Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Told you so!

Oxblog writes:

" Even in the incontrovertibly liberal United States, the chief officer of the Air Force in the Pacific has just received a report that 92 accusations of rape involving Air Force personnel had been reported to the Pacific Command from 2001 to 2003. To his credit, General Begert has exercised sterling leadership to indicate that his service will not tolerate rape in the ranks, and has ordered changes in training, reporting practices, and the means of recourse available to assaulted female personnel; at the same time, we should note that his desire to counteract the problem was motivated by the horrible disclosure last year of more than 50 reported rapes or assaults over the past decade at his service's Academy."

A couple of points that should be obvious:

Reports and accusations are not the same as proven rapes.

One of the conservative arguments against mixing men and women closely in the military has always been that it will lead to trouble - such as rapes and rape accusations. The liberal policy looks like it is failing. What is the liberal answer? A series of band-aids, basically.

Try separating the sexes. Better still, stop pretending that women should be soldiers.



Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Human Y chromosome studies and cuckolding

A recent area of interest in human genetics has been studies relating the male sex chromosome (the Y chromosome) to surnames. The idea is that a particular Y chromosome is likely to travel down the generations with a particular surname, because men inherit both their maleness (Y chromosome) and their surname from their father.

This article discusses the issue.

Of particular interest is the rate of illegitimacy that relevant studies have disclosed. For example, the study quoted on the Sykes surname Y chromosome indicated a rate of illegitimacy of only 1.3% per generation.

By comparison, a cover article by Robin Dunbar in New Scientist of 21 November 1998 includes this statement (p. 31):

"A few years ago, Robin Baker and Mark Bellis, then both at the University of Manchester, calculated that between 10 and 13 per cent of all conceptions in Britain arise from mating with non-pair males."

That is, the estimate of modern levels of cuckoldry in the English population is about ten times that shown to have occurred in the past using the surname/Y chromosome studies. Why the discrepancy? Have morals declined rapidly in recent times? Robin Dunbar seems to be arguing that high levels of illegitimacy are probably normal in many species, including humans. But why then do the chromosome studies indicate that people in the past were apparently sexually faithful?

It is a puzzle.


I put his question to some experts and one suggested that some earlier cuckoldry would have been masked by the cuckolder being a close relative in an extended family (father or brother, e.g.) with the same Y chromosome. This is certainly possible although I doubt that it could be a full explanation for apparently low levels of illegitimacy in the past.

Another person referred to low rates of covert illegitimacy reported from modern Switzerland. Obviously this would not be due to masking effects from extended families.

I am starting to think that Robin Dunbar has simply overstated his case about modern societies and the supposedly high incidence of cuckoldry. Another comment I received was that not all societies are concerned about paternity (e.g. societies in which the mother's brother acts as the father) but in Western societies like England and Switzerland concerns about paternity would be rational.



Monday, March 29, 2004

Planning for the Future of Disabled Children

Blogger on the Cast-Iron Balcony discusses how parents try to cope with disabled children once they start to grow up. She cites this case.

Facilities in Canberra, Australia, are relatively good for children and parents affected by conditions like autism. And yet my wife and I have had a long struggle to find help with our eldest daughter who is autistic. A question we face is how to plan for her future, because we, her parents, won't be around to look after her forever. Also, as the American case cited indicates, disabled children can be a danger to their small siblings, as in our case, sometimes without being aware of it or intending to be aggressive.

It is good to see that this issue is starting to be addressed, at least in Canberra, as we have been able to find a group home for our 14 year-old. It has been a terribly complex problem at times, though.

From personal experience, I predict that two of the hottest areas in social policy development in the coming years will be the handling by society of mentally disabled children as they grow into disabled adults, and the handling of people with mental conditions who pose a danger to themselves or others and who do not fit readily into the custodial system or the ordinary psychiatric outpatient system.


Oppenheimer was a traitor after all?

This book by the Schecters seems to contain compelling evidence that J Robert Oppenheimer was a traitor (in the strict, technical sense) during the Second World War. At the very least he advised the Soviets that the US was building an atomic bomb. He also seems to have facilitated the transfer of intelligence to the Soviets.

It is not hard to imagine what might have happened. Oppenheimer had leftist sympathies from pre-war times, he would have felt that the Soviets were nominally allies who should be kept informed, he would have been surrounded by idealistic young scholars who might also have had pro-Soviet sympathies. It would be the easiest thing in the world for him to channel information to the Soviets.

