Sunday, December 09, 2012

Rom 1 reply, 26: Why is there such an aggressive "push" of dechristianising rhetoric and issues today? (AKA, exposing and correcting the paradigms-plausibility manipulation game that lies behind Alinsky-type Rules for Radicals tactics)

Let me first put it in short, direct terms: 
1: in our day, evolutionary materialism has become more and more influential as an allegedly scientifically grounded worldview, often presented as unquestionable fact.  (Cf. alternatives here and here on.)

2: This worldview (as has been pointed out since Plato) leads to the conclusion that knowledge is culturally relative, and that OUGHT-ness has no objective basis.

3: Consequently,  notions such as the duty of care to truth, or to fairness and justice, or rights, boil down to the spoils of power. That is why many will find it not only unsatisfactory but utterly dangerous, as Attorney Shirley Richards of Jamaica notes on the occasion of Human Rights Day today, by citing Martin Luther King in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail (HT: Reader X):
 "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. . . . An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust . . . . An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself . . . . A just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself." ["Wrestling with the issue of rights," Sunday Gleaner, Jamaica, Dec 9th 2012.]

4: Hence, we increasingly see those who take up the nihilistic view that might and manipulation make 'right,' and who then vie for what they perceive as the real issue: to win the power game so they can seize the spoils, which can be labelled 'truth,' 'justice,' 'rights,' etc. as they please.

5: With so much at stake,  and with such a cynical view of the right, the fair, the just and the true being spread far and wide, it is therefore no wonder we see more and more of a ruthless, anti-Christian, de-Christianising radicalism.
 So, the pivotal issue is the grounding of morality, and of the credibility of the knowing (though of course error-prone), reasoning mind, in the context of worldviews.

If you have been following this blog in recent days, you will therefore notice how many times the worldview-grounding challenge has come up. 

For instance, you will have seen that the Hume IS-OUGHT gap challenge boils down to that we need to have a foundational IS in our worldview able to bear the weight of OUGHT. (Where, patently -- and by admission of leading scientific atheists, matter and energy interacting by blind chance and necessity does not provide such a ground. As in, in the end, on evolutionary materialism there is no OUGHT, so there is no "fairness," there is no Justice and there are no RIGHTS -- beyond, the spoils belong to whomever has won the power and manipulation game.)

Similarly, we saw how -- despite the proud declarations that such evolutionary materialism is the intelligent person's reasonable "scientific" view -- unless your worldview foundation has in it something that grounds the credibility of the perceiving, reasoning, knowing mind, we are left with mind being inevitably shaped and controlled by unconscious forces utterly irrelevant to truth, reason and genuinely reliable knowing. Thus, undermining the very rationality such may boast of.

In Patricia Churchland's words:
The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [[Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is [[ --> let's try, from Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b: "that which says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not" . . . ], definitely takes the hindmost. [HT: Plantinga]
In short, evolutionary materialism and allied views are intellectual and moral dead ends.
F/N: Of course, at such a point, many evolutionary materialism advocates cannot resist making a distractive turnabout accusation. Typical objections pivot on the objection that God cannot ground morality, that Christians are a danger to liberty, and that Christianised cultures have been uniquely racist and evil, with slavery as utterly decisive exhibit no. 1.  However, first, rage addiction cannot safely substitute for reasonableness and is not a safe guide to the facts and sound conclusions, cf here on, with a particular attention to here on on slavery, requiring us to attend carefully to Bernard Lewis' balancing words on the sins of the West. If they think the Crusades were "obviously" simply unprovoked, religiously backed colonial aggression by the western powers of 1,000 years ago, they may find the links here helpful. If such think the so-called Euthyphro dilemma is a serious counter-argument to ethical theism, they should look here on. Should they still think -- forty years after Plantinga raised the Free Will Defense -- that the problem of evil implies that there can be no all good, all knowing, all powerful God, they should take time to read here on. If they wish to suggest that the Christian faith is a menace to liberty and democracy they need to examine some balancing remarks on the roots of modern liberty and democracy here on. And if they wish to trot out a list of the real and imagined sins of Christianised peoples across the past 2,000 years to put any Christian voice to shamed silence, they may find here on a needed balance, though first they would be wise to consider that on the evidence we are all finite, fallible, morally struggling/fallen, and too often ill willed, which makes Christian historian Lord Acton's words all too apt: power -- not just power in the hands of Western white men, but power itself -- tends to corrupt, absolute (un-accountable) power corrupts absolutely, great (powerful) men -- by and large -- are bad men. Finally, they would also be wise to take note that the concerns being raised in this blog post are essentially those raised by that notorious red-neck Bible-thumping ignoramus -- NOT -- Plato, in The Laws, Bk X in 360 BC. That is, they are worldview issues rooted, and are driven by concerns to move us to sounder governance in light of understanding clearly dangerous trends of thought and ideology, they are not an expression of hostility or race treason etc.

