Mailvox: "try" being the operative word

JS actually decides to give reason a whirl:

You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. All this talk of ‘reason’ and ‘moral choices’ makes me want to puke. These are not your strong points. But instead of yelling obscenities at you I’ll try and be reasonable, even though I can tell I’m wasting my time. These are not your strong points. But instead of yelling obscenities at you I’ll try and be reasonable, even though I can tell I’m wasting my time.

1. Your statement that all victims of crimes bear responsibility for their victimhood is clearly wrong. Does the victim of a serial killer bear responsibility for his crime? Should he have stayed at home behind locked doors in case a serial killer tried to kill him? Was a slave captured in Africa responsible for her capture because she didn’t run away fast enough?

Strike one. I never made any statement about all victims of crimes bearing responsibility for their victimhood. I stated that victims of crimes can bear partial responsibility for their victimhood. Is it an individual’s fault if his house is destroyed by a hurricane? If you say no, then how about those people who are rebuilding their homes below sea level in New Orleans? Are they more or less responsible for future hurricane damage than someone building a home in Iowa? (Hint: check their insurance premiums.) If you wish to argue that no victim can ever bear any responsibility for their victimhood, then please do so, as ascribing things I have not said to me and then attacking them only makes one look like an intellectually dishonest fool. My actual words are right here on this site.

2. You say that “he said-she said is no basis for a system of justice”. This is why, you argue, date-rape does not exist. Because the justice system cannot tell if the woman consented to sex or not, the rape did not happen. You argue this either a) because the woman, in agreeing to a date with a man, thus consents to have sex with him or b) no rape occurs without written proof of consent. I hope you discard a), because it is nonsense. By discarding it, you are also forced to discard your argument that date-rape is not rape. If you believe b) (which you seem implicitly to disagree with) then no sex is rape, unless a consent form has been signed. By arguing that disagreement over whether a rape took place, without concrete evidence of consent, meant that there was no rape, you are arguing that disagreement proves that events did not take place. This is clearly untrue: there is disagreement over whether the Holocaust took place, but those that deny it wilfully ignore clear evidence. They are hardly advocates of the “reason” you so admire.

Strike Two. JS conflates two different aspects of the topic and manages to thoroughly confuse himself. Neither (a) nor (b) apply because you incorrectly describe my argument. You should have written: “Because the justice system cannot tell if the woman consented to sex or not, there is no possibility of a just conviction of a crime”. His confusion becomes evident when he talks about the Holocaust; my entire point depends on there being no evidence other than sexual contact taking place. If there is sufficient evidence of force or violence, then obviously the justice system CAN tell that a crime took place.

3. Moral relativists do not necessarily reject the notion of private property. This is in fact an anarchist and Marxist idea. Moral relativists deny the existence of clear hierarchies of moral values. Do not mix terms.

Strike Three. Again, JS demonstrates an inability to describe accurately what I have written. First, I wrote “those moral relativists who reject the notion of private property”, thereby indicating a subset of all moral relativists. Second, the thief does not require an adherence to an economic ideology in order to violate the moral precept against stealing, indeed, most thieves who by definition of their profession obviously reject the concept of private property – what is mine is not yours – have likely never heard of Marx. They steal due to their denial of a specific moral value, not on behalf of the proletariat.

4. Most people do not use strict logic. Your argument that “responsibility is not a zero sum game” is not how most people think; blame is shifted implicitly in you argument from the rapist to his victim. By arguing this, you mirror the moral relativists you claim to despise. In your rationale all crimes are the products of unstoppable social or organic urges. A man rapes because he is lustful; therefore a woman who gives him the opportunity to rape her is culpable for that rape. Leave your keys in the car; it’ll get stolen. Blaming the perpetrator is mitigated, because everything is pre-determined. Blaming the rapist is relative to the opportunity given to him – if the woman is wearing a miniskirt, he is relatively less to blame for his rape.

