This is important; pay attention.
This is important; pay attention.
I do not use the word “gender” and I counsel everyone to use the real word for it, sex.
“Gender” implies a political or grammatical construct. It is the same issue that Jordan Peterson has raised about pronouns for the inter-sexed and confused.
Now, on to the main course.
So which sex is finding that university is less appealing? Or which sex cannot make the grades necessary in today’s pro-female education system? And which sex is falling behind in earning power as a consequence? And is either sex allowed to observe this and remark upon it?
David Warren continues to dismay me somewhat with the quality of his writing. Here are two recent pieces on the state of Canada. I am unable to disagree with the overall assessment, though by temperament I am more hopeful. Which is to say that I disagree with his gloominess, though unable to reason why.
Canadians thus find themselves in the vanguard of something happening throughout the West, and indeed, around the world. We don’t go out because it’s cold outside. The average Canadian, more than, say, the average Italian, is trapped in a centrally-heated interior. More and more, we live inside our computers. In a larger, cosmic sense we go stir-crazy.
But no revolutionary impulse follows from this. We’ve all come a long way, since 1968. Instead there is a growing disconnexion, from reality in all its known human forms. Canada may be a little more disconnected, but the direction we are travelling from our former orbit is much the same. We have the illusion of being at the front of a social revolution, when really we’re at the back of beyond, merely witnessing our own social dissolution.
Now, add in the evaporation of Christianity, and a further difficulty appears. We are without the moral or spiritual means to make a recovery.
Is it that bad? Sometimes I think so.
My subject is the astonishing level of incomprehension of and contempt for Trump by the American elites.
A perfect illustration is available from Real Clear Politics’ Monday edition of the state of incomprehension of Trump by the American elite. It is called “the End of Intelligence”, and appeared first in the Sunday New York Times. It is written by Michael Hayden, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009 and the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005.
His concern is with ‘post truth’ America, and what follows is Hayden’s line of argument.
He illustrates his case with some whoppers (outright lies), exaggerations and nonsense that Trump told during the election. [No discussion is made of anything from Hillary].
We in the intelligence world have dealt with obstinate and argumentative presidents through the years. But we have never served a president for whom ground truth really doesn’t matter.
The case in point is the ill-conceived Presidential directive that has come to be called ‘the Muslim-ban’. Hayden detects a pattern: something starts with a Presidential tweet, then the legions of experts are called in to dampen, palliate, or moderate the instincts of the President.
“Sometimes, almost magically, he gets it right”, as when Trump agreed with the establishment to keep troops in Afghanistan.
But most of the time, Trump does not agree with the establishment, as on sanctions against Russia. In fact Trump disagrees with large sections of official opinion.
In this post-truth world, intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based. Intelligence shares a broader duty with these other truth-tellers to preserve the commitment and ability of our society to base important decisions on our best judgment of what constitutes objective reality.
On how many issues is the American establishment wrong? They consist of journalists, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science. And on how many issues are the the general consensus of the establishments in North America and Europe absolutely, completely wrong?
I would say it is five for five, on the most important issues confronting the West today. And I am not talking about the ideological mess of our universities.
Of course Hayden and his ilk believe that Trump is irrational in opposing Establishment views, because it is impossible that they could be wrong. We have all read their 60-page memoranda; we have all taken our lessons from the professors; we have all bowed our heads to the liberals in robes on the courts; and the police are busy policing thoughts and attitudes, as they ought. How can we all be wrong?
How can the establishments in law, policing, science, foreign intelligence and academia be wrong? The answer is quite simple, really. They have been animated by wrong ideas for fifty or a hundred years, and the results are now being seen.
I was once subjected to spiteful derision from a man who thought my views on global warming were utterly wrong. Without his ever having researched the subject, he found most offensive the fact that I dared to have an opinion that was not the consensus of scientists, as he saw it. How could I be so bold? [As a Protestant I am culturally accustomed to taking on Establishments and declaring them without authority, is the answer.]
The heresy or sin is in having a view that is not an establishment view. And Trump is five for five. And that, my friends, is why the Establishment thinks that Trump is irrational. Because they cannot be wrong.
