facts are so 20th century

I’ve been kind of amused lately by the child-like faith of HBD-ers that they are about to be triumphantly vindicated. This seems to me to indicate a depth of delusionalism that I’d never previously suspected.

Now I don’t actually have any strong views on the subject of HBD. Perhaps at this point I should explain that HBD is human bio-diversity and is essentially the idea that human evolution has never stopped and that racial differences (particularly in respect of IQ) are real. I suspect that intelligence is much more complicated than IQ fetishists will allow and that trying to separate the effects of genetics, upbringing and culture on human behaviour will prove to be next door to impossible. So I’m sceptical of HBD, quite apart from the fact that it’s politically suicidal to entertain such a belief. I also don’t subscribe to the view that HBD is a necessary argument against immigration (in fact I think it’s the argument least likely to succeed).

That’s not my point however. My point is that a lot of HBD-ers at the moment are very excited because they think that within the next few years scientific evidence will come to light that will convince everyone that HBD is correct. Now it frankly amazes me that anyone in the year 2018 could seriously believe that scientific evidence matters. Scientific evidence used to matter, back in the bad old days. Thankfully in our current enlightened age we know that facts were often sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic. We’re much better off without them. We know that dogma always trumps facts. If the facts disagree with the dogma then the facts must be changed.

In other words, no amount of scientific evidence is going to make even the smallest difference. We’re dealing today with a world in which it is accepted that there are no biological differences between men and women. We’re dealing with a world in which it is accepted that there are fifty-seven different genders and a man can become a woman merely by wearing a frock. These are not fringe beliefs. They are official dogma.

If scientific evidence is found that supports HBD does anyone really think that the ideological thugs who enforce official dogma are going to suddenly abandon their politically correct beliefs and embrace blatant thoughtcrime? In fact their response will be to tighten the screws, to enforce official dogma more rigorously and to crack down on anyone who dares to dissent. These are people who read 1984 for fun and inspiration. These are people who enjoy being ideological bullies. They enjoy destroying the lives of those who disagree with them. They are not open to persuasion by mere facts.

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space exploration and the awesomeness of patriarchy

Just a couple of weeks after my post on the end of the Space Age comes this article by Marcie Bianco whining that space exploration is patriarchal.

Well of course it is Marcie. Space exploration is patriarchal, just as the whole of science and technology is patriarchal. It’s all part of the awesomeness of patriarchy.

These are essentially masculine pursuits. The urge to explore, to invent, to understand the physical world, to conquer new frontiers, these are masculine imperatives. That’s how civilisation has progressed from living in caves and chasing mammoths with pointy sticks to living in nice houses with lots of appliances (like the one Marcie lives in) and being able to drive to the supermarket to buy everything we need. That’s why Marcie doesn’t have to spend her day gathering nuts and berries and can sit in air-conditioned comfort reading up on the latest advances in Women’s Studies.

Had it not been for the patriarchy Marcie could never have had a career teaching social justice in American universities because there would not have been any American universities. America would never have been colonised. There’s a reason that it was Christopher Columbus who reached America in 1492, and not Christine Columbus. Exploring is what men do.

There’s also a reason why the first successful aircraft was built by the Wright Brothers, and not the Wright Sisters. And why the first successful locomotive was built by Robert Stephenson, not Roberta Stephenson. There’s a reason why electric lighting, cars, aircraft, radio, photography, motion pictures, television, refrigerators, steamships, railways and computers were invented by men. Even the inventions that have done so much to make life easier for women like Marcie, like the vacuum cleaner, microwave ovens and automatic washing machines, were invented by men.

The scientific discoveries that made such inventions possible were made overwhelmingly by men.

This is how the male brain works. Men like to figure out how stuff works, how things that are impossible today can be made possible tomorrow, they like to discover things and to explore, they like to find new frontiers. Women’s brains don’t work that way. Which is OK, women’s brains are not supposed to work that way because women are supposed to be at home looking after the kids and getting dinner ready while their husbands confront the world.

Of course it’s possible that women like Marcie do understand all this at some level. They do understand that the contribution of women to science and technology has been minuscule. That’s why they’re angry. Men are so much better at this stuff and it’s not fair. Men get real degrees in real subjects, not degrees in Women’s Studies.

If Marcie had been around in 1492 I’m sure she would have been lobbying Ferdinand and Isabella to cut off funding to Columbus for his silly patriarchal plan to reach the Indies and instead use the money to fund Women’s Studies workshops.

