Social Conservatism

When people object to immigrants, and my American-born friend says “I’m an immigrant”, they often say, “oh, we don’t mean you”. She has British nationality, but not all those people would know that. It’s the same with a Canadian woman I met. I wondered what the difference was from my German friend, who has a slight accent, noticeably foreign if you’re listening out for such things, who is a successful professional woman whose grown up sons are English, who has been told to “get back where you came from”. Is it because Canada, US, Australian and New Zealand citizens speak English as a native language? Is it because Germany has won the World Cup more than England, and we fought two world wars against them?

I think it’s because no-one’s been taught to hate the Americans.

There’s certainly no real distinction other than nationality at birth, and I am not sure why that should be a distinction.

So what does social conservatism achieve for the average social conservative? It gives them someone to look down on. It gives them someone to blame, even to hate. It gives a symbol, like Brexit. We, the 17m, matter because Parliament is at last giving us what we voted for. I may be struggling from wage to wage, never knowing I will have enough, but at least I’m not gay. (Irony ALERT!) It gives them a cat to kick. When their manager has humiliated them and they can’t speak back, they can take out their rage on Immigrants (which includes Black people whose parents were born here).

It gives them something to care about which will either make no difference to their lives, or hurt them. Brexit is no good for anyone unless they have a spare £500m to short the £. But it is made a symbol of Democracy and the value of Leave voters. It’s what they are told they want. Similarly with gender self-declaration: no woman will be any safer if all trans women are excluded from all Single Sex Spaces, but it is something they can campaign for to show they matter. Equal pay would be better, but the Tories are not going to do anything to achieve that.

Social conservatism is corrosive to the soul. It lets people judge others harshly without even knowing them, by stereotypes divorced from reality. It produces the sensation of righteous anger, but you cannot warm yourself by the frigid flames of this hate.

It achieves nothing. It may make others’ lives more miserable, LGBT folk, BAME folk, immigrants, with no gain to the average social conservative.

It gains something for the plutocrats and the conservative politicians who serve them. It increases anger, and the angry and fearful are more likely to vote conservative. Don’t come here expecting handouts. Don’t change our country to suit your way of life, ranted someone on facebook, and I imagine him puce with anger at a myth. People want to work and better themselves. No-one just wants handouts. It suppresses votes on the other side, which have to be votes for hope for something better. Someone else ranted, Our country is run by the major capitalist conglomerates and vastly wealthy individuals worldwide who politicians merely serve. Lets not fall into the trap of believing that politicians of any persuasion actually “care” about the common man. I think John McDonnell, for instance, went into politics to make life better for people. Possibly even John Major. Voting for better public services means voting for hope. It’s not “free stuff”, it’s basic services which make everyone’s lives better and build communities.

So Labour should make no concessions whatsoever to its “traditional voters’ reasonable concerns” about immigration, gay-inclusive education, or “streets where no-one speaks English”.

Labour could have made real differences to people’s lives, making Britain better for everyone, but now we have a government of the reptile overlords, “unchained” from Parliamentary scrutiny by their huge majority. The choice as always is rage or hope. The Left can only win through hope.

Now they come for the trans people

The government has abandoned any pretense of supporting trans people’s human rights. They claim to be protecting children from trans people. According to the Daily Mail, a source said,

‘The priorities of the brief are being put on ice. Fundamentally, it is the Secretary of State’s belief that adults should be given full freedom to decide how they want to live their lives and should not face barriers to doing so. When children are growing up, they are still developing those decision-making capabilities and there is a role to be played in protecting them and making sure that the implications of decisions are fully understood.’

This is irrelevant. The consultation did not propose gender recognition under 18. It proposed a Statutory Declaration- made in front of a solicitor or JP, with the penalty of perjury for falsehood- which is for adults only.

However, there will be no rights for adults, because of the fear that trans acceptance makes children transition, even children who are not trans.