What trapped him was the sudden change in attitudes immediately post-war. Suddenly the Soviets were not even notionally allies and his clandestine support for them, at whatever level, would have been viewed very dimly in post-war America. He must have felt trapped. He told some stupid lies, and maybe betrayed some friends, including Haakon Chevalier, to play along with the new people in power. It doesn't look like Chevalier's book is in print any more, but it is an excellent read.

The Schecters basically accept that the Right was correct in their accusations about spies, including Oppenheimer, but blame them for stridency. The problem is that people would rather be wrong with the presentable people than right with the unattractive ones.

One thing - Oppenheimer was widely considered to have been a bitter man towards the end of his life. But, had he done something equivalent under the Soviet system, he would have been dunking hard bread in soup in a gulag, if he was lucky. In America he retained his directorship of the extremely prestigious Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.

Part of his problem was that he found his real vocation as an administrator and man of affairs during World War Two. He was generally regarded as not first rate as a physicist. So he would have been bitter at being kicked out of the wider world into the much narrower world of scholarship. Strangely, his reputation as a pure scientist may eventually stand higher than was hitherto expected, since he once wrote a paper on the properties of matter at very high densities, which prefigured recent work on "black holes".

He may have been a better scientist than he knew.



Saturday, March 27, 2004

I've beefed up my blog on biological ideas


There is something on IQ (the Lynn-Flynn effect), which always seems to interest people.



Friday, March 26, 2004


Now that even "Mysterious Ways" has gone, there is little on TV that I always watch. "Stateline" is good. It is nice to have a program that covers Canberra for its residents, not for its politics. It's a nice, parish pump program. And I have found "Strictly Dancing" very entertaining. And "Iron Chef" on SBS is a weekly delight. And - apart from nature documentaries - that's about it. But then there is "ER".

I was losing interest last night for the first half, and then came the helicopter crash, and I thought, how absurd. And yet, they did the aftermath well. There was a sense - if only a sense - of realism about the way in which the injuries were handled.

I suppose I like the program because it seems to be Americans at their best. The dedication, the "can do" attitude, the phrenetic pace. And there is the less attractive side, the increasing disposability of relationships, the brutal employment practices, the punishing hours.

Yes, I know its just a show, but I find it compelling.

It seems that Romano is dead. A pity. He fulfilled the important function, in tandem with one of the admin. guys, of puncturing the political correctness that otherwise pervades the series.


Crazy Di

An acquaintance says he is reading "Shadows of a Princess" by Cdr Patrick Jephson RN (Retd), the former Private Secretary to Diana, Princess of Wales. Apparently it is not a flattering account.

I have always been deeply suspicious of Diana. She is one of a trio of royal princesses who have failed in their most basic traditional duty, to be loyal wives. The media, who have always cheered folly on until it meets its inevitable doom, at which moment they start tut-tutting, were all too happy to tout the new princesses as feminist role models. Women who were not going to obey their husbands - oh, no - but would be "persons in their own right" with "their own careers". A better recipe for disaster it is hard to imagine.

Funnily enough, I think Fergie and Andrew had a chance. They seemed to be a real woman and a real man at least, but no luck.

A terrible example for all those who admired them.

I would like to think that the people who admired Diana - especially the young women - will draw the right conclusions from her pathetic end, but I suspect it will only add to her appeal as a role model because she "died pretty".



Thursday, March 25, 2004

More on Mel

Look, she's pretty and she may have a point but this is just dumb:

" ... the Second Vatican Council, when the church revolutionized itself to conform with modernity. "

No, the Church didn't. That is what Church liberals claim and the media have pushed this line, but it's not true. There is nothing explicit in the Vatican Council documents that indicates a "revolution". Vatican II has been used as an excuse for all sorts of weirdness, but if someone claims that something is in line with Vatican II, ask him to show you the quote. Chances are he won't even have a copy of the Vatican II documents. One thing Vatican II did was to restate the importance of tradition. Here is a quote from Vatican II (Dei Verbum) that you won't see very often:

"This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously, and explaining it faithfully by divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed."

This quote from the same blonde blogger also sounds a bit out of whack:

" As a fan of Latin, incense and a certain amount of pomp with my circumstance, I'm sympathetic to people who prefer traditional ritual to vernacular accommodation. I figure if you're going to church, by all means make it High Church. Otherwise, you may as well sit cross-legged in the back yard and ululate in concert with nature. "

This is not quite right. What does she mean "High Church"? - that's an Anglican/Episcopalian expression. Does she mean "High Mass"? And, of course, you can have Latin at a Low Mass too, with no incense and little "pomp". Frankly, she sounds ill-informed.