We should go to Mars because if we don’t it’s another sign that we’ve given up, that we’ve surrendered to women like Marcie.

the end of the Space Age

I’m not old enough to remember the beginning of the space race but I do have vivid memories of its later stages. It was, undeniably, exciting.

Of course looking back now I can see that the motivations of the space race were a bit questionable. It was very much a Cold War propaganda thing. But it was still kind of inspiring. It was perhaps the last pure expression of western cultural confidence. The confidence was at almost 19th century levels – the idea that science and technology were unstoppable and that there was nothing our civilisation couldn’t do.

Even at the time it was difficult to see any practical value in it. That was what made it rather magnificent. Perhaps that’s what cultural confidence is all about – doing things just to prove you can do them.

Maybe the money could have been better spent on other things, but then when you look at the way governments happily pour billions of dollars down the toilet on equally futile things it’s probable that the money never was going to be better spent anyway.

And I do feel considerable regret that it all came to such an ignominious end. I can’t honestly think of any practical reason why anyone would want to send a manned mission to Mars but I’m rather sad that we haven’t done it and possibly never will.

The end of the Space Age also appeared to coincide with the end of the great age of science and technology. There was a period in history when major scientific advances just seemed to come one after another. That era seemed to come to an end in the mid-20th century. Have there been any truly breathtaking scientific advances since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA in 1953?

The age of stunning technological progress arguably ended about the same time. The first aircraft flew in 1903. In 1969 men walked on the Moon and Concorde made its first test flight. What have we done since them? Computers? They’re basically a 1940s concept. OK, we have the internet. And what do we use it for? Downloading porn, uploading cute kitten photos, checking up on the latest celebrity gossip.

I’m inclined to think that it’s a worrying symptom of our cultural malaise that we don’t want to do things like go to Mars any more. And we don’t want heroes like Neil Armstrong any more (just as it was probably a bad symptom for the Soviet Union when they didn’t want heroes like Yuri Gagarin any more). Our heroes today are airhead celebrities.

Civilisations need heroes and they need confidence. The Space Age was an expression of boundless confidence in the future. I miss that confidence.

Foundational Myths and the Cult of Science

Every society has its Foundational Myths. I’m not talking about myths in the sense of mythology – gods and monsters and superhuman heroes and such things. I’m talking about the quasi-historical myths that define a society’s sense of itself.
For the Greeks it was the Trojan War. For the Romans it was Romulus and Remus and the founding of the city but the Romans elaborated their Foundational Myth by extending Roman history back to the exploits of the Trojan prince Aeneas after the fall of Troy. For French republicans it’s the Revolution. For Americans it’s the Founding Fathers and the Revolutionary War.
For modern secularists the Foundational Myth is the Rise of Science. Until around the 17th century there was an age of ignorance and superstition then along came Science! and everything was light. Science! ushered in a blessed age of reason and enlightenment.
Foundational Myths can be entirely mythical, or they can be semi-mythical or even mostly historical. The Trojan War might well have happened although the actual events were probably much more small-scale and much more tawdry than the version promoted by the Greek poets.
The Rise of Science is at least partly historical. There has been a great deal of scientific progress in the past 500 years. The benefits are more questionable.
A Foundational Myth should be inspiring. It should give people a sense of cultural identity but more than that it should give a society some sense of purpose or destiny.
Has the Rise of Science done that? In some ways, perhaps. Although it’s worth pointing out that a great deal of human progress in modern times has owed more to practical engineers than to scientists. The engineers who were responsible for providing Europeans cities with sewerage and clean water contributed more to human happiness and prosperity than any scientists.
The problem with Science! is that it has given us a worldview that is bleak and nihilistic. The followers of the Cult of Science! have rarely taken this into account. Did the acceptance of the heliocentric view of the solar system actually make the world a better place? Did the acceptance of the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution by natural selection make us happier? Was there great popular rejoicing when the Big Bang Theory displaced the Steady State Theory of the universe? These things made liberal secularists happier because they provided them with ammunition with which to pursue their war on Christianity. Did it make society as a whole better? Are we better off now that we generally believe that the universe is entirely without purpose and meaning and that our ancestors were ape-like creatures?
Of course Science! may well be right much of the time. Nobody today disputes the heliocentric view of the solar system. The question is not whether the scientific view is often correct, it is whether that view of the world has actually represented genuine progress. Progress is after all always a good thing, or so we’re told. But what if the scientific worldview has actually left us without any purpose or meaning in our own lives?
There’s also another very great danger to the cult of Science! Even the craziest ideas can gain credence if they can be labeled as scientific. Marx claimed that his wacky and misguided theories had to be correct because they were scientific. Freud’s even nuttier ideas were sold as science. In the 20th century we were even told there was such a thing as social science, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Straight-out political propaganda can be promoted as science – the global warming hysteria being a fine example.
Rather than eliminating superstition the Cult of Science! has provided us with a whole grab-bag of new superstitions. Rather than ushering in an age of reason what we actually ended up with was a mixture of emptiness, despair and superstition. Some Foundational Myths seem to work better than others.

