Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Us versus them

Ian Buruma has a long essay about the "rise of everyone else", which is really one of the drivers for the relative decline of Western dominance. Most of Buruma's article is devoted to criticizing the bilateral competition model and attempting to show, often in a very roundabout way, that the West was never quite united and neither, for that matter is Everyone Else.

One of his more interesting asides involves the Shanghai Cooperation Council, that proto-alliance against Islamic fundamentalism which has received surprisingly little coverage in the Western press.

The real world, alas, is rarely so clean. Kagan acknowledges that the United States sometimes has to support authoritarian regimes to further its interests. But, like the Cold Warriors of old (who were slow to recognize the sharp divisions between China and the Soviet Union), he tends to see potential enemies as a common front. As an example of the new axis of autocracy, Kagan cites the Shanghai Coöperation Organization, a loose alliance consisting of China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. These are all autocracies, but is their alliance really based on a shared horror of democratic intervention, as Kagan believes? As Bill Emmott points out, the S.C.O. was formed because of concerns about Islamist movements in China, Russia, and Central Asia, but also because China doesn’t want Russia to dominate Central Asia and thinks that the S.C.O. can boost its influence there.

In other words history is driven by considerations other than the "West versus Everyone Else". If you could imagine an alternative history in which the West never existed there would still be empires, conquest, slavery, champions for freedom and maniacs longing to conquer the world moving through the centuries. The science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson for example, in his novel Years of Rice and Salt, imagines an alternative history in which not 30% but 99% of Europe was wiped out by the bubonic plague; in which Europeans have become a curiosity race like the Ainus of Japan. In Robinson's world, China and Islam contend for the domination of the world.

I hope Robinson finds time to write another book in which some of today's identity politicians, like Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright, for example, are transported into this alternative history. What would it be like to find that The Man was Chinese? How would a "Black God" fare in a world without white men? What sermons could Jeremiah Wright possibly deliver in such a world? What often passes for "progressive" thought is really another name for a narrow provincialism. One that will never be aware of organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Council; one that can never see history except as a stage in which the West and Everyone Else are locked in a kind of soap opera.

Where come the evils of the world? The question is reflected in the many depictions of the pastoral genre whose themes revolve around the phrase "Et in Aracadia, ego sum". "The Latin words means 'Even in Arcadia I exist', where 'I' is considered to refer to death." And the meaning of the phrase is conventionally taken to mean that Death is to be found even in the most idyllic of circumstances. It would be found even in a world without Europeans. But curiously enough, the phrase is also regarded as an esoteric anagram pointing the way to secret knowledge. Rearranged properly the words can also mean "I know the secrets of God". That implies that if there is no escape from Death in Arcadia, neither is there from Life or from Knowledge. Even if the plague had in fact killed all of Europe, the stars would still be mankind's destination.





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49 Comments:

Blogger Brock said...

Wretchard, didn't you know? Asians are White, and in some cases so are Arabs. I suspect very little would change for Mr. Wright. Except for the fact that he'd probably have been born in Africa, and still subject to a non-zero risk of enslavement.

As for where come the evils of the world, the Shadow knows.

4/15/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Habu said...

Here, since we're playing a game this counts: A song all about socialism. What tripe.

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
[ Find more Lyrics at www.mp3lyrics.org/jG ]

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

4/15/2008 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Habu said...

or this one.....

Big Rock Candy Mountain



One evening as the sun went down and the jungle fire was burning
Down the track came a hobo hiking and he said boys I'm not turning
I'm headin for a land that's far away beside the crystal fountains
So come with me we'll go and see the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright
Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night
Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day
On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees
Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains all the cops have wooden legs
And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth and the hens lay soft boiled eggs
The farmer's trees are full of fruit and the barns are full of hay
Oh, I'm bound to go where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall and the wind don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains you never change your socks
And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks
The brakemen have to tip their hats and the railroad bulls are blind
There's a lake of stew and of whiskey too
You can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains the jails are made of tin
And you can walk right out again as soon as you are in
There ain't no short handled shovels, no axes saws or picks
I'm a goin to stay where you sleep all day
Where they hung the jerk that invented work
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains

I'll see you all this coming fall in the Big Rock Candy Mountains

4/15/2008 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Wretchard: And the meaning of the phrase is conventionally taken to mean that Death is to be found even in the most idyllic of circumstances. It would be found even in a world without Europeans....Even if the plague had in fact killed all of Europe, the stars would still be mankind's destination.

