Professor Sucharit Bhakdi… Rabble-Rouser?

Professor Sucharit Bhakdi of Kiel, Germany, who has spearheaded the campaign against the “Covid” dictatorship and the MRNa “vaccines,” has recently been indicted on flimsy charges that boil down to rabble-rousing. What is more, a change to the German Criminal Code has just been waved through the Bundestag, one designed to facilitate a clamp-down on dissidents of every stripe, including those who do not buy the “Satanic Putin” tale. We review the issues here.


Since the 16th Century and the crusade waged by a certain ex-Augustinian and heavy feeder, unredeemed by his undeniable literary skills, and going by the initials ML, Germany’s enthusiasm for freedom of speech and freedom tout court, has been at best, lukewarm. Mendelssohn Moses, author of these lines, would merely remark that the views of that monk on the subject of my co-religionaries, though notoriously unflattering were perhaps less immediately disastrous than his views on the peasantry—8,000 murdered in the Peasant Wars of 1524 to 1526.

The fact remains that from the days of the bizarre ML, the German-speaking world, like England since the day of that other heavy feeder Henry VIII, has squirmed in fear of the authorities.

However, while in 2022, the entire German state apparatus is seen to fawn and simper before its NATO oppressors, Germany is not quite Sodom and Gomorrah: she has righteous men in her midst.

Such as Professor Sucharit Bhakdi, standing straight as a poplar. Although born a Thai, he has been a German citizen for decades, while his endless CV points to perhaps the most-decorated natural scientist in the contemporary German-speaking world:

1979 Justus Liebig University Giessen Prize
1980 Konstanz Medicine Prize
1987 German Society for Microbiology Prize
1988 Dr. Friedrich Sasse Prize
1989 Ludwig Schunk Prize for Medicine
1989 Robert-Koch-Förderpreis of Clausthal-Zellerfeld
1991 Gay-Lussac Humboldt Prize
2001 Aronson Prize
2005 H. W. Hauss Award
2005 Verdienstorden des Landes Rheinland-Pfalz
2009 Rudolf-Schönheimer Medal of the German Society for Arteriosclerosis Research

From the outset of the Scamdemic, Bhakdi spoke out on every occasion against the irrational “anti-Covid” measures, and then, well ahead of the curve, against the so-called MRNa-based anti-Covid “vaccines,” foreseeing precisely what forms of harm would likely arise. Suddenly, he and his wife Karina Reiss became international celebrities, and their books on the matter, best-sellers. (Separately, there is also an excellent dissection of the “Covid” scam networks by two intelligence specialists).

Where NATO Stalkers, Playing Goodie Two-Shoes, Make the “Law”

But in Germany, the hyena, not the bear, roams the wilds. The moment an intellectual pokes his head above the parapet, an army of hyena-like Goodie Two-Shoes pore over his every word, in hopes of finding a nano-particle of that catch-all substance, “anti-semitism.” (As an aside, allow me to add that Palestinians and “Arabs” are every bit as much the Semite as Papa Mendelssohn, save that anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and of course anti-Muslim sentiment is actively encouraged… one wonders why?)

Be that as it may, one day in April 2021, bursting out in disappointment at the lamb-to-the-slaughter attitude of Israel’s citizens in the face of the vaccine lobby, Professor Bhakdi exclaimed:

“Here we have a people who fled Germany, a Germany racked by outright Evil, and we find they have made (of their country) something worse even than was Germany then (…) What is disturbing with the Jews, is how quickly they learn. No other people learns so readily. But they have learnt what is Evil—and they have put it to work. Israel has become hell on earth.”—Die lebende Hölle.

On September 24, 2021, at an election meeting whilst campaigning for office on the Die Basis party ticket, Bhakdi declared that the “anti-Covid” injections were to be analysed in the context of an Endziel, a “final solution” or second holocaust.

If one can still speak of “law” in Germany’s current state of disarray, we are to believe that merely referring to a second holocaust would amount, in legal terms, to “relativising” that which struck the Jews in WWII. One fails to see how such a ludicrous argument might hold, but the point, of course, is to muzzle all opposition.

And so, in July 2021 we find the Public Prosecutor at Kiel, the town of Bhakdi’s residence, examining whether the Professor should be indicted for “relativisation” (sic) and “incitement to hatred” (Volksverhetzung), which roughly corresponds to that legal UFO known to the English-speaking world as “hate crime.” To the keen disappointment of some, in November 2021 the Prosecutor dropped the case for lack of suitable grounds.

The air resounded with relentless howling from the hyenas however, and by May 2022, Kiel’s superior, the Public Prosecutor for the State of Schleswig Holstein, had been got to file a complaint against Bhakdi for “incitement” to hatred and contempt, which was accepted by the Plön Circuit Court (Amtsgericht) in November, just in time for Bhakdi’s birthday. By the way, the legal position has been dealt with on several occasions and very competently, by a group of “dissident” Judges and Prosecutors, KriSTA.

In any event, assuming that poor Germany, littered with US bases and atomic weapons, may still exist in May 2023, the case will be tried in March 2023.

Bhakdi Attempts to Head Off the “Covid” Disaster

Allow me a digression here: Professor Bhakdi is a practising Buddhist, and something of a visionary, foreseeing the consequences of acts and events years, even decades in advance. For us Jews, Bhakdi is the very definition of a prophet. Like the vaccinologist Stefan Hockertz, who has had, literally, to flee Germany, or his colleagues Professors Vélot, Peronne or Toubiana in France, or the medical doctors Carlo Giraldi, Dario Giacomini and Giovanni Vanni Frajese in Italy, Bhakdi was right about “Covid,” right about the “anti-Covid” scam, right about masking, right about the D-dimer tests, right about the MRNa vaccines—while most of the Western world was hiding under the bed.

Fearing for the future of Man, and to crack us out of mass-hypnosis, Professor Bhakdi has a penchant for harsh, even ruthless language – prophetic if you prefer. Upon this being who suffers for Man and who is therefore vulnerable, unlike the grinning enforcers of this world, falls the latter’s rage, as they attempt to drive him to bankruptcy through legal fees, and to despair.

Wailing and Teeth-Gnashing? The Rest of the World has had Enough

Before looking at the changes to German law on Volksverhetzung, voted up shortly before midnight on October 20, 2022, allow me to return to the allegedly unique character of what happened to European Jewry between 1939 and 1945, the incessant droning repetition of which is designed to keep Germans cowed and on the leash for eternity.

Most historians would put the figure for the dead amongst my co-religionaries at roughly six million. WHAT then shall we say of the 26 to 40 million Slavs, Hungarians and Gypsies of various nations “lost in death’s dateless night” during Operation Barbarossa? Entirely burnt up, sacrificed—that is what the Greek word “holocaust” means. For Russia alone, though the exact figure remains unknown, 20 million civilians at least are thought to have been lost, and well over ten million soldiers, as the Wehrmacht broke over her borders. What if Operation Barbarossa had succeeded? Would there yet remain a single Slav on earth? Bear in mind that we are meant to believe that the Western Ukraine is not “Slav”. Therefore, what of the current alliance between Germany, NATO and the Stepan-Banderites in the Ukraine—is this not Operation Barbarossa II?

Accordingly, Papa Mendelssohn has a message to his co-religionaries: Watch your step. The peoples of the rest of the world have had it up to here with our non-stop wailing and gnashing of teeth over the events of 1939-1945, used to justify the many and varied crimes perpetrated before our eyes—or, face it, by us. Get to work on the veterinarian Albert Bourla and his bosses first. Given the kill-rate in Israel from the vet’s injection campaign, saving what’s left of us Jews is going to be a tall order. So, deal with it. (As an aside—have we yet the right to call ourselves “Jews,” as we blithely ignore Yahve’s Sixth and most fundamental Order to Moses? Which is THOU SHALT NOT KILL).

Professor Bhakdi is Not, nor Ever Has Been, a Volksverhetzer

On no account whatsoever, neither in the ancient nor in the modern sense of the term, can Professor Sucharit Bhakdi be said to be a “Volksverhetzer.”

The term Volksverhetzung is an ancient one, referring to acts that deliberately cause disturbance amongst the people. It is made up of the term Volk (people), and the ancient verb hetzen or verhetzen, which means “to stir up” or “incite.” Might there be some sort of relation between the verb hexen, to cast an evil spell, and hetzen? Whatever—the fact remains that in modern times, the legal purview of such an offence must always be very narrow indeed, and restricted to those rare circumstances where an agitator willfully stirs the crowd to perpetrate a crime against persons or property. A very recent and telling example of Volksverhetzen and Hexerei (witchcraft) is when provocateurs excited the crowd to burn fifty Russian-speaking trade unionists alive in their offices at Odessa on May 2, 2014.

And so we have the latest wording (October 20, 2022) of Section 130 para. 5 of the German Penal Code:

“Whosoever shall approve of, deny or crassly downplay whether in public or at a demonstration, a gesture amongst those referred to at Sections 6 to 12 of the International Criminal Code directed at a group referred to at paragraph 1, point 1 (of the German Criminal Code), or against an individual on account of his belonging to that group, in such fashion as to incite to hatred or violence against such persons or group and to disturb the peace, may be sentenced to fines or to three years’ goal.”

As the Göttingen legal scholar Dr. Wolfgang Bittner observes, Sections 6 to 12 of the International Criminal Code concern genocide, crimes against Mankind, against persons, operations and humanitarian emblems, and war crimes that involve forbidden methods of means of war. That Section’s purview is so vast, that a Prosecutor or Magistrate will enjoy virtually unrestricted latitude faced with dissidents of any stripe. What of Demonstrator X marching down the street, whilst somewhere lost in the crowd Demonstrator Y, a hirsute fanatic or provocateur, waves about a sign with irresponsible scribblings? Might X be prosecuted for marching in the same crowd? With the new wording of Section 130, the answer may very well be Yes.

“Political convictions” and New Section 130

Neither is Colonel (Reserve) Edgar Siemund a happy camper—as one sees from his remarkable commentary, published on November 3rd in the on-line Austrian weekly Wochenblick.

Col. Siemund, a practising lawyer, notes that the German Government claims to have had new Section 130 para 5. voted up, only further to grievances raised by the EU, when Germany “failed” to implement EU Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JAH dated 28th November 2008 on various forms of racism and xenophobia. That Framework Decision however, dates from 2008, while the Bundestag was called upon to vote in October 2022—out of the blue and near midnight—on this rider, smack in the midst of NATO’s Operation Barbarossa II.

Secondly, Col. Siemund pointed to a fascinating little “Whereas” (N° 10) of that Framework decision, where one reads:

“This Framework Decision does not prevent a Member State from adopting provisions in national law which extend Article 1(1)(c) and (d) to crimes directed against a group of persons defined by other criteria than race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, such as social status or political convictions.”

Are we to understand that harsh critics of the Ukrainian Banderites such as Arno Klarsfeld, may henceforth be indicted for Volksverhetzung, having objected to the Banderites’ “political convictions?”

As one will readily perceive, like most of what passes for EU legislation, these self-proclaimed “legal” texts are so poorly drafted, as to admit of virtually any interpretation or rather, manipulation. That this is precisely the aim, is scarcely conjecture.

Following Col. Siemund’s lead, we shall skim through the all-purpose terminology offered up on a platter to Prosecutors, terminology for which the new German Section 130 does not trouble to propose a definition, whether linguistic or legal.

  • leugnet (to deny) : should a researcher express doubt as to a received “truth”, has he ipso facto become a “denier?”
  • gröblich verharmlosen (crassly relativise or minimise): who shall define the semantic field of the adverb “crassly”? What does “relativising” a murder mean? Merely placing it into a military or social context? Would a silly, vulgar joke brawled out at a drunken get-together suffice ?
  • zu Hass aufzustacheln (inciting to hatred) : what is “hatred”? Lack of respect for a Banderite? How does one “incite” third parties to hatred? Does that take years? Months? Minutes? Must the inciter hold sway and authority over the incited?

As an aside, it is my conviction that the notion of “hate crime” has no place, in any form, in any modern legal system. Either the hater undertakes an overt, criminal act against persons or property, or engages in an overt, criminal conspiracy to commit such acts. What he may think, whom he may hate, will always remain irrelevant to the law—unless actual harm be done. Or unless we intend to carry on policing Thought—a trend which cannot but lead to mass psychosis, outbreaks of rage and thus criminality on an unheard-of scale.

Surprise!—The Non-Existent “Russian” Lobby and Sundry “Dissidents”—The Law’s Real Target

On November 5th, 2022, Ulrich Heyden, a formerly mainstream and now “controversial”, Moscow-based reporter, observed in Rubikon Magazin
that the German Parliament, manifestly intent on setting up a legal grey-zone, expressly declined to restrict the notion of Volksverhetzen in criminal law, to those rare cases where a domestic or international Court had already found that some form of war crime or crime against humanity was indeed involved.

According to Heyden, a prominent Green Party MP, Canan Baryam, after expressing delight at the opportunities the new Section 130 might afford against the opposition party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), let the cat out of the bag to Legal Tribune: “one can full well imagine a state of affairs,” where the new Section 130 might be relied upon against those who fail to toe the NATO line on “Putin’s” war in the Ukraine. “For example”, she said “in the context of the Russian war of aggression, endorsing a war crime against the Ukrainians as a group via slogans or signs carried aloft at a demonstration, could become an indictable offence.”

New Section 130 Cunningly Interwoven with the G10 Act

As though the above were not enough, on to the hidden nasties. Like Dr. Hans-Georg Maassen, former head of the Bundesverfassungsschutz (domestic intelligence services) now considered to be a “dissident” and a “conspiracy theorist”, Col. Siemund has happened on another worm in the bud. Section § 3 para. 1 S. 1 Nr. 6A of the Act dealing with limits on the secrecy of private correspondence (Gesetz zur Beschränkung des Brief-, Post- und Fernmeldegeheimnisses)10, known as the G10 Act, refers back to the aforesaid Section 130.

Given the rarefied responsibilities Dr. Maassen held until very recently, it may not be found amiss to cite his Tweet from October 26th in full:

“Take a close look at the new wording of Section § 130… it’s an onslaught on freedom of opinion. Few realise that Section § 3 para. 1 S. 1 Nr. 6A of the G10 Act refers back to it. (…). The latter Section deals with monitoring telephones, WhatsApp, e-mails etc. and the post by the intelligence services, which monitoring may be set up as soon as someone even thinks of Volksverhetzung. Since we now have a broader purview of Section § 130 of the Criminal Code, Section § 3 of the G10 Act may be implemented without restriction. The law as it stands today, was already unworthy of a free democracy, since the intelligence services may listen in to someone on mere suspicion of Volksverhetzung (as opposed to some capital crime). With the broadened purview of the offence under Section § 130 and consequently, extension of Section § 3 of the G10 Act, not a shred remains of the secrecy of private correspondence.”

Just perhaps, writes Col. Siemund, those who live in glass houses might not want to throw stones – while 12 million Germans have been forced or coerced into taking the “anti-Covid” shots with the disastrous known effects, the unvaccinated have been ostracised and deprived of basic rights. One day rather sooner than one might imagine, these twisted laws may be twisted back against the perpetrators of these new forms of injustice … such as one Nils Dampz, who, from German public television’s ARD studios at Los Angeles, in an article attacking Elon Musk, went on to refer to non-conformists as “rats, racists or conspiracy theorists”.

Meanwhile, back at the Ramstein air base in Hessen, the earth trembles at the arrival of US bombers, whilst Foreign Minister “Miss Piggy” Baerbock baldly states that the Ukraine’s interests must prevail over those of Germany’s citizens. Behind the back of Chancellor Scholz, away in China attempting to patch up the broken crockery, Miss Piggy then receives US Secretaries Blinken and Vikki “Cookie Handout” Nuland.

Keep calm and carry on. As the Gauleiters winkle away at their work of death and destruction, a shadow government is arising in every nation of Europe, made up of those who like Sucharit Bhakdi, are Thomas Mores who will keep their head.

[On November 30, 2022, Professor Bhakdi spoke, via video, to a sold-out conference in Austria, to which Herbert Kickl head of the FPÖ, sent a message of greetings when he was unable to attend at the last minute].


Mendelssohn Moses is a Paris-based writer.

Lies, Spies and US Bioweapons on the Verge of Armageddon

Initially, when the Russians brought the existence of the Ukrainian biolabs to the attention of the world, it was denied outright—the official Western response was—”those Ruskies just never stop lying.” And having shut down RT news, hardly anyone in the West knew anything about the Russian claim except that it was being made and it was therefore “disinformation,” and only conspiracy theorists believed it. Given there still has been no declaration of war by any Western country against Russia, one might think the “voices of social conscience” and the “guardians of truth” might at least be curious to know why the Western population was generally being “protected” from Russian news sources because the bright sparks thought the people just too dumb to be able to distinguish between truth and lie.

For a few years now, the bright sparks have decided that they alone know “the truth.” I am not sure which “settled science” it was exactly that decided that Russian media always tells lies, and that Western people are too gullible to be trusted with open access to Russian media. But it must have been the result of some scientific study by irreproachable “scientists,” because the masters of social conscience know and own the science on any given topic, and it was only us stooges that thought that such control of information was further proof of the dangerous totalitarian stranglehold of the Western world’s “leaders” and their mental enforcers.

But glory be, thanks to Victoria Nuland, that brain box and Democrat wife of Republican neo-con Robert Kagan, the current Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and former Assistant Secretary of State European and Eurasian Affairs, the US go-to girl in the “Revolution of Dignity” (you know, the one where “Dignity” meant burning alive their political opponents in Odessa—which local Russian speakers put at close to 400. But, hey, what would they know—they only lived there)—the story needed to by updated. Nuland clarified to the hapless Marco Rubio, who, when questioning her, expected her to respond that there were no labs, that they were actually just perfectly safe biolabs, conducting public health research. But with Russians in the picture, Nuland took on the role of Cassandra to warn that said labs in Ukraine were now a cause for concern, because their benign public health research was sure to be turned into “bioweapons” by those evil Russian.

Of course, the issue of biolabs and bioweapons is central to what is happening now—and is yet another factor in Russia’s “invasion.” And to make sure we would all share “the correct” memory of all this, on June 9, 2022 AD, the Pentagon released a Fact Sheet on WMD Threat Reduction Efforts with Ukraine, Russia and Other Former Soviet Union Countries. I think the centerpiece of the document is this:

The United States has also worked collaboratively to improve Ukraine’s biological safety, security, and disease surveillance for both human and animal health, providing support to 46 peaceful Ukrainian laboratories, health facilities, and disease diagnostic sites over the last two decades. The collaborative programs have focused on improving public health and agricultural safety measures at the nexus of nonproliferation.

On its release, some journalists, like Steve Sweeney from People’s World reported (June 14) that “The Pentagon said on Thursday that it has operated 46 biolabs in Ukraine handling dangerous pathogens, after previously dismissing the charges as Russian propaganda.” PolitiFact quickly weighed in with “The 46 facilities referenced in the articles and in the government’s fact sheet are owned and operated by Ukraine.” In the world of PolitiFact “working collaboratively” does not seem to be a synonym for funding. But while for the strict grammarians and guardians of “facts,” a tomato is definitely not a tomahto, the pertinent issue is smothered in the race to present nice, neat, clean facts to prevent us from ever believing anything that was not put together by team Goody Global Two Shoes—and that is the point made by bioweapons analyst Francis Boyle:

One of the latest explanations from a U.S. State Department spokesperson is that Ukraine has ‘biodefense’ laboratories, which are ‘not biological weapons facilities.’ The problem with making a distinction between ‘biodefense’ and ‘biowarfare’ is that, basically, there is none. No biodefense research is purely defensive, because to do biodefense work, you’re automatically engaged in the creation of biological weapons. All dual use research can be used for military purposes, and often is. As explained by Boyle, the idea behind ‘biodefense’ research is that there might be a natural pathogen out there that can cause a pandemic, or someone might release an engineered biological weapon, that we need to prepare a cure for.

How did such an obvious point pass the mental geniuses who tell us what to think? By the way Boyle is a human rights lawyer for all sorts of causes that generally fit neatly into the educated politically activist academic consensus (a critic of Israel and exponent of Palestinian rights, an advocate for indigenous and first nation rights, a supporter of Hawaiian self-determination, an international-law expert and legal adviser to the first Bosnia-Herzegovinian president). Then, he took an interest in bioweaponry and connected it to COVID. At once he became a “conspiracy theorist.” Anyone who thinks Big Pharma is capable of hazardous decisions, leveraging government and being involved in cartel collusion, and profiteering, and that it should be subjected to the kinds of protocols that no longer seem to exist for any of the larger corporation—is now labeled a “conspiracy theorist.”

