“If I imagine it, then it happened”

10 Nov

(To be considered in conjunction with http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/ink-people/)

If I imagine it, then it happened: The implicit truth value of imaginary representations [1]

Daniella Shidlovski, Yaacov Schul, Ruth Mayo

Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Abstract

Imagination sometimes leads people to behave, feel, and think as though imagined events were real even when they know they were not. In this paper, we suggest that some understanding of these phenomena can be achieved by differentiating between Implicit Truth Value (ITV), a spontaneous truth evaluation, and Explicit Truth Value (ETV), a self- reported truth judgment. In three experiments, we measure ITV using the autobiographical Implicit Association Test (Sartori, Agosta, Zogmaister, Ferrara, & Castiello, 2008), which has been used to assess which of two autobiographical events is true. Our findings demonstrate that imagining an event, like experiencing an event, increases its ITV, even when people explicitly acknowledge the imagined event as false (Experiments 1a and 1b). Furthermore, we show that imagined representations generated from a first-person perspective have higher ITV than imagined representations generated from a third-person perspective (Experiment 2). Our findings suggest that implicit and explicit measures of truth differ in their sensitivity to properties underlying truth judgment. We discuss the contribution of characterizing events according to both ITV and ETV to the understanding of various psychological phenomena, such as lying and self-deception.

[1] Cognition, Volume 133, Issue 3, December 2014, Pages 517–529: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027714001620

“Ink People”

10 Nov

(To be considered in conjunction with http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/if-i-imagine-then-it-happened/)

“Humans are creatures of Neverland. Neverland is our evolutionary niche, our special habitat. We are attracted to Neverland because, on the whole, it is good for us. It nourishes our imaginations; it reinforces our moral behavior; it gives us safe worlds to practice inside. Story is the glue of human social life – defining groups and holding them together. We live in Neverland because we can’t not live in Neverland. Neverland is our nature. We are the storytelling animal.”

“The characters in fiction are just wiggles of ink on paper (or chemical stains on celluloid). They are ink people. They live in ink houses inside ink towns. They work at ink jobs. They have inky problems. They sweat ink and cry ink, and when they are cut, they bleed ink. And yet ink people press effortlessly through the porous membrane separating their inky world from ours. They move through our flesh-and-blood world and yield real power in it. As we have seen, this is spectacularly true of sacred fictions. The ink people of scripture have a real, live presence in our world. They shape our behaviors and customs, and in so doing, they transform societies and histories.”

From The Storytelling Animal, How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall.

d3ec76fba649d8e089ad07df677a55a8Literature by James Koehnline, 2007

Slippery Slope’n by Cocoa-Joe’n

28 Oct

Homemade Cocoa-Joe is a good gateway to the hard brew.

Start with a heap’n tablespoon of Swiss Miss – tiny marsh’mos optional – in a half mug of – hell, anything, Folger’s Crystals, it don’t matter at this point.

Back-fill with hot water, get it down – then scrounge together a disguise for your first sneak down aisle 6 – yeah, you know what I’m talkin’bout – Satan’s aisle – that’s the smell.

Start by scoring nickel bags of Arabica – Mexican, Brazilian, New York, whatever – start with a light roast and move to dark, backing off S-Missy as you go. I was down to a half teaspoon in double-dripped Chock Full O’ Nuts New York Roast by week 7 and was knocking it back straight by 9.

But then you’ll need something more. Ethiopian Robusta. Whoa! Great hit, but forced me back to a pinch of cocoa – this time Cocoa-Via, dark, no sugar, $1.10 a packet (but the flavonoids do support cardiovascular health).

Fast forward two years – I’ve lost my temple recommend, I’ve lost my faith, I’ve lost the more annoying half of my family …

But I’ve also lost a lot of weight and I’m kicking ass on the commodities trading floor keeping it real doing shots of Death Wish espresso – all – day – long.

