Time for an anecdote:
When I was young, in the days before STAR WARS when only a small and happy band of what are now called geeks read science fiction, I actually believed the propaganda recited by such figures as Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov that the science fiction readership was smarter, more interested in ideas, more insightful than the general public.
Several things diminished my faith in that bit of flatter over the years. Once was a science fiction convention where I served on a panel with some gray haired member of the old guard, a fan from the days of John W Campbell Jr.
The topic of abortion came up. I asked him only about the scientific facts of the question without inquiring into his moral stance. I asked him, for example, if the “fetus” (his terminology, not mine. He did not know that the word refers to a stage of development, not to a species of organism) were alive. He said no. The fetus is potentially alive, not actually alive.
He did not know the scientific definition of life every High School student knows. I forbore from asking him how the allegedly nonliving organism managed to grow, etc.
I asked him if the fetus had an XX or XY chromosome pair? In other words, was the fetus definitely male or female?
He said no. A fetus with XX chromosomes was only potentially female. Biologically and scientifically speaking, the organism in question was as sexless as an amoeba.
I asked him if a organism is halfway out of the womb, let us say the lower half is out, but the upper half is still lodged in the birth canal, is the lower half sexual but the upper half sexless? Would the cells composing her sexual organs, for example, define her sex? But the brain cells in its brain did not?
At the moment when the organism was exactly halfway out of the womb, was the organism a nonliving fetus from the middle up, but a living human being from the middle down?
The conversation moved to another topic, and I did not get an answer to this question.
I also did not get a chance to ask him if he had flunked High School biology.
This was the first time I met someone with absolutely no mental or intellectual integrity at all. He could not answer an honest question. He treated inquiry into his thoughts not as the inquire of a potential buyer willing to adopt his intellectual goods, but as personal attacks against him, slurs meant to wound his ego.
I have, of course, met many people with no interest in philosophical or scientific matters, but never someone hitherto who both had strong opinions on the topic, but no desire, not even the slightest, either to be or to appear serious, sane, honest, forthright, or persuasive.
The wonders of the Internet have since exposed me to a whole army of such beings, scientifically minded people who do not know jack about science, wordy philosophers who hate philosophy, intellectuals who despise the intellect, so my shock is much less these days.
They want to talk but not to think. They want to win the debate, but not to perform the work of going through the debate.
The mystery is astonishing.
At first, one naturally concludes that such creatures are stupid.
And yet they use long words and are possessed, some of them, with degrees or awards. They can balance their checkbooks and drive a car and even write novels, so clearly it is not blank stupidity.
Next, one naturally concludes that such creatures are willing worshipers of pure evil, deliberately malign, sadists hoping for the death of children, the elderly, the victims of communism, eager to see poverty and slavery and all the ills which naturally follow from their positions.
And yet, in their personal life, many of them are compassionate and generous and charitable, so clearly their advocacy for abominable evils is not because they themselves love evil.
Next, one wonders if it is pure hypocrisy, merely play acting. Perhaps they only advocate naked evil in terms of nauseating stupidity and unconvincing lies because it is method acting. They think that their peers demand and force them to say these wicked and idiotic things, and so they say them while pretending to believe them, but deep down they do not actually believe them.
On some level, they are aware that what they say on one topic at one time contradicts what they say in another airtight compartment of their mind, but, thanks to the wonders of Doublethink, and their fear of Big Brother, the blatant contradictions between the two compartments never are brought into contact.
And yet, no, they talk the same way in private as in public, and many of them devote their lives to the promotion of things like killing babies by countless millions. It is not play acting. There is no Big Brother. They are speaking Newspeak as their native language, not because anyone pressures them into it. It is not hypocrisy, or, at least, it does not seem to be deliberate, something of which they are aware.
Next one wonders if it is merely insanity: some combination of split personality syndrome and full blown psychosis.
And yet, amusing as the theory might be that Leftism is a mental disease, clearly these people are oriented as to time and place and person, and they know the moral nature of their acts and can control their impulses. The act and talk like insane people, but they are not insane.
Finally, one wonders if they are possessed by the Devil. Because on any topic outside the specific ones of their neurosis, one can have a reasonable conversation. The moment anything related to the specific topic crops up, it is as if some weird and unclean spirit possesses them, a spirit who cares nothing for facts, logic, humanity, and reason, but who only exists to accuse and accuse and accuse whomever is asking the creature questions. The spirit has two modes of argumentation: ad hominem and straw man.
