Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hell came out of the portal

John Podhoretz in Commentary:
Gehenna, a synonym for Hell, is a real place, or so the Bible tells us. You can see it today. It is a valley outside Jerusalem, the valley of the son of Hinnom, and it was where worshippers of the idol Moloch sacrificed children to sate their god’s hungers.
Gehenna was revived today in Newton, Connecticut, where as many as 20 children at last report were slaughtered in an elementary school this morning.
We learn in the book of Kings that in the seventh century BCE, the prophet Jeremiah demanded that King Josiah destroy the idolator’s temple in Gehenna to prevent more sacrifices to Moloch. We can presume from the newsworthiness of this act that child sacrifice was once a relatively common practice in the ancient Middle East, as we know it to have been in other pagan cultures.
The connection between the protection of children and the practice of monotheism dates back to the beginning. After Abraham becomes the first Jew, the first monotheist, he is tasked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the miracle child of his and his wife Sarah’s old age, and he takes up the task without complaint until God stays his hand. The story of Isaac’s binding, the akedah, is one of the most challenging of the Bible and is often taken to mean God was testing Abraham’s faith with the ultimate demand. But one might also say that at the very dawn of the worship of the One God, the Bible was placing the sacrifice of children outside the realm of the thinkable for the first time.
The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West. One cannot conceive of anything more monstrous than a person or persons who could look small children in the eye and systematically shoot them dead. Which is why this crime, among the worst crimes in American history, is not just an assault on the children, or their families, or the town of Newtown—though it is all those things.
What the killer(s) did today was nothing less than a contemporary sacrifice to Moloch, in whatever form Moloch manifests himself today—the appeasement of a voice in the head, most likely. Evil, even if it is loosed due to mental illness, is an effort to destroy the common good by making good appear powerless, ineffectual, weak. Today saw a horrifically effective effort to give evil a victory. It has opened a portal and brought Hell to earth.
Gehenna is real again.

Hell came out the portal yesterday, in Newtown. But the killer didn't open it. It's already open. Perhaps it's always been open, but it seems more open now. For the past century we have degraded human life. We discard our unwanted children before we've seen them or held them. We have sterilized the weak and 'terminated' the handicapped in the womb to breed better humans. We have contracepted and sterilized women and aborted and abandoned our babies by the hundreds of millions to control "overpopulation" in service to raw junk science. We have let preening ideological fanatics cripple insect-borne disease eradication programs in Third World countries, leaving tens of millions-- mostly children and pregnant women-- to die. We murdered six million of our brothers and sisters to "cleanse" humanity of their "race". 

Now most of us, blessedly, haven't played pivotal roles in bringing Hell to the world. But nearly all of us have stood back, excused, dissembled, rationalized evil, in one form or another. We do it in little ways, in our personal lives, in our smaller sins. Some of us do it in bigger ways, in our infidelities and divorces and greed and callousness. And sometimes that evil explodes, in Bergen-Belsen, or in a One-Child Policy clinic in Bejing, or in an anti-pesticide conclave in Stockholm, or in Planned Parenthood headquarters in New York, or in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. 

But, for most of us, we coax Hell in the small things we do, and fail to do.

We can fight back, each in his own way, against what erupted in Newtown. Evil is a simulacrum. Hell is linked-- great and small. We can defy it, each day. How are we, you and I, holding open the portal?


  1. Michael,

    You really are sick, attempting to use batshit crazy theology to gloss over the fact that it is America's extremely lax gun laws that allowed the massacre to occur.

    Hell had nothing to do with it. Your God didn't allow this to happen, because of abortion. Or population control in China (a nominally Buddhist country) or India (a Hindu country). Or the Holocaust. Or the banning of DDT in agriculture (DDT hasn't been banned in malaria control - it's just hasn't been used effectively, because its difficult for underdeveloped countries to maintain the program consistently). Let alone because of divorce and the greed for material objects, except perhaps for guns of all sorts, which are worshipped by gun enthusiasts.

    Your idea of putting armed security guards in all schools just won't work, and is just an attempt to gloss over the refusal of America to face up to the failure of its love affair with the great god Gun.

    For a start, Newtown has a population of around 25,000 and 7 schools. Your bright idea of placing 2 armed guards capable of taking down an armed intruder within 60 seconds would require 14 guards. There wouldn't be that number of unemployed or retired police or military members willing to take on the duties in such a small population. Even if they were suitable for the task.

