As I mentioned to Bruce Charlton in the comments section of a previous post, once you get His Majesty monologuing, you can’t get him to shut up.

One of the sure signs of cultural decay, and of the lack of cultural confidence that underlies it, is the lack of a meaningful sense of mission. And nothing is clearer proof of the lack of a sense of mission in any organization than the loud proclamation of a mission statement. Victorious armies don’t need mission statements; it is obvious to even the lowliest stormtrooper that the mission is “kill people and break things in service of the State.”

Perhaps His Majesty is alluding to the vote by our stormtroopers to unionize. We felt compelled to retire from public life very shortly thereafter. It all came from permitting non-clones to join the rankers in an effort to simultaneously democratize the war and expand the army.

The clones were supposed to be genetically incapable either of missing a target with a blaster or of combining to mutiny. I sometimes think we should have first tested the Death Star on Kamino.

What a lack of any sense of mission means is that you become confused about what you should be trying to do. Now, combine this with the bureaucratic mind, which cannot conceive of disbanding any bureau once it has been established, and particularly if the original purpose of its establishment was seen as noble and progressive at the tine.

I am thinking, of course, of the very recent announcement that the Department of Agriculture will now take into account environmental sustainability in its dietary recommendations. It will no longer be a matter purely of which foods are thought to be good for you, as seen by the most politically influential food producers; it will also be  a matter of which foods are thought to be good for the environment as well, as seen by the most politically influential environmentalists.

Given how poorly the past recommendations have served the public health, perhaps it’s just as well they’ve changed missions.

But this is a beautiful illustration of mission creep in a decaying government. The FDA food recommendations were originally targeted at reducing pellagra in the impoverished South. I doubt if any practicing American physician, even in the Washington, D.C., inner city, has seen an actual case of pellagra in anyone who was not either mentally ill or a substance abuser.

The rational response would be to fold up the branch of FDA responsible for public education and put the resources to better use elsewhere. Instead, the FDA continued making recommendations based (for example) on dubious theories about fat and carbohydrate intake and their connection to hyperlipidemia. Or they tried to take on genuine problems, such as obesity, which fell well outside their core competencies. Notwithstanding various attempts to find a tooth fairy to blame for obesity, ranging from occult infection to bad genes to bad bowel flora to borderline mental illness, the best theory explaining obesity is that it arises quite automatically in any human population supplied with ample carbohydrates and deprived of the necessity of continual hard physical labor. FDA simply isn’t equipped to deal with this, and has actually been counterproductive … as with the aforementioned dubious dietary recommendations.

I do not know if the theory that a high-fat diet is actually less likely to produce obesity than a high-carbohydrate diet is true. I do know that there is credible evidence that the liver rapidly converts excess carbohydrates to triglycerides, and that high triglycerides are a marker for coronary artery disease. But I suppose His Majesty’s point is that the FDA don’t know, either, but have not let this stop them from making recommendations carrying the full authority of Government.

Then there’s this “Point-Counterpoint” article in the paper. I hate these things, in no small part because they’re lazy. Rather than actually take a reasoned position that might be unpopular with readers, the editors find an extremist from each side to present his case in the most obnoxious manner possible. And often there simply isn’t a credible case to be made for one side, so the moral equivalence is a fraud.

This one doesn’t particularly fall into the latter trap, but it’s bad enough. Apparently the local utility wants to raise its rates for electrical power. The one columnist declares, correctly, that coal is a dirty source of energy, and, incorrectly, that nuclear power is too dangerous. He then proceeds directly to the non sequitur that renewables can take up the slack (which they cannot) and that anyway we have no choice (the fallacy of the excluded middle.)

The other columnist declares that global warming is a fib and that coal plants are the only way to keep power affordable, thus promulgating a fallacy of the excluded middle of his own.

Of course, if experience is any guide, the resolution to this false dilemma that will actually be adopted is to institute tiered rates that keep expensive green energy affordable to the poor by soaking the middle class.

Lord Vader, I don’t know if human carbon dioxide emissions are producing global warming. The theory seems plausible enough. But none of the models predicted the temperature plateau of the last decade, and the East Anglia email scandal and other indications have the stink to me of a forced consensus. But it doesn’t matter. China and India are not going to cut the growth of their electrical power production. It is simply not going to happen.

So we can either learn to adapt to higher carbon dioxide levels, which may be as cost effective as any approach, or we can get serious about nuclear power.

Except we can’t. Nuclear power requires a culture confident in its ability to balance and mitigate risks over the long term. Western culture no longer has the necessary cultural confidence. And, given what I’ve seen of Western engineers lately, I’m not sure that misconfidence is misplaced.

His Majesty is unfair. We employ a fair number of nuclear engineers at Death Star, Inc., and they’re rather capable people. The chief developer on our neutronics code is a man I’d trust to be able to quickly fix anything in my meditation chamber or landspeeder worth the expense of fixing, using baling wire and chewing gum if necessary, and that’s the highest praise anyone in any age could give to any engineer.

We still have good engineers. Granted, they’re all over the age of 40. And they can’t actually engineer anything, because their time is taken up meeting ISO 9000 requirements and taking charge code ethics training and filling out grant applications. The actual engineering is done by summer interns who, standing on the shoulders of giants,  keep coming up with rounder and rounder wheels.