If such a prime fact as Boyle’s about the nature of “biodefense” is smothered by weasel words, and by simply deferring to official statements made by the very operatives whose operations are being questioned, how was it ever possible for questions about government bioweaponry to get a serious airing in the public sphere? Answer—it was not possible, because the rules governing the “public square” no longer favor any kind of critical discussion—the public square itself dictates “the acceptable answers” to topics, and the public square is what the owners of that square say that it is—for the public square is very much a private possession.

But apart from the logic that Boyle brought to the conversation, even before every major news outlet in the country was falling over itself to attack right-wing conspiracy theorists, Newspunch counterpunched by demonstrating what a bunch of fraudsters the factcheckers are—when it reached back into the archives and found a piece from BioPrepWatch.com published in 2010: “Deleted Web Pages Show Obama Ordered Ukraine BioLabs to Develop ‘Deadly Pathogens.’” Allow me to reproduce the rest of the report:

Thenationalpulse.com reports: The article, which also highlighted the work of former Senator Dick Lugar, was additionally included in Issue No. 818 of the United States Air Force (USAF) Counterproliferation Center’s Outreach Journal.

Lugar said plans for the facility began in 2005 when he and then-Senator Barack Obama entered a partnership with Ukrainian officials. Lugar and Obama also helped coordinate efforts between the U.S and Ukrainian researchers that year in an effort to study and help prevent avian flu,” explained author Tina Redlup.

A 2011 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Anticipating Biosecurity Challenges of the Global Expansion of High-Containment Biological Laboratories explained how the Odessa-based laboratory “is responsible for the identification of especially dangerous biological pathogens.

This laboratory was reconstructed and technically updated up to the BSL-3 level through a cooperative agreement between the United States Department of Defense and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine that started in 2005. The collaboration focuses on preventing the spread of technologies, pathogens, and knowledge that can be used in the development of biological weapons,” the report continues.

The updated laboratory serves as Interim Central Reference Laboratory with a depozitarium (pathogen collection). According to Ukrainian regulations, it has a permit to work with both bacteria and viruses of the first and second pathogenic groups,” explains the report.

A separate document detailing Ukraine’s biolab network from the BioWeapons Prevention Project outlines in greater detail the scope of pathogens the facility has conducted research with.

Among the viruses the lab studied were Ebola and “viruses of pathogencity group II by using of virology, molecular, serologica and express methods.”

Additionally, the lab provided “special training for specialists on biosafety and biosecurity issues during handling of dangerous biological pathogenic agents.”

The unearthed biolab facility follows intense scrutiny over the U.S. government’s decision to fund risky, “gain-of-function” research in Wuhan at a Chinese Communist Party-run lab with military ties.

The combination of algorithmic-controlled information and the vanishing of web sites that disprove the approved “line” of the cabal at Google, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc., as well as the CIA, the FBI and the Government—is now such a conspicuous feature of our information flow in the West that an obvious question arises—how can anyone, who wants to get at the truth of things, still believe any official news source today? With respect to the war, in general, and the biolabs, in particular, the only position that is now permitted to be published in mainstream media is that if the Russians claim something, it is ipso facto propaganda and false. All nice and Manichean. And the way this seems to now be proven is that Government intelligence officials tell us so. Once upon a time academics and journalists were far more inclined to think that if the CIA said something there was a fair to good chance it was a lie.

So, before we carry on with looking briefly at the history of US biowarfare and what the Russian arguments and claims about US biolabs and weapons are, and why this should be widely known and discussed, instead of being denounced, and shutdown—let us just remind ourselves of a few unpleasant truths about the CIA, and why it is utterly imbecilic (and fully in keeping with the our age of the imbecilic) that journalists have derived their facts and larger narrative for understanding the Russia-Ukraine war from the Central Imbecilic (sorry, I meant, Intelligence) Agency.

Trust US. We are the CIA

Those of a certain age will most like be familiar with Phillip Agee’s Inside the Company: CIA Diary, which is Agee’s first-hand account of his twelve years as a CIA agent during his time in Uruguay, Ecuador, Mexico and Washington. The essentials are laid out in a couple of early paragraphs of the book, where he writes:

When I joined the CIA I believed in the need for its existence. After twelve years with the agency I finally understood how much suffering it was causing, that millions of people all over the world had been killed or had had their lives destroyed by the CIA and the institutions it supports. I couldn’t sit by and do nothing and so began work on this book. Even after recent revelations about the CIA it is still difficult for people to understand what a huge and sinister organization the CIA is. It is the biggest and most powerful secret service that has ever existed. I don’t know how big the KGB is inside the Soviet Union, but its international operation is small compared with the CIA’s. The CIA has 16,500 employees and an annual budget of $750,000,000. That does not include its mercenary armies or its commercial subsidiaries. Add them all together, the agency employs or subsidizes hundreds of thousands of people and spends billions every year. Its official budget is secret; it’s concealed in those of other Federal agencies. Nobody tells the Congress what the CIA spends. By law, the CIA is not accountable to Congress.

In the past 25 years, the CIA has been involved in plots to overthrow governments in Iran, the Sudan, Syria, Guatemala, Ecuador, Guyana, Zaire and Ghana. In Greece, the CIA participated in bringing in the repressive regime of the colonels. In Chile, The Company spent millions to “destabilize” the Allende government and set up the military junta, which has since massacred tens of thousands of workers, students, liberals and leftists. In Indonesia in 1965, The Company was behind an even bloodier coup, the one that got rid of Sukarno and led to the slaughter of at least 500,000 and possibly 1,000,000 people. In the Dominican Republic the CIA arranged the assassination of the dictator Rafael Trujillo and later participated in the invasion that prevented the return to power of the liberal ex-president Juan Bosch. In Cuba, The Company paid for and directed the invasion that failed at the Bay of Pigs. Sometime later the CIA was involved in attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro. It is difficult to believe, or comprehend, that the CIA could be involved in all these subversive activities all over the world.

Since Agee’s diary. there have been other accounts of the CIA, mainly by former operatives or academics, which go into the details of all the election rigging, coups, assassination attempts, false flag operations, torturing and various conspiracies (yes, shock, horror! the CIA has a history of conspiring to overthrow regimes, and fuel revolts and start wars). Before the Left was a woke joke, and the CIA had set up shop as a diversity service provider, scholars like William Blum (see his Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II) would write books exposing the various dirty tricks and machinations (installing bloody dictators, arming terrorists, working with drug runners, arms runners and money laundering—all for the good of the world. I thoroughly recommend Douglas Valentine’s 2017 book, The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World—it also has a chapter on the CIA in Ukraine. Here is synopsis of another book, Big White Lie: The CIA and the Cocaine/Crack Epidemic, by former DEA agent, Michael Levine which gives a pretty good account of what the CIA have been up to in the more overtly criminal stakes:

…the CIA has perverted the American criminal justice system by protecting drug dealers and murderers from prosecution; that Federal judges and prosecutors alleged to have broken narcotics laws have been protected from investigation; that the government of Bolivia and South American drug cartel leaders have been assisted and even paid by the CIA…without CIA support, South American cartels and the epidemic of cocaine and crack use in the U.S. would never have occurred.

During the Maidan revolution in 2014, McCain and Nuland were doing photo ops with Svoboda (the neo-Nazi political party) leader Oleh Tyahnybok and his cronies who were busy assisting in regime change. After all, at the end of the Second World War US intelligence agencies, including the CIA, recruited General Reinhard Gehlen, the German army’s intelligence chief for the Eastern Front during World War II, who “successfully maintained his intelligence network (it ultimately became the West German BND) even though he employed numerous former Nazis and known war criminals.” This was hidden from the public for some fifty years, until documents pertaining to this history were declassified in 2002. The following from The National Security Archive in 2005 is worth quoting:

The documentation unearthed by the IWG (The Nazi War Crimes Interagency Working Group) reveals extensive relationships between former Nazi war criminals and American intelligence organizations, including the CIA. For example, current records show that at least five associates of the notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann worked for the CIA, 23 other Nazis were approached by the CIA for recruitment, and at least 100 officers within the Gehlen organization were former SD or Gestapo officers.

The IWG enlisted the help of key academic scholars to consult during the declassification process, and these historians released their own interpretation of the declassified material in May of 2004, in a publication called US Intelligence and the Nazis. The introduction to this book emphasizes the dilemma of using former Nazis as assets:

The notion that they [CIA, Army Counterintelligence Corp, Gehlen organization] employed only a few bad apples will not stand up to the new documentation. Some American intelligence officials could not or did not want to see how many German intelligence officials, SS officers, police, or non-German collaborators with the Nazis were compromised or incriminated by their past service.

Apparently, the Nazi spies were a disaster! As the report continues:

Lack of sufficient attention to history-and, on a personal level, to character and morality-established a bad precedent, especially for new intelligence agencies. It also brought into intelligence organizations men and women previously incapable of distinguishing between their political/ideological beliefs and reality. As a result, such individuals could not and did not deliver good intelligence. Finally, because their new, professed ‘democratic convictions’ were at best insecure and their pasts could be used against them (some could be blackmailed), these recruits represented a potential security problem.

But now that Russia’s geopolitical concerns are strategically regional and have nothing in common with the globalist aspirations of the former Soviets, many of the very people who previously were very willing to denounce the CIA for its interventions in Chile, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, Cuba, Greece, Iran, Indonesia etc. are more than willing to read from the script prepared by the CIA. Still, the take-home point from any of the left-leaning books on the CIA, written in the last thirty years or so, is that the CIA acted covertly, criminally, and very often under the veil of “plausible deniability;” which is to say, it was often left free to do whatever it thought necessary, without there being any followable line of command that would link its actions to the President—and, of course, it lied—constantly. It also involved itself in propaganda. It is obvious that the entrenchment of nefarious practices tend to continue well after any rationale for adopting them has vanished. On the issue of propaganda, the following from Agee is important:

The CIA’S role in the US propaganda program is determined by the official division of propaganda into three general categories: white, grey and black. White propaganda is that which is openly acknowledged as coming from the US government, e.g. from the US Information Agency (USIA); grey propaganda is ostensibly attributed to people or organizations who do not acknowledge the US government as the source of their material and who produce the material as if it were their own; black propaganda is unattributed material, or it is attributed to a non-existent source, or it is false material attributed to a real source. The CIA is the only US government agency authorized to engage in black propaganda operations, but it shares the responsibility for grey propaganda with other agencies such as USIA. However, according to the ‘Grey Law’ of the National Security Council contained in one of the NSCID’S, other agencies must obtain prior CIA approval before engaging in grey propaganda. The vehicles for grey and black propaganda may be unaware of their CIA or US government sponsorship. This is partly so that it can be more effective and partly to keep down the number of people who know what is going on and thus to reduce the danger of exposing true sponsorship. Thus editorialists, politicians, businessmen and others may produce propaganda, even for money, without necessarily knowing who their masters in the case are. Some among them obviously will and so, in agency terminology, there is a distinction between ‘witting’ and ‘unwitting’ agents.

Sound familiar? Allow me to align this with a piece by NBC (April 6 2022) that is breathtaking in its combination of chutzpah and imbecilic integrity. The headline reads “In a break with the past, U.S. is using intel to fight an info war with Russia, even when the intel isn’t rock solid.” “It doesn’t have to be solid intelligence,” one U.S. official said. “It’s more important to get out ahead of them [the Russians], Putin specifically, before they do something.”

It continues:

It was an attention-grabbing assertion that made headlines around the world: U.S. officials said they had indications suggesting Russia might be preparing to use chemical agents in Ukraine. President Joe Biden later said it publicly. But three U.S. officials told NBC News this week there is no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine. They said the U.S. released the information to deter Russia from using the banned munitions. It’s one of a string of examples of the Biden administration’s breaking with recent precedent by deploying declassified intelligence as part of an information war against Russia. The administration has done so even when the intelligence wasn’t rock solid, officials said, to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin off balance. Coordinated by the White House National Security Council, the unprecedented intelligence releases have been so frequent and voluminous, officials said, that intelligence agencies had to devote more staff members to work on the declassification process, scrubbing the information so it wouldn’t betray sources and methods.

Who needs rock solid when the government and its intel are so great?

Let’s consider one last piece on the CIA—Tim Weiner’s, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. It is a fairly sober account of the CIA by a journalist whose recent pronouncements—short of anything resembling proof—on this war seem to me to make him prey to his own quarry. But his book of 2007 makes some good points. The first is a good summing up of the limits of “intelligence”—which is salient to why it is insane for journalists to think they are doing a democracy anything other than a disservice by parroting the “talking points” of their “intelligence” sources: “Intelligence fails because it is human, no stronger than the power of one mind to understand another. Garrett Jones, the CIA station chief during the disastrous American expedition in Somalia, put it plainly: ‘There are going to be screw-ups, mistakes, confusion, and missteps,’ he said. “One hopes they won’t be fatal.”

The second, is a good summary of how the intelligence game changed with the war on terror, and how that “war” has led to how the CIA now operates:

The CIA had run secret interrogation centers before–beginning in 1950, in Germany, Japan, and Panama. It had participated in the torture of captured enemy combatants before–beginning in 1967, under the Phoenix program in Vietnam. It had kidnapped suspected terrorists and assassins before–most famously in 1997, in the case of Mir Amal Kansi, the killer of two CIA officers. But Bush gave the agency a new and extraordinary authority: to turn kidnapped suspects over to foreign security services for interrogation and torture, and to rely on the confessions they extracted. As I wrote in The New York Times on October 7, 2001: “American intelligence may have to rely on its liaisons with the world’s toughest foreign services, men who can look and think and act like terrorists. If someone is going to interrogate a man in a basement in Cairo or Quetta, it will be an Egyptian or a Pakistani officer. American intelligence will take the information without asking a lot of lawyerly questions.” Under Bush’s order, the CIA began to function as a global military police, throwing hundreds of suspects into secret jails in Afghanistan, Thailand, Poland, and inside the American military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba for interrogations. The gloves were off. “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Bush told the nation in an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.

Of course, the justification for the “war on terror” moved from the war against the Taliban to the war against Iraq; and while the rationale of that war, mentioned below, was based on false information, the real rationale enthusiastically repeated on numerous occasions by Tony Blair was that it was the task of democracies to overthrow tyrants wherever they were. Hence the requisite procedure in the international arena becomes one of declaring one’s enemy a tyrant to legitimate regime change. And as was signaled with the passing of the Magnitsky Act back in 2012, which enabled the seizure of Russian assets, the decision that regime change had to occur in Russia precedes not only the present war in the Ukraine, but the Maidan.

And if anyone out there still thinks the CIA is a trustworthy institution (and I have not even touched upon its various debacles which have been addressed by other authors) let’s go to the third passage from Weiner, which I think particularly pertinent because even the slew of pro-war Democrats might remember where they purportedly once stood (of course, I am joshing. Most of them went in boots and all with young George W and the CIA. So much for principles):

President Bush presented the CIA’s case and more in his State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003: Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to kill millions, chemical weapons to kill countless thousands, mobile biological weapons labs designed to produce germ-warfare agents. “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” he said. “Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. All of this was terrifying. None of it was true.

In a nutshell, there is nothing about the CIA’s history which indicates that it is a trustworthy operation. The good thing about most of the left-wing writings on the CIA—and even though I am often critical of the Left, I have always thought this aspect of their investigations to be a valuable contribution to any public considerations of state action—is that they invariably identity the nexus between corporate interests and the state. An iconic expression of the problem was by Major General Smedley Butler back in the 1930s in his War is a Racket:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

Nothing has changed in that the real reason for NATO expansionism and for the most brazen proxy war funded by way Western governments funneling tax payers’ money, without resorting to anything remotely resembling electoral approval, to send weapons to Ukraine.

Far less reported are NATO’s nuclear war games which are being held some six hundred miles from Russia. And what is simply not known at all—is what the Russians are saying about US bioweapons.

A Brief History of The US Bioweapon Research and Why the Russians Are Bothered

US government research into biological warfare originated in the Second World War in response to British and French concerns that the Nazis might attack with biological weapons. They didn’t, but the Japanese were also developing biological weapons that they would use against the Chinese—they experimented on prisoners, poisoned wells, and dropped plague infested fleas over cities and rice fields. The Soviets had also been attacked with biological weapons, and after the war they convicted some of the Japanese researchers, although the Soviets had already been working on biological warfare from the 1920s and would become world leaders in bioweaponry until the Union collapsed.

The defeat of the Japanese provided a valuable source of new recruits for the US government in the area of biological warfare. The extent to which the US was able to make use of the Japanese research is not altogether clear, but we do know that both in the US and Japan secret research was being conducted, involving known war criminals for the next forty years. This information started coming to light in the 1990s when, as Sheldon Harris in his book of 1994, Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover Up, the Clinton administration “began to lift the veil of secrecy concerning United States; experiments with human subjects in hundreds of studies during and since the end of World War II.” Forgive the lengthiness of the quote from Harris; but as most people will not be aware of this, I think it important to cite in full; and it nicely provides something of a history of US, Japanese and Soviet bioweaponry:

We now know that American scientists tested humans with mustard gas, other chemical agents, exposed others to radiation tests, and still others to a variety of pathogens without the subjects’ knowledge or consent. In many instances, the most distinguished scientists from the most prestigious American universities participated both in deceiving their patients and in conducting the experiments. Even today, those scientists still active in the field, and their host universities, deny involvement. Recently opened former Soviet archives disclose that the Soviet Union inaugurated a large-scale biological warfare program beginning in the mid-1920s. Humans were used often in experiments that covered a variety of diseases potentially useful in biological warfare. Research facilities were established throughout that vast nation, and, according to Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin, such research continues covertly today.

The Soviet cover was partially blown in 1979 when a massive outbreak of anthrax affected a large area around the Urals city of Sverdlovsk. The most conservative estimates are that at least ninety-six people were infected, and that some sixty-six people died as a result of the outbreak. The true figures, no doubt, are higher. The most terrifying aspect of the outbreak was the disclosure that the Sverdlovsk biological warfare plant accidentally released less than one gram of anthrax spores, possibly as little as several milligrams. It does not take much imagination to calculate how much death and destruction the release of a few grams of anthrax spores into a heavily populated community could cause.

In Japan, scientists who participated in involuntary human experiments during World War II, and earlier, dominated the administration and controlled the areas of research of the country’s National Institute of Health for one half-century after the war ended…it should be noted here that at least seven of the NIH’s Directors and five of the Institute’s Vice Directors, during the 1930s and 1940s, engaged in biological warfare experiments which employed human test subjects. The National Institute of Health is a government-supported agency. Yet these known war criminals were employed by this institution, were given great powers within the organization and continued to use humans without their consent, and often without their knowledge, in investigations that were carried on during the course of more than forty years. It is known that experiments were authorized on prisoners, babies and patients in psychiatric hospitals in 1947, and from 1952 until 1955 by the NIH’s Vice Director Masami Kitaoka. Another researcher conducted bacteriological experiments on infants hospitalized in Tokyo’s National First Hospital in 1952. Later, this same researcher, from 1967 until 1971, used shigella in experiments on soldiers in Japan’s Self-Defence Forces. In May 1985, an NIH researcher experimentally injected an unapproved vaccine against a Japanese encephalitis virus into nearly 200 hospitalized children without their parents’ consent. At different times over a three-year period, 1987, 1988, 1989, Kuniaki Nerome experimentally tested two types of genetically modified vaccine against influenza on approximately forty hospitalized children. Their parents were unaware of the tests and did not give their informed consent for the vaccines to be used on their children.

There are a number of international treaties being drawn up that seek to outlaw biological warfare, and, by implication, involuntary human experimentation. The United States, Russia (the former Soviet Union) and Japan are signatories to the various international agreements outlawing human experimentation, and the production of biological warfare agents. Nevertheless, both these activities appear to be flourishing today in all three countries, as well as elsewhere in various parts of the world. It appears that human testing, biological and chemical weapons will be part of former President George Bush’s so-called new world order for some time to come.

It is true that in 1969 President Nixon made a statement signaling the end of US offensive biological weapons programs and in 1972, along with Soviet Union, the Biological Weapons Conventions, outlawing biological warfare. What one makes of this very much depends upon what one thinks of the efficacy of international declarations, pieces of paper and signatures, and whether one thinks public gestures disclose hidden operations.