Then, of course, we were in a position to see that instead, worldviews require grounding on a factually adequate, coherent, simple but not simplistic cluster of first plausibles, as "turtles all the way down" and "turtles in a circle" are patently absurd. For, we are finite and fallible so we cannot get started with reasoning if we must first traverse an infinite regress of warrant to get started, and going in circles means that we are begging big questions indeed:

But, I am prepared to bet that most of us have never learned about the fatal defects of such views, never mind how they like to dress up in the holy lab coat and declare that those who disagree are anti-science bigots and bullies. For, it is not for nothing, that rhetoric has been described (by Jefferson and others back to at least Socrates) as that wicked art that can easily make the worse appear the better case, and the better seem the worse. And indeed, Aristotle long ago -- warning of the dangers of polarisation -- wrote in his The Rhetoric, that our judgements when we are pained and hostile are very different from those we make when we are in a calmer, friendlier, more sober frame of mind.

So, we should not be amazed that, if you simply run around the Web a bit you will see a great many aggressive atheists and fellow travellers who are busily attacking and cruelly mocking or even outright verbally bullying Christians especially, as irrational, anti-science, ignorant, stupid or evil. For, by stirring up a hostile, party-spirited suspicious and dismissively resentful or angry frame of mind, many can be led to simply dismiss those being targetted by such rage driven rhetoric.

(YouTube's comment threads are particularly notorious.)
Q: What is going on here?

A: A toxic blend of aggressive de-Christianisation, multiplied by an injection of Saul Alinsky's Rules For Radicals mockery, personal attack and polarisation tactics [in some case, paid], and the sociology and psychology of how paradigms become or remain plausible, driving the agenda of a community or culture.
(Let us never forget, for decades the ad men were able to sell as a glamourous habit, the smoking of dried up leaves rolled up in paper tubes that give off foul-smelling fumes, that first make you sick until you have become accustomed to the poisons in the smoke, and then onward contribute to any number of dangerous, debilitating or fatal diseases. If they can do that, they can basically sell anything -- including any perversion or addictive bondage -- to us if we do not put on our straight thinking and media etc spin-correcting caps and demand that claims make real good sense from ground up before we accept them. [And yes, this includes the Christian gospel, cf here and onward; as 1 Peter 3:15 - 16 tells us we are supposed to know and be able to at least at basic levels explain clearly and civilly the reason for our eternal hope in Christ. We can see that this is actually a pretty good summary of our duties in bearing witness to the gospel. As in, historic Christian faith rooted in the faith once for all delivered to the Saints is not blind or irrational and apologetics, evangelism and discipleship -- properly understood -- are not at all opposed to one another.])

Now, also, twenty or twenty-five years ago, the idea of Paradigms was big. 

The idea being, that there is a way of seeing things and seeking to solve problems that through the work of idea champions and the success in "solving" key problems, can dominate a community, institution or discipline; especially in science, as Thomas Kuhn first proposed in the 1960's. 

Never mind, that there usually are areas where there are challenges and serious unsolved problems. 

HMS Invincible, with Adm. Hood aboard, hit in Q turret
and involving her midhip magazine by plunging 12"shellfire
from SMS Lutzow and SMS Derfflinger, explodes and
breaks in half at Jutland, at about 6:30 pm May 31, 1916.
(Cf. historical correspondence here among RN officers.)
What happens is that -- as Imre Lakatos saw -- there is a central core of ideas protected by an armoured belt of auxiliary hypotheses, techniques, models and theories that are in the end deflective and sacrificial. Only when there is a breakthrough challenge that hits the magazine that holds the core will the paradigm blow up into a crisis, which can then trigger a scientific or disciplinary or institutional revolution, if the new challenger is successful. 

