Saturday, July 01, 2017

Hypocritical leftists willing to give Muslim extremists a pass


By Maureen Callahan
http://nypost.com/
June 30, 2017


Image result for maajid nawaz hirsi ali
Ayaan Hirsi-Ali and Maajid Nawaz

He’s a former Muslim extremist who speaks out against such extremism — yet he’s been labeled an extremist.
Last October, the Southern Poverty Law Center called British author and activist Maajid Nawaz, 39, “part of the ‘ex-radical’ circuit of former Islamists who use that experience to savage Islam.” During a recent appearance on Bill Maher’s show, Nawaz announced he’d be suing the SPLC for defamation.
Citing what he calls “the poverty of low expectations,” Nawaz argues that Islam, like any other religion, should not only field criticism but withstand it. Why, he asks, does the Western world — and liberals, in particular — refuse to condemn what they otherwise find abhorrent?
The SPLC, he says, fights against the oppressions of Christian fundamentalism, yet “the same causes they fight for within America are somehow deemed illegitimate for people like me to fight for within our own communities.”
To wit: The current case in Michigan — the first federal case of its kind — over female genital mutilation, practiced among a Shiite Muslim sect there. The New York Times, incredibly, has framed this as a potentially legitimate custom. “Michigan Case Adds US Dimension to Debate on Genital Mutilation,” ran a June 10 headline.
Debate? Really? An estimated 100 girls have been brutalized in this specific community since 2005 — yet because this barbarism is contextualized as Islamic, far too many liberals seek to justify what is plainly child abuse, a gross violation of human rights.
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There are plenty of Catholics and fundamentalist Christians who believe abortion is morally wrong, yet Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. Why should Islam get special dispensation? Isn’t it a supercilious attitude to take — that a muscular religion of 1.6 billion people requires deference to the point of infantilization?
Also on the SPLC’s list is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born author and activist who herself survived female genital mutilation and a forced marriage. Ali and fellow activist Asra Q. Nomani recently appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and were shocked that none of the four female Democrats on that panel — including Kamala Harris, who’d become a feminist cause célèbre the day before, after male colleagues interrupted her interrogation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — asked a single question.
In a June 22 Times Op-Ed, Ali and Nomani called out Harris along with Sens. Maggie Hassan, Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill.
“What happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamic extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world,” they wrote. “When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.”
These are horrors, misogyny masquerading as religion, and it’s a Jedi mind trick that works almost every time.
Sen. McCaskill, for example, said she was “worried” about Ali and Nomani’s testimony. “Anyone who twists or distorts religion is an exception to the rule,” she said. Tell that to women in Saudi Arabia, who cannot drive, work or travel alone, or to women in Pakistan, where a so-called “women’s rights bill” was passed last year allowing men to beat their wives, instructions included.
“These recommendations are, according to the Koran and Sunnah, the prophet’s teachings,” a state official told the BBC. “No one can dispute that.”
Reformers like Ali and Nawaz do, and they continually exhort those Muslims who disagree with such diktats — and those outside the religion — to speak up.
In her Op-Ed, Ali noted the false argument so often made, that to criticize Islam is bigotry. Her ideas, she writes, are often labeled backward and conservative, “as if opposition to violent jihad, sex slavery, genital mutilation or child marriage were a matter of left and right.”
Her critics would point to the success of Muslims in America, a deeply assimilated population that, according to multiple studies — including one published by the Cato Institute in October 2016 — is among the most educated and affluent. Their cultural views don’t deviate as much from non-Muslims either. It’s hard to quantify why, but our national DNA surely contributes; we are a county and a culture of immigrants. We don’t force newcomers to learn English, but life’s easier if you do. Nor do we grapple with dress codes, burqa bans and other such debates that have consumed Europe for years. According to the Cato Institute, American Muslims are the most religiously tolerant and socially liberal in the world and are becoming more so. Has this population self-selected to America, or are their views encouraged by our open society?
No one really knows, but Nawaz and others believe that Europe’s tendency to isolate Muslims — or allow them to isolate themselves — rather than integrate only fuels alienation and resentment. Such communities live parallel to society under their own rule of law, and rather than combat Islamic extremism and jihad, such neglect foments it.
Yet such fear of offending remains that Theresa May, upon becoming prime minister last year, said that England “could benefit a great deal” from the estimated 100 Sharia courts operating there.
“Ideas are more dangerous than people,” Nawaz writes, and a 2016 survey bears that out — 58 percent of British Muslims believe homosexuality should be outlawed and one-quarter said they’d support Sharia law replacing British law. A poll of Muslim immigrants and natives in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Sweden,published in December 2013 by Professor Ruud Koopmans of the Berlin Social Science Center, found that 75 percent believe the Koran can be interpreted only one way, that 60 percent would not befriend someone who is gay and 54 percent think the West wants to destroy Islam.
In his new book, “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam,” author Douglas Murray argues that Europe — Germany especially — has a tendency to overcorrect for past injustices and atrocities. He cites the left’s rejection, in 2015, of concerns raised by Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy that Europe had erred in allowing some citizens to live in opposition to their nation’s own laws. In an interview with NPR on Tuesday, Murray raised the irony of liberals supporting illiberal beliefs.
“This is a big problem,” Murray said. “As well as speaking the language of inclusion, we have to speak the language of exclusion — what it is that we won’t tolerate as well as what it is that we do.”
Nawaz himself believes extremism is fertilized by three subsets: Islamist theocracies, hard-right populism and what he calls the regressive left — those who argue for genderless bathrooms but won’t acknowledge that honor killings happen in Europe and the United States. In compiling their list, he says, the SPLC has employed a tactic used by those they should condemn.
“Just imagine how ex-Muslim Islam-critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali must feel to be included in your list,” he wrote in October.
“Her friend Theo van Gogh was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam in 2004. And back then, there was another list pinned to Theo’s corpse with a knife: It, too, named Ayaan Hirsi Ali.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

