Atheism is inconsistent with the scientific method, says the winner of this year’s Templeton Prize, Marcelo Gleiser, a theoretical physicist at Dartmouth.

Lifeway, the nation’s biggest Christian retail chain, to close all 170 stores.

Psychiatry’s incurable hubris: “The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.”

A pirate’s life: “The pirate’s life has long intrigued people of all ages. The tales of Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Amaro Parso and William Kidd have earned their rightful place in the history books. Lord Byron’s The Corsair (1814), Sir Walter Scott’s The Pirate (1821-22) and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883) captured the imagination of curious readers. Film versions, including Long John Silver, Captain Blood, the comedic Yellowbeard and Peter Pan’s great adversary, Captain Hook, continue to amaze us. It’s also impossible to forget the occasional young pirate who comes waltzing to your door at Halloween looking for sugary treasures. Which brings us to Eric Jay Dolin’s new book, Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates. The historian and author acknowledges that ‘many people view pirates in a romantic light,’ but he emphatically states ‘there was absolutely nothing romantic about them.’”

How Polynesia came to be inhabited was, for many years, a mystery: “The centuries have thrown up a number of theories. Heyerdahl, for example, was convinced that the early settlers were Incas from South America (a belief built almost exclusively on the presence in Polynesia of the sweet potato, a vegetable indigenous to the Americas). Others theorised that Polynesia was settled by the ancient Greeks or seafaring Egyptians or even a lost tribe of wandering Jews…Where Sea People really breaks new ground is in Thompson’s ability to unpick not just the evolving (and sometimes revolving) research findings, but the personalities and prejudices of the researchers themselves. Time and again, she shows how insights were missed and opportunities lost because of the questioners’ inability to look outside their own cultural prism. Generously, Thompson puts this down less to intellectual arrogance or pig-headedness (true though both are) and more to the inherent difficulty of seeing the world from another’s point of view.”

Pelagius the progressive: “The year 2018 marked the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of the excommunication of one of Christianity’s most famous heretics: the fifth-century monk Pelagius, who gave his name to “Pelagianism,” the set of beliefs that denies the doctrine of original sin and the need for grace in order to live a virtuous life and attain salvation. A Council of Carthage in then-Christian North Africa condemned Pelagius and Pelagianism in 418. The Council of Ephesus in 431 confirmed the condemnation. Anti-Pelagianism thrived during the Reformation and its aftermath. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England specifically rejected Pelagianism. Early Lutheran and Calvinist tracts, affirmed in a series of Protestant synods, featured denunciations of Pelagius, whose teachings were taken to be implied in the “works righteousness” (indulgences and other ­practices) of the Catholic Church in the Late Middle Ages. On the Counter-­Reformation side, in 1546, the Council of Trent denounced ­Pelagianism as well. That was then. Recent years have seen a campaign to turn the tables on traditional orthodoxy and make Pelagius into a saint, or at least a respectable Christian.”

Essay of the Day:

Perhaps you remember the poet Toby Martinez de las Rivas from last year? He was accused of being a fascist by the critic Dave Coates because he used the metaphor of a black sun (a supposed Nazi symbol) in one of his poems and because Rivas complained at some point that Marxism had ruined poetry. In The Dark Horse, Rob Mackenzie writes about how crazy the accusation was:

“Ideological criticism demands close attention, careful listening and well-researched contextual awareness. It ought not to wilfully twist a text until it says what a critic wants it to say. Critical reinterpretation entails drawing out, not adding in. I find one authority for this approach in Dave Coates himself: ‘there’s a world of difference between a critic imposing their needs and wishes on a text, and a critic listening to the text’s needs and wishes. Which seems obvious, but the former is still very popular, and basically useless.’ (Dave Coates, Twitter, 22 June 2018.)

“Nothing I read in Black Sun gave me an impression of ‘nakedly fascist ideology’ (Coates). No one else had detected it either until Coates published his article, when a small chorus of Twitterati wanted to get in on the act. Someone linked to a Wikipedia page that depicted a black sun as a fascist symbol. It was astonishing how easily and quickly people were convinced that Martinez now had no leg to stand on. They didn’t appear to notice that the jagged Nazi symbol, carved into the floor of Himmler’s castle in 1936, looked entirely different to the eclipsed sun that appears regularly in both of Martinez’s books. But, more seriously, they didn’t appear to know that the black sun image goes back far further than the twentieth century. Nerval used it as a symbol of depression and melancholia. A. B. Jackson, reviewing Terror in the Poetry Review, links the image to ‘the alchemical Sol Niger or black sun, a spiritual dark hour before the dawn’ (Volume 104, No 3, Autumn 2014). But it goes back further than that. It is found in Judeo-Christian apocalyptic writing, such as Revelation 6: 12— ‘The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair’. Just before the death of Jesus on the cross, we read, ‘there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst’ (Luke 23: 44–45). It’s also in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament e.g. Joel 2: 31—‘The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.’ Should Christians and Jews give up their own imagery just because fringe Nazi groups have appropriated the words ‘black sun’? Should we let them take whatever they want? That seems ludicrous to me. Images of apocalypse and judgement, and of the crucifixion, are ubiquitous in Martinez’s Black Sun collection. It could be that biblical illiteracy is a major reason for a collective inability to locate the most likely origin of an eclipse symbol used by a poet whose obsession with apocalyptic Christian imagery is apparent on page after page. I asked Martinez if he was aware of the Nazi appropriation of the black sun. He told me he had not been until after his first book had been published and he’d written several poems for his second. He decided to ignore it, presuming no one would ever think for a second that he was referencing it.

“Martinez’s attack on the metropolis, the black sun hanging in judgement over London, is partly an attack on what he perceives as a liberal orthodoxy in universities and other cultural institutions, and also an attack on privileged, well-educated poets who have never known real hardship or worked with people living on the edge, who write on political issues but couch everything in irony, sarcasm and an apparent determination for obfuscation to avoid saying anything serious. I am not really guessing. I know this because that’s pretty much what he said at the reading event in the Lighthouse.”

Read the rest. (HT: H. Dietzman)

Photo: Khazineh Canyon

Poem: David Kirby, “Negative Reviews of Famous Italian Cultural Sites”

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