The spirit has one expression: a bored sneer. It makes one noise: a chuckle or gargle of disbelief.
Well, obviously this last theory is a bit fanciful. If the life-hating Left were actually a coven of dark-cowled diabolists who had sold their collective minds and souls to the Devil, they would display a hostility to organized religion in general, and to Christianity in particular, and to Catholicism most of all; and pepper their works of fiction and nonfiction with endless insults, distortions, historical errors, calumnies, sneers, and vitriol.
They would boo mentions of God and Jerusalem at political rallies, and cheer for the deaths of innocent unborn children and helpless coma victims. They would hate mankind, and adore the vices, sexual or otherwise, which destroy mankind and the dignity of man.
And, like vampires, they would remove even innocuous crosses and crucifixes from public places, tear down images of the Ten Commandments, dunk the cross of the Savior in urine and force taxpayers to subsidize it as a work of art, but be very deferential, even encouraging, to Mohammedans, Socialists, and other enemies of the Church.
They would denounce insults to the Prophet of Islam, and overreact with fascination and love toward any flimsy story which insulted Christ, penned either by untalented writers like Dan Brown or talented writers like Philip Pullman.
They would be fascinated by heresies, false gospels, or scraps of Fourth Century manuscript at variance with Church teaching about Christ.
And if they were possessed by the Devil, the Accuser, everything out of their mouths would be an accusation, an attack, a character assassination.
And yet that does not describe the Leftwing mainstream, does it?
Well, I am sure the demonic possession theory to explain how wise and kind people can speak and vote to suppose foolish and malignant evils has some flaw in it. I just cannot see what it is at the moment.
In any case, the event of meeting a well read grayhaired man who thought that primates did not have a defined sex at conception was sufficient to shrivel the Heinleinesque confidence that science fiction readers were curious about science.
Of course, all that was happening was that the man in my anecdote was subordinating his scientific learning to his political ideology, much like a Young Earth Fundamentalist will explain away or ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence of the age of the cosmos out of deference to a flatflooted literal reading of the Book of Genesis. The man was selling his mental honesty in return for a comforting zealotry.
The impulse is a religious one, or, rather, a pseudo-religious one, used by heretics who cannot reconcile faith and reason, and so think it wise or laudable to sacrifice reason on the altar of faith.
The gross irony is that, in this case, the man thought he was being reasonable and scientific. In reality he was a science worshiper rather than a scientific thinker, borrowing the prestige of science for what was ultimately a cult belief.
He would certainly have been willing to accuse other heretics of sacrificing reason to blind faith, and would be unable to answer the historical fact that the orthodox assert no division between reason and faith since St Thomas Aquinas wrote in the so called Middle Ages. Or, rather, his answer would be a cold sneer and that odd hiccup of disbelieving laugh their spirit uses to answer for them.
The problem to me seems primarily philosophical, that is, rooted in their most basic assumptions of what reality is and how the cosmos works. In the modern Leftist dogma, the only truth is that there is no such thing as truth; logic is merely a trap and an imposition; science is racism and worthy of contempt, but for some reason environmentalism and infant stem cell research is not quackery but science and worthy of respect; morality is bigotry; reality is fluid; beauty is in the eye of the beholder and only vehemently jarring ugliness is authentic and admirable; and words are meaningless; and justice is the will of the stronger.
In all basic philosophical disciplines, metaphysics, ethics, logic, ontology, epistemology, semantics, aesthetics, politics, either partial neglect or total contempt for the discipline is a dogma of the Left.
There are four stages of the degeneration of philosophy once decapitated of metaphysics: the stages go from a perfectly reasonable disinterest in philosophical things in the name of practicality or political, to a fanatical elevation of politics to a cult status, to a fanatical elevation of mysticism and irrational romanticism, to stark nihilism and moral relativism and the abolition of man.
The classical liberal is an example of the first; the socialist is the second; the Shavian or fascist is the third, along with various New Age cults; the postmodernist is the final and end stage.There are variations within each school, too numerous to mention.
There is no scope for additional degeneration after utter nihilism and blank unreason: once all philosophy has been rejected, there is no philosophy to be employed to promote any some more degenerate form of philosophy.
Different Leftists are at different stages of the degeneration, but cluster around the lower, and agnostics of the Right are at different stages of degeneration, but cluster about the upper. The four stages are different pathologies of the same underlying sin of lack of mental integrity, an unwillingness to use and follow reason, a studied unwillingness to think.