    1. Johann, you have no idea whether there might be enough trained individuals in the Newtown catchment area to supply schools with personnel. Pretending you do simply makes you look like a fool. I'm embarrassed for you.

    2. George,

      It's PDQ. Anyway, you have no evidence that there would. Michaels 'bright' idea is for unemployed or retired ex-police or -military members who are capable of taking down an armed intruder within 60 seconds. So in addition to being unemployed or retired, they have to be fit (not too fat or old). That's in addition to being suitable for the task in other ways, such as being psychologically stable, being able to pass a police check (you wouldn't want to place a pedophile in an elementary school) and extremely proficient with a handgun in an urban combat situations. Not exactly talents that would easily be found in small communities.

      Michael's just trying to gloss over the real cause of the massacre. Easy access to semiautomatic weapons.

    3. In the US, there will always be easy access to any weapon you want, especially if you're a psycho. Several hundred million guns ain't goin' away, no matter what laws are passed. Remember Prohibition? How's the War on Drugs goin'? The War on Guns will be just as successful.

      Schools need armed security. Professionals, teachers who are willing, etc. It would end school shootings immediately, probably without shots being fired. The crazies have no intention of walking into someone else's bullets.

      It's the gun-free zones that attract them.

  2. A very thought provoking post, Dr. Egnor.

    Here is another way to look at this tragedy that I find very appropriate and complements your post.

    This World is as Broken as It is Beautiful

  3. Speaking of Gehenna and armed guards in schools, take a peek at this image. It was taken right next door to the real Gehenna.

    It's truly amazing to read unhinged commentary from people who apparently think nothing of leaving small children for hours at a time in the care of people they wouldn't dare trust with a gun. If gun violence is a problem in schools, pedophilia is a national disaster.

    And the very idea that more onerous gun laws will change any of this is absurd. Observe the thriving market for cocaine or methamphetamine. To assume that outlawing guns will have any effect on lunatics and felons is simply absurd magical thinking. Laws simply are not performative, in the sense they can effect prior restraint on criminals, who, by definition, simply ignore them.

    1. George,

      Excellent point. I agree with your view (expressed in several posts) on performative delusions of the Left.

      Rene Girard has a good point on the moral posturing of the Left. As you may know, he sees mimesis as the foundation of what makes us human. We imitate. Mimesis leads to many good things, but to bad things as well.

      Christianity is good mimesis-- we imitate Christ.

      The Left mimes Christian morality. It pretends to be moral, with grand gestures, empty platitudes, preening. Evil mimics good.

    2. This, from Nick Kristof's column in today's NYT, suggests that outlawing certain guns can be effective:

      Other countries offer a road map. In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

      The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

      In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half.

      Seems like worth a try.

    3. They also have their own salvation story, sacraments, and dogma. Interesting, isn't it?

      I think of the left as a cargo cult; e.g., "This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow...", etc. etc.

    4. I love Nick Kristof. He's an especially strong advocate of the "right to pee.".

      The man's obviously on top of the Big Issues. :-)

  4. Declaring that a figment of imagination is "real" (in whatever sense) is a fine exercise in navel gazing. It amounts to declaring that shit happens. There is nothing profound about this act of impotence.


    1. Hoo:

      Evil is personal. It is Satanic. It has intentions, memory, it plans, it tells a story.

      To paraphrase, you may have no interest in (understanding) Evil. But Evil has an interest in you. You can't escape it by pretending it does not exist.

    2. That is a cute story, Dr. Egnor. Tell us more.


    3. The story is all around you. Just look.

    4. Only if you take it on faith.


    5. Everything we believe is taken on faith, to a substantial degree. Faith in nature, faith in the people on whom we depend, faith in our health, faith in the validity of our opinions.

      None of us is granted certainty or complete knowledge.

      The question for each of us-- you as much as me-- is: is your faith reasonable?

    6. This is laughably wrong. In science, we don't take things on faith. We test claims made by people. Empirically. That is the opposite of believing in a just-so story.

    7. "In science, we don't take things on faith."

      Everything in science is taken on faith. Everything. Merely the belief that your sense impressions are trustworthy is faith. Everything you learned from teachers was taken on faith (have you personally measured the distance to Mars and Jupiter, to prove that Jupiter is further away than Mars?)