The Daily Mail said This spared No 10 a direct confrontation with the well-organised, pro-transgender lobby. If we were well organised or powerful we would have won. This is the standard tactic of demonisation- Your enemies are powerful! We must fight them! Our children are under threat!

An unnamed source said making Liz Truss Women and Equalities minister was an opportunity to “strangle the issue”. TERFs rejoicing should note that Truss is no feminist. They put this symbolic issue, having almost no effect on women, ahead of real feminist issues.

The government will not stop there. David Cameron, a beacon of moderation compared to the current lot, wanted to repeal the Human Rights Act, and the Tories are now in full on demonisation mode. They will take away our current Equality Act rights if they are not stopped.

Who will be next? Johnson wants to win an election based on hate and fear. For every fact-based objection about Brexit, Johnson has a fantasy narrative. Food, fuel and medicine shortages? Blitz Spirit. Irish border? Technological solutions. Things going wrong? Remainer conspiracy. Delay past Halloween? Not his fault, he said Get Brexit done. His experience is that if his propagandists in the press and social media shout this loudly enough, sufficient voters will echo his rage fantasies, inflamed by his fighting words- surrender, traitor.

He uses an imagined enemy- the Metropolitan Elite- as the hate figure, but also real people- immigrants, by which his dupes understand Black and minority ethnic people and EU citizens who have made their lives here. Now he is moving on LGBT, starting with the most vulnerable. Any gender variant people- including many TERFs- will be next.

We must not let him. We must talk to people, canvass, point out better ways. When lies win over truth, democracy dies.

There are differences between men and women

There are differences between men and women, but no agreement on what they are. Different people would name the reproductive system, the fact that women are on average smaller, slower and weaker than men, being “hormonal” or “emotional”, patriarchal oppression, rape culture, “femininity” and “masculinity”. And you might draw different conclusions from those differences, from the need to work for women’s equality and against male violence, to airy speculation about evolutionary psychology.

There are left wing and right wing views of those differences. The conservative or authoritarian view is that they are innate. To conservatives, society changes slowly and incrementally, and should not be radically altered based on theory. Current society has stood the test of time. So they opposed the Married Women’s Property Acts 1870 and 1882, under which married women could retain their own property rather than it belonging to their husbands. All the progress we celebrate now was opposed, mocked and condemned by conservatives.

The liberal view that they arise from oppression. Now, there is no problem with women taking degrees or practising as lawyers, though that was prohibited in the 19th century. Few conservatives would wish to restore those restrictions, though still support restrictions that remain.

Where do trans women fit in? If you take a rigid view justifying “transsexualism”, there are innate differences, but somehow about 0.1%-1% of people assigned male at birth are really women, innately the other sex. The innate differences have to be important to justify such a radical act. So trans is incompatible with the idea that women are oppressed because of patriarchy rather than innately different. This is the “trans ideology” the gender critical feminists oppose.

However, we also have life-experience. We are bullied for gender non-conformity. All the anti-trans argument from the conservative side, which is the loudest part with the strongest platforms, condemns gender non-conformity. We made our decision to transition against opposition, so we want people to be able to make their own decisions. So we are allies to anyone objecting to cultural gender roles, even those who say they come from Patriarchy, and in favour of gendered self-expression.

We have to explain ourselves. I am a woman. I don’t want to go too deeply into what that means, and if anyone denies it I don’t always want to waste time trying to persuade them, but “I am a woman” is a convenient non-explanation for why I express myself as I do, which sometimes elicits “Oh, OK then” from others, takes all sorts to make a world, life’s too short to make a fuss about it. It certainly does not mean I want to be part of the Fashion Police, prescribing appropriately Feminine presentation for all women, with full make-up at all times, floral skirts and satin pussy-bows.

Some people don’t like holding two incompatible views in their own minds. We call it hypocrisy or a lack of integrity. If someone needs to, often they deny it to themselves. But just as light is a wave and a particle, so truth is paradoxical, and behaviour and desire come before explanation. This is how I want to express myself. I have no desire to carry the idea “I am a woman” through to all its logical conclusions, especially not conclusions for how other people should be. “Trans-ideology”, the bogeyman of the gender critical feminists, is an illusion, no real threat at all.