Limits to Paranoia

This guy is obviously smart, but he displays the limitations of punditry. His argument seems to be that feminists are the real engineers of the movement to normalise homosexual marriages. The idea is that by locking men up in gay ghettos, the pesky critters will be permanently got out of women's hair. But the gentleman-blogger forgets two things: men really don't choose homosexuality as a lifestyle (most men can't choose to be homosexual) and secondly most women still like men.

There are two grand theories on gender power: that men rule everything (count the CEOs) or that women really rule everything (by way of feminist plotting). Both are paranoid. Women will listen to feminists, when it suits them; and when it doesn't, they won't.


The Rum Rebellion

A new blog has appeared with the theme of Rum, Romanism, Rationality.

And he has cited me, so he must be a good bloke.



Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Race is Not Always to the Swift

The SBS screened a documentary last night on the wall being built in Palestine. At one stage, Thomas Friedman (who looked very like Stephen Jay Gould I thought) uncovered a local opinion that the wall was a sign of the failure of the "two-state solution" and that, effectively, this would mean that Palestine will be one state and one population. I am not sure that I understood the argument completely, but apparently the feeling is that Palestine/Israel is going the way of South Africa with Bantustans and Apartheid.

The next part of the argument was that the Israelis would be faced with an impossible choice: rule as a minority or share voting and power with an Arab majority. Effectively, the Israelis are demographic dodoes.

Part of the problem is the handsome young Israeli women soldiers who appeared in the documentary. If Israelis are to have a future, they should be holding babies not rifles. The Arabs, who seem to have no cards, actually hold the three most powerful - women who breed, people who will die for the community, and a religion to keep these two cards in play. That is, Islam supports women breeding and people being martyrs. Meanwhile the Israelis have a largely secular society, with pockets of religious orthodoxy. Some Orthodox Jewish women settlers have a lot of children, evidently "fighting with their wombs" on the frontline, but I suspect there is no real contest. Judaism can only keep women in the home via cultural pressures, whereas the Koran has enduring power in this respect.

Another point: Muslim women don't convert much to softer religions that permit them more "life choices" about things like when and how often to have children. And, if they do, in places like Palestine, they are likely to have all their relatives lose patience with them, in the worst way.



Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Claremont Lunacy

Apparently an American female academic (Prof. Kerri Dunn) has faked a "hate crime" directed at herself. This site discusses this and other cases, noting en passant the "Ern Malley" case, which was an Australian literary hoax. Here is the Ern Malley Official Website on "The world's greatest literary hoax".

This kind of bizarre accusation, based on faking of evidence, seems quintessentially American somehow. It is straight out of "The Crucible".

Steve Sailer is all over the Kerri Dunn case. (Sailer is a guilty intellectual pleasure, the cerebral equivalent of spooning down chocolate icecream.) I learn from Sailer's site that Kerri Dunn is a Catholic who was planning to convert to Judaism, and that she wrote various hate slogans all over her Honda Civic. I am surprised she could get so much hate onto such a small car.

A few years ago it was Satanic Ritual Abuse that America invented, now it is imaginary "hate crimes". What next?



Saturday, March 20, 2004

Academics and Politics

From this article comes this marvellous line about academics:

" He is convincing, too, on the jiggery-pokery in German academia once such characters as Heidegger gained power, but then most people know what academics are like. "

Michael Burleigh, who wrote this sentence, has written a fascinating study of German social scientists and physical anthropologists under the Third Reich entitled "Germany Turns Eastwards".



Friday, March 19, 2004

Maiden Over?

Virginia Postrel writes about women marrying and changing their surnames - or not.

Virginia, who is apparently Mrs Postrel - provides this quote from Katie Roiphe:

" Interestingly, over the past 10 years fewer and fewer women have kept their maiden names. According to a recent study by Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin, the number of college-educated women in their 30s keeping their name has dropped from 27 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2004. Goldin suggests that this may be because we are moving toward a more conservative view of marriage. Perhaps. But it may also be that the maiden name is no longer a fraught political issue. These days, no one is shocked when an independent-minded woman takes her husband's name, any more than one is shocked when she announces that she is staying at home with her kids ... The politics are almost incidental. Our fundamental independence is not so imperiled that we need to keep our names. The statement has, thanks to a more dogmatic generation, been made. Now we dabble in the traditional. We cobble together names. "

I am not surprised by this for the following reasons:

- As Mrs Postrel points out, a woman who "keeps her name" is really only keeping her father's name

- I suspect that there was a large element of feminine "point-scoring" in retaining maiden names

- It is simply easier to settle on one surname per couple, especially when children come

- Some degree of male dominance is still considered desirable

- Women seem to be the more "relational" sex.