One investigative journalist who was doing his job well was Gordon Thomas. Early in his book, Spies and Lies: A History of CIA Mind Control and Germ Warfare, in the midst of discussing the anthrax attacks that took place in the US in October 2001, he writes:

In 2004, the U.S. armory of weaponized biological agents consisted of 19 bacteria, 43 viruses, 14 toxins and 4 rickettsiae. Their use remains outlawed under the Geneva Protocol of 1925. Within five years of the protocol’s creation Italy, Belgium, Canada, France, Britain, the Netherlands, Poland and the Soviet Union had all signed. The United States did not sign until 1975. By then the U.S. had developed a massive biochemical arsenal. Shortly before the September 11 attack, the Pentagon admitted that at Nellis Air Force base, one of the most secret in America, it had established the world’s largest stockpile of biological and chemical weapons. It had been created largely by CIA scientists. One of these scientists had been an obsessive “biochemist whose work pioneered the research which eventually led to the stockpile. His name was Frank Olson.

On that terrible September day in 2001, Olson’s son, Eric, was living in the family home in Frederick, Maryland, a short distance from Fort Detrick, where his father had worked for the CIA. That establishment then—and now—remains a restricted place, guarded by a variety of electronic defenses and armed “guards. As the television set in Eric’s living room endlessly replayed the 9/11 scenes of destruction from New York and Washington, he typed into his computer—on which he had stored so many astonishing matters relating to the death of his father—the most astounding claim of all:

“My father was murdered because the CIA feared he would reveal the biggest American secret of the Cold War, perhaps of all time. It is the secret of how the CIA was involved in biological warfare as well as mind control. My father had a key part in both programs.”

The takeaways from this very brief history are simply that the US has engaged in bioweapon research; that it has stockpiles—an “armory”—of weaponized biological agents; and that it is extremely secretive. Everything can of course have a purely benign spin—the research is purely defensive/preventative. It exists to save us from bio attacks by terrorists or rogue states—like Russia—and that it is important to prevent terrorists and rogue states from getting hold of the research and having access to the biological agents. As we all know the United States is still the only state to have used nuclear weapons. It sets itself up as the moral arbiter of nations and what constitutes a just international order. It is entitled to be an exceptional state—that’s part of its Calvinist heritage (hard to believe when you see its public clowns today)—but it sticks to it. The question is: is the USA a force for the angels? Or does it say one thing and do another? Is its bioresearch all for the human good? Or is it a potential source of devastation?

Irrespective of what you or I might think, the thing that must be born in mind when the Russians went on the offensive about the biolabs in the Ukraine, and the US went from denial (and when that became too implausible) to “nothing to see here, all above-board, and there is nothing remotely dangerous in any of this.”

Apart from what seems to me to be the Western explanation—one can very easily find out why the Russians are bothered, and why it might even be reasonable for them to be bothered when one listens to what they are saying. And what they are saying is deeply disturbing, and as far as I can see it, while the very idea that Ukrainian/ US biolabs could be genuinely perceived as a serious threat to Russia is ridiculed and ‘factchecked’ by repeating government/ intelligence press releases, anyone who reads the Russian Government Report, The activities of the biological laboratories of the US Department of Defense in Ukraine will see that, at the very least, there is a story here, and that to bury it is but one more egregious example of the complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy of our “idea-broking” professionals.

An essential component of that story is the connection between the end of the Soviet Union, the expansion of NATO (which the West refuses to concede is any serious cause of aggravation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and which involves “experts” and “journalists” repeating the lie that none ever said NATO expansion would stop with the end of the Cold War), and the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. That Program was initiated by the US government working in cooperation with the Pentagon and CIA—the Pentagon Division was originally entitled the “Defense Special Weapons Agency,” before changing its name to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the US Army Institute for Medical Research on Infectious Diseases. The Program’s ostensible purpose was the elimination of stockpiles of Soviet nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, which effectively gave the US control over former Soviet biological weapons.

Although, it might be a source of puzzlement for those who think that the USA, unlike any other imperial or hegemonic power, simply acts for the good of all human kind—and that it and its allies are not driven by the strategic self-interests of their ruling classes—the “Cooperative Reduction Program” not only involved taking over the stockpiles (and specialists trained in developing and studying pathogens and bioweapon technology) in Russia, but also countries “along the perimeter of the borders of Russia: Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan,” before expanding into other parts of Asia and Africa.

What was meant to be an elimination program morphed into something far more in keeping with a geopolitical strategy commensurate with the continuation of NATO expansion and the United States’ mission of a unipolar world, and a source of concern for the Russians, viz. “one after another transferred their collections of dangerous pathogens to the United States in exchange for American help. Who neutralized them in America, how and whether they were actually destroyed—remained a mystery.”

But then everything to do with the labs was a mystery—which, on a tangential though not completely unrelated matter, is why the issues of the laboratory source of COVID, and the pharmaceutical and financial and political networks involved in the origin of the pandemic (whether true or fake) are still smothered in deceit and mystery.

In any case, what was officially presented as a program of elimination turned into an opportunity too good to miss, as an extensive network of labs working with dangerous viruses were set up in former Soviet countries: “All of them were financed by the US Department of Defense, were called differently everywhere and were created, as a rule, on the basis of scientific research institutes and SES, created back in the Soviet period. One of the features of this program consisted in the fact that in each country not one object was erected, but a whole cluster at once. Part of it was concentrated directly in the capitals of the former republics, while related institutions were located in different parts of the country.”

The Report then identifies what it calls two “strong opinions” about this network in the former Soviet republics, and they are worth citing at length:

First. American biological programs in the post-Soviet states are a way to circumvent the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction (BTWC). Despite the fact that the Convention was signed back in 1972, to this day, the control mechanism does not work largely due to the efforts of the United States, although the world expert community spent more than 45 years developing it. In 2001, the US demonstrated to the world that it had active bioprograms. After the attack on September 11, 2001, deaths of anthrax among people suddenly began to be recorded, and postal envelopes became the transmission route of this infection. The US Congress conducted an investigation (later it turned out that the recipe was combat and came out of the walls of the US Army bacteriological center at Fort Detrick). The attack against its own people, attributed to terrorists, gave huge political dividends to the US leadership. Now there was a formal reason to declare that the States are victims of biological terrorism and therefore unilaterally withdraw from the mechanism of collective control over the implementation of the BTWC. In autumn 2001, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this in Geneva. At the same time, a biological threat reduction program (the Nunn-Lugar program) was proposed, and the United States began large-scale construction of military biological laboratories, including around Russia. But holding the United States accountable for conducting biological experiments that violate the UN Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons is almost impossible. The US does not recognize the International Criminal Court and was not a signatory to the founding Rome Statute….

Second. The United States, after the collapse of the USSR, became very concerned about the conditions for the storage of pathogens and, as a result, the threat of a biological attack on America. The global American project declares its goal to minimize these threats, which is why tens and hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in laboratories in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Moldova, and Ukraine. They say that dangerous strains of microorganisms may leak into the environment in these countries. However, it does not explain how, for example, Armenia or Uzbekistan can organize a biological attack on the United States or why the laboratories are mainly located in large cities with a high population density or at a close distance from them. After all, it is much more logical, if there is even a minimal threat of pathogen leakage, to build such facilities in a desert area in order to eliminate the possibility of the spread of pathogens and epidemics.

As for the more specific purposes of the research, the penultimate paragraph of the Report sums it up thus:

The activities of American biological laboratories damage the economy, including by indirect methods (due to the destruction of livestock of diseased livestock, discrediting livestock products on local and world markets), as well as the human potential of Russia (reduction of general immunity and resistance to seasonal diseases, ability to reproduce, decreased efficiency, etc.), the diversion of significant forces and resources of the state to combat artificial outbreaks of infectious diseases. As a result the dependence of the attacked countries (Russia, China and Iran) on the products of the Western pharmaceutical industry is increasing, hoping in the future to offer medicines against artificially caused outbreaks of infectious diseases.

The Report also notes the mutuality of political, military and corporate interests that are embedded in bioresearch, and the geopolitical conditions that the US needs to establish and maintain for it to be effective. Again, I quote at length:

US biolaboratories located along the borders of the Russian Federation have a number of common features. These objects are strictly classified and are located in cities or near cities with a population of over a million (Odessa, Kharkov, Almaty), near seaports (Odessa), airports (Tbilisi, Yerevan, Kyiv) or in earthquake-prone countries such as Armenia (Yerevan, Gyumri, Ijevan) , and even in areas with a probability of 9-magnitude earthquakes (Almaty). The construction of laboratories as part of projects to counter biological threats allows the United States to fully control the biological situation on the territory of both the respective post-Soviet countries and their transboundary neighbors. Virologists know that there is only one step from studying bacteria to creating a bacteriological weapon. In addition, the biolaboratories created by the United States, operating in a closed regime, are removed from the control of the governments of the countries in which they are located. Laboratories are often staffed by Americans with diplomatic immunity, and local health officials do not have direct access to these facilities.

The number of laboratory staff, from 50 to 250 people, far exceeds the number of personnel needed to maintain modern civilian laboratories with stated goals. The heads of the facilities are often appointed by persons from among the military loyal to Washington or intelligence officers. So, the CRL in Tbilisi was previously headed by the chief of Georgian intelligence Anna Zhvania and he was subordinate not to the Ministry of Health, but to the Ministry of Defense of Georgia.

In the case of Ukraine, and unlike other parts of the former USSR, it was not until the Presidency of George W. Bush that bioweapon research was conducted there. Like Obama and Trump after him, George W. originally campaigned on a foreign policy platform of cooperation with Russia—but that counted for zero once elected, and his regime’s setting up of military laboratories in Ukraine would be an important part in a chain of events that has led to the brink we now live upon.

The Report quotes the Political Scientist Dmitry Skvortsov: “Now there are 15 military laboratories in the country at once, and their activities are absolutely non-transparent and unaccountable. Hence the conclusion: these facilities were created by the Pentagon as manufacturers of biological weapons. Otherwise, why aim to prevent the spread of ‘technologies, viruses and pathogens’ used in the development of biological weapons in facilities where these weapons have never been developed?”

The Report also quotes the former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov complaining about the secrecy surrounding the research and the lack of controls able to be exercised on the research.

When the story about the existence of the US/Ukraine biolabs was labelled “misinformation,” before being changed to “so what? It’s for our own good,” one might have thought that would be some follow up by journalists about claims of odd viral outbreaks in Ukraine. But that has never happened. Just because journalists do not report things does not mean such things do not exist. And the Report points out that there have been bacterial and viral outbreaks in Ukraine of the sort which indicate laboratory sources.

For example in 2010 and 2015, there were California flu pandemics:

…when the epidemiological threshold was exceeded in 20 regions. From October 2015 to February 2016, more than 350 virologically confirmed deaths from this type of A (H1N1) virus were registered in Ukraine, with 40% of deaths were young people from 18 to 26 years old who did not have chronic diseases.”

Also,

Since 1995, no cases of cholera have been registered in Ukraine. And suddenly in 2011 in Mariupol, 33 people get sick at once. In 2009, 450 Ukrainians in Ternopil suffered from a rare virus that causes hemorrhagic pneumonia. In 2014, there was another outbreak of cholera in Ukraine, which came from nowhere—then 800 people fell ill. The same thing happens in 2015 and 2017: about a hundred cases were registered in Mykolaiv.

In 2015, fatal cases of leptospirosis, rabies and other pathologies, which have long been forgotten in the EU countries, were recorded in Ukraine. In 2016, an epidemic begins in the country botulism, from which four people die, and in 2017—eight more, only according to official data.

In January of the same year, 37 residents of Nikolaev were hospitalized with “jaundice”, six months later 60 people with the same diagnosis were hospitalized in Zaporozhye. At the same time, an outbreak of hepatitis A was noted in Odessa, and 19 children from the boarding school were sent to the hospital in the Odessa region. In November 27 cases of infection have already been recorded in Kharkiv. The virus was transmitted through drinking water.

The Report also notes:

…the existence of 13,476 permanently dysfunctional anthrax sites in the country, which no one deals with, and some of them graze cattle. Only in the Odessa region there are 430 potentially dangerous objects where animals can catch the disease.

This is exactly what happened in 2018, when anthrax broke out in several villages of the Odessa region: five people ended up in the hospital with a skin form of the disease. In the Sumy region there are at least 20 animal burial grounds with anthrax, and not designated in any way.

The situation with the incidence of botulism is also close to catastrophic. In 2016, 115 cases of botulism were reported in Ukraine, of which 12 were fatal. In 2017, the country’s Ministry of health service has confirmed an additional 90 cases and 8 deaths. In subsequent years, the trend continued: 13 outbreaks were registered in the first three months of 2020 botulism, 15 people got sick, including one child of 9 years old.

The Report also draws attention to another tactic of biological weaponry that might be easier to ignore because its effects are far less dramatic and overt—and that is the release of many “small viruses, colds, varieties of runny nose, multiple strains of influenza,” that do not kill or seriously injure those affected, but which impact the general well-being and energy of a population.

And then there are the epidemics affecting agriculture and the economy:

With the beginning of the active work of DTRA in Ukraine, mass deaths from epidemics began not only of people, but also of animals. Avian flu and African swine fever have dealt a heavy blow to the country’s agriculture. For example, in 2015, 60 thousand pigs were killed and burned at the Kalita agricultural plant alone. At the end of 2016, the EU banned the import of poultry meat from Ukraine due to the epidemiological situation in the country. According to published data, since 2017 Ukraine already imports more sausage than it exports. Thus, Ukraine from a competitor in the market of agricultural products is turning into a market for these products from the EU and the USA. The money invested in the laboratory is returned.

Another example were the outbreaks of bird flu was in 2016 and 2017 that led to a temporary bans by the EU and some Eastern European countries on Ukrainian poultry.

Finally, let me cite one last section of the Teport which discusses another report undertaken by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) “analyzing the risks associates with activities in the field of American biological laboratories. In particular, the document notes that the program provides for the accumulation in the Kherson Regional Laboratory Center of the State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service of Ukraine of samples of pathogens from different regions of Ukraine under the pretext of studying the specifics of local strains and determining the degree of virulence of the obtained samples among the population”:

The next stage of cooperation, according to the SBU, should be the generalization and referral of research results to the Center for Biological Research at the US Defense Ministry, ostensibly to attract American specialists to develop vaccine samples that are maximally adapted to the residents of a particular region. The persistent efforts of the United States to resume the project indicate the intention to establish control over all domestic studies of pathogens of particularly dangerous infectious diseases that can be used for creation or modernization of new types of selective biological weapons. At the same time, it is not excluded that in the conditions of broad rights and powers guaranteed by the program, a foreign party will be able to study its own test systems on the territory of Ukraine, which creates a potential threat to epidemiological and epizootic situations, both in the region and in the country as a whole.

In sum, what the Russians fear about the biolabs is that research has been done with the explicit intention of breaking down the “national biological protection system.”

I have not the slightest doubt that if these claims were being made about the Russians the mainstream media would be creating a state of utter hysteria in the Western population. Already Western propaganda has succeeded in dehumanizing not only the Russians, but anyone who does not go along with the primary main stream media and the Pentagon and Intelligence claims made about the cause, meaning and justification of the war.

For my part, and as I have indicated in various essays for the Postil, I cannot ignore the constant calls for depopulation coming from the World Economic Forum and the likes of such gigantic brains and compassionate people as Klaus Schwab and Yuval Harari—and I cannot but think that bioweaponry can easily be used for that purpose.

Indeed, I ask myself, if it is necessary to save the planet by killing a few billion people, why wouldn’t our global leaders resort to biological weaponry? Perhaps that weaponry might be used in the most charitable way by simply attacking the reproductive capacities of the weakest of the species—and the weakest would be those who come from nations whose biological protective systems have been weakened through the deliberate release of pathogens.

That is not a conspiracy theory, it is simply posing the question, why would those who openly conspire to achieve the world they want—one with far less “useless people,” and as Harari points out without the least hesitation or sense of shame, most of the world’s population simply no longer have any further use—also not do the deeds that achieve their ends?

One way of doing the culling is to condemn entire peoples by dehumanizing them—initially by taking out nations who have been branded as “monsters,” and when that is not enough simply moving on to the useless.

As for those of you who think the concerns of the Russians “monsters” are just lies and propaganda, you might ask yourself why have they just drafted a proposal urging the UN Security Council to “set up a commission consisting of all members of the Security Council to investigate into the claims against the US and Ukraine contained in the complaint of the Russian Federation regarding the compliance with obligations under the [Biological Weapons] Convention in the context of the activities biological laboratories in the territory of Ukraine,” and present a report by November 30, 2022?


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen booksHe also doubles up as a singer songwriter. His latest album can be found here.


Featured: “The Triumph of Death,” by Pieter Brueghel the Elder; painted ca. 1562.

The Marching Morons

This story first appeared in the April 1951 issue of the science fiction magazine, Galaxy.


In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man, of course, is king. But how a live wire, a smart businessman, in a civilization of 100% pure chumps?

Some things had not changed. A potter’s wheel was still a potter’s wheel and clay was still clay. Efim Hawkins had built his shop near Goose Lake, which had a narrow band of good fat clay and a narrow beach of white sand. He fired three bottle-nosed kilns with willow charcoal from the wood lot. The wood lot was also useful for long walks while the kilns were cooling; if he let himself stay within sight of them, he would open them prematurely, impatient to see how some new shape or glaze had come through the fire, and—ping!—the new shape or glaze would be good for nothing but the shard pile back of his slip tanks.

A business conference was in full swing in his shop, a modest cube of brick, tile-roofed, as the Chicago- Los Angeles “rocket” thundered overhead—very noisy, very swept-back, very fiery jets, shaped as sleekly swift-looking as an airborne barracuda.

The buyer from Marshall Fields was turning over a black-glazed one liter carafe, nodding approval with his massive, handsome head. “This is real pretty,” he told Hawkins and his own secretary, Gomez-Laplace. “This has got lots of what ya call real est’etic principles. Yeah, it is real pretty.”

“How much?” the secretary asked the potter.

“Seven-fifty each in dozen lots,” said Hawkins. “I ran up fifteen dozen last month.”

“They are real est’etic,” repeated the buyer from Fields. “I will take them all.”

“I don’t think we can do that, doctor,” said the secretary. “They’d cost us $1,350. That would leave only $532 in our quarter’s budget. And we still have to run down to East Liverpool to pick up some cheap dinner sets.”

“Dinner sets?” asked the buyer, his big face full of wonder.

“Dinner sets. The department’s been out of them for two months now. Mr. Garvy-Seabright got pretty nasty about it yesterday. Remember?”

“Garvy-Seabright, that meat-headed bluenose,” the buyer said contemptuously. “He don’t know nothin’ about est’etics. Why for don’t he lemme run my own department?” His eye fell on a stray copy of Whambozambo Comix and he sat down with it. An occasional deep chuckle or grunt of surprise escaped him as he turned the pages.

Uninterrupted, the potter and the buyer’s secretary quickly closed a deal for two dozen of the liter carafes. ”I wish we could take more,” said the secretary, “but you heard what I told him. We’ve had to turn away customers for ordinary dinnerware because he shot the last quarter’s budget on some Mexican piggy banks some equally enthusiastic importer stuck him with. The fifth floor is packed solid with them.”

“I’ll bet they look mighty est’etic.”

“They’re painted with purple cacti.”

The potter shuddered and caressed the glaze of the sample carafe.

The buyer looked up and rumbled, “Ain’t you dummies through yakkin’ yet? What good’s a seckertary for if’n he don’t take the burden of de-tail off’n my back, harh?”

“We’re all through, doctor. Are you ready to go?”

The buyer grunted peevishly, dropped Whambozambo Comix on the floor and led the way out of the building and down the log corduroy road to the highway. His car was waiting on the concrete. It was, like all contemporary cars, too low-slung to get over the logs. He climbed down into the car and started the motor with a tremendous sparkle and roar.

“Gomez-Laplace,” called out the potter under cover of the noise, “did anything come of the radiation program they were working on the last time I was on duty at the Pole?”

“The same old fallacy,” said the secretary gloomily. “It stopped us on mutation, it stopped us on culling, it stopped us on segregation, and now it’s stopped us on hypnosis.”

“Well, I’m scheduled back to the grind in nine days. Time for another firing right now. I’ve got a new luster to try . . .”

“I’ll miss you. I shall be ‘vacationing’—running the drafting room of the New Century Engineering Corporation in Denver. They’re going to put up a two hundred-story office building, and naturally somebody’s got to be on hand.”

“Naturally,” said Hawkins with a sour smile.

There was an ear-piercingly sweet blast as the buyer leaned on the horn button. Also, a yard-tall jet of what looked like flame spurted up from the car’s radiator cap; the car’s power plant was a gas turbine, and had no radiator.

“I’m coming, doctor,” said the secretary dispiritedly. He climbed down into the car and it whooshed off with much flame and noise.