Strike Four – and it’s a complete whiff! What does the failure of others to use strict logic have to do with me and my use of it? Here JS demonstrates that he can’t even follow the point well enough to mischaracterize it. Since responsibility is not a zero sum game, blame does not shift at all from anyone to anyone. The rapist is still 100 percent a rapist regardless of whether the woman is 0, 10 or 20 percent responsible. That’s precisely what NOT ZERO-SUM means! The bits about social urges, organic urges and pre-determination are simply debris left over from his failure to understand the point.

5. A fundamentally idealistic argument to counter your depressing determinism; we should all try collectively to create a society where a woman can walk down a street naked and not be raped. By arguing that a woman is “responsible” and “stupid” for being raped, you accede to the view that rape is inevitable.

Rape is inevitable. It has occurred in every human society, regardless of class and culture. It even occurs among animals. It occurs in free societies and rigidly totalitarian societies alike. It requires either complete innocence or willful ignorance to even attempt to argue otherwise. The fact that a woman is not necessarily responsible or stupid for being raped does not mean that a woman can never be responsible or never be stupid.

I don’t know why talk of reason would make JS want to puke. He doesn’t seem to have much experience with it, one way or the other.

You are property, girls

Stacer needs someone to explain the dark mystery of my appeal to her:

I was reading a post on Feminist Mormon Housewives that led me to a link on Hugo’s blog that led me to another of Hugo’s posts that led me somewhere else, can’t remember, which led me to this disgusting diatribe. Basically, the guy says that women are property and rape doesn’t exist. And I have friends who think this guy is great?!

So please, those of you who read him, please, please, please tell me why you think he has any sort of redeeming qualities. I’m going to go puke now.

Perhaps this is because they can actually read. Stating that date rape is a myth and cannot possibly be considered a crime is not tantamount to stating that rape doesn’t exist. And why do women think that anyone cares if they “feel sick” or “can’t breathe” when exposed to an alien idea? Do they think this expressed incapacity to survive exposure to diverse modes of thought makes people take them more or less seriously? What’s funny is how some of them will then proceed to assert my narrow-mindedness, completely unaware of the irony.

As to the matter under discussion, you can choose your poison, girls, but one way or another, you are property. Deal with it. And don’t feel so bad. In most cases, the guys are property too.

As a libertarian, I consider an individual, male or female, to hold the property title to himself; as a Christian libertarian, I would further assert that a woman does not hold the property title to an unborn child that happens to be present in her body, based on the distinct DNA. But in general, I believe that you have the perfect right to put, or not put, as many chemicals, bullets and penises in yourself as you like.

Now, the wisdom or the morality of doing so is another matter entirely, and in any case, there is no shortage of those who disagree with my take on the concept:

1. The US federal government, which engages in a little legal sleight-of-hand confusing the juristical person (YOUR NAME) and the natural person (Your Name). If you happen to confuse the two and go along with the charade, well, that’s really not their fault, now, is it? You may not be de jure property, but you certainly are de facto.

2. Left-wing ideology holds that the individual is the property of the state, as everything belongs to the people via the state prior to its inevitable and inexplicable withering away. Hence the state-owned brothels that are a feature of most communist nations, where the loftiest ambition of a majority of schoolgirls is to become a hard currency hooker; from each according to her ability, right? On a related note, you may recall that the socialist-run Bundesrepublik was recently on the verge of requiring women on the dole to work as prostitutes. And as Mussolini famously said: “Tutto nello stato, niente al di fuori dello stato, nulla contro lo stato.” Do you see any exception for individuals there? I certainly don’t.

3. There are no shortage of Muslim and African countries where women are the property of their fathers and husbands. The fact that Stacer doesn’t like this doesn’t change the legal reality. And unless she is a cultural bigot, how can she possibly object to a cultural tradition held by over a billion people? In these countries, some men are property, others are not.

4. The United Nations purports to grant a list of basic human rights, but then goes on to declare that none of the rights therein may be exercised to the detriment of the interests of the United Nations. Ergo, the UN position can be legitimately extrapolated to conclude that individual humans are the property of the United Nations, which makes sense considering that many of the member states which make up the UN subscribe to property concepts 2 and 3.