This could be rephrased as saying, "Europe's glories and travails are only a subset of the glories and travails of greater mankind, and the destiny of humanity is not contingent on the supremacy or even the existence of Europeans and and their descendants."

4/15/2008 05:36:00 PM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Brock: As for where come the evils of the world, the Shadow knows.

Luke 17:1 "It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!"

4/15/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gerard said...

Ah, an Alfred Bester reference just for me I see.

4/15/2008 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger warhorse said...

Oh, is your surname Foyle, then, gerard? :-)

4/15/2008 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Even if the plague had in fact killed all of Europe, the stars would still be mankind's destination.
/////////////
And the reason you know this to be true is that men from opposite sides of the earth navigated by the stars across oceans to Hawaii within 1000 years of each other.

Men have been sailing the coasts for maybe 30,000 years and suddenly something happens. Everyone everywhere looks up. But that's another story

4/15/2008 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Romans 8
18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

19For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

20For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

21Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?

25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

26Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

27And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

31What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

34Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

4/15/2008 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

I would argue the reverse Aenea. That Europe is central. Without it and Europeans, in their former state, the world is doomed to poverty and misery and repeating the cycle of Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Chaldeans, Hittites, etc. Flower, boom, decay, die. With the same misery, poverty, disease, lack of knowledge, and so on that characterized life outside of Europe circa 1500-present.

Europe, and Europe alone had the engine of prosperity: monogamy. Now it is true that most of humanity lacked that, and resembled a pride of lions, with the big man hoarding all the females (and wealth) and many long to return to that state. Among them many women it is safe to say.

Europe, and Europeans, were totally unlike ANYTHING that had came before. More cooperative. Less Big-Manish. Far more freeholder-ish. Spreading wealth and power DOWNWARD. Without Europe and Europeans, we'd see humanity living in something approximating the level of technology of 1200. Perhaps less than that. With a bit of fireworks.

China invented gunpowder, printed money, printing itself (the basics), and the first modern fleet of sailing ships. And did nothing with it because all that knowledge was locked up in Eunuchs and died with them. Whereas Europe took Chinese gifts and constantly improved upon them (for the benefit of family craftsmen and their sons) to the point where each generation, guns or printing or navigation (and ships themselves) were qualitatively better than before, and available in far greater numbers.

It isn't guns, germs and steel (Europe was province of ill-smelling barbarians who accomplished pretty much nothing before monogamy). Or Civic Militarism (Hanson). Europe was the punching bag for Vikings and Muslims before monogamy really took hold.

The explanation is cultural. It's decisive. China by contrast along with Islam have given the world relatively nothing. How can they with a few Emperors and a mass of Eunuchs.

4/15/2008 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger Aenea said...

whiskey_199:I would argue the reverse Aenea. That Europe is central. Without it and Europeans, in their former state, the world is doomed to poverty and misery and repeating the cycle of Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Chaldeans, Hittites, etc.

You just admitted Europeans to that litany of those who repeat dreary cycles when you said, "in their former state".

Flower, boom, decay, die. With the same misery, poverty, disease, lack of knowledge, and so on that characterized life outside of Europe circa 1500-present.

All civilizations flourish and retreat, the particularly old ones such as China have done this many times. Flourishing is not constant, and retreating is not constant, but flourishing and retreating are constant. And universal. Don't be fooled because you are coming in at the tail end of an unusually long and brilliant era of flourishing.

Europe, and Europe alone had the engine of prosperity: monogamy.

