Louder Fenn

Saturday, March 02, 2002

I just learned of these two documents from the Vatican: Ethics in Internet and The Church and Internet. I haven't read them yet, but I wanted to alert you to them.

Our friend Libertarians at Samizdata have already picked up on a quote, taken from an article in Wired, in which the Church mentions and condemns the libertarianism of the Internet. Samizdata headlines their posting thus: "Libertarians: the New Protestants?" I realize that they're being only half-serious; but really, the analogy would hold only if the Church had founded and now controlled the Internet. Samizdata thinks they are at the start of some great Rebellion; yet it is they, the perennial Rebels, who founded and control the Internet. The true Rebellion, if it comes, will not come from them; only the Church is in a true position to rebel.

P.S. When I say that libertarians "founded and control the Internet," I don't mean that in a shadowy, black-helicopter, X-Files kind of way. All I mean is that the computer and scientific communities are predominantly libertarian.
Continuing my response to an article about cloning...

Reynolds answers some more objections:

2. Cloning will work too well. It will produce so many successful clones that it will replace sexual reproduction, leading to a loss of genetic diversity.

The inconsistency with the argument above is obvious. Also, widespread cloning won't lead to a loss of diversity: at least, if everyone alive cloned him or herself once, we'd have exactly as much diversity as we have now. I suppose if someone produced six billion copies of Bill Gates we'd have a problem. But, really, how likely is that?

To be honest, I don't see any "obvious inconsistency." If cloning does become the preferred method of reproduction, of course diversity will diminish: My clone clones himself; the clone of my clone clones himself; the clone of my clone of my clone clones himself... And every one is genetically me, right down the line. The point is, we wouldn't have just one iteration, as Reynolds puts it ("if everyone clones himself once"). One could argue that diversity is already in place; but cloning would surely halt an increase in diversity. Even with random mutations and the persistence of some sexual reproduction, we would stagnate, surely.

3. Cloning will produce soulless zombie tools of the corporate power structure.

No, it won't. Lucas aside, clones won't be any more soulless than identical twins, who are simply natural clones. And they won't be zombies unless something else is done to make them that way — like, perhaps, making them sit through The Phantom Menace a few hundred times. And that would be the crime against humanity, not the cloning that preceded it.

I'd almost think Reynolds is deliberately picking the weakest arguments, just so he can make the easy kill. I'm not saying this argument isn't made. But let's look at this without cute references to Star Wars: If we, as a society, decide that it is okay to manufacture human beings, do you really think that the Corporate Power Structure won't find a way to make soulless zombies? Precisely because they would be "soulless" -- meat machines, as it were -- people like Reynolds probably wouldn't even object: Many people today have already decided that some humans are not persons and may therefore be aborted in the womb -- and those are humans who aren't manufactured. How would a Mark-VII Biodroid fare any better in Reynolds's moral universe?

P.S. Do I think that because cloning will likely lead to soulless zombies, that therefore cloning is wrong? No. But I would say this: Take it as a warning. Back in the day, one of the things said against the legalization of abortion was: "If you legalize abortion, euthanasia will inevitably follow." Those who said this were scoffed at. But guess what? Grandma's getting afraid to go to the hospital... The point is, once you make the choice of a certain "morality," certain other things logically follow. So be warned.

Friday, March 01, 2002

A very thoughtful article by John Derbyshire, on death and 9/11.

There's another selector out there, this one to determine your religion. Although I don't put too much stock in these things, I was actually worried that I'd not be what I think I am. As it was, there were no real surprises:

1. Eastern Orthodox (100%)
2. Roman Catholic (100%)
3. Conservative Protestant (89%)
4. Seventh Day Adventist (77%)
5. Orthodox Quaker (76%)
6. Orthodox Judaism (61%)

