Technocracy Triumphant — Manitoba Court Cancels The Charter Rights You Thought You Had



The Canadian Red Ensign


Technocracy Triumphant  — Manitoba  Court Cancels The Charter Rights You Thought You Had

Taking the attitude “who am I to judge” is, under many circumstances, appropriate and admirable.   There is one circumstance, however, when it is extremely inappropriate and reprehensible.   That is when you are a justice of Her Majesty’s bench before whom one person or group has brought another person or group, complaining that the latter has injured them in violation of the law and asking you for redress of their wrongs.   If you happen to be in that situation then your job – your only job – is to hear the case, weight the evidence, and issue a ruling, in short – to judge.   To plead humility as an excuse for not doing so is to abandon your duty.

Earlier this year, in the late spring, Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba heard evidence that lawyers representing the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms presented on behalf of the Gateway Bible Baptist Church in Thompson, along with six other congregations, two ministers and one other individual in two related but distinct constitutional challenges to the provincial bat flu public health orders. (1)   One of these challenged the sweeping powers with insufficient accountability that had been given to the Chief Public Health Officer.   The other challenged portions of the public health orders themselves on the grounds that they violated the fundamental freedoms named in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in such a way as could not be justified by the “reasonable limitations” clause of the Charter’s Section 1.    The evidence in these challenges was heard in May.   After taking the summer to deliberate or take a vacation or go for the world’s record in thumb twiddling or whatever, last week on the twenty-first of October Chief Justice Joyal finally ruled in these cases.   For the purposes of distinction the ruling with regards to the constitutionality of the powers of the Chief Public Health Officer will be called “the first ruling” and the ruling with regards to the constitutionality of portions of the orders will be called “the second ruling”.

The Chief Justice ruled against the applicants in both cases.    In one sense, however, the second ruling could be called a non-ruling.   In paragraph 292 we find the following:

I say that while recognizing and underscoring that fundamental freedoms do not and ought not to be seen to suddenly disappear in a pandemic and that courts have a specific responsibility to affirm that most obvious of propositions.

This is very good and right.   The problem is that the next sentence begins with a “but.”   Apart from the bad grammar involved – Chief Justice Joyal is old enough to have still had the rule never to begin a sentence with a conjunction like “but” drilled into him in grade school – buts have this nasty habit of leading into material that completely negates everything that precedes the “but”.   Here is what followed:  

But just as I recognize that special responsibility of the courts, given the evidence adduced by Manitoba (which I accept as credible and sound), so too must I recognize that the factual underpinnings for managing a pandemic are rooted in mostly scientific and medical matters. Those are matters that fall outside the expertise of courts. Although courts are frequently asked to adjudicate disputes involving aspects of medicine and science, humility and the reliance on credible experts are in such cases, usually required. In other words, where a sufficient evidentiary foundation has been provided in a case like the present, the determination of whether any limits on rights are constitutionally defensible is a determination that should be guided not only by the rigours of the existing legal tests, but as well, by a requisite judicial humility that comes from acknowledging that courts do not have the specialized expertise to casually second guess the decisions of public health officials, which decisions are otherwise supported in the evidence.

This constitutes an abdication of the very responsibility he had just acknowledged.   If fundamental freedoms still exist in a pandemic, and it is the court’s special responsibility to affirm this, this means that the court cannot defer to the public health authorities, the medical experts, on the question of whether their own measures are reasonable and justified.   If civil authority A is accused of trampling on the public’s fundamental freedoms, and the court defers to the expertise of civil authority A on the question of whether the latter’s actions are reasonable and justified, this translates into “civil authority A can do whatever he sees fit, there are no limits on his powers to which the court will hold him accountable”.    Indeed, saying that courts should be guided not just by the “rigours of the existing legal tests” but a “humility” that forbids them to “casually second guess” the decisions of public health officials is tantamount to saying that medical science is a higher authority than the law.  (2)

In the sections of the ruling that immediately follow the paragraph from which we have quoted, we see what this “judicial humility” looks like in practice.   In these pages Chief Justice Joyal considers the question of whether the public health orders meet the standards of the Oakes test.    The Oakes test was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1986 to determine whether legislation or other government action that infringes upon Charter rights and freedoms is nevertheless permitted under the “reasonable limitations” clause.     To pass, the infringement must first be shown to serve a “pressing and substantial objective”.   Second, the infringement must be show to be proportional, which means that it must a) be shown to be rationally connected to the objective, b) be shown to only minimally impair the right(s) and/or freedom(s) in question and c) be shown to provide a benefit to the public that is greater than the harm done by impairing the right(s) and/or freedom(s).  (3)  For each of the stages of this test, the Chief Justice essentially takes the position that because Brent Roussin decided, after weighing all the information available to him, that each public health order he issued was what was necessary at the time, therefore the orders meet the standards of the test.    Such a ruling in effect declares that Brent Roussin, as Chief Public Health Officer, is above the law insofar as he is acting in the capacity of his office.   If the court defers to him as to whether his actions in the capacity of his office meet the standards of constitutionality set in the Oakes test or not, then he is above the Oakes test and the Charter and cannot be held accountable to either.

The ramifications of this extend far beyond the issues pertaining to the public health orders and the pandemic.  What it means is that while we remain in form the country that we were, governed by a parliament under the reign of a constitutional monarch, in which Common Law and Charter nominally protect our rights and freedoms, in actual practice we have become a medical technocracy.

Anyone inclined to think that this is a good thing, or even a tolerable thing, is invited to consider the words of C. S. Lewis:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.  (God in the Dock, 1948)

This description fits the rule of medical technocrats to a tee.  

That a de facto medical technocracy is inimical to the freedom that permeates our parliamentary form of government, our constitutional monarchy, and the Common Law is the real issue at the heart of the other challenge.   This was the challenge to the constitutionality of the provincial legislature’s having named Brent Roussin dictator, with Jazz Atwal as his Master of Horse, for the duration of the pandemic, which had to be framed, of course, as a challenge to the sections of the Manitoba Public Health Act (2009) which provided for this situation.   These are sections 13 and 67.   Section 67 empowers the Chief Public Health Officer to take special measures if he “reasonably believes” that “a serious and immediate threat to public health exists because of an epidemic or threatened epidemic of a communicable disease” which “cannot be prevented, reduced or eliminated” without the special measures.   Section 13 allows him to delegate his own power under the Act to a deputy.  

Chief Justice Joyal ruled that this two-fold delegation of power, first from the legislature to the Chief Public Health Officer, second from the latter to his deputy was constitutional.   In the course of explaining his decision he made a number of statements that suggest a troubling sympathy with the technocratic impulse of the age.   He gave his approval to the province’s claim that with the “emergence of new threats such as SARS, West Nile, monkey pox and the avian flu” it was important that the government focus on the “modernization of the PHA”.   The modernization of the Public Health Act, that is to say, bringing it in line with contemporary trends around the world, means making it more technocratic.   In this context the Chief Justice asserted with regards to the centralization of the public health system in the person of the Chief Public Health Officer that:

the act sets out the powers afforded to public health officials to address communicable diseases and importantly, it also constrains those powers so as to ensure an appropriate balance between individual rights and the protection of public health  (first ruling, 12).

Does it ensure such an appropriate balance?   As this is the quod erat demonstrandum, this forthright assertion of it would seem to be a classic example of petitio principia, especially when we consider the weakness of everything that was then put forward in support of the assertion. After providing quotations from speeches in the legislative assembly at the time the new Public Health Act was being debated that show that the legislators acknowledged the need for such a balance, the Chief Justice finally specified the constraints this Act supposedly places on the powers it gives to the Chief Public Health Officer (first ruling, 17).   Not a single one of these is a real check that prevents the office of the Chief Public Health Officer from being corrupted into a medical technocratic tyranny by the excessive emergency power vested in it.