Just in case  :)

imageslogo

JT’s Choosing Well (or, Digging for Treasure)

17 Oct

I submitted this audio story to the Mormon Expression essay contest in April 2012 under the title “JT’s Choosing Well.” It was not aired. Here I give it an alternative title, “Digging for Treasure.” The link to the audio file is here.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/10saenkggb0g8z0/ME%20Essay%20JT%27s%20Choosing%20Well.mov

This was my second attempt at composing fiction. I think it was the short form – the contest limited the essays to 10 minutes – that gave me license to try. My first attempt was a submission to the Mormon Expression Essay Contest one year earlier.  That one was called “Walter’s Journal” and it was aired. The link to it is pasted below.

“Digging for Treasure” began with the idea of an 11-year old boy’s encounter with a teenage Mormon neighbor that was followed, after 20 years of separation, by another potentially life-changing one.  In the process I re-imagined a slice of Joseph Smith’s story set in modern times.  It was designed as a parable in first person voice.

The original title was intended as a double entendre. “Well” can be taken for the noun – a hole dug into the ground to obtain water – or as an adverb that qualifies JT’s acts of choosing. Under this title the narrative draws attention to JT – the non-Mormon.

The second title, “Digging for Treasure,” draws attention to the Joseph-like character and presses on the more important “truth” I was trying to communicate.  If I had to do it over again, I would have given it that single title – for it really encompasses both characters. However, I started this identifying more with JT and was responding to his experiences as I imagined them.  I now see that a greater weight could be placed on what JT was responding to – which is the bigger Mormon story.

——————————

“Walter’s Journal” can be accessed here

https://wordpress.com/post/33199559/132

or at the Mormon Expression website (beginning at 52 minutes, 37 seconds)

http://mormonexpression.com/2011/09/06/155c-annual-essay-contest-part-3/

“Walter’s Journal” was also a parable in first person voice. In it I reconfigure some personal experiences with Mormonism through an alter ego, Walter, a barely high school educated welder and school bus driver.  Walter and I share similar personalities, sensibilities, and, I dare say, virtues – though he displays them in greater abundance and without compromise. Where we differ I find more to self-criticize and feel that I wouldn’t mind trading places with him. Indeed, that’s what I was doing in composing this.

Reading the Hebraism Writing on the _ alls

12 Oct

One apologetic argument for the Book of Mormon is textual evidence of Hebraisms, linguistic constructions that reflect the original ancient Hebrew language of its prophets. Similar arguments have been made for the Mormon Temple endowment ritual, despite its striking similarities to the Masonic Temple induction ritual. [1], [2]

That being the case, one Hebraism that is not found in either is the artful use of tattoos to symbolize sacred covenants. The following audio excerpt is from the Biblical Scholar Robert M. Price’s podcast The Bible Geek, which follows a simple question-and-answer format. In this instance the listener’s question addressed the book of Revelation, chapter 19, verse 16:

Rev 19:16 And he hath on his vesture [robe] and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Here is the two-minute clip. Note that toward the end Price elucidates the “rod of iron” metaphor (or euphemism) that plays so prominent a role in LDS theology.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/13817676/Bible%20Geek%2C%20Rev%2016-19%2010%204%202014%20copy.mp3

What I take-away from this example is just how removed we are from ancient worldviews and how problematical it can be for people who lean on the authority of ancient stories to legitimize and validate their modern worldview by naively projecting it back on them.

 

————————–

[1] The similarities are explained by asserting the Mason’s inherited a corrupted version of the true ancient endowment.

[2]  Genesis 24: 2-3 And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh; I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, …

An Abrahamic Re-Test and Overdue Homework.

11 Oct

Abe & Joe

Back in February of 2012 I posted an anti-apologetic response to a FairMormon podcast episode featuring Dr. Valerie Hudson who discussed “Polygamy as an Abrahamic Sacrifice.” [1], [2]  I recently discovered I had “published” two posts, one an earlier draft of the other – so I just deleted the earlier one.  I also returned to the FairMormon podcast website to look at my comment again. There were a sufficient number of distinct ideas, as well as a response from Steve Densley, a FairMormon apologist, that I thought to paste them here. A bit of self-indulgence for sure, but Mormon polygamy is such a juicy target that I can’t help re-visiting it.

