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This is for all the lonely people

Ripped from the comments:

Hundreds of fellow species of insects, birds, even a handful of primates. But at our level, only us. We want a companion species, something or some entity to be our equal, our make. If the Neanderthals or the Denisovans had survived as separate human species, and there were two or three of us humans on the planet, I think matters would be different.

As it stands, I think we want intellectual children and AI is that hope: like us, but different, so we’re no longer alone in a world full of non-human animals. It’s the same impulse that makes people treat their pets as children, as blood members of their family, and unironically refer to themselves as “mommy and daddy” to a dog or a cat that is their “baby”.

I think we’re even worse off than that. We’re definitely lonely, but it’s because we’re in denial about the potential companions that already exist.

What if the Neanderthals had survived to the present? Since they’re able to interbreed with humans, aren’t they really just another race? What difference would it make to have Neanderthals in addition to whites, blacks, Asians, etc? We already don’t know how to deal with having all these races which are visibly different (and here I’m only speaking to the skin-level, nevermind any deeper differences). How much worse would we be if Elves showed up who were our superiors in every measurable way?

The truly alien minds are in our own homes: men and women. We are quite different, sometimes in large and sometimes subtle ways, and we cannot do without the other. Currently, we respond to this with denial, to the point where it took me years of living with a woman to unlearn the idea that we were just different skins slapped on the same basic mind template.

So yeah, we’re lonely, in the same way that Burke and Wills were starving; we’re misusing the resources that are there to fit the need. The trouble is that our current conception of “equal” does not allow room for “different,” so we just deny difference entirely. After all, in any reductionist materialistic view, a different thing is not equal. The Pauline view of equality as “valuable, yet different, parts of one body” is much more workable.

A babied toy dog is a clear case of parental instinct gone haywire because it has no baby to lavish its attention on. Encourage everybody to delay marriage and treat women as men-with-boobs, and it is any surprise that the craving for interaction with someone truly other manifests in more unusual ways?

Private Law

Today, I flew on an airplane. As is dictated by the rituals, I prepared to unpack all my computers, remove my shoes, empty all drinks, let them take naked pictures of me, and just generally have my travel made much less pleasant.

But not this time. This time somebody else purchased our tickets for us using their frequent flier miles. This time we got to go to some special security line where they all but waved us through. I didn’t unpack anything, remove any articles of clothing, I carried a whole 8 ounces of milk right in, and I only had to pass through an old-fashioned metal detector. It was exactly as things had been before 9/11.

I always knew that the politicians who assure us of the necessity of these measures would never in their lives have to endure them. I didn’t realize that the whole upper echelon of society got to opt out. If somebody lets you sidestep a security measure in exchange for money, they don’t actually believe in that measure. They’re just keeping out the riff-raff.

The word “privilege” is derived from the phrase “private law,” specifically referring to laws passed for the benefit of a single person. With the TSA, laws were passed that do little other than harass people who are not rich enough, and then everybody at the top exempted themselves from it. I like the old corruption better.

Youth aren’t children

Today I am a
man. Tomorrow I return
to the seventh grade.

Haikus for Jews

For the past few weeks I’ve been down with the Youth group, teaching them almost exactly the Church History curriculum I put together for their parents a few years back. Last week, we discussed matters of church and state. The week before that, the Trinity. When I mention this, people act surprised that we would touch on such weighty topics with such a young group.

I think this is absurd. In any other age, the “kids” I am teaching would have already formed their own households and be responsible for at least one child of their own by now. That we choose to infantilize them is to our shame, not theirs. It’s all the more absurd that we hold them back so long from becoming adults in the name of educating them, and then hold back the education as well because they aren’t adults. If you can’t teach them now, at the peak of their educational career, when exactly do you expect to be able to?

Jews historically considered their children to pass into adulthood at 13, becoming responsible for their own actions and sins. Jonathan Edwards entered Yale at that same age, where he had no difficulty absorbing texts like “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” High schoolers are way past those milestones. If they act like children, it is because we insist that they do so. If they are unable to handle meaty topics, it is our failure as teachers, not their insufficiency as students.

So free your kids from their playdough and safe spaces and teach them some advanced theology already. Sink their teeth into a classical education. They can handle it, if you’ll just let them.

Papal Probability

This article contained some numbers which led me off on a tangent.

Pope Francis is the 266th pope. There have been 37 false popes.

Therefore, 37/(266+37) = 12.2% of papal claimants are antipopes.

The average Pope serves for 7.3 years (John Paul II, it turns out, had the second longest reign in history).

Now, the average US life expectancy is 79.8.

