Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The History of The Social Welfare State in Sweden*

 Phil Zuckerman

This paper was originally written as an  answer to APhil Zuckerman;s arguments about Sweden as an exemplary society without God, but it serves a larger purpose in offering an important lesson that the Evangelicals need to learn right away,

this is directly relevant because i;'ts abouit a stupid thing the Christians in Sweden did involving politics and social issues, that set their society on the secular path,

Phil Zuckerman's major work is Society Without God, What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell us About Contentment.  Put bluntly the idea is basically that what atheists have called "atheist nations" do better, have better social policies are more flourishing than "religious nations." As Zuckerman puts it himself:

They may be few and far between, but there are indeed some significant corners of the world today, however a typical, where worship of God and Church attendance...they aren't very religious at all...Denmark and Sweden, which are probably the least religious countries in the world, and possibly in the history of the world...if there is an earthly heaven for secular folk, contemporary Denmark and Sweden may very well be it...lowest crime rates, lowest levels of corruption in the world, excellent educational systems, innovative architecture, strong economies, well supported arts, successful entrepreneurship, clean hospitals, delicious beer, free health care...[1]

Delicious beer? Let him come to Texas I'll show him delicious beer! Before we get into such matters of high culture let's access Zuckerman's argument. On message boards he is usually represented as saying things like "the atheist nations always do better than non atheist nations becuase they are smarter since they don't have God." He never puts it anywhere near this way. He's really not stupid and he's not so blind that he can't understand what's wrong argument from sign. The way he puts his argument it's actually quite reasonable: "I argue that society without God is not only possible but can be quite civil and pleasant."[2] There's nothing very radical about that. I would actually agree with him, all one need do is see an Ingmar Bergman movie to know that Sweden is the height of human civilization (except for the beer, probalby the only way Texas can compete with them). The problem is the attribution of causes. Does he actually say that Sweden is so great becuase they don't believe in God? Now he admits that his argument is aimed at countering the propaganda of right wing religious types who promote fear that the nation will fall apart if we don't vote republican.[3] On that score I can applaud his efforts as well. To paraphrase, he doesn't actually state it in such a causal way. He doesn't say Sweden is so good because they don't have God, but rather that they can be so good in spite of not having God. I will, however, take issue even with that. A closer look at Sweden will reveal that they are not so totally without God.

My position is that first, atheists who do make the strident claims that "atheist nations" (phrase Zuckerman himself doesn't use) are totally wrong. Countries that do better on sociological measures of national excellence are not so because they are atheistic.Secondly, as to the actual argument he does make, while I basically agree with him to a point, it's important to recognize that point: they didn't get there without Christian contributions, some of them in a big way. Nor are they are without God today as one would imagine. Not that society will far apart if people are aren't weeping and wailing but the recognition of God in a positive relationship with the divine always does one better than not. Such may be true collectively, as a nation.

Let's start with a discussion about the history of the Swedish welfare state. First, a look at the historiography of modern welfare state shows a familiar trend in the recording of Sweden's welfare history. In the ground breaking work, Religions, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States  Kersbergen and Manow state that "most comparativists who study welfare state state development agree that religion has played a role in the development of modern social protection systems."[4] Yet, they go on to find that the advocates of the welfare state only emphasized the socialist movements as the builders of welfare in Europe. They point to John D. Stephens (79) and Wilensy (81) both of whom suggest it seems logical that the Catholics would support a welfare policy but they don't go into any real depth about their contributions. They do find that Catholics did enter into social coalitions as a means of making good on their doctrine and also of garnering working class votes. [5] Over in chapter eight, however, Karen M. Anderson finds that religion is conspicuously absent in most accounts of welfare development in Scandinavia.[6] Most such accounts emphasize the power resources of class movements, in other words, the socialists get all the attention, (Carpi, 78, Stevens 79,Sweson 2002).[7]
Religious party structures were weak and thus they didn't make good coalition members. Anderson goes back to the 1500s and finds that Protestant monarchs creates welfare states that incorporated the chruch into the state apparatus. The state subsumed the religious welfare function such as hospitals and care for the poor. The chruch (in Sweden) supported the 1847 poor law and 1962 local government act thus making it instrumental in building the modern welfare state. The acts established the duty of secular local authorities to support the poor.[8]

Oddly enough, however, the chruch then pulled back form social coalition and turned conservative for the second half of the nineteenth century, opposing socialism and welfare state. The development is complex, it takes the form of the chruch weaving in and out of social policy and coalition building. In the late nineteenth century the turn to conservatism cost them greatly as it put them on the side lines and made them disgruntled spectators in the entire social project of the nation. Yet the role of religion in building the welfare state was not insignificant.[9] Marxists theorizing led historians to put the emphasis upon socialist activities and ignore movement that were not according to class lines. This merely ignores a lot of contributions by the Catholic Church.[10]