Where in the World Is Bill de Blasio?


Not where New York City needs him most.

By Kyle Smith — June 30, 2017
Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio

If there is a left-wing equivalent to “At least he made the trains run on time,” it must be, “At least he had the right idea about global warming.” New York’s aloof mayor, Bill de Blasio, is happy to pontificate about climate change, Obamacare, national immigration policy, Donald Trump, or a thousand other subjects that have little or nothing to do with running the city of New York. But this week when a subway train derailed in Harlem, he was nowhere to be found. Not only can’t de Blasio make the trains run on time, he can’t even keep them running on their tracks.

Yet, still facing no serious opposition in his bid to be reelected this fall, he doesn’t much seem to care. At a press appearance in the Bronx on Tuesday, reports Politico, de Blasio ignored reporters who asked him whether the subways are safe, but the next day he announced he’d be discussing federal health-care legislation on the radio. Why fix anything in New York when you can just blast away at distant bogeymen? Anything Washington Republicans come up with re: Obamacare is bound to be about as popular in New York City as erecting a statue of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz at Yankee Stadium.

The train situation in New York City is just shy of a crisis point. Earlier in June, a rush-hour subway train sat motionless in the dark with no air conditioning for over 40 minutes. A picture published online at the city-news site Gothamist showing hapless fingers clawing between two condensation-occluded windows was like something out of an urban horror picture. In recent days two other stalled trains sat in limbo for so long that passengers actually climbed off and started making their way through the tunnels at severe risk to themselves. The many frustrations and delays that have bedeviled the nation’s busiest rail hub, Penn Station, are about to get much worse when several tracks will have to be closed for extended periods for maintenance, kicking off what no less an authority than the governor of New York has dubbed the “summer of hell.”

That hell is of the political class’s own creation. The MTA and other metro-area agencies, notably the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have been squandering absurd amounts of mass-transit money on decorative flourishes instead of functionality. As the New York Times’ most essential columnist, Jim Dwyer, related, the agencies keep producing what he called “underground Taj Mahals,” not to mention the dazzling new street-level transit station at the World Trade Center, which cost an even-more-gobsmacking $4 billion. A similar overindulgence in prettying up the stations at the newly opened Second Avenue subway, which runs barely two miles and extends the existing system by only three stations, is a major reason why the project blew through $4.5 billion. The London Underground’s much more ambitious Jubilee Line extension in the 1990s cost less than one-third as much per mile.