As for Katie Roiphe, her airy speculations sound like attempts to deny reality to me, the reality being that marriage is probably slowly reverting to a more conservative model, and I suspect a more natural model. Maintaining a strictly egalitarian marriage would be hard work, whereas tradition provides ready-made answers.

Another point: it is quite remarkable that the last ten or so years has seen a marked decline in the number of college-educated American women in their 30s retaining their maiden surnames on marriage. If even this demographic has lost its interest in feminist gestures, that is really noteworthy.

A final point: as more women retained their surnames, two things would have happened sociologically. One is that a woman changing her name would have become a (conservative) political statement itself. The other is that as more women kept their names, the power of the (progressive) political statement would have declined.


Cop this!

From The Corner comes this remark:

" A man with a chin beard, purple sweater and an Australian or lower-class English accent ..."

Well, that puts us Australians in our place! "Australian or lower-class English accent".


Vultures and Crows

There are a lot of crows (or are they ravens?) around this part of Canberra at the moment. I saw some on my way back to my car after work yesterday, near the old "East Block" (now Australian Archives) here in Inner South Canberra. And now one of these birds has just stopped by my window.

I noticed the heavy feathering around their necks, which made me wonder why scavengers like crows would not have bare necks like vultures. The usual explanation for the vulture's naked neck is that feathers would get too messy when the bird was feeding deeply inside carcases. So why don't crows also have bare necks? Instead they actually have heavily feathered necks.

I suppose the vulture story is true. The only other possibility that occurs to me is that maybe having bare necks would mean that other vultures competing for the same carcase would not be able to peck at their feathers (in the way that caged hens do to each other) - but I don't know if vultures do, in fact, fight over carcases.



Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Papal teaching

Rerum Novarum discusses the Pope's statements on the death penalty some more with the usual reference to the requirement stated in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium for "religious submission of will and of mind" to the Pope's teaching "even when he is not speaking ex cathedra."

However in another "dogmatic constitution" of Vatican II, Dei Verbum, we read:

"This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously, and explaining it faithfully by divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed."

The difficulty many Catholics have with some of the Pope's statements is that they differ in some respects from the views expressed with equal or greater solemnity by previous popes. This presents a real problem, which too many writers like "Rerum Novarum" do not seem to see.

This is from Pastor Aeternus, from Vatican I:

"For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles."



Sunday, March 14, 2004

More people = more smart people = more economic growth?

La Griffe du Lion discusses the need for a "smart fraction" of people in a society to help it advance and grow. He discusses the case that has been put (by Lynn and Vanhanen) for a strong relationship between average IQ in a country and its economic performance.

A couple of points come to mind. They both relate to population size. The first is that there may be a connection between effective population size and economic growth. This would be because a larger pool of brains means a larger pool of potentially useful ideas. So, African nations with generally small, sparse populations might suffer from a lack of people to have ideas; whereas nations with large populations, with good communications, like Japan and the United States, will produce a lot of ideas that will diffuse easily. And they will benefit economically.

The second point that comes to mind relates to the argument put by Lynn and Vanhanen that Africans are simply less intelligent than, say, Asians, and that this explains the poor economic peformance of sub-Saharan Africa. Let us assume - for the sake of argument - that this is true. Could it then be that the best solution for such nations might be to encourage higher population growth so that the absolute number of people in the "smart fraction" discussed by La Griffe du Lion is maximised, even if the relative number cannot be increased. Even if average IQ is low in a country, if the total number of people is large enough there should be a good pool of bright people who can have the ideas and communicate them. I would predict that if Kenya continues to grow at a good rate in terms of population; and if Nigeria, a relatively populous country already, does the same; these nations should lead Africa in economic growth in the future.

If one looks at the great civilisations of the past - India, China, Europe - one observes that they were founded on large populations. Many heads, like many hands, make light work.


Is Mel a homosexual?

Many writers and intellectuals become a bit unhinged on the topic of the Catholic Church. Christopher Hitchens seems to become very unhinged.

I think - it is not altogether clear - that Hitchens is accusing Gibson of closet homosexuality, among other things.

I have three points I'd like to make:

The first is that the iconography of Mel Gibson's film of the Passion seems to be that of traditional, historical Catholicism. It may seem gory and over-the-top but that's the Catholic way. Cradle Catholics know this, or used to, but maybe Hitchens simply doesn't.

