Robert Merry at The American Conservative has put his finger on the psychology behind Europe’s self-abrogation. His article, ‘How Europe Built Its Own Funeral Pyre, Then Leapt In‘, looks at the psychological and ideological context behind Europe’s current tidal wave of immigration, as well as the potential consequences of allowing so many immigrants who are openly hostile to European culture and historic values. Spend a few minutes today at The American Conservative reading Merry’s article.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, there is a curious moment when the reader becomes aware that the animals who led the revolt against their human overlords have become the new oppressors.
Animal Farm is a uniquely human story. Even a cursory glance over the last half millennia reveals that empowerment has a strange way of enticing former liberators not merely to abandon their own principles, but to begin embodying the principles of their opponents.
We saw this happen when the “Committee of Public Safety” abandoned the principles of the French Revolution, ushering in a terror far worse than anything under the Ancien Régime. We saw it again when the Soviet State abandoned the pseudo-liberating rhetoric Marxism and turned all of Russia into a giant prison. We saw it again when the “agrarian socialism” of the Khmer Rouge found embodiment in the genocide of Pol Pot.
Readers of this blog will know that I have never been a fan of President Trump. But at least I held out hope that something good might come of his presidency if Trump could avoid the military adventurism of the last two administrations, reign in America’s secret and forgotten wars, and halt the headlong rush towards another cold-war situation with Russia.
Alas, these hopes are now dashed. On Friday morning I woke up to the news that President Trump has started a war with Syria, attacking the very regime that has been fighting ISIS. This has occurred despite evidence that the earlier 2013 attack was staged by jihadist rebels to turn the international community against Assad, and despite prima facie evidence that the current attacks “may” have been perpetrated for a similar reason, and despite the fact that the goals and terms of surrender for this new war have yet to be made clear.
With the same impetuosity with which he goes on Twitter without considering the consequences of rash, careless and inflammatory speech, Trump is now rushing into an impulsive, ill-considered and illegal war with Syria in the absence of proper due diligence. The lack of due diligence was encapsulated by Robert Merry in an article this morning for The American Conservative this morning:
What does Trump owe to his constituency, the people who put him in office? Does he owe them a resolve to avoid getting enmeshed in yet another Mideast war, even in the wake of the horrendous chemical weapons attack in Syria? Does he owe them actual proof that Assad was in fact the perpetrator?
More broadly, does he owe the American people an explanation of just what he intends to accomplish with this military action, what its parameters are going to be, what’s its limitations might be? Does he owe Congress any respect as the branch of government charged with the responsibility to declare war?
Trump administration officials waxed bellicose on the matter immediately, before there could have been any serious investigation of what actually happened in Syria. Assad, it was assumed instantly, was the culprit. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad deserved “no role” in governing his country. Thus is America seemingly set to embark on yet another adventure in regime change, a policy that reaped endless regional havoc when it was done in Iraq and Libya.
To be sure, this type of impulsive military adventurism is something we have come to expect from our presidents. However, there is a key difference between this engagement and past engagements in the Middle East. The difference is that Trump has not even given a nod towards the legal constraints that properly regulate military action. As Noah Millman explained at The American Conservative this morning:
Least of all should it be a surprise that President Trump cares even less than his predecessors for the norms and legal constraints on military action. Trump hasn’t the slightest legal warrant whatsoever in domestic or international law for his attack on Syria. In this he has extended the precedents set by Barack Obama (who prosecuted war well beyond the warrant approved by either Congress or the United Nations), George W. Bush (who made war with Congressional approval, but based on deceptive marketing, and who conducted that war in a manner that violated international and domestic law), and Bill Clinton (who made war without international warrant but with the clear and solid support of our NATO treaty allies). But this time there is barely a fig leaf of legality, and no public attempt whatever to justify the action as based on anything but Presidential whim.
Impulsive behavior has consequences, and only time will tell what the consequences of this impulsivity will be.
Today I added the following section to my earlier post, ‘How Trump is Normalizing Relativism‘, looking at some disturbing trends in the Republican Party that throw into question the normal operations of the human mind.