True, de Blasio is not the train master of New York City. If anyone is, it’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, who controls the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway system. Cuomo also appoints half of the Port Authority’s board. Cuomo’s own dereliction of duty on the matter has been spectacular — he didn’t show up at the derailment scene in Harlem either — but that’s a subject for a column of its own. It’s also true that appearing at the scene of a calamity is in large part political theater and mostly meaningless.

Mostly, but not entirely. Can anyone doubt that de Blasio’s predecessor Rudy Giuliani would have been on the scene in Harlem? And can anyone doubt that he would be making so much noise about the chaos on the subway and on the commuter trains that inaction wouldn’t be an option?

In 1990, the year in which New York City set a new murder record that stands to this day, the New York Post ran an era-defining headline aimed at the sad-sack mayor, David N. Dinkins. “DAVE, DO SOMETHING,” the paper pleaded. De Blasio appears to be cruising to reelection at this point, and subway delays are not as horrific as a crime spree, but with a rising standard of living in the city come rising expectations. New York is feeling desperate for management. If it gets some, it seems likely to come not from de Blasio but, ironically, from the man he defeated in the 2013 mayoral race — Joseph Lhota. Lhota, a previous and successful MTA chairman, was reappointed to that post by Cuomo last week, accepting a salary of $1 per annum. If de Blasio is too busy offering punditry about health care or inequality or climate change to fix mass transit in New York City, maybe Lhota will roll up his sleeves. As if to announce what a true leader looks like, Lhota did what Cuomo and de Blasio didn’t — he showed up at the subway derailment site on Tuesday. He had not yet completed his first week on the job.

And if Lhota should succeed, what will happen politically? Why, Bill de Blasio will happily take the credit. Imagine Jimmy Carter somehow getting appointed economic czar and producing an economic boom during President Reagan’s first term and you’ll have some notion of how nutty New York City politics can be.

READ MORE:

— Kyle Smith is National Review Online’s critic-at-large.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Islamism Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Political System at War with Us