5. A feudal monarchy presupposes most property, including lands, buildings, rents, crops, animals and people, belongs to the king. Such property could be held on the king’s behalf, but the monarch still ultimately held title. The intrinsic link between the historical notion that title to all property and persons belongs to the king as head of state and the revolutionary concept that all title is held by the collective people through the vehicle of the state itself is why Hayek’s famous critique of the Left is entitled “The Road to Serfdom”.

6. The Christian believes that he belongs to God. He believes that everything else belongs to “the prince of this world”.

You are property. The only question is: who owns you?

UPDATE: Amandagon, much to my surprise, reveals herself to be an unexpected champion of firearms ownership: But this is the very best example of how biology is misunderstood by the Vox Day crowd–they seem unable to understand that women are in fact fully functioning, muscular animals who can do things like, for instance, lift a gun and shoot it.

Right, it would NEVER occur to a bunch of right-wing libertarian extremists and conservative Constitutionalists who probably own several million rounds of ammunition between them that women can shoot guns. I own assault rifles of which most people have never even heard, Space Bunny has a laser on her Glock nine and the mere mention of a preferred caliber can spark disputation to rival that of evolution, abortion or the Civil War… so, what do you shoot, Amanda? As if the various feminist groups aren’t almost as anti-gun as they are pro-abortion.

And speaking of massive Pandagunk in your synapses, check out this beauty from Mildred: But the most essential part of all libertarianism is moral relativism! If he calls himself a libertarian and then says “from a moral relativist’s view…” how is that…. how can he… what the…Oh my God… Argh! The Stupidity! The Stupidity! *nose bleeds*

This is the flip-side of what we usually see from conservatives, conflating legality with morality. Libertarianism is a political ideology relating to governments, not a religious or ethical ideology relating to individuals. It’s not surprising that the mere act of thinking should cause Mildred’s brain to swell and bleed, as she also managed completely misread my earlier post and believed I was championing the notion of a Nietszchean claim on any desirable bodies in my vicinity.

Would she not look beautiful in chains? Just call me Tarl.

CS Lewis and the problem of religion in science fiction and fantasy

This essay was published earlier this month in the anthology “Revisiting Narnia”, from BenBella Books.

In the center of Oxford, there is a brass sign indicating the proximity of The Eagle and Child, the pub in which the informal group known as the Inklings used to gather on Thursdays. Three of these Inklings eventually became fantasy writers of some reknown, one of them, J.R.R. Tolkien, stamped an image on the genre which, sixty years and three movies later, is arguably more powerful than ever.

These three writers, Tolkien, Lewis and Charles Williams, were not only Oxford men – Tolkien and Lewis were dons while Williams was an editor at the university press – but also devout Christians. Ironically, while Lewis is now considered to be the more recognizably Christian figure thanks to works of Christian apologetics such as Mere Christianity and Miracles, it was Tolkien who played a major role in the atheist Lewis’ conversion to Christianity in 1931.

The Christian themes in both Lewis’ fantasy and science fiction are undeniable. Even a child conversant with both “The Chronicles of Narnia” and the Bible will readily recognize that the lion Aslan, who voluntarily lays down his life in exchange for the life of a criminal condemned to death in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”, is a barely disguised metaphor for Jesus Christ. And this diaphanous veil disappears entirely six books later when the link between Aslan’s country and Heaven is disclosed upon the death of the Pevensey family at a railway station in “The Last Battle”.

The religious themes are even more overt in Lewis’ “Space Trilogy”. From the name of the protagonist – Ransom – to the replay of the Edenic temptation in Perelandra, Lewis consciously provides a fictional retelling of vignettes straight from the Bible. Indeed, the very title of the first volume, “Out of the Silent Planet”, refers directly to Lewis’ concept of God’s divine invasion(1) of nature, which he lays out explicitly in “Mere Christianity”.