The potter, depressed, wandered back up the corduroy road and contemplated his cooling kilns. The rustling wind in the boughs was obscuring the creak and mutter of the shrinking refractory brick. Hawkins wondered about the number two kiln—a reduction fire on a load of lusterware mugs. Had the clay chinking excluded the air? Had it been a properly smoky blaze? Would it do any harm if he just took one close—?

Common sense took Hawkins by the scruff of the neck and yanked him over to the tool shed. He got out his pick and resolutely set off on a prospecting jaunt to a hummocky field that might yield some oxides. He was especially low on coppers.

The long walk left him sweating hard, with his lust for a peek into the kiln quiet in his breast. He swung his pick almost at random into one of the hummocks; it clanged on a stone which he excavated. A largely obliterated inscription said:

ERSITY OF CHIC
OGICAL LABO
ELOVED MEMORY OF
KILLED IN ACT

The potter swore mildly. He had hoped the field would turn out to be a cemetery, preferably a once- fashionable cemetery full of once-massive bronze caskets moldered into oxides of tin and copper.

Well, hell, maybe there was some around anyway.

He headed lackadaisically for the second largest hillock and sliced into it with his pick. There was a stone to undercut and topple into a trench, and then the potter was very glad he’d stuck at it. His nostrils were filled with the bitter smell and the dirt was tinged with the exciting blue of copper salts. The pick went clang!

Hawkins, puffing, pried up a stainless steel plate that was quite badly stained and was also marked with incised letters. It seemed to have pulled loose from rotting bronze; there were rivets on the back that brought up flakes of green patina. The potter wiped off the surface dirt with his sleeve, turned it to catch the sunlight obliquely and read:

“HONEST JOHN BARLOW
“Honest John,” famed in university annals, represents a challenge which medical science has not yet answered: revival of a human being accidentally thrown into a state of suspended animation.

In 1988 Mr. Barlow, a leading Evanston real estate dealer, visited his dentist for treatment of an impacted wisdom tooth. His dentist requested and received permission to use the experimental anesthetic Cycloparadimetbanol-B-7, developed at the University.

After administration of the anesthetic, the dentist resorted to his drill. By freakish mischance, a short circuit in his machine delivered 220 volts of 60-cycle current into the patient. (In a damage suit instituted by Mrs. Barlow against the dentist, the University and the makers of the drill, a jury found for the defendants.) Mr. Barlow never got up from the dentist’s chair and was assumed to have died of poisoning, electrocution or both.

Morticians preparing him for embalming discovered, however, that their subject was—though certainly not living—just as certainly not dead. The University was notified and a series of exhaustive tests was begun, including attempts to duplicate the trance state on volunteers. After a bad run of seven cases which ended fatally, the attempts were abandoned.

Honest John was long an exhibit at the University museum, and livened many a football game as mascot of the University’s Blue Crushers. The bounds of taste were overstepped, however, when a pledge to Sigma Delta Chi was ordered in ’03 to “kidnap” Honest John from his loosely guarded glass museum case and introduce him into the Rachel Swanson Memorial Girls’ Gymnasium shower room.

On May 22nd, 2003, the University Board of Regents issued the following order: “By unanimous vote, it is directed that the remains of Honest John Barlow be removed from the University museum and conveyed to the University’s Lieutenant James Scott III Memorial Biological Laboratories and there be securely locked in a specially prepared vault. It is further directed that all possible measures for the preservation of these remains be taken by the Laboratory administration and that access to these remains be denied to all persons except qualified scholars authorized in writing by the Board. The Board reluctantly takes this action in view of recent notices and photographs in the nation’s press which, to say the least, reflect but small credit upon the University.”

It was far from his field, but Hawkins understood what had happened—an early and accidental blundering onto the bare bones of the Levantman shock anesthesia, which had since been replaced by other methods. To bring subjects out of Levantman shock, you let them have a squirt of simple saline in the trigeminal nerve. Interesting. And now about that bronze—

He heaved the pick into the rotting green salts, expecting no resistence, and almost fractured his wrist. Something down there was solid. He began to flake off the oxides.

A half hour of work brought him down to phosphor bronze, a huge casting of the almost incorruptible metal. It had weakened structurally over the centuries; he could fit the point of his pick under a corroded boss and pry off great creaking and grumbling striae of the stuff.

Hawkins wished he had an archeologist with him, but didn’t dream of returning to his shop and calling one to take over the find. He was an all-around man: by choice and in his free time, an artist in clay and glaze; by necessity, an automotive, electronics and atomic engineer who could also swing a project in traffic control, individual and group psychology, architecture or tool design. He didn’t yell for a specialist every time something out of his line came up; there were so few with so much to do…

He trenched around his find, discovering that it was a great brick-shaped bronze mass with an excitingly hollow sound. A long strip of moldering metal from one of the long vertical faces pulled away, exposing red rust that went whoosh and was sucked into the interior of the mass.

It had been de-aired, thought Hawkins, and there must have been an inner jacket of glass which had crystalized through the centuries and quietly crumbled at the first clang of his pick. He didn’t know what a vacuum would do to a subject of Levantman shock, but he had hopes, nor did he quite understand what a real estate dealer was, but it might have something to do with pottery. And anything might have a bearing on Topic Number One.

He flung his pick out of the trench, climbed out and set off at a dog-trot for his shop. A little rummaging turned up a hypo and there was a plasticontainer of salt in the kitchen.

Back at his dig, he chipped for another half hour to expose the juncture of lid and body. The hinges were hopeless; he smashed them off.

Hawkins extended the telescopic handle of the pick for the best leverage, fitted its point into a deep pit, set its built-in fulcrum, and heaved. Five more heaves and he could see, inside the vault, what looked like a dusty marble statue. Ten more and he could see that it was the naked body of Honest John Barlow, Evanston real estate dealer, uncorrupted by time.

The potter found the apex of the trigeminal nerve with his needle’s point and gave him 60 cc.

In an hour Barlow’s chest began to pump.

In another hour, he rasped, “Did it work?”

Did it!” muttered Hawkins. Barlow opened his eyes and stirred, looked down, turned his hands before his eyes—

“I’ll sue!” he screamed. “My clothes! My fingernails!” A horrid suspicion came over his face and he clapped his hands to his hairless scalp. “My hair!” he wailed. “I’ll sue you for every penny you’ve got! That release won’t mean a damned thing in court—I didn’t sign away my hair and clothes and fingernails!”

“They’ll grow back,” said Hawkins casually. “Also your epidermis. Those parts of you weren’t alive, you know, so they weren’t preserved like the rest of you. I’m afraid the clothes are gone, though.”

“What is this— the University hospital?” demanded Barlow. “I want a phone. No, you phone. Tell my wife I’m all right and tell Sam Immerman—he’s my lawyer—to get over here right away. Greenleaf 7-4022. Ow!” He had tried to sit up, and a portion of his pink skin rubbed against the inner surface of the casket, which was powdered by the ancient crystalized glass. “What the hell did you guys do, boil me alive? Oh, you’re going to pay for this!”

“You’re all right,” said Hawkins, wishing now he had a reference book to clear up several obscure terms. “Your epidermis will start growing immediately. You’re not in the hospital. Look here.”

He handed Barlow the stainless steel plate that had labeled the casket. After a suspicious glance, the man started to read. Finishing, he laid the plate carefully on the edge of the vault and was silent for a spell.

“Poor Verna,” he said at last. “It doesn’t say whether she was stuck with the court costs. Do you happen to know—”

“No,” said the potter. “All I know is what was on the plate, and how to revive you. The dentist accidentally gave you a dose of what we call Levantman shock anesthesia. We haven’t used it for centuries; it was powerful, but too dangerous.”

“Centuries . . .” brooded the man. “Centuries . . . I’ll bet Sam swindled her out of her eyeteeth. Poor Verna. How long ago was it? What year is this?”

Hawkins shrugged. “We call it 7-B-936. That’s no help to you. It takes a long time for these metals to oxidize.”

“Like that movie,” Barlow muttered. “Who would have thought it? Poor Verna!” He blubbered and sniffled, reminding Hawkins powerfully of the fact that he had been found under a flat rock.

Almost angrily, the potter demanded, “How many children did you have?”

“None yet,” sniffed Barlow. “My first wife didn’t want them. But Verna wants one—wanted one—but we’re going to wait until—we were going to wait until— ”

“Of course,” said the potter, feeling a savage desire to tell him off, blast him to hell and gone for his work. But he choked it down. There was The Problem to think of; there was always The Problem to think of, and this poor blubberer might unexpectedly supply a clue. Hawkins would have to pass him on.

“Come along,” Hawkins said. “My time is short.”

Barlow looked up, outraged. “How can you be so unfeeling? I’m a human being like—”

The Los Angeles-Chicago “rocket” ‘thundered overhead and Barlow broke off in mid-complaint. “Beautiful!” he breathed, following it with his eyes. “Beautiful!”

He climbed out of the vault, too interested to be pained by its roughness against his infantile skin. “After all,” he said briskly, “this should have its sunny side. I never was much for reading, but this is just like one of those stories. And I ought to make some money out of it, shouldn’t I?” He gave Hawkins a shrewd glance.

“You want money?” asked the potter. “Here.” He handed over a fistful of change and bills. “You’d better put my shoes on. It’ll be about a quarter-mile. Oh, and you’re—uh, modest?—yes, that was the word. Here.” Hawkins gave him his pants, but Barlow was excitedly counting the money.

“Eighty-five, eighty-six—and it’s dollars, too ! I thought it’d be credits or whatever they call them. ‘E Pluribus Unum’ and ’Liberty’—just different faces. Say, is there a catch to this? Are these real, genuine. honest twenty-two-cent dollars like we had or just wallpaper?”

“They’re quite all right, I assure you,” said the potter. “I wish you’d come along. I’m in a ‘hurry.”

The man babbled as they stumped toward the shop. “Where are we going—The Council of Scientists, the World Coordinator or something. like that?”

“Who? Oh, no. We call them ‘President’ and ‘Congress.’ No, that wouldn’t do any good at all. I’m just taking you to see some people.”

“I ought to make plenty out of this. Plenty! I could write books. Get some smart young fellow to put it into words for me and I’ll bet I could turn out a best-seller. What’s the setup on things like that?”

“It’s about like that. Smart young fellows. But there aren’t any best-sellers any more. People don’t read much nowadays. We’ll find something equally profitable for you to do.”

Back in the shop, Hawkins gave Barlow a suit of clothes, deposited him in the waiting room and called Central in Chicago. “Take him away,” he pleaded. “I have time for one more firing and he blathers and blathers. I haven’t told him anything. Perhaps we should just turn him loose and let him find his own level, but there’s a chance—”

“The Problem,” agreed Central. “Yes, there’s a chance.”

The potter delighted Barlow by making him a cup of coffee with a cube that not only dissolved in cold water but heated the water to boiling point. Killing time, Hawkins chatted about the “rocket” Barlow had admired, and had to haul himself up short; he had almost told the real estate man what its top speed really was—almost, indeed, revealed that it was not a rocket.

He regretted, too, that he had so casually handed Barlow a couple of hundred dollars. The man seemed obsessed with fear that they were worthless since Hawkins refused to take a note or I.O.U. or even a definite promise of repayment. But Hawkins couldn’t go into details, and was very glad when a stranger arrived from Central.

“Tinny-Peete, from Algeciras,” the stranger told him swiftly as the two of them met at the door. “Psychist for Poprob. Polasigned special overtake Barlow.”

“Thank Heaven,” said Hawkins. “Barlow,” he told the man from the past, “this is Tinny-Peete. He’s going to take care of you and help you make lots of money.”

The psychist stayed for a cup of the coffee whose preparation had delighted Barlow, and then conducted the real estate man down the corduroy road to his car, leaving the potter to speculate on whether he could at last crack his kilns.

Hawkins, abruptly dismissing Barlow and the Problem, happily picked the chinking from around the door of the number two kiln, prying it open a trifle. A blast of heat and the heady, smoky scent of the reduction fire delighted him. He peered and saw a corner of a shelf glowing cherry-red, becoming obscured by wavering black areas as it lost heat through the opened door. He slipped a charred wood paddle under a mug on the shelf and pulled it out as a sample, the hairs on the back of his hand curling and scorching. The mug crackled and pinged and Hawkins sighed happily.

The bismuth resinate luster had fired to perfection, a haunting film of silvery-black metal with strange bluish lights in it as it turned before the eyes, and the Problem of Population seemed very far away to Hawkins then.


Barlow and Tinny-Peete arrived at the concrete highway where the psychist’s car was parked in a safety bay.

“What—a—boat!” gasped the man from the past.

“Boat? No, that’s my car.”

Barlow surveyed it with awe. Swept-back lines, deep-drawn compound curves, kilograms of chrome. He ran his hands futilely over the door—or was it the door?—in a futile search for a handle, and asked respectfully, “How fast does if go?”

The psychist gave him a keen look and said slowly, “Two hundred and fifty. You can tell by the speedometer.”

“Wow! My old Chevvy could hit a hundred on a straightaway, but you’re out of my class, mister!”

Tinny-Peete somehow got a huge, low door open and Barlow descended three steps into immense cushions, floundering over to the right. He was too fascinated to pay serious attention to his flayed dermis. The dashboard was a lovely wilderness of dials, plugs, indicators, lights, scales and switches.

The psychist climbed down into the driver’s seat and did something with his feet. The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

“Do you like it?” yelled the psychist.

“It’s terrific!” Barlow yelled back. “It’s—”

He was shut up as the car pulled out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past Barlow’s head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.

“Fast enough for me,” yelled the psychist, noting that Barlow’s face fell in response. “Radio?”

He passed over a surprisingly light object like a football helmet, with no trailing wires, and pointed to a row of buttons. Barlow put on the helmet, glad to have the roar of air stilled, and pushed a push- button. It lit up satisfyingly and Barlow settled back even farther for a sample of the brave new world’s super-modern taste in ingenious entertainment.

“TAKE IT AND STICK IT!” a voice roared in his ears.

He snatched off the helmet and gave the psychist an injured look. Tinny-Peete grinned and turned a dial associated with the pushbutton layout. The man from the past donned the helmet again and found the voice had lowered to normal.

“The show of shows! The super-show! The super-duper show! The quiz of quizzes! Take it and stick it!

There were shrieks of laughter in the background.

“Here we got the contestants all ready to go. You know how we work it. I hand a contestant a triangle-shaped cutout and like that down the line. Now we got these here boards, they got cut-out places the same shape as the triangles and things, only they’re all different shapes, and the first contestant that sticks the cutouts into the board, he wins.

“Now I’m gonna innaview the first contestant. Right here, honey. What’s your name?’’

“Name? Uh—”

“Hoddaya like that, folks? She don’t remember her name! Hah? Would you buy that for a quarter?” The question was spoken with arch significance, and the audience shrieked, howled and whistled its appreciation.

It was dull listening when you didn’t know the punch lines and catch lines. Barlow pushed another button, with his free hand ready at the volume control.

” — latest from Washington. It’s about Senator Hull-Mendoza. He is still attacking the Bureau of Fisheries. The North California Syndicalist says he got affidavits that John Kingsley-Schultz is a bluenose from way back. He didn’t publistat the affydavits, but he says they say that Kingsley-Schultz was saw at bluenose meetings in Oregon State College and later at Florida University. Kingsley-Schultz says he gotta confess he did major in fly-casting at Oregon and got his Ph.D. in game-fish at Florida.

“And here is a quote from Kingsley-Schultz: ‘Hull-Mendoza don’t know what he’s talking about. He should drop dead.’ Unquote. Hull-Mendoza says he won’t publistat the affydavits to pertect his sources. He says they was sworn by three former employes of the Bureau which was fired for in-com-petence and in-com-pat-ibility by Kingsley-Schultz.

“Elsewhere they was the usual run of traffic accidents. A three-way pileup of cars on Route 66 going outta Chicago took twelve lives. The Chicago-Los Angeles morning rocket crashed and exploded in the Mo-have—Mo-jawy—what-ever-you-call-it Desert. All the 94 people aboard got killed. A Civil Aeronautics Authority investigator on the scene says that the pilot was buzzing herds of sheep and didn’t pull out in time.

“Hey! Here’s a hot one from New York! A Diesel tug run wild in the harbor while the crew was below and shoved in the port bow of the luck-shury liner S. S. Placentia. It says the ship filled and sank taking the lives of an es-ti-mated 180 passengers and 50 crew members. Six divers was sent down to study the wreckage, but they died, too, when their suits turned out to be fulla little holes.

“And here is a bulletin I just got from Denver. It seems—”

Barlow took off the headset uncomprehendingly. “He seemed so callous,” he yelled at the driver. “I was listening to a newscast — ”

Tinny-Peete shook his head and pointed at his ears. The roar of air was deafening. Barlow frowned baffledly and stared out of the window.

A glowing sign said:

MOOGS!
WOULD YOU BUY IT
FOR A QUARTER?

He didn’t know what Moogs was or were; the illustration showed an incredibly proportioned girl, 99.9 per cent naked, writhing passionately in animated full color.

The roadside jingle was still with him, but with a new feature. Radar or something spotted the car and alerted the lines of the jingle. Each in turn sped along a roadside track, even with the car, so it could be read before the next line was alerted.

IF THERE’S A GIRL
YOU WANT TO GET
DEFLOCCULIZE
UNROMANTIC SWEAT.
“A*R*M*P*I*T*T*O*”

Another animated job, in two panels, the familiar “Before and After.” The first said, “Just Any Cigar?” and was illustrated with a two-person domestic tragedy of a wife holding her nose while her coarse and red-faced husband puffed a slimy-looking rope. The second panel glowed, “Or a VUELTA ABAJO?” and was illustrated with—

Barlow blushed and looked at his feet until they had passed the sign.

“Coming into Chicago!” bawled Tinny-Peete.

Other cars were showing up, all of them dreamboats.

Watching them, Barlow began to wonder if he knew what a kilometer was, exactly. They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring air past your ears and didn’t let the speedy lines of the dreamboats fool you. He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five, with occasional spurts up to thirty. How much was a kilometer, anyway?

The city loomed ahead, and it was just what it ought to be: towering skyscrapers, overhead ramps, landing platforms for helicopters—

He clutched at the cushions. Those two ‘copters. They were going to—they were going to—they—

He didn’t see what happened because their apparent collision courses took them behind a giant building.

Screamingly sweet blasts of sound surrounded them as they stopped for a red light. “What the hell is going on here?” said Barlow in a shrill, frightened voice, because the braking time was just about zero, he wasn’t hurled against the dashboard. “Who’s kidding who?”

“Why, what’s the matter?” demanded the driver.

The light changed to green and he started the pickup. Barlow stiffened as he realized that the rush of air past his ears began just a brief, unreal split-second before the car was actually moving. He grabbed for the door handle on his side.

The city grew on them slowly: scattered buildings, denser buildings, taller buildings, and a red light ahead. The car rolled to a stop in zero braking time, the rush of air cut off an instant after it stopped, and Barlow was out of the car and running frenziedly down a sidewalk one instant after that.

They’ll track me down, he thought, panting. It’s a secret police thing. They’ll get you— mind-reading machines, television eyes everywhere, afraid you’ll tell their slaves about freedom and stuff. They don’t let anybody cross them, like that story I once read.

Winded, he slowed to a walk and congratulated himself that he had guts enough not to turn around. That was what they always watched for. Walking, he was just another business-suited back among hundreds. He would be safe, he would be safe—

A hand tumbled from a large, coarse, handsome face thrust close to his: “Wassamatta bumpinninna people likeya owna sidewalk gotta miner slamya inna mushya bassar!” It was neither the mad potter nor the mad driver.

“Excuse me,” said Barlow. “What did you say?”

“Oh, yeah?” yelled the stranger dangerously, and waited for an answer.

Barlow, with the feeling that he had somehow been suckered into the short end of an intricate land- title deal, heard himself reply belligerently, “Yeah!”

The stranger let go of his shoulder and snarled, “Oh, yeah?” “Yeah!” said Barlow, yanking his jacket back into shape.

“Aaah!” snarled the stranger with more contempt and disgust than ferocity. He added an obscenity current in Barlow’s time, a standard but physiologically impossible directive, and strutted off hulking his shoulders and balling his fists.

Barlow walked on, trembling. Evidently he had handled it well enough. He stopped at a red light while the long, low dream-boats roared before him and pedestrians in the sidewalk flow with him threaded their ways through the stream of cars. Brakes screamed, fenders clanged and dented, hoarse cries flew back and forth between drivers and walkers. He leaped backward frantically as one car swerved over an arc of sidewalk to miss another.

The signal changed to green, the cars kept on coming for about thirty seconds and then dwindled to an occasional light-runner. Barlow crossed warily and leaned against a vending machine, blowing big breaths.