June 23, 2017
Image result for hirsi ali senate testimony
Asra Nomani (L) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali testimy before the Senate. (Twitter)
Last week, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs convened a hearing on political Islam, also called “Islamism.” The committee invited four witnesses: Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, Asra Q. Nomani, Michael E. Leiter, former director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and John Lenczowski, president of the Institute of World Politics. The hearing shines a bright light on the dysfunction that attends our treatment of the topic.
In her opening remarks, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) clearly articulated the Democratic position on Islamism: “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule…We should not focus on religion.” Unfortunately, Democrats do not have a monopoly on willful blindness when it comes to Islamism or “Sharia supremacy.”
Hirsi-Ali and Nomani, both under a death sentence from jihadis on the charge of apostasy, wrote about the hearing in the New York Times. They noted that the four Democratic female senators—McCaskill, Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)—feminists all, who whiff the scent of sexism in every passing breeze, did not ask either of them a single question.
Ali and Nomani wrote that what transpired during the hearing
…was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
The whole affair reveals the contradictions of the “identity politics” that define the current Democratic Party and its manifestation in what some have called the Oppression Olympics: “Mirror, mirror, on the wall/Who is the most oppressed of all?” The current front runner seems to be political Islam, which cannot be criticized, even if it means throwing other favored groups under the bus. Islamists punish homosexuals with death, but today “Islamophobia” trumps “homophobia.”
Much of the problem in dealing with political Islam is the failure to distinguish between Islam as a religion and political Islam as a system for organizing society. This issue arose in response to the testimony of John Lenczowski, during which he raised the issue of “no-go zones”—that is, areas where non-Muslims are not permitted to go—in certain European cities. McCaskill did not ask Lenczowski to expand on his point but instead turned to Leiter, who argued that there was no such thing.
But as Andrew C. McCarthy has explainedit is not true that a no-go zone is a place that Muslims forbid non-Muslims to enter, as suggested by McCaskill’s question and Leitner’s answer. The case is more complex and gets to the heart of the distinction between Islam as a religion on the one hand and political Islam, or sharia supremacy, as a system of social and political organization.
In reality, sharia explicitly invites the presence of non-Muslims provided that they submit to the authority of Islamic rule. Indeed historically, as I related in The Grand Jihad, my book about the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ideology, because sharia calls on these submissive non-Muslims (dhimmis) to pay a poll tax (jizya), their continued presence was of economic importance in lands conquered by Islamic rulers.
It is therefore easy for Islamists and their apologists to knock down their strawman depiction of what a no-go zone is when they leave it at that: a place where non-Muslims are “not allowed.” That is not what no-go zones are—neither as they exist in fact nor as they are contemplated by Sharia. The point of imposing Sharia—the reason it is the necessary precondition for building an Islamic society—is to make Islam the dominant social system, not the exclusive faith. The idea is that once Sharia’s systematic discrimination against non-Muslims is in place, non-Muslims will see the good sense of becoming Muslims. Over time, everyone will convert “without coercion.” The game is to set up an extortionate incentive for conversion while maintaining the smiley-face assurance that no one is being forced to convert at the point of a sword.
So radical Muslims will be welcoming to any ordinary non-Muslims who are willing to defer to their mores. What they are hostile to are officials of the host state: police, firefighters, building inspectors, emergency medical personnel, and anything associated with the armed forces. That is because the presence of those forces symbolizes the authority—the non-submission—of the state.
Notice, however, that no sensible person is saying that state authorities are prohibited from entering no-go zones as a matter of law. The point is that they are severely discouraged from entering as a matter of fact—and the degree of discouragement varies directly with the density of the Muslim population and its radical component. Ditto for non-Muslim lay people: It is not that they are notpermitted to enter these enclaves; it is that theyavoid entering because doing so is dangerous if they are flaunting Western modes of dress and conduct.
As Hirsi-Ali and Nomani observed, the hearing was an example of extreme moral relativism disguised as cultural sensitivity, which leads people to make excuses for the inexcusable. “Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness—it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.”
But Hirsi-Ali and Nomani are too kind. To understand the roots of the pathology that the Senate hearing reveals, one must recur to certain philosophical fonts of today’s political Left, which has  embraced unassimilated Muslims as the true agents of redemption in an imperialistic, colonial world. Marxists identify Muslim Islamists as the latest replacement for the proletariat, who, because of “false consciousness,” failed in its historic mission to overthrow capitalism. Those who, consciously or not, follow Rousseau, see them as a manifestation of the “noble savage” who heroically rejects the pretensions of Western civilization. For the followers of Frantz Fanon and other post-colonial theorists, they are destined to effect the final destruction the West.
This is the hard truth. We ignore it at our peril.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Alleged sexual abuse victims of youth volleyball coach Rick Butler receiving outpouring of support


By Christian Red
http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/
June 24, 2017

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Rick Butler running a volleyball camp in Nebraska in 2014. (Stacie Scott/Lincoln Hournal Star)

The mental anxiety and dread she experienced from seeing her alleged abuser on the opposing sidelines this past week were no less severe than what Florida volleyball coach Sarah Powers-Barnhard endured a year ago at the same junior national championship tournament in Orlando.

