Friday, August 4, 2006

Generation "Whatever"

Mike Metzger in his Clapham Commentary (free subscription required) pens a fine short essay on the last virtue left in America - the virtue of openness or tolerance.

Metzger borrows from Allan Bloom's classic 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind, to make the point that openness as ity is practised in today's culture is really not a virtue at all but a vice. He writes:

Bloom was pointing out "there are two kinds of openness, the openness of indifference... and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge." The first type of openness is what Bloom claimed prevails to this day in American education. "It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of life-styles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything."

Metzger goes on to say that:

...religion is relegated to the territory of taste - like a preference for a particular kind of pizza. Religion then becomes a mindless exercise "about other nations or cultures and a few social science formulas. None of this means much" to students. If one person prefers veggie pizza and another pepperoni, why fight over it? Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hezbollah... what's the big deal? We're clueless because we equate piety with pizza - beliefs and preferences not worth dying over.

In other words, religious beliefs aren't exactly true, or if they are we could never know such a thing, they're simply preferences with which people feel comfortable. Just as people exercise brand loyalty in their shopping or in their political party affiliation, they exercise a loyalty to religions which resonate with their view of the world.

Metzger adds that,

...according to Bloom, ..."what is advertised as a great openness is a great closing." Our mental gears have been stripped so that we can no longer distinguish between evil, good, better, and best. We're left with a vague "awareness that there are many cultures, accompanied by a saccharine moral drawn from that awareness: We should all get along." We see this in the continuing hesitancy among students to condemn the atrocities of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, or Saddam Hussein because that would appear "judgmental." .... If we believed religion was in the realm of knowledge, we'd have no hesitancy attempting to delineate between good and evil. Bloom chides us: "Openness used to be the virtue that permitted us to seek the good by using reason. It now means accepting everything and denying reason's power."

He might have added that one way in which this openness is manifesting itself in today's news is the moral equivalency that people tend to draw between contending forces in the global struggle against terror. Israel, for example, is said by some to be just as bad as its enemies. Israel has killed civilians and caused terrible hardships for the Palestinian people, thus, even though suicide bombings are wrong, they're understandable. This sort of equivalence acts as a salve to the intellect as it enables the individual to feel righteous without having to do any difficult thinking or read any history. To place on the same moral plane people who in acts of self-defense build walls to keep killers out, and in trying to eliminate the killers accidentally harm bystanders, with those who deliberately premeditate the murder of school children on a bus by strapping bombs to other children who are sometimes unaware of the full consequences of what they're doing, is intellectually and morally otiose.

We need to recover the conviction that there is good, there is evil, and there are mixtures of the two. Those who deliberately slaughter innocents in order to achieve power, or to spread their version of religious truth throughout the world are doing evil. Those who seek to make life better for all people are doing good. We need to recover a knowledge of the difference, but we'll never recover that knowledge until we recover a belief in truth and get rid of the oppressive burden of an "openness" that manifests itself as an indifference to truth.

Coulter Bad For America?

Rod Dreher, author of Crunchy Cons, writes about Ann Coulter at He concludes that she's bad for America, or more precisely, what she stands for is bad for America, but although his criticism of her is fair, it doesn't seem to support such a strong conclusion.

Anyway, read it and decide for yourself.

Blame it on the Pil

An article in a British newspaper offers some clues to the reasons behind certain phenomena of which we've been aware for some time:

A third of male fish in English rivers are changing sex due to 'gender-bending' pollution, alarming research shows. Experts say female hormones from the contraceptive pill and HRT are being washed into our rivers and causing male fish to produce eggs.

The problem - which is country-wide - has raised fears that the pollutants could also be contaminating our drinking water - and even be affecting the fertility of men.

The Environment Agency study looked at the health of more than 1600 roach found in 51 rivers and streams around the country. Overall, a third of the male fish were between sexes. However, in one waterway, near a particularly heavy discharge of treated sewage more than 80 per cent had female characteristics.

Tests showed the males developed female sex organs and were producing eggs. Such fish also produce less sperm and the sperm that is produced is of low quality. Females may also be affected, producing abnormal eggs. Previous studies have shown that cod, trout and flounders are all being feminised.

Researcher Professor Charles Tyler said that the fish are swimming in a soup of oestrogen-like compounds, found in the Pill and in HRT. The hormone, which is also produced naturally by women and found in industrial waste, is released into our waterways after surviving the sewage treatment process.

Human health could also be at risk, with oestrogen from contaminated food and water building up in our bodies. Although there is no conclusive proof, it is thought the hormone, which has similar actions in fish and humans, could be partly to blame for falling sperm counts in men.

British men's sperm counts dropped by almost a third between 1989 and 2002, and one in six couples now have difficulty conceiving. Prof Tyler said: 'There is certainly the potential for it to have an effect in humans - and possibly a marked effect.'

We wonder if there are high levels of estrogen in the water in the United States. If so, it would certainly explain a lot. I leave it to the reader to come up with the particular phenomena it would explain on his/her own.