Inclusiveness: Bad Religion and Bad Reason

In a recent piece in Crisis I argued that secular and rationalizing ways of thought applied to the social environment soon bring us to inclusiveness. Giving people what they want equally, which is the goal of a liberal technocratic society, includes giving them equal social positions.

Inclusiveness is thus part of the modern effort to apply the technological outlook comprehensively, so that it applies to human relations as to everything else. The effort can’t succeed. We achieve rigor at the cost of narrowing focus, for example by excluding qualitative issues in favor of what can be measured, so we can’t make everything rigorous. In particular, social life can’t be understood as mechanism, human beings can’t be turned into components let alone equal components of an infinitely adjustable machine, and esteem can’t be manufactured and divided up equally.

The attempt to make social life technological and equal soon runs into intellectual problems on its own terms. The technocratic culture that demands inclusiveness also gives evidence, reason, neutral expertise, and science the highest possible authority. That’s a problem, because those things tell us that inclusiveness is at odds with basic features of human life. For example, they tell us that the sexes are not interchangeable, and not all configurations of sexual conduct lead to equally happy results for oneself and others. The solution to the problem is insistence that none of those things tell us what they tell us. If there seem to be conflicts, science has to revise its conclusions, because people care about their status and experiences more than they care about scientific rigor. If you raise objections, people say you are irrational and badly motivated, and they look for ways to silence you.

The reason the technological outlook is pushed beyond its limits in obviously unworkable ways is that it is seen as uniquely valid, and that’s important when it comes to questions of basic social principle. A social order needs to be seen as entitled to respect, and it becomes entitled to respect by expressing the accepted understanding of what makes sense. Today it’s the technological understanding that people find convincing, so the social order has to express that understanding. Otherwise people won’t be able to look at it and say “that’s right so I’ll go with it.”

AgainstInclusivenessCoverThat requirement means inclusiveness. Technology doesn’t distinguish good and bad purposes so the social order shouldn’t distinguish them either. Technology doesn’t distinguish beneficiaries, so the social order should be egalitarian. Everybody should get what he wants equally and be treated equally. Technology wants to control the whole of visible reality, because modern science aims at that kind of universal understanding, so social engineering should apply to everything in sight and the government should take on responsibility for the total social environment.

To give up on that responsibility would, it is thought, be to give up on the application of reason to human life. It would say that the form of reason that defines rational action, which is now thought to be technology, applies to producing and distributing hamburgers but not to producing and distributing things we care about much more, like social position.

People would find that intolerable, because man is a social and rational animal who needs to believe that the social principles that define who he is, demand his allegiance, and tell him what he should respect and disdain are reasonable in the highest degree. Otherwise he won’t really accept them or accept the authority of the social order they define. He’ll think of it as an arbitrary alien force that he wants to get out from under. People don’t want to live that way, and social authorities don’t want them to take that view, so the authorities are always going to identify themselves and what they do with what is considered highest and most authoritative. Today that means inclusiveness.

It’s worth noting that what matters from the standpoint of social authority is technology as image and ritual rather than actual technology. Actual technology is a boring drudge that sometimes helps you and sometimes doesn’t. In order to become the highest social principle it has to become symbolic. It’s the function of institutions like the Supreme Court to make it so. What the justices now do is dress up in robes, engage in rituals, and produce oracles that tell us that the legal order is rational, politically correct, and worthy of our allegiance. Such rituals are necessary for political legitimacy even in an age that attempts to be comprehensively and consistently technological.

If what I’ve said is correct, and the problem is the insane merger of technology, reason, and the sacred, what do we do about it? The obvious way back to sanity is an understanding of reason that makes it possible to think about human relations and the social order in a more sensible way. In principle such an understanding would make a great deal of sense on several grounds.

The point of modern science and technology is exact prediction and control. That means that it emphasizes quantity and specific causal mechanism. That’s why people demand statistics and studies when you talk about anything whatever today. That way of thinking is extremely powerful where it applies, but its usefulness soon runs out. For example, the normal way to understand extremely complex evolved systems like human societies is not mathematics and mechanism but experience and their typical configuration, functioning, and goals. In other words, the key to understanding a society of a particular type is not accumulating masses of quantitative surveys but understanding how it is organized and how it normally works and to what ends.

So the obvious way out of the hole we’re in is to embed the kind of reason used in the hard sciences, which emphasizes number, matter, and blind quantitative forces, within a larger conception of reasonableness that allows us to deal with situations such measures don’t tell us much about. In other words, we need to add to the mix qualitative considerations, the configurations things naturally fall into, the goals they typically work to bring about, and classical natural law, which is basically a statement of how human life and goals should be arranged so that they work best together.

All of which is a very long story with lots of complications and difficulties. It’s a matter of dethroning what’s considered the highest standard for reason and reality and replacing that standard with something else, and that’s extremely difficult to do. At bottom it’s a religious problem—whether the world is essentially good and reasonable, so that its natural functioning is something we should trust and work with, or essentially blind and irrational, so we have to remake it for it to become something we can recognize as good.

For that reason it is extremely unlikely that our current political and social perplexities can be resolved apart from religion. The ideology of inclusiveness is one example among many of how those who reject religion in the name of reason end up with a bad substitute for religion that soon finds it necessary to reject reason in order to maintain itself. Our problem today is bad religion and bad reason, and our great need is for better versions of both.

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Pascal observes that the universe consists of “motion, number and space,” yielding the interrelated studies of mechanics, arithmetic, and geometry .“ These three things, which, according to the words Deus fecit omnia in pondere, in numero, et mensura, include the whole universe, and have a reciprocal and necessary connection.” [The quotation is from the Book of Wisdom, “but Thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight. (11:20)]

    Nor does modern science concern itself with “specific causal mechanism.” The sciences, including the social sciences, concern themselves, not with causation, but correlation. Newton did not ask himself what caused the apple to fall; he asked how fast it fell. This is something that is not only observable, but measurable. That measurement he was able to correlate with others: of force, mass, distance, time. By treating them as variables in differential equations, the constant relationship between them can be expressed and predictions made. The same is true of the marriage rate or the murder rate and other social phenomena, which prove themselves to be surprisingly amenable to statistical analysis.

