The Long View 2006-01-28: Punctuated Equilibrium; The March of Democracy; Holy Copyright

I had forgotten this particular story of the Vatican Publishing House asserting copyright on Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's writings. A quick search didn't reveal much of interest coming up afterwards.

Punctuated Equilibrium; The March of Democracy; Holy Copyright


Fans of punctuated equilibrium will no doubt be please by this result:

An article by University of Pittsburgh Professor of Anthropology Jeffrey H. Schwartz, and University of Salerno Professor of Biochemistry Bruno Maresca, published Jan. 30 in the New Anatomist journal, shows that the emerging understanding of cell structure lends strong support to Schwartz's theory of evolution, originally explained in his seminal work, Sudden Origins: Fossils, Genes, and the Emergence of Species (John Wiley & Sons, 2000)...evolution is not necessarily gradual but often sudden, dramatic expressions of change that began on the cellular level because of radical environmental stressors--like extreme heat, cold, or crowding--years earlier...those altered genes remain in a recessive state, spreading silently through the population until offspring appear with two copies of the new mutation and change suddenly, seemingly appearing out of thin air.

The next question, of course, is whether fans of Lamarck should be pleased, too. Are these stress-induced adaptations simply random, or does the kind of stress influence the kind of change?

* * *

Speaking of stress, Reuel Marc Gerecht, writing in The Weekly Standard, argues that however much anxiety the Iranian regime generates in the West, it is making just as much trouble for itself at home:

The regime in Tehran constantly tells us what it fears most: clerical dissent. Why can't American officials give speeches defending religious freedom in Iran? Ali Khamenei's Achilles' heel is that he is a politicized, pathetic religious "scholar" ruling over a theocratic state where accomplished clerics, who don't believe at all in the political rule of religious jurisconsults, are silenced. This is the issue between Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq, and the school of Najaf behind him, and the clerical regime in Iran.

If this is true, it bodes well for the evolution of the new government in Iraq: whatever else happens, it does not seem likely to turn into an Iranian client.

Of course, lots more can go wrong, and maybe it already is. Somewhat delayed, the same process is being played out in Iraq as happened in Yugoslavia: the Ottoman millets are trying to become nations. (One could even characterize Israel that way, to the degree that the country is composed of in-gathered Jewish communities from the Muslim world.) This is not to say that the Iraqi state is inevitably going to break up. It does suggest that the Baathist version of Iraq was extraordinarily artificial.

Regarding the recent victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections, the calculation of the electorate seems to have been like that of Homer Simpson in the episode in which Sideshow Bob is elected mayor of Springfield. "I don't agree with his Bart-killing policy," Homer says to himself in the voting booth, "but I do approve of his Selma-killing policy." In the case of Palestine, Hamas's platform continued to call for the destruction of Israel, but it also promised plain-vanilla good government.

I do not regard the election result as in any way contrary to the democratic-peace thesis. Neither do I think that of the election that brought Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, or at least to prominence, in Iran. In both cases, the victorious parties have put themselves in a position where they can be held responsible for their performance in office. That is actually quite an advance. The worldview of a revolutionary fighting in the hinterlands can never be falsified. A radical in office, however, is easily discredited.

Hamas may well deliver on its promise of good government. To do that, however, it will need a measure of peace, both domestic and with the Zionist entity.

* * *

"Peter, shear my sheep!" So said the pastor in one of Garrison Keillor's monologues to a parishioner who had volunteered to manage a fundraising drive. Do we see the same imperative reflected in stories like this?

Spirit World: Vatican criticized for putting price tag on quotes from pope Are words of a man of God priceless? Not if they come from the pope. The Vatican has come under heavy criticism for its decision to charge publishers to reprint excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI's public statements and written works dating back to his professorial days as the Rev. Joseph Ratzinger. According to La Stampa, a Turin newspaper, the Vatican publishing division Libreria Editrice Vaticana recently billed a Milan-based publisher 15,000 euros (about $18,000) for printing a total of 30 lines from speeches Benedict delivered as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The decree in question is reported in this announcement from secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano:

We make known that the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, has entrusted to the Vatican Publishing House the exercise and custody of all the copyright royalties and all the exclusive rights to the income from deeds, works and writings written prior to the Pontiff's election to the Chair of Peter.

In other words, Benedict turned over to Vatican State the rights to his writings. The Vatican now holds no more control over them than Joseph Ratzinger did, which means the ordinary rules about fair use would still apply, presumably. Thirty lines is on the long side for a quotation, but I wonder what the Vatican's publisher could be thinking of.

Whatever the Vatican may be up to, a great deal of religious material on the Internet is definitely public domain, which is how I can do cool stuff like this:


If you have your own event or organization, I would be willing to adapt these images for you If it is simple enough for me to do, however, then anyone can do it.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

Why post old articles?

Who was John J. Reilly?

All of John's posts here

An archive of John's site