Thursday, December 24, 2009


I confess that I missed the Extra interview and the Inside Edition interview and any other interviews that might now have been given by Tiger Woods’ Escondido connection, Jaimee Grubbs—aka Mistress #2.

But having perused Ms. Grubbs’ comments on the Internet, I think they warrant enshrinement as a premier paradigm of the moral doublespeak that pervades our nation—thanks to four decades of intense Hollywood tutelage.

Not since skater Tonya Harding apologized for letting herself down after the Nancy Kerrigan knee-whacking has a putative expression of regret been so totally self-referential.

“I couldn’t describe how remorseful that I am to have hurt her family and her emotionally,” said Grubbs of Tiger’s wife—just before dishing dirt that even a VH1 Reality Show ditz would know was immensely painful for Woods’ spouse.

Of that “first kiss” the Extra interviewee gushed, “It was very gentle, very sweet. It wasn’t quick, but it wasn’t a makeout session or anything like that. It was very respectable.” I doubt that Elin Woods was comforted to know that her spouse was cheating on her “respectably.”

Ms. Grubbs was also eager to note that her twenty something meetings over a three-year period with another woman’s husband weren’t done “for superficial reasons.” On the contrary, this extended affair was performed for the most profound reasons—but reasons that fell short of discussing Tiger’s family or using the word “love.” Said Grubbs, “I didn’t let myself get that far”—and apparently neither did Mr. Woods.

Perhaps the most astounding observation made by the former cocktail waitress was this stunner: “If it wasn’t me, it was going to be other girls”—a line delivered before saying that she “did care about him” and that the affair wasn’t done “to purposely hurt” Tiger’s wife.

Such comments are breathtaking in their moral vacuity. The first statement transforms human moral agents into interchangeable droids for the purpose of self-justification. Put simply, if several folks are doing the wrong thing, it might as well be me!

The remark about not “purposely” hurting the wife only serves to put a happy face on utter self-absorption. Stated otherwise, “I guess if I were to think about it, I did feel guilty that he was spending his time with somebody that isn’t his wife.” The conclusion that #2 drew from this unpleasant correlation was obvious: “I never thought about it.”

Elsewhere Grubbs describes her relationship with Tiger as “sacred” and employs the words “respect” and “trust” to characterize their periodic trysts. “No part of the relationship,” she insists, “was fake.” Ah, yes—“genuine” adultery.

On the down side, Grubbs was quite upset to learn that she wasn’t Tiger’s only mistress: “Seeing that was devastating. It hurts.”

Tonya Harding in her 1994 apology said, “It will be difficult to forgive myself.” Somehow I don’t think Jaimee Grubbs will have a similar problem.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Last Tuesday’s North County Times editorial page featured a fortuitous pairing: Richard Cohen’s syndicated column about war deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and a local article praising secular humanism.

The latter piece suggested that secular humanists have no problem with Christmas—an odd assertion in view of aggressive, ongoing efforts by the ACLU and likeminded “humanists” to ban religious symbols from the public square. Indeed, in cities throughout the country battles are annually waged about the propriety of Christmas symbolism during the “holiday season.”

To give just one local example, “Christmas on the Prado” was changed in 2001 to “December Nights” in deference to folks who couldn’t tolerate using the word “Christmas” for an extended celebratory period in a public venue. Various retailers have also omitted the “offensive” word from their advertising in the name of “diversity.” (One might have thought that the addition of “Hanukkah” and other festivals to the decorative mix would represent diversity better than omitting “Christmas.”)

One school district (in Plano, Texas, of all places) went so far as to ban red and green decorative utensils and religion-themed gifts during its “Winter Break Party”—lest these tokens offend those “tolerant” folks whose offspring might be reminded of the “holy day” whose name dare not be mentioned.

The idea that this kind of widespread anti-religious activism has been consistent and ongoing since the fourteenth century, as the local column suggested, is strange—especially when applied to the U.S. Even the deist Thomas Jefferson, for example, regularly attended religious services in the Capitol building itself—services that continued to be held there until 1866.

Richard Cohen’s article doesn’t use the word “humanist” or “secular,” but he does ponder the implications of a society in which “Religion has lost (its) mystery,” and “Dying has become harder.” “We remain a religious nation,” Cohen says, “but not as we were in the Civil War, when the dying tried to take comfort from the certainty…that a better life awaited them.”

Putting a semi-happy face on this state of affairs—which contrasts sharply with the perspective of suicide bombers who embrace that other religion that must not be named—the columnist observes, “Maybe we have come to cherish life too much.”

Cohen has put his finger on the ethical and practical dilemma faced by those who insist that life is a bowl of self-actualizing cherries, that you only go around once, and that (in the words of an in-your-face Humanist Association “seasonal” ad) “No God, No Problem.”

Folks don’t seem to be willing to fight and die for subjective values posited by creatures that have evolved from random mutations lacking any transcendent purpose. Heck, as Western Europe’s dismal demography illustrates, they don’t seem committed enough to future generations to reproduce themselves.

Christmas, by contrast, is a child-focused holiday that affirms the joyous existence of “absolutes” worth both living by and dying for.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


The Devil’s Delusion, so says author David Berlinski, was a book written for those who feel that “the scientific community holds them in contempt.” This fall’s paperback edition would make a provocative stocking-stuffer for that snooty uncle who’s always touting the superiority of fact-based science to religious superstition.