When we pan out to see the big picture of what has been happening in the Republican Party since Trump took the reigns (which, by the way, is a departure from true conservatism), we see a troubling trend towards epistemological relativism. As Paul Waldman observed in his Washington Post article, ‘Republicans are trying to destroy the very idea of neutral judgment‘, GOP lawmakers have been acting as if “there’s no such thing as a neutral authority on anything.” We see this even on a popular level with Trump’s supporters, in which the new modus operandi is to delegitimize critique, not through appeals to objective truth, but through creating suspicion that we are even able to appeal to an objective rational order. On this way of thinking, we all have our own personal truth, the only difference is that some of us are winners and some of us are losers.
When this relativistic modus operandi trickles down to the larger populace, we see it beginning to influence the character of political discussion on the street. In an article I wrote last October about how to discuss politics without alienating your friends, I pointed out that a conclusion is only as good as the premises leading up to that conclusion. Consequently, the way to dispute someone’s conclusion is either to show that it doesn’t follow logically from the preceding premises or to show that the premises from which the conclusion follows are actually false. Not so in the world of Trump. For the votaries of the President, the come-back is no longer, “That’s false – prove it!”, or even “I disagree, and here’s why”, but “What newspaper did you read that in?” The narrative is: everyone has their spin, their biases, so what is more important than what someone says is where that person is coming from. “Did you hear that on CNN or Fox?”
Trapped in our own subjective tribes and ideological micro-cultures, the possibility of objective analysis of facts becomes impossible (according to this narrative). In practice this means that unless you are a Trump supporter, anything you or your newspaper might say is discredited a priori, without actually requiring proper analytical engagement. “Of course they would say that because that paper is liberal.” It’s the standard ad hominem combined with the genetic fallacy, with a twist of postmodern cynicism thrown in the mix. As all of us are trapped in our language games, biases, and ideologies, there is no objective point of reference where we can meet to have a meaningful conversation, according to this narrative. In colluding with this subjectivist epistemology, Republicans are casting doubt on the normal operations of the mind. They do not intend to do that because they are not philosophers, but that is still what they are doing. What is at stake is the very idea of truth, the very idea that there can be an objective rational order to which we can make appeals and which remains independent of the speaker, independent of bias, and independent of who happens to be more powerful.
Increasingly, the political order is treated as so much raw material waiting for the imposition of raw will. As questions of ultimate meaning become relativized, naked authority rushes to fill the vacuum. This can be seen at both ends of the political spectrum. On the one hand, we see the autonomous individual being given unprecedented authority over matters that would once have been a matter of politics (see my comments about Planned Parenthood v. Casey here). Simultaneous with this, we see the state adopting an increasingly authoritative posture in which the rule of law becomes an obstacle to the type of change we expect our lawmakers to implement.
Both these mindsets (inflated individual authority and inflated government authority) easily orient us towards anti-intellectualism, not in the sense that those who embody these polarities are unthinking, but in the sense that political questions become questions of authority rather than questions of teleology, questions of power rather than questions of meaning. Out of this milieu there can only emerge different reconfigurations of tribalism, including tribalist conceptions of national identity.
As the tumultuous year of 2016 draws to a close, new political forces, impulses and ideologies dominate American public space and demand to be taken seriously. From the surprising groundswell of support for socialism that we saw in the Democratic primary to the political potency of social media in the Presidential election, it is clear that American politics is entering a new era where the winners and losers can no longer be easily quantified according by familiar canons.
However, one force that has been all but overlooked this year, but which remains central to understanding the emerging political scene, is the triumph of philosophical nominalism.
The BBC has just reported yet another story of a young woman from a dysfunctional home situation in Britain heading off to Syria for the hope of a better life with ISIS. Only in this case it didn’t quite turn out as planned, leading Tareena Shakil to return home to Britain (which also didn’t turn out as planned since she has been found guilty by a court of being a member of ISIS).
Significantly, Tareena Shakil was fleeing domestic abuse when she went to Syria to become a terrorist’s wife. This fits with a pattern that I keep seeing in the reports about the sorts of women who head to Syria to become Jihadi brides. Although young people decide to join ISIS for a variety of reasons, often the movement attracts woman who are not from the families of devout and pious Muslims who want to max-out on piety, but women who are socially marginalized and whose lives seem to have reached a dead-end.
This article was originally published in my column at the Colson Center. It is republished here with permission. For a complete directory of all my Colson Center articles, click here.
“And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28)
Human beings are “a plague on the Earth”, Sir David Attenborough recently told Britain’s Radio Times.
