The Bryan Lynching: A Horror in Three Acts

One sultry evening in June, 1896, a posse of around 200 unmasked vigilantes rode into the town of Bryan, Texas, burst into the county jail, and broke open the cells that held three black men accused of rape.  They marched the three men out of town slowly, proceeded three miles down the Boonville Road to a lonely place where it crossed Carters Creek on an iron bridge, and then they hanged those three men from the limbs of a large oak tree.

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Evolution 2.0 by Perry Marshall

Evolution 2.0 by Perry Marshall

Materialism and the mechanistic world-view – the idea that the everything is a machine operating in terms of mindless, mechanical forces – has severe nihilistic implications. An alternative to this view is that the universe is alive, and that consciousness permeates it – a view called ‘panpsychism.” When his wife began to think that panpsychism might be true, Sam Harris, a famous anti-religion atheist. initially told her to remain silent about her views in case she lost all street cred. When she asked scientists she knew their own views, it turned out that many of them were also secret believers in panpsychism.

The fact that Annaka Harris and the scientists thought it necessary to lie by omission is troubling. It shows that science, as a human activity, can suffer from the usual human tendencies, one of which is the desire to belong to a group and to reach for social status. Groups define themselves by who they exclude as much as their positive beliefs, and they reward with the maintenance or increase of status and punish by demotion those who dissent. Hence, the creation of orthodoxies.

Another oft-commented upon human tendency is the desire to have something to worship. If religion is abandoned, a religious attitude will usually simply be taken towards something non-religious. Communism was atheist so the Russians simply worshipped Stalin instead, and the Chinese turned Mao Zedong into a demi-God in their imaginations. I have met an engineer with such reverence for science and his own status as a scientist that he is tremendously conceited about his ability to think about philosophical, or any other, topics beyond the scope of his expertise. He definitely seems to see himself as a priest of science – an idea that Francis Bacon, credited with contributing to “the scientific method” actually championed, including the idea that scientists should wear special robes to distinguish themselves from hoi polloi. Continue reading

Does the Concept of Metaphysical Freedom Make Sense?

Does the Concept of Metaphysical Freedom Make Sense?

1“Michael” writes: “Freedom and determinism are empty categories; they cannot be employed to distinguish any sequence of events from any other.”

Logically, this could be because all events are free or because all events are determined. It seems likely that the writer thinks all events are causally determined.

Presumably by “events” the writer includes “actions.” However, without the concept of freedom there are no actions per se. Actions are performed by an actor, an agent who is a center of decision-making. In determinism, there are no agents. There is only a series of “sequences of events” – a constant stream beginning when time began and ending when the physical universe ceases to exist. Each event is the result of a prior event in mechanical fashion, and each event will cause some future event. Continue reading

Worse than Gluttons and Worse than Mutineers

“Cosmos is not Chaos, simply by this one quality: That it is governed.”

“Gluttony and mutiny are in his heart, and he has to be bribed by high feeding to do the shows of obedience.”

Thomas Carlyle, Later-Day Pamphlets (1858)

In our fallen condition, each of us hates life under law.  We hate life under the law in spite of the fact that laws are the substance of the Cosmos in which we live, and move, and have our being. We hate them in the way that an insane mountaineer might hate the rope that holds him suspended over an abyss, or in the way that a shipwrecked sailor, utterly deranged, might hate the broken spar on which he floats. Continue reading

A Little College on a Hill

One evening in early November, 1927, Dr. Harry Hefner Price stood in the old Chapel Hall of Westminster College and addressed a convocation of students, alumni and friends of the institution.  Westminster College sat atop a limestone bluff in Tehuacana, Texas, a town you have never heard of, and the old Chapel Hall was in a handsome three-story building made of stone quarried from that very hill. Continue reading

Where Erotic Madness Ends

“A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’re beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover.”

Coleridge, Kubla Khan, ii, 14-16.

When a woman asks her suitor if he “really loves her,” she is asking if he is “madly” or “passionately” in love.  Madness and passion are the same thing, both words indicating a state in which the man’s reason has been overturned and he is operating under the control of more primitive impulses.  This is why we speak of a “crime of passion” as a “fit of temporary insanity.”  The inquisitive woman who asks this question is, therefore, seeking to discover if her suitor has lost control and is, quite literally, “crazy about her.” Continue reading

Blind Justice

You have no doubt heard it said that the people of the United States are “governed by laws, not men.” The phrase is from Aristotle, and therefore has no direct bearing on the government of the United States, but the notion will be comforting if your arch enemy wins the election for county sheriff.  It will be less comforting if your arch enemies win control of the legislature and the courts; but, even then, persecution under the color of law is harder than arbitrary persecution. Continue reading