The second is that Hitchens is a victim of his own propaganda. John Paul II is a liberal pope by any historical standards. The fact that media people like Hitchens have always portrayed him as an arch-conservative and traditionalist does not make it true. John Paul II is a liberal. He has broken with tradition on ecumenism, the doctrine of Hell, the role of women in the family, the process of canonisation of saints, the role of "works" in salvation, the traditional rosary and the licitness of the death penalty. Many knowledgeable Catholics feel - in my view correctly - that he has "lost the plot" on these and other doctrinal issues.

The third is that I really doubt that Mel is a homosexual. He got famously drunk on one occasion and blathered on about how much he liked women, especially in high heels. That sounds like something a heterosexual - with a typical male heterosexual's mild kink about women in heels - would say. Finally, the man has had something like seven kids - if he got married to cover up his homosexuality, he must be as good an actor in the bedroom as he is on camera.

One thing about Hitchens: in the article cited, he writes - literally - like a man possessed.



Saturday, March 13, 2004

More on the Lynn-Flynn Effect

Steve Sailer has responded to my suggestion below to explain the Lynn-Flynn effect that there are, in his opinion, problems with the connection claimed by Levitt and Donohue between liberalised abortion laws and lower crime rates.

Here is the original paper by Levitt and Donohue that claimed that legalising abortion in America in the Seventies resulted in reduced crime rates in the Nineties.

Here is a debate between Steve Sailer and Steven Levitt. Sailer criticised the case that higher abortion rates eventually led to lower crime rates (because the potential criminals were not born).

While interesting, this debate does not necessarily invalidate my broader claims below that various developments in medical sociology will likely have reduced the number of low-IQ people being born and bred over time, and help to explain the Lynn-Flynn Effect (see my previous post).



Friday, March 12, 2004

The Lynn-Flynn Effect

Steve Sailer, prominent writer on race and ethnicity issues, has written about the Lynn-Flynn effect:

" Perhaps the most mysterious aspect of the study of IQ is the Lynn-Flynn Effect. It was noticed as far back as the 1940s that people tended to do better on IQ tests each decade. Thus, you have to get more questions right on, say, the Wechsler IQ test to score 100 than your grandfather did because the test publisher renorms the scoring chart every so often to reflect rising performance. It is widely hoped that the Effect will lead to convergence of different ethnic groups scores toward one global average, although the evidence for this actually happening is not strong.

... we really have no idea what causes the Lynn-Flynn Effect. Lynn thinks better nutrition helps. Flynn recently offered a gene-cultural interaction theory (smart people create personal environments that exercise their brains more) that seems to me to predict divergence rather than convergence. "

As I have blogged before, it seems to me that the answer to the question should be sought at the bottom end of the scale. People often say, "If average intelligence is getting higher, why aren't we obviously smarter than our grandparents?" Well, I don't think we are. But I think we are cleverer than our great-great-uncle, who had to spend his life in a special institution because he was brain-damaged by an infectious disease as a child. That is, I think we are ignoring the most likely reason for improved average IQ - very low intelligence people aren't being born and bred in the same numbers. There are two possible reasons:

The first reason is that increasing use of contraception and abortion is removing a lot of the potential children of the very unintelligent, who would have been unintelligent themselves. Marginal Revolution has discussed this recently:

" In a very controversial paper, Steve Levitt and John Donohue provided evidence that legalized abortion in the 1970s reduced crime some 18 years later. The theory is simple. Abortion rates are higher among the poor, the unmarried, teenagers, and African Americans than among other groups and children born to mothers with several of the preceeding characteristics are at increased risk for becoming involved in crime. Legalized abortion gave these mothers an option and thus reduced the number of at-risk children who might otherwise have grown up to become criminals (note that abortion doesn't mean fewer children per-se, it may simply delay childbearing to when the mother is not poor, a teenager or unmarried which works just as well.) "

Despite these caveats, it is likely that abortion will mean fewer children in total from such women, and it is also likely that they are relatively low-IQ women. It is worth pointing out that poverty and criminality are strongly related to low IQ. More abortions mean fewer low IQ mothers producing low IQ children - which means less crime and higher average societal IQ.

So, the availability of abortion may have raised the average IQ in western societies. [This is not intended to be a moral argument in favour of abortion.]