The most important thing about prediction is the time scale over which you are measuring. The probability of the extremely rare event rises to certainty with the passage of time. For example, the history of the earth for the last two million years shows that the next ice age cannot be further away than two to five thousand years. If we extend the time scale to several tens of millions of years, it is likely that the earth will pass through epochs considerably warmer than we are in now.
So it is with historical timespans, which are far shorter . The human race has been undergoing a massive population expansion since 1800 because of science, increasing energy resources, and a feedback loop between increasing wealth and increasing resources to deal with disease.
Yet the very forces that have created the population explosion are everywhere reducing human birthrates. Why? Because as women become certain of the survival of their babies, they have fewer of them. Just as the burden of humans on the planet reaches a peak, the human species declines in numbers. These are demographic certainties: the dearth of children since the 1970s has been felt in every part of the world, including especially the Islamic parts. Within three generations human fertility has crashed from 6-8 live births to about 2 live births per woman. Read David Goldman’s It’s not the End of the World, it’s just the End of You: the Great Extinction of Nations.
It was with interest and pleasure that I have been absorbing Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome. Harper is the first historian of whom I am aware to have taken seriously the impacts of disease and climate change on the fate of the Roman Empire. He addresses the reader’s attention to the startling scale of death in the three waves of pestilence that not just decimated, but halved, Roman populations in the period 200AD to 550 AD. There were three near-global epidemics that swept through the Empire, each assisted by the ubiquity of trade links and safety of travel that imperial security allowed. One was probably the first exposure of humans to what we later called smallpox. The second was an Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever.
The third, which swept through the Empire when the Emperor Justinian was trying to restore civil order and prosperity in the mid-500s, was bubonic plague, which broke out in AD 542. The population of the eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire fell by half in one year, from 30 to 15 million, and kept on falling for several decades after as plague returned. Imagine the stink of corpses when everyone is dying and not enough people are available to bury them.
Coupled with volcanic outbursts that clouded the sun, and variations in the rainfall in central Asia, which sent the Huns westward in search pasturage, causing them to crash into the Goths who crashed into the Roman Empire, these waves of disease, worsening climate, and barbarian invasions had utterly wrecked the western Roman Empire by AD 400. Brian Fagan records in his book, The Long Summer, that the cultivation of the grape and the olive used to take place as far north in Gaul as the current French-Belgian border, but that, after the Roman Climate Optimum suddenly collapsed around 400 AD, the olive tree grows no further north than its current line in France’s Massif Central. Can you imagine what it would do to US agriculture if the climate of Saskatchewan moved south 400 miles? In the space of ten years?
Compared to scientifically literate histories like The Fate of Rome, Edward Gibbon’s attempt to blame the fall of Rome on the rise of Christianity, the personalities of Emperors, and barbarian invasions, seems more like an exercise in oratory and Latinate English than anything accurate.
Which brings me to the genial, clever Professor Steven Pinker and his Enlightenment Now. Pinker presents the best case possible that progress in the past several centuries has been real, and that catastrophists are wrong. I have every reason to believe this story; I am a rational optimist myself. Pinker and his teammate, Matt Ridley, both make the irrebuttable case that the world has been getting massively better for all. I wish there were more people who were aware of how much and how rapidly human life has improved since 1800, since 1900, since 2000. In that sense it is important to point out how much I agree with Pinker.
And yet, the pace of evolution is accelerating as population becomes denser. The pathogens that struck down the Roman Empire in repeated waves are entirely recent mutations.
As Harper explains:
The last few thousand years have been the platform for a new age of roiling evolutionary ferment among pathogenic microbes. The Roman Empire was caught in the the turbulence of this great acceleration….
The primacy of the natural environment in the fate of this civilization draws us closer to the Romans, huddled together to cheer the ancient spectacles and unsuspecting of the next chapter, in ways we might not have imagined.
We are as grass, and while the arguments for impending catastrophe are much weaker than supposed, it is unwise to think that all will be well. The influenza epidemic of 1918 killed 3 to 5% of the world’s population, 50 to 100 million people, more than the World War that preceded it.