There … I’ve just pasted them under the “Fair use.” Now I’ll read them more closely and add commentary as motivated by my emotional responses (what other motivators are there?) that press me to think rationally (or so I hope). The commentary will be italicized, bolded, blue, [bracketed] and …         

[indented]

JTurn 22 February 2012 at 8:05 pm

This podcast afforded me the occasion to reread D&C 132 in light of this Abrahamic covenant perspective.

Among other bits, I am puzzled by the following verse that seems to point to the core of Dr. Hudson’s argument.

D&C 132, 50: I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.

This suggests that just as Abraham’s ram in the thicket provided him an escape from having to murder Isaac, Joseph should have been provided with an escape from having to consummate his various sexual congresses over the span of a decade or more. Either there is a fundamental asymmetry here or Joseph failed the test.

[I am interested in the symmetries and asymmetries that arise between faith-centered supernatural worldviews and philosophical naturalistic worldviews. This has become central to my critical comparisons of the two. For instance, many apologetic arguments leverage a basic epistemological asymmetry in their favor. Mormons, for instance, claim an additional source of knowledge (revelation) bestowed by the “Gift of the Holy Ghost” an accessed through confirmatory feelings or perceptions that can be distinguished from emotions.  But many apologists leverage a claim to symmetry. They attack naturalism as being just as faith-based as they are. This latter strategy is an obviously weak, if not self-defeating, defense.]

Close your eyes and imagine holding a knife to your child’s throat, ready to slice it open because God commanded it. Seriously, experience this for a minute. If you are a faithful Mormon, own it.

[I admit, I did not do this myself]

Now, at least if you are a typical man, close your eyes and imagine the devoted attention of attractive young women living under your roof with God commanding you to take them to bed.

[I will not admit that I did this myself]

These are fundamentally different kinds of tests. The bias required not see this is profound.

Thus is just the beginning of what I find deeply disturbing about D&C 132, which I would not have revisited if I was not somewhat first disturbed by Dr, Hudson’s argument.

[At the time my daughter was a few weeks away from getting entering into "celestial" marriage. But saying "deeply" was a rhetorical exaggeration.]

An interesting bit did jump out that did not register with me before. Verse 51 points to a counter Abrahamic test that the Lord (through Joseph I presume) offered Emma.

51: Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

The obvious difference is that Emma was offered an “escape,” again through Joseph.

[Evidently, I wasn't through.  Here's round two composed that same evening, well past my bedtime.]

JTurn 22 February 2012 at 10:14 pm

Has Dr. Hudson thought through the implications of basing one’s (or a group’s) moral philosophy on Abrahamic tests? Particularly when they are administered through admittedly imperfect men who may be found to have had problems distinguishing true doctrine from mere teachings?

["Moral philosophy" isn't the correct characterization. Perhaps "moral grounding" is better. The point is that plural marriage was instituted by revelation as necessary for exaltation - which makes it central to the Mormon Gospel of Jesus Christ. What this has to do with the Atonement is anyone's guess.  Perhaps the Atonement is just about salvation (eternal life), but exaltation (celestial life) requires passing "Abrahamic" tests of faith, which is, to my mind, ludicrous. ]

As an aside, the expediencies of keeping Mormonism viable in American society have led to reversals in some of its doctrine – qua policies – such as the Adam-as-God doctrine and the priesthood/endowment ban on people of African descent. This has entailed discounting the revelations of prior “Prophets, Seers and Revelators” as high up as Brigham Young. Could Joseph Smith be next in line? That, could happen only out of desperation. And yet, there seems to be a movement in this direction.  It’s taking the form of an ever-increasing emphasis on Jesus and marketing Mormonism as “Christian too” – a zero-sum game for air-time between Joseph and Jesus that will eventually have Joseph teetering on the edge of the memory hole and then, perhaps in 100 years, letting him fall in. ]

Imagine 1000 religions with 1000 prophets all invoking God’s will to practice moral exceptionalism to promote their ambitions or to confront internal or external stresses. But wait, this IS human history – which hasn’t been pretty.

[This has to be the strongest argument against revealed religion. It was cogently made by one of the most preeminent philosophers living today, Philip Kitcher [3]. What is so dumbfounding to me is how little purchase this has on the mind of believers – including my own. This was a fact that stared me in the face for a long time without registering until other reasons – emotional provoking experiences – made it visible and useful for personal justification. How’s that for honesty?]