I wanted to be my true self. Masculine gender was a prison for me. The way I escaped was transition. I would rather people could be gender non-conforming without needing concepts of transgender to realise themselves, but some of us need that crutch.

Some people have that rigid cast of mind which wants coherent explanations, and gets in the way of ordinary life and human relations. Human desires are strange, and if we try to find rationalisations for them they will be incompatible. Someone might need a theoretical framework so they can pluck up the courage to transition, and some choose a homophobic one- “men should not be attracted to men, so I must be a woman”. The real argument is this:

Should people be celebrated in all our glorious diversity?
Or forced by misogyny, transphobia or other prejudice into rigid conformity?

I know what side I am on. If trans women don’t get our gender recognition reform, and are increasingly excluded from women’s space under the 2010 legislation, the winners are those who want gendered conformity. Most people don’t get the nuances of precisely what the differences between men and women are. The mass who think trans women are weird, perverted and ridiculous also think women are “feminine”. The result is a reduction in our ability to escape gender roles.

Transgender, however unsatisfactory, is a way of freeing people from gender conformity. If you take away a way people can escape gender conformity, you increase gender conformity and decrease gender freedom. If you challenge people as “not genuine trans people” you make us prove ourselves, with hormones and surgery. If the gender critical feminists get their way, the result will be more medical treatment for trans people and more, not less, gender conformity.

Witney By-election

The candidates for the by-election to replace David Cameron, worst Prime Minister of the UK ever, have been announced. Unfortunately, it appears that the Loony vote will be split. There are fourteen candidates, and as well as the Official Monster Raving Loony Party there are candidates for The Bus Pass Elvis Party and the Eccentric Party. Emilia Arno managed to get her nomination in on time despite not, apparently, having a website: as I write the only Google hit for “Emilia Arno” “One Love” is the Wikipedia page on the by-election. UKIP have lived down to their usual practice by selecting a homophobe to stand: if he split the Tory vote enough to let the Liberal Democrat in, all my Christmases would have come at once.

One Love have a website, though, and it seems all about air pollution apart from this bit containing a badly spelled complaint submitted today to the European Commission alleging the UK EU referendum and the intention to invoke Article 50 under the Royal Prerogative was illegal. Alas for them! The Remainiac groups I am a member of will support the Liberal Democrat, who is Liz on her leaflets, Elizabeth on the ballot paper.

Long convoluted sentences- it’s the subject.

Onywye. Loonies. The Official Monster Raving Loony party, the original and best, oppose Capital Punishment as it is unfair to Londoners. They want to leave Europe.

Lord Toby Jug, standing for the Eccentric party, uses it as a way of making money. Better to do it above board than as Mrs May does it, charging to have meals with her or her cabinet. Jug invites you to email him to book him as a speaker, or his band The Eccentric’s for an evening of wild rock and roll. I hope he gets £500 worth of publicity from standing. His policies aren’t as funny as OMRLP’s, and may be cribbed: they both want to pay off the National Debt with credit cards. No, definitely not as funny, but he might think they are: People who allow their dogs to poo on the pavement without cleaning it up should be forced to wear it as a moustache.

The English Democrats, also Loony, are not funny at all. Surveys show that young women are keen to have children at a sufficient
birth-rate to ensure the long term stability of the size of the population. They are however currently deterred due to difficulties in acquiring housing, financial pressures and employment difficulties. A population policy should involve a more family friendly stance and include the following:
* The introduction of joint taxation and transferable tax allowances for married couples, who have parental responsibility for a child, which will help those dependent upon a single wage and will help where a mother [or father] stays at home to care for children full time. The government should not be trying to force mothers who wish to stay at home out to work.