That's insane. Even in societies where polygyny was permitted, it was extremely rare, and limited to those with means who could afford a second or third wife.

Europe was the punching bag for Vikings and Muslims before monogamy really took hold.

Dude, babies have always been born roughly 1:1 boy to girl. Monogamy is the most natural arrangement that produces no excess of one gender or another. It is the ancient and accepted way for humans to pair-bond. Only those men who were particularly rich and successful could afford multiple wives. Polygamy, then was a perk of wealth, not the cause of general poverty. You have latched on to this erroneous theory because it gives you a wedge to attack Islam.

4/15/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Polygamy is the NORM for most human societies. It might be "strong" where women are hoarded in harems, like Muslim countries (for patrilineal descent is important) or "weak" as in much of Sub-Saharan Africa (where most men "spread their seed" and as a consequence have zilch investment in offspring who might be theirs or not). Mammals degree of polygamy or to be precise a few males doing most of the mating is indicated by sex body size. By that account, humans are slightly polygamous.

Tribal European societies pre-Christian were polygamous, we have Tacitus, Germanicus, Herodotus etc. and their accounts. Which explains why they did very little.

Europe was nothing, did nothing, and all of sudden seemed to become a stronger, and stronger society.

FAR different than anything else. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Indus River, Yellow River, Greek, Roman, Muslim and Chinese societies all used the basic technology.

ONLY in Western societies did technology grow, keep growing, and keep getting BETTER. By orders of magnitude each generation. The basic principles of the Steam Engine, Railroad, Airplane, etc. were all rapidly disseminated around the globe like Chinese gunpowder. What was it that made EUROPEAN culture so superior in using and refining it?

The reason again is monogamy. What you typically fail to recognize that is if a rich man has four wives, three others go without. Therefore, they have little incentive to do anything but overturn the old lion and become the new. A society of lions ends up like the Pharoahs. It's TRAPPED by flower-die cycles. City-Countryside cycles. Which European technology shortcuts.

[Europe's problems are entirely because of too many intellectuals who want to be Sultan and construct their harem, and feminists who want to be harem girls.]

Europe has had problems before: Thirty Years War, Spanish Succession, and so on. Mass slaughter on an insane scale, followed by a lull. There is no reason they cannot recover as before. America is "European" in outlook and culture.

Some women of course welcome Polygamy. For them it allows the sharing of the "Big Man" and the usual "Big Man" society that can verge on scale from Fidel (mildly bad) to anarchic (West Africa, Pakistan, Saudi) to full blown insane (Idi Amin, Stalin, Saddam).

If you look at Japan, China, and other Asian tigers you can see that monogamy, spread of rule of law, and the pushing of resources including critically reproductive resources down has allowed them to be ... dare I say it European?

While Big Man mired Philippines, Indonesia, and other such countries are a wreck.

You can determine if a society will be prosperous and free, or a wreck by how the fundamental basis, how families are formed, occur. A bunch of "big men" (West Africa has about 30% polygamy) is incompatible with one of boring old engineers, scientists, etc.

This explains why Japan and China have produced many scientific advances, along with Europe and the Anglosphere, while Muslims and Africa (and Big Man Latin America) languish in darkness.

[Add -- around 15% of Mongolian men and men in other places ruled by Temujin aka Ghengis Khan are direct lineal descendants. The relative scientific, cultural, technological and other achievements of the descendants of the Conqueror and boring East Anglian craftsmen I will leave to others to ponder. But Polygamy is the norm, and thus the habit of failure of human society for much of it's run.]

4/15/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Border dispatch:

Yesterday in Sasabe, Arizona (south of the Tohono O Odhom reservation; Border Patrol agents encountered a number of drug couriers carrying knapsacks full of wacky tabacky . The mules opened fire. Under the rules of engagement the agents couldn't fire back lest they plug some non combatant immigrants. Gee I wonder why the Border Patrol is having a hard time filling positions.
In another paragraph of the same article; it recounted an incident in Nogales where a crowd on the Mexican side threw rocks at a custom agent on the Gringo side. The agent fired pepper spray cannisters back. The clash of civilizations continues.