Protestantism and The Larger European Context

Although early work on the history of the welfare state had included illuminating analysis of the pro welfare role (eg via democratization) of Protestantism latter work had primarily focused on the positive impact of social Catholicism as politically represented by political democracy on the European continent. "We started to consider the possibility that it had been an unfortunate omission not to consider the impact of social Protestantism on the development of the European and the American Welfare state more generally." Kersbergen and his colleagues use the German example where the German welfare state was a Protestant project. This project was then "usurped" by social Democrats and Catholic Socialists. The bourgeois Protestant middle class was thus aliened from the project. [11]
Another reason why the Protestant contribution was ignored in historiography of welfare state is becuase in most of Europe Protestants tended not to be in favor or large scale welfare expansion. Yet this did not mean that Protestantism was not important. This was especially true in Switzerland, Neatherlands, and UK. Protestantism was always more pronounced among middle class shopkeepers and the authors found that emphasis upon thrift and personal responsibly always marked the Protestant contribution to social welfare state. This tended to have a retarding effect upon the expansion of the welfare state.[12] 

One of their major findings was that the combination of Christian Democracy and Catholic Social Doctrine that expalined the generosity of Christian Democratic welfare states, which was equal in spending to the Scandinavian ones, yet were not designed to counter market forces as were the Scandinavians. This shows itself in decommodifying labor. In other words, the Continental Christian Democratic parties were less Marxist then were their Scandinavian counterparts. They tended not to militate to change class structures but sought to preserve the old economic order, in spite of "helping the poor." [13]

Another source

Christian Aspalter, finds that "the Christian Democratic and Social Democratic movements were responsible for the development of welfare states in general, and in Germany, Austria and Sweden in particular. In Germany Christian Democratic parties managed to dominate post war politics with the help of a smaller liberal party." [14] In Sweden the absence of a Strong Christian Democrat party after the war meant that the Social Democrats established their own model of the welfare state along the lines of systems of the late nineteenth century designed by Swedish Labor paty and Farmer's party. [15]


The role of Christians in the making of the Swedish welfare state, and in that of Europe as a whole, as been overlooked  by historians due to the crowding out of Marxist and other Socialist influences which emphasize labor. In Sweden the problem was worse for Christians since they took a hard turn to the right in the late nineteenth century and thus took themselves out of the social project for time. Sweden was largely Lutheran. Lutheran theology following in the footsteps of its name sake has always had a proclivity toward conservatism. Luther himself urged the nobles to slaughter the peasant revolt in south Germany, even though they were acting under his own influence, because they were engaging in disorder. So it's not so surprising that at the last minute the Lutherns turned away form class identified social reform. If that seems to back Zuckerman's follower's point, there are also the Catholics who followed the class conflict line. Yet their they were important contributors to the basic values that underpin the system form the beginning. In Germany, Austria, and The Netherlands they have played a more direct and more recent role and have been major contributors.

Atheists who try to argue that there is a causal relation between atheism and social responsibility or social welfare don't understand Zuckerman, nor do they understand the history of the welfare state in Sweden. Zuckerman is not arguing that atheism "caused" the social welfare state in Sweden but merely that it's possible for a society with a void of Christian belief to be a workable compassionate society. Yet even he doesn't understand that much of that compassion in Sweden is a hold over from its Christian past. We shall also see in further pages that Sweden is not "un-Christian" and Christianity is not just in its past.
* original title on religious a priori:Is Sweden a "Society Without God?" part 1: The History of The Social Welfare State in Sweden


[1] Phil Zuckerman, Society Without God, What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell us About Contentment New York: New York University Press, 2.
Zuckerman is Ph.D. form Oregon and teaches sociology at Pitzer (a Claremont college).

[2] ibid, 4

[3] ibid

[4] Kees Van Kersbergen and Philip Manow, "Religion and the Western Welfare State--The Theoretical Context," Religion, Class Coalitions, and Welfare States, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, Kees Van Kersbergen and Philip Manow, (ed) 2009. 1-38,1.
Google books: http://books.google.com/books?id=bPYdeROiAD8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=true

[5] ibid., 2.

[6] Karen M. Anderson, "The Church as Nation? The Role of Religion in the Development of the Swedish Welfare State," in Kersbergen and Manow, op cit. 210-235, 210.

[7] idid.

[8] ibid.


[10] Kersbergen..., op cit., 2

[11] ibid, vii.

[12] ibid, viii.
They were aided by the work of the Max-Planck Institute for the study of society in understanding the Protestant role in welfare state development.

[13] Ibid. 2.

[14] Christian Aspalter, The Importance of Christian And Social Democratic Movements in Welfare Politics: With Special Reference to Germany, Austria and Sweden. Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers inc.,2001, 115.