I don't know about 4 & 5. Probably akin to my scoring high as a Randian. Weird. Since my 1 & 2 were both 100%, I suppose they could be switched. Given the way the Church approaches some things these days (re Vatican II), maybe I am, in a way, more Eastern Orthodox sometimes; but only by today's diminished standards. I'm afraid I can't join my Eastern brethren in the Great Schism. But that's another issue...
You know, if you ever come here and my banner above does not appear -- I apologize. I still haven't figured out if it's a browser issue or something else. My banner is coming from a server other than BlogSpot (since BlogSpot does not serve images); so maybe that's the issue. I'm looking at solutions.
So Daschle says that if we fail to capture bin Laden, then the war will be a failure. Never mind if we destroy al Qaeda, rout the Taliban, rebuild Afghanistan, kill Saddam, liberate Iraq, scare the French, clean up the Phillipines, bring down the Iranian mullahs, and, oh by the way, make homeland America just that much safer... If that one pathetic psychopath escapes, it will all be a colossal flop. You can see what Daschle's doing here. We probably never will capture bin Laden. And so, come the elections, Daschle and his minions can chomp into Bush as a failed war leader. Daschle is such a contemptible slug. Nothing matters to him and his ilk but the destruction of Republicans. Amazing. What a slug.

P.S. In fairness to the Slug, I found a more complete quote of what he said. He said if we don't capture bin Laden and Omar and break al Qaeda, then we will have failed. My point still stands. And the Slug is just revealing his lack of imagination. I swear, he would have been happy with just pushing Hitler back out of Poland. Can't we all just get along? Slug.
The Spare Midge
Modicum 8

Midge had gone shopping. Singing earrings; mobile tattoos; a small dancing monkey with a choreography co-Am; a real-time shunt into the gallery of Willi Chun himself, who produced livid works of Incompletion every forty two minutes; and, more mundanely, a wardrobe not quite available on little Takla Makan.

Of her new wardrobe she wore a veil (a fabric of suns and moons), white cotton gloves rolled at her wrists, and a calico dress that reached to her ankles. That's all she wore. She told me what I already knew, that the dress could open, in the front, any length up and past her neck — though she would seldom need her neck exposed.

She had also bought a small colony of virgin-maker fleas. They were living inside her. Whenever necessary, they would come down and reconstruct her physical virginity. Every boy, after all, prefers a virgin girl.

Midge had been with five boys that day, taking advantage of her easy-open dress and renewable virginity. She had not asked their names; the second boy, clearly a regular at the Unending Wham, could not even give his name: his face was erased — for his perfect anonymity — and so he had no mouth. Two other boys, apart from the five, had refused Midge's refusals; and she had wounded them. She had also broken a hundred hearts. Her scanself, taken by some roving netjackers, was already populating the Amnet of Rock.

On top of that, she was drunk six different ways.

Midge had never been so relentlessly excessive before. Of course she had also never been eighty nine light-years away from Mother. Midge was now cut off from any judgment. Oh, Mother had not raised Midge to be a good girl, not as such; but she had persisted in trying to raise her. The docspock co-Am — which, I sometimes think, got very frustrated by Mother's incompetence — was forever downloading the latest schemes from a thousand worlds, and Mother was forever applying them to Midge. Whether the schemes counseled discipline or license, Midge's conduct was always subject to review. Midge hated it.

She envied Mother's indifference to me.

Ó 2002 Louder Fenn
Kevin Holtsberry has a nice anecdote about trying to see U2 as a youth. His anecdote; the NRO article that prompted his anecdote; and my next modicum of The Spare Midge, have all got me wondering about the potential conflicts between Art and Faith.

I'm not about to resolve such conflict in this post. But things do occur to me.

Like almost everyone else in this age, I have chosen my form of popular music. Unfortunately, mine is probably the very farthest from Restfulness in God: hardcore heavy metal. While one can certainly imagine the sounds of a U2 being wedded to faithful ideas, the sounds of what I listen to... hey, I'm not talking Stryper or Bon Jovi or Def Leppard, which my brother once accurately described as Heavy Aluminum. While I have enough class to avoid the bloodily violent and certainly I reject the out-and-out anti-Christian garbage, I cling to some extremely Hard Stuff. Let's put it this way: Nothing I listen to will ever make it into Muzak.

