»  Radio Derb — Transcript

        Saturday, May 16th, 2015

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[Music clip: From Haydn's Derbyshire Marches, fife'n'drum version]

01 — Intro.     And Radio Derb is on the air! This is your devoutly genial host John Derbyshire with highlights, and some lowlights, from the week's news.

As longtime listeners may already have noticed, I choose my opening adverbs with care. This weeks' is "devoutly" because I have some religious commentary further along the podcast.

First, though, dispatches from the racial battlefront.

02 — Addenda to "The Talk."     When I published my column on the nonblack "Talk" three years ago, the column that got me in trouble with the left, one thing people particularly objected to was my advice to, quote, "Do not act the Good Samaritan to blacks in apparent distress, e.g., on the highway," end quote.

It's rather easy to find examples of why this is good advice. You can pick a couple of news stories from pretty much any week. Here's one from this week.

The location here is the McDonald's on Flatbush Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, New York City. Time: shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday, when the schools have just let out. Everyone involved here, including the Good Samaritan, is black.

Two teenage girls started fighting. Teenage boys crowded round, cheering the girls on. The Good Samaritan, an older black gentleman, tried to push through the crowd and break up the fight. The teenage boys all turned on him, beating and kicking him. The young man filming it all on his cell phone is shouting "Kill him! Kill him right now!"

Fortunately they didn't kill him. He was treated by medics at the scene, but not hospitalized. Still, it's a mighty scary video. So I shall cheerfully repeat my advice of three years ago: Don't play Good Samartitan to blacks in trouble … even if you're black yourself.

I actually missed a few points of advice. Here's one I missed.

Richard Fletcher is white, 61 years old. He lives in Dundalk, a quiet suburb of Baltimore — yes, that Baltimore. Dundalk as a whole is only nine percent black. However, the high school near where Mr. Fletcher lives, Baltimore Community High School, is 89 percent black.

On the afternoon of April 22nd, again after school had let out, Mr. Fletcher looked out of his window and saw two black girls fighting on top of his car, being cheered on by a crowd of black teenagers. Mr. Fletcher went outside to ask the girls to stop. The crowd — CBS News says "dozens" of them — turned on him and gave him a savage beating.

Mr. Fletcher was badly hurt and ended up in hospital. He suffered broken eye sockets, a broken nose, broken ribs and a brain bleed. He now faces thousands of dollars in medical bills.

As at Wednesday this week five people, aged 15 to 17, have been charged with attempted first-degree murder for the attack, and one more person, age 17, with first-degree assault. All six also face robbery charges. All are students at that local high school.

So add another one to my list of advice items from three years ago: If you look out your window and see a crowd of blacks climbing around on your car parked outside, do not go out and try to stop them.

In fact, given the timing of those two incidents, I'll add yet another one: If you live near a high school that's 89 percent black, stay home with doors locked and curtains drawn when school's letting out.

03 — Secularism advancing.     OK, let's talk about religion. [Boo, hiss.]

Oh, come on. Tuesday this week the Pew Research Center published a report titled America's Changing Religious Landscape, subtitle: "Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." People have been commenting on it, and I'm going to comment on it too. You got a problem with that?

That subtitle tells you the gist of the report. Yes, Christians have declined sharply as a share of the U.S. population: from 78.4 percent to 70.6 in just seven years, 2007 to 2014. On a linear extrapolation, that would mean that sometime in the year 2077 there will be no Christians left at all in the U.S.A.

One of the commonest complaints I got about my 2009 book We Are Doomed concerned my prediction, in the chapter on religion, that the U.S.A. will follow Europe into mass secularism. "Never happen!" my conservative friends said. "This will always be the God-soaked country!" Well, guess what: I WAS RIGHT! [Applause.]

The quantitative blogger who calls himself Audacious Epigone used the General Social Survey to construct a graph that I think I shall name my Graph of the Week. Title of the graph: Percentage of Americans with no religious affiliation, by year.