[15] ibid.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

President Bannon's Politics and the English Language

George Orwell 

George Orwell (1903-1950) is best known for his brilliant political allegory Animal Farm [1] and his brilliant ironically titled novel Nineteen eighty-four..[2] But he also wrote a straight forward essay on political language which is even more important to read right now. In "Politics and the English Language" Orwell makes one of his most famous and insightful sayings: "Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." [3] As my grandmother woudl say "truer words were never spoke" when we consider the big Fascist Shindig (CPAC) at which so-called "President" Trump (~45) and President Bannon, working in tag team. were the hit of the party, we can see the truth of whatOrwell wrote. Everyone should read Orwell's essay if not his other other works, It;s a must read for the times. It's short.

An example is his code word economic nationalism: "If you look at the lines of work, I would break it up into three verticals or three buckets. The first is kind of national security and sovereignty. ... The second line of work is what I refer to as economic nationalism."[4] A Daniel Kreiss, a University of North Carolina, a professor who studies political language, decodes the phrase Economic nationalism to mean odtencibly about domestorc control of  the economiy butin actuality “less as a proscribed set of policies” than as a way to declare opposition to the long-held bipartisan consensus that favors trade and immigration."[5]

Another Example: Deconstruction of the Administrative State

The third, broadly, line of work is deconstruction of the administrative state. ... If you look at these cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction. The way the progressive left runs, is if they can’t get it passed, they’re just going to put in some sort of regulation in an agency. That’s all going to be deconstructed and I think that that’s why this regulatory thing is so important.”[6]

In response Max Fisher says: "This is a core argument of populist leaders, who typically rise by promising to oppose institutions, which are blamed for society’s problems. But in practice, they often consolidate power away from those institutions for themselves."[7] He explaimns the n atureof Bannon's code: “'a very defined cultural and ideological movement' that has grown out of populist online communities like Breitbart." Really? /firm grsp of the obvious. "That vernacular, he said, is used to articulate a “very coherent story about what America is, and what it should be, that is not reducible to a set of policy positions” — but only if you know how to hear it."[8] I rest my case. So what we see here is that the critics have the disease they seek to cure. To understand what;s wrong let's turn to Orwell.

He diagnoses the linguistic problem of his day as a need to couch truth in euphemism because the truth was to harsh and blunt to face and usually at odds with the goals of whatever party was trying to critique it. His discussion of the issue reminds me a great deal of the current situation:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’[9]

Two characteristics of this kind of avoidance technique are sophistication and abstract words, both make the meaning less direct and thus less striking. That is certainly the case with the phrase "deconstruct the administrative state.: the Use deconstruction gives it a Derridian and post modern sound and administrative state could mean a lot of things, so he doesn't have to say we are going to put incompetent idiots in all the administrative positions so government will be broken and people will want o get rid of it. He Obviously gives this away when he speaks of the appointees. Orwell talks about the meaninglessness of abstract words

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself[10]

Consider the ambiguity of terms like white nationalism it's not fascism by name. It's intoned by the press as though separate and distinct from ordinary racism. In some ways they almost give it a sense of dignity as though it's safe. It's a dog while, the ambiguity works to make it acceptable to extremists without Trump openly having to embrace them. He can even repudiate them because they want to understand the phrases as secret approval. It works because the gave clear signals back in the beginning when he refuted to repudiate them and when claimed he never heard of David Duke.During the period between election and taking office Democratoic Representative Keith Ellison stated: “Mr. Bannon is adored by white supremacists, white nationalists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and the KKK. It’s not hard to see why.” He added that “if the President-elect is serious about rejecting bigotry, hatred, and violence from his supporters, he must rescind Stephen Bannon’s appointment. This man shouldn’t be allowed inside the White House—let alone run it.”[11]

When I speak bluntly to call "white nationalism" by it's proper name friends such as a certain philosophy prof I know act permissive as if to correct me and say:this isn't really fascism or racism it's nationalism,:" As though saying these aren't really Gorbonzo beans they are chic peas. They forget nationalism is the cousin of fascism. Fascism is noting more than particular extreme brand of nationalism. As Schweitzer once said "Nationalism is to real patriotism as idiocy is to passion."
Bottom line, he's embraced by the racists and the fascist as a hero and a leader, he;s giving dog whistles to keep it that way,and he's still in as Trump's tag team partner. Bannon believes in the genetic porosity of some people and that voting rights should be restricted to only property owners,[12] those views are shared by trump! This is not a meaningless comparison when I say he;s a fascist.I use that tern with precision.


  1. often capitalized :  a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
  2. 2:  a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control fascism and brutality — J. W. Aldridge[13]
Not that using abstract language or speaking cryptically makes him a fascist, but it is indicative of the the same kind of malaise that either, led to fascist thinking, or that allowed it to flourish in the 20th century,It is indicative of a sickness that our own time has contracted,

all online sources visited 2/25/17

[1] George Orwell, Animal Farm, London, England: Secker and Warburg, 1945, no page indicated.

[2] ____________, Nineteen Eighty-four, London: Secker & Warburg, 1949.