4/15/2008 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

all that knowledge was locked up in Eunuchs and died with them.

How'd all these Eunichs die, anyway?

4/16/2008 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger probus said...

"how did all those Eunuchs die anyway?"-- For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

4/16/2008 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

Aha, I see, industrial collapse.

4/16/2008 02:14:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

teresita echoes the humorous (and ignorant) moonbat scream that the declining West has no cause for its arrogance while at the same time insisting that a single CIA agent passing through a foreign airport has the ability to completely overcome local dynamics and change governments at will - "The CIA installed Saddam."

We are witnessing a very curious mixture of delusional narcissism where folks (like Obama) see themselves as world figures transcending the State that gives them both their public stage and their only substantive source of meaning and importance, and some sense of self-loathing that compels them to destroy it for some ephemeral Greater Good. Jimma Carter has been playing this sick game since 1976, but as we can see there is never a lack of new participants.

Were I to write an alternative history it would be how the Western Crusaders, instead of carving out personal fiefdoms of Byzantine territoy, actually cooperated with the Byzantine Empire to annihilate the Turks and the Arabs and bury Islam once and for all under the desert sand. Had that been the case the SCO would today be just another division of the NFL.

If you're going to write alternative history at least have the good guys win.

4/16/2008 03:45:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

According to Ian Buruma, do Autocracies fear Democracies because of the chaos factor, the inherent unpredictability? Or just because US inspired proponents believe they are forced to open up societies with the barrel of a gun?

Four thick pages and he doesn't even address his key assertion. Ouch, perhaps an alternate history would include his rewrite, perhaps not.

What if Charlemagne or even Martel were eunuchs? If Ivan(?) of Poland were less successful in propagation, six hundred fewer kids with his genetic predispositions. But all children still open to his biases. I don't know that it would change anything, other than the names.

4/16/2008 04:38:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

uh, anyone know where monogamy came from?

4/16/2008 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Charles: uh, anyone know where monogamy came from?

Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh?" Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.

4/16/2008 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Peterboston: teresita echoes the humorous (and ignorant) moonbat scream that the declining West has no cause for its arrogance while at the same time insisting that a single CIA agent passing through a foreign airport has the ability to completely overcome local dynamics and change governments at will - "The CIA installed Saddam."

Cite the post where teresita asserts the CIA installed Saddam, or make a public apology.

4/16/2008 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

teresita/aenea

The key phrase would be "echoes the moonbat scream."

4/16/2008 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Why Did God Allow Adam and Eve to Sin? Billy Graham

Why allow sin...God made us in his image, with free will...if he took away our ability to make mistakes and to accept him by our own will, we would only be a toy in his earthly playground...

4/16/2008 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Penetrating Questions from the Book of Job
“Does Man Serve God For Nothing?”
“Why Do the Righteous Suffer?”
“How Can God Allow the Righteous to Suffer?”
“Who Is Man to Judge God?”

4/16/2008 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"uh, anyone know where monogamy came from?"

For me, it comes from my wife. If I deviate, she will burn me down and piss on my ashes.

4/16/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

:) Well you don't suffer alone, Dan.

4/16/2008 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

And not only would I be burnt and pissed upon, the other woman would "have her guts torn out."

4/16/2008 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

charles

Dostoevsky never answered the Grand Inquisitor's similar question. Billy Graham's answer is interesting but maybe it's not the final answer.

4/16/2008 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

PeterBoston said...

charles

Dostoevsky never answered the Grand Inquisitor's similar question. Billy Graham's answer is interesting but maybe it's not the final answer.
///////////////
The interesting thing about the great 19th century atheist philosophers, like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Marx & Freud is that they didn't prove that God doesn't exist. They merely assumed that he doesn't exist and moved from there.