Helen Salisbury, standing for the NHAP or National Health Action Party says, The NHS represents British values at their best – fairness, compassion and the best care for all people regardless of their circumstances. I am proud to work for a service where I can concentrate on what is right for my patients, whoever they are, and although they may worry about being ill they do not need to worry about paying for medical care.

But the current government is in the process of breaking up the NHS, inviting private providers to take over more and more services.

The combination of austerity and privatisation is leading us to the brink of disaster; their promise of a service ‘free at the point of delivery’ is hollow if that service is threadbare and fragmented and provided by companies whose priority is profit not patient care.

Unfortunately, a loony, Robert Courts, is most likely to win. He will play a part in forcing through Brexit, and what could be more loony than that?

Emilia Arno – One Love Party
Dickie Bird – UKIP
David Bishop – Bus Pass Elvis Party
Robert Courts – Conservative
Duncan Enright – Labour
Mad Hatter – OMRLP
Lord Toby Jug – Eccentric Party
Adam Knight – Independent
Elizabeth Leffman – Lib Dems
Winston Mckenzie – English Dem
Helen Salisbury – NHAP
Larry Sanders – Green Party- brother of Bernie
Daniel Skidmore – Independent
Nicholas Ward – Independent

Time to Leave

Truly we are in the clutches of our enemies. Here is run of the mill hypocrite, liar and cheat Charles (right) “Charlie” Elphicke, MP for Dover:

Thank you for your email… I was very disappointed at the outcome [of the referendum]. I had made the case to remain because I was concerned that the pound would collapse, the stock market would crash and the French would seek to return the border to Dover [not hard to predict, really.] …However, the people of Dover & Deal, as well as the people of Britain as a whole, did not agree. They decided that they wanted to leave the Europe an Union. The turnout was incredibly high. [For a decision of this magnitude?] The result was close, but clear. [One vote is “clear” if you want it so, but 3.78% is not clear.] While I did not want this, it is now my duty to roll up my sleeves and make it work…I cannot agree that…MPs should seek to subvert the expressed will of the people and vote this down in Parliament. We serve the people and we must respect the will of the people. [Tell that to all the Tories- I have spoken to some- who want to bring back the Birch, as well as hanging.]

I am sorry to send you a response I know you will find to be disappointing.

All the Tories from Cameron and May down are saying the same- “We must respect the Will of the People”. It is a disaster. It harms the people- harms our environment, making fracking easy and beaches dirty, preventing employees from enforcing any rights they retain, reducing net migration by the only means available, which was tanking the economy. The Tories’ paymasters, the very rich, will profit from our misery, and our misery will make us vote for anger and hatred and deceit, rather than hope and worthwhile change.

If Labour oppose leaving the EU, angry voters will vote Tory or UKIP so that they can harm themselves in the way they chose, incited by the lies of Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, thereby harming their interests. Labour will lose working class voters who voted Leave.

The Liberal Democrats may regain some ground by being the largest party supporting Remain. I think the Greens should too. We won’t be the vanguard of the working classes- our niche is nice, handwringing middle-class folk like myself- so we can speak up for the truth, while politics gets dirtier, and hope a few people listen.

During the campaign, David Cameron said he would invoke Article 50 immediately if he “lost” the referendum. Immediately after, he said that would be for his successor. They do not care, their lies are so blatant. Now, mouthing certainty of invoking it, they will find more reasons to delay, causing more uncertainty, market turbulence, and gains for the wealthiest. We need to invoke Article 50 now.

Bruegel, the triumph of death, detail

Those Tory policies in full

Well, what can we expect from a Government with the ringing endorsement of 25% of the electorate?

Repeal of the Human Rights Act. “Human rights are not for prisoners, transsexuals and weirdos,” Theresa May, Home Secretary, told the Daily Mail. “Human rights are for the nice people, like Mail readers. And if ever you thought you needed a human rights lawyer, perhaps we would find you had never been one of the nice people in the first place.” The germ of this post was satire: but the genuine quotes are in italics, such as David Cameron’s gem Britain has been a passively tolerant country for too long. Oh God, here come the plans to criminalise or restrict ever more association and speech.