(And BTW, that is where Karl Popper has a severe limitation [cf. here, also here], as the hard core of a system or school of thought is often stoutly defended indeed long past the time when it should be surrendered. That is, falsifiability and falsification are easier to speak of in principle than to carry through on the ground. Indeed, Lakatos thus speaks of how theories are born refuted, live refuted and die refuted. For, with rare exceptions, when a paradigm with core + auxiliaries has faced an empirical challenge, clever committed defenders can often easily provide workarounds to protect the core, until a total, uncontrollable crisis hits. For instance, in the face of serious challenges from the 1920's on,  it was only at the turn of the 1990's that Marxism for the moment lost credibility with most adherents, and this then led to the collapse of communism. But, lo and behold twenty years later we are seeing the rise again and "mainstreaming" of neo-marxisms that pivot on the plight of cultural victim groups that are presented as needing to be liberated from their oppressors who are inevitably constructed to be driven by greed, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-science fundamentalism, etc etc. Where of course, there usually are duly anointed political messiahs waiting in the wings promising to bring us to some wonderful, shiny new utopia.)

What this pattern of paradigms easily deteriorates into is closed minded and ruthless defense of the core, at any cost. 

And, if you have people who are utterly ruthless around, or whose consciences and perceptions are warped, then some pretty ugly tactics will come into play. Hence, the problem of the Alinskyite Rules for Radicals we have been highlighting:

[The Key Alinsky Rules for Radicals:]
 3. "Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy. Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)
4. "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."
5. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage." . . . .
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.  [NB: Notice the evil counsel to find a way to attack the man, not the issue. The easiest way to do that, is to use the trifecta stratagem: distract, distort, demonise.] In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'...
     "...any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When your 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments.... Then, as you zero in and freeze your target and carry out your attack, all the 'others' come out of the woodwork very soon. They become visible by their support of the target...'
 "One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other."
Unfortunately, as was warned of long ago by Plato, that is exactly what the sort of nihilistic radicals let loose by evolutionary materialism becoming dominant in a community, is just what we now see at work:

Let us listen again:
Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that . . . [t]he elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them . . . the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only.

[[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.
These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factionsthese philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them.
You may ask, why are you repeating these key clips so many times?

The answer (as I learned long ago from my Mom, a trained public educator) is, it takes roughly a dozen times for something like this that cuts across our normal way of thinking to soak in and hit home.

Are you beginning to see the point?

Maybe, the case from Mr Tozzi can help us again, where these tactics are being used as we speak to rewrite laws and court decisions:
Jakob Cornides, has succinctly phrased it: “What was once considered a crime is to be transformed into a right, and what was once considered justice into a human rights violation.”

The stage is set for a clash of competing rights, as rights based on novel concepts insinuate themselves into human rights discourse and the State is called upon to enforce such newly-fabricated rights . . . . Here is the danger: it is the nature of government to seek to “fill in the spaces,” to grow and to crowd out mediating institutions such as the Church and the family. One side of the rights battle has discovered a way to enlist the State on their side, hence the unrelenting pressure that we find ourselves in . . . .

[S]ometimes people deride what they consider “Anglo-Saxon” notions of rights – in essence, the classic [natural] rights that we have spoken about, or liberty. There is greater comfort with the role of the State in providing positive [= entitlement] rights, such as a “right to education,” or a “right to health care.”

But the reality we face is that by and large those who will be providing the substantive content of such positive rights in the future, will be those seeking to impose the anti-Culture of Death in its various manifestations, be it abortion under health care or “sexual orientation” rights in education policy.

Thus those of us who care about the family, and the Church, and the other mediating institutions that the great political philosopher Edmund Burke referred to as the “little platoons” which sustain a culture not only horizontally but also vertically, in communion with past generations and those generations to come, I would urge you to think in a more “Anglo-Saxon” manner when it comes to human rights discourse . . . . 
[W]here I think we can win, should be by reclaiming a notion of rights as grounded in nature, against the State: the State which cannot create rights, but only recognize them. If we can do that, to reframe the rights conflict as one where [natural] rights should prevail against the power of the State, then I think that the outcome would be very positive indeed. ["The threat from transnationalist progressivism: sexual orientation and international law," World Congress of Families, Madrid, May 26, 2011.]
What is driving this?  Precisely the undermining of morality that was discussed earlier, through eating out what the right is understood to be, thus leading to rights deteriorating into little more than the spoils of having won the political power contest: might and manipulation make 'right.'

We must begin to recognise it, understand it, and learn how to expose and correct it.

And, we must have the courage to be willing to face the cruel mockery, threats, intimidation, turnabout ("he hit back first") false accusations and worse that may come our way in so doing.

For, if we surrender to ruthless nihilists, they have no stop button, short of whatever they think they cannot get away with.

We are facing a grim challenge: If not now, then when? If not here, then where? if not us, then who? END