Essays in Idleness



Consider these two quotations, on the Internet, and lately found, by me:

“It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.”

The first comment was from Marcia Angell, in 2009: she provides her credential up front. The second, quite recent, is from Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet. These are two out of the two most prestigious medical journals in the world. Elsewhere, I have seen, attributed to peer-reviewed articles in general, estimates that four in five are quite worthless.

I leave gentle reader to hunt for these. As he will imagine, it is not in the interest of our scientific “authorities” to publicize such remarks, or make a big issue over them. I expect gentle reader will encounter many implausible refutations for each claim, and this will slow him down. Will such an investigation ever be peer-reviewed? I think not.

Why are so many (probably the vast majority) of medical doctors and other “scientists” dishonest? When we remember (Biblically) that all human beings have a propensity to dishonesty and cheating, this does not surprise. But those who do not lie consequentially will seem to be a professional elite. They invariably take umbrage.

Moreover, many people lie with an excuse; and these days, largely for professional reasons. They depend on government subsidies (directly and indirectly) for most of their income, and their lying is designed to grease the flow. It includes, for instance, “evidence” for climate change, which is as plentiful as it is remunerative.

When we create the conditions in which corruption can occur, it will. This is, of course, a relatively useless observation, for it is insuperably difficult to create conditions in which corruption cannot occur. But the universal government habit of redistributing cash — from individuals to individuals — invites corruption in 100 percent of cases. It is at the heart of our political system. Every cheque you receive from government is thus (reliable) evidence of corruption.

Silver hammer

For the “English” sort of physicist (descending from Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton), Representation and Explanation are the same thing. This, anyway, was Pierre Duhem’s view, and Duhem (1861–1916, author of a splendidly full history of cosmological doctrines from Plato to Copernicus in ten volumes, in addition to his many scientific discoveries in thermodynamics, &c) was not only neglected by English universities, but banned from the academy in Paris, by secular liberals at the beginning of the last century, uncomfortable with the man’s Catholic views. Duhem, whom alas I cannot honour with complete understanding, but am inclined to worship, was in particular berating the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), whom he accused of an addiction to models. (Scottish and English are of course interchangeable in the French model.)

Now, these models were not attractive females on fashion runways, of the kind that decouple the heads of perceptually challenged males. It was scientific modelling that distressed Duhem, which abstracts and generalizes from information that can never be complete. The “English” sort of physicist in fact does not advance a theory at all, but composes a model, which he uses to satisfy his aesthetic requirements. Popular science loves models of the most reckless, oversimplified kind; “official” science inserts complications.

The official, “climate change” fraud has graduated to models of models of the weather, and models of these. This is inevitable in an age when computers are available, to process numbers at which one formerly had to sniff. For instance, we were told the other day that we had experienced the hottest day ever on our planet since records were first kept (i.e. approximately yesterday), on the basis of averaging unreliable readings of surface temperatures at numerous arbitrary points. … The coldest day in history will follow, the day after tomorrow.

You have to be an “English” physicist (i.e. an atheist) to believe this sort of thing. In other words, you must have faith in what is demonstrably untrue.

Maxwell used the verbs “to explain” and “to represent” interchangeably; but the physics he practiced deals with representation, only. It is the modern science, par excellence. For as Duhem explains, a theory that is explanatory must carry physics into the realm of metaphysics, in which real things are considered. It must give an account of what is really true.

“Science,” by comparison, doesn’t even try to do this. A mathematical model, or a mechanical model for that matter, cannot be real.

Vox populi, vox diaboli

Democracy and freedom are in polar opposition. At the heart of democracy is the “ideal” of equality, or “equity” as Kamala Harris says. These are loose, Humpty Dumptitious words which, from the mouths of moronic politicians, mean just what they choose them to mean, neither more nor less. And what they mean tends to change, from nine o’clock to ten in the morning. But avaricious voters will go along for the ride.

One must retreat to Periclean Athens, to assess the profound wickedness in this heart. It is thus that one begins to understand why the founders of the American republic were so unwilling to use this term, even before the atrocities of the French Revolution occurred. Twenty-five centuries ago, the evils of democracy were already apparent, under Pericles.

Burckhardt: “A permanent terrorism was exercised by the combination of sycophants, the orators, and the constant threat of public prosecution, especially for peculation and incompetence, as well as the ever present risk of being accused of asebeia (impiety).” (It was a capital charge.)

To defend oneself from this, and make counter-accusations that would stick, in the perpetual assemblies and trials, meant having “star” influencers and a democratic “party” on one’s side. Lively public interest was easily raised to hysteria.