      How many times have you personally tested Newton's gravitational constant? Have you seen with your own eyes the viruses that cause colds? Have you sequenced your own DNA?

      I presume you're a scientist. There's no one stupider than a scientist.

    8. Yes, I am a scientist. And I presume you are not, for you have not a slightest idea about the scientific method.

      I have not personally sequenced my DNA, but my wife (who is a biochemist) used to do that. I personally measured the ratio of the electron's charge to its mass, checked the spectral lines of hydrogen, tested Newtonian laws of motion and so on. When scientists declare new discoveries, they are not taken on faith, they are tested by other scientists. Most of the time they are not confirmed (cold fusion). But when other scientists independently verify a discovery, it matters a lot. That isn't faith. It is science. That is why the scientific method is so reliable.


    9. The simple inference that your measurement is reliable, that it reflects the infinitely greater phenomena that you didn't measure, is faith.

      Faith does not mean believing something without evidence. It means consistently and reasonably believing something necessarily based on incomplete evidence.

      That's science, and that's religion, each in its own realm. Science is no less faith than religion. Many many more people have had personal experiences of God than have personally confirmed Relativity theory.

      Your idiotic assertion that science does not entail faith is emblematic of the stupidity-- the arrogance and gullability-- of so many scientists.

      And, parenthetically, I do quite a bit of science. I'm a full professor, and I have tenure on a research track.

    10. Nothing I've said is as funny as the claim that science does not rely on faith.

    11. Egnor: Faith does not mean believing something without evidence.

      No, that's precisely what it means. Try a dictionary: firm belief in something for which there is no proof.

      Egnor: And, parenthetically, I do quite a bit of science.

      Then, by your own standard, you are very stupid.

      Egnor: Many many more people have had personal experiences of God than have personally confirmed Relativity theory.

      This is another stupid statement. For starters, the number of scientists is obviously smaller than the number of believers in God. And then, a scientist usually works in a specific area. A molecular biologist has sequenced many DNAs. A particle physicist has seen particle tracks. They don't take these things on faith. They verify them empirically beginning in college, then more seriously in grad school and throughout their lives as scientists.

      Your understanding (or lack thereof) of scientific methodology is mind-boggling. You call yourself a scientist, but you don't even understand what science is.


  5. Bach,
    You don't understand evil.
    You have made the clear over and over in these posts.
    You haven't a clue what Mike is on about.
    He is not sick for seeing evil for what it is. He may well be reacting to it, but he is not sick. In fact the instinct to protect children is quite healthy, Bach.
    Your reaction, on the other hand, is childish. You pretend evil does not exist, and that the fault for horrific mass murders of children lies alone within the potential of a small piece of metal.
    I may not agree with Mike's solution, but yours is even more ridiculous.
    Ban the weapons? Give me a break!
    Such nonsense would never happen in this part of the world.
    It would result in civil war and revolution in either Canada or the USA. We have a history to consider, Bach.

    In the areas where there has been experimental legislation to severely limit access to certain types of weapons (AR bans in citites, or the Pistol restrictions in certain states and in Canada) there has been NO reduction in gun violence, or ANY sort of violence.
    In most cases the studies show the OPPOSITE result.

    1. On Evil.
      Evil is real and apparent about us our whole lives. Those of us who have seen horrors similar to this massacre in Newton know that. Every day, all over the world their are little children literally begging for their lives. Little innocent, frightened things being sold into slavery and killed like livestock.
      But we are insulated from their screams by a wall of security and media silence.
      This is why those of us who have been beyond the line do not react to horrors like this massacre in Newton by howling for more or less guns.
      We know this much: The guns are irrelevant. Weapons are a tool.
      The Gun MEN are the problem. It is the hand that guides the tool that is the real danger, not the tool itself.