The second reason may apply particularly to earlier decades, before abortion became so widespread. This is that fewer very low IQ children may have been born and bred as the 20th century wore on because of simple medical advances. Not just better nutrition, but greater use of antibiotics and other drugs and better understanding of conditions that can cause brain damage and low IQ: for example, meningitis, cretinism and phenylketonuria.

It seems to me that the Lynn-Flynn effect is not much of a mystery if one thinks about it in terms of the various factors that could be increasingly removing the very low IQ tail of the IQ distribution in society.


"Mutual Submission" is a bogus idea

Even conservatives seem to give the idea that St Paul taught mutual submission in Ephesians credibility. John Paul II added to the confusion by promoting the notion in Mulieris Dignitatem. What's wrong with the idea? Nothing, apart from the fact that it offends against scripture, tradition and logic. Bob Sungenis knows his Greek and he demolishes the idea here. A quote:

" Let’s open up the investigation of this passage by asking an obvious question: If by a reading of Ephesians 5:21 it is concluded that spouses are required to submit to one another on an equal basis, then why did St. Paul include the sentence: “Let women be subject to their husbands” in Ephesians 5:22 if that truth was already covered in Eph 5:21's statement “Be subject to one another”? Would it not be superfluous and confusing to specify only one of the submitting parties (in the very next verse), while the other spouse receives no such direct command, here or any other place in Scripture?

Let’s look closer at Ephesians 5:22-33 for the answer. The underlined words show that the wife is told three times to be in subjection to her husband, while the italicized words show that the husband is never told to be in subjection to his wife; rather, he is told three times to love her. Moreover, not only is the wife told to be submissive, but verse 24 adds that it is to be “in all things.”(4) Could the teaching be any more emphatic? An unbiased reading of the text clearly shows that not only is the husband’s submission to the wife absent from the context, but the wife’s submission is accentuated in addition to what was originally stated in Ephesians 5:22! Moreover, St. Paul never confuses love with submission. The two are kept entirely separate. Hence, the weight of the context on this issue is absolutely overwhelming. "

Mutual Submission? - just say No.


Women in the Sanctuary

Rerum Novarum writes on women in the sanctuary and altar girls. For example this:

" Indeed lector by its very nature is properly seen today as a lay function that would of course admit of women serving as lector. "

Except that it is not consistent with women being "silent in the assembly", it tends to impinge on the teaching function of the priest, and I understand that women may not be formally installed as lectors.

Also, it tends to put women in the sanctuary. An argument against this is put by Fr Brian Harrison.

Many men won't come to church unless they get respect as men and masculine roles. Less sociologically, the male-only sanctuary goes back to the foundation of the Catholic faith and should not be lightly abandoned.


Will Mel Gibson's film "madden the novus ordo establishment"?

A guest columnist at The Remnant writes:

" It should also madden the novus ordo establishment. God in His infinite wisdom has allowed the greatest work of Catholic art, and thus the greatest work of art, of the age to be created by a Traditional Catholic. In a post-Vatican II Church that has turned its eyes away from the Passion of Our Lord, Mel Gibson has shoved this hard Truth before the eyes of the world. "

I haven't seen the film. I probably won't. Too violent. But I do think the film is a litmus test. Some of the reactions I have read from various pundits make me wonder if the negativity is related to a bad conscience on the part of the pundit - something in his own life that deep down he knows is disordered.


The Ethics of "ER"

Mommentary has qualms about being an organ donor. We had a sermon from a traditional priest recently that put a view that is hardly given even by the Church these days: that "brain death" is not enough for true death, which only begins perhaps when a body starts to cool and it starts to lose its integrity.

"ER", a favourite of mine on TV, had an episode last night that pushed organ doning pretty hard. "Abby" explained to a young grieving widow about all the potential uses for her husband's various organs. It was detailed - right down to the fact that the liver would be divided up and used for several patients (which reminds me of the American saying - "What am I? Chopped Liver?")

So, "ER" came out for organ donation. Oddly, though, the same episode had an African-American doctor saving a premature baby over the objections of his white mother and doctor. He put the point of view that I share - that the right to a life is axiomatic, and that medicine should support that life, which is how medicine advances in my view.


It's all in the Catechism of the Council of Trent

Catholic Analysis notes a trend towards educated women in America having more children and staying at home. I suspect that technology may be playing a role in freeing women to do some work from home. Also, the workplace was never that fulfilling for men in the old days: there is no reason why women would find it to be any different.

I remember my father's generation, sole earners mostly, being unhappy and stressed.

It is true that women sometimes have had to stay home when they would rather have been at work, but men have to go to work when they would sometimes rather have been at home.