“The anxiety was still big. It’s like Groundhog Day,” says Powers-Barnhard, a Jacksonville, Fla., volleyball club director whose teams played in the nationally-televised Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) girls’ volleyball tournament in Orlando, which ends Monday.
But while Powers-Barnhard had to brace herself for the uncomfortable moment when she would again be in the same arena and on the same court as Rick Butler, her former volleyball coach and the man Powers-Barnhard and several other women say sexually abused them when they were teenagers in the 1980s, Powers-Barnhard says she was buoyed this year by an outpouring of support on numerous fronts. That includes an online grassroots movement in which a Denver attorney is making sure the public knows about Butler’s past.
Butler, the owner of the Illinois-based Sports Performance Volleyball Club and an influential figure in the sport, received a lifetime ban from USA Volleyball (the sport’s national governing body) in 1995 after Powers-Barnhard and two other women testified against him before a USAV ethics panel that same year. However, Butler was reinstated by USAV only five years later, in 2000, in an administrative role. Butler acknowledged to the ‘95 ethics panel that he had sex with the three women who testified against him, but Butler said the relationships were consensual and that they began after the women had turned 18. The legal age of sexual consent in Illinois is 17.
Powers-Barnhard last year filed a lawsuit against the AAU in Florida state court, and the amended complaint accuses the organization of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by allowing Butler to coach in AAU events (like the one in Orlando), even though the AAU’s policies bar membership of those accused of sexual misconduct. The complaint also accuses the AAU of negligence.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) said in 1995 that it found “credible evidence” that the allegations against Butler were true, but Butler has never faced any criminal charges.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the CEO of Champion Women, an advocacy organization for girls and women in sports, launched an online petition earlier this month demanding Butler’s lifetime ban be enforced. So far, there are more than 2,200 signatures and counting.
“Our petition, our letters to the AAU, USA Volleyball and their sponsors is bigger than removing a single coach from contact with athletes. It is about getting sport governing bodies like the AAU to abide by their own rules regarding sexual abuse, to prioritize athlete safety over finances,” says Hogshead-Makar.
And Powers-Barnhard says she helped hatch the idea of making teal-colored T-shirts with the phrases, “We Stand With Them” and “Ask Me Why” emblazoned on the front and back, so that volleyball players, coaches and attendees to the AAU event in Orlando could sport the shirts during the tournament.
Butler continues to deny the abuse allegations, and his attorney Terry Ekl calls the amended complaint “baseless,” while predicting it will be dismissed in court.
“Rick Butler has never sexually abused any individual and the allegation made by “change.org” (petition) that he did so over 30 years ago is absolutely false. Rick Butler has never been accused by USA Volleyball, AAU, or law enforcement of illegally abusing any player or committing any crime, and there is no factual basis for “change.org” to make such a defamatory allegation,” says Ekl’s statement.
Meanwhile, Denver attorney Emily Swanson, who is also a volleyball coach and is a member of the USAV Rocky Mountain Region board of directors, is determined to make sure that the past accusations made against Butler are fully transparent. Swanson has posted on her Facebook page, transcripts from that ‘95 ethics panel, letters allegedly written by Butler, and numerous other documents pertaining to Butler. The Facebook posts have generated much discussion -- some of it contentious -- among Butler opponents and supporters.
“There has been a lot of information out there. I wanted all the documents in their entire glory for people to read and form their own opinions. I wanted to give people all the information and if their reaction happens to be outrage, and there’s a desire to incite change, then great. This is an issue we need to be fully transparent with,” says Swanson. “I want Butler out. That’s part of my ultimate goal. My other goals are to not have these types of people in coaching, to have associations and organizations stand up to this behavior, and to help communities understand that it is OK to stand up when something is wrong.”

Related:

She Says She's Haunted by Coach's Misconduct : Volleyball: Julie Bremner took six years to come forward with her story of sexual abuse. -


http://articles.latimes.com/1995-10-19/sports/sp-58618_1_volleyball-officials

A Victim'e Courage: Former Volleyball Players Breaks Silence 3 Decades After Alleged Abuse -

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/i-team/ex-volleyball-player-breaks-silence-abuse-3-decades-article-1.2714260

USA Volleyball Admits Reinstating Rick Butler After Sex Abuse Allegations Was a Mistake -

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/i-team/usa-volleyball-regrets-reinstating-coach-accused-sex-abuse-article-1.2700527

Monday, June 26, 2017

Investigations into election collusion are just a hit job


Adriana Cohen 
http://www.bostonherald.com/
June 26, 2017

As special counsel, Mueller has the power to subpoena documents and prosecute any crimes, independent of Congress.
Robert Mueller (Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)


Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller should immediately call off their investigations into the cooked-up Trump-Russian collusion theories.