The classical liberal does not want to think about religion, or, rather, he is content to let each man follow his own conclusions and conscience provided he disturbs not the public peace.
This is a honorable and even a laudable stance, given the violent implacability hanging between orthodox and heterodox factions, and the evils incumbent upon coerced faith. But it does involve a loss of integrity, because it makes the Church private rather than communal.
The first stage is characterized by a benign neglect of all things intellectual and religious at least as far as public and communal actions, and a concentration on matter of the appetites: acquisitions of material goods, attraction to beautiful women or fair works of art. It tends to be Deist in expression, even if not in name.
The second stage reacts vehemently against the indifference of the first by taking some lesser matter, usually a political party or economic theory, and with a dry and remorseless intellectualism, unhindered by history, pragmatism, logic or thought, and elevating that matter to the status of the communal spirit.
That such elevated material in the modern age is uniformly materialistic, secular, and nonsensical does not detract from the fundamental religious longing which prompts it. Communism is an idolatry, an attempt to create heaven on earth as doomed as the desire of the architects of the Tower of Babel. This second stage is the primacy of the intellect, particularly of untested and untestable theories, over the common passions and common conscience of mankind.
The third stage reacts vehemently against the communal spirit and the deadly intellectualism of the second stage not by bringing the intellect back into the bounds of reason but by rejecting it altogether. What is created is a new form of mysticism, a primacy of emotion over reason, a desire for either the Eloi gods of New Age light and sweetness or the Morlock gods of blood-drinking fascism, race supremacy, and other nonsense. George Bernard Shaw and his talk of a ‘Life Force’ that directs mankind, the Pacifist movement of the 1930′s and 1960′s, and Frederich Nietzsche are all examples of the primacy of emotion over reason.
The final stage rejects all theories as being merely ‘narratives’ or partial truths, or stark untruths told by the oppressors to enslave or sedate the oppressed. It reject both the dark and bright romance and emotion of the third stage, and the cold and arid intellectualism divorce from reality of the second stage, and the consuming realism divorced from the intellect of the first stage. For the sake of peace, it ceases all conflicts by declaring no victory possible and no prize worth seeking; and declares all arguments lost because no words have meaning.
Hypocrisy is its leitmotif, and its driving passion, tyranny is it preferred means, and death its goal: because obviously you cannot have an argument, if you think words lack meaning, with someone who thinks words have meaning: all you can do is shut him up. Death is its goal because if life is meaningless and life is suffering the best way to medicate life is to sedate and then extinguish it, nor to burden the world with additional people and their pollutions both spiritual and physical. The best sedation is endless clamor and distraction, television, gambling, sexual adventures, political crusades, and the ever popular Two Minute Hate directed against anyone who is in not fully in line with this fourth and final stage of total rational shutdown.
Naturally, based on a single conversation, I cannot tell where the man in my anecdote slips on the slippery slope of the four stages of philosophical corruption, but he had already made the crucial, irrevocable step of rejecting mental integrity in his thought and talk.
It might have been out of a sense of benign neglect, like a first stage thinker, or because it contradicted an intellectual ideology he worshiped, as a second stage thinker, or because his emotions told him a different story to which he clung in Promethean defiance of truth, as a third stage thinker, or because of intellectual exhaustion and despair and hatred of all philosophy, as in a final stage thinker.
But once you are on the slope of rejecting reason and philosophy, metaphysics and theology, the rejection of all other forms of reasoning, scientific and otherwise, is both a temptation and a great attractor. I will not call it inevitable, but I will say there is a strong intellectual current running that way, rushing toward the waterfall.
And yet, the philosophical explanation does not explain. Even supposing these creatures gave away their powers of reasoning, their desire for honesty, their distaste for hypocrisy, in order to achieve whatever comfort or conformity or camouflage from their own remorseless conscience they seek, why would they deliberately pay the price?
Is it deliberate? All those I meet seem innocent, unaware, almost taken by surprise that anyone takes anything in life seriously, or thinks evil is evil, or lying is bad, even lying to oneself.
Sin in neither pleasant, nor rational, nor in one’s self interest, nor honorable, nor safe, and so the normal human motivations of pleasure-seeking, forethought, self interest, passion, fear and so on seem all to militate against it. Nor is sin an innocent mistake; it is the very epitome of what it means to betray innocence.
So why do we do it? Why do I?
I don’t know.
There is a mystery to evil mortal man cannot explain.