    • The Cartesian view of the physical world as purely mathematical created lots of problems for Pascal as for Descartes, the mind/body problem for example, and made him an extremely dramatic writer on faith with lots of opposing inconceivables. I’m not sure why we should accept views that have that effect though. As a practical matter most people aren’t world-class geniuses like Pascal, and don’t like extreme intellectual drama, so they’ll resolve the oppositions in some less inspiring way, by becoming New Atheists for example.

      In theory modern science gets rid of intrinsic causation. In practice and when it becomes technology it looks for reliable sequences that can be clearly identified and manipulated and so work the same as specific causal mechanisms. When scientists and engineers aren’t being philosophical they tend to speak of them that way.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Pascal’s approach to faith was remarkably straightforward. He was convinced he had witnessed the miraculous cure of his niece, Marguerite Perier on 24 March 1656 at Port Royal on being touched by a relic, allegedly from the Crown of Thorns. She had been suffering from a disfiguring eye disease, a fistula lacrymalis,

        To his Jesuit opponents, he famously retorted “John 6:30. Quod ergo tu facis signum ut videamus et credamus tibi? (Non dicunt: Quam doctrinam praedicas?)” [What sign do you show, then, that we may see, and believe you? (They do not say: What doctrine do you preach?)]”

        In the Pensées, he rejects metaphysical arguments in favour of historical ones: miracles and the fulfilment of prophecies. He sees no need to explain miracles in terms of physics, since historical proof (or personal experience) suffices to establish them. Similarly, there is no need to discern divine purpose in natural phenomena, since matter and motion suffice to explain them.

        • If it’s so straightforward, why the intensity, and why is he such a fascinating writer? Why passages like the following?

          “I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere … It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that He should not exist; that the soul should be joined to the body, and that we should have no soul; that the world should be created, and that it should not be created, etc.; that original sin should be, and that it should not be.”

          “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is.”

          His metaphysics gave him no place for God or indeed anything of much human interest, but he had a fine enough mind to notice that didn’t work. So he used historical proofs and rejected the God of the philosophers in favor of miracles and incomprehensible fact.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Pascal insists we must trust our hearts, “We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles; and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them… For the knowledge of first principles, as space, time, motion, number, is as sure as any of those which we get from reasoning. And reason must trust this knowledge of the heart and of instinct, and must base every argument on them.

            The heart senses that there are three dimensions in space and that the numbers are infinite, and reason then shows that there are no two square numbers one of which is double of the other. Principles are intuited, propositions are inferred, all with certainty, though in different ways.”

        • Adam__Baum

          [What sign do you show, then, that we may see, and believe you?

          Translation: I will not believe until my hand pierces his side…

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            “I should not be a Christian, but for the miracles,” said Saint Augustine.

            • Anthony Zarrella

              There is no inherent contradiction in believing that God is revealed in miracles, and believing that He is revealed in the order of creation. I do not have to deny or diminish the intelligibility of the experiential world in order to believe in the ineffable.

              In fact, I would argue that the acausalist position *diminishes* miracles. If there is cause and effect, then a miracle is the Author of cause and effect overriding the natural law to reveal the power of His will – He reveals Himself as the ultimate Cause. If cause and effect are illusory, and things merely follow on other things, then a miracle is a mere curiosity, a sequence of events that we are unaccustomed to seeing, but which is remarkable only in its scarcity – it is no longer the Divine entering into and wholly superseding the mundane: it is merely the coin landing on edge.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                A miracle would retain its function as a “sign” (Σημεῖον – St John’s usual term for a miracle) to the eyes of faith.

                The belong to the realm of experience and history, not of science, which deals with observed regularities. To expect science to give an account of miracles is like looking for details of crashes in a railway time-table

                • Anthony Zarrella

                  Except that in the sense that John uses the term, a “sign” is not merely confirmatory – it’s persuasive. So, if it’s only a “sign” “to the eyes of faith” then it doesn’t accomplish much. The signs of which John speaks were done to *engender* faith in those without – he speaks of signs done “so that all might believe.”

                  And I’m not arguing that science should be able to explain miracles – by definition, if it can be explained wholly by science, then it’s not very miraculous. I’m saying that the very idea of a miracle as an exercise of divine power displacing the natural law presupposes the existence of a natural law of cause and effect.

                  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                    Not really. As Bl John Henry Newman explains, “By natural law I mean the fact that things happen uniformly according to certain circumstances, and not without them and at random: that is, that they happen in an order; and, as all things in the universe are unit and individual, order implies a certain repetition, whether of things or like things, or of their affections and relations. Thus we have experience, for instance, of the regularity of our physical functions, such as the beating of the pulse and the heaving of the breath; of the recurring sensations of hunger and thirst; of the alternation of waking and sleeping, and the succession of youth and age.” What more do we need to recognise “signs and wonders”?

                    • Anthony Zarrella

                      I think I understand your point, but while I have nothing but respect for the spiritual and theological insights of Bl. John Henry Newman, in the field of metaphysics, he stands on equal footing with any lay philosopher. In this case, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with David Hume, who also asserted that the regular and uniform correlation of a prior event with a latter event does not imply that the prior caused the latter.

                      However, if Hume (and by extension, Newman) is correct, and this correlation is non-causal, then it is mere happenstance and could as well be different without violating any natural law.

                      It is also possible, I concede, that Newman means something different from Hume: not that the correlation of prior and latter events is mere consistency without necessity, but rather that what we call “cause and effect” is merely logical implication (e.g. rain does not *cause* an unsheltered area to become wet, but such an area will inevitably become wet when it rains). In this case, I would argue that it is a distinction without a difference. I agree that it would be perfectly reasonable to define “cause” as “a prior event which logically implies a subsequent event,” but this would make no theological difference whatsoever.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      Newman makes his position very clear in the “Grammar of Assent.” The only form of causality he recognises is volition.