Mister Trump, the former USA president, is being prosecuted now that he has been removed from office, in just the way President Bazoum is being prosecuted (for “high treason”) in the République du Niger. We shouldn’t be surprised.

Satirical commentators like to compare American democracy to the Latin American kind, or to the “Democratic Republic of the Congo,” or to the murderous Communist “people’s democracies” that continue to oppress. But declaring that America has “a democracy” is, in itself, sufficiently insulting.

Freedom comes, as it did to America, generally through violence; George Washington et alia took up arms, against their sea of troubles. They did not want democracy, which had satisfied the colonial politicians. For it was as corruptly meaningless as what we have today.

Drill & kill

In the first chapter of his work on Poetic Knowledge, Professor James S. Taylor uses the delightful expression, “drill and kill,” to describe the methods of mechanical education. The student is made to repeat his lessons, until he has developed a hatred for the topic. Fear, including the fear of tedium, but really the fear of punishment, will inspire him to continue on this battlefield. The penalties, should he withdraw from it, must necessarily be harsh.

Once those who have proved themselves sufficiently bored, and/or frightened — have in other words developed humility and respect for Cartesian tyranny — they matriculate. The full graduate then rises to a position of power in the economic and political bureaucracy, as a “professional,” creating unpleasantness for others. (A well-trained professional can create a huge quantity of unpleasantness all around.)

Of course, this consequence is inevitable wherever modernized classical “schooling” exists. By contrast, true education is conducted by human beings, normally one-to-one. (This is why “home schooling” vastly outdistances “public schooling” in results.) What must transpire in a classroom of thirty pupils will be a tiny fraction of what can exist between human beings — especially when both are paying attention.

Upon turning the legal drop-out age of sixteen, I decided to abandon the Canadian version of this treadwheel, and seek my education in some other system. For unlike most of my friends, I hadn’t lost my eagerness to learn. It was one of the few sensible things I ever did. Even today, I am still leaving school.

The alternative to the treadwheel would be some version of “education through art,” in which the student indulges a natural mimesis. Education through art was Plato’s system, and by extension, Greek.

“Poetry” in Prof. Taylor’s sense is not restricted to literature in verse. It includes the sciences, for instance; or all the pure sciences, which are kept clean by their contact with philosophy and, through philosophy, with God.

Love might describe the developing relationships among the neighbours — students, and teachers, “in solitude, for company” — where the joy in genuine learning is allowed. But I shouldn’t present this as a fixed “ideal,” which like most secular ideals, will encourage falsehood. It would detract from the ideal of self-discipline, and the student’s acquisition of the moral law (in the singular: for there is only one) — key products of a Godly education.

Ten thousand things

Lothar Ledderose was the author of one of the West’s most formidable Sinological companions, sub-entitled Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art, below the title Ten Thousand Things. It surveys the entire cultural experience of the Far East, in the course of establishing that Chinese arts are different in kind from Western arts, though equally dynamic. The modernist (XVIth-century?) initiation of mass production in the West might be seen as uncharacteristic.

The Chinese had been “doing modular” since time out of mind, and produced most works — bronzes, terracottas, carvings, lacquerworks, enamels, other laminations, lattices, porcelain jars, architectural fittings, printed texts, paintings, calligraphy, other brushworks, &c, &c — in multiples and often large numbers. The pieces were seldom identical, however, and minute variations (which a Chinese might consider substantial) were apparent in all these series. For this is what modular production entails, and what it denies. There was no established “fine art” in China, except where it was imposed for sales purposes by pioneering Western dealers. Panicked individuation had yet to come, see, and conquer. But there was never any shortage of “art.”

This German gentleman has written several hundred other books and papers in the modular style of the Western academy, for which he probably received many prizes. Herr Professor Ledderhose is remarkably still alive (in his eighth decade); and so, arguably, is China — though now producing copious manufactures, on the modern model, that excludes art. For the genius of the Middle Kingdom formerly ran parallel to ours; the intentions ever embracing beauty.

East and West, the intention of modern life is instead economic. We are occasionally interested in industrial design, but this only from an economic motive. For what is designed will be, barring error and invincible stupidity, identical pieces, made simpler and easier to operate than something that was assembled randomly, by a moron.

As the son of an industrial designer, I can attest that only his economic reasoning was tolerated by patrons. Except, some aesthetic appreciation in Japan.

This is progress, yes? … (Salve nos, Domine.)

Neither Judaeo-Christian nor Heathen Chinee would have thought the economic motive uniquely worthy, before. For what we once had in common was a craving for the beautiful result.