The Christian foundation of the other famous Inkling’s work is less blatant, yet almost as obvious to all but the most willfully blind. While there have been a few brave souls foolhardy enough to attempt to deny the self-evident,(2) even those with no discernible Christian agenda freely acknowledge the powerful religious elements integral to “The Lord of the Rings”.(3) For the Secret Fire of which Gandalf is a servant, as Tolkien explained for the benefit of those too unfamiliar of the book of Acts to recognize the symbolism, is nothing less than the Holy Spirit whose flames were first seen at Pentecost, and in case things were not perfectly clear, the author once described his landmark trilogy as “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work.”

Thus, it is not the fantasy elements – which are actually not very similar in the particulars – but the Christian themes running through both that tie Lewis’ and Tolkien’s works together in our minds. Nor are these themes the only relationship. Tolkien, Lewis and Williams were all influenced to varying degrees by the same literary and spiritual mentor, a Scottish minister and prolific author by the name of George MacDonald.(4) MacDonald is largely forgotten now, but he was a well-known author of the late nineteenth century; among other things, he corresponded regularly with a certain American writer he had befriended by the name of Samuel Clemens. In one letter, Clemens even mentioned to MacDonald how his daughter Susy had worn out her copy of MacDonald’s “At the Back of the North Wind” and requested that MacDonald send her a replacement.(5)

It is interesting to note that while Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are generally considered to be the fathers of science fiction, as far as the literary historians are concerned, modern fantasy is imagined to have leaped like Athena, fully accoutered, into the pulp magazines of the 1920s. And yet, George MacDonald’s claim to paternity is difficult to dismiss. His first work of fantasy fiction, the aptly named “Phantastes”, was published in 1858, six years before Jules Verne published “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, seven years before Lewis Carroll published “Alice in Wonderland” and before H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft or Lord Dunsany were born.

This failure to recognize MacDonald’s influence on the genre(6) appears to stem primarily from the radical secularization of the science fiction and fantasy genres dating from science fiction’s Golden Age. While the short stories and novels of the Golden Age are fondly recalled by many, and are rightly known for many good things, one must admit that character development was not among them. This is unfortunate, because the Golden Age preference for plot over personalities and for ideas over individuals(7) played a significant role in the relegation of science fiction to a literary ghetto disdained by The New York Times Review of Books and others too self-consciously erudite to take seriously what is still too-often dismissed as juvenile space opera and futuristic twiddle-twaddle. While character development in science fiction has improved dramatically of late, it is still only the exceptional work that manages to transcend the genre and break out of the ghetto.(8)

This disdain for character left a mark on the genre which lasts to this day. Almost to a man, the writers of the Golden Age were secular humanists, and they felt as strongly about the deleterious effects of religion on collective human development as did Sigmund Freud with regards to the individual. Their antipathy towards all forms of traditional religion in favor of a dogmatic faith in the scientific method cast science fiction into an artistic ghetto from which it has not yet even begun to escape.

Fortunately, science and religion need no longer be at war, as developments in modern physics have shown, (especially those relating to the significance of the fundamental constants), which may indicate that the time for hostilities may finally be over. It is interesting to note that the ‘multiple universes’ concept which has inspired so many short stories in the past decade is a purely hypothetical theory developed without any experimental basis in an attempt to answer the ‘anthropic principle’ which not only has a solid foundation in current scientific method, but threatens to demolish the entire notion of a random, mechanistic universe. The concept does not, of course, provide the least bit of evidence for the legitimacy of the Prophet’s revelation, the infallability of the Pope, or the likelihood of the Second Coming; what it does demonstrate is that what has been long considered an antagonistic dichotomy between science and religion may not actually exist at all.

Still, this distaste for all things religious has been a costly one, both in artistic and financial terms.(9) While sufficient evidence exists to reject the idea that only a true believer is capable of writing accurately about his faith, it is true that presenting a reasonable and believable image of a religious individual presents a greater challenge to one who has no experience of such strange beings and therefore lacks even the most basic information about them. One would not expect one who knows nothing of math beyond addition and subtraction to write a convincing portrayal of calculus, after all. And while one may no more believe in aliens than in Jesus Christ, a survey of the current literature suggests that far more thought typically goes into depictions of the former than into those who profess to believe in the latter.