                      “One of the first experiences of an infant is that of his willing and doing… Thus the notion of causation is one of the first lessons which he learns from experience, that experience limiting it to agents possessed of intelligence and will. It is the notion of power combined with a purpose and an end. Physical phenomena, as such, are without sense; and experience teaches us nothing about physical phenomena as causes…. Since causation implies a sequence of acts in our own case, and our doing is always posterior, never contemporaneous or prior, to our willing, therefore, when we witness invariable antecedents and consequents, we call the former the cause of the latter, though intelligence is absent, from the analogy of external appearances. At length we go on to confuse causation with order”

                      In his History of the Arians &c, he speculates, “What are the phenomena of the external world, but a divine mode of conveying to the mind the realities of existence, individuality, and the influence of being on being, the best possible, though beguiling the imagination of most men with a harmless but unfounded belief in matter as distinct from the impressions on their senses? This at least is the opinion of some philosophers…”

                    • Anthony Zarrella

                      OK, I freely concede that this is an interpretation I hadn’t thought of. I would contend, however, that it is not true “a-causal-ism” in the sense of denying that antecedents cause consequents, but rather a form of “causal agnosticism” – that the only things we can *know* are causally related are will and action, and that observation of physical phenomena cannot *distinguish* causation from order. This does not logically entail a denial of causality, merely an agnosticism as to which physical events are causes and which are mere correlated antecedents.

                      As to the second quote, it seems to be musing on what others have said, rather than actual assertion of his own definitive beliefs, but either way, it’s a variant of philosophical Idealism that seems to owe much to George Berkeley, some to Immanuel Kant, and a smidge to Nicholas Malebranche.

                      Regardless, as I’ve said, I have a great respect for Cardinal Newman, but as a Christian and a theologian, not necessarily as a philosopher. As a philosopher, he is entitled to the same degree of deference as any other philosopher – that is to say, his views are entitled to my belief to precisely the extent to which they persuade me, and no further.

                      Personally, I’m a philosophical realist. I believe that things in the world have their existence independently of us or our perceptions, and that (quantum issues excluded for the moment) our perceptions don’t change reality except to the extent that they lead us to change it by our actions.

    • Adam__Baum

      “The sciences, including the social sciences, concern themselves, not with causation, but correlation. Newton did not ask himself what caused the apple to fall; he asked how fast it fell. ”

      Newton may not have addressed the cause of gravity, but Einstein did.

      “Social Science” isn’t science, it’s a misnomer.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Einstein may have addressed it, but the heart of his theory, like all others, is simply the formulae. Thus, his formulae predict the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, where those of Newton and Laplace did not.

        It remains true that, in the motion of mutually gravitating bodies, there is nothing that can be called a cause, and nothing that can be called an effect; there is merely a formula.

        Some scientists believe that there are no “causes” in nature. “Cause” is simply a projection of our experience of volition onto inanimate nature; there are merely antecedents and consequents. Interestingly, this was a view advanced by Bl John Henry Newman in his Grammar of Assent (a sadly neglected work)

        • Adam__Baum

          “Some scientists believe that there are no “causes” in nature”
          That is philosophical conjecture, not science. “Belief” is the key word.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Their argument is that “cause” is an empty category and cannot be used to distinguish any sequence of events from any other.

            How does one distinguish that which brings a thing to be, and that on which a thing under given circumstances follows?

            If it is a distinction without a difference, what use does the concept serve, except as it relates to our subjective experience of willing and choosing?

            • Adam__Baum

              Their argument is that “cause” is an empty category and cannot be used to distinguish any sequence of events from any other.

              It’s nonsense. Vain, pretentious, disordered, nihilistic nonsense.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                Bl John Henry Newman offers a very plausible account as to how this illusion arose.

                “Thus the notion of causation is one of the first lessons which he learns from experience, that experience limiting it to agents possessed of intelligence and will. It is the notion of power combined with a purpose and an end. Physical phenomena, as such, are without sense; and experience teaches us nothing about physical phenomena as causes… Since causation implies a sequence of acts in our own case, and our doing is always posterior, never contemporaneous or prior, to our willing, therefore, when we witness invariable antecedents and consequents, we call the former the cause of the latter, though intelligence is absent, from the analogy of external appearances. At length we go on to confuse causation with order; and, because we happen to have made a successful analysis of some complicated assemblage of phenomena, which experience has brought before us in the visible scene of things, and have reduced them to a tolerable dependence on each other, we call the ultimate points of this analysis, and the hypothetical facts in which the whole mass of phenomena is gathered up, by the name of causes, whereas they are really only the formula under which those phenomena are conveniently represented.”

                • AugustineThomas

                  You should stop trying to sound smart and just ask with an open mind. You’re running yourself in intellectual circles trying to split hairs about the meaning and/or existence of cause and effect.

                  If I’m pushed off a cliff and you didn’t see it happen, does that mean there was no cause of me falling off the cliff? You seem to assume that because you can’t see what caused celestial bodies to spin, there must be no such thing as a cause at all.

                  Anyway you seem like you’re using a lot of words to say nothing at all and hoping to confuse or overwhelm people to avoid real argument (that may work in high school, but you’ll start to be made a fool of quite often if you try that with real intellectuals).

            • vishmehr24

              The “cause” is perceived rationally through understanding of the phenomenon.

              To know the cause–that which brings a thing to be–as distinct from a mere correlation-is making a leap. This leap is not numeric and can not be formalized. But it is still real.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            All your examples show is that, to quote Newman, ““things happen uniformly according to certain circumstances, and not without them and at random: that is, that they happen in an order; and, as all things in the universe are unit and individual, order implies a certain repetition, whether of things or like things, or of their affections and relations.” But no one ever denied this.

        • vishmehr24

          Listen to what actual scientists say or write. They do not eschew the word “causes”.