In the 17th century Descartes tried to prove scientifically that God exists. He failed.

You can't prove scientifically that God exists or doesn't exist by definition because God lies outside of nature--that is the realm within which science works.

God is the uncaused first cause.

4/16/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Charles: God is the uncaused first cause.

If first causes can be uncaused, why must God be the uncaused first cause? Why could not the big bang have been the uncaused first cause?

4/16/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

'Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figurations that abound before us, around us, and within. Where the natural impulse to complain against the holocaust has been suppressed--to cry out blame, or to announce panaceas--the magnitude of an art of tragedy more potent(for us) than the Greek finds realization: the realistic, intimate, and variously interesting tradegy of democracy, where the god is beheld crucified in the catastrophes not of the great houses only but of every common home, every scourged and lacerated face. And there is no make-believe about heaven, future bliss, and compensation, to alleviated the bitter majesty, but only utter darkness, the void of unfulfillment, to receive and eat back the lives that have been tossed forth from the womb only to fail.

...Hence we are not disposed to assign to comedy the high rank of tragedy. Comedy as satire is acceptable, as fun it is a pleasant haven of escape, but the fairy tale of happiness ever after cannot be taken seriously....which sober, modern Occidental judgment is founded on a total misunderstanding of the realities depicted in the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedies of redemption. These, in the ancient world, were regarded as of a higher rank than tragedy, of a deeper truth, of a more difficult realization, of a sounder structure, and of a revelation more complete.

The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man. The objective world remains what it was, but, because of a shift of emphasis within the subject, is beheld as though transformed. Where formerly life and death contended, now enduring being is made manifest--as indifferent to the accidents of time as water boiling in a pot is to the destiny of a bubble, or as the cosmos to the appearance and dissappearance of a galaxy of stars. Tragedy is the shattering of the forms and of our attachment to the forms; comedy, the wild and careless, inexhaustible joy of life invincible.

...This deed sccomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing, all sustaining love, and a knowledge of it own unconquered power....The dreadful mutilations are then seen as shadows, only, of an immanent, imperishable eternity, time yields to glory, and the world sings with the prodigious, angelic, but perhaps finally monotonous, siren music of the spheres. Like happy families, the myths and the worlds redeemed are all alike.'

J. Campbell

Thus does one man overcome the failures of the biblical theodicies.

4/16/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

I happen to have before me a book--"God's Problem--How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer", by Bart D. Ehrman, a Christian with all the credentials, who lost his faith, and explains why all the Biblical theodicies failed finally, for him. As they will fail, looked at from that point of view.

4/16/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Sisyphus said...

Whiskey_199,

It seems more likely that the difference maker for Europeans was something else besides monogamy, for monogamy was practiced in other places.

More likely, it was the invention of movable type for printing, which allowed the dissemination of knowledge (more important for a civilization than dissemination of genes) to far more people than oral transmission, and made the returns for literacy substantially higher.

Perhaps there was a significant contribution made from the fragmented sources of authority that allowed private actors and groups, especially corporations, to become powerful, as well. Certainly, the general combination of religion and state in other empires left them both more capable of internal control but considerably less dynamic.

It's also important to note that the West does not really become significantly more powerful than other regions until perhaps the late 17th century. That is long after monogamy was established in the West, perhaps a thousand years. So if it has the effect you claim, why did it take so long?

I'm a believer in the truth and beauty of the Western Way of life, but I don't think our marriage style was that important for achieving it.

4/16/2008 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

The Enlightenment, and looking outward, and the Americas, as well. All of a sudden all the maritime nations were on the move. Banking in Holland, all sorts of stuff.

4/16/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Dostoevsky never answers the Grand Inquisitor's questions. Because the figure he is subjecting to Inquisition doesn't answer in words. He forgives the Inquisitor and remains silent.

Our answer is in our lives, which contains two mysteries. First, the mystery of why we are here. If you had to imagine the most improbable thing conceivable, it would be to awaken after an eternity to your parents. And yet it happened.

