Some Of My Favorite Things

Thursday, December 18, 2014

On Apparitions

These quotes are lifted directly from the linked website. Please go to that website and read the whole thing. It is well worth your time:

In his "Ascent of Mt. Camel", St. John says:
"I am appalled at what happens in these days-namely, when some soul with the very smallest experience of meditation, if it be conscious of certain locutions of this kind in some state of recollections, at once christens them all as coming from God, and assumes that this is the case, saying: 'God said to me . . . '; 'God answered me . . . ', whereas it is not so at all, but as we have said, it is for the most part they who are saying it to themselves."
And in Book 2, Chapter 11 of the same work, he warns of diabolical illusion, especially when the soul is gullible and doesn't even consider the possibility of such illusion:
"There is always ground for fear that they proceed from the devil rather than from God; for the devil has more influence in that which is exterior and corporeal . . . As they are so palpable and so material they excite the senses greatly and the soul is led to consider them the more important, the more they are felt. It runs after them and abandons the secure guidance of faith, thinking that the light they give is a guide and means to that which it desires, union with God. Thus the soul, the more it makes of such things, the more it strays from the perfect way and means, i.e., the faith. Besides, when the soul perceives itself subject to these extraordinary visitations, self-esteem very frequently enters in, and it thinks itself to be something in the eyes of God, which is contrary to humility. The devil also knows too well how to insinuate into the soul a secret, and sometimes open, self-satisfaction. For this end he frequently presents to the eyes the forms of saints, and most beautiful limits; he causes voices well-dissembled to strike the ear, and delicious odours the smell; he produces sweetness in the mouth, and thrills of pleasure in the sense of touch; and all to make us long for such things that he may lead us astray into much evil. For this reason, then, we must always reject and disregard these representations and sensations."
In Book 2, Chapter 16, he summarises his warnings; and it is interesting to note that the refusal to accept these apparitions is the proper attitude even in the case where they are truly from God, for as he explains, this is the way to test that they really are divine:
"I say, therefore, with respect to all these impressions and imaginary visions, and others of whatever kind they may be, which present themselves under forms or images, whether false as coming from the devil, or known to be true as coming from God, that the understanding is not to perplex itself about them, nor feed itself upon them; the soul must not willingly accept them, nor rest upon them, in order that it may be detached, naked, pure, and sincerely simple, which is the condition of the divine union."

Stop fixating on Fatima, Lourdes, Akita.
Start fixating on the Catechism, the writings of the saints and doctors of the Church.

Follow the advice of the doctors of the Church.
Learn doctrine, avoid apparitions, even those approved by the Church.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Peer Review Doesn't Work

I've seen people attempt to refute various scientific studies by saying, "They're not peer-reviewed, so they aren't any good."

I'm a little tired of that. Peer-review is not a gold standard. In fact, it really isn't any kind of standard at all. Take, for instance, the experience of John Bohannon, a biologist at Harvard. He submitted a faked paper on the effects of a chemical derived from lichen on cancer cells to 304 self-described “peer-reviewed” journals. The paper was completely fabricated: totally flawed design, analysis and interpretation of results. The researcher and the university were fictitious. 157 of the journals accepted it for publication. That's a failure rate of more than half.

In a classic 1998 study Fiona Godlee, editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal, sent an article containing eight deliberate mistakes in study design, analysis and interpretation to more than 200 of the BMJ’s regular reviewers. Not one picked out all the mistakes. On average, they reported fewer than two; some did not spot any. Peer reviewers also seem to get worse with experience.

Some people also claim that science is great because it depends on replication. If that's true, very little science is done anymore, because no one attempts to replicate studies anymore.

  • Replication is generally not publishable, so few people do it. 
  • Only people with an axe to grind pursue replications with vigour. 
  • More than half of 238 biomedical papers published in 84 journals failed to identify all the resources (such as chemical reagents) necessary to reproduce the results.
  • Five years ago about 60% of researchers said they would share their raw data if asked; now just 45% do.
  • Only 143 of 351 randomly selected papers published in the world’s 50 leading journals and covered by some data-sharing policy actually complied.
  • Some code used to analyse data or run models may be the result of years of work and thus precious intellectual property that gives its possessors an edge in future research.

So, the next time someone invokes "peer review", just shake your head.
They apparently don't read the journals.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Black Parents, Did You Know? (unredacted version)

At this point, I've heard a lot about black parents who warn their children about how to act around police.