The first of these is that the official must believe there is a public health emergency that requires special measures to be taken.   The third is that the orders require the prior approval of the Minister of Health.   The fourth is the stipulation in section 3 of the Public Health Act that the restrictions on rights and freedoms of the special measures be as few as possible, the equivalent to the “minimal impairment” requirement of the Oakes test.  In practice, the attitude of deferral to the specialized medical expertise of the Chief Public Health Officer on the part of the Minister of Health ensures that none of these constitutes a real constraint.   The sixth, which is that the Chief Public Health Officer must be a physician, is a limit on who the Minister of Health can appoint to the office not a limit on use of the powers of that office by the officeholder.   The seventh and final “constraint” pertains only to the secondary matter of the sub delegation of the Chief Public Health Officer’s powers to his deputy.  This leaves the second and fifth, both of which warrant special comment and so have been reserved for last.

The second “constraint” is that under subsection 2 of section 67 “the types of orders that can be made are clearly delineated”.   This is true, but the types so delineated are so extensive that this is not much of a limitation even without taking into consideration how much further deferral to the expertise of the Chief Public Health Officer would stretch them.

The fifth is the stipulation in subsection 4 of section 67 that “an order requiring a person to be immunized cannot be enforced if the person objects.”    Although this looks like a real constraint on the Chief Public Health Officer’s powers, for several months now he has gotten away with making a total mockery of this stipulation by doing everything short of strapping objectors down and forcing the needle into them to compel them to be “immunized”.

Therefore, quite to the contrary of what Chief Justice Joyal claims (first ruling, 18) these constraints provide no real protection against the danger of the powers the Public Health Act confers upon the Chief Public Health Officer in a public health emergency being used to run roughshod over our rights and freedoms. Whatever the intention of the legislators in 2009, the Public Health Act fails to provide an appropriate balance between individual rights and the protection of public health.   Instead, it places all the weight on the side of the latter. 

It needs to be stated here that the need for an appropriate balance between individual rights and freedoms on the one hand and the public good on the other is a truism.   The art of statecraft – politics in the best sense of the word – could be said to reduce to finding just this balance.   The problem, at least in Canada, is that for decades now we have only ever seemed to have heard this truism trotted out whenever someone is insisting that individual rights and freedoms need to make cessions to the public good.   Balance requires that there also be cessions from the public good to individual rights and freedoms.   Indeed, since the vast majority of decisions that need to be made in any complex society have to do with the good of individuals and small groups, rather than the good of the society as a whole, and it is individual rights and freedoms that ensure that those making such decisions are the ones most competent to do so, which with only rare exceptions means the individuals and small groups directly concerned, balance arguably requires far more cessions to individual rights and freedoms from the public good, than the other way around.

The basic assumption of technocracy is contrary to all of this.   This is the assumption that technical knowledge – the kind of specialized knowledge in any field that qualifies one as an expert – renders one competent to make decisions for other people if the expert’s field at all touches upon those decisions.   This assumption is laughably false – technical expertise in one field does not translate into technical expertise in another field, much less all fields, and it is rare that a decision requires information from only one field.   The most technical knowledge ought to qualify an expert for is to advise people in the making of their own decisions, not to make those decisions for them.   Indeed, were we to assume that the greater an individual’s expertise is in one specialized field, the greater his ignorance will be in all others, and the more utterly incompetent he will be at making decisions for himself, let alone other people, our assumption would be wrong, but a lot less wrong than the assumption inherent in technocracy.

Technocracy is odious enough when it takes the form of the army of civil servants, passing the endless regulations that boss people around and tell them what to do in their own homes and how to run their own businesses, by which Liberal Prime Ministers have so effectively circumvented the constraints of our Crown-in-Parliament constitution in order to impose their will upon Canadians.   A medical technocracy enacted in a public health emergency is far worse.   Throughout history, mankind has been much more often plagued by tyranny than by insufficient government power, by too many rules than by too few, and the exploitation of emergencies, real or manufactured, and the fear they engender in the public, is the normal means whereby a tyrant seizes unconstitutional power.   For this reason it is imperative than  in any emergency, those empowered to deal with the emergency be subjected to even greater scrutiny and held to even stricter accountability, than in ordinary circumstances.   This is the opposite of the attitude of deference that Chief Justice Joyal contended for in 281-283 of the second ruling, and which he reiterated in the first sentence of 292, “In the context of this deadly and unprecedented pandemic, I have determined that this is most certainly a case where a margin of appreciation can be afforded to those making decisions quickly and in real time for the benefit of the public good and safety.” (4)

This deference is fatal to the court’s role as the guardian of fundamental freedoms.    Chief Justice Joyal acknowledged (284), as, in fact, did the province, that these freedoms were violated, and that therefore the onus is upon the government to justify the violation.  (5)  When the court gives this “margin of appreciation” to “those making decisions quickly and in real time”, however, is it possible for the province to fail to meet this onus in the court’s eyes?

Consider the arguments that the province made that it met the “minimal impairment” requirement of the Oakes test.   Chief Justice Joyal reproduced (303) the reasons the province offered in support of this contention from paragraph 52 of their April 12, 2021 brief.  Reason c) begins with “Unlike some other jurisdictions, there was no curfew imposed or a ‘shelter in place’ order that would prevent people from leaving their home other than for limited reasons”.   That you cannot validly justify your own actions by pointing to the worse actions of someone else is something that anyone with even the most basic of training in logical reasoning should immediately recognize.   The same reason includes the sentences “It was still possible to gather with family and friends at indoor and outdoor public places, up to the gathering limit of 5 people” and “An exception was also made for people who live on their own to allow one person to visit.”   Offering these as “reasons” why the public health order forbidding people to meet with anyone other than members of their own household in their own homes for over three months only “minimally impaired” our freedoms of association and assembly is adding insult to injury.  That is called throwing people crumbs, not keeping your infringement on their freedoms to a minimum.   “Minimally impair” is not supposed to mean to impair the freedom to the point that it is minimal.

Reason e) which pertains to freedom of religion is no better.   The province declared that there was an “attempt to accommodate religious services”.   The first example of this that they gave is that “Religious services could still be delivered remotely indoors, or outdoors in vehicles”.   It seems rather rich of the province to offer the latter up as proof that they tried to only minimally impair freedom of religion when, in fact, the churches that offered such services had to fight to obtain that concession. 

Had Brent Roussin forgotten that he had initially banned drive-in services when he ordered churches to close in the so-called “circuit break” last fall?  

Or rather had he remembered that it was Chief Justice Joyal who on the fifth of December last year had ruled that drive-in services were in violation of the public health orders before he, that is Roussin, amended the orders to allow for these services?  

Either way it is rather disingenuous of him to make this allusion in this context.  

The next sentence is even worse.    “As well, individual prayer and reflection was permitted.”    So, because he didn’t ban people from praying by themselves in the privacy of their own homes, which even officially Communist countries never attempted, he is to be credited for only “minimally impairing” our freedom of religion by forbidding us to obey God’s commandment to forsake not the assembly of ourselves, forbidding us to sing God’s praises as a community of faith, and forbidding us from partaking of the Holy Sacrament?   Indeed, what this sentence tells us is that the person who wrote it thinks a) that individuals need the permission of government to pray and reflect in private, b) that it is within the powers of government to withhold such permission and forbid private prayer and reflection, and c) government’s not having done so means that their violations of our freedom of religion and worship have been minimal and reasonable.      

Any sort of cognitive filter that allows a Chief Justice to look at this sort of nonsense and conclude from it that the province has met its onus of justifying its impairment of our fundamental freedoms as the minimum necessary under the circumstances is clearly a dysfunctional filter that ought to be immediately discarded.

Indeed, the province’s arguments illustrate the point made above about technocracy being inimical to freedom, constitutional government, and the balance between individual right and public good.   Technical knowledge or specialized knowledge in a field of expertise, as stated above, does not translate into expertise in another field, much less expertise in all fields.  Indeed, it tends towards a certain kind of deficiency in general reasoning that could be regarded as a sort of tunnel vision.   It is called déformation professionelle in French and is similar to what is called the Law of the Instrument, illustrated in Abraham Maslow’s proverb about how if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.   A physician’s technical expertise is in the field of medicine – treating sickness and injury and promoting health.   He will therefore be inclined to subordinate everything else to the goals of his profession.   In an epidemic or pandemic, this inclination will be all the more exaggerated.  To a medical expert in such a situation, the answer to the question of what public health orders constitute the minimal necessary restrictions on fundamental freedoms will look very different than it does to those who do not share this narrow focus.   