Known for his nature documentaries and environmental activism, the 86 year old naturalist believes that human beings need to voluntarily die off in order to protect the environment. If they do not, he predicted then nature herself will assume the role of executioner.
It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde” he said. “Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us”.
This isn’t the first time Attenborough has assumed the role of doomsday prophet. In 2002 he commented that “Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it’s time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.”
In 2009, Attenborough put his money where his mouth is and became patron of the UK-based ‘Population Matters’ (formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust). That was the same year this radical group advocated reducing Britain’s population by half through a two-child policy similar to China. (See the Lifesite News report from the time, ‘Reduce UK Population by Half.’) The same year the group also published a document “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” which suggested that the best way to combat global warming was to use contraception and abortion to reduce the surplus population. The utilitarian logic of their proposals was simple: fewer people = fewer polluters.
Breeding Freedom: “a bad idea”
Attenborough and the Population Matters/Optimum Population Trust are not alone in these radical solutions to global warming. On January 22, CNSNews.com ran a story about Paul Ehrlich, a doomsday biologist and author of The Population Bomb. CNSNews quoted Ehrlich as saying “Nobody, in my view, has the right to have 12 children or even three unless the second pregnancy is twins”.
Ehrlich, who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford, added that it was “a bad idea” to give people the right to have as many children as they want. (These pronouncements were recorded in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.)
These dire predictions about the survival of the human race are nothing new. The clergyman Thomas Malthus (1766–1834) suggested that the poor were draining the world’s recourses. Consequently, he advocated policies specifically aimed at killing them off. His calculations were logical based on food resources at the time. However, what Malthus failed to predict was the agricultural revolution and the development of new tools that revolutionized food production.
Malthus also advocated Eugenics, which has been enjoying a renaissance thanks to Bill and Malinda Gates, who powerful Foundation recently aligned itself with the population control lobby and the Eugenics movement. (See my article ‘Gates Foundation Commemorates Eugenics Conference.’)
Human Engineering and Climate Change
The Classical Eugenics movement aimed at improving human beings through selective breeding, while the movement’s contemporary successors (at least the more radical of them) are suggesting we should find ways to improve human beings through genetic engineering. Science can modify Homo sapiens to be the sort of people who cooperate with climate change plans.
I’m not making this up. An article published by the Sidney Morning Herald, titled “Final frontier of climate policy – remake humans” opened with the words “If it is so hard to change the climate to suit humans, why not alter humans to suit the changing climate, philosophers from Oxford and New York universities are asking.” The report went on to summarize a paper about to be published by the academic journal ‘Ethics, Policy & Environment’, which suggests that human engineering will be the last frontier for climate change:
“…humans could be modified to be smaller, dislike eating meat, have fewer children and be more willing to co-operate with social goals…. Better educated women have fewer children, so human engineering to improve cognition could reduce fertility as ‘a positive side effect from the point of view of tackling climate change’, the paper argues. Pharmacological treatments such as the ‘love drug’ oxytocin could encourage people to act as a group and boost their appreciation of other life forms and nature, the authors say.” (Emphasis mine)
I’ll leave you to imagine what the implications of these proposals could be, if the science were ever to become practical.
The Human Problem
Let’s be clear: there is a problem with the Homo sapiens population. However, the problem isn’t quantitative but qualitative. Human beings are sinners and, as such, fail to use the resources God has given us in an efficient and responsible manner. A case in point is Africa: those who have studied the starvation problems facing Africans have understood that the factors behind the famines are largely economic and political. There is more than enough food resources right now to feed the entire population of the world. Moreover, if practices like urban gardening were more widely adopted, the planet could sustain an almost indefinite number of people.
The same applies to climate change. Regardless of whatever or not we believe in man-made global warming, few will deny that pollution is a problem, especially in Asia. But the answer is not to reduce the number of people, but to turn to God and become obedient in the job He gave Adam and Eve of being good stewards of the earth.
This is a point made by E. Calvin Beisner in his book Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future. Beisner argued that, from a Biblical perspective, population growth is a blessing and not a curse. The book’s statistics are now two decades old, but the basic principles are still applicable.
This article was originally published in my column at the Colson Center. It is republished here with permission. For a complete directory of all my Colson Center articles, click here.
“And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28
The news of David and Victoria Beckham’s fourth child was met with anger from campaigners who felt that the Beckham’s family size is now environmentally irresponsible.