I've yet to hear about the black parents who warn their children that, statistically speaking, they are most likely to be killed by other black children. If black children want to be safe, they need to hang out with white, Asian or Hispanic children.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Evolution Is For Losers

While it is perfectly clear that young earth creationism is stupid, it is equally clear that evolution is equally stupid. But it only recently occurred to me that even the people who teach evolution are demonstrably unwilling to believe in evolution themselves.

Consider the number of highly intelligent people who have lots of children. It shouldn't take long because there aren't very many of them. In fact, the "scientists" (I use the term loosely) who claim that evolution is true tend not to have lots of children. But that violates the very evolutionary principle they pretend to espouse.

You've all heard of the "cafeteria Catholic". These people prove there is such a thing as a "cafeteria empiricist."

Many "smart" people without children extol the brilliance of the movie Idiocracy. But the movie makes literally no sense. If "smart" people really believed the biology they claim to espouse, then they would intellectually choose to get laid and have children, infusing their superior intellectual genes into coming generations. Meanwhile, they would take every opportunity to prevent stupid people from breeding.

But that's not what they do. True, they DO try to keep stupid people from breeding (and they are mostly unsuccessful at that - not too smart of them), but they almost never have even the replacement numbers of children themselves (for instance, Stephen Gould had only two children, Richard Dawkins, has but one, David Sloan Wilson, Richard Lewontin and WD Hamilton had none).

They don't invest in the future through their genes - the only way that really lasts. Instead, they play parlor games with technological gizmos, inventing machines whose usefulness often doesn't even outlive their own lifetimes, much less that of other people's children. If this is "smart," then their lived definition of themselves is quite different than the definition the "smart" people claim to espouse. It violates the very evolutionary theory they claim rules the universe.

Nerds want Idiocracy to be true, because then they can pretend that their inability to mate is really a virtue, not the Darwinian dead-end it actually is.

They insist that Darwinism is true, but they don't live it out by mating regardless of their "love" for one another. If they REALLY believed in evolution, they would recognize "love" as a biologically expensive fantasy that has no place in modern society. They would mate and raise children based entirely on genetic profiles.

But they don't argue love is a fantasy, do they? Instead, like the fox who insisted the grapes were sour anyway, they insist that having children is something only stupid people do.

So, when someone asks if you believe in evolution, ask them a few questions first:

  • "Do you think there is any genetic component to intelligence?"
  • "Do you think of yourself as intelligent?"
  • "How many children do you have?"

If the answer is "Yes, Yes, 2 (or less)", then reply, "I see you don't believe in evolution. So why should I?"

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Testing the Traditionalist Spirit

Once, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of fortune-telling and who had brought her owners a great deal of money by predicting the future. She would follow Paul and us and shout, “These men are servants of the Most High God and are proclaiming to you a way of salvation!”  (emphasis added)
She kept doing this for many days until Paul became annoyed, turned to her and told the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus the Messiah to come out of her!” And it came out that very moment. (Acts 16:16-18)
Now, how did Paul recognize that this young girl was possessed by a demon? Simple. She kept saying that these men proclaimed "a way of salvation". That was a lie straight from the pit of hell. These men were proclaiming THE way of salvation. Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life, not a way, a truth or a life. The lie was very close to the truth - only one word was different, but that word was enough to allow Paul to test the spirit within the girl and discern that the girl's spiritual influence was demonic, not heavenly.

Why do we consider this Scripture today?
Well, some people are upset with Pope Francis.
He recently had the audacity to point out that the Church permits Catholics to accept an idea that these deeply upset people find personally offensive. Pope Francs said:
"He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality, and so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things. 
God is not a divine being (emphasis added) or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve."
Notice any similarity between Pope Francis' words and the words of the demon-possessed girl? Why yes. Yes, indeed! There is one similarity! The girl said the apostles preached "a way of salvation". Pope Francis denied that God is "a divine being."

Now, Pope Francis merely spoke standard Catholic doctrine - God is not "a god", He is THE GOD. There is no other god. But many Catholics, especially those of "traditionalist" bent, would prefer to be like the people in the Scripture passage below:
When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities who met together in the public square. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are stirring up a lot of trouble in our city. They are Jews and are advocating customs that we’re not allowed to accept or practice as Romans.” 
Wow. Who is making money by bashing Pope Francis?
The crowd joined in the attack against them. Then the magistrates had Paul and Silas stripped of their clothes and ordered them beaten with rods. After giving them a severe beating, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security. Having received these orders, he put them into the inner cell and fastened their feet in leg irons. 
Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. (emphasis added) Suddenly, there was an earthquake so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken. All the doors immediately flew open, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Don’t hurt yourself, because we are all here!” 
The jailer asked for torches and rushed inside. Trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas, he took them outside and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 
They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his home. 
At that hour of the night, he took them and washed their wounds. Then he and his entire family were baptized immediately. He brought Paul and Silas upstairs into his house and set food before them. He was thrilled, as was his household, to believe in God. (Acts 16:19-34)
Paul's work bore fruit in conversion, as Pope Francis' work also bears fruit in conversion. Those in prison, that is, those in sin, listened to Paul. Now, many people are upset that luminaries such as Elton John and Planned Parenthood like things this Pope says. So, why would anyone be upset when the Pope teaches what Catholics have always taught, yet manages to do it in a way that even the pagan sinners can begin to recognize?

