Academia and the myth of matriarchy

Apparently if you believe in the perfectly logical and long-held philosophical concept that the universe did not simply appear ex nihilo for no reason, you are academically unfit, but it’s perfectly fine for academics to subscribe to the totally ahistorical notion that Man was once ruled by female committee:

There is no real evidence that humanity every passed through a stage in which society was matriarchal, and abundant evidence to the contrary. Goddesses, of course, appear frequently in the world’s religions and myths, but the notion of a great prehistoric cult of the Goddess in Europe connected to matriarchal rule has no foundation.

Why bring this up now? Because higher education’s relaxed attitude about appointing faculty members who not only believe but who actually teach this moonshine demonstrates the hypocrisy of those who say that faculty members are acting out of the need to protect the university from anti-scientific nonsense when they discriminate against conservative Christian candidates for academic appointment. The possibility that a candidate for a position in biology, anthropology, or, say, English literature might secretly harbor the idea that God created the universe or that the Bible is true, is a danger not to be brooked. But apparently, the possibility that a candidate believes that human society was “matriarchal” until about 5,000 years ago is perfectly within the range of respectable opinion appropriate for campus life….

I take it as one of the great intellectual scandals of our age that this nonsense has gained academic legitimacy. Hardly a soul who vehemently defends the university’s need to protect itself from the dangerous presence of Biblical literalists and the like sees anything amiss in having a whole tide of anti-scientific, ahistorical ideological fantasy claim the status of an academic discipline. Could there be a version of women’s studies sans the myth of matriarchal prehistory? Surely there could be, as there are substantial numbers of feminist scholars who reject that myth. But the field as a whole has not done so. If it is necessary that a candidate for an academic appointment in biology demonstrate competence in evolutionary biology, it ought surely be necessary that a candidate for appointment in women’s studies demonstrate show the ability to distinguish historical fantasy from fact.

I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, but it is a useful thought experiment. Why won’t higher education hold women’s studies to ordinary standards of historical accuracy? Because contemporary American higher education cares far more about protecting its favored group of political ideologies than it does its standards of rational inquiry and scrupulous use of evidence. The standards are cited most conspicuously when they lend themselves to fencing off members of disfavored groups.

I’ve always found Sam Harris’s assertion that being a Christian somehow renders scientific work impossible to be an interesting one, considering that it is an intrinsically ahistoric and anti-scientific philosophical argument. And PZ Myers’s insistence that academics must subscribe to TEpNS dogma has always amused me, considering that he still subscribes to economic arguments that have been disproven for decades, and in some cases, centuries. If the standard that biologists wish to apply to other academics were applied to biologists on subjects such as economics or history, nearly every biology department in the USA would find itself empty.

Six bank failures

Yesterday the FDIC shut down six banks with around $4.2 billion in assets between them. But I thought one thing was a bit peculiar with regards to the seizure of Superior Bank in Birmingham, Alabama.

“As of December 31, 2010, Superior Bank had approximately $3.0 billion in total assets and $2.7 billion in total deposits. … The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) will be $259.6 million.”

It seems as if the bigger the bank is, the smaller the cost to the FDIC reported. In this case, the losses were only 8.7 percent, much lower than the 22.5 percent average for bank closures in 2010 and 2011. This would appear to suggest that the losses are being disguised in the assets being acquired by the new bank, which in this case is “Superior Bank, N.A., Birmingham, Alabama, a newly-chartered bank subsidiary of Community Bancorp LLC, Houston, Texas”.

I’ve also noticed that both the numbers of banks seized and percent of estimated bad assets appear to be shrinking. The 34 banks seized so far in 2011 averaged about 34.4 percent bad assets versus 42.1 percent for the 157 banks seized in 2010 and 41.1 percent for the 140 seized in 2009. This would appear to indicate a material improvement, although it is a fairly modest one considering that the fair financial winds of government spending and quantitative easing appear to be drawing to a close.

Mailvox: the "No True Atheist" defense

Cisbio is still trying to defend atheism by insisting that murderous atheists are not, in fact, atheists, while attacking Christianity for crimes that were committed by non-Christians. Needless to say, it’s not the most effective of strategies.