Look natural, he told himself. Do something normal. Buy something from the machine.

He fumbled out some change, got a newspaper for a dime, a handkerchief for a quarter and a candy bar for another quarter.

The faint chocolate smell made him ravenous suddenly. He clawed at the glassy wrapper printed “CRIGGLIES” quite futilely for a few seconds, and then it divided neatly by itself. The bar made three good bites, and he bought two more and gobbled them down.

Thirsty, he drew a carbonated orange drink in another one of the glassy wrappers from the machine for another dime. When he fumbled with it, it divided neatly and spilled all over his knees. Barlow decided he had been there long enough and walked on.

The shop windows were—shop windows. People still wore and bought clothes, still smoked and bought tobacco, still ate and bought food. And they still went to the movies, he saw with pleased surprise as he passed and then returned to a glittering place whose sign said it was THE BIJOU.

The place seemed to be showing a quintuple feature, Babies Are Terrible, Don’t Have Children, and The Canali Kid.

It was irresistible; he paid a dol- lar and went in.

He caught the tail-end of The Canali Kid in three-dimensional, full-color, full-scent production. It appeared to be an interplanetary saga winding up with a chase scene and a reconciliation between estranged hero and heroine. Babies Are Terrible and Don’t Have Children were fantastic arguments against parenthood—the grotesquely exaggerated dangers of painfully graphic childbirth, vicious children, old parents beaten and starved by their sadistic offspring. The audience, Barlow astoundedly noted, was placidly champing sweets and showing no particular signs of revulsion.

The Coming Attractions drove him into the lobby. The fanfares were shattering, the blazing colors blinding, and the added scents stomach-heaving.

When his eyes again became accustomed to the moderate lighting of the lobby, he groped his way to a bench and opened the newspaper he had bought. It turned out to be The Racing Sheet, which afflicted him with a crushing sense of loss. The familiar boxed index in the lower left hand corner of the front page showed almost unbearably that Churchill Downs and Empire City were still in business—

Blinking back tears, he turned to -the Past Performances at Churchill. They weren’t using abbreviations any more, and the pages because of that were single-column instead of double. But it was all the same—or was it?

He squinted at the first race, a three-quarter-mile maiden claimer for thirteen hundred dollars. Incredibly, the track record was two minutes, ten and three-fifths seconds. Any beetle in his time could have knocked off the three-quarter in one-fifteen. It was the same for the other distances, much worse for route events.

What the hell had happened to everything?

He studied the form of a five-year-old brown mare in the second and couldn’t make head or tail of it. She’d won and lost and placed and showed and lost and placed without rhyme or reason. She looked like a front-runner for a couple of races and then she looked like a no-good pig and then she looked like a mudder but the next time it rained she wasn’t and then she was a stayer and then she was a pig again. In a good five-thousand-dollar allowances event, too!

Barlow looked at the other entries and it slowly dawned on him that they were all like the five-year-old brown mare. Not a single damned horse running had the slightest trace of class.

Somebody sat down beside him and said, “That’s the story.”

Barlow whirled to his feet and saw it was Tinny-Peete, his driver.

“I was in doubts about telling you,” said the psychist, “but I see you have some growing suspicions of the truth. Please don’t get excited. It’s all right, I tell you.”

“So you’ve got me,” said Barlow.

Got you?”

“Don’t pretend. I can put two and two together. You’re the secret police. You and the rest of the aristocrats live in luxury on the sweat of these oppressed slaves. You’re afraid of me because you have to keep them ignorant.”

There was a bellow of bright laughter from the psychist that got them blank looks from other patrons of the lobby. The laughter didn’t sound at all sinister.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Tinny-Peete, still chuckling. “You couldn’t possibly have it more wrong.” He engaged Barlow’s arm and led him to the street. “The actual truth is that the millions of workers live in luxury on the sweat of the handful of aristocrats. I shall probably die before my time of overwork unless—” He gave Barlow a speculative look. “You may be able to help us.”

“I know that gag,” sneered Bar- low. “I made money in my time and to make money you have to get people on your side. Go ahead and shoot me if you want, but you’re not going to make a fool out of me.”

“You nasty little ingrate!” snapped the psychist, with a kaleidoscopic change of mood. “This damned mess is all your fault and the fault of people like you! Now come along and no more of your nonsense.”
He yanked Barlow into an office building lobby and an elevator that, disconcertingly, went whoosh loudly as it rose. The real estate man’s knees were wobbly as the psychist pushed him from the elevator, down a corridor and into an office.

A hawk-faced man rose from a plain chair as the door closed behind them. After an angry look at Barlow, he asked the psychist, “Was I called from the Pole to inspect this—this—?’’

“Unget updandered. I’ve dee-probed etfind quasichance exhim Poprobattackline,” said the psychist soothingly.

“Doubt,” grunted the hawk-faced man.

“Try,” suggested Tinny-Peete.

“Very well. Mr. Barlow, I understand you and your lamented had no children.”

“What of it?”

“This of it. You were a blind, selfish stupid ass to tolerate economic and social conditions which penalized child-bearing by the prudent and foresighted. You made us what we are today, and I want you to know that we are far from satisfied. Damn-fool rockets! Damn-fool automobiles! Damn-fool cities with overhead ramps!”

“As far as I can see,” said Barlow, “you’re running down the best features of time. Are you crazy?”

“The rockets aren’t rockets. They’re turbo-jets — good turbo-jets, but the fancy shell around them makes for a bad drag. The automobiles have a top speed of one hundred kilometers per hour—a kilo- meter is, if I recall my paleolinguistics, three-fifths of a mile—and the speedometers are all rigged accordingly so the drivers will think they’re going two hundred and fifty. The cities are ridiculous, expensive, unsanitary, wasteful conglomerations of people who’d be better off and more productive if they were spread over the countryside.

“We need the rockets and trick speedometers and cities because, while you and your kind were being prudent and foresighted and not having children, the migrant workers, slum dwellers and tenant farmers were shiftlessly and short-sightedly having children—breeding, breeding. My God, how they bred!”

“Wait a minute,” objected Barlow. “There were lots of people in our crowd who had two or three children.”

“The attrition of accidents, illness, wars and such took care of that. Your intelligence was bred out. It is gone. Children that should have been born never were. The just-average, they’ll-get-along majority took over the population. The average IQ now is 45.”

“But that’s far in the future—” “So are you,” grunted the hawk-faced man sourly.

“But who are you people?”

“Just people—real people. Some generations ago, the geneticists realized at last that nobody was going to pay any attention to what they said, so they abandoned words for deeds. Specifically, they formed and recruited for a closed corporation intended to maintain and improve the breed. We are their descendants, about three million of us. There are five billion of the others, so we are their slaves.

“During the past couple of years I’ve designed a skyscraper, kept Billings Memorial Hospital here in Chicago running, headed off war with Mexico and directed traffic at LaGuardia Field in New York.”

“I don’t understand! Why don’t you let them go to hell in their own way?”

The man grimaced. “We tried it once for three months. We holed up at the South Pole and waited. They didn’t notice it. Some drafting-room people were missing, some chief nurses didn’t show up, minor government people on the non-policy level couldn’t be located. It didn’t seem to matter.

“In a week there was hunger. In two weeks there were famine and plague, in three weeks war and anarchy. We called off the experiment; it took us most of the next generation to get things squared away again.”

“But why didn’t you let them kill each other off?”

“Five billion corpses mean about five hundred million tons of rotting flesh.”

Barlow had another idea. “Why don’t you sterilize them?”

“Two and one-half billion operations is a lot of operations. Because they breed continuously, the job would never be done.”

“I see. Like the marching Chinese!”

“Who the devil are they?”

“It was a—uh—paradox of my time. Somebody figured out that if all the Chinese in the world were to line up four abreast, I think it was, and start marching past a given point, they’d never stop because of the babies that would be born and grow up before they passed the point.”

“That’s right. Only instead of ‘a given point,’ make it ‘the largest conceivable number of operating rooms that we could build and staff. There could never be enough.”

“Say!” said Barlow. “Those movies about babies—was that your propaganda?”

“It was. It doesn’t seem to mean a thing to them. We have abandoned the idea of attempting propaganda contrary to a biological drive.”

“So if you work with a biological drive—?”

“I know of none which is consistent with inhibition of fertility.”

Barlow’s face went poker-blank, the result of years of careful discipline. “You don’t, huh? You’re the great brains and you can’t think of any?”

“Why, no,” said the psychist innocently. “Can you?”

“That depends. I sold ten thousand acres of Siberian tundra—through a dummy firm, of course—after the partition of Russia. The buyers thought they were getting improved building lots on the outskirts of Kiev. I’d say that was a lot tougher than this job.”

“How so?” asked the hawk- faced man.

“Those were normal, suspicious customers and these are morons, born suckers. You just figure out a con they’ll fall for; they won’t know enough to do any smart checking.”

The psychist and the hawk-faced man had also had training; they kept themselves from looking with sudden hope at each other.

“You seem to have something in mind,” said the psychist.

Barlow’s poker face went blanker still. “Maybe I have. I haven’t heard any offer yet.”

“There’s the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve prevented Earth’s resources from being so plundered,” the hawk-faced man pointed out, “that the race will soon become extinct.”

“I don’t know that,” Barlow said bluntly. “All I have is your word.”

“If you really have a method, I don’t think any price would be too great,” the psychist offered.

“Money,” said Barlow.

“All you want.”

“More than you want,” the hawk-faced man corrected.

“Prestige,” added Barlow. “Plenty of publicity. My picture and my name in the papers and over TV every day, statues to me, parks and cities and streets and other things named after me. A whole chapter in the history books.”

The psychist made a- facial sign to the hawk-faced man that meant, “Oh, brother!”

The hawk-faced man signaled back, “Steady, boy!”

“It’s not too much to ask,” the psychist agreed.

Barlow, sensing a seller’s market, said, “Power!”

“Power?” the hawk-faced man repeated puzzledly. “Your own hydro station or nuclear pile?”

“I mean a world dictatorship with me as dictator!”

“Well, now —” said the psychist, but the hawk-faced man interrupted, “It would take a special emergency act of Congress but the situation warrants it. I think that can be guaranteed.”

“Could you give us some indication of your plan?” the psychist asked.

“Ever hear of lemmings?”

“No.”

“They are—were, I guess, since you haven’t heard of them—little animals in Norway, and every few years they’d swarm to the coast and swim out to sea until they drowned. I figure on putting some lemming urge into the population.”

“How?”

“I’ll save that till I get the right signatures on the deal.”

The hawk-faced man said, “I’d like to work with you on it, Barlow. My name’s Ryan-Ngana.” He put out his hand.

Barlow looked closely at the hand, then at the man’s face. “Ryan what?”

“Ngana.”

“That sounds like an African name.”

“It is. My mother’s father was a Watusi.”

Barlow didn’t take the hand. “I thought you looked pretty dark. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t think I’d be at my best working with you. There must be somebody else just as well qualified, I’m sure.”

The psychist made a facial sign to Ryan-Ngana that meant, “Steady yourself, boy!”

“Very well,” Ryan-Ngana told Barlow. “We’ll see what arrangement can be made.”

“It’s not that I’m prejudiced, you understand. Some of my best friends—”

“Mr. Barlow, don’t give it another thought. Anybody who could pick on the lemming analogy is going to be useful to us.”

And so he would, thought Ryan- Ngana, alone in the office after Tinny-Peete had taken Barlow up to the helicopter stage. So he would. Poprob had exhausted every rational attempt and the new Poprobattacklines would have to be irrational or sub-rational. This creature from the past with his lemming legends and his improved building lots would be a fountain of precious vicious self-interest.

Ryan-Ngana sighed and stretched. He had to go and run the San Francisco subway. Summoned early from the Pole to study Barlow, he’d left unfinished a nice little theorem. Between interruptions, he was slowly constructing an n-dimensional geometry whose foundations and superstructure owed no debt whatsoever to intuition.

Upstairs, waiting for a helicopter, Barlow was explaining to Tinny-Peete that he had nothing against Negroes, and Tinny-Peete wished he had some of Ryan-Ngana’s imperturbability and humor for the ordeal.

The helicopter took them to International Airport where, Tinny-Peete explained, Barlow would leave for the Pole.

The man from the past wasn’t sure he’d like a dreary waste of ice and cold.

“It’s all right,” said the psyehist. “A civilized layout. Warm, pleasant. You’ll be able to work more efficiently there. All the facts at your fingertips, a good secretary—”

“I’ll need a pretty big staff,” said Barlow, who had learned from thousands of deals never to take the first offer.

”I meant a private, confidential one,” said Tinny-Peete readily, “but you can have as many as you want. You’ll naturally have top-primary-top priority if you really have a workable plan.”

“Let’s not forget this dictatorship angle,” said Barlow.

He didn’t know that the psychist would just as readily have promised him deification to get him happily on the “rocket” for the Pole. Tinny-Peete had no wish to be torn limb from limb; he knew very well that it would end that way if the population learned from this anachronism that there was a small elite which considered itself head, shoulders, trunk and groin above the rest. The fact that this assumption was perfectly true and the fact that the elite was condemned by its superiority to a life of the most grinding toil would not be considered; the difference would.

The psychist finally put Barlow aboard the “rocket” with some thirty people—real people—headed for the Pole.

Barlow was airsick all the way because of a post-hypnotic suggestion Tinny-Peete had planted in him. One idea was to make him as averse as possible to a return trip, and another idea was to spare the other passengers from his aggressive, talkative company.

Barlow during the first day at the pole was reminded of his first day in the Army. It was the same now-where-the-hell-are-we-going-to-put-you? business until he took a firm line with them. Then instead of acting like supply sergeants they acted like hotel clerks.

It was a wonderful, wonderfully calculated buildup, and one that he failed to suspect. After all, in his time a visitor from the past would have been lionized.

At day’s end he reclined in a snug underground billet with the 60-mile gales roaring yards over-head, and tried to put two and two together.

It was like old times, he thought—like a coup in real estate where you had the competition by the throat, like a 50-per cent rent boost when you knew damned well there was no place for the tenants to move, like smiling when you read over the breakfast orange juice that the city council had decided to build a school on the ground you had acquired by a deal with the city council. And it was simple. He would just sell tundra building lots to eagerly suicidal lemmings, and that was absolutely all there was to solving the Problem that had these double-domes spinning.

They’d have to work out most of the details, naturally, but what the hell, that was what subordinates were for. He’d need specialists in advertising, engineering, communications—did they know anything about hypnotism? That might be helpful. If not, there’d have to be a lot of bribery done, but he’d make sure—damned sure—there were unlimited funds.

Just selling building lots to lemmings…

He wished, as he fell asleep, that poor Verna could have been in on this. It was his biggest, most stupendous deal. Verna—that sharp shyster Sam Immerman must have swindled her…

It began the next day with people coming to visit him. He knew the approach. They merely wanted to be helpful to their illustrious visitor from the past and would he help fill them in about his era, which unfortunately was somewhat obscure historically, and what did he think could be done about the Problem? He told them he was too old to be roped any more, and they wouldn’t get any information out of him until he got a letter of intent from at least the Polar President, and a session of the Polar Congress empowered to make him dictator.

He got the letter and the session. He presented his program, was asked whether his conscience didn’t revolt at its callousness, explained succinctly that a deal was a deal and anybody who wasn’t smart enough to protect himself didn’t deserve protection—”Caveat emp- tor,” he threw in for scholarship, and had to translate it to “Let the buyer beware.’’ He didn’t, he stated, give a damn about either the morons or their intelligent slaves; he’d told them his price and that was all he was interested in.

Would they meet it or wouldn’t they?

The Polar President offered to resign in his favor, with certain temporary emergency powers that the

Polar Congress would vote him if he thought them necessary. Barlow demanded the title of World Dictator, complete control of world finances, salary to be decided by himself, and the publicity campaign and historical writeup to begin at once.

“As for the emergency powers,” he added, “they are neither to be temporary nor limited.”

Somebody wanted the floor to discuss the matter, with the declared hope that perhaps Barlow would modify his demands.

“You’ve got the proposition,” Barlow said. “I’m not knocking off even ten per cent.”

“But what if the Congress refuses, sir?” the President asked.

“Then you can stay up here at the Pole and try to work it out yourselves. I’ll get what I want from the morons. A shrewd operator like me doesn’t have to compromise; I haven’t got a single competitor in this whole cockeyed moronic era.”

Congress waived debate and voted by show of hands. Barlow won unanimously.

“You don’t know how close you came to losing me,” he said in his first official address to the joint Houses. “I’m not the boy to haggle; either I get what I ask or I go elsewhere. The first thing I want is to see designs for a new palace for me—nothing unostentatious, either—and your best painters and sculptors to start working on my portraits and statues. Meanwhile, I’ll get my staff together.”

He dismissed the Polar President and the Polar Congress, telling them that he’d let them know when the next meeting would be.

A week later, the program started with North America the first target.

Mrs. Garvy was resting after dinner before the ordeal of turning on the dishwasher. The TV, of course, was on and it said: “Oooh!”—long, shuddery and ecstatic, the cue for the Parfum Assault Criminale spot commercial. “Girls,” said the announcer hoarsely, “do you want your man? It’s easy to get him—easy as a trip to Venus.”

“Huh?” said Mrs. Garvy.

“Wassamatter?” snorted her husband, starting out of a doze.

“Ja hear that?”

“Wha’?”

“He said ’easy like a trip to Venus.’”

“So?”

“Well, I thought ya couldn’t get to Venus. I thought they just had that one rocket thing that crashed on the Moon.”

“Aah, women don’t keep up with the news,” said Garvy righteously, subsiding again.

“Oh,” said his wife uncertainly.

And the next day, on Henry’s Other Mistress, there was a new character who had just breezed in: Buzz Rentshaw, Master Rocket Pilot of the Venus run. On Henry’s Other Mistress, “the broadcast drama about you and your neighbors, folksy people, ordinary people, real people!”

Mrs. Garvy listened with amazement over a cooling cup of coffee as Buzz made hay of her hazy convictions.

MONA: Darling, it’s so good to see you again!

BUZZ: You don’t know how I’ve missed you on that dreary Venus run.

SOUND: Venetian blind run down, key turned in door lock.

MONA: Was it very dull, dearest?

BUZZ: Let’s not talk about my humdrum job, darling. Let’s talk about us.

SOUND: Creaking bed.

Well, the program was back to normal at last. That evening Mrs. Garvy tried to ask again whether her husband was sure about those rockets, but he was dozing right through Take It and Stick It, so she watched the screen and forgot the puzzle.

She was still rocking with laughter at the gag line, “Would you buy it for a quarter?” when the commercial went on for the detergent powder she always faithfully loaded her dishwasher with on the first of every month.

The announcer displayed mountains of suds from a tiny piece of the stuff and coyly added: “Of course, Cleano don’t lay around for you to pick up like the soap root on Venus, but it’s pretty’ cheap and it’s almost pretty near just as good. So for us plain folks who ain’t lucky enough to live up there on Venus, Cleano is the real cleaning stuff!”

Then the chorus went into their “Cleano-is-the-stuff” jingle, but Mrs. Garvy didn’t hear it. She was a stubborn woman, but it occurred to her that she was very sick indeed. She didn’t want to worry her husband. The next day she quietly made an appointment with her family freud.

In the waiting room she picked up a fresh new copy of Readers Pablum and put it down with a faint palpitation. The lead article, according to the table of contents on the cover, was titled “The Most Memorable Venusian I Ever Met.”

“The freud will see you now,” said the nurse, and Mrs. Garvy tottered into his office.

His traditional glasses and whiskers were reassuring. She choked out the ritual: “Freud, forgive me, for I have neuroses.”

He chanted the antiphonal: “Tut, my dear girl, what seems to be the trouble?”

“I got like a hole in the head,” she quavered. “I seem to forget all kinds of things. Things like everybody seems to know and I don’t.”

“Well, that happens to everybody occasionally, my dear. I suggest a vacation on Venus.”

The freud stared, open-mouthed, at the empty chair. His nurse came in and demanded, “Hey, you see how she scrammed? What was the matter with her?

He took off his glasses and whiskers meditatively. “You can search me. I told her she should maybe try a vacation on Venus.” A momentary bafflement came into his face and he dug through his desk drawers until he found a copy of the four-color, profusely illustrated journal of his profession. It had come that morning and he had lip-read it, though looking mostly at the pictures. He leafed through to the article Advantages of the Planet Venus in Rest Cures.

“It’s right there,” he said.

The nurse looked. “It sure is,” she agreed. “Why shouldn’t it be?” “The trouble with these here neurotics,” decided ‘the freud, “is that they all the time got to fight reality. Show in the next twitch.”