Sure, some of the pagans twist his words to their own ends and for their own purposes. But are the pagans who twist his words any different than "traditionalist" Catholics, who also twist his words?  I honestly don't see how. Francis preaches the Unknown God in the Areopagus and some "Catholics" want to beat him with rods for having done so.

Are these "Catholics" influenced by the same demonic spirit that influenced the young girl in Acts 16? A strong argument can be made that this is precisely what is going on. The traditionalists who attack Pope Francis may well be channeling demonic influences, attempting to split the Church by ignoring the fact that Pope Francis teaches what the Church has always taught.

And that is a sobering thought.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pope Benedict's Outrageous Nonsense

For those who think Pope Francis stinks and Pope Benedict could do no wrong, does anyone remember when Pope Benedict endorsed the use of condoms? 


Benedict's remarks were indefensible, many liberals took advantage of them, but "orthodox" Catholics either remained silent or tried to square the circle and pretend Benedict's condom remarks were acceptable when they clearly were not.

If Pope Francis had made these remarks, imagine the outrage! But since it was Benedict, ho-hum, nothing to see here, or even remember...

Saturday, Nov. 20 2010

Monday Nov. 22, 2010

Monday Nov. 22, 2010

Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Of Suckers and Synod

Well, now that the synod has safely receded into the past, we can take a look at how things went.

Point: The First
Just as predicted, the synod taught nothing that violated Catholic doctrine.

Michael Voris was the only Catholic media personality who had enough virtue to formally apologize for his part in creating the Catholic media firestorm. I applaud him for this and very much thank him.

The Catholic media trained the Catholics who read the synod's final document to use a "hermeneutic of suspicion." Doubt and discord now reign where we were supposed to have peace and joy. Catholic media won - Catholics lost.

Point: The Second
Everyone was upset that bishops were discussing scandalous issues in synod. Riddle me this: would you prefer the bishops ask each other, in synod, where they can discuss in relative silence and amongst themselves, the kind of questions that the secular world constantly asks? Or would you prefer that they don't touch on controversial issues among themselves, but simply be forced to react one at a time under the grilling of various news media personalities over the course of the coming years?

Synods are designed to bring up scandalous issues, to look at every issue with fresh eyes, because the world approaches Catholic issues with eyes of newborn ignorance. If the Church wants to talk to the people in the world, her bishops have to be ready to handle the world's questions. Where better to raise such questions and provide the necessary answers than inside a synod, where all the bishops can thresh out every concern, and every response?

(Update: For those who say Burke is a really humble guy who I have thoroughly mis-read, I submit this powerplay, revealed only after I wrote this piece. Burke is worse than Kaspar.)

Watching sausage being made rids the ignorant of their appetites, but butchers are happy to eat sausage because they understand the sausage-making process better than random passers-by, who are often startled to discover that actual animals are killed to create it. Same with doctrine/dogma. The ignorant are startled by the discussions, but the Catholic secure in Church doctrine is not perturbed by such discussions.

To be concise, I want people like Kasper and Burke in a synod, fighting over the words, bringing up absolutely scandalous ideas. That way, I'm sure the synod will not only get it right, but get it right in a way that the world is forced to regard with some importance.

Point: The Third
Everyone is happy to point out that Cardinal Kasper is a liar.  Nobody wants to point out that Cardinal Burke is ALSO a liar. Why the different treatment?

And before you complain, here is Burke advertising he's about to lie and disrespect the Pope to boot:
"Cardinal Burke: The difficulty — I know about all the reports, obviously. I’ve not received an official transfer yet. Obviously, these matters depend on official acts. I mean, I can be told that i’m going to be transferred to a new position but until I have a letter of transfer in my hand it’s difficult for me to speak about it." 
And then he talks about his transfer, actually confirming what he himself says he is not free to talk about.  Sorry, but Burke is the worst of the two liars here. Kasper just skewered other cardinals, Burke actually used his interview to skewer the Pope's decision to replace him. Sure, he said nothing negative, but we are all meant to (a) be told about something he himself says he has no right to discuss and (b) be outrated by it.