And the second mystery is whether we or anything we do is remembered. Dostoevsky believes we are remembered -- "one onion, one good deed". And therefore our whole life, including the suffering, which in Dostoevsky's canon is part of life, part of what we were waiting all eternity for, is our message.

In the end Dostoevsky gives no answer, except an implicit answer, because no words can convey what our lives must. We live and it passes. We suffer and it passes. And yet what was it for?

Although there is no positive proof for it, my own intuition is that very little in reality is gratuitous. Every little butterfly fluttering is remembered in a storm. There is a kind of economy to the world of God -- if you want to use the term. Nothing is wasted. Not a sparrow falls to earth without it being remembered.

But are we loved? That I don't know. The problem of God always seemed to me not one of existence, but of whether whatever existed loved us. I will only say that it seems a possibility. There is no obvious reason why a reality so much more complex than ourselves, of which we are a subset, cannot attain to a greater consciousness, including love, than we can. It's not necessarily so. Perhaps we are the limit on consciousness; the limit on charity. But I claim we are only the demonstrable minimum.

As for the rest, we shall see if we shall see.

4/16/2008 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Dostoevsky did not respond to the Grand Inquisitor's great question but perhaps Alyosha Karamazov did by living a kind and decent life.

When you strip away the trappings isn't that what Christianity is really all about?

4/16/2008 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars that expanded at a speed beyond the laws of physics to a size beyond our comprehension from a something so small and so dense or so nothing at all that it cannot be explained - and the rational response is that it happened by accident?

Ratzinberger was right when he said that the Greeks were smarter.

4/16/2008 03:12:00 PM  
Blogger Aenea said...

PeterBoston said:100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars that expanded at a speed beyond the laws of physics to a size beyond our comprehension from a something so small and so dense...

You perpetrate two scientific fallacies in your post. The first one is that inflation violated the law that nothing travels faster than the speed of light. This is true for particles which move through space, but during the inflation epoch it was the substrate of space itself which was expanding, and this dynamic "filling in" of the spaces between particles is not subject to the velocity-limit law.

The second fallacy is that the early universe was "small". All we know is that it was dense. It could be infinite. If the universe is infinite, there was never a time when it was small, because any finite universe will remain finite no matter how long or fast it expands.

4/16/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Aenea said...

Charles: God is the uncaused first cause.

If first causes can be uncaused, why must God be the uncaused first cause? Why could not the big bang have been the uncaused first cause?
/////////////////
The big bang is not the uncaused first cause. It is the first effect just as the heavens and the earth are the first effect in Genesis 1


1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This was the profound observation from back in the 1970-80's that is still shooting shockwaves through the world in just the same way a the earth geologists did 150 years ago--when they pushed back the the age of the earth to millions and then billions of years.(just as darwin made palentolgists atheists by replacing God with the black box of chance -- the geneticists these days are finding God in the the dna. Because they are in the presence of a language; A language implies a writer. Or as John 1 puts it 1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Blogger PeterBoston said...

100 billion galaxies with 100 billion stars that expanded at a speed beyond the laws of physics to a size beyond our comprehension from a something so small and so dense or so nothing at all that it cannot be explained - and the rational response is that it happened by accident?
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Science is a branch of philosophy which is man centered. Theology is God centered. This is something very different.

The greeks had their trees of knowledge correct.

The same can't be said for the english speaking world since 1600. In the english speaking world--the tree of knowledge knowledge was mucked up by francis bacon who put theology as a subset of philosophy somewhere in the neighborhood of witchcraft.

Not so. Theology and philosophy are very very different. Theology ends in the character and personality of God. Whereas philosophy ends in the character and personality of man.

4/16/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

bobal said...

I happen to have before me a book--"God's Problem--How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer", by Bart D. Ehrman, a Christian with all the credentials, who lost his faith, and explains why all the Biblical theodicies failed finally, for him. As they will fail, looked at from that point of view.
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A big question for me during my 40's was what's the difference between God's testing and God's wrath.

