I Take This to Be a Compliment
We have lost our innocence, traded it in for a passel of theorems.Coming from the author of Prime Obsession: Berhhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics and Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra, I think that's a compliment.
Okay. In context, it doesn't look so good:
For RTL is, really, just another species of Political Correctness, just another manifestation of the intellectual pathology, the hypertrophied and academical egalitarianism, the victimological scab-picking, the gaseous sentimentality. that has afflicted our civilization this past forty years. We have lost our innocence, traded it in for a passel of theorems.On the other hand, if RTL is part of liberalism, it is part of 19th-century liberalism and back then liberalism still made sense.
But wait, there's more:
Can Right to Life (hereinafter RTL) fairly be called a cult? This is a point on which I cannot make up my mind. Some of the common characteristics of culthood are missing—the Führerprinzip, for example. On the other hand, RTL has the following things in common with every cult in the world: To those inside, it appears to be a structure of perfect logical integrity, founded on unassailable philosophical principles, while to those outside—among whom, obviously, I count myself—it seems to some degree (depending on the observer’s temperament and inclinations) nutty; to some other degree (ditto) hysterical; and to some yet other degree (ditto ditto) a threat to liberty. My own ratings of RTL on those three degrees are 2, 6, and 4 out of a possible ten each.In other words, we sound just like the anti-immigration activists. (Set seriousness bit to ON: Actually we do sound like anti-immigration activists and should use them as an example of what not to do. I pledge right now to try to avoid claiming that Planned Parenthood is demonic.)
I disagree with the following passage:
I've been more impressed with the opposite phenomenon: People coming to a conclusion about abortion and then joining a religion that supports it. It's not religion-based morality but morality-based religion.
Yet it remains the case that our Constitution does not permit the framing of laws based on the peculiar tenets of any religion or sect, and Party of Death is obviously inspired by religious belief. The philosophical passages strictly follow the Golden Rule of religious apologetics, which is: The conclusion is known in advance, and the task of the intellectual is to erect supporting arguments. It would be an astounding thing, just from a statistical point of view, if, after conducting a rigorous open-ended inquiry from philosophical first principles, our author came to conclusions precisely congruent with the dogmas of the church in which he himself is a communicant. Yet that is the case, very nearly, with Party of Death. Remarkable! What if, after all that intellectual work, all that propositional algebra, all those elegant syllogisms, the author had come to the conclusion that abortion was not such a bad thing after all? I suppose he would have been plunged into severe psychic distress. Fortunately there was never the slightest chance of this happening.