Consider the words that George Grant in his important discussion (Technology and Justice, 1986) of the implications of the increasing technologization of society identified as encapsulating spirit of technological thought, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s “when you see that something is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it.”  The significance of these words is that the technological mind is inclined to reject external limitations, such as those of ethics, that stand between it and the actual doing of whatever it finds itself capable.    Modern medical thinking is thoroughly technological and Oppenheimer’s thought, translated into that of a physician and epidemiologist overseeing a pandemic, would be “when you see that you can slow the spread of the disease by doing A, you go ahead and do A”.   A might have a thousand other effects, all negative, but the mind that prioritizes slowing the spread of an epidemic over all other concerns can acknowledge this and still come to the conclusion that the benefit outweighs the harm, demonstrating that its ability to make calculations of this sort is seriously impaired.  (6)

It is absolutely essential that those charged with the duty of protecting our fundamental rights and freedoms and holding government to its constitutional limits, recognize how the very nature of medical expertise tends towards the skewing of the medical expert’s perspective in this way and that therefore he is the last person to whose opinion government ministers and judges should defer in determining whether public health orders infringing upon fundamental freedoms are constitutionally justified out of necessity.

For the courts to fail to recognize this is for the courts to shirk their duty and acquiesce as our country succumbs to the tyranny of technocracy. (7)

 (1)   The applicants were the churches: Gateway Bible Baptist Church (Thompson), Pembina Valley Baptist Church (Winkler), Redeeming Grace Bible Church (Morden), Grace Covenant Church (Altona), Slavic Baptist Church, Christian Church of Morden, Bible Baptist Church (Brandon); ministers: Tobias Tissen (pastor of Church of God, Restoration in Sarto, just south of Steinbach) and Thomas Rempel (deacon of Redeeming Grace Bible Church); and individual:  Ross MacKay.

(2)   Tom Brodbeck’s editorial commenting on these rulings for the local Liberal Party propaganda rag – or paper of record, depending upon your perspective – was given the headline “Case Closed, Science Wins”.

(3)   There is an unfortunate tautology here in that proportionality is the term used for both all three stages of the second step of the test taken together and the third stage of the same.

(4)   The pandemic is “unprecedented” only in the sense that the measures taken to combat it have been unprecedented in their extremity.   The Spanish Flu which ended about a century before the bat flu pandemic began killed between 25-50 million people.   The bat flu has killed about 5 million over the course of a similar span of time.   Not only is the total of the Spanish Flu much larger than that of the bat flu, it represents a much larger percentage of the world’s population which was considerably smaller at the time.   It took place at a time when health care and medical treatment options were far more limited than they are today, and yet public health orders never came close to what they are today, despite the earlier pandemic having started in a time of war when people were already accustomed to emergency restrictions.

(5)  Many of the news articles reporting on these rulings have been extremely misleading.   Several have reported that the Chief Justice ruled that no Charter rights were violated.   This is true only in the sense that there is a distinction between rights and freedoms and that the Chief Justice ruled against there having been a violation of Section 7 and Section 15 rights.   With regards to Section 2 fundamental freedoms, however, he ruled – and the province admitted – that these had been violated, and that therefore there was a burden of justification on the government to prove these violations to be constitutional in accordance with Section 1.  As the discussion of Section 2 was by far the most important part of the case, to summarize the entire ruling as if it were all about the Sections 7 and 15 challenges, is to utterly distort it.  

(6)   Suppose that a virus is spreading which, if unchecked, will cause 10 000 deaths.   The public health officer, if he takes Action B, can prevent the epidemic and all of those deaths.   However, Action B will itself cause 10 000 other deaths.   The number of deaths will be the same whether action is taken or not.   Should the public health officer take this action or do nothing?   It would be odious to attempt to resolve the dilemma by comparing the value of the 10 000 lives lost the one way, with the value of the 10 000 lives lost the other.   The person who makes the case for the public health officer’s taking Action B, therefore, would have to reason along the lines that since it is the public health officer’s duty to combat epidemics and save lives threatened by disease, and the intent behind Action B would be to save the 10 000 threatened by the epidemic not kill the other 10 000, Action B should be taken and the 10 000 lost to it considered collateral damage.   The person who would argue the other side would point out that the 10 000 lost to the epidemic would die of natural causes, that the 10 000 lost as a result of Action B would die as the direct consequence of human action, and that the human moral culpability for taking an action that directly results in a death is greater than the human moral culpability for not taking an action that would prevent a death by natural cause, ergo it is worse to take Action B than to not do so.   Which of these two arguments is the most persuasive.  I would suggest that for people who are both normal and capable of rational, human, moral thought, the second of the two arguments is likely to be the most persuasive, and that those persuaded by the first of the two arguments are most likely to be found among medical experts.

(7)   That technological science was leading us to a universal technocracy which would be the worst of all tyrannies was a warning sounded frequently throughout the Twentieth Century by such thinkers as Jacques Ellul (The Technological Society, 1954, Perspectives on Our Age, 1981), C. S. Lewis (The Abolition of Man, 1943, That Hideous Strength, 1945), and René Girard (I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning, 1999).   In Canada, George Grant played the role of Cassandra on this theme, which runs through his entire corpus of work from Philosophy in the Mass Age (1959) to Technology and Justice (1986).   It was central to the thesis of his 1965 jeremiad Lament for a Nation that by succumbing to the technologically driven capitalism of America, Canada was losing the pre-liberal traditions that informed her founding, and would be drawn like the rest of the world into the “universal homogenous state”, a technocracy that the ancients had predicted would be the ultimate tyranny.   Technological science, as he argued in the first essay of Technology and Justice, begins as man’s mastery of nature, but progresses into man’s master of himself, which translates into his mastery of other people.   He did not shrink from implicating modern medicine along with other more obvious culprits in this.POSTED BY GERRY T. NEAL 

The Abandonment of Truth and the Fall of Civilization

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Abandonment of Truth and the Fall of Civilization

Exactly when Medieval times or the Middle Ages ended and the Modern Age began has long been a subject of discussion and debate.   It will continue to be so, since the transition was not instantaneous but took place over an extended period that included any number of events which, depending the criteria being taken into consideration, could be identified as the turning point.   The question must, therefore, remain open, and for several decades now has taken the backseat to the questions of whether the Modern Age has ended, if so when, and what comes next.      Despite the temptation created by so many of the events of the current year having been presented to us in an apocalyptic framework, it is not my intention to address the latter set of questions here, other than to refer my readers to the interesting and persuasive discussion of such matters by the late John Lukacs in The Passing of the Modern Age (1970), The End of the Twentieth Century and the End of the Modern Age (1993), and At The End of an Age (2002).    It is the transformation of Christendom into Western Civilization, a matter that touches on the questions pertaining to both the beginning and the end of the Modern Age that I shall be talking about here.    Or, to be more precise, I shall be discussing one aspect of that transformation.

Was the transformation of Christendom into Western Civilization the start of the Modern Age (one of the possible answers to the first question), the end of the Modern Age in both the sense of the purpose towards which that Age was directed and moving and in the sense that when it was accomplished the Age came to an end (if so this touches on the answer to all of the questions pertaining to the end of the Age), or was it simply one and the same with the Modern Age?

Christendom is a word that can be used in a narrower or a wider sense.   Let us take it here in its fullest sense of civilization that takes the Christian faith as its foundation and organizational principle.   It is essentially the generic version of what American Russian Orthodox hieromonk, Fr. Seraphim Rose, described in its Eastern Orthodox form when he wrote “that the principal form government took in union with Christian Truth was the Orthodox Christian Empire, wherein sovereignty was vested in a Monarch, and authority proceeded from him downwards through a hierarchical social structure” (Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age, 1994, 2018, p. 28).    Obviously, by the end of the Second World War, one of the time-markers for possible ends of the Modern Age, this had been replaced by liberal, secular, democratic, Western Civilization, in all but the most outward, nominal, sense.   At the deepest level, of course, the transformation had been accomplished much earlier than this.