      Motivators are the key here.
      I am going to make a point here that may, at first, seem callous - but try to remember this is not my first dance.
      I have, unfortunately, seen evil up close and personal many times. Children are often it's prey. Please do not mistake my following words as those of a person who does not deeply feel the horror of these acts against innocents. They are simply cold, hard, facts.
      If a determined homicidal maniac wanted to kill a class full of toddlers, he could do so with almost any weapon or tool commonly available. A shovel would do the job. Toddlers are NOT hard targets. Toddlers will NOT shoot back or some how disarm you at close quarters. Toddlers have one single defence mechanism: Morality. They will beg, scream, and cry for their mummies. They will curl up and die in terror. Their little eyes and faces when in distress should be enough to disarm the toughest thug.
      The ONLY thing preventing a civilized human being (or domestic animal for that matter) from slaughtering little children on a whim, is the morality of those people and the society as a whole.
      The idea of doing something so utterly evil as killing a little kid is abhorrent to the normally functioning and coherently moral human mind.
      Some deterrent may come into play for some crimes, but for acts such as this hellish outrage.... there is no deterrent that will work.
      These people do what they do in order to appease evil. They do it for the 'infamy'. As Mike notes: The feed their Moloch.
      They do it because they would do ANYTHING to mean something in some measure to anyone or anything...they would do ANYTHING to be remembered - which is the only means of immortality they can possibly imagine in their dessicated and empty universe.
      So it is the motivators that need to be identified.
      Of course these motivators will change with styles and trends in thought. A kind of current map of social trends is necessary.

    2. ON Evil CNTD

      A chilling list of similarities can be found in comparing what limited info we have on this Lanza guy with the Columbine Killers. Both belonged to fringe pop-culture groups that have predilections with suicide and sado-masochism, for example.
      This Lanza character was apparently 'brilliant', as at least one of the Columbine killers was also described.
      'Nerd' is another word that has been used. So we can assume a degree of social isolation. Having some experience with nerdism (both in the family and professionally) I can also safely assume this means they all were hopelessly addicted to extremely VIOLENT video games, films, and comic books. Kind of soft-core snuff.
      'Heroes' who shoot and decapitate 'zombies' brains out. Good guy vampires and demons who fight evil priests and monks. Revisionist views of history pushed as 'games'. Viruses that wipe out mankind. Various and increasingly deviant forms of pornography. There also seems to have been a connection in terms of psychiatric therapy/conditioning and psychoactive drugs being used to 'treat' some sort of disorder.
      I could go on and on.
      Now, I am not suggesting that being a nerd, a 'Goth', a nihilist, a video game junky, or even some grown up kid (ie Peter Pan) who likes comics is what makes these men evil.
      I am suggesting that these behaviours are the closest thing to an indicator we have.
      If we see someone we know or love sink into an artificial world and surrounding themselves in misery while preaching hopelessness and hatred... we need to DO something.
      We need to react.
      At the very least we need to let them know they are visible. That someone sees them and knows that they are there. That someone has heard of what they have said, and even disapproves.
      It is when these people come to see themselves as invisible and meaningless that they seem to go through a 'trigger event' that results in this kind of explosion of evil.
      They don't need a gun to kill.
      They need the WILL to do it, and that is the real issue.

    3. Crus, I value your opinion, but here you are simply wrong. It matters of course whether an assailant has a gun or not and how many shots per minute the gun is able to deliver. You just cannot perpetrate this sort of carnage with a knife. A semi-automatic with a 30-round magazine is far more potent than a Glock.


    4. Through most of human history carnage on enormous scale was perpetrated by knives of various sorts. Genghis Khan wasn't hindered by lack of guns. Rome was brought down by guys with 'knives'.

      You idiot liberals are concerned merely with your moral preening-- you delusion that by making a law outlawing scary-looking guns will protect people.

      Yet you ignore the real-world consequences of your stupid policies. Your policies don't disarm killers. Connecticut has very strict guns laws. Helped a lot, right? Your policies disarm people who can stop killers, leaving killers defenseless victims. A guy planning to use a gun to commit a crime prays for gun control . He wants to make damn sure he's the only one with a gun.

      There is something in our society that makes these mass shootings increasingly likely. Gist for future posts. But the one factor that obviously makes them likely is the legal imposition of gun-free zones.

      That's your policy, and it helped kill these kids.

    5. Let's see how your theory stacks up against real life. The South has more guns per capita than the Northeast. It has fewer populous cities (and fewer Democrats). Is it a safer place to live. Well, no. It's murder rates are 50 percent higher than in the Northeast.

      So much for your pet theory.


  6. A little data:

    (1) The correlation coefficient between state-level household gun ownership (as reported in the CDC's BRFSS database) and homicides per 100K (FBI Uniform Crime Report) is r = 0.08 (R**2 = 0.0064).