Civilizations and empires can end because of diseases and climate change. They have already done so several times. There is no reason to suppose we are immune, notwithstanding the cheerful and truthful news from the likes of Steve Pinker and Matt Ridley.
Professor Pangloss, meet Doctor Doom.
The University of Alberta, and more particularly its President, David Turpin, is under attack from some of its professors for choosing to honour that senile gasbag, David Suzuki, who attacks the economics profession and the future prosperity of Canada on the ground of eco-catastrophism. Turpin defended his decision with the usual virtue-signalling twaddle:
“Turpin argued that the promise of an honorary degree to Suzuki cannot be reversed without major negative consequences for the institution’s reputation, which is obviously true. He defended the choice of the award to Suzuki on the grounds that a university cannot avoid controversy. “Instead, we must be its champion. Stifle controversy and you also stifle the pursuit of knowledge, the generation of ideas, and the discovery of new truths.” –Colby Cosh, National Post
So let us see what stirling defence of freedom and controversy is mounted when Ross McKittrick is honoured with a doctorate for his work in debunking global warming hysteria. There are no honorary doctorates for the likes of McKittrick.
The President of the University of Alberta earned a whopping $824,000 last year. By contrast, the head of the broadcasting and telecommunications regulatory agency for all of Canada might earn about half of that. Salaries that large indicate that university administrators now get economic rents, rather than earn economic value.
The people of Alberta should demand his resignation.
Surely even the idolaters of the Supreme Court of Canada must be having some doubts this morning as to its inerrancy. It was a classic case of “the way we make decisions is more important than the decisions we make.”
Not merely has the Supreme Court defended interprovincial trade barriers, with all their damaging effects on national wealth generation, and allowed them to be established on the flimsiest of grounds, but it has done so on the basis that the trial judge was a naughty boy for stepping out of judicial precedent to rule in favour of Comeau’s beer buying in the first place.
As the case summary reads:
Common law courts are bound by authoritative precedent. Subject to extraordinary exceptions, a lower court must apply the decisions of higher courts to the facts before it. A legal precedent may be revisited if new legal issues are raised as a consequence of significant developments in the law, or if there is a change in the circumstances or evidence that fundamentally shifts the parameters of the debate. Not only is the exception narrow, it is not a general invitation to reconsider binding authority on the basis of any type of evidence. For a binding precedent from a higher court to be cast aside, the new evidence must fundamentally shift how jurists understand the legal question at issue.
This high threshold was not met in this case. The trial judge relied on evidence presented by an historian whom he accepted as an expert. The trial judge accepted the expert’s description of the drafters’ motivations for including s. 121 in the Constitution Act, 1867, and the expert’s opinion that those motivations drive how s. 121 is to be interpreted. Neither class of evidence constitutes evolving legislative and social facts or a comparable fundamental shift; the evidence is simply a description of historical information and one expert’s assessment of that information. The trial judge’s reliance on the expert’s opinion of the correct interpretation of s. 121 was erroneous. To depart from precedent on the basis of such opinion evidence is to cede the judge’s primary task to an expert. And to rely on such evidence to rebut stare decisis is to substitute one expert’s opinion on domestic law for that expressed by appellate courts in binding judgments. This would introduce the very instability in the law that the principle of stare decisis aims to avoid.
Thus for the Supremes the case turns on the use of a historian’s evidence of what the trade provisions of the constitution mean – though at the same time for the past decades the Court seems to bend over backward to listen to the tribal lore of groups of a few hundred Indians to block economic development. “To cede the judge’s primary task to an expert” is the fault which the Supreme Court declares the basis of validating the restrictive trade practices of the provinces that block economic development.
In short, the economic stultification of Canada is defended by a rule that arises internally from the legal profession’s forms of decision making.
So the issue does not turn on an appreciation of the role that provinces play in the blockage of economic development. The Comeau case does not turn on the issue at hand, which is intrerprovincial trade barriers, but on the Court’s concern that nothing be upset by lower court decisions, but hey!, when the Supreme Court invents law out of whole cloth, that is their right and duty.
Look at the test the Supreme Court sets out for interprovincial barriers.
….Restriction of cross‑border trade must be the primary purpose of the law, thereby excluding laws enacted for other purposes, such as laws that form rational parts of broader legislative schemes with purposes unrelated to impeding interprovincial trade.