          True, that formulas do not having causing appearing but the cause is the reality behind the formula. Formula is not the end of a scientific investigation but understanding is. The scientist seeks understanding of causes of phenomena. This understanding is qualitative and not reducible to phenomena.

          Even with Newton, the formula describes a force of attraction between mass points that causes the observed planetary motion.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            “Even with Newton, the formula describes a force of attraction…”

            But “force” is itself simply a formula: Force = Mass x Acceleration.

            • Adam__Baum

              No, force is not simply a formula. The formula you gave quantifies magnitude of the force required to impart motion to a mass. it does not reduce the force to a symbolic abstraction. Worse, it’s an abstraction of an abstraction, since force is properly understood as a vector, not a scalar.

              If there’s a force, the mass accelerates, if there is not, it remains as it was. These are very real.

              Now we need to ask the question. What is your attraction to this epistemic nihilism?

            • vishmehr24

              No, Force = Mass x Acceleration is incomplete since force is itself independently provided.

            • Anthony Zarrella

              To say that the quantity associated with a force is equal to the quantity of mass multiplied by the quantity of acceleration is not the same as saying that what we mean by “force” simply *is* mass times acceleration.

              Force *acts on* mass *to produce* acceleration. The three are all separate entities. Mathematical equality and logical equivalence are not the same concepts: equality is not identity.

              For a very simple example, say there are twelve apples of exactly the same size and shape. I have six, and you have six. Apples I have = apples you have. But we do not have the same apples.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            See my reply to Adam_Baum above or try Waismann’s “The Decline and Fall of Causality”

            • vishmehr24

              Consider F=ma. As physicists interpret it, it means that the acceleration of a particle is determined by the net force on it.

              It would be absurd to say that the force is determined by the acceleration. Thus, there is something more than equality in the equations of physics. There is a direction of causality too.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          How can you have a formula without cause and effect? Cause is the input to the formula, the effect is the output. Without cause and effect, you have no formula.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Certain differential equations can be found, which hold at every instant for every particle of the system, and which, given the configuration and velocities at one instant, or the configurations at two instants, render the configuration at any other earlier or later instant theoretically calculable. That is to say, the configuration at any instant is a function of that instant and the configurations at two given instants.

            Where is the cause here and where the effect. In willing, from which the notion of causality is derived, the cause must precede the effect, but here a later state of the system determines the earlier one, in precisely the same way that the earlier determines the later

            • Adam__Baum

              Let me get this straight. Cosmological equations that allow the calculation of bodies in motion with time as the independent variable invalidate cause and effect.

              This really is the epistemic event horizon.

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                I should prefer to say redundant, rather than invalid.

                Every logician of the last century, from Bertrand Russell (who called the law of causality a “relic of a bygone age surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm”) to Peter Strawson (who showed that its justification by an appeal to experience, regularity in nature, or success in practice are all circular) to Willard Quine (“the notion of cause has no firm place in science”) has rejected the search for “causes” in nature.

                It was perhaps best put by Friedrich Waismann (the physicist and collaborator of Wittgenstein) in his The Decline and Fall of Causality, “The only test that is required in science is the test of success in prediction” and “[…] a mathematical function, generally speaking, is simply a law governing the interdependence of variable quantities. […] Physical laws are nothing but statements concerning the way in which certain quantities depend on others when some of these are permitted to vary […] the task of the physicist is to determine the exact or approximate nature of this functional dependence.”

                He shows that “functional relation” works in cases where cause and effect plainly do not: mutually gravitating bodies, Fourier’s theory of heat, the Lorentz transformations and the work of Heisenberg and Bohr. The traditional notion of cause and effect simply does not appear in the fundamental equations of modern physics.

                Wittgenstein, his friend and fellow-member of the Vienna Circle put it even more succinctly: “Superstition is the belief in the causal nexus.”

                We are all Pythagorians now.

                • Adam__Baum

                  He shows that “functional relation” works in cases where cause and effect plainly do not: mutually gravitating bodies, Fourier’s theory of heat, the Lorentz transformations and the work of Heisenberg and Bohr. The traditional notion of cause and effect simply does not appear in the fundamental equations of modern physics.

                  So because (some) equations that we use to interpret the universe are merely functional relations, there is no cause and effect. What causes these relations to hold.

                  Maybe superstition is the rejection of causal nexus, or maybe it’s superstition to believe that you’ve made a point with a hodge podge of quotes.Now we’re past the event horizon.

                  I don’t know if we are all Pythogreans now, but Pythagorous at least gave us something useful.

                • vishmehr24

                  Quantum mechanics is generally regarded as incomprehensible and unsatisfactory by physicists because it does not provide the desired qualitative understanding despite making correct predictions.

                  The goal of science and physicists is not mere prediction but understanding. The scientist seeks through mathematics an understanding that is not merely mathematical (CS Lewis, the Discarded Image).

            • TheodoreSeeber

              Even in a differential equation- you still have cause and effect. Your measured first instant (configuration and velocity) is the cause, your calculated later instants are the effect. The fact that your measured instant is in and of itself an effect, and that you can use the same function backwards to calculate its cause, does not change the fact that in three dimensional space we still have cause and effect.

              Go to higher dimensions, cause does not necessarily precede effect; especially for particles moving faster than light (general relativity) but cause and effect still exist in those planes as well, just the velocity in the dimension of time is different.

    • Gail Finke

      The marriage rate and the murder rate are measurable, but what is done with those measurement frequently has nothing to do with science — although a lot of scientific CLAIMS are made. Likewise, the current craze in education to use “benchmarks” and constant assessments in order to determine “outcomes” has all the trappings of science (especially when computer assessments and models are used!!! oh joy!!!) but is really mostly guesswork — curricula and standards dreamed up in think tanks and universities, then imposed wholesale to see if they work or not. Almost always, the answer is “not.” Meanwhile, many results of rigorous studies are routinely ignored because they prove what people do not want to hear: that all people are not equally intelligent, for instance; or that many living/parent arrangements create endemic poverty, social unrest, and lifelong obstacles for children born to them.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Yes, and because the marriage rate and the murder rate are measurable, these measurements can be correlated with other variables, such as age, income, population density and a host of other variables.