There are two lines on the graph: one for all Americans, one for Americans under 30. Remember we're graphing no religious affiliation here, so high numbers mean more un-affiliated people. Both lines, the one for all Americans and the one for under-30s, both lines are fairly steady through the 1970s and 1980s, then in 1991 turn sharply upwards. They've been heading upwards ever since.

That steadiness through the 70s and 80s had un-affiliated Americans at large wobbling around six, seven, eight percent. Americans under thirty wobbled somewhat higher, around twelve, thirteen, fourteen percent. The last data point on the graph, for 2014, shows 21 percent unaffiliated overall, 31 percent for the younger cohort. Both those numbers are six percent higher than when I published We Are Doomed in 2009.

So the basic message here is: I told you so. Why don't you listen?

What to make of this? That calls for another segment.

04 — Religion touches everything human.     Religion divides human beings into two broad groups, which I think of privately as the "hot" and the "cold."

"Hot" people are passionate about religion one way or the other: passionately religious, or passionately anti-religious.

The "cold" people are religiously indifferent. They just don't care either way. They're not religious, but they don't mind religion the way militant atheists do. Some of them will even tell you they believe in God; but in a passive, unconcerned kind of way, like 18th-century Deists. These "cold" people are sometimes referred to as "apatheists."

What studies like this latest one from the Pew Center seem to tell us is that apatheism is on the increase. The "cold" people are growing in number, the "hot" people are declining.

There is much more to be said than that, though. When you talk about religion, there is always more to be said. If you're interested in the study of human nature, religion is endlessly fascinating even if, like me, you belong to the "cold" demographic. Religion touches everything human and can be approached from so many angles.

If you open up a conversation about religion people usually come at it through metaphysics: The purpose of life, the nature of reality, the existence of the soul, and so on. To me as an apatheist that's the least interesting aspect, mainly because we just don't have any knowledge about any of those things — unless of course you accept the scriptural authority of some one particular religion as knowledge, which apatheists mostly don't.

Religion is really interesting when you come at it through the human sciences, though. Through individual psychology, for example: Think of William James' classic book The Varieties of Religious Experience, or more recently Bruce Hood's Supersense. Then there's the sociological approach — the way religion works in society, as a bonding force, or — depending on the society — a divisive one. Allied to that is the anthropological approach launched 120 years ago by Sir James Frazer with The Golden Bough. Branching off from that is the approach via evolutionary psychology: Scott Atran's In Gods We Trust, for example, or Nicholas Wade's The Faith Instinct. There's a political angle too: think of the Religious Right.

There's even a demographic aspect: Five years ago I reviewed Eric Kaufmann's book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, which starts from the fact that intensely religious groups make a lot more babies than do apatheists or people who are just mildly religious. Kaufmann concludes that, yes, the religious likely shall inherit the earth. That seems to go against this week's Pew report, but Kaufmann's taking a long view.

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to dump a reading list on you. I only want to make the point that in commenting on human nature at large, which is part of what I try to do, religion can't be avoided. Religious belief arises from some fundamental features of the human personality; it's at play in almost every aspect of the human world.

Even among apatheists you find a lot of vague spirituality. As I noted in We Are Doomed, the Barna Group, a different social-research institute, found that two-thirds of atheists and agnostics believe in an afterlife!

And it's a commonplace observation that many non-religious belief systems, like Marxism or fascism or even support for sports teams, appear to plug in to the mind's religious modules to some degree.

I'd even include militant atheism there. You'll remember I lumped militant atheists in the "hot" population, along with intensely religious people. They seem to me to be kin in some way, the God-lovers and the God-haters.

Time to recycle the old quip: When people stop believing in God, they don't start believing in nothing: they start believing in anything!

Well, well, that's all editorial. What should we infer from this latest Pew report, and from my Graph of the Week? What, to start with, was so special about 1991, when the graphs for unbelief turned sharply upwards? And then, what do these trends mean for the future?

One more segment on this.