[3] ____________. "Politics and The English Language," Horizon, volume 13, issue 76,(Dec. 1946), pages 252–265
Online version published by NPR
http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/Poli ... uage-1.pdf

read it here now it;s short

[4] Max Fisher, "Steven K. Bannon's CPAC commemts Annotated and Explaimed, NewYork Times. (Feb 24, 2017) on line version:
[6] Ibid
[7] Ibid
[8] Ibid

[9] Orwell, "...Language." Op cit
[10] Ibid

[11] Stav Ziv, "The People and Organizations Denouncing Steve Bannon," Newsweek, 11/15/16


[12] Scott Shane, "Combative Populist Steve Bannon found his Man in Donald trumpNYT (Nov 27, 2016)

[13] Websters on line

Friday, February 24, 2017

fact sheet, Trump's Russian Connection

The firing of Flynn has revived the Russian connection. Here are a few articles that sum up the connections and what we know about then so far, It is accepted beyond question by American intelligence that the Dems were hacked by the Russians and that Putin tired to influence the election, While sticking Trump with knowingly participating is still somewhat conjectural it is not a secret that Putin actively wanted Trump to win and they tired to alter the result, so Trump would win, There is evidence that Trump had motives to act. Just how many probes are going and which one's these articles will help clarify, Trump was the recipient of Russian favor in winning the election,weather or if he participated in some kind of organized plot would mean he had more complicity in plotting with the campaign strategy and a coordinated effort.What I don't see happening now is an investigation to link the FBI to Putin since Comey;s trick with the emails sot Hillary the election. That part seems forgotten,

USA Today
Trump Russia Connection: What We Know Now
 (Feb 15, 2017)
accessed 2/22/17

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. Time
Driving Wednesday's events was New York Times report that people close to Trump — including campaign aides and other associates — had spoken to Russian intelligence operatives during the campaign. The report cited current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials, all anonymous. It's unclear what they spoke about or even if the Trump associates knew they were speaking to Russian agents, whose calls were being monitored as part of routine counterintelligence surveillance.
The story also made clear that officials had seen "no evidence" of a coordinated attempt to interfere with the presidential election.
But the New York Times report is significant both because it expands both the time frame of Russian contacts and the circle of those involved. Specifically named: Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman.
Here is the NYT article mentioned in the USA Today aritcle you just read.

NY Times
"Trump Campaign aides had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence"
WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public. (read more)

U.S. Inquiries Into Russian Election Hacking Include Three FBI probes
Feb 18,2017
accessed 2/22/17

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is pursuing at least three separate probes relating to alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential elections, according to five current and former government officials with direct knowledge of the situation.While the fact that the FBI is investigating had been reported previously by the New York Times and other media, these officials shed new light on both the precise number of inquires and their focus.The FBI's Pittsburgh field office, which runs many cyber security investigations, is trying to identify the people behind breaches of the Democratic National Committee's computer systems, the officials said. Those breaches, in 2015 and the first half of 2016, exposed the internal communications of party officials as the Democratic nominating convention got underway and helped undermine support for Hillary Clinton.The Pittsburgh case has progressed furthest, but Justice Department officials in Washington believe there is not enough clear evidence yet for an indictment, two of the sources said.Meanwhile the bureau’s San Francisco office is trying to identify the people who called themselves “Guccifer 2” and posted emails stolen from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account, the sources said. Those emails contained details about fundraising by the Clinton Foundation and other topics. (more)

The New Yorker
Trump,Putin, And The Big Hack


accessed 2/22/17

this is an extremely important article to read, it summarizes three US intelligence probes that show Putin ordered hacking ot influence US elections.  (read more through link above)

Trump's Russia Motives
The second explanation is the business conspiracy. Because many American banks wouldn’t lend money to Trump’s debt-soaked company, he had to look elsewhere, like Russia. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Donald Trump Jr. said in 2008, specifically mentioning projects in SoHo and Dubai.
Read the article see link above

For Trump Three Decades of Chasing Deals in Russia
accessed 2/22/17
Mr. Trump repeatedly sought business in Russia as far back as 1987, when he traveled there to explore building a hotel. He applied for his trademark in the country as early as 1996. And his children and associates have appeared in Moscow over and over in search of joint ventures, meeting with developers and government officials.
During a trip in 2006, Mr. Sater and two of Mr. Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, stayed at the historic Hotel National Moscow opposite the Kremlin, connecting with potential partners over the course of several days.
As recently as 2013, Mr. Trump himself was in Moscow. He had sold Russian real estate developers the right to host his Miss Universe pageant that year, and he used the visit as a chance to discuss development deals, writing on Twitter at the time: “TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next.”

trump's Russian

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

see new fact sheet on Resistance is not Futile

The Super Essential-Godhead (God is 'Being Itself")


Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite (around 500AD)

Most people tend to think of God s a big man on a throne. They judge God by human standards. Like Dawkins argument that God would be more complex than his universe and thus less likely to exit. This is based entirely upon the idea that God is a magnified version of humanity. When I point this out atheists  scoff and insist that most people see God this way we Christian apologists have to as well. When I point out that Paul Tillich had this totally different view of God as being itself they insist that this is not a Christian concept.