Therefore, on average, an American will see ceiling(79.8/7.3) = ceiling(10.93) = 11 popes in their lifetime.

So, given an antipope rate of 12.2% and 11 popes in a lifetime, what are the odds that you will see an antipope in your life?

My probability is very rusty, and I wasn’t exactly great at it back in school, either, but I’m pretty sure this boils down to a classic Probability Mass Function

f(k;n,p) = Pick(n k)(p^k)(1-p)^(n-k)

So, the probability of exactly one antipope in a lifetime:

f(1;11,.122) = Pick(11 1)(.122)^1(1-.122)^(11-1)
= 0.36534

In other words, the odds of you living through exactly 1 antipope are a little over 1 in 3.

But wait, there’s more!

What are the odds of at least 1 antipope in your lifetime? At this point, the maths get pretty long and repetitive, so let’s cheat using the internet:

Probability of success on a single trial: 0.122
Number of trials: 11
Number of successes (x): 1

The answer?

The power of Apostolic Succession and the great Tradition of the Catholic Church assures you of a lifetime of legitimate spiritual leadership 1 time out of every 4.

In other words 76.1% percent of us will live under an antipope (and very likely more).

So there you have it: mathematical proof that Martin Luther was probably correct. Happy Reformation Day!

The Telos of Wall-E

KILL ALL HUMANSHot on the heels of my Platonic eulogy and Brian Mattson’s definitive Noah review, he gives us a Wall-E review which is all about telos:

There is a particular term in the script that sounds like run-of-the-mill fancy “robot” jargon, but is actually a key to the film. When WALL-E first meets Eva, they have what is basically a one word conversation, asking each other:


What’s your purpose? Why were you made? What are you supposed to do? Almost all of the characters in the film have a unique “directive.” WALL-E picks up and packages trash into cubes. Eva searches for organic life forms. Mo cleans up skid marks on the floor, et cetera.

The Earth needs somebody to look after it. That is the unique human calling and responsibility. Nature needs humans. That is not an example of Hollywood’s war on humans; it’s a sensational exception to the rule.

Deconstruction of Sesame Street monsters

Sunny Days would make a good name for a mental institution. Coincidence?Big Bird is schizophrenic. Elmo is a narcissist. Grover’s a megalomaniac. Cookie Monster is a binge eater. Oscar is a hoarder, Bert has Asperger’s, Ernie has ADD, The Count has OCD, and Aloysius Snuffleupagus is severely depressed (probably because his parents divorced).

Every Sesame Street monster embodies some form of personality disorder. But why would we choose such a cast for a beloved children’s show?

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, “Fairy tales do not tell children monsters exist. Children already know that monsters exist. Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be killed.” Haven’t you ever wondered why it is that a children’s show stars monsters? Monsters aren’t generally considered to be cute and cuddly; if your child says that there is a monster under the bed, they think it wants to eat them, not sing the ABCs.

Sesame Street episodes are our modern day fairy tales. And the monsters are a warning.

They weren’t always monsters, you see. They used to be children.

The mental age of your average Sesame Street monster ranges from 3 to 6. Haven’t you ever wondered where their parents are? Sure, we often hear them speak of mommies (and very rarely daddies), but we almost never see them.

Every one of these characters has some terrible flaw that they let grab control of their life. It ultimately grew so large that it drove a wedge between them and the rest of their families, and transformed them into something other than human.

Fairy Tales teach us that we can defeat external monsters. Sesame Street teaches us that we need to watch out for the monsters inside of us as well.

They prefer irrational creatures

Giraffe“Although keeping parrots and curlews, the [pagans] do not adopt the orphan child. Rather, they expose children who are born at home. Yet, they take up young birds. So they prefer irrational creatures to rational ones!” -Clement of Alexandria, head of the first Christian seminary, ca. 190AD.

With that quote in mind, I point you to two stories of the past week. In the first, the latest on the woman beloved by the left solely for her pro-abortion filibuster. The tldr is that she wasn’t so much a single mother as she was a mother who ditched her kids and husband the day after he finished paying off her student loans.

Meanwhile, we have a zoo receiving death threats for killing a giraffe.

On the bright side, Wendy’s position is already evolving.

Douthat on Sexy Soma Slaves

detroit theaterI’m not saying Ross Douthat steals his ideas from me, but I will say that you heard it here first. His latest column is especially insightful, and raises a particularly disturbing prospect: the American “elite” class hanging on to marriage for themselves as a way to ensure their own success, while discouraging the lower classes from it. I call this particularly disturbing, because I think it would be both a fairly stable, and a terribly unjust system.

