Friday, May 10, 2013

Ac 27 test, 5: "Marriage," "Tolerance," "Truth," "Science," "Freedom," "Rights," "Faith," etc. -- the impact of Orwellian, 1984 style cynical manipulation of language and perceptions on our minds, hearts, souls and civilisation . . .

In 1948, George Orwell published a famous book, 1984, on how the cynical manipulation of language and understanding of history play a major role in captivating our minds, hearts and souls to mental slavery imagined to be freedom. As I recall, in the end, after the recalcitrant protagonist (Winston Smith) had been sufficiently manipulated and in the end tortured, he was willing to go along with whatever the Party wanted 2 + 2 to equal, as his "truth" for survival for the day.

Movie version:

Wiki's summary:
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian[1] novel by George Orwell published in 1949. The Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (Ingsoc) under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes.[2] Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good.[1] The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth (Minitrue), which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line.[3] Smith is a diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

As literary political fiction and as dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication in 1949. Moreover, Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past by a totalitarian or authoritarian state.
And BTW, Aristotle, in Metaphysics 1011b, nailed truth down very well: truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.

Why do I want to speak to this, today, the 73rd anniversary to day and date of the German attack in the West in May 1940 that snapped a European war up into the totalitarian worldwide war that we know now as World War II? 

And why, in this series on what can go wrong with democracy in light of Ac 27?

Because, it is apparent that cynical Orwellian manipulation of language, emotions, minds, policies and souls of men, has now become increasingly pervasive in our nominally democratic polities and is eating the heart and foundations out of our civilisation, portending collapse. And, BTW, not just by state actors, powerful, ruthlessly nihilistic factions with media influence are playing the same dirty game too. (BTW, cf. here on spin tactics.)

Let me pause and clip from the just linked, by way of immediate antidote:


>> Over the past several years, it has become ever more evident in the Caribbean that -- especially on some "hot" news/media topics, such as: the Middle East situation, sustainability of development, politics, morality in the community, the role of the church in community transformation, the "fundamentalist" [NB: offensive term!]/modernist clash, the credibility of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, or the science of origins, the HIV/AIDS crisis, etc. -- the public is often (or even routinely) being manipulated through distorted news coverage and analysis,and also agenda-driven arts and entertainment and even education curricula. Usually, this deceptive manipulation is based on political power schemes, or anti-Christ ideologies and/or world-view agendas
Many of these distortions and deceptions (i.e. so-called "spin") therefore fall under Paul's teaching on the need to overthrow demonic strongholds of deception:
The weapons we fight with are not the world's weapons but God's powerful weapons which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey Christ [who is the Truth Himself, cf. Jn 14:6 ff., in whom are hidden all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom, Col. 2:3]. [2 Cor 10:4 - 5, GNB]
Consequently, we need to become critical consumers of news, commentary, so-called educational TV or Radio programmes, and even academic courses, presentations, sermons and books or academic or professional papers or proposals. In particular, from 2 Cor 4:2 - 7 and Eph. 4:10 - 16, pastors and other church leaders need to equip the people of God in the Caribbean with the capacity to do so, as an integral part of their leadership ministry. We need effective, structured common-sense tools to do that, thus the below.

(I) The "Straight or Spin?" News, Education & Views Evaluation Grid:
I believe the following analytical "straight or spin" grid will be helpful in assessing the quality of news, commentary and education we are exposed to in our region:

(a) Headline & Lead
(b) Story &/or Views presented
(c) Characterisation of People &/or Institutions
(d) Context: underlying Issues, Alternatives and Historical Setting
(1) Factually Accurate?
(2) Fair, or Just?
(3) Kind or Gracious?
(4) Balanced, or provides a Counter - balance?

Fig. 1: News, Education and Views: "Straight or Spin?" [Key: Y, "yes" = 1; N, "no" = 0]

(II) Using the "Straight or Spin?" Grid:
As can be seen, the straight or spin grid gives four main facets of a typical item of news or commentary, or a lesson/lecture (or even a textbook chapter): (a) the head and lead, (b) the story proper, (c) characterisation, and (d) context. It then asks a basic question:
Is the presented information: (1) accurate, (2) fair, (3) kind and (4) balanced?
It is a reasonable expectation that, consistently, the answer should be YES, for all components of a news, educational or commentary item, or a presentation or even a sermon. However, to err is human, so there might be an occasional slip that requires minor correction . . . >>
It should be pretty obvious that if the course of our democratic communities is more and more shaped by cynical media, education, policy and so forth manipulators, we will increasingly do unsound things, and will be likely to end up in disaster. 

"Marriage Equality" -- a manipulative misnomer if I ever saw one, the current "civil rights" issue being pushed on us, is a classic case in point. 

One, where the cynical attempted redefinition of marriage under false colours of law, to include unnatural, perverted couplings, portends grave consequences for rights, morality, justice and liberty. But by dint of agenda advocates disproportionately dominating organs of influence and manipulating the discussion, the raising of principled objections or even just questions is increasingly being battered down by being smeared as alleged "hate."