Return of hanging. The Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has more ideas than removing local authority support for schools and turning them over to private companies. He wrote, Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions. Priti Patel, new junior minister at the DWP, also supports hanging: I do think that when we have a criminal justice system that continuously fails in the country and where we have seen murderers and rapists … reoffend and do those crimes again and again I think that’s appalling.

On that basis alone I would support the reintroduction of capital punishment to serve as a deterrent. We hope she does not mean for benefit claimants.

Making work pay. Can’t live on a minimum wage zero hours contract? Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, has the answer. Within the first two years of the Conservative government, everyone on JSA for more than six months will receive a personally tailored sanction, removing their income. He described the 87,588 sanctions issued in July 2014 alone as “only the start”. You will find that your zero hours contract is “better than nothing”. He has not, yet, proposed hanging for jobseekers, but does treat them worse than prisoners on day-release.

Stopping progress to equality. Caroline Dinenage is now minister for Equalities at the Department for Education. She voted against equal marriage, but said “I support gay marriage now,” gritting her teeth. As well as wanting to cut the BBC, the new Culture Secretary also hates gays.

A sense of purpose for our children. Secretary of State Liz Truss says, I have seen too many chaotic settings in nurseries, where children are running around. There’s no sense of purpose.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary and former Hulture Secretary, wants a return of fox hunting. “Fox hunting is the perfect symbol of our new Compassionate Conservatism”, he said. In places that should be devoted to patients, where compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite: a coldness, resentment, indifference, even contempt. Such as the Health Department’s ministerial team.

Oliver Letwin, minister of State for the Cabinet Office, has already stated Conservative plans for health.

The end of Arts faculties in universities. Nicky Morgan, secretary of State for education, says, If you wanted to do something, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, then the arts and humanities were what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Well, it’s a blog. Mostly cribbed from The Guardian. In his last term, Mr Cameron’s inspiration was Mrs Thatcher; but now, why not Arthur Wellesley? Here is what he wrote about Peterloo:

It is very clear to me that they won’t be quiet until a large number of them bite the dust, as the French say, till some of their leaders are hanged, which would be a most fortunate result.

Wax vanitas


Tom Pursglove, liar

Gilray, the French Savants

Dear Tom Pursglove,

I am very sorry to think that my Conservative MP is a liar, but it seems the only possible explanation of the facts.

Before the election, your boyish excitement that the A45 from Stanwick to Thrapston might be dualled was initially quite attractive in its naïvety. It is hardly the equivalent of building the M1- it is a distance of about six miles, and cars enabled to pass the lorries on the road might conceivably get to Thrapston a minute quicker. Still you were excited, and you sent me and others cards through the post announcing it. I am perturbed that you imagine it was your campaigning rather than that of Mr Sawford, the sitting Labour MP, that made this possible: it is tantamount to accusing the Tory Secretary of State for Transport of corruption, giving gifts to Conservatives for narrow party advantage rather than the public good.

However then it emerged that there is no funding for the project; that it will not commence until 2020, possibly not until 2026; and that it might not start at all, because of possible environmental concerns. Mr Sawford announced this, and it would have been graceful of you to apologise for what could still, then, charitably have been called a mistake.

Instead of that, you posted this rubbish on your website, headed “Transport Minister refutes Labour A45 Scare Story”. This is a serious allegation, that the Labour MP is spreading falsehoods to scare voters. However, in the article you admitted that The proposals to improve the A45 between Thrapston and Stanwick will be developed by Highways England during the first Road Period, which runs from 2015/16 to 2019/20, but may not enter construction until the next Road Period as the environmental sensitivities of the site are recognised by the Department for Transport. It is important that we get this right. In other words Mr Sawford had been correct, and you had not.

However when I emailed you to point this out, you replied, I am sorry that you do not believe what I have said on this – time will prove who is right and who is wrong.