Compare, the vast difference between the guilt-racked seducer of Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” and the foam-flecked fundamentalists that haunt mediocre short stories in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine like clockwork cartoon bogeymen. Is it any wonder that the science fiction and fantasy writer’s pretense to literary status is scoffed at by those familiar with Dostoevsky, Goethe, and Tolstoy?

Lewis himself almost appears to have been on the verge of contemplating a similar question when he wrote to a gentleman by the name of Warfield Firor regarding the limits of Mark Twain as an author.

“I have been regaling myself on Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I wonder why that man never wrote anything else on the same level. The scene in which Huck decides to be ‘good’ by betraying Jim, and then finds he can’t and concludes that he is a reprobate, is unparalleled in humour, pathos, and tenderness. And it goes down to the very depth of all moral problems.”(10)

This passage should suffice to demonstrate that one’s personal belief or disbelief in God, even in morality, is no bar to successfully creating deep and convincing moral characters, given that Twain, a self-proclaimed atheist, succeeded admirably. Like Twain, C.S. Lewis populated his fictitious land with moral characters, as diverse as the noble, but flawed Caspian, the once-traitorous Edmund, the self-absorbed Eustace and the arrogant Rabadash. His character studies are necessarily less deep for the most part, given the broader scope of his stories, but the most significant attributes of his characters are almost always their moral qualities.

As with individuals, cultures, too, require some element of religious faith to be convincing given that the overwhelming majority of historical cultures were centered, at some level, around faith in something, from the Roman founder legends to the Judeo-Christianity of the Western tradition. In the faithless storyscapes of science fiction, the implacable Fremen of Frank Herbert’s Dune stand out as a chillingly believable vision of a galaxy-spanning Islamic culture while Dan Simmon’s Hyperion Cantos is unique in presenting an unusual, but compelling projection of the Vatican hierarchy into a dark and ominous technological future.

These varying examples prove that while it is not necessary to kowtow before the icons of any religion, for the sake of the writer’s art, it is imperative to pay enough attention to the details in order to get them right! Many writers go to great lengths to “get the science right”, but for those who harbor any literary pretensions at all, the same must be done with regards to the beliefs and behaviors of their fictional characters as well as the structure of their organized religions.

While it’s hardly surprising that a field dominated for decades by self-professed secular humanists should prove hostile to religion – any honest reader will admit that Asimov was far more fascinating for his ideas than his character development or his infamous naming conventions – the fact that this artistic flaw transcends genres demonstrates that the problem is more widespread than one might think, to the great detriment of literature in general. It is, it seems, more a cultural defect than one easily laid at the feet of individual writers.

For example, Wendy Shalit criticized the tendency of Jewish writers she calls “outsider-insiders” to make fundamental errors about Orthodox Judaism in the Sunday New York Times Book Review:

Consider, for example, Nathan Englander, a talented writer whose collection of stories, ”For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” brimmed with revelations of hypocrisy and self-inflicted misery: a fistfight that breaks out in synagogue over who will read from the Torah; a sect whose members fast three days instead of one and drink a dozen glasses of wine at the Passover seders instead of four; a man whose rabbi sends him to a prostitute when his wife won’t sleep with him. Of course, the Orthodox don’t actually brawl over who reads the Torah, no rabbi is allowed to write a dispensation for a man to see a prostitute, and even extremely pious Jews can’t invent their own traditions for fast days or seders.(11)

These basic errors are as ludicrous to the haredi as lowbrow Star Trek science is to the astrophysicist. Worse, they are used to paint what are necessarily false characters, based as they are on an erroneous foundation.