At least that is what the Guardian recently reported in their article “Beckhams a ‘bad example’ for families.” The article quotes the UK-based Optimum Population Trust, whose chief executive, Simon Ross, linked family size to carbon emissions:
“The Beckhams, and others like London mayor Boris Johnson, are very bad role models with their large families. There’s no point in people trying to reduce their carbon emissions and then increasing them 100% by having another child.”
Mr. Ross’s comments were echoed by Sir David Attenborough, who called for an end to the “absurd taboo” in discussing family size in the UK.
In reality, no such taboo exists. As I showed last year in my Salvo feature, “Baby Freeze: Is Population Control the New Solution to Global Warming?“, environmentalists in both the UK and America have a long history of paranoia about population and have been using climate change as a reason to scare people into having less babies.
Also in “Baby Freeze” I drew attention to the fact that seventy-three members of the US House of Representatives sent a letter to the White House urging President Obama to add one billion dollars in funding for international family planning to his 2011 budget. While advocates of family planning are hardly a new phenomenon, what was significant about this letter is that it cited “climate change” as a reason to advocate lower birth rates. “Family planning,” the Representatives said, “should be part of larger strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Slower population growth will make reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions easier to achieve.”
The ruthless utilitarian logic is actually very simple: less people = less polluters.
But short of implementing totalitarian policies like China, what can anyone actually do about the supposed problem of population growth? Dr. Barry Walters, a professor of obstetrics at the University of Western Australia, came up with an idea a few years ago. He suggested that those who refuse to use contraception should be levied with a climate-change tax. In a 2007 article in the Medical Journal of Australia, Dr. Walters proposed that such a tax be assessed on all couples having more than two children. He suggested an initial fine of $5,000 for each “extra” child when born, with another $800 assessed every year thereafter. However, parents could redeem themselves by using contraceptives or undergoing sterilization procedures, for which they would receive carbon credits.
Simon Ross, chief executive of the UK-based Optimum Population Trust, floated a similar idea in the furor over the Beckham’s fourth child. He suggested that the UK government might want to consider only giving tax benefits for the first two children in a family. “That would send a clear signal that the government will support sustainable families,” Ross said, “but after that you are on your own.”
Population control is hardly a new idea. In his book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, Jonah Goldberg showed that in the early twentieth century it was politically correct for liberal thinkers to advocate both population control and eugenics selection. (Eugenics is the practice of using selective breeding, often based on race, to improve the human gene pool.) Such thinkers followed men like Sir Francis Galton (1822 –1911) who had combined the biological theories of Charles Darwin (1809 –1882) with the social theories of Thomas Malthus (1766 –1834). The basic premise behind this movement was that the more educated among us had a responsibility to give evolution a helping hand by either improving the gene pool, reducing the “surplus population”, or both.
After Hitler tried to put some of these ideas in practice, population control stopped being a fashionable topic. However, it didn’t take long for the scepter of Fascism to wear off and by the close of the 20th century population control had again returned to the limelight. But this time, instead of being linked to theories like eugenics and social Darwinism, it was propelled by the emerging ideology of environmentalism.
The result has been that groups concerned ostensibly with protecting the earth (such as the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation) have now jumped on the population control bandwagon. For many such groups, global warming is a reason for increasing the availability of contraception, abortion, family planning services and sex education. For example, when the National Wildlife Federation put out a Population and Global Warming Fact Sheet, they suggested that “family planning and related health care and education” could help to “reduce the danger of climate change and other environmental stressors.”
Should this heightened interest in population control concern us? I think so. As I pointed out in my “Baby Freeze” article, if history shows us anything, it is that when a civilization begins to feel guilty for existing, the results are usually unpleasant. Moreover, it is by no means certain that the problem of pollution can be tied so directly to human growth, as E. Calvin Beisner argued in his book Prospects for Growth: A Biblical View of Population, Resources, and the Future.
The larger issue at stake is that the mind of the radical environmentalist will stop at nothing when following through the implications of his most cherished presuppositions. This even includes an attempt to impose guilt on those who, like the Beckham’s, decide to have more children than the Western average.
If this teaches us anything it is that ideas have consequences. As Christians it is important that we do not be naïve to the consequences that follow from the agenda of radical environmentalism.