War Before Civilisation

Lawrence  H. Keeley’s War Before Civilisation comprehensively demolishes the myth that warfare is a relatively recent phenomenon and that early human societies were peaceful.
Keeley was inspired to write the book after being twice refused funding to investigate fortifications around a number of early Neolithic villages. His third attempt to receive funding was successful when he removed the word fortification from his research proposal and replaced it with the neutral word enclosure. When he and his colleagues thereupon excavated the sites they discovered irrefutable evidence that the fortifications were indeed fortifications. Life in Belgium in 5000 BC was apparently anything but peaceful.
Keeley realised that the prevailing view in archaeological circles that prehistoric humans were peaceful and knew nothing of the horrors of war might be entirely wrong. His subsequent researches, documented in this book, showed conclusively that war was not only ubiquitous in prehistoric societies – it was far more destructive than any modern wars.
Keeley bases his arguments not just on archaeology but also on studies of those primitive societies that have survived into modern times.
The evidence is overwhelming. Your chances of becoming a casualty of war in modern civilised societies are much much less than your chances would have been of being killed in war in prehistoric times, or as a member of surviving primitive cultures.
Pre-modern cultures did not fight large-scale pitched battles but war was more or less continuous, taking the form of ambushes, raids and small-scale skirmishes. The overall death rates in this kind of small-scale war are staggering and horrifying.
One of the really interesting points he makes is that in pre-modern societies intermarriage and trade actually increase the risk of wars between neighbouring tribes.
Keeley argues persuasively that since the Second World War archaeologists and anthropologists have deliberately shut their eyes to the evidence of war in pre-modern societies. This deliberate and willful blindness is of course politically motivated. Scholars in these fields do not want to accept the unpalatable truth that civilised societies might be in general far more peaceful than primitive cultures. That might force them to face the even more unpleasant truth that civilisation really is a good thing.
What makes Keeley’s arguments more compelling is that he had no political axe to grind. He admits that he himself had swallowed the myth of peaceful pre-modern cultures until he found that the evidence simply could not be ignored.
A fascinating book that demonstrates the stranglehold that political correctness exerts on just about every area of science. Highly recommended.

the future of marriage equality

Roxxxy demands marriage equality now!
There’s an interesting minor kerfuffle happening in the UK on the subject of sex robots. Interesting, because it says a very great deal about the society we have become. It also says quite a bit about the liberal mindset.
A company has recently announced a new and highly advanced sex robot, Roxxxy. And a feminist academic, Dr Kathleen Richardson, wants the government to ban the robot. Now whether or not you find the whole idea of sex robots to be disturbing or even disgusting isn’t really the point. I’m not saying there might not be an argument that such robots are a bad idea, but that’s a separate issue. The issue I’m addressing is this – on what basis can liberals argue for banning them?
They can’t argue for banning them on the grounds that they’re physically dangerous. They’re not dangerous at all. They can’t argue they should be banned on the grounds that sex with robots is unnatural. Homosexuality is unnatural but liberals think we should celebrate homosexuality. They can’t argue that the robots are being exploited – you can’t exploit a machine. They could argue that such robots encourage the “objectification” of women but in that case they’d have to argue for banning pornography and prostitution, subjects on which liberals and feminists tend to hold contradictory views. They’d also have to argue for banning sex toys for women, which surely objectify men to an even more serious degree – reducing men to nothing more than a sex organ. I don’t see much likelihood of any liberal or feminist doing that.
The feminist academic has chosen to oppose the sexbots because they “reinforce traditional and damaging stereotypes of women.” But do they? And what does that even mean? She is also concerned that the sex robot “perpetuates the view that a relationship does not need to be more than simply physical.” On that basis I assume that Dr Richardson also believes the government should outlaw vibrators and casual sex?