        One cannot know, in advance, which will be significant and which not; only processing the data will show that

        • Kevin McCormick

          Unfortunately the understanding of those measurements will be heavily affected by the perspective of the individual attempting to assess the data. The age in which you live, your particular area of focus, your predispositions, and particularly the conclusions by others who precede your analysis will all have a major affect on the “objectivity” of your conclusion. Observations change as perspective and understanding changes.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Indeed. Some post-modern philosophers argue that the objective features of a phenomenon so little constrain the ways it is classified and theorized that these features can be disregarded in trying to understand why a particular classification system or scientific theory has been adopted.

            • Kevin McCormick

              Perhaps the post-modern philosophers are just narrow-minded. Once it’s all relative then…it’s all relative.

          • Adam__Baum

            “Observations change as perspective and understanding changes.”

            Except for Malthusians who remain wedded to the inanity of unbounded geometric growth.

        • Gail Finke

          I am not saying, and I’m sure Mr. Kalb is not saying, that measurements and data aren’t useful and important. Did you somehow get that from his article and my statement? The naive belief that science solves everything, though, leads to a lot of misuse of real science (ie drawing conclusions that are not indicated), a lot of claims that science can’t support, and a lot of justification of what people want to do. Science measures, describes, and allows one to predict. It doesn’t tell anyone what he should or shouldn’t do, and it does not deal with a lot of things at all. All sorts of dumb things are proclaimed and defended “… because SCIENCE!” as they say nowadays.

          • Adam__Baum

            Yep. Liars can figure and figures can lie…quantification like language is subject to contstruction.

            You might be interested in the book “The Black Swan”, by N. N. Taleb. A good deal of it is spent on this very thing, that is the veneer of unassailability that complicated math lends to things (financial markets) and how we confuse our methods for representing and capturing aspects of reality with reality itself.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            Exactly! David Hume, of all people (not a very religious man, but a smart one) said (and I might be badly paraphrasing), “It is impossible to reason from an ‘is’ to an ‘ought.'”

            Science (of whatever sort, “hard” or “soft”) can give lots of empirical data, but the key premises that tell us what to do with that data must always be imported from outside of science.

            If an experiment proves that a given chemical, if allowed to be sold, will lead to 100,000 deaths per year, that says nothing about whether this is a good or bad idea. You need to add in the premise, “Causing needless death is bad.” And even then, you need a non-empirical premise to indicate what deaths are “needless” (i.e. what outcomes, if any, are *worth* causing death). Science can’t answer any of that… but in the modern world, it will try.

        • vishmehr24

          No amount of data processing will tell you that. One has to make a leap from correlation to causation. A leap that is intuitive and can never be formalized.

        • Adam__Baum

          If you were trained in a field such as economics, you would understand that distinguishing correlation from causation is an exercise in logic, reason and judgment, not an exercise in mathematics.
          It’s not simply a matter of obtaining a better “R-squared”.

    • vishmehr24

      “Nor does modern science concern itself with “specific causal mechanism.””
      It is simply false. The modern science was actually born when the correlations (“saving the phenomena”) of astronomy were abandoned in favor of search for causes of the motion of heavenly bodies. The crucial shift was made by Kepler who postulated forces radiating from Sun to keep the planets on their orbits.

    • Facile1

      Michael Paterson-Seymour writes:

      “The sciences, including the social sciences, concern themselves, not with causation, but correlation.”

      This statement is patently false.

      Science is a body of knowledge and a methodology, like Catholic FAITH formation is a body of knowledge and a methodology.

      Human knowledge can only be captured in language (ie a human invention) and mathematics is a language.

      Mathematics can express correlation with greater precision than other languages (such as Latin, English, etc.) However, mathematics cannot express “causation”. But the failure of language to express “causation” does NOT mean “causation” does not exist. The lack of a word to reflect the evidence is not a lack of evidence. And the lack of evidence is not proof of absence.

      Don’t conflate language with the TRUTH. Language is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Wittgenstein says, “Thinking is not an incorporeal process which lends life and sense to speaking, and which it would be possible to detach from speaking, rather as the Devil took the shadow of Schlemihl from the ground.”

        If you doubt it, he asks us to try this experiment: “Say a sentence and think it; say it with understanding – Now, do not say it, just do what you accompanied it with, when you said it with understanding!”

        • Anthony Zarrella

          The inability of the human brain to think a thing without reducing it to language is not dispositive of the claim that language is equivalent to thought (much less the claim that language is equivalent to truth).

          Wittgenstein’s “experiment” is mere logical fallacy. He succeeds in proving that we cannot understand language without the thought behind it, but then tries to reverse the implication to state that we cannot think without language. For a concept for which we have the right words, it may well be impossible to think it without thinking of those words. However, I trust it is no great strain for any person to recall a time when they struggled to find the right word for a concept – the concept was there, but the vocabulary was not.

          Regardless, even if it were impossible to think without language, truth is truth, regardless of whether any human person can understand it. Therefore, proof that thought is impossible without language would say nothing about a claimed identity of language with truth. We most certainly lack language to fully express the extent of God’s glory, yet His glory is diminished not at all by our failure to describe it.

  • lifeknight

    All I can think of is the classic, “Animal Farm.” Each time I read it (at least 5 times now), I find a new elemental error of human reasoning topped off with pride, greed, and the phenomenal classic of man’s inhumanity to man.

    Perhaps one needs to revisit the “first cause” notion for the existence of the universe. Somehow it all goes back to G-O-D.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Dr. Kalb, Another fine piece! I am very interested in learning more about your discussion of “rigor” and the narrowing focus. The Common Core agenda incessantly repeats that rigor is the vehicle for the standard of excellence- and Common Core is the most comprehensive “inclusivity” machine, this article sheds some light on the roots of that.