What this suggests, of course, is that, paradoxically, all three options in the complex question in our second paragraph can be answered in the affirmative.

While the question of when exactly the transformation of Christendom into Western Civilization began must remain open, like the related question of when the transition into the Modern Age began, it is certain that the radical epistemic revolution belongs to the earliest stages of the transformation.   By radical epistemic revolution, I mean the fundamental shift in how we conceive of what we know and how we know it that involved a repudiation of both tradition and divine revelation as evidentiary paths to knowledge and which introduced so drastic a change in the meaning of both reason and science as to constitute a break from what these things had been since classical antiquity.     The consequence of this revolution for Christian Truth was that it was removed from the realm of knowledge and reassigned to the realm of a “faith” which had itself been radically redefined so as to bear no resemblance to St. Paul’s “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) but to be almost the very opposite of this.   Clearly this was a most significant event in the breaking of the union between civilization and Christian Truth.

In my last essay, in which I talked about the increasing confusion with regards to basic logical concepts that has occurred in a period that has also seen dogmatic authority increasingly assigned to “science” despite this contradicting the non-authoritarian nature of science in both pre-Modern and Modern meanings, I mentioned the paradox of the fact that the removal of tradition and divine revelation from the realm of evidence which thus emptied that realm of all but the kind of evidence which historians and courts rely upon and the kind which scientists rely upon should have tipped the balance in favour of reason in the ancient debate about the priority of reason versus evidence but has seemingly had the opposite effect of elevating one particular form of evidence over reason and the other remaining form of evidence.   It also needs to be observed, with regards to the dogmatic, authoritative, voice now ascribed to “science”, that in the most obvious cases of this, actual empirical evidence has itself been trumped by something else.   In the anthropogenic global warming/climate change “crisis” of recent decades and the Wuhan bat flu “crisis” of this year, in both of which we have been told that we must accept a drastic reduction in human freedom and submit to totalitarian measures and group-think in order to avert a catastrophe, dissenters have been told to “shut up and listen to the science”, but the “science” in question has largely consisted of computer model projections, which have been granted a bizarre precedence not only over reason, such as the questioning which provokes the “shut up and listen to the science” response, and non-empirical evidence, such as the historical record on the world’s ever-changing climate which directly contradicts the entire alarmist narrative on this subject, but even empirical evidence as this has until recently been understood, observations and measurements made in either the real world or the laboratory.   Since plenty of this sort of empirical evidence joins non-empirical evidence in supporting reason against these narratives, we are in effect being told that we must set both reason and evidence aside and mindlessly obey orders backed only by the fictional speculations of an artificial “intelligence”.   Anyone still open to the evidence of tradition and divine revelation, will find in Scriptural descriptions of the effects of idolatry upon the minds of those who practice it, an ample explanation of this phenomenon.

That tradition and divine revelation became vulnerable to being forced out of the realm of evidence can in part by attributed to their having been set against each other in the period that produced the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.   Both sides share the blame here.   The papacy and its adherents at their worst placed such an emphasis on tradition that they sometimes gave the impression that they had elevated it over divine revelation and thus were inviting a response similar to that given to the scribes and Pharisees by the Lord in Matthew 15:1-2, emphasis on verses three and six, whereas the more radical elements of the Protestant Reformation went so far in the opposite direction as to contradict such New Testament affirmations of tradition as I Corinthians 11:2 and II Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:16.   It is beyond the scope of this essay, of course, to offer a full resolution of this conflict.   I shall simply point out that by divine revelation I mean what theologians call “special revelation”, which is distinct from “general revelation” such as that described by St. Paul in Romans  1:19-20.   General revelation or natural revelation, is God’s revelation of Himself in the natural order of His Creation, and is the source of such truth as can be found in all human tradition.   Special revelation, is God’s salvific revelation of Himself in His Covenants, His written Word, and ultimately in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.   When Christianity makes claims of exclusivity, such as “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh to the Father but through Me”, these rest upon special revelation.   When Christianity acknowledges truth in other religions, this is on the basis of the general revelation that informs all traditions.    See the essays by C. S. Lewis in the first section of God in the Dock (1970), and the book Christianity and Pluralism (1998, 2019), by Ron Dart and J. I. Packer for a more extended discussion of these matters.   Special revelation, because of its role in the ordu salutis, comes with promises of divine protection against corruption (Matthew 5:17-18, for example) that are obviously not extended to general revelation (see the larger context of the Romans passage cited above), which would seem obviously to place the primacy on special divine revelation, without eliminating the epistemic value of either human tradition in general or the particular Apostolic tradition affirmed in Scripture in the aforementioned Pauline references.

The turning of divine (special) revelation and tradition against each other facilitated the rise of rationalism which attacked their now divided house and excluded them both from the realm of reason, evidence, and knowledge.   That this having ultimately led to evidence taking primacy over reason in an ongoing discussion/debate which began prior to Socrates seems counterintuitive is due to the reasons mentioned above, however, it seems more inevitable when we consider what is asserted about Jesus Christ in the first verse of the Gospel according to St. John.   “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”    The word rendered Word in the English of this verse is Logos, the word from which logic is derived.   It does indeed mean “word” in the sense of the unit of speech that is the basic building block of sentences, although it can also mean “sentence” in certain contexts, or even “speech” in general.   It also, however, can mean thought, in the sense of calculation, judgement, evaluation, and basically everything suggested by the word “reason”.   This personification of reason and ascription to it of divine status would have been familiar territory to the Greek thinkers of the day, as just such a thought had long been a dominant theme in Greek philosophy.   

Heraclitus of Ephesus, who is otherwise best known for his view that constant change is the defining characteristic of the world – “you never step in the same river twice” – introduced the concept of the Logos into Greek thought.  Logos, to Heraclitus, was a divine, rational principle that governs the world of flux and brings order and meaning to what otherwise would be chaos. In the first century, the Hellenizing Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria, had famously equated the Logos of Greek thought with the personified Wisdom in Jewish Wisdom literature. The eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament is the canonical example of this personification of Wisdom, and the Wisdom of Solomon, one of the disputed books of the Septuagint, is a book long example of the same, possibly originally written as expansion of or commentary on the chapter in Proverbs.  Even prior to Philo there had been a tradition in Jewish thought somewhat parallel to the Greek Logos, represented primarily in the Targum (a translation, or more accurately number of translations, of the Old Testament into Aramaic, along with midrash or exegetical commentary on the same, also in Aramaic), in which the personified Memra acts as the messenger or agent of God.   

There was one huge difference between Philo’s synthesis of Greek and Hebrew thought on this matter and St. John’s.   For Philo the Logos was not God, per se, but a divine intermediary between God and Creation, roughly the equivalent of the Demiurge, albeit the benevolent Demiurge of Plato’s Timaeus not the malevolent Demiurge of the Gnostic heretics.   For St. John, the Logos was both with God, and was identical to God.    The lack of a definite article preceding Theos in the final clause of the first verse of the Gospel does not mean that a diminutive or lesser divinity is intended.   Since the clause joins two nouns of the same case (nominative) with the copula, and Theos is the noun that precedes the copula, its anarthrous condition indicates that it functions grammatically as the predicate rather than the subject (E. C. Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament”, Journal of Biblical Literature 52, 1933).   Even if this were not a recognized grammatical rule, St. John’s intention could hardly be clearer, as his Logos, identified in the fourteenth verse as Jesus Christ, repeatedly makes statements employing the Greek equivalent of YHWH in such a way as to unmistakably identify Himself as God.   Indeed, this makes St. John’s use of the Greek philosophical term for the divine principle of reason that makes reality orderly in a way that evokes the first chapter of Genesis with its repeated “and God said…and it was so”, transforming what had been “without form and void” into that which “was very good”, a much more powerful embrace of reason than Philo’s.    See Calvinist philosopher Gordon H. Clark’s The Johannine Logos (1972)for a fuller discussion of this.  This is why the rejection of Christian epistemology, which affirms both special revelation and tradition, and embrace of a rationalist epistemology that removes both from the realm of evidence – although done in the name of reason and hence the term “rationalist” – must inevitably assign reason a much lower place than it had occupied in a worldview that acknowledges the Divine Logos.