He put on his glasses and whiskers again and forgot Mrs. Garvy and her strange behavior.

“Freud, forgive me, for I have neuroses.”

“Tut, my dear girl, what seems to be the trouble?”

Like many cures of mental disorders, Mrs. Garvy’s was achieved largely by self-treatment. She disciplined herself sternly out of the crazy notion that there had been only one rocket ship and that one a failure. She could join without wincing, eventually, in any conversation on the desirability of Venus as a place to retire, on its fabulous floral profusion. Finally she went to Venus.

All her friends were trying to book passage with the Evening Star Travel and Real Estate Corporation, but naturally the demand was crushing. She considered herself lucky to get a seat at last for the two-week summer cruise. The space ship took off from a place called Los Alamos, New Mexico. It looked just like all the spaceships on television and in the picture magazines, but was more comfortable than you would expect.

Mrs. Garvy was delighted with the fifty or so fellow-passengers assembled before takeoff. They were from all over the country and she had a distinct impression that they were on the brainy side. The captain, a tall, hawk-faced, impressive fellow named Ryan-Something or other, welcomed them aboard and trusted that their trip would be a memorable one. He regretted that there would be nothing to see because, “due to the meteorite season,” the ports would be dogged down. It was disappointing, yet re- assuring that the line was taking no chances.

There was the expected momentary discomfort at takeoff and then two monotonous days of droning travel through space to be whiled away in the lounge at cards or craps. The landing was a routine bump and the voyagers were Issued tablets to swallow to immunize them against any minor ailments.

When the tablets took effect, the lock was opened and Venus was theirs.

It looked much like a tropical island on Earth, except for a blanket of cloud overhead. But it had a heady, other-worldly quality that was intoxicating and glamorous.

The ten days of the vacation were suffused with a hazy magic. The soap root, as advertised, was free and sudsy. The fruits, mostly tropical varieties transplanted from Earth, were delightful. The simple shelters provided by the travel company were more than adequate for the balmy days and nights.

It was with sincere regret that the voyagers filed again into the ship, and swallowed more tablets doled out to counteract and sterilize any Venus illnesses they might unwittingly communicate to Earth.

Vacationing was one thing. Power politics was another.

At the Pole, a small man was in a soundproof room, his face deathly pale and his body limp in a straight chair.

In the American Senate Chamber, Senator Hull-Mendoza (Synd., N. Cal.) was saying: “Mr. President and gentlemen, I would be remiss in my duty as a legislature if’n I didn’t bring to the attention of the au-gust body I see here a perilous situation which is fraught with peril. As is well known to members of this au-gust body, the perfection of space flight has brought with it a situation I can only describe as fraught with peril. Mr. President and gentlemen, now that swift American rockets now traverse the trackless void of space between this planet and our nearest planetarial neighbor in space—and, gentlemen, I refer to Venus, the star of dawn, the brightest jewel in fair Vulcan’s diadome—now, I say, I want to inquire what steps are being taken to colonize Venus with a vanguard of patriotic citizens like those minutemen of yore.

“Mr. President and gentlemen! There are in this world nations, envious nations—I do not name Mexico—who by fair means or foul may seek to wrest from Columbia’s grasp the torch of freedom of space; nations whose low living standards and innate depravity give them an unfair advantage over the citizens of our fair republic.

“This is my program: I suggest that a city of more than 100,000 population be selected by lot. The citizens of the fortunate city are to be awarded choice lands on Venus free and dear, to have and to hold and convey to their descendants. And the national government shall provide free transportation to Venus for these citizens. And this program shall continue, city by city, until there has been deposited on Venus a sufficient vanguard of citizens to protect our manifest rights in that planet.

“Objections will be raised, for carping critics we have always with us. They will say there isn’t enough steel. They will call it a cheap give-away. I say there is enough steel for one city’s population to be transferred to Venus, and that is all that is needed. For when the time comes for the second city to be transferred, the first, emptied city can be wrecked for the needed steel! And is it a giveaway? Yes! It is the most glorious giveaway in the history of mankind! Mr. President and gentlemen, there is no time to waste—Venus must be American!”

Black-Kupperman, at the Pole, opened his eyes and said feebly, “The style was a little uneven. Do you think anybody’ll notice?’’

“You did fine, boy; just fine,” Barlow reassured him.

Hull-Mendoza’s bill became law. Drafting machines at the South Pole were busy around the clock and the Pittsburgh steel mills spewed millions of plates into the Los Alamos spaceport of the Evening Star Travel and Real Estate Corporation. It was going to be Los Angeles, for logistic reasons, and the three most accomplished psycho-kineticists went to Washington and mingled in the crowd at the drawing to make certain that the Los Angeles capsule slithered into the fingers of the blind-folded Senator.

Los Angeles loved the idea and a forest of spaceships began to blossom in the desert. They weren’t very good space ships, but they didn’t have to be.

A team at the Pole worked at Barlow’s direction on a mail setup. There would have to be letters to and from Venus to keep the slightest taint of suspicion from arising. Luckily Barlow remembered that the problem had been solved once before—by Hitler. Relatives of persons incinerated in the furnaces of Lublin or Majdanek continued to get cheery postal cards.

The Los Angeles flight went off on schedule, under tremendous press, newsreel and television coverage. The world cheered the gallant Angelenos who were setting off on their patriotic voyage to the land of milk and honey. The forest of spaceships thundered up, and up, and out of sight without untoward incident. Billions envied the Angelenos, cramped and on short rations though they were.

Wreckers from San Francisco, whose capsule came up second, moved immediately into the city of the angels for the scrap steel their own flight would require. Senator Hull-Mendoza’s constituents could do no less.

The president of Mexico, hypnotically alarmed at this extension of yanqui imperialismo beyond the stratosphere, launched his own Venus-colony program.

Across the water it was England versus Ireland, France versus Germany, China versus Russia, India versus Indonesia. Ancient hatreds grew into the flames that were rocket ships assailing the air by hundreds daily.

Dear Ed, how are you? Sam and I are fine and hope you are fine. Is it nice up there like they say with food and close grone on trees? I drove by Springfield yesterday and it sure looked funny all the buildings down but of coarse it is worth it we have to keep the greasers in their place. Do you have any truble with them on Venus? Drop me a line some time. Your loving sister, Alma.

Dear Alma, I am fine and hope you are fine. It is a fine place here fine climate and easy living. The doctor told me today that I seem to be ten years younger. He thinks there is something in the air here keeps people young. We do not have much trouble with the greasers here they keep to theirselves it is just a question of us outnumbering them and staking out the best places for the Americans. In South Bay I know a nice little island that I have been saving for you and Sam with lots of blanket trees and ham bushes. Hoping to see you and Sam soon, your loving brother, Ed.

Sam and Alma were on their way shortly.

Poprob got a dividend in every nation after the emigration had passed the halfway mark. The lonesome stay-at-homes were unable to bear the melancholy of a low population density; their conditioning had been to swarms of their kin. After that point it was possible to foist off the crudest stripped-down accommodations on would-be emigrants; they didn’t care.

Black-Kupperman did a final job on President Hull-Mendoza, the last job that genius of hypnotics would ever do on any moron, important or otherwise.

Hull-Mendoza, panic-stricken by his presidency over an emptying nation, joined his constituents. The Independence, aboard which traveled the national government of America, was the most elaborate of all the spaceships—bigger, more comfortable, with a lounge that was handsome, though cramped, and cloakrooms for Senators and Representatives. It went, however, to the same place as the others and Black-Kupperman killed himself, leaving a note that stated he “couldn’t live with my conscience.”

The day after the American President departed, Barlow flew into a rage. Across his specially built desk were supposed to flow all Poprob high-level documents and this thing—this outrageous thing—called Poprobterm apparently had got into the executive stage before he had even had a glimpse of it!

He buzzed for Rogge-Smith, his statistician. Rogge-Smith seemed to be at the bottom of it. Poprobterm seemed to be about first and second and third derivatives, whatever they were. Barlow had a deep distrust of anything more complex than what he called an “average.”

While Rogge-Smith was still at the door, Barlow snapped, “What’s the meaning of this? Why haven’t I been consulted? How far have you people got and why have you been working on something I haven’t authorized?”

“Didn’t want to bother you, Chief,” said Rogge-Smith. “It was really a technical matter, kind of a final cleanup. Want to come and see the work?”

Mollified, Barlow followed his statistician down the corridor.

“You still shouldn’t have gone ahead without my okay,” he grumbled. “Where the hell would you people have been without me?”

“That’s right, Chief. We couldn’t have swung it ourselves; our minds just don’t work that way. And all that stuff you knew from Hitler—it wouldn’t have occurred to us. Like poor Black-Kupperman.”
They were in a fair-sized machine shop at the end of a slight upward incline. It was cold. Rogge-Smith pushed a button that started a motor, and a flood of arctic light poured in as the roof parted slowly. It showed a small spaceship with the door open.

Barlow gaped as Rogge-Smith took him by the elbow and his other boys appeared: Swenson-Swenson, the engineer; Tsutsugimushi-Duncan, his propellants man; Kalb-French, advertising.

“In you go, Chief,” said Tsutsugimushi-Duncan. “This is Poprobterm.”

“But I’m the world Dictator!”

“You bet, Chief. You’ll be in history, all right—but this is necessary, I’m afraid.”

The door was closed. Acceleration slammed Barlow cruelly to the metal floor. Something broke and warm, wet stuff, salty-tasting, ran from his mouth to his chin. Arctic sunlight through a port suddenly became a fierce lancet stabbing at his eyes; he was out of the atmosphere.

Lying twisted and broken under the acceleration, Barlow realized that some things had not changed, that Jack Ketch was never asked to dinner however many shillings you paid him to do your dirty work, that murder will out, that crime pays only temporarily.

The last thing he learned was that death is the end of pain.


Cyril M. Kornbluth (1923-1958) was an American writer who shot to fame by publishing his stories in various science fiction magazines. He was associated with the Futurians. His stories are often dystopic warnings of what is to come in the future.


Ancient Greek Mathematics: An Unrivalled Western Achievement

“In the history of civilization the Greeks are preeminent, and in the history of mathematics the Greeks are the supreme event. Though they did borrow from the surrounding civilizations, the Greeks built a civilization of their own which is the most impressive of all civilizations, the most influential in the development of modern Western culture, and decisive in founding mathematics as we understand the subject today. One of the great problems of the history of civilization is how to account for the brilliance and creativity of the ancient Greeks” [Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)].

“Of all the manifestations of the Greek genius, none is more impressive and even awe-inspiring than that which is revealed by the history of Greek mathematics” [Sir Thomas Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics (1921)].

In this article, I argue that the contribution the ancient Greeks made to mathematics is superior to the combined contribution ALL the higher civilizations of the non-Western world made. Mathematics is usually left unmentioned in liberal arts accounts of the “Greek Miracle,” even though it had a direct, indispensable role in the rise of modern industrial civilization. We know that mathematics is characterized by rigorous reasoning and precise quantitative calculation; and that it has real-world applications in physics, biology, epidemiology, engineering, chemistry, technologies, computer science, social sciences, and finance. But mathematics is not a mere adjunct to the sciences and technology. Mathematicians have conceived many ideas decades before anyone foresaw their possible applications to science. Without the geometry of Bernhard Riemann, invented in 1854, and other mathematical ideas, the general theory of relativity could not have been articulated. “The revolution in modern physics which began with the work of W. Heisenberg and P. Dirac in 1925,” Eric Temple Bell explains in Mathematics: Queen and Servant of Science (1931), “could never have started without the necessary mathematics of matrices invented by Cayley in 1858, and elaborated by a small army of mathematicians from then to the present time.”

The Greeks constructed an entire geometrical system known as Euclidean, the study of plane and solid figures, about the nature of reality, on the basis of axioms and theorems in a purely deductive manner, without physical evidence, which subsequently found verification and application in the development of modern physics. They were the first people to realize that the universe expresses itself naturally in the language of mathematics, and that mathematical truths have a validity that transcends the limits of time and space. It was this realization about the power of mathematics that persuaded Plato that mathematics comprehends a reality that exists independently of human beings and that mathematicians can apprehend this eternal reality through the sheer power of their deductive reasoning. One does not have to be a Platonist who believes that mathematical truths exist eternally and independently of reality, however, to agree with Adam Smith that mathematical terms express “the most abstract ideas which the human mind is capable of forming,” and that it was the Greeks who first conceived a mathematics based on rigorous proofs, which subsequently found experimental applications in Galilean and Newtonian science.

Since prehistoric times, humans have formulated conceptions of number and geometrical forms in creative art. But while there is evidence for the invention of the abstract concept of number, that is, the realization that three sheep, three fingers, and three days, share a common property of “threeness,” as well as for the idea of a one-to-one correspondence between the objects of one collection and those of another, including counting an ordered sequence of symbols, such as knots on a cord, basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—most of the cultures of the world made 0 contributions to mathematics defined as a specific field of knowledge, entailing a system of numeration, with a variety of arithmetical calculations with whole numbers and fractions, the solution of linear equations and the mensuration of simple areas and volumes. We only have the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, Indians, and Islamic peoples to compare.

When we compare the Greeks to everyone else, two conclusions are inescapably supported by the best scholarly literature:

  1. The Greeks were the first to derive mathematical concepts from pure reasoning alone with little reference to the external world, that is, the first to think about numbers and operations abstractly, as products of the rational powers of man, and to realize that geometry is concerned not with physical objects but with points, lines, triangles, squares, as objects of pure reason. The Greeks invented deductive reasoning, a method wherein reason proposes self-evident premises or axioms from which it deduces theorems in a rigorously consistent manner. The Greeks thus provided proofs for their mathematical derivations, which not even the Indians, the Chinese, and the Muslims, who came after, accomplished at the same level.
  2. Although ancient Greek mathematics (600 BC-600 AD) came before Indian (200-1200 AD) and Islamic mathematics (700-1400 AD), with the latter allegedly “picking up the best from Greek and Indian mathematics and developing it further”—in truth the modern European development of analytic geometry, infinitesimal calculus, and the theory of functions, was substantially based on ancient Greek mathematics. Isaac Newton acknowledged the importance of Euclidean geometry in his articulation of his presentation of his laws of motion in the form of two mathematical theorems: “it’s the glory of geometry that from so few principles it can accomplish so much.”

“Multicultural Mathematics”

The mathematical achievements of the Greeks, and of modern Europeans who grounded themselves on these achievements, is deeply unsettling to the current effort of the West to become a multicultural place where the diverse races, cultures, and religions of the world are made to feel co-equals in the making of this civilization. The current zeitgeist is that mathematics has been a “global effort…spanning…multiple cultures,” or that the achievements of modern Europeans “involved an extensive exchange of ideas among individuals around the world.” “Multicultural mathematics” is now a major educational staple of the West. The book, Multicultural Mathematics: Teaching Mathematics From A Global Perspective, published in 1991, explicitly states that the “customs, heritage, history, and other aesthetic aspects” of non-European immigrants must be incorporated as “essential components” of “an effective educational program.” The key academic text is The Crest Of The Peacock: Non-European Roots Of Mathematics, by George Gheverghese Joseph, professor at University of Manchester. First published in 1991, reprinted 3 times by Penguin, republished by Princeton Press in 2000, with a third edition released in 2011, this book has been cited about a thousand times, with great reviews in prestigious journals. It claims that Europeans scholars have distorted and devalued non-European contributions as “part of the rationale for subjugation and dominance.”

Only two sources are referenced to back this claim: a book published in 1908 by Rouse Ball, and a book by Morris Kline, Mathematics in Western Culture (1953). The latter book in particular is faulted for ignoring “a considerable body of research pointing to development of mathematics in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, pre-Columbian America, India, and the Arab world that had come to light [by the time Kline wrote his book].” Gheverghese proposes a “new model” of the history of mathematics, in which multiple cultures are shown to have played equally significant roles with “cross-fertilization between different mathematical traditions” happening at various times. He flaunts his model as complex, cosmopolitan, and nuanced—superior to the simplistic, linear, one sided, parochial Eurocentric model. Both the old and the new research contradict and invalidate these claims. First, most of the books Gheverghese relies upon to construct his new model are authored by Europeans themselves.

Second, the book by Rouse Ball is actually very cognizant of the contribution of non-Europeans. The title is, A Short Account of The History of Mathematics, and it begins with four sections on “Knowledge of the science of numbers possessed by Egyptians and Phoenicians,” and “Greek indebtedness to Egyptians and Phoenicians.” Ball’s point is that theoretical-deductive mathematics originated with the Greeks.

Third, Gheverghese complains about the “neglect of Arab contribution to… mathematics” without telling his readers that Rouse Ball’s book has two long chapters with the titles: “The Mathematics of the Arabs” and “Introduction of Arabian Works into Europe, 1150-1450,” in which he affirms original contributions: “From this rapid sketch it will be seen that the work of the Arabs… in arithmetic, algebra, and trigonometry was of a high order of excellence.”

Why would Gheverghese, in what is otherwise a solid book in its effort to bring out the best in non-western mathematics, distort the scholarly contribution of Rouse Ball in this manner? Because academics are committed to multiculturalism, and this ideology allows one to distort the truth, for the sake of fighting “white racism”.

Fourth, regarding Kline’s book, Gheverghese leaves out the fact that Kline’s book is specifically about Western mathematics: “The object of this book is to advance the thesis that mathematics has been a major cultural force in Western civilization.”

Fifth, why did Gheverghese ignore so many books published after the 1950s, such as Carl Boyer’s A History of Mathematics (1968)? This book has chapters dedicated to “Egypt,” “Mesopotamia,” “China and India,” and a chapter with the title, “The Arabic Hegemony.” Why did he ignore Kline’s subsequent book, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), possibly the most authoritative historical survey published so far, which opens with chapters on Mesopotamian and Egyptian mathematics, with an additional chapter on “the Hindus and Arabs?” Every book I have read has chapters on non-Europeans. We can go back to D.E. Smith’s two volume work, History of Mathematics, published in 1923, to find two opening chapters on non-European contributions, and one chapter plus half of another on “Oriental” mathematics, along with separate sections on Oriental contributions inside all the chapters about European contributions. Smith actually co-authored a book on Japanese mathematics.

The basic arguments that Smith presented in History of Mathematics are still valid. He offered an opening chapter on Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and India, as “pioneers in mathematical development before 1000 BC.” Then chapters on the contributions of the Classical and the Hellenistic Greeks, from 600 BC to 400 AD. We are informed that during the “five centuries from 500 to 1000 AD… Europe was intellectually dormant,” while “there were four or five mathematicians of prominence in India” (p. 152); and, furthermore, that China saw the greatest accomplishments during the five centuries from 1000 to 1500 AD. While Smith may have neglected Muslim contributors, believing that they were “transmitters of learning rather than creators,” he did offer sections on the “greatest mathematicians” during the Islamic ascendancy from the eight to the fourteenth century. After 1200-1400, Smith’s focus shifted back to the Europeans because from this point on all the original ideas came from them alone.

Greeks Compared to Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chinese

The indubitable reality is that, if you look past politicized books on “multicultural mathematics,” the scholarly consensus coming from the best books on the history of mathematics for over a century now, and to this day, is that the Greeks, as Kline says in History of Western Mathematics, initiated a mathematics that “differed radically from that which preceded them” (p. 24). Dirk Struik’s A Concise History of Mathematics, in the 1948 edition that I am using, acknowledges Babylonian math “rose to a far higher level than Egyptian… in its computational technique” (p. 23), while arguing that “nowhere” in Babylonian mathematics “do we find any attempt at what we call a demonstration. No argumentation was presented, but only the prescription of certain rules” (p. 31). William Berlinghoff and Fernando Gouvêa follow a similarly developmental interpretation in Math Through the Ages: A Gentle History for Teachers (2015). This book, keep in mind, was published by The Mathematical Association of America, which is attuned to the multicultural sensitivities of teachers and students. They point out that, while the Egyptians “could solve simple linear equations… [and] knew how to compute or approximate the areas and volumes of several geometric shapes,” Babylonians “made use of extensive tables of products, reciprocals, conversion coefficients, and other constants,” and “they could also solve a wide range of problems that we would describe as leading to quadratic equations” (pp. 9-11). However, with the Babylonians, “the ideas behind the methods for solving quadratic equations were probably based on ‘cut-and-paste geometry’ [and] Babylonian geometry was devoted mainly to measurement…. The Greek mathematicians were unique in putting logical reasoning and proof at the center of the subject” (pp. 11-15).