    The technological outlook pushed beyond its limits appeals to the lowest parts of man, the deadly vice of envy undergirded by disordered self-regard (pride) and now that the schools have children in Pre-k- as early as 3, envy is the mother’s milk on which they are raised. 11 year olds quickly turn into a mob when they perceive an imbalance in the calculus.

    “Technology as ritual and image” From working man to queen of the free world, the mutilation of the word is like gender reassignment surgery for the disordered soul, perhaps we can see technology as having undergone “social reassignment surgery.”

  • Pingback: Inclusiveness: Bad Religion and Bad Reason | Catholic Canada()

  • Anne Hendershott

    Just received your new book in the mail from amazon. Congratulations!! Looking forward to reading it – enjoy reading your columns Dr. Kalb.

    • Gail Finke

      For some reason this site is letting me write replies and not original comments. I just finished this book and I think it is the best book I read all year, thanks Mr. Kalb!

  • poetcomic1

    Equality is the opposite of quality.

  • cestusdei

    Nothing is more exclusive then in inclusiveness.

  • Tony

    Rigor characterizes steel girders and corpses. Living things require something else.

    A thought experiment, on the limited usefulness of statistics:

    You have two societies, each with 1 murder for every 100,000 people per year. In the first society, there is no organized police force, and people have constant opportunity to kill one another; but they do not do so, because they believe in eternal damnation for the unrepentant killer. In the second society, there is a highly organized police force that makes it very difficult for a killer to get away with the crime; and people generally stay locked up in their homes.

    We would never say that these societies are equally successful …

    • Niall Hosking

      You had a stab at the first during the Middle Ages. Such a peaceful, gentle time. Then, someone invented policemen and the world went to pot.

      • Tony

        The point was that statistics alone would make the two hypothetical societies indistinguishable one from the other. And they are hypothetical. Keep your attention on the point at issue. If you could go back to my home town when I was a kid — not a particularly virtuous place — you would find that almost everybody kept the car keys in the car and left the front door open when they were out. They could do that, not because there was a big police force — we had a couple of cops, that’s all — but because of what you might call moral and cultural capital. Now imagine the same town, with the same few break-ins, but crawling with cops, and everybody holed up in their houses behind locked doors, and security alarms by the hundreds. The two towns look alike, according to the one statistic, the crime rate, but they are like night and day.

        • Art Deco

          Your curriculum vitae indicates you and I are contemporaries and we grew up in the same part of the country. My upbringing was split between the suburban fringe and agreeable inner city neighborhoods. I never heard of such a thing as leaving your keys in your car.

          It is regrettable that we live in a time and a place where amply manned police forces are necessary, but we do. You’ve neglected the third and fourth options (which would be very familiar to people where I grew up): people holed up in their homes due to anxiety about muggings &c conjoined to a lightly staffed police force and slovenly courts; and people not holed up because and amply staffed and optimally deployed force renders the city passably secure. The former describes the slums where I grew up, the latter most of New York City today.

          • Tony

            Hi Art — I wasn’t describing options; just making a point about the (very) limited relevance of statistics. I grew up in Lackawanna County, in a smallish borough where everybody knew everybody by face or name, or knew at least your family personally or by name. My parents left their keys in the car all the time, in the driveway, as did I sometimes when I was a teenager, but by then people stopped doing it. We usually kept the front door open, too. Anybody could have broken into our house through the back with a screwdriver or a pencil. I often did when I’d locked myself out. The point is that statistics are no substitute for a full, human, qualitative description of a people’s way of life. To put it another way: any merely quantitative description of human behavior is by necessity unrigorous.

            • Art Deco

              I had cousins in Carbondale. The one I was acquainted with lives in Altoona now. I suppose I could ask her what her mother and father did with the car keys. I assume her brother would only have stolen other people’s cars…

              • Tony

                Carbondale! My brother-in-law grew up there, and it could be pretty rough, but nothing really vicious. I grew up two towns over, in Archbald …

                • Adam__Baum

                  Don’t forget Jessup.

                  • Tony

                    It’s bittersweet for me, going back. What little industry remained when I was a kid is all gone, but the economic depression that we were still enduring has lifted. The houses are bigger and emptier. The woods aren’t as extensive as before. The ugly culm dumps have been dug out and leveled, sometimes with subdivisions on top of them, sometimes with parks and ballfields. My town that supported 7 Little League teams with 15 players each now no longer has a league at all, I think. They have a lot more playgrounds in the borough than they did when I was a boy, but they are mostly empty. My parochial school, built by a Father Comerford as a three-story parish hall and then converted into a school by a group of nuns, no longer exists. The borough uses the building now for its offices and a jail. The convent is empty. It once was a bustling grimy boisterous coal mining town; then it was a hard-drinking depressed ex-mining town; now it is a half-dead bedroom community for Scranton. Sic transit, and all that.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      What’s amazing now is the implicit and explicit subsidies that bring in various businesses that are brought in to be economic renaissance employers. They normally promise to employ a couple of hundred people, and sometimes do.

                      The Steamtown Mall lost a flagship store when Montgomery Ward came in. Montage Mountain’s ski slopes face Westward, not North. Steamtown has no Steam and considers 100,000 visitors a good year, nowhere near the 500,000 once speculated. The “Red Barons” AAA baseball team went south to Allentown to become the “iron Pigs” and the although the County managed to get the former Columbus Clippers, to become the Yankees now the Railriders.Nat West Bank came and was replaced by Fleet Bank, I don’t know if somebody still operates the facility.

                      Prudential remains, but has had fluctuating employment since the IPO, Corning shut down a brand new facility before production began.

                      In the old days, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad employed several THOUSAND, and there was a half dozen or so other Railroads serving Scranton, even more within a 20 mile radius also employing thousands. There were banks to handle all of the coal money, and diverse businesses with global reach like International Correspondence Schools (ICS, the original online educator.

                      Now the businesses are shuttering, as are the Churches. I recently saw one grand old edifice being taken over-the new owners were the Steamtown Church.