The really big problem here is that liberals always tell us they believe in choice and autonomy. Apparently they only believe in choice and autonomy when it suits them. What could possibly be more autonomous than choosing to buy a sex robot? It’s the absolute ultimate in autonomy. 

There are other issues to consider. This sex robot is not in fact intended to be merely a sex toy. The company hopes that she “will eventually be able to learn on her own, and begin to pick-up on her owner’s likes and dislikes.” In other words she’s intended to be a companion. A combination of pet and sex toy. The ultimate aim (as outlined in David Levy’s intriguing book Love and Sex with Robots) is to create a robot with whom one can have an emotional relationship. Which of course raises the issue – will we see a campaign to legalise marriage with robots? I mean, do we believe in marriage equality or don’t we? It will be fascinating to see how liberals react to that idea. Surely only a bigot could oppose the right to marry robots. We should be free to love whomever we choose!
Please understand that I am not suggesting that any of these things are good ideas. They will however provide us with an amusing opportunity to see liberal hypocrisy in action as liberals confront the logical end point of their ideology.

God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science

James Hannam’s 2009 book God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science effectively explodes most of the irritating and wrong-headed prejudices that unfortunately still survive in relation to the Middle Ages.
The view that is still widely accepted is that intellectual progress, which had flourished in the ancient world, came to a grinding halt when the Roman Empire in the West collapsed and did not restart until the wise enlightened humanists of the Renaissance rediscovered the glories of ancient knowledge and swept away centuries of ignorance and superstition. The ignorance and superstition are almost always blamed on the Catholic Church which supposedly rabidly hostile to scientific enquiry.
Hannam demonstrates that this is all nonsense. Firstly, while the intellectual achievement of the Greeks and Romans was certainly impressive it is surprising just how often and how spectacularly the ancients were wrong. When it came to explaining how the world works they were wrong on just about every count. It is also remarkable just how technologically backward the ancient world was. The Greeks were fascinated by the process of constructing elaborate theories but they were extraordinarily uninterested in checking to see if their theories corresponded with reality. They were also surprisingly uninterested in finding practical applications for knowledge.
The Middle Ages, by contrast, were characterised by steady progress in technology. Medieval agriculture was infinitely more sophisticated than anything the ancients came up with. Part of the problem is that the ancients were unable to use the power of animals effectively. It was not until the so-called Dark Ages that proper harnesses were developed to allow oxen and horses to pull significant loads. The ancients had no stirrups, making horses of little use even for riding. Watermills and windmills, unknown in the ancient world, increased medieval agricultural productivity. The medievals also invented the mechanical clock, and the magnetic compass. They learnt how to make paper. They invented eye-glasses.
Medieval natural philosophers like Albertus Magnus, Duns Scotus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, the famous Merton Calculators of Oxford University (Thomas Bradwardine, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead), Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa laid the foundations on which sixteenth century scientists like Kepler and Galileo built.
Hannam also debunks the myth of the Renaissance. The rediscovery of the intellectual legacy of the ancient world occurred in the twelfth century, right slap bang in the middle of the medieval period. The twelfth century also brought the work of the great Islamic scientific pioneers to the attention of western Europe. Most importantly, the European natural philosophers of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries took the achievements of the ancient and Islamic thinkers and developed them much further. There was no Scientific Revolution as such – scientific progress was steady but sure throughout the later medieval period.
The hostility of the Catholic Church to science is also mostly myth. The Church did not burn people for doing science. More often than not it encouraged them. Scientists in fact ran into much bigger problems after the end of the medieval period. Galileo was not persecuted by the medieval Church. Insofar as he was persecuted at all he was persecuted during the supposedly more enlightened seventeenth century (which really was an age of superstition and magic). And despite having ignored repeated warnings Galileo’s fate was not especially severe – he was not even imprisoned, merely sentenced to house arrest.
Critics of the Church and the Middle Ages like to bring up the burning of Giordano Bruno, but Bruno’s execution took place in 1600 long after the end of the medieval period, and he was no scientist – his doctrines were bizarre amalgams of mysticism and the occult.
Hannam’s book is both stimulating and vastly entertaining. He gives us enough biographical details to bring the great medieval natural philosophers to life while providing enough scholarly detail to make his case convincingly. This book is a model of what history should be. Very highly recommended.