Author Archives: mark

Review: A Country of Vast Designs

A Country of Vast Designs
A Country of Vast Designs by Robert Merry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this book assuming I would find confirmation of my dislike of James Polk for “getting us into” war with Mexico. It had the opposite effect. While I differ with Polk on what would have been a vision for the American people, and the reasons one should go to war, it is pretty obvious that Polk was in office precisely because the American people wanted that vision. Polk’s faults seem to lie in the faults of the American people of the time.

Polk promised to serve only one term and he kept his promise willingly. He accomplished all his objectives (amazingly) and got very little to no appreciation for doing so. And he got to see how his vision was going to be pulled apart by the slavery/anti-slavery divide.

He ended well. His term in office seems to have killed him and he died very soon after leaving office. But Polk did have time to decide to follow Christ, get baptized, and “die in the Lord.” Look forward to meeting him.

By the way, if you have some vision of America once being led by “statemen” instead of politicians, that vision will die in this book.

View all my reviews

Review: Darwin on Trial

Darwin on TrialDarwin on Trial by Phillip E. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m rating this book on the assumption of a stipulated umpteen-billion-year history of the universe. That is not my current belief, but I have virtually no knowledge of the science of dating so I have nothing to say about it at this point.

I recently read Coyne’s much more recent Why Evolution is True. Seems that Darwinists have not been able to improve their presentation, because Darwin on Trial pretty much destroys Coyne as if he were responding to him, rather than writing a book twenty years ago.

This covers the issues really well. Given the fossil evidence, paleontology presents us with a picture of sudden appearances of intact species rather than any kind of gradual evolution. The "survival of the fittest" is a tautology rather than a testable hypothesis. And any theory looks good if you disregard all counter evidence.

What I learned from Johnson that I didn’t know before was how scientists are having to police other evolutionary scientists to punish them when they don’t sound dogmatic enough about the evidence for Darwinian evolution. It also seems that evolutionary biology is a "closed system" from biology in any other field even when the scientists are convinced Darwinists. An ape expert who bothers to look at the fossils and say that the idea that the creature walked upright is wishful thinking, will be marginalized and rejected. It is an insular field that expects to be accepted on faith.

View all my reviews

Tolkien and the Moderns

It seems hard to remember now that there was a time when the American counterculture embraced J.R.R. Tolkien and his masterpiece. Groovy dudes in pipe-weed jerkins yelling “Go Go Gandalf,” walls covered with graffiti proclaiming “Frodo Lives!”, and election-year “Gandalf for President” buttons were all popular sights on college campuses from Harvard to Berkeley.

Read the rest: Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Bored with the Good: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 4.

I had mentioned this series earlier before Part 4 was posted. I’ll need time to read it more carefully. I frankly think of Howard as more of an anti-Tolkien than not. But it has been awhile since I read him.

Also, I’m not sure I would be quite as negative about Tolkien’s appeal to “hippies.”

Still, it is a post well worth reading and thinking about.

How would science work “by representation”?

No truly scientific result has ever been reached through group decisions and majority rule. The whole history of modern science in the West evidences the fact that no majorities, no tyrants, no constraint can prevail in the long run against individuals whenever the latter are able to prove in some definite way that their own scientific theories work better than others and that their own view of things solves problems and difficulties better than others, regardless of the number, the authority, or the power of the latter. Indeed, the history of modern science, if considered from this point of view, constitutes the most convincing evidence of the failure of decision groups and group decisions based on some coercive procedure and more generally of the failure of constraint exercised over individuals as a pretended means of promoting scientific progress and of achieving scientific results. The trial of Galileo, at the dawn of our scientific era, is in this sense a symbol of its whole history, for many trials have since actually taken place in various countries up to the present day in which attempts have been made to constrain individual scientists to abandon some thesis. But no scientific thesis has ever been established or disproved in the end as a result of any contraint whatever exercised upon individual scientists by bigoted tyrants and ignorant majorities.

On the contrary, scientific research is the most obvious example of a spontaneous process involving the free collaboration of innumerable individuals, each of whom has a share in it according to his willingness and abilities. The total result of this collaboration has never been anticipated or planned by particular individuals or groups. Nobody could even make a statement about what the outcome of such a collaboration would be without ascertaining it carefully every year, nay, every month and every day throughout the whole history of science.

What would have happened in the countries of the West if scientific progress had been confined to group decisions and majority rule based on such principles as that of the “representation” of the scientists conceived of as members of an electorate, not to speak of a “representation” of the people at large?

via Online Library of Liberty – 7: Freedom and the Common Will – Freedom and the Law (LF ed.).


Societies can adopt, preserve, and change laws without legislatures, just like they do with languages.

Another consequence of this revolutionary concept of the law in our times was that the law-making process was no longer regarded as chiefly connected with a theoretical activity on the part of the experts, like judges or lawyers, but rather with the mere will of winning majorities within the legislative bodies. The principle of “representation” appeared to secure in its turn a purported connection between those winning majorities and each individual conceived of as a member of the electorate. Thus, the participation of individuals in the law-making process has ceased to be effective and has become more and more a sort of empty ceremony taking place periodically in the general election of a country.

The spontaneous law-making process before the enactment of the codes and constitutions of the nineteenth century was by no means unique if considered in relation to other spontaneous processes like that of the ordinary language or of day-to-day economic transactions or of changing fashion. A characteristic feature of all these processes is that they are performed through the voluntary collaboration of an enormous number of individuals each of whom has a share in the process itself according to his willingness and his ability to maintain or even to modify the present condition of economic affairs, of language, of fashion, etc. There are no group decisions in this process that constrain anybody to adopt a new word instead of an old one or to wear a new type of suit instead of an old-fashioned one or to prefer a moving picture instead of a play.

via Online Library of Liberty – 7: Freedom and the Common Will – Freedom and the Law (LF ed.).