When I returned to the Faith nine years ago, I got rid of everything, even the Devo. It was that typical purging of the re-born. As the years passed, though, things crept back in. Not nearly the worst of it; but things I wouldn't show to my nieces and nephews. Is my discretion well-founded -- or unthinking? Is there something intrinsically Satanic about the sound of death-grinding guitars? Is it the sound -- or is it what is spoken from within the sound?

Are some forms of Art simply contrary to a good Christian life?

And I wonder about the Art that I produce. (I use Art with a capital A not to elevate myself; I'm just speaking in grand terms.) Certainly my works for children are at least not contrary to the Faith. I hope.

Yet I do wonder about one story I wrote (which was also published): It's about an extremely unhappy 16-year-old girl. She does a terrible thing at one point and there is never a moment of penitence or redemption. There is, at the end, a subtle shift in the narrator, towards his girlfriend, who is Catholic and who has asked God to intervene with His grace; but in some ways, I indulge that awful 16-year-old girl. She is never actually called to account.

And that brings me to The Spare Midge.

This story, of course, is utterly for adults. Especially because part of Midge's dissolution -- all of it, really -- is wrapped up in sex. Now how does one depict a sexually dissolute teenage girl without descending into porn? Well, as a matter of principle I think it is only the incompetent artist who ever actually uses the word (brace yourself) penis in a story. As soon as you start describing the mechanics of sex, you've descended into mere titillation; and I don't care if you're a genius otherwise.

At the same time, sex is what it is, and if you're going to use it in a story, you can't be overly scrupulous. Tasteful, yes; but how tasteful can you be, when it is dissolution you're depicting? Balances, balances.

So what is my solution? I'm not sure. A kind of smirking, casual weirdness. What do I mean? Well -- read Modicum 8 of The Spare Midge, which I will be posting tonight. I think this passage is about as -- well -- crude as I get. Again, no porn. God forbid. But not PG-rated, either.

Would God, reading this passage, be disappointed in me?

It seems I have, via permalinks, mysteriously transmittted my physical sickness to HokiePundit. I'm sorry, man. I would not wish this on anyone -- well, except for a few choice Democrats; but never you, HokiePundit, never you!
I've previously made two excerpts from my jen-yoo-wine copy of The London Gazette from July 1691 (on the Ottoman [read Muslim] siege of Vienna and a sale of Francis Bacon's Essays); here is another interesting excerpt:

A Tall slim Youth, with lank light brown Hair, aged about 16, of a fresh Complexion, with a long Roman Nose, Servant to Mr. John Young, of Westminster, Dancing-Master, rid away on the 4th instant, with 95 Guinea's; on a White Nag about 14 hands, with two Blood Spavings on the inside of his hind Legs, and a shorn Mane. Whoever secures him, and gives notice at Buffelo Head Tavern in King-Street, Westminster, shall have 5 Guinea's Reward, and Charges.

Calling all Cars! Be on the lookout...

Notice how the Youth is not even named. This doesn't seem to be merely the fashion; there are other notices of robberies and the suspects are named. I wonder if Mr. Young knew his servant's name. Probably. But it's amusing to think otherwise.

Briefly it seems as if Dancing-Master is the county (?) that contains Westminster; but it must be Mr. Young's profession -- yes?

It says the Youth "rid" (presumably rode) away "on the 4th instant." Now, what does that mean? Four o'clock? Or, in the late 17th century, did they keep time of the precise seconds? "I shall meet You on the 8,345th instant of to-day..." Of course not. But what's an "instant" in this context?

Other cool details: The measurement by Hands (which is actually familiar to me) and the mention of the "Blood Spavings." At first I thought maybe this was some sort of branding; but actually it's a disease (and it's defined right there in my Random House Dictionary).

And look! The "Buffelo Head Tavern." This was 1691. Did they know about buffalo? How could they? Had Europeans infiltrated the Great Plains by then? I admit ignorance here. Could be, though. Or is "buffelo" a word that was appropriated for what we call buffalo? Did it once just refer to bulls? Hm.

The niftiest part is that this is essentially an advertisement for a bounty ("5 Guinea's Reward, and Charges"). I'm almost certain 1691 was before the creation of the London Metropolitan Police. You wanted to catch a crook, you got a hunter. Wow -- the Wild, Wild East!

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