Posts Tagged ‘ culture wars ’

From Fr. Z: Gov. Andrew Cuomo: conservatives “have no place in the state of New York”

Fr. Z shared a distressing article about New York that I’m afraid will be the trend in our country, the more we hope to follow Canada and Europe.

The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life[!] pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.  [Will he have people rounded up and deported?  Perhaps he’ll inter them in camps with the help of the National Guard.]

[Fr. Z’s emphases and comments]

Where is the freedom, the tolerance, the multiculturalism in scapegoating and eliminating political enemies?  That is the broad lie of the ideology of multiculturalism: adhere to my version of diversity or leave.  Seems more like uniculturalism to me (aka totalitarianism).  What kind of free society is this??

“Liberal” Catholics Are Not Progressive Enough

I don’t understand actions and attitudes quite common in many American Roman Catholic  believers, attitudes which are, at their core, the fruits of the Enlightenment.  Ideals such as freedom and progress, as defined and practiced by today’s standards are fine.  But when mixed with Christianity–I get confused when Enlightenment-defined freedom subverts Christian freedom.  That is merely one example.

For the longest time, I rationalized that perhaps believers of this persuasion were simply heirs to the Enlightenment, and that was all they knew.  Indoctrinated in Enlightenment thought, they learned to emphasize Enlightenment values over any other values.  They received a thoroughly Enlightenment-influenced education and control a media landscape with a tendency toward brainwashing “progressivism.”

But people have a choice.  They are rational beings with a heart and a soul, who can make choices.  Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular presents a starkly contrasting view.  Christianity presents a more progressive view of  life, humanity, the future, death, and all sorts of terribly important aspects of living, compared with the drab gray, literally hopeless Enlightenment landscape.

Enlightenment living is static–for something is only better if it supports the meta-narrative of progress-de jure.  Since objective truths and values are anathema, real, lasting progress is only an ideal and can never be a reality in Enlightenment-influenced living.   Truly, the academy and the media concoct and promote a view of life so limiting, so anti-progress.   The axiom goes something like this: I am who I am and you are who you are, and that’s enough.   How is that progressive?

Want real choice?  Christianity offers expansive freedom and choice.  Want real, deep down hope?  Christianity offers that as well.  Believe in humanism?  The goodness of humanity at the core?  Christianity offers a deeper, comprehensive view of humanity.  Want to help people?  Real, lasting help?  Help which transcends ideology?  That started and ends with Christianity as well.

What I don’t understand is why believers prefer a twisted, anti-Christian brand of Christianity to what is really there. Why, when given the choice between the candy-saccharine heterodox Christianity and the joyous feast which orthodoxy provides, that heterodoxy is ever chosen?

C.S. Lewis in “The Weight of Beauty” said it better, as always:

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to eagerly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion…is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Of course in reality, it’s not an either-or endeavor.  None of us is perfect.  None of us is precisely obedient to the Lord and His Church.  All of us land on a continuum between heteropraxy and orthopraxy.

But, I’m not talking about heteropraxy (doing things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthopraxy (doing things in line with the Lord’s teachings and His Church).

I’m talking about heterodoxy (believing in things contrary to the Lord and His Church) and orthodoxy (believing in things in line with the Lord and His Church).  We all fall short, in practice.  To soak-in, breathe, teach, and argue for non-truth (heterodoxy), to the exclusion of truth–that is what I don’t understand.

Christianity is the true progressive heuristic, as compared with paganism or deterministic humanism/scientism or anything else.  Buddhism, teaching that people can become one, is progressive, but falls short of the progressivism of Christianity.  Christianity believes that people can actually progress–to be more like God–and to unite with God.  That doctrine is infinitely more progressive than any other belief conjured by the Democratic party, or by the overlords of scientism and the Enlightenment.

What is more progressive than knowing that each person’s potential is infinite?  A limited, constricting view of progressivism propagated by contemporary ruling powers falls short of the true progressivism taught by Christianity:

God Himself was born.  He healed and taught.  He suffered, died, and rose again.  Through sanctifying grace we can rise as well, as He did.

Now that’s progress!

P-values: Destroying the Barrier Between Scientific and Creative Writing

English: Illustration of the difference betwee...