Signs of the times

A friend forwards a website-full of little displays showing simple and natural “crafts,” being made in some pleasant place. I “leaf” (i.e. ping) through them. Curiously, it was like going back to Bangkok for me, in the days of my childhood (centuries ago); when I was surrounded, everywhere, by talented natives making things, out of materials that just seemed to grow. The colours were of bamboo and teak, in this streetside intarsia.

An old friend, in Bangkok itself, has attached a few photos of the current high-rise glitz. But surely all these skyscrapers will sink into the mud, for the city was built on the water table, and liquifies in the monsoon. Street-level views reveal an environment much neater than the one that came before, thanks to universal paving. Intense commercialism easily prevails. The signs and all the buildings are advertisements. How to know if one is actually in Bangkok?

Today, of course, if one goes there, the making of complete things, as nearly everyone was once occupied in doing, has been obviated; except for one vendor of noodles I spotted. But everyone else must have a miserable job, in an office or factory or shopping mall, as in Communist China. For modernity has definitively arrived, and pasted its obscenity.

Slaving & piracy

It must be admitted, or rather it should, that “wage slavery” is an improvement upon those forms based on abduction and “free market” sale. It is nice, I suppose, when the slaves agree to take money directly, and “volunteer” for their indenture, and may even be entitled to save enough to retire from service. Pensions for these slaves are another nice touch. It makes slavery acceptable to the voting masses. Perhaps, as a Japanese lady once explained to me (while discussing ancient Greece), “freedom is impossible without slavery.”

Working by the hour is, verily, my own preferred form. Wanted labour runs from the unskilled to the semi-skilled; the slave is essentially a beast of burden. But so were the elephants who worked the lumber trade in Thailand, or the huskies that pull the Eskimos about.

As a child in Pakistan, I learned that a bullock needed training if he were not to gore his human master. He was further taught to follow simple instructions — for instance to pull water while walking round and round a well, like a Sisyphus of the plains. The principle of wage slavery would still apply: with payment in roughage and grains. Violent he might be, in untoward moments, but like most slaves he is prevented from organizing.

This morning I was uttering a prayer for Irishmen, Hebrideans, and Icelanders, long dead, who were abducted by Algerian and Moroccan slavers — who worked the Atlantic coasts when Mediterranean shores became depleted. The economy of the Maghreb, indeed the whole Islamic economy, was for centuries largely based on piracy and slaving; but then, so was the English economy in the age of Elizabeth I. The Muslims, and the English, too, have mostly graduated to wage slavery, in the modern form, and now pay fairly well. Unless, or course, you have been recruited as a servant from the “Third World.”

In my day, Asian women, and others, served the white man, and others, in that condition of wage-slavery known as prostitution. (They were paid mostly by the hour.) This was quite a different arrangement from marriage; Christian marriage in particular. That is task-related instead of wage-related (although feminists have struggled to have it monetized). It was formerly a long-term task, requiring skills, such as child-care and nurturing.

There are, in addition to slaves, persons who are demonstrably free, and may perhaps even value their freedom. These are they who are paid by the task, rather than by the hour. They must have some useful ability, which makes them worth paying; or be a member of some aristocracy that is capable of surviving on inherited wealth; or both. They are free to turn down a job if they don’t like it. Note: prostitutes can also be free, but only in moments.

The possession of a craft that is in demand, or better an inheritance, is necessary (but not sufficient) to freedom. This is perhaps half of the story.

In the other half, one may be free even if one is a slave.

Damnable sprinkling

Reading at the moment some mediaeval treatises on tempera painting (Cennino Cennini, &c), I become self-conscious.  The mediaeval mind criticizes the modern mind, though without getting personal. This is because the writers (and illuminators) had no idea what the modern world would be like. They could not make specific accusations. But they had a way to anticipate it, and in their visions of hell-scapes and dreadful afflictions, they could preview.

Curiously, when we look back, we search for exemplary unpleasantness in the past realm, in a more personal way, since, coming later, we read a history full of names. But the Middle Ages were largely free of names (and nominalism). In art, especially, they were full of anonymity. They are vividly presented in little survivals of their works, which the modern mind neglects — for like American tourists we are only interested in the plumbing. The modern mind is ugly and looking for ugliness, except when it recovers mediaeval habits. But these orphaned objects are beautiful beyond words. (The same could be said for the high cultures of Persia, Hind, Sinica, Nihon: look back to see only things that are disappearing.)