That would be worth an examination itself, and I point to some links:

The immediate spark for my thoughts, however, is something I saw the other day at WK blog, on how the word "faith" has been twisted beyond all recognition to the point where if one acknowledges that the Christian Faith is just that, a Faith, one is immediately perceived in many minds to have admitted to utter irrationality; end of discussion.  Let me clip WK:

Advice for Christians who discuss their faith with atheists… from an atheist

I spotted this post by Jeffery Jay Lowder on The Secular Outpost, and I think it’s good advice.
There are times where two people speak the same language, use the same words, and mean very different things by the same words. In conversations between Christians and atheists, “faith” is one such word. For many atheists, the word “faith” means, by default, belief without evidence or even belief against the evidence. In contrast, I doubt many Christians would accept that definition . . . . 
A better word to use is “trust”, and here’s Christian apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason to make the same point:

I’ve [--> i.e. WK] even written a post about the concept of faith that is presented in the Bible and the word faith has nothing to do with blind belief in the Bible – it’s always based on evidence, so that people can know for certain what the truth is . . .   When you talk about your belief in God, you should say “trust”. [[--> BTW, on Rom 4:4 - 5, an excellent definition in light of the Biblical teaching . . . ] You should not say “faith” . . .
Notice, Koukl's point on how the word "Faith" has been corrupted -- guess by who, guess why (surprise, this includes not only the obvious suspects, but also key, leading modernist theologians and their precursors over the past 200 or so years . . . ) -- to the point where when one uses it, many hearers will automatically add "blind . . . " or "leap of . . . " to it, implying inherent irrationality.

Yes, if we unguardedly speak of our faith in many circles today, we invite the perception that  we are "ignorant, stupid, insane . . . or wicked," to use the revealing snide dismissal of retired prof Richard Dawkins.

This is serious stuff.

This example is so important that I will pause and take it apart, by addressing the underlying issue of worldview warrant and foundations. For in fact ALL of us live by faith, and walk by faith not by sight, the real issue being in what or whom.

What do I mean by this?

Start with some abstracted thing symbolised A, that for argument we accept as true.


Generally, because of some B, a cluster of warranting evidence, reasoning, perceptions, assumptions etc that lead us to take A as so. 

But, why accept B?


Thence, D, etc.

This leaves us one of three and only three options as we push the point back further and further:

But, isn't stopping at F arbitrary and so it reduces to circularity or infinite regress so we just shrug our shoulders and accept that?


When we have a responsible, Reasonable Faith -- there's a concept for you! -- based on an adequate foundation that is factually adequate, coherent and neither simplistic nor an ad hoc patchwork of plasters used to try to stop holes one after the other, we have a basis that is reasonable and neither question-begging nor absurdly viciously regressive to infinity.

It is worth noting, too, that something like Neurath's Raft metaphor that is always under reconstruction by those on it has a foundation: it rests on the supporting waters of the sea and is obviously not, "turtles all the way down":

(If you want to see how the Christian Faith stands up, try here on and here on, as a 101. By contrast, Evolutionary Materialism -- an ancient view that today loves to dress up in the lab coat and pretend to be practically certain scientifically grounded fact, is both question-begging as imposed on science as an a priori (per Lewontin et al), and self referential and self-undermining once it has to try to address the basis for the knowing, accurately perceiving and reasoning mind. It is also inescapably amoral, as it has in it no foundational IS that can bear the weight of OUGHT, inviting the ruthless and destructive nihilistic factionalism that Plato warned against 2,350 years ago in The Laws, Bk X. Which, should be very familiar today.)

"Freedom" is another sadly manipulated word.

We should learn the difference between liberty and licence: freedom respects the rights of others, narcissistic or nihilistic licence demands to do what it wants and expects privileges it is unwilling to accord to others.

Likewise, "rights," properly, are binding moral expectations and obligations of mutual respect based in our inherent dignity, moral worth and equality as being made in God's image. (The only truly sound basis for morality, the only IS that can bear the weight of ought, is the inherently good God who has made us under moral government, in his image.) 

Thus, we see the grounds of the Golden Rule, Neighbour-Love principle that we should love those who are as ourselves and respect their dignity even as we expect or demand respect. And, if our demanded "rights" imply undermining the legitimate rights of others, we are treading into licence, not liberty.

In this light, true tolerance is a respect for the other, even in the face of disagreement. However, that does not imply endorsement of their views or giving up the right of fair comment. But such comment must be just that: genuinely fair.

Then, there is "Science."

We have reached a day, in which, in the name of education, this is what the Board of the US-based National Science Teachers Association had to say:

The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts [[ --> Imposes a priori, question-begging materialism] and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . .

[[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products  [[--> Sounds great, but in practice means domination by evolutionary materialism, which is in fact pseudoscientific and self-refuting] . . . .

Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. [[--> Imposes question-begging materialism] Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . .

Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations [[--> Inserts a priori materialism intot eh very definition of science, against all history and logic] and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]

This directly reflects Harvard Professor Richard Lewontin's notorious remark in his 1997 NYRB article, Billions and Billions of Demons:

. . . to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . .   the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . .

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[--> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.  [In case you imagine this to be "quote mined, kindly cf. the fuller excerpt and comments here.]

What such boils down to, is a demand to turn science and science education into little more than question-begging atheistical propaganda dressed up in a lab coat. 

Where, of course, if one is already caught up in the begged questions, the begging of questions does not seem to be viciously circular. But patently, if your scheme locks out the evidence and reasoning before it can speak, as science must only reason in a materialistic circle, that is question-begging. (I invite examination here on, to see an alternative.)

Philip Johnson's retort is apt:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them "materialists employing science." And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) "give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."  

. . . .   The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

So, on this 73rd anniversary of the German Blitz in the West:

. . . let us learn to read the overall pattern and not be distracted from the decisive issue by agenda tactics and manipulations. 

Our civilisation and our very souls, are at stake. END