Composed with characteristic panache, Berlinski’s intellectual exposé targets an audience with a fair degree of scientific and philosophical sophistication. Richard Dawkins, chief priest of the Church of Darwin and author of The God Delusion, comes in for the lion’s share of Berlinski’s fire. Sam Harris (The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great) are among other atheistic oracles whose “scientific pretensions” are delightfully deconstructed by Berlinski’s wide scholarship and rapier wit.

For starters, Berlinski notes that atheism, far from being a philosophical conclusion supported by an impressive pyramid of scientific facts, is actually “an ideology with no truly distinct center and the fuzziest of boundaries.” Berlinski supports that assertion with a number of poignant philosophical and scientific observations. In the former case he shows that Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence can’t be dismissed as cavalierly as they are by Richard Dawkins—with sophomoric protests about the creator’s creator. In the latter case Berlinski lays bare, with unflagging gusto, ad hoc scientific creations largely designed to circumvent inconvenient cosmic singularities, non-compliant fossil records, and head-spinning biological complexities that make a mockery of Darwin’s quaint conjecture that life might have arisen spontaneously in a “warm little pond.”

Berlinski claims that these scientific theories are motivated as much by a fervent desire to counter arguments for divine causation as they are by sober assessments of relevant data. In terms of logic and evidence, for example, it’s hardly less reasonable to posit an intelligent designer as the final cause for biological development, human complexity, and the universe’s finely tuned physical laws than it is to assert that a bubbly, creative, god-free “Landscape” exists somewhere beyond our own universe from which an infinite number of universes randomly emerge—each with its own idiosyncratic physical laws.

Ever the skeptic and seeker, Berlinski doesn’t commit himself to any particular conclusion in this God vs. Hyper-Nature argument—except to say that science most certainly has not demonstrated that religious explanations are false. Other negative conclusions embraced by the author are that biology has little, if any, idea how life actually began on earth and that the sciences can say nothing of interest about the human soul (i.e. human consciousness, moral and aesthetic sensibilities, aspirations, etc.).

Berlinski’s pen is sharpest when eviscerating preposterous statements promulgated by members of the atheist hierarchy. Responding to the “shockingly happy picture” that Steven Pinker sees painted by an increasingly secular twentieth century, Berlinski counters with a litany of “excess deaths” during that same hundred year period, a litany that includes two world wars, Mao’s and Stalin’s victims, Khmer Rouge brutalities, and dozens of miscellaneous killing fields—categories that collectively approach 200 million “excess deaths.”

Rather than validating Pinker’s rosy historical scenario, these appalling figures seem to confirm Ivan Karamazov’s assertion that if God does not exist, everything is permitted. They also make mincemeat of physicist Steven Weinberg’s warmly received declaration that it takes religion, and religion in particular, “for good people to do evil things.” Berlinski responds to this dogmatic assertion by noting that the Nazi soldier who forced an Hasidic Jew to dig his own grave did not appear phased by his victim’s final malediction, “God is watching what you are doing.” “As far as we can tell,” Berlinski writes, “very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing…. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.”

Berlinski’s tone and approach is generally more lighthearted—as it is when taking on scientists who essentially equate the mind with the brain. Berlinski notes wryly that the reduction of other people’s passions, dreams, and sacrifices to various chemical inter-actions isn’t an analytical approach employed by scientists when focusing on their own motivations. Thus, to Dean Hamer’s conjecture that God-beliefs are connected to certain brain chemicals Berlinski responds, “Why not (the) urine?” The author modestly refrains from linking Hamer’s own interest in genetics to correlative bodily secretions.

Throughout this intellectual and literary romp, Berlinski repeatedly observes that it isn’t compelling scientific data but rather an atheistic “faith” that stands behind the pretentious declarations put forward by Dawkins and his cohorts—a faith that’s blind to the horrors perpetrated by its political comrades and obsessively eager to link poisonous effects to “everything” religious (cf. Christopher Hitchens). At times, however, this naturalistic faith is honestly admitted, as it is with geneticist Richard Lewontin: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories.” Lewontin explains in The New York Review of Books why this is so: “…we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

Berlinski ends his work with an intriguing historical allegory that provides a mirror-image of the dilemma facing pensive church officials at the time of Galileo’s inquisition. Today’s steely Cardinal works within the Cathedral of science—and has done so for the last four hundred years. Yet the impressive edifice constructed by the faithful remains unfinished. Indeed, it seems destined to remain that way—its various sections aesthetically at odds with each other. Berlinski confesses that he has labored within this Cathedral his whole life, but “if science in the twentieth century has demonstrated anything, it is that there are limits to what we can know.”

In an earlier chapter, after lampooning a prominent physicist’s misbegotten foray into philosophical cosmology, Berlinski paraphrases a famous movie line spoken by Clint Eastwood: “A man’s got to know his limitations.” The modern Cathedral of science stands as a testament to that cinematic aphorism. It’s a state of affairs that suits Berlinski’s skeptical temperament as much as it rankles true believers from the church of scientific atheism.