I was alerted by the terms Ingenium, Intellectus, and Ratio. While there was nothing surprising in these concepts, the (pre-modern) master conceives the possibility that they might be used in error. They could be “sprinkled on the top” of a composition, like candied violets. His purpose was, in contrast, to integrate these creative dimensions on the parchment or the panel: a distinctly ivory ground. Instead of departing from our harsh whites, he was a gentleman, rising through colour to gilding.

He was not a neurotic. He did not fidget, or correct, like a painter in slow-drying oil. Accustomed to “unforgiving” media (vide tempera) which expose truth and falsehood, he was trained to get things right in the first place.

The Toronto theory

Growing awareness of the astrophysicist, Messer Hugh Ross, is among my recent Toronto glitters. He is actually from British Columbia, and is employed mostly elsewhere, but he has also loitered within the University of Toronto, &c. In addition to his chops as an astronomer and physicist, Dr Ross (born 1945) has acquired a reputation as an articulate interpreter of scripture, a sincere and uncompromising Christian, and an “Old Earth Creationist.” The only way I could like him more is if he became a Catholic.

But I am shocked (shocked!) to discover that he has an explanation for flying saucers that is identical to the one I’ve been spouting for the last forty years; and more generally (and Christianly) considers evil spirits to be active in our (pretentiously material) world. From as many angles as I can approach it, our theory appears the inevitable one, crossing space, time, theology, and sciences. It is that the spirits are simply having their (malignant) fun with us.

Alas, science is crippled at the moment, from its refusal to acknowledge non-physical realities, and from ideological (superstitious) adventures. Yet I don’t think it will be impaired forever. Until then, I shall simply claim my UFO remarks reflect “the Toronto theory” — itself a development from Enrico Fermi’s Italian observation that if there were biological extra-terrestrials who had mastered trans-universal flight, they would be here by now. (They’re not.)

Fermi learned physics by studying an 1840 Jesuit manual, which fell into his youthful hands. He had other accomplishments. But he was not a Torontonian.

Gremlins & visionaries

The scriptures are full of dreams and visions; taken in themselves they seem to promise a good time. For these dreams and visions come mostly from God, who is, we are assured, favourably disposed to us. There are also warnings, and perhaps the most signal are warnings against demonic dreams and visions. All such “psychic” events need testing. The evidence that one may be inspired by demoniac sources is all around — in the Bible, as in life.

Some priest, and not I, will be the expert on evil phenomena; as a priest, and not I, can perform exorcisms. I will simply point to the obvious: Satan is not your friend (and in fact wants you dead); Christ wants to save you. They evidence much knowledge of each other, although a theme of Satan’s teaching is that neither he nor Jesus Christ exists. This he finds convenient to his background message: that you shouldn’t exist, either.

But I am interested, for the moment, in the existence of gremlins. These are creatures depicted in low-tech modern folklore, but omitted from consideration in the high-tech literature. Still, they are perfectly common, in everyday experience, as one may learn by consulting a computer techie, or other advanced engineer. They take pleasure in flipping levers and switches in mischievous ways, and in other whimsical acts of sabotage. They do not leave evidence of their ministrations, and may thus be thought of as “the devil of the gaps.” This skill makes them, occasionally, the ally of the Luddite, but no one will wisely depend upon a devil.

The “gremlin” label arose in the Royal Air Force in the ‘twenties, in the Middle East, to explain mechanical events in aviation, I am told by the Wicked Paedia. The Old English term, gremian (“to vex”) was the presumed source. It seems that, in order to discover gremlins, we had first to invent aeroplanes. The gremlins then discovered how to make them crash.

What we haven’t yet grasped, is that gremlins may sometimes act in a co-ordinated, organized way, for their own ends. I suspect this is what they are doing when creating the evidence for alien spaceships, which defy not only gravity but every other physical law, and seem to have travelled from “distant planetary systems” — from which nature was designed to prevent travel. (Only God or the angels, including the fallen, could ever exceed the speed of light.)

Our dreams and visions of the future (modest ones like sending people to Mars, immodest ones like Alpha, Beta, and Proxima Centauri) currently assume that we will harness the magical power of gremlins. But my own complacency about the physical laws preserves me from such tawdry dreams and visions. One might say that physics alone has saved me.


Following the science through space, I am apprised of reports of many flying saucers, cigars, orbs, Tic Tacs, and otherwise-shaped objects of questionable aerodynamic design. Like everything else in popular science, these evolve over time. UFOs of the 1930s could barely break the sound barrier; UFOs today can beat orbital velocities. The enthusiasm for successive sightings has been raging, all this time; perhaps I should admit to reading George Adamski at a young and impressionable age. He wrote Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), and rode to the moon and back (and later to Saturn) with his alien friends.