Stuart Hollingdale, in his biographical book, Makers of Mathematics (1989) agrees that “the concept of proof [in Babylonia] is conspicuous by its absence; and there is no clear distinction between exact and approximate results” (p. 11). Carl Boyer’s text, A History of Mathematics, the revised version co-authored by Uta Merzbach (1989), is unequivocal in its assessment that “pre-Hellenic peoples had no concept of proof, nor any feeling of the need for proof… there are no explicit statements from the pre-Hellenic period that would indicate a felt need for proofs or a concern for questions of logical principles” (p. 47). In contrast, as Reviel Netz tells us in The Shaping of Deduction in Greek Mathematics: A Study in Cognitive History (1999), Greek mathematics produced knowledge of general validity; not only about the particular right triangle ABC of the diagram, for example, but about all right triangles. In the polemical culture that Greeks inhabited, where intellectuals sought to outdo each other, where no one could claim control over what constituted the truth on mere utilitarian grounds, or reliance on their official capacities, sage-like status, or adherence to norms sanctified by kinship, making the most persuasive arguments was very important, and in deductive mathematics the Greeks saw the possibility of expressing incontrovertible truths.

But what about the Chinese with their long history, past ancient times, and their “greatest” mathematicians who lived during the Sung Era (960–1279)? “Chinese mathematical works… are in the spirit of the Babylonians rather than the Greeks. They consist of collections of specific problems and present a curious mixture of the primitive and the sophisticated.” In the course of their long history, the Chinese became “more advanced than the Babylonians in that they gave general rules, often with formal proofs” (Hollingdale: p. 93), and excellent mathematicians “flourished during the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries” (p. 94), when the Europeans were experiencing their “long interlude” in the Middle Ages merely rediscovering the Greek works. Nevertheless, as Joseph Needham admitted, despite his enormous admiration for the overall accomplishments of the Chinese, “Greek mathematics was on a higher level, if only on account of its more abstract and systematic character.” In Chinese math, “there was an absence of the idea of rigorous proof.” In fact, the Chinese never developed a formal logic. “Mathematics in China was therefore utilitarian… Of mathematics for the sake of mathematics there was very little” (1995: pp. 62-64).

Boyer and Merzbach agree that the ancient Chinese were “repeating the old custom of the Babylonians and Egyptians of compiling sets of specific problems,” in contrast to the Greeks of this period who were “composing logically ordered and systematically expository treatises” (p. 222). Zhu Shijie (1249–1314) was “the last and greatest of the Sung mathematicians” but he was a lone, wandering scholar about whom little is known, author of two treatises, of which the first, Introduction to Mathematical Studies (Suanxue qimeng), was a “relatively elementary work” which was “lost until it reappeared in the nineteenth century.” His greater work, Jade Mirror of the Four Origins (Siyuan yujian), which also “disappeared in the eighteenth century, only to be rediscovered in the next century,” represents “the peak in the development of Chinese algebra, for it deals with simultaneous equations and with equations of degrees as high as fourteenth” (pp. 229-30). We will see below, however, that symbolic algebra was a product of early modern Europe, and that Greek mathematics was directly responsible for the development of modern mathematics. This is the reason Morris Kline’s text, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times, ignores Chinese mathematics in preference for the contributions of Hindu and Arabic mathematics to modern Europe.

The Greeks Were the Forerunners of Modern Mathematics

While reasonable people will have no problems agreeing that Greek mathematics stood far above Egyptian and Babylonian accomplishments, many will find the additional claim that in ancient times the Greeks were already more accomplished than the combined civilizations of China, India, and Islam to be an exaggeration bordering on historical falsification. How could a small population in ancient Greece accomplish more than civilizations that lasted thousands of years, with China and India practicing mathematics after ancient Greece was gone, and Islam standing on the shoulders of Greek achievements? This makes no sense. The most popular argument taught to students today, which prevails online, even though it is not supported by serious scholarly research, is that Hindu-Islamic mathematicians, standing above the Greek legacy, nurtured the rise of modern European mathematics. Here’s the World’s #1 Online Encyclopedia: “Through contact with other cultures, and especially the absorption of Arab ideas and innovations, European learning in fields such as mathematics was able to go beyond the work of ancient scholars. New fields of study unknown to the Greeks were opened, leading to such developments as the calculus of Newton (1642-1727) and Leibniz (1646-1716), which would revolutionize both mathematics and science.”

The impression they want to convey seems reasonable enough: ancient Greek mathematics came before Indian (200-1200 AD) and Islamic mathematics (700-1400 AD), with the latter “picking up the best from Greek and Indian mathematics and developing it further.” The best historical scholarship shows, however, that the modern development of analytic geometry, infinitesimal calculus, and the theory of functions, was substantially based on ancient Greek mathematics. This same scholarship acknowledges that the modern West owes a debt to i) “Islamic scholars who collected, preserved, and translated the Greek mathematical texts” (Hollingdale: p. 101), and ii) the Hindu “creation of the decimal positional number system that is universally used today,” that is, separate symbols for the numbers 1 to 9, negative numbers, and the notation for a missing position, that is, a zero symbol (Hollingdale: p. 101; Kline, 1972: pp. 183-197).

What about the argument that, while the Greeks originated deductive geometry, the Hindus and Muslims added substantially new ideas to arithmetic leading to the rise of modern symbolic algebra and to trigonometry? Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (780–850) is thus eulogized as the “father of algebra”, offering “the first” systematic solution of linear and quadratic equations. Wikipedia informs impressionable students that he is “the first to treat algebra as an independent discipline.” Furthermore, Al-Biruni (973–1050), we are told, was among those “who laid the foundation for modern trigonometry,” which allowed Muslims to take Greek geometry to higher heights, since trigonometry studies relationships between side lengths and angles of triangles.

First, in response, we need to be aware that ancient Greek mathematics extended from 600 BC to 500 AD, which equals about 1100 years of history. It is commonly assumed that Greece’s greatness was restricted to the “Classical” period of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the age of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Hippocrates, Herodotus, Thucydides, the defeat of the Persians, the rise of Athens, the birth of democratic citizenship, and so on. They forget the “Hellenistic” period between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the rise of Augustus in Rome in 31 BC, and the fact that Greek high culture remained dominant through Roman times. The Classical Period is known as the “Golden Age”—but not in mathematics. The golden age of Greek science was during the Hellenistic era, and, within this era, the golden age of mathematics was from about 300 BC to 200 BC, the time of the three greatest mathematicians: Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius. There were many other great mathematicians before and after this age. The birth of mathematics in Greece is generally identified with Thales (623 –545 BC), about whom Aristotle said: “To Thales… the primary question was not What do we know, but How do we know it.” Among the things he is said to have proven is that “the pairs of vertical angles formed by two intersecting lines are equal.” The next great figure is Pythagoras (580-500 BC) who founded a very influential school, the first to classify numbers: real numbers, rational and irrational, integers, rational fractions, algebraic irrational numbers and transcendental numbers.

The list of mathematicians and their achievements is too long: Archytas (b. 428 BC), Hippasus (400 BC), Hippias (b. 460), Hippocrates of Chios (430, not to be confused with the “father of medicine”), Zeno of Elea (450), Anaxagoras (428), Democritus (460), and the greatest of the Classical Period, Eudoxus (b. 408 BC), known as the father of mathematical astronomy, and the first to formulate the method of exhaustion, which some see as a precursor to the methods of calculus. Menaechmus (380–320 BC) is known for his discovery of conic sections and his solution to the long-standing problem of doubling the cube using the parabola and hyperbola. These men wrote books, some of which have been lost, though we have commentaries on them and some of the titles; for example, Democritus wrote: On Numbers, On Geometry, On Tangencies, On Mappings and On Irrationals.

After the “golden age” of Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius, we have more greats: Aristarchus (310-230 BC), who wrote On the Sizes and Distances of the Sun and Moon; Eratosthenes, remembered for his almost accurate measurement of the Earth; Hipparchus (b. 180 BC), the father of trigonometry; Menelaus (100 AD); Ptolemy (100 –170 AD), the founder of Cartography and Geography, and author of the famous Almagest. Heron (62 AD) is best known for this formula: If a, b, and c are the lengths of the sides: Area = Square root of √s(s – a)(s – b)(s – c) where s is half the perimeter, or (a + b + c)/2. We could go on with Diophantus (b. 200AD), author of a series of books called Arithmetica, which is seen as the “highest point of Alexandrian algebra,” with its “most striking feature” being the solution of indeterminate algebraic equations (Kline, 1972: pp. 138-43). The last of the greats is Pappus (b. 290 AD), known for his Collection (c.  340), and his hexagon theorem in projective geometry, the full significance of which “was not realized until the seventeenth century” (Hollingdale: p. 90).

Archimedes (b. 287 BC) is consistently “ranked with Newton and Gauss as one of the supreme mathematical geniuses of all time” (Hollingdale: p. 64). Suffice it to list his writings that are preserved in full: On the Equilibrium of Plane Figures, Quadrature of the Parabola, On the Sphere of the Cylinder, On Spirals, On Conoids and Spheroid, On Floating Bodies, The Measurement of the Circle, The Sandreckoner and The Method. The Conics by Apollonius is known as a “masterpiece” containing 487 propositions proven by the “rigorous deductive methods characteristic of the Greek masters” (Hollingdale: p. 57). Before I address the role of Hindu-Muslim algebra, I will close with a few words about Euclid. His book, The Elements, has been “by far the most influential work ever written,” matched only by the Bible. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton all built their theories on the basis of Euclidean geometry. The Elements, which Bertrand Russell said was “one of the best books ever written,” compiles, organizes, and reworks many of the mathematical concepts of Euclid’s predecessors into a consistent whole. Its deductive method has been the most important procedure used by Westerners for demonstrating scientific certitude (“truth”) until the seventeenth century. No book in the non-west provided such a self-conscious presentation of what it means for a statement to be “known to be true.” It states that there must be some set of statements, called axioms, that are assumed to be true intuitively, from which point one can derive other basic statements or theorems. Some have said that a book entitled, Aryabhatiya, written in 499 AD by the Indian mathematician Aryabhata, is “somewhat akin to that of Euclid’s Elements” in that both are “summaries of earlier developments, compiled by a single author.” But as Boyer and Merbach point out: “There are, however, more striking differences than similarities, between the two works. The Elements is a well ordered synthesis of pure mathematics with a high degree of abstraction, a clear logical structure, and an obvious pedagogical inclination; the Aryabhatiya is a brief descriptive work” (p. 237).

Now, it is true, it was in the field of geometry, not arithmetic, that the Greeks constructed their Euclidean deductive method. In Greek arithmetic operations, which did include algebra, there is no “explicit deductive structure.” These are the words of Morris Kline, who goes on to say: “The work of Heron, Nichomachus, and Diophantus, and of Archimedes as far as his arithmetic is concerned, reads like the procedural texts of Egyptians and Babylonians, which tell us how to do things. The deductive, orderly proof of Euclid, Apollonius, and of Archimedes’ geometry is gone. The problems are inductive in spirit, in that they show methods for concrete problems that presumably apply to general classes whose extent is not specified” (1972: p. 144).

Kline, however, is less impressed by the achievements of Indians and Muslims in Arithmetic: “The high period [of Indian mathematics] may be roughly dated from about AD 200 to 1200.” “Hindu mathematics became significant only after it was influenced by Greek achievements…. The geometry of the Hindus was certainly Greek…. Geometry during this period showed no notable advances…. They did have a special gift for arithmetic.” They gave “rules for the multiplication, division, and square roots of irrational expressions…. They used abbreviations of words and a few symbols to describe operations…, The Hindus recognized that quadratic equations have two roots and included negative roots as well as irrational roots…. In indeterminate equations the Hindus advanced beyond Diophantus…. In trigonometry the Hindus made a few advances.” However, “the Hindus were less sophisticated than the Greeks in that they failed to see the logical difficulties involved in the concept of irrational numbers. Their interest in calculation caused them to overlook philosophical distinctions, or distinctions based on principles that in Greek thought were fundamental” (1972: 183-90). Moreover, by about 1200, “scientific activity in India declined and progress in mathematics ceased…. It is fairly certain that the Hindus did not appreciate the significance of their own contributions. The few good ideas they had, such as separate symbols for numbers 1 to 9, the conversion to base 10, and negative numbers, were introduced casually with no realization that they were valuable innovations.”

Regarding Islamic mathematics, Kline has this to say: “The cultural resources available to the Arabs were considerable. They invited Hindu scientists to settle in Baghdad.” Fundamentally, what “the Arabs possessed was Greek knowledge…. In arithmetic the Arabs took one step backward… they rejected negative numbers…. To algebra the Arabs contributed first of all the name. The word ‘algebra’ comes from a book written in 830.” They did not invent algebra: their algebra is “founded on Hindu and also Babylonian and Greek influences…. Arabic geometry was influenced mainly by Euclid, Archimedes, and Heron.” In conclusion: “The Arabs made no significant advance in mathematics. What they did was absorb Greek and Hindu mathematics, preserve it, and, ultimately, transmit it to Europe/”

This view is corroborated by the authors I have cited thus far. For example, Berlinghoff and Gouvêa say of Indian mathematics that “the main thing that is mostly missing from their texts is any explanation of how their methods and results were found. They did not give proofs or derivations” (p. 28). Boyer and Merzbach highlight the accomplishments of Brahmagupta (598–668 CE) for being the first to “give a general solution of the linear Diophantine equation ax + by = c, where a, b, and c are integers,” and they add that “the trigonometry of the sine function came presumably from India.” though Kline thinks that in trigonometry the Hindus made only “a few minor advances” (1972: p. 189). Overall, in the estimation of Boyer and Merzbach, there was a “lack of nice distinction on the part of Hindu mathematicians between exact and inexact results.” In their view, indeed, “analytic geometry and calculus had Greek rather than Indian roots, and European algebra came from Islamic countries rather than India” (245-50). According to Hollingdale, the period of Arab pre-eminence between the 9th-11th centuries, only “saw many useful—but not outstanding—advances in algebra, number theory, trigonometry, optics, and, to a lesser extent, geometry” (p. 101).

When all is said, for all the contributions made by Indians and Muslims, it would be Europeans in the modern era, on the direct strength of what the Greeks had accomplished, who would transform arithmetic/algebra into proper sciences by introducing symbolism and making “extensive and impressive contributions to the theory of numbers,” and thus learning to justify algebraic reasoning, by viewing algebra as an extension of logic in treating quantity, and by reversing the dependence of algebra on geometry, and indeed using algebra to help solve geometric constructions problems. When the Greco-Roman world ended in the sixth century, and Islam took the Mediterranean world, only a small part of the Greek mathematical corpus was known in Europe—until the 11th when scholars from Europe went to Islamic Spain to translate into Latin the works that Muslim scholars had preserved and commented upon. For some time, until about 1400, European mathematics benefitted from this Islamic legacy with its adoption of Hindu numerals. Through the 12th and 13th, Kline writes, Europeans “energetically sought out copies of the Greek works, their Arabic versions, and texts written by Arabs,” while contributing their own translations of Greek works into Latin rather than relying on translations that had passed through Arabic translations.

We should not forget, however, that this absorption of Islamic mathematics occurred within an emerging rationalist Christian framework, the “Renaissance of the 12th Century,” which included the invention of universities with a “rational” curriculum and a continuous sequence of scholastic philosophers. I will mention only a few names: Roger (not Francis) Bacon (1220–1292) is identified as beginning experimental science and for writing about the importance of mathematics to all science; and Jean Buridan and Nicholas Oresme are both acknowledged for their demonstration that “the effective velocity in uniformly difform motion was the average of the initial and final velocities.” It is even said that Oresme anticipated Descartes’ coordinate geometry, with “contributions towards the development of the concept of graphing functions and approaches to investigating infinite series.”

This broader rationalist atmosphere, together with the rise of universities, was absent in the Islamic world, despite its admiration for Aristotle. Only Christians would seek to provide logical proofs for the existence of God. Spectacles and mechanical clocks were both invented in 13th century Europe. Romanesque and Gothic architecture required more practical geometry than the architecture of other civilizations. For the sake of modesty, however, let us say that, up until about 1500, European mathematicians, “with their algebraic emphasis, derived more inspiration from Arabic and medieval mathematics than from the much richer inheritance of Classical Greece” (Hollingdale: p. 107). It still remains the case that the European breakthrough into modern mathematics that came in the 1600s was primarily grounded in Greek mathematics.

Before this breakthrough there was Leonardo Pisa, also known as Fibonacci (1175-1250), identified as “the most creative mathematician of the medieval Christian world,” who followed Islamic mathematicians “in using words rather than symbols and in basing the algebra on arithmetical methods/” His work, De practica geometrie (1225), however, was based on Euclid’s book. Nicolas Chuquet’s Le Triparty en la science des nombres (1484) explained the Hindu-Arabic number system and how to perform arithmetic with this system. This treatise was novel, however, in devising an exponential notation where the power of the unknown was indicated by an exponent; and in presenting an algebraic notation with an isolated negative number, though he viewed negative numbers as absurd. Girolamo Cardono “astonished” the mathematical world by giving algebraic solutions to both cubic and quartic equations in his book, Ars magna (1545).

After other prominent names, the most significant transition to modern mathematics came with the introduction of a fully symbolic algebra by François Viète [Franciscus Vieta] (1540-1603). Because Hindus and Muslims had placed their practical arithmetical calculations in the forefront of their mathematics, and had elevated algebra on an arithmetic rather than a geometric basis; and because the European transition to modern mathematics took place in arithmetic and algebra, it is commonly believed that Hindu and Islamic mathematics laid the groundwork for Vieta’s transition to algebraic symbolism, and subsequent developments in analytic geometry, calculus, and functions. Not true. Vieta’s book, In artem analyticem isagoge [Introduction to the Art of Analysis] (1591), was part of his “program of rediscovering the method of analysis used by the ancient Greek mathematicians,” as The Britannica Guide to the History of Mathematics recognizes (2011: p. 96). His algebra had a firm Greek geometrical foundation. “His aim was to uncover and restore the algebraic relationships that were, he believed, hidden behind the geometrical presentations of the Greek masters” (Hollingdale: p. 120). Vieta saw his new symbolic algebraic method “as an advancement over the ancient method, a view he arrived at by comparing the geometric analysis contained in Book VII of Pappus’s Collection, with the arithmetic analysis of Diophantus’s Arithmetica.” (The Britannica Guide: p. 96). Despite the attempt of this Guide to portray mathematics as a “global effort…spanning…multiple cultures,” it can’t hide the actual truth. Once this Guide hits the modern era, not a single non-European is mentioned since none participated in modern mathematics.

Vieta was the first to use algebraic symbols or letters deliberately and systematically, not only to represent unknown quantities but also as general coefficients. “The Arabs had not advanced one iota in symbolic notation.” The “turning point in the history of algebra” came with Vieta (Dantzig, [1930] 1954: 85-7). Before him, in Europe, letters had been used for the unknown, and the first abbreviations used from the 1400s on were p for plus and m for minus; the = was introduced in 1557 by Robert Recorde. These changes in notation, the use of special words and number symbols, were essentially abbreviations of normal words. In fact, prior to Vieta, it was only Diophantus (AD 200) who had consciously introduced symbolism to make algebraic writing more compact and efficient. Vieta’s education was overwhelmingly based on the writings of the ancient Greeks—Apollonius, Archimedes, Pappus, Diophantus; and the works of European mathematicians such as Cardano, Tartaglia, and Stevin. After Vieta, his analytic algebra was applied to the study of curves by his French countrymen Fermat and Descartes, who were also motivated by the same goal of applying new algebraic techniques to Greek geometry, leading to the development of analytic geometry. Vieta actually drew a conceptual line between his new symbolic algebra and arithmetic, calling the former a true algebra, with the potential to become a universal science. In other words, the arithmetic algebra of the Hindus and Muslims was not, in his estimation, truly algebraic.

The Mathematics of Perspective

This transition to modern mathematics was founded primarily on the Greek achievement, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but in response to the newly emerging scientific world of the Renaissance era, the age of exploration and the rise of Copernican astronomy. Copernicus’s heliocentric system, and Kepler’s (1571-1630) three planetary laws, were based on the Platonic belief that the universe was ordered according to a mathematical plan and that the truths of nature could be revealed in mathematical laws and geometrical terms—ideas that were absent in both the Islamic and the Hindu world. Renaissance perspective painting, the realistic depiction of scenes on canvas by incorporating three-dimensions, relative distances, size, and positions of objects, was likewise based on a thorough study of Euclidean geometry. The European cartographic revolution, the mapping of the world, was intimately connected to Greek mathematics; Gerard Mercator’s (1512-94) map solved the problem of projecting figures from a sphere onto a flat surface.

