Notes from academia III: masks and vaccines

COVID was an IQ test and I failed, thank God.  Nearly everyone has stopped wearing masks.  Everybody has gotten COVID at least once by now, and it’s not a big deal.  However, the few physicists I still see wearing masks everywhere are the ones that I would say are definitely the best and most intelligent of the bunch.  Interestingly, these are not the most ideological.  Presumably, their opinions are as nauseatingly conformist as the rest of the faculty’s, but these are not the ones who are eager to start “difficult conversations about whiteness”.  The more zealous guys (or, rather, gals) stopped with the masks as soon as they were allowed to, just like I did.

I was chatting with one of the mask-wearers.  He and one of my graduate students were telling me about the horrible sicknesses they’d endured after their most recent boosters.  My colleage did note that the booster he got after he had gotten COVID was less troublesome.  I suggested that COVID had partly immunized him against the vaccine.

I got the vaccine to immunize myself against unemployment, but now I’m not keeping up with boosters.  Instead, I lost 40 pounds, started exercising, and got off my blood pressure medicine.  I expect my colleagues who are more intelligent than me would admit that most likely my response to the virus will prove to be more beneficial to myself than theirs will be to them.  However, their big brains come with vivid imaginations.  I dislike not being able to breath freely because of a mask, while they can imagine some poor person gasping for his or her last breaths because COVID passed through a chain of unmasked carriers until finally, inevitably, it struck someone hard.  Thank God I’m stupid and can breath easy, untroubled by such imaginings.

Notes from academia: required reading

I have a little ritual of browsing the university bookstore at the beginning of each semester to see if I find anything interesting in the required readings.  I have sadly decided that this will be my last semester doing this; it’s gotten too depressing.

The first thing I notice this spring is how few required textbooks there are.  I don’t know if students are doing less reading than before (standards are plummeting everywhere), or if it’s just that more reading is being done online via services like Perusall.  I myself find astronomy textbooks so horribly written that I’ve decided I might as well save the students money and let them read whatever dreck is on Perusall.  There are subjects, though, where one must go to the primary sources:  literature, philosophy, history.  These too are sparser than they used to be, but there are still enough books to paint a clear and dismal picture.

Browsing the English books, which–a tiny blessing–are still mostly fiction and only minority theory, I was dismayed to find that ABSOLUTELY NONE of them were what one would ordinarily regard as being among the classics.  Indeed, as far as I noticed, NONE of the books were written before the mid-twentieth century.  Of course, there was plenty of race-and-sexuality bilge, but the most striking lack of diversity was chronological.  In fairness, I saw that there was one class in the “Humanities” department that had students read The Trial of Socrates (the least interesting thing Plato wrote) and Oedipus Rex.

Wokeness has almost completely conquered and replaced history.  It’s all race-and-sexuality demonology, with the exception (that I saw) of a generic American history text and a course on ancient warfare (which included a biography of Alexander the Great and a book on the Roman legions).

Unless these students are reading real literature and real history on their own, WSU is now turning out complete barbarians who have been totally deprived of their heritage.

No, I will not go back there again.

Notes from academia: diversity statements

They’re all over now–job applications, research proposals.  It’s the usual Leftist Motte and Bailey tactic.  What they actually want is a loyalty oath to the anti-white ideology.  If someone refuses to provide this or points out that such a thing is illegal, they can fall back on saying that it’s not conformity to an ideology that they’re testing but ability to teach, interest, and inspire people from “diverse” and “underserved” backgrounds.

The latter actually is a valid thing to expect from an academic, but I see no reason to believe that “people of color” respond differently than others to different teaching strategies.  When one gets down to practicalities, diversity in academic background and preparedness turn out to be the real pedagogical issues confronted.  For outreach and research recruitment, the challenge of engaging those with little prior exposure to a given academic field turns out to have more to do with class and region than membership in a sacralized group per se.  So, most of these “diversity” initiatives that aspiring academics or grant recipients promise to do actually are worthwhile. The category of people they might actually help correlates with but is not exclusive to the groups they are most advertised to help. Surely, though, there is something corrupting in winning the opportunity to do good (e.g. improving teaching of those with weak backgrounds, performing science demos at rural schools) by pretending that one wants to do evil (promote anti-whiteness).