This perplexed me. Could you really not perceive the difference between “We now have the dualling of the A45” and that the A45 might be dualled, but probably not for ten years and perhaps never?

Were you just blustering? No-one will care, you thought. Never explain, never apologise may be the motto of the Alpha Male, but I was brought up to believe that Conservatives were gentlemen, who behaved in an honourable way.

Perhaps you did not see the difference, and did not understand what Mr Sawford was saying. But that would mean you are a fool.

When I described this to Eileen, a prosperous, middle aged married lady, the kind of person with a stake in the country that you might imagine to be a natural Tory voter, she was surprised that it so perturbed me. She said it is just the way politicians speak- divorced from reality, concerned only about image, saying what they imagine would make us like them if only we believed it. This contempt for the political class is a serious threat to our democracy. It may be too late for politicians to restore our faith in you, but surely you see that telling the truth is a necessary condition for that.

However it is possible that you are our enemy, deliberately seeking to weaken democracy by inflaming that contempt and inciting hatred for benefit claimants and immigrants, to benefit your wealthy paymasters.

A change from Hogarth: Gilray. If only “Light expelling darkness” were true!

Gilray, Light expelling Darkness

Added: after you were elected with the support of just 30% of your constituents who could vote, and your government was elected with a majority on 25% of the electorate, I despair. In November 2018 the Minister confirmed that the environmental study before dualling of the A45 had not been started.

Pursglove does not think Britain should reduce CO2 emissions. If, he says, “If”, FFS, “there’s a genuine belief that this is causing a global problem you need to look at countries like China who need to do a lot more to address this.” He opposes electricity generation by on-shore wind turbines, yet supports fracking. He is contemptible.

Lies, damned lies and Conservatives

So, will the A45 become dual carriageway between Stanwick and Thrapston, or not? Yes, say the Tories. No, says Labour.

I use the Nene Valley News, delivered by my local council, to put muddy shoes on, when I come in from walking across the fields. Once, its front page headline concerned a man who had lost his dog then got fined for walking it in the park without a lead. On 6th December, its headline was,

Tom Pursglove and Peter Bone MP’s Joint Listening Campaign succeeds

It reported that “Under this Conservative Government, we now have the dualling of the A45”.

Around the same time I got a card through my door, trumpeting “TOM PURSGLOVE [prospective parliamentary candidate] LISTENED- CAMPAIGNED- DELIVERED: A45 DUALLING AND CHOWNS MILL ROUNDABOUT IMPROVEMENTS ON THEIR WAY”.

I do not like Mr Pursglove. I have had many letters from him asking what issues I consider important. One option was “Benefits- making work pay”. Perhaps he does not understand that you make work pay by introducing the living wage and banning zero hours contracts, not by benefit cuts and sanctions starving people into zero hours contracts. Anyway, by claiming responsibility for the illusory road improvements, Pursglove necessarily admits responsibility for the evisceration of the Children’s Centre services.

Oddly enough, the Labour MP Andy Sawford had reported in his email newsletter that the A45 would not be dualled. I glanced through it and deleted it, but when I got Pursglove’s card I emailed him to check. He confirms that no money has been allocated for dualling, and if the work is to be done at all it will be considered in the “next roads period”, 2021-26. This answer to a Parliamentary Written Question confirms that. Sawford had worked with the Tory council to lobby for dualling.

My local council- 35 Conservative, 3 Independent, 2 Labour- has spent my council tax on Tory propaganda which is not true. I am displeased at this. I looked at photos of various people with the Roads Minister posing in front of a map, but found them too revolting, so here is some Hogarth.

Hogarth, Soliciting votes detailHogarth, Soliciting votes



File:Илья Репин - Портрет графини Наталия П. Головиной.jpgGay marriage is a regressive policy, which will increase the power of conservatism, and so should be opposed. This is not my view, but an argument I want to play with. Bear with me.