Paul Tillich the great theologian of the 20th century, was most noted for his seemly radical idea that God is "Being itself" or the ground of being, just what that means is very hard to put into words. Essentially it means that God is not a being but the basis of what  being is, being itself. There are no good analogies but the best I've come up with is like the difference between architecture and a single house. It is not a house but the basis upon which houses are built. This is important as a distinction because atheists are always trying to judge God by human standards to treat God as though he just magnified humanity. All of the criticisms they make of religious belief revolve around the notion of God as a big man. The true Christian concept of God is more than that; and this the  "true Christian concept" because it is the view of the Orthodox church from a time before the split with the West. Most commentators on Tillich wont say this but I think I have an original observation that Tillich was trying to translate Dionysus the Areopagite into existentialism. That is to say ancinet neo-Platonism into modern existentialism. Notice the similarity in the ideas: compare this with last post.

Dionysus The Areopagite (500)

The Author claims to be Paul’s companion in Acts, but due to the almost complete infusion of neo-Platonism throughout the text, the writings have been placed near the end of the fourth or early part of the fifth century. This is largely due to the influence of pagan philosophers Proclus (lecturing in Athens around 430 AD). The true name of the author is unknown he was probably a monk, believed to have lived in Syria. His writings have been extremely influential; he in essence kicked of the whole tradition of Christian mysticism. He founds the basic foundation for Gregory and Eastern Orthodox figures quoted above. The ideas of “Pseudo Dionysus” as he is most often known in the west, are set down in a long introduction by the translator Clearance Edwin Rolt. Rolt died at thirty-seven and this was his only book, but he had been hailed as one of the finest scholars ever produced by Queens College. Thus I think it only fair that we quote from the man himself. The major concept in which turns all Dionysus has to say is daubed by Rolt as the Super Essential Godhead:

The basis of their teaching is the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead (ὑπερούσιος θεαρχία). We must, therefore, at the very outset fix the meaning of this term. Now the word “Essence” or “Being” (οὐσία) means almost invariably an individual existence; more especially a person, since such is the highest type that individual existence can in this world assume. And, in fact, like the English word “Being,” it may without qualification be used to mean an angel. Since, then, the highest connotation of the term “Essence” or “Being” is a person, it follows that by “Super-Essence” is intended “Supra-Personality.” And hence the doctrine of the Super-Essential Godhead simply means that God is, in His ultimate Nature, Supra-Personal.

Now an individual person is one who distinguishes himself from the rest of the world. I am a person because I can say: “I am I and I am not you.” Personality thus consists in the faculty of knowing oneself to be one individual among others. And thus, by its very nature, Personality is (on one side of its being, at least) a finite thing. The very essence of my personal state lies in the fact that I am not the whole universe but a member thereof.

God, on the other hand, is Supra-Personal because He is infinite. He is not one Being among others, but in His ultimate nature dwells on a plane where there is nothing whatever beside Himself. The only kind of consciousness we may attribute to Him is what can but be described as an Universal Consciousness. He does not distinguish Himself from us; for were we caught up on to that level we should be wholly transformed into Him. And yet we distinguish between ourselves and Him because from our lower plane of finite Being we look up and see that ultimate level beyond us. The Super-Essential Godhead is, in fact, precisely that which modern philosophy describes as the Absolute. Behind the diversities of this world there must be an Ultimate Unity. And this Ultimate Unity must contain in an undifferentiated condition all the riches of consciousness, life, and existence which are dispersed in broken fragments throughout the world. Yet It is not a particular Consciousness or a particular Existence. It is certainly not Unconscious, Dead or, in the ordinary sense, non-Existent, for all these terms imply something below instead of above the states to which they are opposed.

We can see in that description several features which correspond to the things Tillich says. One interesting discussion that I close before it is started is the “personal” aspects. I am saving that discussion for its own chapter on Being itself and consciousness. The first point of interest is the connection between being and essence. He defines ousia as either one. Ousia of course is the root words of homoousios. Rolt confirms Tillich’s view in saying that essence refers to a particular existence, but the Super Essential is in contrast to an individual person. God is beyond the consciousness of an individual, but is in fact a universal consciousness that is in all things and can identify with all beings. I’ve already dealt with Tillich’s nix on pantheism; this is not a pantheistic idea. Yet in defining it Rolt deals with many of the aspects of God as being iself expressed by Tillich. God is infinite, God is not one person among others, transcendent of all we know and dwells on a plane beyond our understanding. The term “Super Essential” can be understood as “ground of being” or “Being itself.” They are basically saying the same thing. The Greek phrase he uses for “Super-Essential Godhead” is ‘humperusios Thearkia: Super means “over” or “transcendent” a structure over something else, such as “superstructure.” Thearkia is commonly the term in the NT for “Godhead.” What is being communicated is the notion of transcendence but also the transcendental signifier, the overview to the ordering of meaning and order, that is equivalent to the concept of a ground, of course as pointed out, essential has an affinity with being. Thus we could as well translate it “ground of being.” The concept of God as “Ground of Being” is the concept of “Super Essential” God. I don’t suggest that “ground” would be a good translation as translations go, but I do think it’s hinting at the same idea.