                    • Art Deco

                      I suspect state programs to rejuvenate areas are better at sluicing benefits to connected developers than in accomplishing anything else. Some areas lose their comparative advantage. I would wager it would be better to just let them find their new niche or let the place decline demographically until it has a population that can earn a common-and-garden living with what opportunities it can create and maintain.

                      What the state can do is scrap special purpose grants in aid to localities and just have a general revenue sharing program with funds distributed to counties according to a formula which takes into account population and per capita income; the counties can then distribute some to their constituent municipalities according to the same formula. A similar distribution to school districts can be undertaken, with a formula which incorporates population, per capita income, and the subpopulation between 5 and 18 resident in each district. The economic decay can be cushioned by ameliorating the effect of same on the local tax base. Alternatively, the state might consider re-incorporating public schools as philanthropies and just have a network of tuition funded private schools, with state regents’ exams for quality control. The state would issue the vouchers, so the cost would not have to be borne by the decaying taxpayer corps.

                      Another thing the state might do is have a public works department tasked with beautification projects and take some costs off local governments in depressed areas. Raze the derelict properties, take down rusty chain link fences, clean up the slag heaps, &c.

                      A third thing the state might do is rejigger the system of local finance. Rank order all the census tracts in the state according to personal income per capita, identify the least affluent tracts (comprehending perhaps 1/6th of the state’s population), and suspend the collection of property taxes therein. The distribution of state revenues would cushion the blow for localities and you could extend to localities a franchise to collect flat levies on personal income. Property taxes do promote environmental degredation and neglect, so your landscape might improve if you discontinued their use in depressed areas.

                    • Art Deco

                      Central cities might also benefit if law enforcement were a task assigned to county governments, and municipal police merged with county sheriff’s departments. Containing crime will remove some impetus for people to leave and businesses to leave.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Art, I kind of have to chuckle at your faith in NEPA politicians

                      County (all) Government has been incredibly corrupt in Lackawanna County (and it’s Southern Neighbor, Luzerne). County Commissioners have been convicted (Cordaro and Munchak in Lackawanna, Greg “the Barge” Skrepenak in Lackawanna.

                      Then there’s the judges. Conahan and Ciavarella appear to have served as inspiration for an episode of “The Goodwife” (judges taking bribes to sentence juveniles to higher intensity facilities that their offenses would warrant)


                      Most recently, a Luzerne County judge, had to turn in his father, a local attorney for some financial misconduct.


                      And of course the thirty year career of former State Senator Robert J. Mellow (of Archbald) was punctuated with a felony conviction.

                    • Art Deco

                      Do you actually ever read my posts, Adam? My point was that state allocation of investment capital is generally ill-advised and that politicians should simply amend revenue collections and allocations and relocate some functions and undertake beautification projects.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Did you write this?

                      “Central cities might also benefit if law enforcement were a task
                      assigned to county governments, and municipal police merged with county
                      sheriff’s departments. Containing crime will remove some impetus for
                      people to leave and businesses to leave”

                      That’s what I read.

                    • Art Deco

                      Yes, I wrote that. That’s irrelevant to your point.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Sorry you feel that way, but you obviously don’t understand the point that you want to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic, to the lower levels of the ship, no less.

                    • Tony

                      There are many things that far-sighted men of public interest could do … but it’s been at least forty years since anybody on the Political Left gave a damn about places like Scranton. It’s made me begin to reconsider protective tariffs … A people that no longer makes things is a people in political decline, regardless of their wealth or their military might.

                    • Art Deco

                      Well, in 1969, manufacturing accounted for 24.3% of value added, construction for 4.7%, and agriculture & c. for 2.7%. As we speak, these figures are 11.9%, 3.6%, and 1.1%. The thing is, gross domestic product (in real terms) has more than trebled since 1969. We are producing more in the way of manufactures and buildings and grain, just not employing as many people doing it.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      My parochial school, built by a Father Comerford as a three-story parish hall and then converted into a school by a group of nuns, no longer exists.
                      St. Rose of Lima?

                    • Tony

                      No — Saint Thomas Aquinas, in Archbald. Father Comerford used his own family money to build it. On the first floor, if I remember what I’ve read, he had game rooms and a smoking room; on the second floor, a library and other meeting rooms; and the third floor was a basketball gymnasium and a stage for plays. It cost the parish nothing. When Father McGinley died circa 1965, he left what was then a considerable sum of his own family money, $100,000 (or $195,000; I can’t remember) to keep what was then the parochial school in operation indefinitely. But the sexual revolution was about to smash every cultural beachhead in sight. In ten years the school was losing students; the IHM nuns had gotten a virulent strain of feminism and secularism and were losing members; the school had to pay for lay teachers; and in another ten years it was shut down.

                • Art Deco

                  I have not been there since 1976. It just seemed sad, not rough. Slag heaps everywhere, but I gather in better shape than some other towns in the area because they got the mine fires out. My grandmother told me that when they had visitors when they were young, the family generally arranged for them to arrive after dark.

                  The grandmother of the cousin in question told me at the time that they had 13 or 14,000 people in residence and her son chimed in and said their population had gone in only one direction…down. I see looking at some information online that it’s down to 9,000. The son in question worked at a local manufactory which had just two floors: one for production and one for the administration up top. The only one who had his own office was the company president. Everyone else upstairs worked on one large open floor, each with a desk but without baffles. They still had wretched labor relations.

                  • Tony

                    After the coal went out, the main industry was textiles. Most of the shops were non-union, for a couple of reasons. My mother, who worked in the shops off and on for thirty years, told me about it; and then when I was a teenager I worked for two summers in a shop as a janitor, where my aunt and uncle were the bosses (he doubled as the machinist and tripled as somebody on the sewing machines himself or on the loading dock; she doubled by working on the sewing machine too until she began to lose her eyesight). They all said that the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union was run by the mob, and they didn’t want any part of it. They also didn’t like to pay union dues, preferring to deal with the boss directly. A lot of the shops were small and were run informally, with a lot of flexibility as to hours, layoffs, piecework, and so on.

