The Long View 2006-02-17: Behaviorism; VP Picks; Mohammed: Messenger of God

It is a little silly to claim that mathematics is a product of brain structure. You might get further saying the reverse, but even that probably isn't quite right in isolation.

Behaviorism; VP Picks; Mohammed: Messenger of God


The next time you hear someone try to explain that mathematics is a product of brain structure or evolution, remember this observation from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus at First Things:

As Pope Benedict and many others have pointed out, one of the great achievements of western thought, the clear distinction between the physical and metaphysical, is now under attack. Evolutionary dogmatists insist that all explanations of reality must be subsumed under the physical. As a biologist friend puts it, most of his colleagues don’t even know how to spell metaphysical. I thought that was going too far.

Granted that there is more to human behavior than mechanism, this report that Britain has new [a] weapon against loitering youths -- Sonic Teenager Deterrent nonetheless seems sadly plausible:

Shopkeepers in central England have been trying out a new device that emits an uncomfortable high-pitched noise designed to disperse young loiterers outside their stores without bothering adults...according to Inspector Amanda Davies..."The noise can normally only be heard by those between 12 and 22 and it makes the listener feel uncomfortable," she added.

Once in their early 20s, people lose their capacity to hear sounds at such a high pitch.

Perhaps I should await confirmation of this report before commenting further. Still, let me say that it chimes with my own experience. I remember when I was young I could hear a whine given off from some types of electrical equipment that adults evidently couldn't. I can no longer hear that sound, course, but sometimes I hear the beating of a hideous heart.

* * *

Speaking of spooky sounds, one could easily imagine hearing the theme from The Twilight Zone when reading this piece of unsolicited speculation from Peggy Noonan about the implications of Vice President Cheney's hunting accident:

The Dick Cheney shooting incident will, in a way, go away. And, in a way, not--ever...Right now in the White House they're discussing how to help the vice president get through his problem...But what are they thinking that they're not saying? Here's a hunch, based not on any inside knowledge but only on what I know of people who practice politics, and those who practice it within the Bush White House. I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president?...Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now...George Bush, and so the men and women around him, will want the next Republican presidential nominee to continue the U.S. effort in, and commitment to, Iraq...a guy who's been vice president for, say, a year and a half, is a guy who already knows the top job...This new vice president would, however, have to be very popular in the party, or the party wouldn't buy it...The new veep would have to get through the Senate, which has at this point at least three likely contenders for the nomination, at least two of whom who would not, presumably, be amused.

Pigs will fly before this happens. And just what is this column? A trial balloon for John McCain? For Rudolph Giuliani? McCain might win a presidential election, but the Senate leadership will do nothing to help him toward that end. Giuliani might easily be confirmed by the Senate as Vice President, but I can only repeat, the man is a New York City exotic. He could not win an election west of the Hudson River.

* * *

I had been beginning to think I had imagined the film Mohammed: Messenger of God. Now Mark Steyn not only reassures me that the film does exist, but also reveals the uncanny fate of its producer, Moustapha Akkad:

On November 10th, a team of suicide bombers dispatched by Abu Musad al-Zarqawi across the Jordanian border self-detonated at the Radisson, the Grand Hyatt and the Days Inn. Akkad was in the country for a high-society wedding and greeting his daughter Rima in the Radisson when Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari and his wife reached within the folds of their clothing for the explosives belts....Moustapha Akkad made Muslim movies and violent movies and ne’er the twain did meet... [When John Carpenter sold the idea for Halloween to Moustapha Akkad, he pitched it to him in one line: "Babysitter to be killed by the bogeyman."]...[His Arab movies include Lion of the Desert]...The “duality” of Mustapha Akkad finally came together in one freakish finale at the Amman Radisson. But he’d encountered terrorism once before, nearly 30 years earlier. Many Muslim scholars were outraged by The Message – or, as it was then called, Mohammed, Messenger Of God. Though Akkad had observed the prohibition against representations of the Prophet, even a rumored glimpse of his shadow (which the director had at one time considered) provoked objections. [In March of 1977] Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, formerly a Seventh Day Adventist called Ernest McGhee, decided to do something about the abomination. A dozen Muslims seized three buildings, and took 120 hostages, including (in an early example of the many internal contradictions of the Rainbow Coalition) the future mayor of Washington, DC, Marion Barry. He was one of a couple of dozen injured. Jewish hostages were abused. A reporter was killed.

As I may have mentioned previously, this incident sticks in my mind, since I was attending the Georgetown Law Center in Washington DC at the time. The law school is downtown, not far from the municipal building that was captured. Did I walk home that day because bus service past the Islamic Center on Embassy Row had also been seized? I cannot say for sure now.

In any case, here is the movie that caused all the commotion:

The Message (30th Anniversary Edition)
Starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Michael Ansara, Johnny Sekka, Michael Forest

I have not seen the film, but famously it does not show Mohammed or use his voice. His companions enter and leave his tent to report what the prophet has said. Part of the reason for the siege in Washington was the misapprehension that Anthony Quinn, who stars in the film, played Mohammed. (If Quinn was Abu Bakr, that was pretty good casting.) I gather that the film is broadcast in Muslim countries on the major holy days in much the way that films about the life of Christ are broadcast in the US during Easter Week.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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