The traditional Catholic position has always been that most women (not all) are made to be wives and mothers. I read an editorial in a recent copy of The Tablet (UK) that bemoaned the fact that most top jobs in England are still held by men and demanded that men share parenting (mothering - let's be honest) with women. I suppose The Tablet is a notoriously liberal Catholic journal, but it was not long ago that even the Catholic Weekly in Sydney was publishing front-page articles lauding affirmative action for women in the workplace.

The Catechism of the Council of Trent writes of marriage in a way that seems to be curiously apposite even today. Among other things, it says that women should "love being at home."


Change of blog name

I've decided to change the name of my blog from "Aranda Blog" to "The Julian Calendar".


The Pope and the death penalty

SecretAgentMan criticises Justice Scalia in America for resisting John Paul II's teaching on the unacceptability of the death penalty. He says that the Pope has taught this and that all Catholics are now obliged to accept this teaching, since it is part of the ordinary magisterium. I understand that previous popes have accepted that the state may use the death penalty in some circumstances but that John Paul II has said it is never admissable.

It seems to me that this is not a logical position. If John Paul II teaches something now that disagrees with previous papal teaching, it is reasonable for Catholics to question it closely. SecretAgentMan compares Justice Scalia to pro-abortion Catholics. But the difference is plain: pro-abortion Catholics differ from all traditional Catholic teaching. Justice Scalia does not.

The Pope wants to have his cake and eat it. He wants Catholics to (correctly) reject women priests because they are untraditional. But he also wants Catholics to accept other teachings (such as his teaching on the death penalty) that are equally untraditional.

At least, that's how it seems to me.

The "Neo-Conservative" opinion among Catholics, such as that evinced by SecretAgentMan, fails logically. When a pope teaches genuine novelties, as John Paul II has in several areas, faithful Catholics have a right to raise objections.

Here is Bob Sungenis on the issue.

Let's look at a quote that SecretAgentMan uses:

"Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who hears you, hears me"; [Luke 10:16] and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians. Humani Generis, ¶ 20 (1950)"

Note the following:

"generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine" [but John Paul II's claim that the death penalty is never admissable conflicts with earlier teaching]

"if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute" [but John Paul II is not passing judgement on a matter of dispute - he is stating a view that differs from the traditional view]

As for the quote from Vatican II, I would have thought that this requirement to submit to the ordinary magisterium implies that an exercise of the ordinary magisterium is in line with past pontifical statements on the same question. A pope should be "affirming the brethren", repeating ancient truths, not proposing new notions that conflict with what popes have said previously.

I think this is an argument that traditionalists will inevitably win, because the logic supports their position. I wonder what neo-conservatives will do when the next pope differs on some point from John Paul II, as he well may. The Cognitive Dissonance Train is coming down the tracks ...


A Meccano set for adults

I recently bought shares in Boom Logistics, which is a crane hire company. The site is nicely animated.

Owning shares in a crane company as an adult is as good as owning a Meccano set as a child.



Thursday, March 11, 2004

More on marriage annulments

Further to my previous post, it appears that the issue arose in the context of Democratic contender John Kerry's annulment of the marriage to his first wife, Julia Thorne. It appears that Kerry was married to his first wife for 18 years and they had children, and she fought the annulment hard.

This is the second case I have heard about of a prominent American Catholic man who took his wife through an annulment over her bitter opposition. The other case involved one of the Kennedy men (surprise!).

As usual, the American Catholic Church leads the way in bastardising the Faith.


Dangerous Waffle from a Catholic Priest

Andrew Sullivan quotes a priest thus:

"I think you've brought pre-Conciliar vestiges of the conception of annulment into your description here-- perhaps the sacramental theology that says some sort of "magic moment" either takes place, or doesn't, in the celebration of a sacrament. The Church (today) would never, never say, nor in its teaching imply, that the marriage never "took place." It says that the parties, however well-intentioned, had some defect in their commitment that did not come to light until after the sacrament was celebrated. In other words, the sacrament itself has gradual effects that take hold over time. In the case of an annulled marriage, the fullness of the sacrament's grace cannot be realized or (better) accepted because of some serious obstacle that, for whatever reason, the spouses did not discover in their sacramental preparation. Along these lines, it is interesting to note that the sacrament of marriage is conferred on the couple not by the presiding minister (though a priestly/diaconal witness is canonically mandated), but by the couple itself. Actually, I find the Church's teaching on annullments to be one of the more humane aspects of its canon law. Of course, it is subject to abuses, is easily misunderstood (because of the changes involved in Vatican II sacramental theology), and, sometimes, skewed by a stereotypical understanding of Church authority."