    But here's the tragedy, per Egnor's point:

    (2) The correlation between the state-level African-American population and homicide is r = 0.76 (R**2 = .58)

    Run the numbers for yourself. They're all publicly and easily available via Google. If you think I've made a computational error, please point it out.

    I believe but cannot prove empirically that African-Americans are no more genetically inclined to murder than are Caucasians, Asians, or Native Americans. I know that's very unscientific, so feel free to castigate me for my "faith" in that matter. No, the big difference between African-Americans and, say Caucasians, is the prevalence of Progressive policies in poor African-American communities. According to MEDILL (@, 8/2012), "Chicago's homicide rate surpasses the number of casualties in the war in Iraq this year amid a 40 percent jump from last year." Chicago has some of the strictest gun laws in America and is a hothouse for Progressive policy. For example, Senator Obama suggested that free tickets to the planetarium might ameliorate the problem, but I don't think that worked out. And it's a nice planetarium, too. I used to live in Chicago.

    In an interesting side note, historian David Courtwright (now at USF) authored a seminal historical review of violence in America entitled "Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City". Careful analysis of crime records dating back to the "Wild" west showed a clear trend: as the number of single men increases, the rate of violence in general, and homicide in particular, follows.

    The economic disincentive to marry in the black community has indeed resulted in skyrocketing numbers of single mothers (many of whom are teens) and deadbeat fathers. This toxic brew, mixed with weapons of all types, access to addictive drugs, and a cultural milieu that glorifies violence against society, one's peers, and women has resulted in crime rates that would alarm anyone.

    None of this, of course, addresses the issue of a lunatic with a gun, or even a lunatic in the cockpit of an airliner, but it does address the basic question of gun violence in America.

    Perhaps the first thing we should do is apprehend and jail those right-wing lunatics in DC who are responsible for smuggling vast numbers of semi-automatic weapons into Mexico, resulting in the deaths of hundred of innocent Mexicans.

    Twenty teachers and children are a tragedy. A few hundred Mexicans are a statistic.

    1. Your data analysis does not confirm Dr. Egnor's theory, Dr. Boggs. It does not show that more guns translate into better safety.

      As to your pet theory that more Democrats means less safety, it is inconsistent with the data. The South has a lower Democrat-to-Republican ratio than does the Northeast, yet it has higher murder rates. With fewer cities.


    2. Dr Anonymous Hoo, I apologize. I should have been more clear. The "point" I was addressing was from Egnor's immediately preceding comment that "[...] you ignore the real-world consequences of your stupid policies." Not that I personally would call them "stupid", you understand. "Perversely misguided", perhaps, would be a better, less pejorative, but equally descriptive, term.

      And now, assuming we've agreed and clarified that a causal relationship between your stupid policies was not "confirmed" by a correlation coefficient, what other points, specifically, if any, do you disagree with?

      As far as your "analysis" goes, I recommend you look at county-level data and demographic profile. You may find it illuminating.

      However, your critique had been duly noted. In future, I will try to keep my comments as concrete and detailed as possible.

    3. Now we're talkin', Dr. Boggs! Why don't you take the data for counties with similar demographics in the South and the Northeast and tell us which tend to have fewer homicides? The ones with more guns (the South) or the ones with fewer (the Northeast)? That would be a meaningful comparison, wouldn't it?


    4. Why don't you do your own homework? Can't?

    5. Dr. Boggs,

      It was your idea and you seemed to have access to the data. I can do that myself, but I would have to dig out the data first. It will take some time.


  7. No rush. Dig away. I'm very interested, but I'm busy with the planetarium/violence hypothesis.

    1. You'll have to wait awhile. I just returned from a board meeting in Canada and have letters of recommendation and an exam to compose. And that's just today.


  8. Conservatives have more than a demographics problem, they have a “we’re fucking crazy” problem. Two days after this tragic massacre the hue and cry goes out that we need more guns in more places. I’m sorry but the sane majority isn’t going to buy it. The only people that are going to buy this nonsense are gun hording idiots who fantasies about shooting bad guys and rebelling against the United States (unfortunately for us, these crazy fuckers make up less than 10% of the population and own 90% of the guns). Of course you will get the support of all would-be mass murderers, but the ones that aren’t already crazy gun hoarders in your pocket make up such a small democratic it’s not going to offset the revulsion sane people feel towards you.


  9. All of you can argue until hell freezes over.

    But just remember to pray!