05 — New gods for old?     My guesses about why the graph for unbelief turned sharply up in 1991, and about the trend through the following years, are the same as they were in We Are Doomed:

  • the maturing of the American welfare state,
  • the spread of work involving symbol manipulation, and
  • the rise of the internet.

With 1991 as the key date you have to suspect that the end of the Cold War had something to do with it, too, but I can't figure out how.

As for the future, I have no clue. Linear exrapolation tells you nothing, because nothing grows to the sky. I very much doubt that the U.S.A. of 2077 will be Christian-free. Those graphs will not go up for ever. Thoughtful citizens of Imperial Rome worried about declining belief in the old gods: a thousand years later Rome was a great religious capital. Prediction for the long term is a mug's game.

Quite possibly Eric Kaufmann is right: The religious shall inherit the earth: The religious tortoise will overtake the secular hare by sheer demographics.

I will make this prediction for the short term, though: For the next couple of decades at any rate, secularism will continue to advance.

Three reasons.

  • One: Religion as a refuge and a consolation against the pain and hardship of life naturally declines as those pains and hardships recede. For at least the foreseeable future, they will continue to recede … God willing!
  • Two: The yearning for fellowship, for brotherhood, that religion traditionally satisfied will be answered by ever more sophisticated social networks of the Facebook type.
  • Three: The rise of intelligent machines will erode the general belief in human exceptionalism. That might end with machines themselves getting religion. It's not preposterous: David Gelernter suggested building a religious computer fifteen years ago in his book The Muse in the Machine. Whether the machines will get one of our religions or we'll get theirs, I wouldn't venture to speculate …

Well, I spread myself there. As you can see, it's a topic I find interesting. That's not as peculiar as it sounds coming from an apatheist. Human nature is interesting — the most interesting thing of all! — and religious belief is a core feature of human nature.

If you want to engage with another apatheist who's similarly inclined but way more knowledgable on the subject than I am, check out Razib Khan's posts on Unz.com. It was in fact Razib's May 13th post titled The Rise of Religion, the Decline of Belief, that got me interested in this week's Pew report. So if you think there's way too much about that report, and about religion in general, in this week's Radio Derb, blame Razib!

06 — Mug us again!     Mention of Razib Khan brings us to Islam, the religion of Razib's ancestors. In fact, if I remember right, Razib's grandfather was an Imam, and Razib himself got part of his education in a Madrassah.

I've stated Radio Derb's position on Islam before, and I'll state it again now. We have nothing against Islam. It seems like a fine religion that's given spiritual support and consolation to millions of people across hundreds of years. Jolly good luck to Islam.

The evidence is plain, however, that Islam is not a good guest in non-Islamic countries. A wise country that is not Islamic in its culture and traditions will not permit mass settlement by Muslims. It's just asking for trouble.

Muslims have plenty of countries of their own. Plenty — 57 listed on the website of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, from Afghanistan to Yemen. Forty-nine of those countries have Muslim majorities. Any Muslim who wants to move to another country is spoiled for choice. Any Western nation that allows mass settlement by Muslims is being very foolish, given the trouble caused by a fanatical minority of Muslims. 9/11 should have made that point beyond dispute.

It didn't, of course, and Western nations, I think without exception, continue in the gross folly of permitting mass settlement by Muslims.

On Monday this week Daniel Horowitz at Conservative Review wrote about the breathtaking scale of that folly in the particular case of the U.S.A. Using statistics from the Department of Homeland Security [laugh] Horowitz shows that the pace of immigration from Muslim countries has doubled since 9/11. From 2001 to 2013 more than 1.6 million people from predominantly Muslim countries were issued green cards for permanent settlement in the U.S.A.

Heading the list of nations there: Pakistan, which has settled over 200,000 people here since 9/11; Iran, 167 thousand; Nigeria and Bangladesh, 150 thousand each …

One point six million. As Horowitz says, if only ten percent are jihadists, that's 160,000 jihadists. If only one percent are, that's still sixteen thousand.