In my opinion the world would be much better off if every group would accept the moral obligation of dialing back their sense of such privileged insight in recognition of the mischief it breeds in the other 999.

Finally, has Dr. Hudson thought through the implications of how D&C 132 inextricably ties celestial exaltation to being willing to pass Abrahamic tests? [Does] this place Abrahamic tests at the center of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is this really the corner that Mormonism must [paint] the Gospel into in order to preserve its faith in its own legitimacy? Is this need to preserve Joseph Smith’s authority Mormonism’s mess of pottage? Isn’t Joseph Smith a dead prophet who can now be superseded by a living prophet?

[What a heavy-handed self-righteous string of rhetorical questions! ]

Now, let’s read Steve Densley’s response to my comments. Steve is a Vice President of FairMormon, according to Wikipedia.]

SteveDensleyJr Post author23 February 2012 at 10:28 am

No analogy is perfect. There is always a difference between two objects in an analogy, otherwise, it would not be an analogy but would be a comparison of identical objects. Therefore, as in all analogies, it is possible to poke holes in this particular analogy. Therefore, the challenge is not in demonstrating that the two objects are not identical; they never are in an analogy. The challenge is in seeking to understand the ways in which they are the same. However, note that it is not Dr. Hudson that is making the analogy. She merely identifies an analogy that is drawn by God as He speaks to Joseph Smith.

["Fair" enough. But I don't think I claimed that Hudson is making that analogy. However, she is arguing for it - and it's the argument that I am pushing back on.]

So how can we reconcile the apparent problems? One way is to extend our perspective on this analogy beyond this life. While the ram in the thicket for Abraham appeared almost immediately, for those who were called upon to practice polygamy, perhaps the ram in the thicket is not meant to appear until the next life.

[This seems like a gratuitous speculation given to "save the appearances."  Any problem can be swept into the next life - the argument is akin to "god acts in mysterious ways."  And what are the implications of this?  Does it create even more problems when one tries to think it through? This gives me something to think about. ]

Also, while it may seem that for a man, marrying multiple women is not comparable to being asked to sacrifice your son, I can imagine that for a woman, the pain of sharing her husband with another woman is not wholly dissimilar to being asked to sacrifice a child.

[Is there any suggestion that the purpose of polygamy was to test women more than men? Was it God’s idea to add a layer of “sacred loneliness” to the fate of “in sorrow [they] shal[l] bring forth children”?  Is this argument another misogynistic by-product of male-privilege seeking to preserve it patriarchal hegemony?

As for the man, remember that Joseph Smith was highly reluctant to enter into polygamous relationships.

[Says who? Says Joseph? Was part of that reluctance his fear of being destroyed by a sword wielding angel – or was that ludicrous claim aimed at overcoming the reluctance of a young woman. [4]]

He clearly realized that polygamy would bring serious challenges to the saints and to him personally if it was publicly known that he was practicing polygamy.

[So did Bill Clinton when he had "sex with that woman."  He too thought he could get away with it - or couldn't help himself. Sometimes danger is part of the thrill of the doing, which some are addicted to. Sometimes people are blinded by overconfidence born of high status and  power. It is quite common.]

Ultimately, it seems that polygamy, at least in part, led to his death. In anticipation of the significant challenges and sacrifices that would follow the practice of polygamy, I can imagine that Joseph Smith viewed his entrance into the practice with fear, trepidation and even as a great sacrifice.

[Well, Steve is welcome to “imagine” anything he likes. But this strikes me as sanguine question-begging about Joseph’s thoughts and feelings and, given the facts of his behavior, amounts to special pleading. The more plausible inference – the inference based on the principle of analogy with the psychological study of human behavior – is that Joseph presented the characteristics of a sociopath.  There is documentary evidence that could support many of these:

Egocentricity – Callousness – Impulsivity – Conscience defect – Exaggerated sexuality – Excessive boasting – Risk taking – Inability to resist temptation – Antagonistic – deprecating attitude toward the opposite sex – Lack of interest in bonding with a mate.

