls ever begin to exist, but they have existed from the beginning of the world.

6 Hence, for these and similar reasons, proponents of the doctrine of the world’s eternity have said that, just as the human soul is incorruptible, so has it existed from all eternity. That is why the upholders of the theory of the immortality of human souls in their multiple existence—I refer to the Platonists—asserted that they have existed from eternity, and are united to bodies at one time and separated from them at another, these vicissitudes following a fixed cyclical pattern throughout set periods of years. Advocates of the theory that human souls are immortal in respect of some single reality, pertaining to all men, which remains after death, declared, however, that this one entity has endured from all eternity; whether it be the agent intellect alone, as Alexander held, or, together with this, the possible intellect, as Averroes maintained. Aristotle, also, seems to be making the same point when, speaking of the intellect, he says that it is not only incorruptible, but also everlasting.

Notes Two things. First, Aquinas was not slavishly devoted to Aristotle, as we see. And second, here’s Plato on the soul. His “recollection” might have inspired later philosophical statements on the a priori (which I used to believe), which is to say, knowledge you are born with, that you don’t have to acquire.

7 On the other hand, some who profess the Catholic faith, yet are imbued with the teachings of the Platonists, have taken a middle position. For, since the Catholic faith teaches that nothing is eternal except God, these persons maintain, not that human souls are eternal, but that they were created with, or rather before, the visible world, yet are fettered to bodies anew. Among these Christians, Origen was the first exponent of this theory, and a number of his disciples followed suit. The theory, indeed, survives to this day among heretics, the Manicheans, for example, siding with Plato in proclaiming the eternity and transmutation of souls.

8 Now, all these opinions can be easily shown to have no foundation in truth. For it has already been proved that there does not exist only one possible agent intellect for all men. Hence, it remains for us to proceed against those theories which, while envisaging the existence of many human souls, maintain that they existed before bodies, either from eternity, or from the foundation of the world. The incongruity of such a notion is exposed by the following arguments.

9 For, it has already been established that the soul is united to the body as its form and act. Now, although act is prior in its nature to potentiality, nevertheless in one and the same thing it is temporally posterior to it; for a thing is moved from potentiality to act. Thus, seed, which is potentially living, preceded the soul, which is the act of life.

Notes Don’t skip lightly over this reminder: “although act is prior in its nature to potentiality, nevertheless in one and the same thing it is temporally posterior to it; for a thing is moved from potentiality to act.”

10 Moreover, it is natural to every form to be united to its proper matter; otherwise, that which is made of form and matter would be something preternatural. But that which befits a thing naturally is attributed to it before that which befits it preternaturally, because the latter is in it by accident, the former, through itself. Now, that which is by accident is always posterior to that which is through itself. It is, therefore, becoming to the soul to be united to the body before being separated from it. The soul, then, was not created before the body to which it is united.

11 Again, every part existing in separation from its whole is imperfect. Now, the soul, being a form, as has been proved, is a part of the specific nature of man. Hence, as long as it exists through itself apart from the body, it is imperfect. But in the order of natural things, the perfect is prior to the imperfect. It would, therefore, be inconsistent with the order of nature were the soul created apart from the body before being united to it.

12 And again, if souls are created without bodies, it must be asked how they are united to bodies. This union could he effected in but two ways: by violence or by nature. Now, everything violent is against nature, so that if the union of soul and body is brought about by violence it is not natural. Hence, man, who is composed of both, is something unnatural; which is obviously false. There is also the consideration that intellectual substances are of a higher order than the heavenly bodies. But in the latter there is nothing violent or contrary. Much less, therefore, does any such thing exist in intellectual substances.

Notes We still don’t know the how of all this. But Aquinas was not a modern day scientist.

13 Now, if the union of souls to bodies is natural, then, in their creation, souls had a natural desire to be united to bodies. Now, natural appetite immediately issues in act if no obstacle stands in the way, as we see in the movement of heavy and light bodies; for nature always works in the same way. So, unless something existed to prevent it, souls would have been united to bodies from the very beginning of their creation. But whatever obstructs the realisation of natural appetite does violence to it. That at some time souls existed in separation from bodies was therefore the result of violence. And this is incongruous, not only because in such substances there can be nothing violent, as was shown, but also because the violent and the unnatural, being accidental, cannot be prior to that which is in keeping with nature, nor can they be consequent upon the total species.

14 Furthermore, since everything naturally desires its own perfection, it pertains to matter to desire form, and not conversely. But the soul is compared to the body as form to matter, as was shown above. Therefore, the union of the soul to the body is not brought about in response to the desire of the soul, but, rather, of the body.

Notes That’s enough for one week. We’re only one-third through this Chapter, with several more to come—in which our saint ventures into the biological!

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