My suspicions of this author were not announced at age eight, but several years later I checked back on him and discovered to my satisfaction that he was a nutjob. His hoaxes of the 1940s and 1950s were getting obvious by the 1960s; he was in the mainstream tradition of “progress” which goes quickly out-of-date. Adamski flourished in the glory days of the FBI, which despatched agents to remind him that his claims of confirmation by various government agencies were entirely false, and legally actionable. Despite this, he persisted.

Generally, the true believers in UFO cults persist. This continues inevitably when the United States Air Force is officially confirming sightings of objects which disobey the physical laws of at least this universe, perform right-angled turns at spacecraft speeds, whip into oceans without splashing, and crash into the ground without leaving wrecks (and yet, they sometimes disturb the vegetation). These have been plausibly reported by seasoned (earthly) pilots, and sometimes leave traces on the instrumentation, including unsatisfactory photographs. I do not doubt the USAF, or rather, not frequently. Its pilots are not, typically, true believers in UFOs.

Adamski was, like the overwhelming majority of UFO enthusiasts, also much interested in the occult. This describes some millions of “space man” believers, in every country, especially Brazil. The link is educational. We are dealing with occult phenomena, which, in contradiction of sceptical post-Christianity, are quite real but not (in the physics sense), “physical.” For demonic beings — fallen angels, as it were — have been visiting the earth and actually dwelling among us for as long as we (humans) have been here. And like angels, specifically, they are not subject to the physical laws, which put a crimp on our technology.

One is unwise to interact with such demons, however. It never ends well.

Just stop cars

I have not been following the “Just Stop Oil” protests in Britain very closely, but close enough to realize that they have succeeded in irritating all of the ideological shadings, while inspiring counter-action when they stand in people’s way. Commuters have quite independently mounted responses to oil oppositionists blocking the streets at rush hour. I noticed at least two of the female protesters being dragged off the road by the hair (by a female counter-protester), and several other examples of intemperateness in the clips I have reviewed.

Colleague environmentalists take their protests to art galleries and cultural events, where they glue themselves to artworks and the like (but usually to paintings under glass, so to limit permanent damage). There have been more ambitious and elaborate displays.

While I hesitate to condemn the use of carbon fuels, which contribute so richly to organic growth and reforestation, and I would dismiss the panic over “climate change” as an unscrupulous fraud, I am nevertheless much opposed to cars. They are indisputably an environmental blight. They are noisy, noisome, dangerous, and use up the space and resources that could be needed for several billion new babies.

Moreover, I have noticed that the Just-Stop-Oilies do not interfere with the work of drillers and refiners, but focus their efforts on cars, buses, and trucks. Hence my support.

I would particularly applaud any protesters who could find ways to permanently disable ice cream vendors, and silence their jingles once and for all. These vehicles disturb public order throughout the summer months. Let the people eat their ice cream in peace, free from the pressure of aggressive urban salesmen who may (for all we know) be delivering crystal methamphetamine under this guileful cover.


Suppose gentle reader has found a five-franc piece, while rooting through his garbage. This would occasion some surprise, though short of a miracle. A five-franc piece! “L’Hercule,” as it is called by numismatists, was minted from the time the French currency was first decimated, during the Revolution, until it was totally debased in the 1960s.

But once it was a large silver coin, about the size of our silver dollar (also utterly debased). If you found one, perhaps tarnished, among your vegetable scraps, it would, almost certainly, brighten your day. You would clean it up, and try to polish it, and find a place to keep it where it would be safe.

Compare, if you will, what you do with God. If you find him, you spit. This is because he has made the universe so intensely beautiful, that He has left nothing else for you to spit upon. Though like a five-franc coin, the effect of spitting can only be to polish, as perhaps the pope was hinting, by honouring Andres Serrano, the artist of the “Piss Christ.”

Léon Bloy is my source for these observations, except this last (for I fail to understand Pope Francis). An anonymous reader in Scotland has sent me a selection of Bloy’s works, entitled The Pilgrim of the Absolute (ed. Raissa Maritain). It was a wonderful thing to find in my “snailmail”; Bloy (1846-1917) is a hero to me. He was a Catholic apologist entirely free of feelgood sentimentality. He had been a pain to live with: look him up.

Now suppose gentle reader, immediately upon reading this, were to root in his compost bin, and find a five-franc piece. Now, that would be a miracle.