With respect to “wives” being a reward for practicing polygamy, it does not make sense that if Joseph Smith agrees to practice polygamy that he would literally be given multiple fathers and mothers in this world. Yet, read literally, that is what the verse says. So it seems that the verse is meant to be read figuratively. In that light, multiples wives is not a literal reward any more than multiple fathers and mothers would be. The phrase “I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children” seems to simply be a rhetorical flourish meaning that the reward for Joseph would be great.

[Meant to be figurative? Doesn’t inserting “wives” being “lands” and “children” make wives figurative too?  And what do we make of Joseph being told he would receive these things “in this world”? And most important, Joseph was putting his “rhetorical flourish” on the lips of Jesus. Jesus is the one who is supposed to be speaking here. What could Steve have been thinking?  By what criterion does he decide that a problematical scripture is figurative?  More sanguinity. Indeed, there are other problems with this and the surrounding verses that I did not address [5])

 Finally, with regard to celestial exaltation being tied to an Abrahamic test, see:

http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/sperry-symposium-classics-old-testament/abrahamic-test

[My reply to Steve.]

JTurn 23 February 2012 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for the response Steve. I hope you can leave this discussion open for a several more days to give me time to think on what you wrote, to listen again to this interview, to review Genesis 16, D&C 132, and Jacob 2, and to read this piece on Abrahamic tests – all before reply and offering additional comment which are now only loosely formed intuitions. This is a very important topic to me. I have two daughters, one who will be married in the D.C. temple this June and another who is a freshman at BYU.

 [I admit that I did not follow-up as I said.  I don’t feel comfortable with that, though I was sincere at the time. This remains overdue homework put back on my to-do list. Be ready to call me out on this if you read this in a few months and I still haven’t read the “Sperry Symposium Classic” Steve referenced above – but given me a couple of months.

References:

[1] The FAIR Examination podcast is here:  http://blog.fairmormon.org/2012/02/15/fair-examination-9-polygamy-as-an-abrahamic-sacrifice-dr-valerie-hudson/

[2] My blog post is here: http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/mormon-polygamy-as-an-abrahamic-test/

[3] See http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/the-brilliant-philip-kitcher/

[4] In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith , by Todd M. Compton, pages 80-81

[5] Let’s take a look at the D&C 132 reference:

51. Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.

[So, it seems Jesus commanded Joseph to offer Emma the opportunity to have sex (ostensibly with William Law) as her own the Abrahamic test. But then he intervenes, and has Joseph scrap the test. This all so ludicrous.]

52.  And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.

[Interesting. It seems not all of Joseph's polygamous wives were pure - even though they were.   Was Joseph being deceived in marrying them?  Was Jesus when he picked them out for him? Were they ever destroyed?  More craziness.]

53. For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

[One has to suppose that this refers to the next life because Joseph was living on borrowed time at this point.]

54. And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

[This is serious stuff.  Jesus is threatening Emma with destruction if she doesn't get in line.  Yes, Mormonism is just as Christian as any other sect. ]

55. But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said;

[What the hell does this mean? Is this a typo? Does he mean "if she will abide this commandment? That would make sense.  How did this get through the divinely inspired editorial process.]

and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.

[The issue isn't so much that it is figurative, or a "rhetorical flourish." It's that Joseph Smith is caught up in a grandiose delusion using Jesus as his ventriloquist dummy.]

56. And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.

[Jesus: "Do what I say. If you don't I'll destroy you. If you do I'll make your heart rejoice. You are free to choose.]

Nibley Abuse

4 Oct

Last night, while hot-wings heartburn kept me from sleep, I listened to the 5th installment of John’s Dehlin’s interview of Brent Metcalf on the Mormon Stories podcast. [1] . Toward the end Brent discussed Hugh Nibley’s “bewildering” and “grossly wrong” analysis of the Book of Abraham documents. I couldn’t help feeling anger rise with the stomach acid. I’ve let these feelings vent before [2]. I shot off the following comment:

“I never knew Hugh Nibley personally, but he intellectually betrayed and emotionally abused me as a young man. His scholarly pretense – his dishonest pious BS – robbed me of a lot of good years – perhaps a better life, for me and others.