I would really like to know where in the Vatican II documents this line of argument is supported. The priest thinks it is "humane" to take this fuzzy view of sacramental marriage. I think it is in fact, like so many "liberal" approaches, fundamentally cruel and dangerous. I can so easily imagine a spouse deciding he or she wasn't really entirely happy with the decision to marry and saying: "somehow the grace never came - I'm leaving".

It's a recipe for misery for the abandoned spouse, and I don't believe the (usual) tripe about how it's all in line with Vatican II. How about a citation from one of the Council documents?



Bill Gates has a fly named after him.

This is from a comprehensive site on diptera, the flies.


The New Inventors

The ABC premiered their new version of the old The Inventors show last night. It was good viewing, and seemed to follow the old format of the earlier, very popular, program fairly closely.

There were three panellists, who were younger and trendier than the old panel were. The old panel comprised a mature female socialite - who gave a sort of housewife's view of the inventions - and a marketing man (Leo Port?) and a no-nonsense engineer. The new panel includes a female science writer, a very young and presentable engineer with a stud in one of his eyebrows and a male designer.

Three inventors presented their products. The first was a woman with a sort of roll-up stretcher designed to be dragged rather than lifted. One person would operate it and it would be used to move - for example - frail patients out of a burning building.

I thought she was onto something, although as became obvious in the discussion, the difficulty of negotiating steps might limit the invention's usefulness.

The second invention was a device to bolt shut a toilet, to prevent it being used, for example on a building site before it was properly installed or if it had become blocked and a plumber had to be called. It was a neat concept and well-presented, with an obvious market. I could see that it made sense to panellists, who clearly appreciated the problem it was meant to address. In the event, it won.

The third invention was a sort of skirting to go around the trunks of coconut trees, to catch falling coconuts. The idea was to prevent injury to those who are sitting or walking underneath the tree.

This idea made sense to me because I once knew a technician at the University of New England, Armidale, who used to make wheelchairs for people from Pacific islands who had been crippled by coconuts falling on their heads and necks. So I knew the problem is real and serious.

The panel seemed to have some notion of the problem being addressed, but there were complaints about the device's appearance and workability. I also felt that the inventor did not "click" with the panel; there was mutual incomprehension and a lack of "sympathy". He was not as slick as the younger men who had developed the steel toilet lid.

So, a good program, worth watching. I have no doubts about the quality of the inventions, but I wonder if the panel is as appropriate as it was for the old version of this show.



Monday, March 08, 2004

An Anglican Agony

Midwest Conservative Journal guy has been interesting to read in recent months as the poor chap, an Anglican, or - as they say in America - an Episcopalian, has tried to digest the decision by his communion to ordain a practising homosexual as a bishop. I do think that he is onto something, now that he writes this:

" Does that mean that Episcopal conservatives have no right to be angry over ECUSA's apostasy and to form new associations to fight it? Certainly not; better late than never. But it does mean that I should have been out a long time ago and that groups like the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes should have no illusions about the ECUSA. Putting off difficult jobs sometimes makes them a lot harder to do. "

It was inevitable that the Episcopalians would ordain a practising homosexual once they ordained women. Once one breaks with tradition on one point, further tears in the fabric are rendered more likely. In a communion with widely differing views of tradition and scripture, there is no authority that can stop the rot.


More on Trevor Hawkeswood's "Spiders of Australia"

What a wonderful country Australia is for the naturalist. Trevor's book illustrates a striking looking green huntsman spider that has yet to be formally described. In many other countries, such a magnificent spider would have its own monograph by now! Many other Australian species remain obscure and languish unstudied. By rights, this book should stimulate much-needed research on Australia's fascinating spider fauna.

What one wants from a book of this kind are 1) good illustrations and 2) intelligent text. Hawkeswood's book has both. And there is nothing second-hand or dusty about the book - much of the observation is personal.

I was astounded to read that those very common leaf-curling spiders that are such a feature of Australian gardens have been so little studied. Many children must have unwrapped those dry leaves to find the - quite pretty - spiders inside. But there is apparently very little known on their biology.

The book has a "bob each way" on the classic question of whether the red-back spider is endemic to Australia or a recent introduction. (Perhaps genetic studies may eventually answer this question.) One argument I have heard against its being a native is that there are no traditional Aboriginal names for this striking looking spider.

I had not realised until I read this book that the jumping spiders, Salticidae, are the most speciose of the spider families.



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?