Still, for all that religion in science fiction may be shallow, more often than not it is simply absent. Fantasy, for all that its early masters were usually Christian, tends to go more horribly awry. It frequently embraces a form of what on the surface appears to be religion, for what is a fat fantasy trilogy without a token cleric or priest, but nearly always warps the concept into something wholly unrecognizable. For example, there is not a single traditional religion, including Taoism, which revolves around the concept of a precarious Balance maintained between good and evil, and yet a religious structure built around some form of the Balance cliche is ubiquitous in modern fantasy. This mythical Balance-centered religion is a nonsensical concept wherein too much Evil is bad and too much Good is bad, a notion which tells the reader more about the writer’s inclination towards political moderation than about morality, the problem of evil, the nature of the divine, or any other question with which nearly every historical religion attempts to address in some way.

Another oddity is the fantasy genre’s strange treatment of the medieval era. Most modern fantasy fiction is based in a medieval time period, often with readily identifiable historical societies, and yet the most quintessentially medieval institution, the Catholic Church, is noticeably absent for the most part. Even more strangely, it is not unusual to recreate a divine right of kings without any reference to a Divine which would presumably be providing that right to rule.

The list of modern fantasy authors who have committed one of these bizarre literary crimes against historical and religious versimilitude reads like an SFWA honor roll:

Piers Anthony’s “Incarnations of Immortality”, Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, Glen Cook’s Black Company novels, David Eddings’ Belgariad, Raymond Feist’s Riftwar Saga, Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Michael Moorcock’s “Chronicles of Corum”, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance series, and last, but by no means least, Roger Zelazny’s excellent “Chronicles of Amber”.

Now, it is no crime to envision a world that is free of Christianity, for science fiction is the art of the conceivable while fantasy is the art of the inconceivable. But one can legitimately question why this fascination with a world without faith, with characters without souls, with what Lewis called men without chests, should so thoroughly pervade modern literature.

Lewis himself provides the answer, indeed, he predicted the likelihood of just such a result, (though in a more general sense), when he reviewed an English textbook written for schoolboys back in the 1940s. In “The Abolition of Man”, he could be writing of either today’s authors or their flawed, cardboard characters when he writes:

It is not that they are bad men. They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao,(12) they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

In abolishing faith and morality from their characters, the heirs of CS Lewis’ literary tradition have not only failed themselves, but more importantly, they have failed their readers. For it is not that they are bad observers of the human condition, it is that they are not observers of the human condition at all, chronicling instead an imaginary inhumanity that never existed, does not exist and will never exist.

(1) Philip K. Dick, of all people, appears to have been familiar with the concept, as it provides the title for one of his more esoteric novels, “The Divine Invasion”.

(2) For all that his portrayal of Gandalf was flawlessly informed by the book, the deeper aspects of his character appeared to have escaped Sir Ian McKellen when he said: “Despite being a Catholic, [Tolkien] was not trying to write a Catholic parable…. “The Lord of the Rings” is just part of the mythology that he wrote, and I’m not familiar with the rest of it, but I do know it isn’t very helpful in this story to refer to a deity. Because there are vague higher powers who send Gandalf back to finish off the job, and there seems to be something that might be mistaken for heaven as the boat sails into the sunset. But it ain’t very specific, is it?” – Sir Ian McKellen, interview with Hollywood Jesus, August 2004.

(3) “But again, to understand Tolkien, one must return to his Christian roots. While at Oxford, he and C.S. Lewis would discuss at great length and critique each other’s writing. They were also both members of a literary group that performed the same kinds of evaluations from the same Christian foundation. So at every step of the way, Tolkien had a Christian perspective guiding his writing. This is abundantly apparent in his finished works and even comes through in the recent movie release of “The Fellowship of the Ring”.” – Lord of the Rings: Christian Myth at Work, Ali Assadullah, IslamOnline

(4) Lewis and Williams openly acknowledged their debt to MacDonald, while Tolkien was rather less enthusiastic. Tolkien once described MacDonald’s “The Golden Key” as “illwritten, incoherent, and bad, in spite of a few memorable passages”. Of course, Lewis would be hard-pressed to deny it, as the first paragraphs of “The Princess and the Goblin” will be shockingly familiar to anyone who has ever read “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

(5) “All these things might move and interest one. But how desperately more I have been moved to-night by the thought of a little old copy in the nursery of “At the Back of the North Wind”. Oh, what happy days they were when that little book was read, and how Susy loved it!” – Mark Twain, letter to William Dean Howells, 1899.