The elevation of empirical evidence over historical evidence was also an inevitable consequence of the same epistemological revolution.   The reason for this is that the special revelation and tradition which were banished from the realm of evidence, each have a unique relationship with one of the two evidences allowed to remain.   When special revelation and tradition were sent into exile, the hierarchical relationship between the two was also rejected, leading to the inversion of this hierarchy for the corresponding two evidences.

Empirical evidence or science – real empirical evidence, mind you, not the computer generated, pseudoscientific, fiction masquerading under its name today – corresponds with tradition.   Here, I mean tradition in the generic sense of “that which has been passed down” (tradition comes from the passive perfect participle of the Latin trado, the verb for handing over or passing on) rather than the content of any particular tradition.   Tradition’s chief epistemic value is that it is the means whereby that which has been observed, deduced, and otherwise learned and known in the past is made available to those living in the present so that each generation does not have to re-invent the wheel so to speak and discover everything afresh for itself.   Apart from this, human knowledge could not significantly accumulate and grow.   As mentioned briefly above, with regards to Romans 1, the truths of general or natural revelation which are passed down in tradition are susceptible to corruption, but it is also the case that living traditions are flexible and self-correcting.   That this, and not the rigid inflexibility that rationalists falsely attribute to it, is the nature of tradition, was an insight that was well articulated by Michael Oakeshott (see the title essay and “The Tower of Babel”, in Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, 1962).    While true science’s value is primarily utilitarian rather than epistemic – “science is always false, but it is often useful” as Gordon H. Clark put it – the merits of tradition as described in this paragraph overlap to a large degree those which scientists would ascribe to their vocation and methodology.   In the best sense of the word, science is itself a particular tradition, which has been accumulating natural knowledge and correcting itself since Thales of Miletus.

Special revelation, on the other hand, is connected to historical evidence.    This can clearly be seen in both Testaments.   The Old Testament is primarily the record of God’s revelation of Himself through a Covenant relationship established with a particular people, Israel, in a particular place, the Promised Land, over a specific era of time stretching from the period of the Patriarchs, from whom the people were descended, to the partial return from their exile in Babylon at the beginning of the Second Temple period.   Even the portions of it which are not strictly historical narrative in literary genre fit in to that history.   This is most obviously the case with the prophetic writings, which contain divine warnings given to Israel and sometimes the surrounding nations, in connection with events described in the historical record, but even in the case of the Psalms of David, many of these can be tied to specific events in that historical king’s life, as they collectively are tied to his life as a whole.

This is all the more the case with the New Testament.   The New Testament presents us with God’s ultimate revelation of Himself, both to the people with whom He had established the Old Covenant and promised a New, and to all the peoples of the world, in the Incarnation of His Son “and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.    The story of God’s Incarnational revelation is told in the form of history – events about specific people, in identifiable places, at identifiable times, attested to by witnesses.   We are told that the Virgin Birth, the event shortly to be commemorated at Christmas, occurred in the reign of Augustus Caesar, when Herod the Great was king of Judea, and Cyrenius was governor of Syria, and that it took place in the city of David, Bethlehem.    The baptism of Jesus by His cousin John the Baptist is the event that signaled the beginning of His public ministry.   We are told that John the Baptist’s own ministry began in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judeau, Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee, and Annas and Caiaphas were high priests.   The locations of Jesus’ most significant miracles are identified, and the events of the final week of His public ministry are related in great historical detail – His dramatic entry into Jerusalem, His teaching in the Second Temple, His betrayal by Judas for thirty pieces of silver, His Last Passover Supper with His Apostles, His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, His first, illegal, trial before the aforementioned high priests and the Sanhedrin, His second, official, trial before the aforementioned Roman governor, the mob turning against Him, His torture by the Roman soldiers, His crucifixion between two thieves at the hill of Calvary, and His burial in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.    Real places, real people, real events.   As St. Paul would say to Festus a few years later, “the king (Agrippa) knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely, for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.”   The same St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, would set forth the evidence for the crowning event of God’s Incarnational revelation of Himself in history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, citing eyewitness after eyewitness.    The Resurrection is not something to which evidence of the empirical sort can speak, but the historical evidence for it is overwhelming. (1)  

In the Christian epistemic hierarchy special revelation which takes place in and through history ranks higher than tradition of which science at its best is a particular example.   The abandonment of Christian epistemology early in the transformation of Christendom into Western Civilization involved a repudiation of both special revelation and tradition as well as the ranking between the two.  Even though considered in themselves, a strong case could be made for the superiority of historical evidence over empirical evidence – the latter consists of observations made in artificially controlled situations to test hypotheses and so cannot be counted upon to have epistemic value, to speak truth about reality, things as they are in themselves, even when they have the utilitarian value of helping us to manipulate things to our own use, and so when it comes to determining truth about reality, the empirical must count as merely one form of testimony among the many that make up historical/legal evidence, as it is in standard courtroom practice, and is therefore logically subordinate to the larger whole of which it is a part – this has resulted in science being elevated over other forms of evidence, over tradition of which it is a particular example and thus logically subordinate to the general form, and over reason.    Science, which belongs at the bottom of the epistemic totem pole and is essentially magic that works (see C. S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man”, the third lecture/essay in the book of the same title), has been raised to the very top of the pole.  

This elevation of science over all other evidence, all other traditions, and reason itself goes a long way to explaining how people who are scientists only in the sense that they speak the technical language of some branch of science or another have managed to substitute baseless predictions spat out by some machine for actual empirical evidence and ascribe to these the kind of authority that properly belongs to special revelation.   They have put this false science to the use of frightening people into giving up their basic rights and freedoms in exchange for protection against one Bogeyman or another and are thus laying waste to what little remains of the civilization that was once Christendom.    This demonstrates just how fundamental to civilization is its account of reality and truth.

(1)  In his essay “Myth Became Fact”, C. S. Lewis spoke of this historicity of the Christian story as the distinguishing point between it and pagan myths with similar elements, and thus described the significance of the Incarnation in this way: 

Now as myth transcends thought, incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the dying god, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens ‐ at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle. I suspect that men have sometimes derived more spiritual sustenance from myths they did not believe than from the religion they professed. To be truly Christian we must both assent to the historical fact and also receive the myth (fact though it has become) with the same imaginative embrace which we accord to all myths. The one is hardly more necessary than the other.

It was precisely this consideration, that the Christian message was a “true myth”, as put to him by J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson, which had brought Lewis to Christian faith.  His interpretation here, of the Incarnation transcending myth by presenting us with a “myth which is also a fact” comes after, of course, his explanation of the meaning and value of myth qua myth, for which explanation I refer you to the essay as a whole which can be found in God in the Dock.
Labels: C. S. Lewis, Fr. Seraphim Rose, Gordon H. Clark, Heraclitus, history, Hugo Dyson, J. I. Packer, J. R. R. Tolkien, John Lukacs, logic, Michael Oakeshott, Philo, Plato, Ron Dart, science, special revelation, tradition

Don’t Trust the “Experts”

Throne, Altar, Liberty

The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Don’t Trust the “Experts”

Until a short time ago the word “misinformation” referred to statements purporting to be factual which fell short in some way, whether in letter or spirit, of the ancient and ageless transcendental landmark known as truth.   “Disinformation” meant the same, but with the additional connotation that the erroneous information was being spread in mala fide by those with a deliberate intent to deceive.   Both words have been in the soi-disant news far more frequently in recent days than has been the norm in the past.   Indeed, it would almost seem that other words have dropped out of the vocabularies of our regular commentators on passing events, because they have been using these multiple times per day.   It would appear, however, that the words have undergone a change in meaning.   They now seem to mean anything which differs or disagrees with whatever the media’s approved experts happen to be saying at any given moment even if it conforms with what they had been saying in the moment immediately prior to that one.