As real information emerges, it looks more and more like a hit job on President Trump and his administration fabricated by a witches brew of anti-Trump forces including the Obama administration, partisan DOJ/FBI officials and Democrats salivating at the notion of impeaching Trump — to steal the election from Republicans — with an ethically challenged left-wing media pushing fake news regularly. Add establishment Republicans such as U.S. Sen. John McCain, who helped fuel the fake scandal by giving the now-discredited Russia dossier to the FBI to investigate.

Not only has there been zero credible evidence to warrant any of the costly investigations to date — despite a year of digging by anti-Trump forces — we now learn the widely debunked dossier published by BuzzFeed — with an assist by CNN — was commissioned by a pro-Hillary Clinton oppo research group to take down Trump.

The slanted dossier not only sparked the whole Russiagate investigation, it also provided a bogus excuse for the Obama administration, DOJ and intel agencies to engage in improper surveillance of Trump associates, unmasking of Trump officials as well as the illegal leaking of sensitive information gathered from the sketchy spying to complicit media in a deliberate attempt to smear Trump.

If this doesn’t scream corruption and collusion at the highest echelons of our government — what does?

Fusion GPS, which commissioned the crazy Russian Dossier, claim they’re former journalists, but they are better described as political activists hired by Democrats to damage Republicans. ­Fusion GPS was also hired to dig up dirt against Mitt Romney in 2012 and go after pro-lifers causing headaches for Planned Parenthood.

The New York Post reported, “In September 2016 while Fusion GPS was quietly shopping the dirty dossier on Trump around, its co-founder and partner ­Peter R. Fritsch contributed at least $1,000 to the Hillary Clinton campaign. His wife also donated money to Hillary’s campaign.”

Worse, the FBI reportedly paid the discredited British spy Christopher Steele — whose report full of false rumors about Trump were spread to the media — $50,000 and then may have relied on Steele’s fake dossier to advance its Russian/Trump investigation.

Forget the fake Russian collusion. Congress and the special counsel should turn their attention to what the Democrats — from the Obama administration to the Clinton campaign — have been doing to undermine democracy in America.

What we know so far stinks to High Heaven.

Adriana Cohen is host of “The Adriana Cohen Show,” heard Wednesdays at noon on Boston Herald Radio. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: ‘On Human Nature’ by Roger Scruton