If the heart of your social analysis, the core of your conclusion, is the idea that the homogamous new elite’s social behavior is essentially (if perhaps unknowingly) self-interested — that the pursuit of meritocratic success has led the mass upper class to “walk away without a care … from people who in other circumstances, even in the not so distant past, would have been our friends and coworkers, lovers and spouses” — then perhaps you need to apply the same cold-eyed perspective to that elite’s cultural assumptions and attitudes as well, and to the blend of laws and norms those attitudes incline its members to support. Is the upper class’s social liberalism the lone case, the rare exception, where our self-segregated, self-interested elites really do have the greater good at heart?

If we’re inclined, with Waldman, to see our elite as fundamentally self-interested, then we should ask ourselves whether the combination of personal restraint and cultural-political permissiveness might not itself be part of how this elite maintains its privileges. If the path to human flourishing still mostly runs through monogamy and marriage, who benefits the most from the kind of changes that make that path less normative, less law-supported, less obvious? Well, mostly people who are embedded in communities that continue to send the kind of signals that the law and the wider culture no longer send.

When we legalized abortion and instituted unilateral divorce, we helped usher in a sexual-marital-parental culture that seems to work roughly as well for people with lots of social capital as it did sixty years ago, while working pretty badly for the poor and lower middle class. It is still a reality of contemporary life that when anyone can get a divorce for any reason, the lower classes seem to get far more of the divorces, and that when anyone can get an abortion for any reason, the poor end up having more abortions and more children out of wedlock both. And it is still a fact that if you tallied up winners and losers from the sexual revolution, the obvious winners would tend to cluster at one end of 1975’s income distribution, the obvious losers at the other.

Remember your Fredrick Douglass, who was intimately experienced with such a system:

Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families. Slavery has no use for either fathers or families, and its laws do not recognize their existence in the social arrangements of the plantation. When they do exist, they are not the outgrowths of slavery, but are antagonistic to that system.

In completely unrelated news, 4 out of 5 children in Detroit are born out of wedlock.

Everywhere there be dragons

Raphael's Saint George Fighting the DragonIf you’re either a literary geek or a regular geek, io9 has an excellent piece on Tolkien’s view of dragons.

Dragons are a curiosity to me, mostly because they’re another of those things that, for no apparent reason, can be found across cultures. Europeans and Asians both have ample tales of dragons. Even Australian aborigines tell of a creature that could fairly be considered a dragon. It’s enough to make you wonder if some dinosaurs managed to hang around into human pre-history long enough to inspire a few legends.

Even more interesting, European dragons were not always the giant lizards they are today. They used to be much more serpentine-very much like Chinese dragons. One distinction does hold strong, though: Asian dragons are benevolent; European dragons are evil. Smaug, obviously, is a European dragon.

I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.

Emergent Taqiyya

I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.In what I suspect will end up being a truly minor dust-up, emergent church leader Tony Jones recently called for a schism with churches which don’t ordain women. I’m not sure what that is supposed to look like (he seems to envision a stronger than usual shunning campaign), and I’m not terribly interested in the underlying issue either. It’s like watching someone declare that the most serious evil in the world today is youth unemployment, and then seeing him propose to fix it with nuclear weapons.

What does interest me is another publication by same leader from a few years ago that has been dug up. It concerns the stated principles of Emergent Village, which Tony helped form, and which you can still find up on their website. Here are some of their principles, in their own words:

We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anabaptist. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential. … We seek to be irenic and inclusive of all our Christian sisters and brothers, rather than elitist and critical.

As for their practices:

To be actively and positively involved in a local congregation, while maintaining open definitions of “church” and “congregation.” We work in and with churches, seeking to live out authentic Christian faith in authentic Christian community.

To seek peace among followers of Christ, and to offer critique only prayerfully and when necessary, with grace, and without judgment, avoiding rash statements, and repenting when harsh statements are made. To speak positively of fellow Christians whenever possible, especially those with whom we may disagree.

To seek reconciliation with enemies and make peace.

To stay reconciled to one another. To give one another the gift of commitment not to give up on, betray, or reject one another, but instead, to encourage, honor, and care for one another.

When he formulated them, was Tony lying to us, to himself, or (scariest and also most likely) does he not even see the contradiction? Does it matter? In the end, whatever else we can say about these principle and practices, we can say this: they aren’t true.

I’ve been around to some dark recesses of the web, and seen a lot of things. I have never, ever seen somebody who both extols tolerance and practices it. Sometimes they simply haven’t ventured far enough out of their bubble to realize how many intolerable things there are out there. Most of the time, they drop the act as soon as they think they have the power to bring the sinners to their right to heel.