I found the word “homonormativity” here, and understood immediately: the coiner might quibble about my interpretation, but these are the basics. Heteronormativity is the pretence that heterosexuality is normal, and therefore other ways of being are less. Homonormativity occurs when gay people ape heterosexual behaviour, forming long term cohabiting relationships: so James Cantor‘s coinage “euphilia”, meaning love which unites a couple, as distinguished from paraphilia, sexual activity not directed at another human being. He shifts gays out of the class of weirdos into the class of Normals.

Gay marriage is profoundly conservative: for those who take it up, their relationships may be more stable, and they may be more confident and better able to contribute to society. They marry, they are accepted among the Normal people, leaving the oppressed behind. The oppressed- gay teens cast out by homophobic parents, those with internalised homophobia, suffering with drug addiction depression and self-harm- if there were a gay community it would be working for them, not for gay marriage, as their need is so much more immediate.

In economics, I no longer believe in “trickle down”, as I have observed “gush upwards” for too long; Rawls’ Relative Least Advantaged Person is not benefiting. Yet I still put a Rawlsian argument for gay marriage: those of us who will not marry will still benefit from it. Our sexuality will be seen as weird or wrong in itself by fewer people. One hopes this generation of gay married couples will remember homophobia, and retain fellow feeling for gay people; but even if they did not there would be fewer excluded and oppressed people in society. That is a good thing.


pussyWhy have only two scientists from Muslim countries won the Nobel Prize? Is it because Al-Ghazali killed science for Muslims?

I first heard that idea from the Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, in Prospect magazine. As I recalled it, Ghazali had said it was more important to study the Koran than to study the natural world, and scientific endeavour died. So I was pleased to discover The New Atlantis, with its in-depth article accessible to the educated layman. It pits Mu’tazilism against Ash’arism. The former is the creation of al-Mamun, the seventh Abbasid caliph, who died in 833. He opposed a flourishing Byzantine empire, and sought advantage by translating ancient Greek learning for practical use. He also sought power over the religious scholars by contending that the Koran was created, so must be interpreted by human reason, but the Ash’arites believed the Koran was co-eternal with God, and unchallengeable.

By 880, holding Mu’tazilist beliefs was criminal, and Occasionalism was official teaching. It states that God’s will is completely free. That a fire is hot, say, is not because of natural laws but because God wills it, and God could change his mind, making it cold. That it is always hot is a matter of habit, not necessity. Maimonides explained it thus: just as the king generally rides on horseback through the streets of the city, and is never found departing from this habit; but reason does not find it impossible that he should walk on foot through the place.

Some Christians might agree: God is all-powerful. A generally predictable world- nights start getting longer after the winter solstice, for example- is part of God’s good gifts to us, for if things dropped stopped falling we would stop functioning. Though we leave space for miracles. Sustained rationalist attempts even make our chaotic weather patterns more predictable.

Fountain logoAl-Ghazali wrote The Incoherence of the Philosophers, arguing (according to Hillel Ofek in The New Atlantis) that reason, which leads us to discover, question and innovate, was the enemy of piety. Law was similarly ossified: Islam had been a system of government as well as a religion, unlike Christianity which had developed among the poor and excluded. For four centuries, Koran and Hadiths were applied to new situations through argument, or ijtihad; then all important legal questions were regarded as already answered, and new thinking was a crime.

Fortunately,  I googled, and found this defence of Al-Ghazali in The Fountain. The sharp conflict between religion and science is a modern phenomenon, and unnecessary (I am happy as a Christian to accept the theory of evolution). There were scientific achievements in Islamic countries well after Al-Ghazali. Nuh Aydin writes that Ghazali used philosophic techniques to refute philosophic assertions contrary to Islamic doctrine, but accepted the Greeks’ mathematics, astronomical sciences, and logic.

Then I see that The New Atlantis is published by the “Ethics and Public Policy Centre”. I heard of them: ah, yes, a conservative group opposing Roe v Wade and stem-cell research. However attractively presented (I considered a subscription) their articles on gene sequencing or Islam are untrustworthy.