Relative evil

Because the Devil is the prince of this world, we have a useful check to know when an ideology or social movement is net-good or net-evil. When it waxes, it is net-evil; when it wanes, it is net-good. One can only apply this rule to the the last three centuries, of course, because it was only during the Enlightenment that evil per se became a distinct force in the human world. Before that time, one may speak of cruelty, selfishness, or error, but it is only in the age of Voltaire that segments of mankind began to rebel explicitly against the divine order. Within that time, though, the rule is quite informative.

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Divine Providence in Satan’s kingdom

Satan is the prince of this world.

It is said that God can bring good out of evil, but that’s not quite true. Evil in itself cannot be the cause of good, even by divine arrangement. God can use the occasion of misfortune to work some good in the universe, but it is the good He adds to the occasion that is the true cause of subsequent goods, not evil itself. If we are loyal to God, we can expect misfortune. God’s providential care of us means that He will give us the opportunity to learn needed lessons and inculcate needed virtues through the occasion of these misfortunes. However, we will only benefit from these opportunities if we consciously choose to recognize them and see circumstances in this light. Suffering, deprivation, and fear in themselves will not make us more virtuous. In fact, we can expect that the Enemy who deals these out will calculate his afflictions to be those most likely to inspire discouragement and resentment. No improvement will come to us without our consciously recognizing the goods God is offering and deliberately participating in their actualization. Still, I have find a real comfort knowing that God is also calculating, that He will provide opportunities for our spiritual benefit in everything the Enemy will do to us.

Of course, we must have true and not false hope. We shouldn’t expect that these spiritual benefits will ever translate into future temporal success, e.g. that the suffering of the Church Militant will cause her to get her act together and inspire a future religious revival. In the order of this world, God’s side will never know anything but humiliating defeat after humiliating defeat. The Satanic Left is invincibly triumphant, and nothing will stop the totalitarian hell it is constructing. Whether we are exposed and ostracized or manage to squeak out our lives in hiding, we will suffer a nightmarish isolation from our fellow men, and this will be relieved only by death. But we as individuals may gain in endurance and resignation to our own sufferings and in tender love for Christ’s helpless Bride.

I used to share the popular belief that there could be a Christianity that de-emphasizes the next life, that a Christianity ordered primarily toward spiritual goods in this life might actually be “purer”. I no longer think that, and it is clear that serious Christians of all past ages put their hope not in moral improvement, not in social justice on Earth, but in being with God in Heaven. I’ve come to suspect that these Christians who want us to put our hopes in this world are thinking to cut a deal with its Prince.

On the other hand, I’m unable to be comforted by the thought that what happens to my soul is the only thing that matters, and that the Enemy can’t control that. The Enemy also has designs on my daughters, and enormous resources with which to ensnare them. This terrifies me, and I know it’s bad theology, but I can’t imagine being happy in Heaven with them in the other place. I can, however, imagine that if I were to wake up in Heaven and find my family and my good friends–and while I’m fantasizing why not include my Orthosphere comrades here–there with me, welcomed into eternal communion with our Lord, Jesus Christ, then the thought of the world going to hell wouldn’t bother me overmuch.

I have long struggled with an inability to believe in the afterlife, but I find that most of my prayers now are for my salvation and the salvation of those close to me. My hopes are more and more focused on a Heaven in which I can hardly believe, because there is nothing else to hope in.

The last years have been a brutal education in the futility of hope in this world. The Christians of all past ages thought that the appropriate attitude toward this world is scorn, and they were right.

The prince of this world

What does it mean that Satan is the prince of this world? I take it to mean that the world is fundamentally hostile, that holiness is “moving uphill” and sin is “moving downhill”. In particular, impersonal forces alway oppose Christianity and support the Left. Changes in technology, in economic structures, in cultural fads–in summary, everything that we think of as a cause of changes in society that are not direct human choices, always and everywhere tend to erode Christian belief and morals and to support personal hedonism and secular tyranny. Atheist materialism just happens; the good must be consciously chosen. Natural and economic disasters favor the Left, but so do the general social drifts in times of comfort and prosperity. Furthermore, chance nearly always favors the Enemy. Chance plays a great role in war, and you will have noticed that the overall-more-evil side usually wins wars, that fortune nearly always frowns on the defenders of Christendom. The last war whose outcome I’m entirely satisfied with is the Spanish Civil War, and I take it that in that war, the good guys won only because General Franco was a much more competent leader than anyone on Satan’s side, and this was able to overcome the natural advantage of evil.

