Tag Archives: PABGoo

God is not Serendipitous

I have re-discovered yet another glaringly-obvious truism: There is no serendipity with God. If you do not seek him, you will not find him.

Serendipity is defined as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”.

And it seems to me that we cannot find God, nor even seek him, without a sense of sin. (More specifically, a sense of our own sinfulness. Everyone believes in the sinfulness of others, or at least certain others.)

If we cannot or choose not to see ourselves as sinners, then we will not find God because we will not see any reason to look for him.

This truth, I believe, is the real reason for the collapse of Christianity in the modern western world. Our sense of sinfulness has been washed away by our sense of victimhood and our belief in therapy as a substitute for morality.*

The victimhood cult became a thing when we re-codified the concept of justice. The Greek philosophical and Judeo-Christian sense of justice was doing justly to others.

The modern cults of identity politics and self esteem have redefined justice (actually reoriented it 180 degrees) from “treating others fairly” into “treating me fairly: ensuring that I and my group get what we deserve.” This melds the comfortable enjoyment of moral indignation and freedom from personal responsibility for, well, anything.

The therapy cult was best explained by Philip Rieff in The Triumph of the Therapeutic, and described elsewhere (by me) as PABGoo, short for “People Are Basically Good”. This gave pseudo-scientific cover for the (very French) proverb “to understand all is to forgive all”. It serves as the basis for the “he had a tough childhood” criminal defense, as well as the all-purpose “I just need rehab” defense for politicians and other celebrities caught in flagrante delicto (Latin for “with their pants down”).

Oversimplified, I know. Much else is involved, and I surely over-emphasize the newness of all this. But there it is: the darkest elements of human nature liberated by the combination of positivist “social science” and effective concentration.

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*There is at least one other path to seeking God: despair. Seeing the world spiraling into a moral calamity, and having lost all faith in human god-substitutes (Marxism, scientism, political liberalism, libertarianism, etc.), many go seeking God as the only Hope for a broken humanity. But people who are able to see the hopelessness of human-built reality are unlikely to continue nursing the sense of sinlessness in themselves. This dual awakening, to sin and to hopelessness, was my own path.  Now that I think about it, I suspect there are many others.

Burke, PABGoo-ism, and Sophistry

Front Porch Republic has an excellent essay by Mark A. Signorelli entitled “A Burke For Our Times.”   It is worth a read.   Edmund Burke’s politics were based on an unblinking understanding of the reality of human nature, an understanding now sadly in decline.

It is generally assumed that a recognition of the dark side of human nature gives to conservatives a sour, gloomy, negative view of human society.   Even the briefest reading of Burke makes it clear that the truth is the opposite.  As Reinhold Niebuhr put it,   “Both the majesty and the tragedy of human life exceed the dimensions within which modern culture seeks to comprehend human existence.”  Rawls is certainly a case in point.

In contrasting the Rawlsian concept of human nature as unimportant on the one hand, and multiculturalism on the other, Signorelli fails to note the shallowly-thought but deeply-ingrained underpinning of multiculti thought.

This is, of course, the cheery world view which believes that “People Are Basically Good” (hence “PABGoo”; see below). PABGoos believe that all our problems are caused by bad political or economic systems, or not enough social science grants or psychotherapy or public education or whatever. The fact that it is publicly refuted countless times a day in every city on the globe has not stopped PABGoo-ism from becoming the default feel-good philosophy of our age.

Niebuhr:  “No accumulation of contrary evidence seems to disturb modern man’s good opinion of himself...The question therefore arises how modern man arrived at, and by what means he maintains, an estimate of his virtue in such pathetic contradiction with the obvious facts of his history.  One possible and plausible answer is that the great achievement of modern culture, the understanding of nature, is also the cause of the great confusion of modern man: the misunderstanding of human nature.”

In other words, our respect for the accomplishments of science has led us into the false worship of the sophistry that goes by the name of “social science”.

Signorelli skillfully posits the difference between a “principle-based” philosopher like Rawls and a reality-based philosopical citizen like Burke.  Rawls’ belief in the eventual promise of science explaining man to himself is an unacknowledged act of charming, childlike faith.  But the effects on society are not so charming.

“Social science” is in fact a uniquely modern form of sophistry.  It takes the forms, language, and prestige of science, and puts it to use in the service of any political, economic, or social movement willing to pay the “research” bill.  Plato’s Republic describes the Athenian sophists in terms that make clear their kinship with the modern social-scientific advocate.

The role of “social science” in overthrowing all the accumulated understanding of human nature is clearest in our modern judicial lawmaking.   When a social element wishes to overthrow an institution firmly established throughout human history, it does so on the basis of “social science.”  When the Iowa Supreme Court decided that marriage is not an institution between man and woman and that society has no interest in the traditional family, it cited

“”an abundance of evidence and research, confirmed by our independent research, supporting the proposition that the interests of children are served equally by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents.  On the other hand, we acknowledge the existence of reasoned opinions that dual-gender parenting is the optimal environment for children.  These opinions, while thoughtful and sincere, were largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies.  The research appears to strongly support the conclusion that same-sex couples foster the same wholesome environment as opposite-sex couples and suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.”   (April 3, 2009, p.54; my emphasis)

Burke would have known what to say about such social-scientific nonsense put forth by sophistic advocates whose major goal is the destruction of all natural law and inherited wisdom.  In fact, he did say it.  Reflections on the Revolution in France is a truly great work.

UPDATE:

As if to drive home the point about the convenience of “social science” and its ability to prove whatever you need it to prove, read this from yesterday’s Science Daily.

College professors and students are in an arms race over cheating. Students find new sources for pre-written term papers; professors find new ways to check the texts they get for plagiarized material. But why are all these young people cheating? A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests one reason: income inequality, which decreases the general trust people have toward each other.

Got it?  Schoolkids cheat because of rich people!  Thanks, social scientists.

My Life Among the PABGoos

I have traveled a long road from my Methodist childhood, into my atheist, Marxist radical youth, and into the world.  There I battled through a lifetime of real-world practicality comforted and cushioned by the shreds of an ideology that no longer worked or made real sense of anything.  And I end up here.

I now find myself on the doorstep of a return to the truths of my childhood belief, still unable to cross the threshold.  (Of course, I wonder just how fully I ever really believed back then.  Tolstoy wrote somewhere about his religious beliefs evaporating in an instant when his older brother, seeing him kneeling by his bed, asked “You don’t still pray, do you?”)

Anyway, here I am.  Like Chesterton, I wanted always to be in the vanguard of new thought, always ahead of my time, only to discover that I was 20 centuries behind the truth.

I now find that there are only two consistent philosophical standpoints that are not in serious conflict with the facts of human nature.  Two tenable views.

Either God made us with souls, with a purpose.  Or we exist as accidental results of random materialistic evolution.

If we have souls and a purpose, then morality is a possibility, a choice that our souls can make to be in conformity with our purpose.  If we are evolutionary accidents, then we have no souls, no real purpose, and morality is whatever works.  So real morality, with legitimate authority, becomes impossible.  Moral anarchy is the only possible outcome.

There is of course another, much cheerier world view, one which believes that People Are Basically Good (hence “PABGoo”).  PABGoos believe that all our problems are caused by bad political or economic systems, or not enough social science grants or psychotherapy or public education or whatever.  The fact that it is publicly refuted countless times a day in every city on the globe has not stopped PABGoo from becoming the default feel-good philosophy of our age..  Every time you hear John Lennon singing “Imagine” on a store Muzak system, you are being PABGooed. By now you probably don’t even notice.