The restriction must only form a rational part of “legislative schemes with purposes unrelated to impeding interprovicnial trade”.
If ever there was a case of the Court seeing the mote in the other guy’s eye and ignoring the beam in its own, it was the Comeau decision. Let us inhibit economic development for stare decisis. Economic barriers 9- trade freedom 0. How’s that Supreme Court working for ya?
The late Barbara Bush was the most magnificent person to occupy the White House in the last 40 years, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan. I recall one Christmas time when a suburban shopping mall in the Washington area had banned Salvation Army bellringers with their plastic spheres for cash donations. I assume it was one of those church-state issues that bedevil the States. Maybe it was just cheap meanness. Barbara Bush got into the presidential limousine, took a drive out to the mall, and arranged for a television crew to film her dropping in 1980s twenty dollar bill into the lucite sphere of the Salvation Army bell ringers. The shopping centre lifted its ban that night. She had exactly the right touch.
You will find several clips on Barbara Bush on Youtube. Here is a review of her by Brett Hume. She was fierce, intelligent, down to earth, loved her family, and never struck a false note.
There is so an American upper class, and she was a paht of it.
Rebel Yell has said that a communist can live with a national socialist as long as they have the same ideas of cleanliness and tidiness. I incline to agree, and it is in this irenic spirit that I declare my willingness to live with Steven Pinker, but NOT agree with him. We are not as far opposed as two totalitarians, but we have our issues.
I have just read Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now and Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Skin in the Game; they make a fascinating contrast in styles. The issue between them concerns two different and largely incompatible ways of knowing the world.
I had heard that Taleb had written incendiary reviews of Pinkler’s previous work, The Better Angels of Our Nature, wherein Pinker argues that we have entered an era of declining losses by death in war, the Long Peace, following World War 2. Taleb thinks this is nonsense; the post world war 2 peace is just an artifact of not having had a serious war in 70 years, which will most assuredly come, says Taleb, we know not when, but we had better not bet against it.
Pinker is a Montreal-born professor of psychology who teaches at Harvard. He opposes political correctness, disparages the blank slate idea of mind, upholds the reality of group IQ differences, regards Islam with a baleful eye, and rightly considers that we are living in and age of unprecedented, widespread and increasing prosperity. His main axis of attack is against the prevailing catastrophism and cultural negativism at universities and in modern culture more generally. His books demonstrate that the world is getting better for everyone, rapidly. So far so good.
Taleb says in effect, not so fast, dude. On the main contention of The Better Angels of Our Nature, that human propensity for violence is declining, Taleb maintains:
we as humans can not be deemed as less belligerent than usual. For aconflict generating at least 10 million casualties, an event lessbloody than WW1 or WW2, the waiting time is on average136 years, with a mean absolute deviation of 267 (or 52 yearsand 61 deviations for data rescaled to today’s population). Theseventy years of what is called the “Long Peace” are clearlynot enough to state much about the possibility of WW3 in thenear future.
Pinker’s cheerful reasonableness really grates in Taleb, and I can see why. Taleb comes from the Dark Side: his formative experience was growing up in Lebanon’s never ending civil war in the 1970s, whereas Pinker’s folk came from the Snowdon-NDG side of Westmount Mountain in Montreal, where hard working Jewish immigrants rose the ladder of success after escaping anti-semitic persecution in Tsarist Russia.
So one guy in his youth experienced the world going to shit, and the other experienced the pleasant rise from Yiddish-speaking working class to professoriate in two or three generations of Anglo-Montreal. And then off to Harvard where, through a stellar intelligence and hard work, he has written a series of highly successful books, most of which attack contemporary nonsense.
Yet Pinker manages to go off the rails in ways that send me and Taleb crazy. He accepts that the world will on average experience a 1.5C rise in temperature by the end of the 21st century, and perhaps by 4C or more. (Many reasonable people think so too, though I think the higher figure of a 4 degree C rise in a century is rubbish.) In any case the projections of increase are beside my point.
It is the proposed solution and his treatment of it that crosses over into well-reasoned insanity. It concerns planetary engineering by cloud seeding to lower the intake of solar energy.