You may encounter this even in your personal life. When people decide to reform and “get right with God”, I don’t think they do it–even unconsciously–in order to win favor in their worldly affairs, but they do at least unconsciously tend to take good fortune as a mark of divine favor, and it seems fitting to them that becoming a better person should make life better, at least in the emotional sense of more contentment and happiness and better personal relationships. However, because Satan is the prince of this world, then when a person makes a commitment that really puts him on God’s side, he should instead be prepared for a string of bad luck. If he decides to get serious about prayer, he suddenly starts having bad news at school, at work, with his kids’ behavior or his parents’ health. If he starts preparing to be canceled and lose his job for loyalty to the truth, he suddenly finds himself being hit by painfully expensive home repair or family health problems, strokes of bad luck to make it especially difficult to have a break in steady income. If he volunteers to help the Church through catechesis, bible study, the youth group, or whatever, he will have a string of bad weather, broken technology, impossible scheduling problems, and parish indifference. He sees that those who serve the Enemy seem to go from one fortuitous victory to another. “Why are you doing this, God?” he asks, but it’s not God. It’s the other guy.

The Right should abandon hope that impersonal forces serve them as they have so often served the Left, that Leftist programs will collapse on their own without anyone having to stick his or her neck out and disagree with it from a strictly moral perspective, facing down the resulting media/academic/business/government wrath. For example, it is hoped that some Leftist program will prove too expensive, that some egalitarian dogma will collapse under the weight of contrary biological research, that hostile businesses or schools will “go broke”, that the American empire will be defeated in war (or, at least, that such a defeat would benefit us in some way), that high energy prices in Europe or criminal anarchy in American cities will finally break the spell and cause the people to repent their Leftism, and until then we can wait and come out of hiding after this happens. Nothing of the sort will happen; Satan is the prince of this world. Certainly, Leftist programs may sometimes fail to deliver their promised results, but that in itself will not bring mankind one step toward repentance and spiritual renewal. No one “falls” into God’s side. God must, through His grace, inspire free actual acts of faith, hope, and charity. Probably nothing can defeat the Left, but if it could be defeated, it could only be by a large enough group of people openly defying it on fundamental moral principle. We should not do this recklessly. Everything must be thought through, because as soon as we challenge the Left, things will start going wrong, and luck will never be on our side. I’m not even writing this under my legal name, after all. However, there’s no point in hoping that some big global political-economic catastrophe is going to eliminate Satan’s kingdom for us.

A new apologetic for science

One hundred years ago, men would study science because they were convinced that only there could true knowledge be found. Religion, philosophy, art, politics, the humanities, and the social sciences were, it was feared, terrains only of irresolvable dispute and linguistic mystification.

Today, in the age of Critical Race Theory, it would be hard to name a truly open major question, an important matter of live dispute, in politics or ethics, in the humanities or social sciences. Today, the attraction of science is that it is only there that true ignorance can be found. The excitement of discovery, of overturning one’s own preconceptions, is at least still possible for the scientist as it no longer is for any other type of academic.

How can I know what the Bible and the Catholic Church teach?

It bears repeating that one can be confident in one’s knowledge of some truths while not claiming to have access to all truths, in fact while acknowledging that what one does not know far exceeds what one does know. A general attitude of epistemic humility is compatible with full trust in the teaching authority of the Catholic Church and/or the inerrancy of the Bible, because their infallible teachings are like scattered lights in a vast sea of darkness.

A common argument of Catholic apologetics used to be that a living Magisterium is needed because otherwise there will be no way of knowing what the Bible means, that the Protestant’s private interpretation inevitably leads to doctrinal chaos. This was not a very strong argument, because Protestants could reply that the pronouncements of the Magisterium are presumably also not self-interpreting, leading to a vicious regress. Of course, a living Magisterium may answer questions and issue clarifications, but at some point communication must be self-interpreting if it is to happen at all.

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