This is indicative of just how far we have apostatized from the wisdom of the ancients who sought the illumination of the eternal beacons of Goodness, Beauty and Truth to light their path.   To the extent that the media, the information machine which has far too much influence over how we perceive and think of the world, acknowledges truth today, it is truth in the old leftist sense of whatever advances the cause of the revolution.   This, of course, is not truth at all in the proper and older sense of that permanent standard, recognized as a basic aspect of being itself, which we strive to attain by conforming our indicative or descriptive speech to reality, i.e., things as they are in themselves.

Ultimately what we are seeing is the result of centuries of assault on the foundations laid for Western thought, at least in its Classical and Christian phases, by the Attic philosophers, specifically the Socratic school and especially Socrates himself.   I addressed this matter earlier this year in an essay about how Western academe has betrayed the very foundation of its venerable tradition, the first of a series that scrutinized the corruption of the various branches of the universities.   It is worth revisiting now as the media is once again telling us to blindly trust the experts as they impose all sorts of invasive restrictions on us in total disregard of our prescriptive and constitutional civil rights and basic freedoms in the name of keeping us safe.

If the message of the Socrates who has come down to us primarily through the writings of Plato could be summarized in one sentence, which, of course, it cannot, that sentence would be “don’t trust the experts”.   For Socrates’ career as a philosopher basically consisted of going around and pestering experts, those who claimed to have authoritative knowledge about courage, justice, piety and the like, with questions that demonstrated that the experts didn’t really know what they were talking about and didn’t possess the kind of knowledge they professed.   He was, in other words, someone who spent his entire life doing the exact opposite of what those who say “shut up and listen to the science” tell us to do when we question the climatologists’ prophecies of doom by pointing out holes in the theory of anthropogenic climate change or question the epidemiologists’ insistence that we must sacrifice all of our freedoms and necessary social interaction and put ourselves in house arrest for weeks and months at a time to prevent the spread of the Chinese bat flu.   

“Isn’t it true that human beings have historically thrived better in warmer periods than colder periods?”

“Isn’t it true that climate has been constantly changing through history and that this has affected how people live rather than the other way around?”

“What about that Danish study from this summer in which masks were found not to reduce the spread of the virus?”

“What about all the deaths that lockdowns cause?”

“Why should we believe that the same health authorities who support abortion and euthanasia are taking our freedoms away because they want to save lives?”

“Why all this hype about a virus that is non-lethal for well over 99 percent of people under 65 and in good health,  most of whom will experience only mild symptoms or none at all?”

The answer we hear to these questions and countless others like them is always “Shut up, listen to the science, and trust the experts”.

Some might raise the objection to my point that today’s experts differ from the ones to whom Socrates was, in his own words as recorded by Plato in the Apologia, a “gadfly”, in that they have science to back up their claims to authoritative knowledge.

Let us consider that argument and see whether it can bear up under scrutiny.

Science, although it bears the Latin word for knowledge as its name, is not synonymous with knowledge but is rather a specific type of knowledge.   The admirers of Modern science see the history of its development as one of unprecedented and exponential expansion of human knowledge to the benefit of the species.   This is not, however, the only way to look at it.   From a different perspective Modern science can be seen as a contraction rather than an expansion of knowledge.   Furthermore, it is rather difficult to deny that science has done harm to the species as well as good.

Whether science is an expansion or contraction of knowledge depends on what measuring stick you are using.   Allow me to illustrate.  Imagine two men with studies in their home in which their personal libraries are kept.   The one man keeps all of his books in a single bookcase.   The shelves are crammed full and overflowing.   The other man has several bookcases around the room, but none of them is full and there is plenty of space for other books.    Which of the two has the larger library?

The answer depends upon how you are determining library size.   If the measurement is in bookcases the second man obviously has the larger library.   If, however, we are measuring in number of books, the first man might have the larger library.   Indeed, for the sake of making the point of the illustration let us stipulate that he does have more books in his one bookcase than the other in his many.  Therefore the answer to the question of which has the larger library is different when size is measured by bookcases than by books.

Now here is how that illustration applies to science: pre-modern science was integrated into philosophy which concerned itself with the whole of reality.   Pre-modern science like Modern science, involved specialized knowledge of different aspects of reality, but, being integrated into philosophy as it was, it recognized the general knowledge of the whole that philosophy sought after to be the higher and greater knowledge, and therefore did not exclude any part of that whole as an area of interest for its more concentrated study.   The science that emerged from the transition into the Modern Age, by contrast, was far less integrated into philosophy, which itself was undergoing a radical transformation, and not, in my opinion, for the better.   Neither Modern science nor Modern philosophy shared the pre-modern hierarchical ranking of general knowledge of the whole as higher and superior to specialized knowledge of the parts.   Furthermore, Modern science narrowed the areas in which it was interested, excluding several parts or aspects of the whole of reality that pre-modern science had not so excluded.

In other words, when it comes to the parts of the whole of reality that science concerns itself with, Modern science is actually interested in less than pre-modern science.   This is often overlooked since Modern science has subdivided those fewer parts of reality that have retained its interest into multiple fields to facilitate its scrutiny of each.   Think of it as being like a food store that originally sold all different kinds of food – meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy, grains, etc. – then limited itself to fruit, but multiplied the kinds of fruit it offered, now including all the exotic varieties alongside every available type of the staple apples, oranges, pears, peaches and bananas.   Although it has actually narrowed what it has to offer, someone who only ever entered the store to buy fruit might miss this because for him the variety has increased.   The point is that when measured by the criteria of the portion of reality that Modern science takes an interest in compared with pre-modern science, the development of Modern science is clearly a contraction of knowledge rather than an expansion.

When it comes to the areas in which Modern science has retained an interest, it has, undeniably, expanded one type of knowledge about those areas, and that exponentially.   That type of knowledge is the kind that answers such questions as “How does this work?” and “What is this made of?”    That providing highly detailed answers to such questions in no way answers such questions as “what is this thing in itself?” and “what is the good of such things?” was beautifully illustrated by C. S. Lewis in the exchange on the nature of a star between Ramandu and Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and explained more prosaically in a number of his non-fictional writings.

The reason Modern science can answer the one type of question well and in great depth but is hopeless at answering the other type of question is the same reason why it is interested in some parts of the whole that is reality and not others.   Finding the answers to the first type of questions with regards to the areas in which it is interested serves the end of Modern science.   Finding the answers to the second type of questions does not serve that end.   Nor is there anything in the areas of reality which Modern science has excluded from its interest that would serve that end.

This is because the end of Modern science, that for which it seeks and strives, is not truth at all, but power and control.   As C. S. Lewis opened his lecture on “The Abolition of Man”, the third of the lectures transcribed and published together under the same title in 1943, “’Man’s conquest of Nature’ is an expression often used to describe the progress of applied science”.   Lewis’ entire lecture is well worth reading to understand the implications, positive and negative of this, as is the entire book in which it can be found and, for that matter, his treatment of the same subject in That Hideous Strength, the third and longest of his “Space Trilogy” in which theological and philosophical discussion is presented in the form of science fiction.   That this is the goal of Modern science, however, rests not merely on the assertion of one of its more distinguished critics.   We also have the word of one of its earliest advocates.   Sir Francis Bacon famously expressed the end of Modern science as the mission statement of his fictional Salomon’s House in his unfinished novel The New Atlantis (1626), “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.”

It is because this is its purpose that Modern science is interested only in those parts of reality which it can bend to serve the human will and only in the kind of knowledge that serves that purpose, such as what those things it wishes to bend and harness into service are made of and how they work.   Answers to the questions of what things are in themselves, what their good is, how they fit in to the larger whole of reality, and how they contribute to the good of that whole, are entirely irrelevant to that purpose, as indispensable as they are to Truth.   Indeed, true knowledge of the good of things in themselves and the part they play in the order of reality as a whole, would in many cases run counter to the goal of Modern science for it would identify a good for all things which is not imposed upon them by the will of man, and to which man is obligated to bend his will.