For all these reasons, no responsible person could maintain that we can just keep pumping carbon into the air and slather sunscreen onto the stratosphere to compensate. But in a 2013 book the physicist David Keith makes a claim for a form of climate engineering that is moderate, responsive and temporary.“Moderate” means that the amounts of sulfate and calcite would be just enough to reduce the rate of warming, not cancel it altogether…. “Responsive” means that any manipulation would be careful, gradual, closely monitored , constantly adjusted and, if indicated, halted altogether. And “temporary” means that the program would be designed only to give humanity breathing space until it eliminates greenhouse gas emissions and brings the CO2 in the atmosphere back to preindustrial levels.
How many heroic assumptions are made in this paragraph?
No engineering of the planet can by its nature be moderate, responsive or temporary. Can you imagine the shit storm if someone challenged the idea that global cloud seeding was not merely working, but plunging us back into the next ice age? That sea ice was expanding, glaciers descending and climate season shortening? Is there the slightest chance that the current toxic debates on climate change would be less dangerous when we have a world wide program of “moderate”, “responsive” and “temporary” cloud-seeding?
I kept hearing that Nassim Taleb was contemptuous of Pinker. He referred to him as a “higher level journalist” in his recent book, Skin in the Game. Then I read Pinker’s modest proposal, in the light of Taleb’s analysis of risk, and I understood. The tails of the distribution curves are always longer and fatter in reality than they are in the pure Gaussian bell curve, says Taleb, and gambling the planet on some wanker’s idea of “moderate, responsive and temporary” planetary engineering struck Taleb as the kind of idiocy only a Harvard professor could believe. As David Keith is also a Harvard professor, the two of them are drinking each other’s bath water, and I am sure both are splendid chaps, but they do not understand risk, and I think Taleb does.
Then, in Pinker’s final chapter on religion and humanism, Pinker comes up with this sort of gem:
“If the factual tenets of religion can no longer be taken seriously, and its ethical tenets depend entirely on whether they can be justified by secular morality, what about its claims to widsom on the great questions of existence?”
I keep wondering whether Pinker has connected the dots between religious decline and the raging SJWs he confronts at Harvard. Does he not see a link between empty rage, the confused, deeply unhappy people, and the fact they have been raised on a monoculture of “secular morality”: that the students he opposes and who try to shout him down are the products of a culture in decline from right understanding of man’s place in the universe? In short, the products of secular humanism?
The content of secular morality is a weak reed; it changes with every passing fancy, it denies the objective nature of truth. The difference between Islam and western concepts of political correctness is that Islam has fixed its “political correctness” for all time, ours changes with the week, into ever more insane attempts to explain inequality by every device other than that people, cultures, and religions are unequal, in fact, objectively unequal.
In short, in matters of what is central to happiness, the modern student is a shorn lamb in the wind, and people like Pinker are the sheep shearers, though they do not know it. Pinker wonders why their environment is so ideologically extreme and anti-enlightenment. Here we pass over into Jordan Peterson territory. Peterson has been dealing with the little savages from suburbia and has drawn direct links between secular values, post modernism, and the absence of religion.
Nevertheless, I warmly recommend both Pinker and Taleb. Pinker knows the world by facts and book learning and discussion; the other knows it by taking big risks with money and surviving, and by working out heuristics, which is Greek for rough and ready rules. The man who wrote the Black Swan and made a fortune betting against the real estate boom which crashed in 2007 is not to be trifled with. Taleb’s defence of religion is a remarkable insight into its value. He comments that God put Jesus into fully human form to show He had skin in the game. Taleb is full of insights into bullshit detection, and his view of Pinker is that the professor is a higher form of BS. This may be true, it is certainly uncharitable, but Pinker can be read to profit regardless.
I know whom I would trust in a bar fight, both to see it coming and to get out in time, and to have enough tough friends to make an attack on us a painful waste of time.
I doubt that Pinker has seen the inside of the kind of bar where men can be seen wearing reflective outerwear from working on the roads, and where the men drink American domestic beers. But he would make an excellent dinner guest, as long as we could avoid the topic of religion and global warming.