Pseudo Dionysius himself begins by embracing the vita negative, God is beyond our understanding, we don’t try to say what God is, we experience what God is (mystical union) we say what God is not and infer from that the truth, except where we are given clear understanding in Scripture. “We must not then dare to speak, or indeed to form any conception of the hidden Super-Essential Godhead, except those things that are revealed to us from the Holy Scriptures. For a Super-Essential understanding of it is proper to unknowning which lieth at the Super-Essence thereof surpassing discourse, intuition, and Being.” The translator capitalizes being.

The one who is beyond thought surpasses the apprehension of thought; the good which is beyond utterance surpasses the reach of words. Yea, it is a unity which is the unifying source of all unity and a Super-Essential Essence, a Mind beyond the reach of mind and Word beyond utterance, Eluding Discourse, intuition, Name and every kind of being. It is the universal cause of existence while itself existing not for it is beyond all being and such that it alone could give, with proper understanding thereof, a revelation of itself.(52)

Notice that this appears to be where Tillich obtains his usage of the term “existence,” and the distinction that God does not exist. What is puzzling is that while Tillich says God is beyond existence, because existence is for contingent things, and God is Being itself, identifies God with Being, Dionysus says God is beyond being. But then he is a full blown neo-Platonist. For him being is just reality and that is a copy of the true nature of things in which it participates. Tillich seems to move one step over from neo-Platonism toward modern existentialism. Dionysus tells us that we must make no expression or positive statement about the Super-Essential Godhead except those revealed in scripture for these are actually revealed by God. He tells us that “many writers thou wilt find who have declared that it [Super-Essential Godhead] is not only invisible and incomprehensible but also unreachable and past finding out since there is no trace of any that have penetrated the depth of its infinitude.” God reveals “itself” in stages commensurate with the powers of the subject for understanding. The notion that God is so wholly other, so transcendent of understanding is right in line with Tillich’s view. It’s clear Dionysius is a major source for Tillich’s existential ontology.

The upshot is that God transcends mere personhood. God is personal but is not "a person{ but is the origin of the personal. God is universal mind, meaning God is not nature but is the foundation of nature and can speak through nature and is present in nature (though his energies) and beyond it. God cannot be Judged by the standards of anything we know in  nature although God knows each one of us better than we know ourselves.

Dionysius the Areopagite: on Divine names and the Mystical Theology, trans. Clearance Edwin Rolt , New YorkNew York: Cosmio 2007, from original 1920 publication.  see also online versionChristian Classics Ethereal Library, on line version, The Author and his Influence, trans by, 1920  website URL:  by http://www.ccel.org/ccel/rolt/dionysius.iii.i.html
visited May 13,
[1] Ibid, Introduction, 4-5
[1] Pseudo-Dionysius, On Divine Names, Ibid 52
[1] Ibid, 53
[1] Ibid.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

God, Intelligent Design, and The Illusion of Technique

Image result for metacrocks blog

On Secular Outpost , Eric Sotnak [1] opens debate against Intelligent Design (ID) by approaching it politically, DeVos ls ID and  she will be imposing it upon the schools, so here's why it's wrong.... Eric is approaching it through the notion of defending evolution, I have no intention of attacking evolution so I am approaching it through an understanding of belief in God. The issues transcend both politics and evolution, ID is just fancy packaging to dress up creationism in a more respectable garb, but the basic concept  that the universe is  the product of mind I support; it is that issue that I  approach as a from of belief in God. 

If you really want to fight what's about to happen to the educational system then you need to join the political struggle and back the resistance, Major part of the resistances is Christians. You don't see my feed on facebook but most of the anti-Trump stuff I see on FB is from Christians. Atheists ate still about 3% Christians are about 80% so it just stands to reason most anti-Trump feeling will be Christians,We resistance Christians are pretty pissed about what the Republicans have done (fundies included) to the faith. Eric is above making little wise cracks about Christians but not all of the posters of SOP are, this topic no less draws some of those comments.

There are three major issues I will deal with here, Two are used by Eric and one is my own. First there is Probability of naturalistic origin as opposed to Supernatural one,,
Secomdoy, the mechanism for creation , and thirdly the illusion of technique, This is the concept I barrow from William Barrett and his Book of that title.
[2] I will be making use of this concept in a major way kn  my upcoming book God,Science, and Ideology. The point being that the way the  issues are discussed in the conventional argument between ID and evolution feeds into the ideology that motivates scientism, not to accuse Eric of being scientistic.