(6) There 125 science fiction and fantasy writers listed on the SF Site’s M page, including four MacDonalds. Despite his enormous contribution to the genre, George MacDonald is not one of them.

(7) This is not to say that a religious writer such as Lewis lacked ideas, but the essence of religion in general and Christianity in particular requires a focus on individuals in order to demonstrate the transformative power of faith or the lack thereof. Technology, on the other hand, requires no such focus. This is why there is, as yet, no Dostoevsky of science fiction, or arguably, modern literature.

(8) And when they do, we have a terrible tendency to disown them. Neal Stephenson is arguably the finest science fiction author writing today; I happen to be a member of the SFWA’s 2005 Nebula novel jury and there’s actually a discussion as to whether The System of the World qualifies as science fiction or not! No doubt this is why a sufficiently literary author of fantasy, such as Italo Calvino, is known to the world as a fabulist.

(9) No doubt we science fiction and fantasy authors are far too pure in art to allow petty pecuniary matters to ever enter our minds, but the fact that the Christian publishers of the 50 million-selling “Left Behind” series have gone out of their way to ensure their books are not confused with science fiction and fantasy might give pause to even the most staunchly secular SFWA writer.

(10) William Griffin, “C. S. Lewis: A Dramatic Life” (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), p. 314.

(11) The Sunday New York Times Book Review, January 30, 2005

(12) Lewis uses “the Tao” to refer to the concept more often described as Natural Law.

An unexpected Hindu synchronicity

A leading Hindu hard-liner has angered women and Muslims by pressing Hindus to have as many children as they can to avoid being swamped by Muslims. K.S. Sudarshan, who heads the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party which led India until last year, said a higher Hindu birth rate was vital to check a “population imbalance”.

“Whenever new people come to me for blessings, I tell them: ‘Not less than three (children)’. The more you can, the better,” he said at a function broadcast on television recently.

Women’s groups in Asia’s third-largest economy, with a billion-plus people, said they were insulted and one group labeled the Sudarshan’s stand an “agenda of hatred”.

“It is implied in his statement that a woman’s reproductive faculties are to be employed solely to fulfil the agenda of a Hindu nationalist state — like a reproductive machine,” said Malini Bhattacharya, a leading activist. “As if the question of a woman’s right does not even arise — her right over her own body and health.”

The RSS holds considerable sway among the large, conservative Hindu population, especially in impoverished northern India.

It’s intriguing to see how women’s groups in India are every bit as stupid, short-sighted and demographically-challenged as they are here in the West. Math is hard! Only three generations removed from setting themselves on fire as their first act of widowhood and already there’s a female leadership bent on cultural suicide. Apparently Miz Bhattacharya hasn’t read up on what life was like for women back when her part of Dodge was known as the Moghul empire.

Cluelessness knows no cultural bounds.

Mailvox: SAT and IQ

Russell sees an apparent contradiction:

I was wondering if Peter Charnley could clear something up for me? He states that a new British study shows that men outnumber women at higher I.Q. levels. How does this conclusion mesh with the results of widely tested entrance exams like the SAT which show some difference between men and women on the math portion of the test, but nothing nearly as dramatic as suggested by the recent British I.Q. test. For instance, boys out number women by 2:1 in the higher reaches of the SAT math section (scores over 700). If this new study were true I would expect a much greater difference in male/female numbers than 2:1.

Renee gave it a good effort, but the answer is actually much simpler. The SAT is no longer an IQ test and it has not been for over a decade. In 1994, the tests were changed to focus on measuring achievement instead of raw cognitive ability, which is why Mensa will no longer accept SAT scores as evidence of the 132 IQ that is the required minimum on most of the IQ tests it accepts.

There is, of course, still some correlation between SAT success and IQ, it simply isn’t particularly strong.

“In the June 2004 issue of Psychological Science, Meredith Frey and Douglas Detterman of Case Western Reserve reported… that the mean correlation between SAT scores and IQ scores was .76.”