But only on paper, because actual laboratory work is so encumbered by OSHA requirements that satisfying these is a major industry in itself.

Granted, we haven’t had a work-related accident in months. But then we haven’t done any work worth a spit in months. (Ptui.)

This overriding caution is everywhere. It is now unacceptable for a man to sit with his legs apart, apparently because this is a microaggression against women who have no testicles to cramp.

You must forgive His Majesty’s bluntness. I feel it important to be a faithful recorder, though I might occasionally substitute euphemisms.

The opposition to the death penalty also displays this caution. We lack confidence in the ability of our legal system to exonerate the innocent, convict the guilty, and snuff him in a reasonably fast and impersonal manner. So it takes years to execute even the most obviously guilty of the most appalling crimes, and we do it through the slow and psychologically agonizing process of lethal injection, when a competently executed long-drop hanging would doubtless be far more humane.

Part of it is a strange religious squeamishness. Some of it,  mostly from the evangelical Protestant world, reflects a belief that it is better to lock the guilty away until we can convert him to Christ, which sounds like a rather forced conversion to me. I find it remarkable that Mormonism actually forbids baptism of a catechumin until he has completed any term of imprisonment to which he has been sentenced; perhaps Mormonism still retains some shreds of cultural confidence.

That’s actually a remarkable concession, coming from His Majesty. He scoffs at the notion of visions in an age of jet liners.

And we don’t usually call them “catechumins”; the preferred term is “investigators.” I don’t think this is accidental, or even entirely a manifestation of the Mormon distaste against hifalutin sectarian religious terminology. “Investigator” implies active searching on the part of the prospective convert, in a way that “catechumin” (lit. “one being instructed”) does not.

I do not understand the Catholic objections. Well, not fully. It’s evident that Catholicism has tied the issue of the death penalty to the issue of abortion, which perhaps was thought to have rhetorical power that would prove tactically useful, but is actually a serious non sequitur.

The secular objection is obvious: If a human soul is precious, then deliberately extinguishing one forever is to be avoided at all cost. That secularism fails to establish the antecedent seems not to have disqualified the conclusion.

Thus you have the likes of Charles Manson, of whose evil and guilt there cannot be the slightest rational doubt, being housed and fed for decades at the expense of the taxpayers of California, and even contracting a marriage with a very young woman who would be judged mad in a sane civilization, but is judged sane in our mad civilization.

There is a curious anomaly in this general pattern, though, whose significance is worth teasing out. Anomalies are often the source of the greatest insight. I’m not sure I’ve teased out all the significance of this one.

In an age of overriding caution, of layer on excessive layer of due process (at least for those who can hire a good lawyer), the one accusation for which due process seems to have no relevance is that of rape. I understand that this is a manifestation of the power of radical feminism, of course. That much is obvious. But why does such a jarringly inconsistent attitude towards the accused get any oxygen? Most women are not radical feminists. Most men have no interest in conjugating with a radical feminist.

To be sure, there are indications this one has succeeded in jumping the shark. The pendulum may possibly be swinging back. But this phenomenon is most pronounced in our institutions of higher education, which have always been insulated from common opinion and common decency, so I would not be too sure. Like the tanks at Tianamen Square, the juggernaut of radical feminism may have been forced to pause briefly when confronted with a determined opponent, but in the end the tanks won.

Comparing radical feminists with tanks … we can have some fun with that one, I think.

Incidentally, Lord Vader, your thoughts betrayed you yesterday. When I pointed out that the physical sciences have made remarkably little progress in the last four decades, you took mental exception on behalf of the biological sciences.

You should not have. The great accomplishment of the biological sciences in the last forty years is the sequencing of the human genome. So what? Oh, I know, I’ve just uttered a blasphemy. But we’ve known for sixty years that the human genome resided in the DNA, and we’ve known the elements of the genetic code for almost that long. Nothing fundamentally new was accomplished by sequencing a particularly large and messy sequence of DNA, except as an engineering stunt. No new therapies have come of it; medical researchers are, in fact, reluctantly and quietly acknowledging that no new therapies are likely to ever come of it. The more honest ones are, anyway. We can’t even design a drug to target a thoroughly characterized enzyme — unsurprising, given that a proper quantum treatment of large molecular interactions is not only beyond the capacity of present computers, but beyond the theoretical capacity of any computer we could ever hope to build.

The complexity of biological systems at the quantum level will always leave room for belief in a soul, which is fortunate, given the social utility of religion.

It’s about the only use His Majesty has for religion, I’m afraid.

… Rather an ironic way for me to put it, now that I think about it …

It has been suggested that the problem is that Western civilization has picked all the low-hanging fruit. This begs the question of why there was low-hanging fruit to begin with. It’s rather like my favorite cosmological puzzle: Yes, the universe is winding down towards its heat death. But how did it get wound up to begin with?

For a Sith who has no use for religion, His Majesty asks an awful lot of religious questions. But not with any expectation of an answer, alas.

We find our trees stripped and the upper branches out of our reach, but it never occurs to us to look for new trees.

At this point His Majesty scowled, stared out the window for a few minutes, then started shoveling down his oatmeal. I quietly slipped away and started working on my Sunday School lesson. We’re starting the New Testament, the lesson outline is for an introductory lesson that give the instructor unusual freedom on what to teach, and  I’m thinking my theme will be Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

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