Why else mention something that you know you aren't supposed to discuss? Buzzfeed even helped turn the knife with its next softball question:
BFN: You’re obviously a very well respected person. That must be disappointing.
CB: Well, I have to say, the area in which I work is an area for which I’m prepared and I’ve tried to give very good service [editor's note: lovely humble-brag]. I very much have enjoyed and have been happy to give this service, so it is a disappointment to leave it. On the other hand, in the church as priests, we always have to be ready to accept whatever assignment we’re given. And so I trust that by accepting this assignment, I trust that God will bless me, and that’s what’s in the end most important. And even though I would have liked to have continued to work in the Apostolic Signatura, I’ll give myself to whatever is the new work that I’m assigned to…
Note the humble-brag. Note how Pope Francis has so sorely disappointed our illustrious cardinal! (how dare the Pope disappoint Burke?!?). And the outpouring of humility! Worthy of Padre Pio himself! He will accept whatever new work he is assigned (like he has a choice)! 

You can just imagine Padre Pio giving exactly the same kind of interview! Except, you can't, because Padre Pio would never have done such a thing. Burke should have simply refused to answer any of those questions about his employment and/or his move - that's between him and the Pope until such time as the Pope makes it public (as Burke himself witnesses). If he were truly humble, he need not have mentioned his humility. But he has to point it out, in case any of us missed it.

Worse, he backstabs the Pope during the synod, giving the interview when he knows full well how much discord has already been fomented by the Catholic media amongst "orthodox" Catholics. He starts the interview talking about the synod, but devotes fully one-third of it to how the Pope is mean and is going to move him from what he loves to do! Oh, the agony he is forced to endure!

The center third of the interview.
Not about the synod.
It's about his job prospects.

This isn't the act of an obedient cardinal, this is the act of a Kasper look-alike, a man with overweening ambition and a dagger that he needs to bury in somebody's back, and - look! - the Pope's back is right there! What a lovely target! And since I have pointed out how humble I am, no one will notice as I bury it to the hilt and have Buzzfeed help me twist the knife!

And it's so cleverly situated within the beginning and ending comments about the synod! Typical episcopal sandwich - start and end by complimenting a group, but the center takes huge, toothy bites out. Start and end by talking about the subject, but use the center to discuss what matters to you. The meat is in the middle. Nobody picks up on it. I've seen countless bishops and priest pull this rhetorical trick. Works all the time. 

Point: The Fourth
Some have complained Pope Francis raised questions during the synod, but then remained silent during the discussion, saying nothing for virtually the entire synod.

Yes, that's right, he did. 

This is a common tactic amongst the ordained. How many of you know priests who will post something on Facebook that generates a huge discussion which the priests themselves then take no subsequent part in? I know several who do that. They do it in parish life as well, raising an issue, then walking away as the lay people wrangle over it.

It gives the ordained man a chance to see who lies on which side of the spectrum, where his powerbase lies, without committing himself one way or the other. It also emphasizes the priest's authority over the lay people, as they realize that they cannot resolve the problem until the priest makes a decision. The lay people are left yearning for priestly authority and direction, made to feel it's lack. 

I really don't know an ordained man who hasn't pulled that trick at one time or another as at least a way to pull rank on a lay person and make the lay person feel helpless.

Pope just did that to the bishops. Big deal. Insofar as any bishop complains about it, that bishop is a hypocrite. It's the Pope's advantage, he holds an authoritative position and he could afford to get away with it. It's a way of putting every bishop in the synod in his place. You can tell which bishops didn't like the reminder of papal authority by making a list of the ones who complained about the tactic. Same goes for lay people. Notice the complainers were mostly the "orthodox". Hmmm....

Summary conclusion
1) Synod did precisely what any Catholic expected it would do: reiterate Catholic doctrine.
2) Synod did this by discussing every aspect of the doctrine, even the unpalatable aspects.
3) Both the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are sinners, but "orthodox" Catholics don't like anyone to point that out about "their" guys.
4) What a shock to discover the buck stops with the Pope.

I feel like an orthodox Catholic after Vatican II - amazed and depressed that so many of my fellow "orthodox" Catholics are so easily taken in by a feckless media and equally feckless cardinals, both of whom are out to gain advantage at the expense of the laity. But, as the saying goes, they never give a sucker an even break.

The only way to avoid the result is to stop being a sucker and start putting a little faith in the Church.