May 17, 2017

On Earth Day, April 22, tens of thousands of activists held the first “March for Science” in cities around the world. “Science brings out the best in us,” Bill Nye, the star of two eponymous television programs about science, told the assembly in Washington. “Together we can – dare I say it – save the world!” he said, earning the enthusiastic approval of an estimated 40,000 people. Many of the participants – in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, even in the Eternal City of Rome – carried signs saying, “In Science We Trust.”
The marchers’ slogan is misguided from a philosophical, not to mention a theological, standpoint. Science is mechanistic and analytic, not ethical and prescriptive. That makes it, at best, an incomplete guide and at worst, corrosive to human dignity. Yet increasingly, Western society turns to science as a panacea for statecraft and soulcraft. Secularists maintain that their idealized version of “science” offers irrefutable solutions to everything from contentious policy disagreements to longstanding moral and ethical quandaries. Some researchers, such as Harvard’s Marc Hauser and former National Institutes of Health scholar Dean Hamer, contend that evolution hardwired human neurological circuitry with the very notions of morality and religious belief in the first place.
Edward O. Wilson, the apostle of sociobiology, popularized this school of thought. “The brain is a product of evolution,” he wrote in his 1978 book, On Human Nature. All “higher ethical values” are merely “the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.”
Can all human nature be reduced to assuring reproduction? Are we no more than the curvature of our grey matter and the neurological links between synapses?
Almost 40 years after Wilson, Roger Scruton explores the interplay of science and self in the first chapter of his new book, also titled On Human Nature. For Scruton, humanity is not to be found apart from our physical reality but arises from its fulness and complexity. “The personal is not an addition to the biological: it emerges fromitin something like the way the face emerges from the colored patches on a canvas.” (Emphases in original.)
Humanity expresses itself above all in self-awareness, the ability to treat others as subjects and not objects, and our sense of responsibility – the moral culpability which we accept and ascribe to our actions and those of others. Persons are “free, self-conscious, rational agents, obedient to reason and bound by the moral law,” he writes. The human formula may be expressed in its simplest form as “first-person perspective, and responsibility,” a notion he explored in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation(chapters 3 and 4).
The essence of our common human nature buds forth as a “social product,” lived out in a myriad of I-You relationships (a phrase he borrows from Martin Buber), including that of citizen of a nation. Many of these are unchosen and not necessarily preferred. Yet fidelity to these obligations, which he designates “piety,” determines our moral character. It is in these contexts that our ability to treat others as co-equal persons is exercised.
The nature of liberty
Those tempted to say the abstract definition of human nature is too esoteric to be of value would do well to ponder its practical consequences. Scruton writes that I-You relationships, exercised within these contexts, have created “all that is most important in the human condition … responsibility, morality, law, institutions, religion, love, and art.” Not least among these considerations is the kind of society that subsists, germ-like, within each worldview.
Biological determinism has produced Nazi Germany, the society and ideology of Senator Theodore Bilbo, and the miasma of theirmodern-day disciples. Significantly, Martin Luther King Jr. cited Buber in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to say that segregation “substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”
Scruton dedicates another lengthy discussion to consequentialism, the notion that the ends justify any means. Moral good reduces to an arithmetic formula: The correct decision brings the greatest good to the greatest number of people, irrespective of any properties inherent in the act itself. But its proponents, such as Peter Singer, overlook “the actual record of consequentialist reasoning. Modern history presents case after case of inspired people led by visions of ‘the best’ and argues that all would work for it, the bourgeoisie included, if only they understood the impeccable arguments for its implementation.” Since privilege cloaks their benighted eyes, “violent revolution is both necessary and inevitable.”
As a result, Scruton writes, Vladmir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung brought about “the total destruction of two great societies and irreversible damage to the rest of us. Why suppose that we, applying our minds to the question of what might be best in the long run, would make a better job of it?” Instead of learning this lesson, he notes, generations of consequentialists have “regretted the ‘mistakes’ of Lenin and Mao.”
Juxtaposed to these two systems is human nature rooted in the moral interaction of equal persons. An accusation of wrongdoing yields an investigation, not an annihilation. Mutually agreed rights and responsibilities carve out a zone of autonomy inaccessible to anyone, even the State, and expedite social harmony.
This conception of human nature facilitates a free and virtuous society. “Cooperation rather than command is the first principle of collective action,” Scruton writes. “Morality exists in part because it enables us to live on negotiated terms with others,” both accountable to the tenets of right reason. He regards the “principles that underlie common-law justice in the English-speaking tradition” as “a natural adjunct to the moral order” and latent within natural law. He explicitly names six principles:
  1. Considerations that justify or impugn one person will, in identical circumstances, justify or impugn another.
  2. Rights are to be respected.
  3. Obligations are to be fulfilled.
  4. Agreements are to be honored.
  5. Disputes are to be settled by negotiation, not by force.
  6. Those who do not respect the rights of others forfeit rights of their own.
Although he does not elaborate on the kind of economic life that flows from this, it is noteworthy that he cites Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments explicitly in this context.
The role of religion
While he holds these truths to be self-evident apart from any supernatural origin, he finds believers their natural repository. “Religious people … have no difficulty in understanding that human beings are distinguished from other animals by their freedom, self-consciousness, and responsibility,” he writes:
Take away religion, however, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art, and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apartness. Human nature, once something to live up to, becomes something to live down to instead. Biological reductionism nurtures this ‘living down,’ which is why people so readily fall for it. It makes cynicism respectable and degeneracy chic. And abolishes our kind – and with it our kindness.
In four brief chapters Scruton, with characteristically elegant prose and clarity of thought, furnishes theists with an introductory grammar to defend their deeply held beliefs without relying upon special revelation. Believers, and society, are the better for it.