The history of Modern science itself demonstrates that truth is entirely irrelevant to it at the theoretical level.   Theory is the essential link between scientific fact gathering – observation and recording – and scientific application – the use of those facts to bend the nature of things into the service of the will of man.   It begins as hypothesis – an interpretive explanation of what has been observed – which, if it survives testing by experimentation, becomes theory, that is to say, an explanation that is accepted and taken to be true for the purpose of devising further hypotheses and developing practical applications.   This is the means whereby science has obtained its great success at manipulating the nature of things to serve man’s will.   This success, however, has never required that the theories underlying human invention actually be true.    Indeed, most if not all of what are considered to be Modern science’s greatest successes, are the culmination of a series of advancements, each based upon a theory that has subsequently been shown to be false.    Success for Modern science is measured by whether it works, not by whether it is true.   The philosophy of science took a major step towards acknowledging this in the twentieth century, when Sir Karl Popper successfully replaced “verifiability” with “falsifiability” as the litmus test of whether a theory is truly scientific or not.   To be scientific, Popper argued, a theory must be falsifiable, that is, susceptible to being shown to be false.   Logic, of course, would tell us that if a theory is capable of being shown to be false, it is, therefore false, and, indeed, Gordon H. Clark argued convincingly that all scientific theories are false, by the standards of logic, for they all involve the fallacy of asserting the consequent.

Now perhaps you are wondering whether any of this matters or not.   Since science presumably aims at using the mastery over nature it seeks to benefit mankind is not the question of whether it works all that really matters?  This objection would have more validity if everything science had accomplished had been beneficial.   Some things science has given us – the ability to preserve food longer for example – are unquestionably beneficial.   Other things science has given us – nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction – are decidedly not so beneficial, quite the opposite as a matter of fact.

This is directly related to everything we have seen about how Modern science has divorced its inquiries from an appreciation of things as they are in themselves, contemplation of the whole, and Truth as it was classically and traditionally understood.   A science that seeks only such knowledge as can be used to bend nature to man’s will is a science that recognizes no limits on man’s will.   Such a science is incapable of distinguishing between a good use of its mastery of nature and a bad use.   Goodness like Truth, from which it can be distinguished but never separated, is a transcendental, an element of the permanent order of reality that cannot be bent to serve human will but which requires man to bend his will instead to his own peril if he refuses.  Since Modern science is based upon an assertion of the will in rejection of these limitations it dooms itself to using its power in an evil way, as in the example given in the previous paragraph.

I offer the above as grounds for continuing the Socratic tradition of not trusting the experts.   Modern science, for the reasons given, is cause for regarding today’s experts as being less reliable than those of Socrates’ day, not more.  

Someone may, however, object that this does not apply to the medical experts we are being told to trust today because their science is devoted to the end of saving people’s lives and health and that this ensures that medical science cannot serve evil ends like the science that went into creating the nuclear bomb.   The response that jumps to mind is to point to all the harm and destruction done – small businesses going bankrupt, massive job losses, mental health breakdowns, alcohol, opioid and other addictions, suicides, the erosion of social capital, distrust of family, friends, neighbours, the development of a snitch culture, the trampling of basic freedom and constitutional rights, the cruel locking away of people in the last days of their lives from their loved ones, the brainwashing people into regarding such things as a friendly handshake or a warm hug as sources of contagion, the cancelling of weddings, birthday parties, holidays, and all the joys of life, forcing people to merely exist rather than truly live, etc. – by the lockdowns that so many of these medical experts have been demanding and imposing for the sake of preventing the spread of a disease that most often produces only mild symptoms, has over a 99 percent survival rate for those under 65-70 and in good health, and which poses a threat mostly to the very old and very sick.   Medical experts who would recommend such a thing demonstrate thereby that they are completely unworthy of our trust.

George Grant devoted his philosophical career to the contemplation of the significance of the transition from ancient to Modern thinking, focusing specifically on the shift from the view in which the permanent order of reality held us accountable to standards such as goodness, justice, and truth to the view in which the only “goodness”, “justice” and “truth” are values we impose on reality by bending it to our will.    He frequently quoted Robert Oppenheimer’s statement “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it” as encapsulating the thinking behind Modern technological science and showing why such thinking precluded bending and submitting to the order of the universe.   He contrasted this unfavourably with the old adage a posse ad esse non valet consequentia as epitomizing the older and wiser way of thinking.  He spoke and wrote frequently about the troubling paradox of freedom, wherein the prevalent liberalism of the Modern Age made freedom its highest value, but understood freedom as the unshackling of the will from the constraints of the order recognized by ancient wisdom, and in developing the science and technology necessary to so “free” the will as to make every desire attainable, created the conditions for unprecedented levels of social control that were eliminating freedom in the older sense of protected civil liberties and rights and ironically, in the name of freedom, were moving us closer to tyranny.   That medical science was as much a part of this problem as any other he recognized when he wrote:

The proliferating power of the medical profession illustrates our drive to new technologies of human nature.  This expanding power has generally been developed by people concerned with human betterment.

Yet nevertheless, the profession has become a chief instrument for tightening social control in the western world, as is made evident by the unity of the profession’s purpose with those of political administration and law enforcement, the complex organization of dependent professions it has gathered around itself, its taking over of the cure of the ‘psyche’, and the increasing correlation of psychiatry with a behaviourally and physiologically oriented psychology. It becomes increasingly necessary to adjust the masses to behave appropriately amidst such technological crises as those of population and pollution and life in the cities. (“Thinking About Technology”, in Technology and Justice, 1986, pp 16-17.

Posted by Gerry T. Neal

How Captain Airhead Makes Andrew Scheer Look Much Better Than He Really Is

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How Captain Airhead Makes Andrew Scheer Look Much Better Than He Really Is

The Conservative Party of Canada really ought to be paying Captain Airhead a salary. He is the best publicity man they have. He has been doing a much better job of promoting their cause in the upcoming Dominion election than their own lackluster leadership. I do not mean merely that he makes them look good by being such a lousy, awful, and indeed, downright, horrible, alternative, although that is certainly the case. What I mean is that if there were a speck of truth to be found in any of his recent, scare-mongering, accusations against the Conservatives, the party would certainly rise in my esteem as it would that of any sensible and sane person. Evelyn Waugh once said that the problem with the Conservative Party was that it “has not turned the clock back a single second” and the Canadian incarnation of the party has given no indication that it plans to do so any time in the near future. Yet Justin Trudeau would have us believe that the Conservatives, if elected, would set the clock back by about a hundred years. My response to which is to say that if this happens, it would be a good start, but we need to go much further than that.

To say this, of course, is to commit the unpardonable sin of the Modern Age, blasphemy against the spirit of progress. It is a sin to which I gladly, and unrepentantly, plead guilty. Readers of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia might recall how in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Governor Gumpas of the Lone Islands, upon being told by King Caspian that the slave trade “must be stopped”, protests “But that would be putting the clock back”, adding “Have you no idea of progress, of development?” to which Caspian replies “I have seen then both in an egg…We call it ‘Going Bad’ in Narnia.” Needless to say, I subscribe to Caspian’s – and Lewis’ – view of progress. This is the view of genuine British and Canadian Toryism – that progress does not happen, and if it does it is a bad thing and we need to put a stop to it. Sadly, the Canadian Conservative Party of our day, like the British Conservative Party of Waugh’s day, have abandoned the more authentic views of their tradition for something closer to American republicanism, which worships at the altar of the same idol of progress as liberalism and the Left. Justin Trudeau is deluded if he seriously thinks otherwise.