Mormon apologetics is not a victimless crime. Those who engage in it ought to figure out who they are really trying to convince and defend. When they do, perhaps they’ll muster enough humility, compassion, and respect for others to keep their demonstrably implausible belief-preserving faith-props to themselves.

But then I think, “How can such apparently intelligent people be so besotted with this gold-bible-baloney  that they weave such convoluted tangles of nonsense?” It’s really disconcerting – could I too be making no sense? What a freakish hall a mirrors humans create. I’m going for a walk in the woods and just spend some time in the moment.”

And so, I’m off to the woods – where I will also likely think about Dad.  I’ve been getting struck by such waves all week.

****************************

October 8, 2014

Reading over the above knee-jerk – and now hyperbolic sounding – response, I’m remembering how I turned to Nibley in 1984 in an attempt to grasp something true in Mormonism when that truth wasn’t being delivered by the spirit – but was being choked off by my recent experience in the temple – but still hoped for because of the marriage connected with that experience. I wanted to make it all good. My older brother spoke of the temple ceremony being truly ancient and that was why it seemed strange.  And then so many people I respected praised Nibley’s genius. And I still implicitly trusted all Mormons. After all, we were on the side of real truth – we “didn’t have to believe anything that wasn’t true.” Thus, I conflated our shared desires with reality. The concept of delusion never entered my mind. I guess that’s how it works.

I knew next to nothing of scholarship then, with my critical thinking being contextualized to my engineering curriculum. My problem-solving skills were honed by mere textbook and circumscribed lab problems. When I tried to get through one of Nibley books – Abraham in Egypt – I remember first getting bogged down – then feeling daunted – years away from understanding his esoteric references. So I yielded to the expedience of second-guessing myself and trusting his authority.  It was too much work to poke my way through it,  so I would just let it ride.  But I smelled a problem. Letting it ride is a far cry from developing confidence. 

I trusted Nibley like I trusted the authors of my advanced mathematics texts. I would defer to both when I couldn’t scale them alone, leaving the later chapters untouched. Two of a kind? Wrong. The significance of one being published by John Wiley & Sons and the other by Deseret Books did not register. 

We sure can pay for our ignorant assumptions, trust, and wishful thinking – or feeling bad about doubting.

51ClxTTKWFL._AA160_

*************************

October 12, 2014

I enjoyed a short conversation with a friend and colleague yeserday in which I shared the the thoughts in the last two paragraphs of my October 8 entry immediately above.  This morning he sent me a review of Père Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man (1955) written by the British biologist and Nobel Prize winner Peter Medawar (1915-1987). [3], [4]  It struck a chord.

Here is the opening paragraph:

The Phenomenon of Man

A Review by Sir Peter Medawar

“There are no summits without abysses.”

“When the end of the world is mentioned, the idea that leaps into our minds is always one of catastrophe.”

“Life is born and propagates itself on the earth as a solitary pulsation.”

“In the last analysis the best guarantee that a thing should happen is that it appears to us as vitally necessary.”

This little bouquet of aphorism[s], each one thought sufficiently important by its author to deserve a paragraph to itself, is taken from Père Teilhard’s The Phenomenon of Man. It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity … some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year — one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.

Medawar goes on to describe how the book as

“… written in an all but totally unintelligible style, and this is construed as prima-facie evidence of profundity. .

He sums as follows.

“I have read and studied The Phenomenon of Man with real distress, even with despair. Instead of wringing our hands over the Human Predicament, we should attend … to the gullibility which makes it possible for people to be taken in by such a bag of tricks as this. If it were an innocent, passive gullibility it would be excusable; but all too clearly, alas, it is an active willingness to be deceived.”

Fare well Hugh Nibley.

[1] http://jturnonmormonism.wordpress.com/?s=hugh+nibley&submit=Search

[2] http://mormonstories.org/brent-metcalfe-mormon-apologetics-life-after-mormonism/comment-page-1/#comment-515092

[3] http://archive.org/stream/ThePhenomenonOfMan/phenomenon-of-man-pierre-teilhard-de-chardin_djvu.txt

[4] Medawar’s review: http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/Medawar/phenomenon-of-man.html

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