Eric argues that Irreduceable Complexity (IC), a major argument in favor of ID,  is more probably a product of naturalistic forces rather than supernatural."But it is at least less improbable that it should have come about by supernatural means (intelligent agency).IC is about various organisms that are complete in themselves such as microbes that are like little motors,any part missing would mean the whole organism would fail to function, I have seen the same kind of argument made about the eye, So evolution could not have produced such an organism because it would have to start out whole, Sotnak argues that the probability is with a naturalistic outlook at the product of IC.  But he can't make good on that claim because there is no way to subject God to probability. Especially not with Bayes because (1) any setting of a prior is strictly biased, on either side. (2) No new info coming in about God because God is not given in sense data, If God is not given in sense data then God can't be subjected to probability, Consider the limitations of trying to use probability such as Bayes theorem for any kind of question about religious faith,m not merely the likelihood of God creating IC.

 Bayes’ theorem was introduced first as an argument against Hume’s argument on miracles, that is to say, a proof of the probability of miracles. The theorem was learned by Richard Price from Bayes papers after the death of the latter, and was first communicated to the Royal society in 1763.[3] The major difference in the version Bayes and Price used and modern (especially skeptical versions) is that Laplace worked out how to introduce differentiation in prior distributions. The original version gave 50-50 probability to the prior distributions. The original version gave 50-50 probability to the prior distribution.[4] The problem with using principles such as Bayes theorem is that they can’t tell us what we need to know to make the calculations of probability accurate in dealing with issues where our knowledge is fragmentary and sparse. The theorem is good for dealing with concrete things like tests for cancer, developing spam filters, and military applications but not for determining the answer to questions about reality that are philosophical by nature and that would require an understanding of realms beyond, realms of which we know nothing. Bayes conquered the problem of what level of chance or probability to assign the prior estimate by guessing. This worked because the precept was that future information would come in that would tell him if his guesses were in the ball park or not. Then he could correct them and guess again. As new information came in he would narrow the field to the point where eventually he’s not just in the park but rounding the right base so to speak.

The problem is that doesn’t work as well when no new information comes in, which is what happens when dealing with things beyond human understanding. We don’t have an incoming flood of empirical evidence clarifying the situation with God because God is not the subject of empirical observation. Where we set the prior, which is crucial to the outcome of the whole thing, is always going to be a matter of ideological assumption. For example we could put the prior at 50-50 (either God exists or not) and that would yield a high probability of God.[5] Or the atheist can argue that the odds of God are low because God is not given in the sense data, which is in itself is an ideological assumption. It assumes that the only valid form of knowledge is empirical data. It also ignores several sources of empirical data that can be argued as evidence for God (such as the universal nature of mystical experience).[6] It assumes that God can’t be understood as reality based upon other means of deciding such as personal experience or logic, and it assumes the probability of God is low based upon unbelief because the it could just as easily be assumed as high based upon it’s properly basic nature or some form of elegance (parsimony). In other words this is all a matter of how e chooses to see things. Perspective matters. There is no fortress of facts giving the day to atheism, there is only the prior assumptions one chooses to make and the paradigm under which one chooses to operate; that means the perception one chooses to filter the data through.

Perhaps he's not thinking in terms of Bayes but just asserting that we only have empirical evidence of naturalistic things. First of  all He's right about the issue of  biological development of organisms, there is no way to something like that to a direct SN origin. But as long as we are not fighting evolution we can't expect that standard of empirical evidence to rule out God as the ultimate origin of all things. After all we have direct empirical evidence of physical laws or mutliverse or string membranes but some scientists want to assume these things. Remember I do not argue for proof that God exists but rather for a "rational warrant fro belief, " the subtitle of my book. In that book I argue for warrant for belief based upon empirical evidence oft the co-determinate, That is the concept of Schleiemacher very much like the idea of foot prints in the snow, We don't have direct empirical evidence of God but we do have empirical evidence of the co-determinate,k the effects of God or as I have it The Trace of God. Of course the draw back there is that you have to know wast effects God would leave so we know them when we see them, That is an issue for another time. Read the book.[7]

Eric also makes a second point about the mechanism through whichGod creates, "The claim is usually made using the term “design.” But this avoids the question of how, exactly, the design is implemented. That is, if the bacterial flagellum begins as a design in the mind of an intelligent designer, how does the designer get the flagella into the world."[8] The problem here is that the mechanism I could advance is also a mystery to us, The saving feature is we know it exits, in fact all knowledge comes to us through this mechanism: mind, If we assume consciousness is a basic property of nature an assumption well argued for B y David Chalmers for example, [9] this gives us a justification for understanding mind as the basis of reality and then we can see God as the mind that is the basis of reality. Issac Newton had a concept that the universe is the "sensorium of God" which I take to mean the universe was God's interface with tangability,[10] There as a great deal of opposition on this point from Libnetz and it does indicate that Newton tendking to think in very physical and mechanical terms even ab out God. Libeniz claimed Newton understood space as an organ God needed to see, of course that;'s an exaggeration. [11] Be that as it may the are more modern examples such as that of University of Oregon Physicist Amit Gaswami, who sees thought as the basis of reality rather than energy.