                    Carbondale once had almost 20,000 people (1936); Archbald at the same time had more than 9,000. Carbondale’s population bottomed out in the 8,000’s, and Archbald’s bottomed out in the 5,000’s. Archbald is now at about 6,000, but, as I said, nothing is made there, or in Carbondale.

                    I used to play in some of the abandoned mines … the strip mines, not the ones that went underground. I found 153 fossils, some of them really fine, on an enormous heap of leftover coal, about 100 feet above the houses below …

                    • Art Deco

                      The particular company in which my relations were employed was unionized. I was told there was a wretched strike in 1946 which had simply ruined labor relations in that place and that the unions were just perverse. Since my people worked up top, I was getting management’s side, of course. They still have offices in Carbondale, but I am not sure they have a plant there anymore.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Don’t let Carbondale fool you. It may be a shell of it’s past glory, but there’s still a lot of “old money” up there.
                      Would you perhaps be speaking of Hendriks (sp?) Mfg?

                    • Art Deco

                      Old money in and amongst the slag heaps and shuttered factories?

  • Ruth Rocker

    ‘After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, “Lies – damn lies – and statistics,” still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.’ This quote has been attributed to Disraeli and Mark Twain, but no one is completely sure of its origin. In any case, it seems to sum it all up. You can ultimately twist statistical data to prove whatever case you support. Numbers are nice, but they don’t tell the whole story.

  • Facile1

    Mr. Kalb writes:

    “A social order needs to be seen as entitled to respect, and it becomes entitled to respect by expressing the accepted understanding of what makes sense. Today it’s the technological understanding that people find convincing, so the social order has to express that understanding. Otherwise people won’t be able to look at it and say “that’s right so I’ll go with it.”

    What remains unsaid in this article is that RESPECT compels obedience (ie human action).

    In ‘Politics as a Vocation’, Max Weber defines a ‘state’ as something that exists “if and insofar as its administrative staff successfully upholds a claim on the monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in the enforcement of its order.” But the state’s threat of bodily and material harm to its citizens can only go so far. Bullets and prisons cost money and human beings cannot pay taxes when they are dead.

    Unquestioning obedience to the state (born of blind FAITH) has a better return on the investment of sovereign wealth.

    However, ALL human action (including obedience) is predicated on FAITH alone because all human knowledge (even when based on hard evidence) cannot predict the future.

    Science is a body of knowledge and a METHODOLOGY, like Catholic FAITH formation is a body of knowledge and a methodology.

    Science fails in ‘matters of faith’ (ie all of human action) simply because it lacks the necessary tools (ie the methodology) to fully explore the TRUTH (ie GOD.)

    The methodology in Science seeks evidence in support of beliefs through ‘reproducible’ or ‘repeatable’ means (ie technology). However, evidence (even when verifiable) is NOT proof — not in a court of Law; not in a laboratory; not in a church.

    Evidence is a subset of the TRUTH. It cannot give us FAITH anymore than revelation alone can give us faith. Jesus Christ said as much in “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31).

    Christianity alone among all the other religions of the world recognizes that the evaluation of evidence with the use of human senses and human reason cannot be sufficient to know the TRUTH (ie GOD). Human senses and human reason are subject to human error and manipulation. Therefore, the methodology of Catholic FAITH formation also includes the examination of conscience and acts of faith (including obedience) as necessary measures of the truth.

    Mr. Kalb concludes:

    “Our problem today is bad religion and bad reason, and our great need is for better versions of both.”

    I beg to disagree. Our problem today is paying our respects to Caesar when that belongs to GOD alone.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “Our problem today is paying our respects to Caesar when that belongs to GOD alone”.

      “Fear God. Honour the king” 1 Pet 2:17 – The “king” βασιλεύς[] to whom St Peter was referring was Nero

      • Facile1

        Read Matthew 22:15-22 Paying Taxes to the Emperor.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          St Paul teaches

          “Admonish them to be subject to princes and powers, to obey at a word, to be ready to every good work.” Titus 3:1 [πειθαρχεῖν means, specifically, “to obey a magistrate”]

          “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Rom 13:1-2

          • Facile1

            Sir, what is your point?

            Perhaps you find your own words less credible; but quoting other people’s words out of context cannot make your argument for you.

            My point is simply this:

            Only GOD (not the STATE, not science, not religion) merits ‘unquestioning obedience’ from us. But GOD asks it of no one.

            If St. Paul taught ‘unquestioning obedience’ to the State, perhaps he would not have been decapitated. His example should caution one not to use quotes out of context.

  • Prof_Override

    The hierarchy of knowledge:
    The role and drive of science is to move understanding up the ladder and it functions best in the empirical to qualitative to quantitative levels and specifically to that which can be quantitatively defined. The boundary conditions become problematic. The jump from quantitative to systematic requires a massive change from differentiative thought to integrative thought (how does the Higg’s boson fit into a unified theory). The other direction is the slippery slope of the pretentious, tackling concepts that may never move beyond the intuitive, building a fantasy, qualitative house of cards around an egomaniacal brain fart and calling the polished turd – “Truth”. I will forever be ignorant and at the same time in utter awe of God in his totality. Fear the denizens of the slippery slope and their mystic social “engineering”.

    • Facile1

      I’m interested in knowing more about this “hierarchy of knowledge”. Can you suggest a book or an author? Thank you.

      • Prof_Override

        There are multiple “hierarchies” out there. This one derives from lean study of knowledge capture within a Toyota Product Development style system. You will find a ton of reading and articles on the Toyota Production System and very little on their secretive Product Development System. Toyota is ruthless is their drive to capture, quantify and systemize knowledge (that’s why they are as good as they are!). I’m afraid I can’t direct you to public sources as my information is from internal white papers (and hence IP) of a large corp that worked with consultants to develop their own Toyota Product Development style system. From my professional experiences as a driver of lean systems and culture, I’ve found this particular system to be THE most useful in both teaching and applying the concepts.