If you recall from your stats 101 class p-values represent the probability that a quantitative finding reflects actual reality, such as some sort of difference between groups.  Statisticians use arbitrary cutoffs to define “statistical significance.”  P < 0.05 is a very common cutoff, meaning that if your result achieves a p-value of 0.05 or less, then the finding is said to be “statistically” significant, or, there is a 95% chance that your groups are different (or your therapy made a difference, or there was a change in functioning, ect.).  There is great controversy between statisticians and researchers regarding statistical significance.  I read a paper recently titled, “The Difference Between Statistically Significant or Not Is Not, Itself, Statistically Significant.”  Best.  Title.  Ever.  Basically, if p = 0.05 is significant, then what to say about p = 0.08?  Is there a dichotomy, in reality, between a finding which is statistically significant versus one which is not?  What about p = .05000000000001?  And so the debate rages.

I have only a limited understanding of statistics and of probability theory in general and am not necessarily interested in commenting on the debate itself.  However, interested as I am in epistomology especially with regards to political philosophy, and philosophy of science, I found this article fascinating.

It lists multitudes of ways of describing findings which are p > 0.05.  Many of them express something along the lines of “pretty much significant, but not really.”  For example,

approached near significance (p=0.06)
approached our criterion of significance (p>0.08)
approached significant (p=0.11)
approached the borderline of significance (p=0.07)
approached the level of significance (p=0.09)
approached trend levels of significance (p0.05)
approached, but did reach, significance (p=0.065)
approaches but fails to achieve a customary level of statistical significance (p=0.154)
approaches statistical significance (p>0.06)
approaching a level of significance (p=0.089)
approaching an acceptable significance level (p=0.056)
approaching borderline significance (p=0.08)

From the standpoint of argument, it is interesting that there are so many creative ways to nudge a reader toward believing your point of view.  This perspective informs my skepticism toward grandiose public policy based on “science.”  In practice within social and political spheres, “facts” proclaimed by “science” [especially neuroscience] reflect essential and unquestionable reality.  In theory, “science” can only suggest tentative hypotheses, not infrequently supported by evidence “approaching a level of statistical significance.”

Science sure has its place.  There are definitely ways to qualify and quantify statistical and scientific findings.  Science is a powerful tool to investigate the natural world.  Science and technology enrich our lives and can be forces for good.  But science has its limits.  Any competent scientist will readily admit that scientific findings are tentative and that science, in general, while very powerful for studying natural phenomena, is ultimately limited in its quest for truth.  A scientist who fails to acknowledge as much is either ignorant or a charlatan.  And no, that’s not a false dichotomy.

Psychology: What Conservatives and Liberals Need to Learn

It’s helpful, every now and then, to take a step back and take in the vista.  James Kalb described the outlook for conservatives and liberals in his recent post at Crisis.  Thoughtful and somewhat forlorn, he decries the current technocratic thrust which appears alive and functioning well, and outlines its eventual implosion.  What struck me from a psychological perspective was his quasi-definition of conservatism:

They should be conservative not in the sense of maintaining existing trends and arrangements, but in the sense of valuing what those trends and arrangements reject: history, human nature, and the patterns and attachments, like family, religion, and particular culture, that are necessary for normal social functioning. [emphasis added]

Coming from the psychoanalytic tradition, attachment equates to something like the quality of relational bonds experienced from an early age.  Psychologists and psychoanalysts hypothesize that the quality of bonds contributes to the development of a particular relational-attachment style.  In recent decades, theorists described a few commonly-observed styles, such as avoidant, anxious, and secure.  Perhaps, like most psychological concepts, people’s attachment styles are contextually-driven and more continuous than categorical.  That is, I am probably more securely attached in some instances but more anxious in others.  Also, attachment security probably isn’t an all-or-nothing experience.  However, it is theorized that optimal relational functioning and affect regulation hinges on successfully secure attachment.  Unsuccessful, or insecure attachment supposedly contributes to anxiety, ranging from neurotic, everyday-level nervousness, to a more problematic, debilitating anxiety.  

Kalb’s emphasis on social attachments is really important to consider.  The concept seems so obvious–that optimal functioning requires a sense of social and institutional belonging.  Family, culture, and institutions such as religion are common ways to fill that need.  As our culture continues to devalue institutions, emphasizing instead individual fulfillment and autonomy will create a new way of relating, which will really be an old way.  Culture, religion, and family bring together.  Technocracy tears apart.  The irony of collective psychology (e.g. APA, etc.) is the emphasis on individual fulfillment, based on a misguided notion of humanism; namely, favoring autonomy over belonging.  We can learn a lot from the attachment folks, who share with us the importance of the balance of belonging.