The current worldview has it that everything is made of matter, and everything can be reduced to the elementary particles of matter, the basic constituents—building blocks—of matter. And cause arises from the interactions of these basic building blocks or elementary particles; elementary particles make atoms, atoms make molecules, molecules make cells, and cells make brain. But all the way, the ultimate cause is always the interactions between the elementary particles. This is the belief—all cause moves from the elementary particles. This is what we call "upward causation." So in this view, what human beings—you and I—think of as our free will does not really exist. It is only an epiphenomenon or secondary phenomenon, secondary to the causal power of matter. And any causal power that we seem to be able to exert on matter is just an illusion. This is the current paradigm[12]

My overall point is mind can be the mechanism and the world is a thought in the mind of God.

Not Bill Gates: "Therefore it is more likely that DNA was magically popped into existence by a supernatural agent than that it came about through natural processes."

Sure but the natural process, all natural processes wre kicked of by the SN power, the miomd tha thinks the universewhy not? All reality was so popped. Look, your question how could God go from idea in mind to real world? I don't think that's a fair question because it's eh kind thing of which we can't gain knowledge empirically; if we can't gain knowledge we can't assert it can't be done.Moreover,I have a theory of it, That is to take seriously Newton;s idea that the universe is the sensorium of God, I take that to mean analogous to thought in a mind,So God is thinking the world, Look you are assuming an evolutionary process is more: realistic than a mind thinking of things but it's no moreso, that's relative, we are startling from nothing. God would be all there is,so any thought God has is reality.You are assuming some kind of pre given set of physical laws governing a process of nature, that's really just God without the personality.

That brings up the third problem, the illusion of technique, The false notion that we can know it all because we can manipulate nature to a certain degree, We don';t know why we are here  or what started the big bang expansion or where the energy that makes the universe cane from,We pretend that we have it all under control because we only accept that which we can manage and manipulate the rest we pretend is not important, that means we have many mechanisms we do not understand.


[1] Eric Sotnak, "Intelligent Design: Get Ready for Another Round,l" Secular Outpost, (Feb. 17,2017) blog, URL:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2017/02/17/intelligent-design-get-ready-another-round/#disqus_thread  (accessed: 2/18/17)
Eric Sotnak teaching Philosophy at  University Of Akron.

[2] William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique: The Search for Meaning in a Technological Civilization, New York:Anchor, 1979, no page indicated.

[3]Geoffrey Poitras, Richard Price, Miracles and the Origin of Bayesian Decision Theory pdf http://www.sfu.ca/~poitras/Price_EJHET_$$$.pdf
Faculty of Business AdministrationSimon Fraser UniversityBurnaby, BCCANADA V5A 1S6. Geoffrey Poitras is a Professor of Finance in the Faculty of Business Administration at Simon FraserUniversity. Lisited 12/22/12.
[4] ibid
[5] Joe Carter, “The Probability of God” First Thoughts. Blog of publication of First Things. (August 18, 2010) URL: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/08/18/the-probability-of-god/  visited (1/10/13). Carter points out that when Unwin (an atheist discussed in previous chapter) puts in 50% prior he gets 67% probability for God. When Cater himself does so he get’s 99%.Cater’s caveat: “Let me clarify that this argument is not intended to be used as a proof of God’s existence. The sole intention is to put in quantifiable terms the probabilities that we should form a belief about such a Being’s existence. In other words, this is not an ontological proof but a means of justifying a particular epistemic stance toward the idea of the existence or non-existence of a deity.The argument is that starting from an epistemically neutral point (50 percent/50 percent), we can factor in specific evidence for the existence or non-existence of a deity. After evaluating each line of evidence, we can determine if it is more or less likely that it would entail the existence of God.”
[6] Metacrock, "The Scale and The universal Nature of Mystical Experience," The religious a priroi blog URL: http://religiousapriori.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-m-sacle-and-universal-nature-of.html see also the major argument I sue for documentation in that article,  In P, McNamar (Ed.), Where God and science meet, Vol. 3, pp. 119-138. Westport, CT: Praeger. linked in Google preview.

[7] Joseph Hinman, The Trace of God:Rational Warrant For Belief. Colorado Springs: Grand Viaduct, 2014

[8] Satnak op oct. all quotes by Sotnak from this article

David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a theory. England, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. 3-5.on line version: http://www.scribd.com/doc/16574382/David-Chalmers-The-Conscious-Mind-Philosophy Scribd, David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Theory of Conscious Experience, webstie Department of Philosophy, University of California at Santa Cruz, July 22 1995, visited 3/1/11 on line page numbers apply.

[10] Alexander Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press,  1957, 235-239

[11] Ibid 239

[12] Gaswami