How is it dishonest to compared atheist to non-atheist crimes, if it is perfectly valid to attempt to heighten the enormity of atheist crimes by comparing them only with Christian crimes -exclusively from the middle ages?

First, it is entirely typical that cisbio fails to understand both the context and the nature of the comparison. TIA was not written ex nihilo, but in response to specific atheist charges made against religion in general and Christianity in particular. The Christian crimes are not taken “exclusively from the middle ages”, as should be obvious since the period of Christendom I utilized for the purposes of comparison began prior to the Middle Ages with the accession of Theodosius I to the Western half of the Empire in combination with his decrees that re-established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Prior to that point, his decrees were simply not relevant to the older half of the empire.

While one could argue for starting with 363, when Jovian rescinded Julian the Apostate’s pagan revival, or possibly even 313, with Constantine the Great’s Edict of Milan, 392 marks the moment from which Christianity most clearly reigned politically supreme. Before this date, Christian state crimes were not possible for the obvious reason that Christians did not possess sufficient political power.

Cisbio is mistaken when he thinks that I end the period of Christendom in 1453, which again should be obvious since the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre took place in 1572. 1453 merely set the limit on the number of Roman emperors, 126 to be precise, to which I added every single Christian king from all the major European kingdoms down to the present day. Again, cisbio should have known this due to the estimated number of kings utilized. Thus, this extended period is not limited to the Middle Ages and it is not only a reasonable comparison to the two centuries in which atheism has been most influential, it is the only possible one.

And the fact that not a single one of those estimated 1,781 Christian rulers committed a single crime against his people that was one-half as bad as 52 of the 89 atheist rulers, (with the exception of King Leopold II of Belgium, who appears to have engaged in societal egg-breaking with all the vicious enthusiasm of an atheist) does tend to testify that there is something peculiarly lethal about the combination of atheists and political power. While it is true that most of these atheist killers were Communists and the few that were not Communists were at least Socialists, it doesn’t change the fact that a) all of them were atheists, and b) most atheists are either Communists or socialists.

That may sound surprising, but recall that Bertrand Russell, Michel Onfray, and Christopher Hitchens are all socialists. Richard Dawkins describes himself as having been a voter for the democratic socialist party in the 1970s. Sam Harris is not a socialist, but he is an avowed globalist, which is the socialism of the 21st century. Of the six foremost atheist intellectuals, only Dennett appears to be entirely free of a lethal form of atheism, but even that is unconfirmed.

Now, I think there is room for a reasonable discussion regarding what is more dangerous, the most lethal form of religion or the most lethal form of atheism, especially when the warlike aspect of the former is taken into account. The important difference, however, is that whereas the most lethal form of religion is neither its largest nor its most influential form, the most lethal form of atheism is its dominant strain. For example, I’m not at all concerned about the potential dangers posed by libertarian atheists or even Austrian School-influenced ones like Michael Shermer. The world would be a better place if the countries where atheists now rule had leaderships consisting of libertarian atheists rather than socialist and communist ones. But very, very few atheists are libertarians, (faux libertarians like Bill Maher notwithstanding), in fact, libertarianism is attacked by militant, left-leaning atheists like PZ Myers almost as energetically as religion.

It is true that state terror is terrible regardless of the religion of the perpetrator. And it is also true that non-atheist perpetrators of state terror, like the pagan National Socialists, were of the political Left. Still, while Leftism may well be the primary risk factor in the likelihood of mass slaughter, it must be taken into account that the religious Left has historically been far less violent than the atheist Left. The Swedes may have finally gotten around to getting rid of their state church, but they haven’t killed anyone, at least not yet.

In summary, not only is the No True Atheist a logically invalid defense of historical atheist crimes, but it’s an haplessly ineffective one due to the characteristic preference of atheists for the very political ideology they are attempting to blame in order to exculpate their anti-religious creed. But these days, Communism is all but a dead letter due to its economic failure, so the future danger from the irreligious now stems from atheist trans-nationalism of the sort advocated by Bertrand Russell and Sam Harris.