True, not every immigrant from a Muslim-majority nation is a Muslim. Still, not every immigrant from a non-Muslim nation is a non-Muslim, either. Some proportion of immigrants from Britain, France, and India are Muslims. So that's a wash.

As Horowitz also said, this is just the numbers for green cards issued — immigrant-status visas. Huge numbers of non-immigrant visas have also been issued. Student visas, for example. Saudi Arabia alone was granted 54,000 student visas during the 2013/14 academic year. That's almost a thousand percent increase since 9/11. A thousand percent! Eleven times as many as when Saudi nationals flew planes into the World Trade Center!

This is sheer insanity. We gain nothing from the mass immigration of Muslims — nothing but danger for our citizens, and an increase in surveillance by our security agencies, with corresponding de-crease in our liberties. Our immigration policy is nuts. It's crazy. Quote from Daniel Horowitz, quote:

Who voted for these policies? When did the American people ever have the opportunity to give input through a transparent process to the radical transformation of America? How many Americans would have supported a decision post-9/11 to roughly double the rate of Islamic immigration?

07 — Numbers are of the essence.     Just a footnote to the preceding segment.

I started out talking about Razib Khan, who immigrated with his family from Bangladesh. Then I ranted about the folly of permitting mass Muslim immigration. So … should we have let Razib in? Now that he's in, should we expel him?

Here's where the particular collides with the general. It happens a lot.

It happens with blacks, for example. I talk and write a lot about the wrong-headedness, the scientific illiteracy of pretending that there are no statistical differences between the continental races in behavior, intelligence, and personality. Of course there are. If you deny that, you just end up with bad, dumb social policies and masses of wasted public money from trying to, for example, close racial gaps in academic achievement, or get more black policemen and firefighters by lowering entry standards to those professions.

So, people ask me, what about so-and-so (naming some smart, capable, socially useful black person)? Are you down on him, too?

Of course not. I'm not down on anybody. Of course I know there are smart, capable, decent blacks. Who doesn't know it? I had dinner with one a couple of weeks ago. I just think reality is better than fantasy and truth is better than lies; and if you base social policy on fantasy and lies, nothing good will come of it. That's all.

Same with immigration. It's about numbers. Would I care if we let 1,000 Mexicans settle in the U.S.A. every year, after being properly vetted? No, I wouldn't care at all. A thousand Nigerians? A thousand Muslims? A thousand Chinese? Same answer. With numbers at that level, we could do proper background checking before issuing visas, and in-country supervision once people got here, without compromising the freedom of our citizens. No problem.

But … One point six million Muslims? Three and a half million Chinese? Thirty-five million Mexicans? These numbers are beyond anything we can properly vet, manage, or supervise.

I say again: It's a question of how you salt your stew. It's numbers, numbers.

Do I want to expel Razib back to Bangladesh? No: but I do want to stop further Muslim immigration, and indeed mass immigration altogether. With sane policies and a bit of luck, we might be able to absorb the numbers we've already got, but to go on importing people at the current rate is lunacy. If we can't absorb any particular group, we can do what the Israelis do and bribe them to leave — buy out their citizenship if necessary.

Numbers: If you don't know the numbers, or are not willing to think about them, or don't understand how they relate to your topic, then you're not saying anything worth listening to in the sciences, and that includes the human and social sciences.

I know, I bang on about this matter of numbers a lot. I'm not alone, though. A couple of years ago geneticist Greg Cochran had a post on his blog working the same theme. Greg quoted from the great 19th-century British physicist Lord Kelvin; and I like the quote so much I'm going to re-quote it here. Lord Kelvin, quote:

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.

08 — Miscellany.     And now, our closing miscellany of brief items.

Imprimis:  Chris Burden has passed away at his home in Topanga, California. He was 69, and died from melanoma.

Who was Chris Burden? Well, he was famous, or as famous as you can be, as a performance artist. Burden eschewed canvas, paint, stone, bronze, and other conventional artist's materials. The medium he worked in was his own body.

