The Long View 2005-07-13: Implosions & Debunkings

By CrazyPhunk - Own work based on: Visegrad group countries.jpg, Public Domain,

By CrazyPhunk - Own work based on: Visegrad group countries.jpg, Public Domain,

John thought that the July 7th bombing in London might finally have been the thing that turned Western Europe squarely against Islamic terrorism. As it turns out, that was not the thing. Nor were any number of subsequent attacks up to the present. The liberal, welcoming, universalist Western European society has proved extremely resilient against terror attacks, refusing to exclude immigrants or refugees based on religion or ethnicity or national origin. It is worth noting that this cultural insistence has been purchased with a heavy investment in internal security, which has been controversial in its own way, but also more effective than it is generally given credit for.

Whether this insistence is a source of pride, or simply feckless, is one of the major political controversies Westerners face. The Visegrad Group, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, have become the European face of resistance to the still dominant stance that immigration policy will not be driven by fears of terrorism. Hungary pointedly erected a border fence during Merkel's boner. The Czechs altered their constitution to allow greater ownership of firearms. Migrants also tend to avoid the relatively poorer Visegrad countries in favor of the more generous benefits of the UK or Germany.

Implosions & Debunkings


Now that it appears that last week's train-and-bus bombings in London were also suicide bombings, this assessment from Mark Steyn, Islam's Anschluss (New York Sun, July 11), might seem to err on the side of optimism:

[T]he jihadists understand that Europe is up for grabs in a way that America isn't. Israel/Palestine is, in the old joke, the twice promised land -- a western democracy and a disaffected Muslim population exist in (for the most part) two solitudes but claim the same piece of real estate. As it happens, that's also how more and more Muslims see Europe...across the borders pour not primarily suicide bombers or suitcase nukes, though they will come in the end, but ideology -- fierce, glamorous and implacable. That’s the final irony of the Israelification of Europe: distressing as it may be to Continental anti-Semites, in this scenario they're the Jews.

The Jihadis are deluded about the susceptibility of Europe to Islamization. Partly this is because they have activated cultural defense mechanisms among their victims. It was only a matter of time before something shattered multiculturalism; random attacks against innocent civilians seem to have done the trick. It is unfair to characterize Islam as a suicide cult, but that is the effect of the tactics the Jihad has adopted, from the World Trade Center to Baghdad to the London Underground. Any attempt to correct this impression will be drowned out by explosions.

More important, though, is the fact that the Jihadis have created the toxin that will destroy them. Islam is a way of life, almost a national identity. The Jihad, however, runs on an essentially modern set of ideologies, which tend to hollow out authentic Muslim societies whenever they are given a chance. In its own way, they are as inauthentic as Disney theme parks. Ideologies are very powerful, but they all have an expiration date.

* * *

Speaking of doomed constructs, one sees from a frontpage story in Sunday's New York Times that the proponents of Roe v. Wade do not understand the true peril to the body of law associated with that decision:

In short, even without overturning Roe, the new court could seriously limit the decision's reach and change the way abortions are regulated around the country, experts say. This means that Mr. Bush's nominees will be intensely scrutinized, by all sides, on their records, past rulings and general philosophy on abortion.

As a question of constitutional law, abortion is the least part of the matter. Roe has to go because the autonomy right it creates justifies the whole post-human agenda: euthanasia, the abolition of marriage, organ transplant sales, the right to clone, the right to use recreational drugs. All of these ideas have been seriously proposed and some have been endorsed by judicial decision: the Supreme Court itself extended the Roe principle to sodomy in the Lawrence decision. The very pluripotency of Roe is also the reason it will go: it's such a huge target. The number of contexts in which it can be challenged grows daily.

* * *

Meanwhile, the World Bank has issued some figures that perhaps help to keep the Chinese Threat in perspective. Here's a list of last year's top ten economies, measured by GDP in billions of US dollars. Most rankings stayed the same since 2003; the changes are indicated:

1. United States $11,668
2. Japan $4,623
3. Germany $2,714
4. United Kingdom $2,141
5. France $2,003
6. Italy $1,672
7. China $1,649
8. Spain $991 [Up from 9]
9. Canada $980 [Down from 8]
10. India $692 [Up from 12]

The upshot is that, at least in terms of mass, the Chinese economy is now comparable to those of the major EU nations. No doubt it will climb this list, but not as fast as India.

* * *

I have very little sympathy for attempts to force schools to give equal time to the teaching of either Creationism or Intelligent Design with evolution. [One should make distinctions, though. Creationism is sophistry; Intelligent Design is probably wrong, but not trivially wrong.] However, there seems to be an urban legend to the effect that all these questions were settled by the famous Scopes trial of 1925.

This is one of the great everything-you-know-is-a-lie events of the 20th century, starting with the fact that John Scopes was actually a physics teacher: he assigned some reading on evolution while substituting for the regular biology teacher, but never taught that lesson because he was ill that day. The facts of the trial were overlaid in the public mind by the excellent movie about the incident, Inherit the Wind. The reality was, though, that the trial was an embarrassment for all concerned. As Kevin Tierney notes in Darrow: A Biography:

Once Dayton was innundated by celebrities, Scopes himself was forgotten...His trial became a vehicle of sophisticated America's sport at the expense of the Southern simpletons. The spirit of the defense was frivolous and self-indulgent, each lawyer in turn vying for press attention and credit in the eyes of posterity...Little of the proceedings involved a dramatic cut-and-thrust on the merits, and fully two-thirds of the transcript is taken up with arguments of law that shed no light upon the clash between religion and science which most people took the trial to be about.

William Jennings Bryan, the Grand Old Man of Democratic Populism and the visiting prosecutor, sometimes gave as good as he got (he did not, for instance, think that the world was just 6,000 years old). Essentially, though, Darrow set himself to beat up an old man in public and largely succeeded. The tables were turned some years later, however:

There were indeed serious objections to rural fundamentalism. But for that matter, so there was to Darrow's childish conception of theology, which was in its way as dated as Bryan's. Mrs. Frances Taylor-Patterson, who heard Darrow debate G.K. Chesterton on religion at the Mecca Temple in New York, summed up the misgivings of many: "He seemed to have an idea that all religion was a matter of accepting Jonah's whale as a sort of luxury liner."

The time has come for someone to write a screenplay about the Scopes trial that mentions Darrow's reliance on Piltdown Man.

Copyright © 2005 by John J. Reilly

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