That is, say your house burns down.

That could be an example of God's testing or God's wrath--but which is it?

The answer is -- it depends on how you react. If after the house burning you grow closer to God--then it is God's testing. If after the house burning you fall away from God--then its God's wrath.

4/16/2008 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

I'd react by saying, on that view, God is an arsonist. Which is an illegal act under a civilized law. We had a house burn down almost totally about three blocks sway a few days ago. The fire department got there and stopped it, and a neighbor had got in there and got the old man out that was sleeping. How to explain that? God's will is thwarted? By free-willed humans?

What really happened was the battery charger in the garage overheated and caused a fire, which did in the garage, the car, and part of the house.

4/16/2008 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

Well, looking at your statement again, you don't actually say God burned the house down, or tried to, but if not, why bring God into it at all? If it was my house, I'd be ticked at myself, for not turning the battery charger off. I might grow a little away from myself, thinking, who wants to be around that dumb bastard.

4/17/2008 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

The proper reaction to suffering is to try and do something to stop it.

4/17/2008 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Charles: The big bang is not the uncaused first cause.

Why not?

It is the first effect just as the heavens and the earth are the first effect in Genesis 1

Why? Because you say so?

Theology ends in the character and personality of God. Whereas philosophy ends in the character and personality of man.

Another difference: the study of the character and personality of man has objective falsifiable evidence, the character and personality of God is revealed in given texts which may not be questioned.

4/17/2008 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Aenea said...

Charles: The answer is -- it depends on how you react. If after the house burning you grow closer to God--then it is God's testing. If after the house burning you fall away from God--then its God's wrath.

It is evidence of the sovereignty of man over the universe when he is able to retroactively control the moral intent of the Supreme Being by simply copping a certain attitude toward misfortunes.

4/17/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Charles said...

Blogger Aenea said...

Charles: The answer is -- it depends on how you react. If after the house burning you grow closer to God--then it is God's testing. If after the house burning you fall away from God--then its God's wrath.

It is evidence of the sovereignty of man over the universe when he is able to retroactively control the moral intent of the Supreme Being by simply copping a certain attitude toward misfortunes.
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wrong. dead wrong. God is Sovereign.
However, there is tension between God's Sovereignty and man's free will. Tis ever been so since the Garden.

4/17/2008 01:41:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Charles: The big bang is not the uncaused first cause.

Why not?
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Becaused something caused the big bang. Natural laws whose cause and effect physicists/natural scientists can follow start at the big bang. But the cause of the big bang lies outside of current understanding because something came from nothing. It may not ever be so. But for now it maps over well onto Genesis understanding of "in the beginning."
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It is the first effect just as the heavens and the earth are the first effect in Genesis 1

Why? Because you say so?
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see above.

4/17/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Hirsi Ali, atheism and Islam
Allah is everywhere, which is to say that Allah is nowhere in particular. Allah's world is indistinguishable from the primeval world of paganism, in which the "colorfully contending pantheon" of nature-gods arranges a chaotic and incomprehensible show at every moment. The world without Allah would look not much different; if Allah acts in a whimsical manner without the constraint of laws of nature, we cannot tell the difference between Allah's actions and chaos.

It would be misguided to file this away as a curious relic of Medieval theology without direct bearing on the spiritual character of Islam. On the contrary, the absolute transcendence of Allah in the physical world is the cognate of his despotic character as a spiritual ruler, who demands submission and service from his creatures. The Judeo-Christian God loves his creatures and as an act of love makes them free. Humankind only can be free if nature is rational, that is, if God places self-appointed limits on his own sphere of action. In a world ordered by natural law, humankind through its faculty of reason can learn these laws and act freely. In the alternative case, the absolute freedom of Allah crowds out all human freedom of action, leaving nothing but the tyranny of caprice and fate.

4/17/2008 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger I'm your daisey said...

hi

4/19/2008 04:37:00 PM  

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