Quote from the New York Times obituary, quote:

Among his most famous early works were "Shoot" (1971), in which a confederate shot him in the arm with a .22 rifle from about 15 feet away, and "Trans-fixed" (1974), in which Mr. Burden had himself nailed, Christlike, over the hump of a Volkswagen Beetle.

End quote. Well, if the New York Times says it's art, who am I to argue with them?

The best line in the Times obituary is this one, though. Quote:

Trained as a Minimalist, Mr. Burden began his career by making art that employed the most minimal materials possible …

End quote. OK: how exactly do you train as a minimalist? I have this mental image of the first and only training session. The trainer welcomes him in, says: "Right, Chris. I'm going to train you in minimalism." The trainer then stands there dead silent for a minute or two. A bell rings. "That's the end of your training," says the trainer. "You are free to go and practice."

Wouldn't that be a perfectly adequate training for minimalism? Seems to me it would.

Before he passed away, Mr. Burden was kind enough to record a minimalist item for this podast. Here it is.

Item:  [Silence.]

Item:  There is a move afoot to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Jackson was a slave-owner, you see. I can confirm that he was: I have actually been in one of the slave cabins on Jackson's estate in Nashville. Not bad: about like the English coal-miners' cottages my grandparents lived in. Plantation slaves were of course much too valuable to risk in dangerous work like coal-mining, but the domestic living standards seem to have been about the same.

Anyway, some Cultural Marxist outfit is agitating to have Jackson removed from the Jackson. They ran an online poll on their website for who should replace him. The winner was Harriet Tubman.

Who she? I have no idea. I know who Jackson was. I've toured his house and plantation, and stood on one of his battlefields — Horseshoe Bend, Alabama. I don't know who Tubman was. I see from the news pictures that she's black and female — an affirmative-action twofer, which I guess is good enough to put her on the currency in these degraded times.

And while I don't know who Harriet Tubman was, I'm guessing that every American who graduated from high school in the past 30 years does know who she was. How many of them know who Andrew Jackson was, is a question perhaps best not asked.

09 — Signoff.     That's it for this week, ladies and gents.

Since there has been a vaguely religious theme in this week's podcast, I thought I'd sign off with a hymn.

This hymn is a bit of a curiosity. Last week I had words to say about Franz Joseph Haydn. I mentioned his having been inspired, on his visit to London, by the British national anthem, God Save the King, and how on his return to Austria he wrote an anthem for the new Hapsburg Emperor in the same spirit. That was Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser, to the tune we now call Austria. The Germans later appropriated that same tune for their national anthem, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.

Well, now: When I was a wee child at elementary school in England, back in the mid-1950s, we used to sing a splendidly belligerent hymn to that same tune. I don't recall hearing that hymn sung since then. I'm pretty sure we didn't sing it at my secondary school, from 1956 onwards.

The hymn seems in fact to have disappeared without trace. Perhaps it was thought too militaristic in the kinder'n'gentler society that developed after the flush of victory in WW2 faded in the mid-1950s. My 1982 Episcopal Church hymnal doesn't include it; but then, neither does my 1931 edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, so I guess it wasn't ever an "official" Anglican hymn. Perhaps it was just a wartime hymn that lingered on for a few years.

Strangest of all, I can't find a rendering of it on YouTube. This is very bad news for Radio Derb listeners, as it means I'll have to sing it myself, a cappella. I can't resist doing so, though. I love this kind of tiny cultural oddity; and it's good to be reminded of the time when Christianity, even Anglican Christianity, had some testosterone in it.

OK, here goes: from memory — and this is a sixty-year-old memory, so it's not guaranteed word perfect. If anyone else remembers singing these words, or better yet knows who wrote them, I'd be interested to hear from you. Use the email address at johnderbyshire.com.

God is with us! God is with us!
So our great forefathers sang.
Far across the field of battle
Loud their holy war cry rang.
Never once they feared nor faltered;
Never once they ceased to sing:
God is with is! God is with us!
Christ our everlasting king!