I am not going to dwell at any length on Trudeau’s accusations that Andrew Scheer is in bed with “racists”, “white supremacists” and “white nationalists” as I have already dealt with this in another essay. It shows how extremely unhealthy, the political climate has become in present day Canada, that these labels can be attached to people who do not so describe themselves and who neither subscribe to a racialist ideology like National Socialism nor have engaged in violent rhetoric or action either as individuals or organized groups towards other races. All that one needs to do is to oppose a particular kind of racism – the anti-white racism manifested in the immigration policy of making the country as diverse as possible as fast as possible and hence as least white as possible as fast as possible, in the progressive notion that all whites and only whites are racists, and in the cartoonish re-writing of history into a bad melodrama in which whites are assigned the role of the moustache-twirling, villain in the top hat and large black coat and everyone else plays the helpless maiden whom he has tied to the railroad track. Heck, one does not even have to actively oppose this anti-white racism himself – it is sufficient to be seen in the same room as someone who does. My respect for Mr. Scheer and the Conservative Party would skyrocket if they actually did take a bold, consistent, and principled stand against this pervasive form of progressive anti-white racism, but I am not holding my breath waiting for that to happen. The accusations against them are entirely of the “you were seen with so-and-so, who said such-and-such” variety. Indeed, the disgusting manner in which Scheer threw Michael Cooper under the bus, the fact that he seems to have enforced silence upon his party about the Grits’ disturbing plans to bring back the vile Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the way in which Warren Kinsella, of all people, has been defending Scheer against Trudeau’s charges using arguments amusingly similar to those that I would have used to ridicule Kinsella’s book Web of Hate twenty years ago, all point inevitably to the conclusion that Scheer, like Harper before him, is on the same side as Trudeau on these issues, leaving the many Canadians who wish for the freedom to think differently from Kinsella, Richard Warman, Bernie Farber, Harry Abrams, Helmut-Harry Loewen and others of that ilk, without anyone in Parliament to speak for them.

What I am more interested in addressing here are Captain Airhead’s accusations of what he considers to be sexism. Back when Stephen Harper was Conservative leader the Liberals were constantly accusing him of having a “hidden agenda,” i.e., to re-criminalize abortion. Trudeau, who has constructed a political image of himself as a “male feminist” which has taken a severe beating over the last couple of years for reasons that I will not get into here, and who as part of that image takes a rather clownish, over-the-top, hard-line, “it’s a woman’s right” stance on abortion, has revived the old “hidden agenda” line for use against Scheer. He has been able to use recent events south of the border, where several states have passed strong anti-abortion legislation now that there is a perceived right-wing majority on the Supreme Court in the hopes of provoking a legal battle that will end in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, to help him stoke the fears of his feminist support base.

Again, if there were the slightest amount of truth to Trudeau’s accusations, the Conservative Party’s stock would certainly rise in my books. I remember very well, however, that while Stephen Harper allowed pro-life people to run for his party at a time even as the other major party leaders began telling them they were persona non grata, this was the extent of his “support” for the pro-life cause. Pro-life people were allowed to run as Conservatives but woe unto them if they actually tried to do something to end abortion. There is not the slightest amount of evidence that things are any different now. This is extremely unfortunate for Canada because the current status quo on abortion, of which Trudeau is so proud, is an ever growing bloodstain on our country that cries out to heaven for divine justice, and there are no realistic options for changing that status quo, that do not require action by the Conservatives in the Dominion parliament. Even if it could be accomplished at the provincial level, which it cannot, the provincial Conservatives seem to have no more inclination to do so than their federal counterparts. The right-populist premier of Upper Canada assured the media last month, after progressives threw a tantrum when one of his MPPs pledged at a pro-life rally “to make abortion unthinkable in our lifetime” that his government “will not re-open the abortion debate.” Even more recently the provincial Conservative government here in Manitoba has announced that an abortion pill will now be fully covered by the public. There are many health care products and services which are necessary to help people who are suffering from excruciating pain or are in danger of going blind which are not fully covered by the public, but a pill that murders babies soon will be.

It is difficult to think of anything that puts the lie to the entire left-liberal concept of progress more than this matter of abortion. The progressive position is that a pregnant woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy. Canadian progressives, including the leadership of the Liberal Party, take the most extreme degree of this position, which allows for no qualifications such as “up to this-or-that stage of development”, insists that this “right” be protected against even interference of the persuasive variety, requires that the public pay for it, insists that the debate is closed and that the other side should be made to shut up, and boasts that their victory shows how advanced we have become in our thinking. Their entire position, however, is based upon a lie. The position that a woman has or ought to have the right to terminate her pregnancy could scarcely be formulated, much less justified, apart from the notion that the pregnancy is something that concerns her, her body, and her health alone. “Pro-choice” lingo such as “the procedure”, “reproductive rights”, “control of her own body” is all carefully selected to create this impression. Yet, obviously, pregnancy is not simply a matter of a woman, her health, and her body. It also concerns her baby, whose very life is at stake in the pregnancy. An abortion is not merely a medical procedure undergone for the health of the pregnant woman. It is the termination of the life of a baby.

Far from being an advanced state of ethical thinking the so-called “pro-choice” position of the progressive left is a regression into the darkest form of paganism. In the times of ancient paganism, infanticide was not an uncommon way of keeping the family within the means of its resources. The story of Oedipus is but one of the ancient legends that address the cruelty of the practice of exposure by telling of a child rescued from this fate by a kindly couple. Worse, the worship of several pagan idols required the sacrifice of children, usually the first-born. Several of the most important ethicists of ancient Greece and Rome condemned this practice in Carthage, the city-state in what is now Tunisia in northern Africa which was Rome’s rival for control of the Mediterranean world in the third and fourth centuries BC. The Carthaginians would sacrifice their children to an idol, whom the Greek and Roman commentators identified with Kronos or Saturn from their own mythologies, by placing them in the heated arms of a huge bronze statue. This is a practice they inherited from Tyre, the Phoenician city-state in what is now Lebanon, of which Carthage was originally a colony. The Phoenicians shared this practice with their southern neighbours, the tribes of Canaan, and this practice is clearly identified in the Old Testament as one of the worst forms of the wickedness that brought divine judgement upon the Canaanites in the form of Israel being sent to conquer and drive them out of the Promised Land. Later, when the Israelites apostatized into the idolatry of their neighbours, this practice is again pointed to by the Prophets as having particularly defiled their land and led ultimately to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. A curse was pronounced upon the place outside Jerusalem where these sacrifices took place and by the time of the New Testament it was regarded as a defiled place, fit only for burning refuse and the bodies of criminals, and lent its name to the fate of those to be condemned at the Final Judgement.

Even before the Exodus, and the giving of the Mosaic Law which strictly forbade the Israelites from participating in the abominations of Canaan, such as child sacrifice, and required that they redeem their firstborn with animal sacrifices instead, the Book of Genesis draws a contrast between the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the false gods of the pagans. God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, but prevents him from actually going through with the sacrifice, for it is faith and not his son, that God wanted from Abraham. Abraham, when asked by Isaac where the lamb for the sacrifice is, makes the prophecy that God Himself will provide a lamb, a prophecy that we see fulfilled in the New Testament when John the Baptist, speaking of Jesus, says “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The pagan idols, who are really devils, require their worshippers to sacrifice their children, the true and living God, gave His only-begotten Son as the sacrificial Lamb Who would take away the sin of the world.

As the Christian religion grew and spread throughout the ancient world, its influence led, among other things, to the Roman Empire’s finally banning infanticide. If anything actually deserves to be described as an enlightened ethical step forward in the right direction this was it. By using this language to describe the revival of pagan baby murder, the Left demonstrates just how much its concept of “progress” really is King Caspian’s “going bad” after all. It also reveals itself to be just another form of ancient, pagan, devil worship.

The question for Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party is, what God do you serve? Scheer, who was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, claims to be a Christian but this is also the case with Justin Trudeau. As long as Scheer, like his predecessor Harper, prevents the members of his party from actively combating the evil of baby murder and instead requires them to join in the loony Left’s crusade against its chimerical bugbear of “white racism”, it is not the true and living God that he is serving.

Fortunately for him, he has Justin Trudeau to make him look so much better than he really is. How much better for us, it would be, however, if instead of relying on this, he were to come out and take a bold stand on the things for which the Conservative Party ought to be standing. He could start by promising the turn the clock back a century and a half, to right after Confederation before the Liberal Party got their grubby hands on the country and things started to go downhill.