The advantage deductive geometry had over practical arithmetic, trial and error, or reasoning by induction and analogy, is that its validity came from the logical derivation of conclusions from self-evident premises, rather than from approximate inferences based on observations of empirical facts restricted to a time and place. Even if we were to argue that deductive mathematics is merely a conventional language that Westerners imposed upon the world, rather than an accurate revelation of the structure of the universe, the success of Euclidean mathematical models lay precisely in mimicking or predicting the behavior of physical bodies. In the ideal world of abstraction that Galileo created, without resistance or friction, in which physical bodies were reduced to geometrical forms, perfectly smooth bodies moving on a perfect plane, the principles of Euclidean geometry held. As Galileo declared, “the grand book of the universe…cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and to read the alphabet in which it is composed…the language of mathematics.” It was the Greeks who discovered the language of nature.


Ricardo Duchesne has written a number of articles on Western uniqueness. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural AgeCanada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.


Featured: A folio from Synagogue (Collection) by Pappus, ca. 10th century AD.

Russian Cosmism: A Union of Spirit and Science?

The term “Russian cosmism” does not designate a school of thought that structured by theses, institutions or a precise program. Rather, the cosmists constitute a nebulous group of Russian authors of the 19th and 20th centuries, who have in common the idea of a union of the spirit and science, through utopian and grandiose visions. Two of them have particularly marked Russian history, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Nikolai Fyodorov.

On October 4, 1957, radio amateurs all over the world, for the first time, received a signal from space. It wasn’t aliens on the loose, but Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history, put into orbit by the Russians. This undeniable success of Soviet technoscience was of course also presented as a triumph of dialectical materialism. It was however forgetting in passing all that the Soviet aerospace owed to a man with conceptions very far from Marxism-Leninism— Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) spent most of his life in Russia, in the remote region of Kaluga (he was nicknamed “the eccentric of Kaluga”). It is there, in a small and modest wooden house, that he laid the theoretical and technical foundations of aerospace. Today, all historians of science (even American) recognize Tsiolkovsky as the one who laid the scientific foundations of space travel. He also wrote several science-fiction novels, with the avowed aim of making the new generations desire to go into space. Among his readers were Valentin Glouchko (who, along with Sergei Korolev, became a pillar of the Soviet space program), as well as Yuri Gagarin, the first man to go into space.

In order to make Tsiolkovsky a hero as a “brilliant scientist from the people” (a monument to his glory was erected in Moscow), Soviet propaganda had to make many aspects of his thought totally taboo—especially since for Tsiolkovsky space travel was not a goal in itself, but a means to the service of a project even more disproportionate—the perfection of humanity.

A Universe Full of Angels

Tsiolkovsky thought that God had created a universe in which all matter is also spirit (to be exact, Tsiolkovsky affirmed that he did not believe in God, but in a perfectly good, omniscient and omnipotent supreme being, who had created the world; which makes one think of the well-known joke of the Hellenists: it was not Homer who wrote the Iliad, but someone who had the same name as him). This conception (which he qualifies as panpsychist) means that the matter present everywhere in the universe is endowed in itself with a spiritual force, with a form of consciousness which makes it evolve towards higher and higher forms: mineral, vegetable, animal, human, then…

Tsiolkovsky believed that to spread in space was the only way for humanity to ensure in a certain way its survival, to avoid an extinction of the human species in the event of terrestrial catastrophe (a position that certain very media-oriented scientists today share). But he added that man could only spread in space if he took in hand his own evolution and radically modified his own body, in order to adapt to extraterrestrial conditions (a concept that contemporary science fiction calls panthropy). To emancipate oneself from the Earth, implied for Tsiolkovsky, to emancipate oneself also from our animality (sexuality, mortality, need to eat and drink). Eventually, human beings would spread in the whole universe, and become “etheric” beings, magnificent and immortal (this transformation implying moreover the elimination of all the terrestrial life forms not reaching these standards of perfection).

In the eyes of the “eccentric of Kaluga,” this transformation into “etheric” beings had already been accomplished by extraterrestrials. By exploring space, humanity would end up meeting these extraterrestrial “angels,” living on heavenly planets. While waiting for this day, these “angelic” beings maintain the Earth, a planet that is not very evolved at the moment, in a sort of galactic quarantine. But they try nevertheless to communicate with us, to guide us, despite the gap that separates us. Tsiolkovsky himself said that he had communicated with these “space angels” (in the 1970s, some people reused Tsiolkovsky’s theories to imagine a Russian version of the “ancient astronauts theory,” according to which the ancient religions were inspired by visits from extraterrestrials).

Tsiolkovsky never really received an academic education. He was in all respects a self-taught man. This made his scientific work all the more impressive. But when he arrived in Moscow at the age of 16, he took advantage of the reading advice of an obscure librarian, and then quickly joined the group of young students that this librarian gathered around him. This man, who took the young Tsiolkovsky under his wing, was named Nicolai Fedorov.

The Resurrection of the Dead

If Tsiolkovski is the most recognized cosmist on the scientific level, Nicolas Fedorov (1829-1903) is the first of them. Totally unknown during his lifetime, he generally shared his thoughts only with a selected circle of companions. Two of his disciples published his writings after his death in a single book: The Philosophy of the Common Work. Unlike Tsiolkovsky, Fedorov always saw himself as a faithful member of the Orthodox Church. In his eyes, humanity had an important and active eschatological role to play in the completion of the creation initiated by God. He thus conceived his thinking as Christianity, but Christianity in a radically reinterpreted sense. Christ had shown the way by resurrecting at Easter: Christianity was thus to be the religion of the resurrection of the dead, of the resurrection of the dead by properly human, scientific and technical means.

Nicolai Fedorov

For Fedorov, death is either a disintegration, i.e., a dissolution in multiplicity, or a fusion, i.e., a dissolution in unity (he considered the Holy Trinity, the unique God at the same time one and multiple, as the archetype of immortality). However, he also considered that disintegration and fusion are natural forces. Wherever he looked, he saw in the natural world only the reign of death. Fedorov insisted on the national and typically Russian character of this way of looking at nature. The romantic conception of nature was a fantasy of the urban bourgeois and “soil-less.” The muzhik, on the other hand, knew that the taiga does not offer any gifts, and that survival is always conquered over murderous nature. By taking control of natural forces through scientific and technical means, humanity would be able to defeat death itself and resurrect all its ancestors. At this point, all human beings who have ever lived must be resurrected. For Fedorov, this is an absolute moral duty, a matter of filial piety towards those who have gone before us, and thanks to whom we exist. We must give life back to those who gave it to us. Reproduction, sexuality, death, suffering, eating, drinking, all these natural things will disappear when the living and the dead are regenerated in new and immortal bodies, having little to do with our present animal body (this rejection of the “animal body” of man is common to many cosmists). This regenerated and invulnerable mankind, and also very numerous, will be able to spread into space, to settle on other planets, and to make the universe a paradise (Fedorov envisaged that the planet Earth itself could become an immense spaceship, thanks to the control of cosmic forces). Such was the communal work envisaged by Fedorov.

The philosopher Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900) noted, with a certain irony, that Fedorov’s project was not a plan for the next thousand years, but rather a plan for the next ten thousand years. But if Fedorov suspected that his contemporaries would never take his ideas seriously, he had no doubt about their long-term feasibility. He believed that many peoples were dispersing and wasting their creative energies on war, democracy and capitalism. The realization of the common work required that mankind channel its forces and unite under an autocratic regime. This was, for Fedorov, the messianic vocation of the imperial throne of Holy Russia. The tsar, God’s chosen monarch, was to unite all countries and peoples under his rule for the eschatological fulfillment of the common work.

The Desert will Become a Garden Again

A few years before his death, Fedorov was invited by one of his disciples to visit the Pamir Mountains. This extremely desolate region made a strong impression on him. He saw in the Pamir a symbol of both Mount Meru (the sacred center of the world in Hinduism) and the Garden of Eden (for Fedorov, all religions derived from the same sophia perennis—the cult of the ancestors), a land of origin of the Indo-Europeans, transformed into a desert by the ignorance and barbarism of men. The first task of the common work was therefore to turn the Pamir into a garden, to make life blossom again where death reigned, just as, by dispersing into space, regenerated humanity would fill a universe, hitherto filled with death, with life. This revived Pamir, the triumph of life and science over death and ignorance, was to become the center of a united world dedicated to the realization of the common work under the leadership of the tsar.

After having reviewed the thought of the two most important cosmists in history, a question naturally arises—what to make of this improbable muddle of ideas that are at least astonishing, if not frankly bizarre, and sometimes even a little unhealthy? Tsiolkovsky and Fedorov were certainly “sweet dreamers,” but they were certainly not “lunatics.” As an aerospace pioneer, Tsiolkovsky is undoubtedly one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. Fedorov, on the other hand, impressed some of the greatest minds of the Russian Silver Age: Tsiolkovsky, of course, but also Dostoyevsky, Soloviev, Tolstoy, Florensky, Vernadsky, Bulgakov, Berdiaev. However, among all these eminent scientists, philosophers and novelists, none of them really took up the strange philosophy of Fedorov’s common work.

As we have already said, “cosmism” is not a school of thought, and there is no such thing as “Fedorovism.” What these brilliant minds admired in Fedorov was not a system of thought or specific theses, but rather this will to rethink human progress in general, and scientific progress in particular, in a spiritual framework. Fedorov believed that science without spirituality and spirituality without science would both lead humanity to catastrophe. His philosophy of the common work, once brought back to its fundamental intuition, can thus be understood as a utopian vision aiming at avoiding the announced catastrophe. This is what, in Fedorov (as well as in the other cosmists), struck his contemporaries, and continues to be striking today—this vision of a union of spirit and science, in a creative and utopian act of synthesis, giving its legitimacy and its place to human activity, genius and progress, in the eschatological realization of the divine transfiguration of the cosmos. The cosmists were certainly very strange thinkers, but they have undoubtedly more to say to us than the transhumanists and the fundamentalists who swarm us today.


Grégoire Quevreux currently teaches philosophy at the Institut Protestant de Théologie de Paris, and is completing a doctoral thesis on process theology under the direction of Professor Cyrille Michon. This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.


Featured: “Captured asteroid,” by Andrey Sokolov; postcard, 1965.

Climate Change: The Wrong Focus

First things first: The question of whether climate change is a man-made phenomenon whose sole cause is carbon dioxide particles in the atmosphere is not going to be addressed here. That is the official narrative; and it is from this perspective that the inadequacy of the solutions offered is here demonstrated. Indeed, this perspective should also make everyone doubt the promises of salvation that are made to us, to save the planet.

After a period of silence, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, released a new report this year. The panel, which brings together scientists from around the world to share their findings on climate change, concluded that carbon dioxide emissions would have to be reduced by about 50 percent by 2030, if we still want to avert the great catastrophe that has been announced.

Several years ago, the IPCC concluded that the 1.5-degree Celsius target set by the nations of this world in the Paris Agreement was actually no longer achievable, and that it would prove difficult to limit warming to 2 degrees. Nevertheless, the governments of many countries are spouting an optimism that cannot be understood with common sense.

This is probably fed by the fact that they believe they have found the solution to all this. And the solution is, of course, quite simple: renewable energies and sustainable technologies. Everyone now knows what this means: if we simply generate our electricity from wind turbines, photovoltaics and hydroelectric power, and drive electric cars instead of the dirty gasoline and diesel vehicles, then everything will be fine—or so we are regularly told. But is that really the case?

Dirty Technologies

The problem with renewable energies is that they are not renewable. Of course, wind is always blowing somewhere in the world, and the sun will continue to shine for several billion years. Yes, and even water flows incessantly. The energy sources are therefore not the problem. The situation is quite different, however, with power plants. Wind turbines have to be built first, as do solar cells and hydroelectric power plants.

In the process, the most toxic processes that industry has to offer are used. This begins right with the mining of the required resources. Here, aluminum, copper, gold and the so-called “rare earths” are needed in large quantities. In other regions of the world, the mining of these raw materials destroys entire regions.

Wind turbines, for example, require more metal than any other type of power plant. Rare earths, such as neodymium, are also used here. When this material is mined, large areas of whole regions become radioactively contaminated. This is because the mining process releases uranium and thorium, which are released unhindered into the environment. The same applies to metals and rare earths in general. In addition, wind turbines contain large quantities of plastic resins as well as glass fibers.

This poses a huge problem of disposal. After all, the average life of a wind turbine is 20 years. After that, it has to be dismantled—but recycling plastic resin and glass fibers is not possible. Composite materials, such as those used on the turbines, cannot be separated again and are therefore simply disposed of somewhere. This creates a huge disposal problem with disastrous consequences.

But wind turbines also pose an ecological problem during their lifetime and even before. This is exemplified in the documentary film, Headwind 21, by Marijn Poels. The filmmaker accompanies an activist in Sweden who fights against the deforestation of the pristine forests in the north of the country. The deforestation is being done to make way for a wind farm. For this, entire forests are cleared over a huge area. Often the ground must also be prepared by blasting, before even wind turbines can be placed at all. Large areas of land are completely destroyed in this way just for a few wind turbines.

And this wind-farm will not even serve the country of Sweden, but is being built to supply a newly developing technology park in Finland. Thus, energy that was previously obtained from fossil fuels is not simply obtained in an ostensibly renewable way, but an additional energy demand is covered. This is simply added on top of the previous energy demand. Thus, nothing is gained by the wind turbines—but more of nature is destroyed to gain additional energy—when nature is an important carbon sink that absorbs our emissions.

In addition, wind turbines promote climate change! This is because the wind-farms extract moisture from the soil and additionally warm the ground, which leads to droughts. The wind turbines erected in Germany through 2018 alone have given the country an additional 0.27 degrees Celsius temperature increase as a result—and that’s in just five years. Erecting even more of them, and clearing forests to do so, is absurd—if the fight against climate change were really the issue.

Wind turbines also endanger birds and bats. These are often killed by the rotor blades, as they cannot anticipate this danger. In addition, people and nature are exposed to noise or infrasound, which can lead to illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In close proximity to residential areas, cast shadows also pose a problem. The constant change from light to dark and back again, the so-called “strobe-effect,” is a strain on every organism, be it human, animal or even plants in the field.

Photovoltaic plants or hydroelectric power plants also rely on substances that are highly toxic and whose degradation entails great destruction of nature.

There is also the problem that when demand fluctuates, utilities shut down wind turbines first because it is much more profitable to run nuclear power plants, which can also cover the base-load of the grid. In the documentary Planet of the Humans produced by Michael Moore, all the madness associated with renewable energy is illustrated. Moore shows how power plants have to be started with the help of fossil fuels; how solar plants are built in the desert and then deteriorate—and most importantly, all the destruction associated with mining the materials needed for so-called renewable energy.

Hydroelectric plants also create another problem that wind turbines and solar plants do not. This is because entire rivers are often dammed for such a hydroelectric plant. This interrupts the natural course of rivers, and animals such as salmon can no longer swim up and down the river unhindered. But they have to, because they usually live on the lower course of the river or in the ocean and only return to the upper course of the river to spawn.

This spectacle, called migration, can be witnessed every year unless the rivers are dammed. The dams present insurmountable obstacles for the salmon. After spawning, they often die and are then dispersed by the current in the floodplains and in the course of the river. This makes them an important food source for other animals, bringing nutrients from the ocean up the river. The natural flow of these nutrients is also interrupted by the dams, causing sediments to pile up on them that were supposed to reach the lower part of the river. In this way, dams kill the water body as well as the life around them.

Mobility

Another aspect that is always mentioned in connection with climate change is electromobility. This has been increasingly promoted in recent years. Tesla built a plant specifically for this purpose in Grünheide near Berlin.

But electromobility is not as clean as it might seem. A lot of plastics and metals are also used here. These vehicles are virtually bursting with electronics, the effects of which on the environment have actually been known for a long time.

Then there are the highly toxic batteries needed for these vehicles, because they contain, among other things, lithium, the mining of which is highly damaging to the environment.

For example, there are large lithium deposits in South America, especially in Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. There, the light metal is extracted from salt water by pumping it to the surface from great depths in salt lakes and evaporating it. Chemicals are then used to separate the lithium from the salt and other substances. What remains is a chemical-salty solution that contaminates the surrounding groundwater.

Many people have already lost access to drinkable groundwater in this way, and the regions are becoming increasingly desolate. The chemicals, especially heavy metals, are also spreading in the area, causing livestock to die. In addition, since the water from the rivers is used for drinking and to irrigate the fields, agriculture is no longer possible in these regions. However, the increasing demand for lithium means that more and more new deposits are being developed in previously untouched regions.

The residents of the plant in Grünheide are currently experiencing what the production process of the vehicles means in itself. This region, which has already been struggling with a shortage of drinking water for some time, is now experiencing a further worsening of the situation. Large quantities of water are also needed to assemble the vehicles.

For this reason, the local authorities have already set an upper limit for water consumption. If this is exceeded, fines are imposed. However, Tesla is probably not affected by this, otherwise the company would not have settled there. The company is allowed to use vast amounts of water for the construction of environmentally harmful vehicles and batteries, while local residents have to think twice about every shower.

There was also a recent accident there in which toxic paint leaked out. According to Tesla, this could allegedly be completely removed and did not reach the environment. However, it should be common knowledge as to what to make of such statements on the part of the manufacturer. It also shows that there is a potential for environmental catastrophes here, should the accident or leak ever turn out to be somewhat larger. In addition, the use of toxic paint shows how far off the environmental friendliness of the vehicles really is.

Finally, the disposal of the vehicles causes considerable difficulties. Once again, the batteries are a major factor here, as they are pure poison for nature. In addition, as with all supposedly renewable technologies, there is the energy-cost of production. For example, the emissions backpack of every electric car ex-works is already twice as large as that of a conventional car. In addition, it has to be charged with energy again and again. If the proportion of electric cars increases, the energy requirement also rises automatically.

This energy, however, is usually obtained from fossil fuels or nuclear power plants. Thus, for the feeling of clean driving, whole swaths of land are polluted elsewhere and fossil fuels are extracted and burned. Electric cars are thus not one bit clean or environmentally friendly. Quite the opposite.

The fact that governing politicians cling to the so-called renewable or green technologies—despite all this destruction—has a simple reason: It’s a business.

Elon Musk, owner of Tesla, is now one of the richest people on earth for a reason. Thus, under the guise of saving the world, a market is being created that promises big sales but destroys nature on a large scale. There is also the reason why this meets with so little opposition—the focus on climate change and thus on carbon dioxide as the only factor.

For a long time now, the issue of climate change has been decoupled from that of environmental protection. Supposedly, climate change is the biggest threat of all—the contamination and destruction of nature plays no role in the discussion. The slogan is—carbon dioxide fuels climate change, it will destroy us all, therefore we must avoid every gram of carbon dioxide. The complex issue of nature destruction and environmental protection is thus reduced to a simplistic factor.

Through this narrow focus, people lose sight of the insane destruction that is being wrought. Yet even in the prevailing discourse, it is noted, albeit rather rarely, that the climate is a complex system—if we destroy nature, if we cut down forests as carbon sinks, if we poison the oceans or dry up the swamps, or if we persist in monoculture agriculture, then this has a negative impact on the climate.

Nevertheless, “carbon neutrality” is put forward as the only goal, and now also serves as a label for all kinds of products, so that consumers can get elude their complicity in the destructive system—at least in the way they feel—in a cheaply bought cleansing of conscience, a kind of “indulgence trade.”

At the same time, the blame for everything in this way is actually shifted solely onto the individual consumer, who through his or her choices would have the opportunity to influence the system in such a way that it would promote environmentally friendly alternatives, which of course is not the case. This is because the individual is always faced with a fait accompli in the supermarket or wherever, and has no way of influencing the manner of production, nor any control over the quantity produced. But by means of eco-labels and product descriptions as “climate neutral,” the impression is created that the consumer is contributing to saving the world with his choice.

Distraction

But the real question is quite different: Why do we fixate on a single substance and strive to reduce its emissions at all costs, only to avert something that, according to all the IPCC reports, can already no longer be averted?

Why are people encouraged to buy an electric car or reduce their electricity consumption, but not being prepared to live in a world where climate change is happening right now? Why are we not preparing for floods, for droughts? Why are we not adapting agriculture to these conditions, our cities, our work? Now, some would suggest that this adaptation is not happening because climate change either does not exist or is not man-made. And yes, it is also very striking that while the individual is to be educated with a moral finger to save energy, industry and industrialized agriculture blithely continue to consume energy.

But the explanation is probably quite simple:

A transformation of our society, an adaptation to a changed world, which perhaps really switches off the destruction of nature and uses drastically less energy, is simply not economical. Because capitalism would then actually have to be abolished, and supply would have to be ensured locally again.

But that doesn’t suit those who, in the current system, make very large profits from destroying nature, producing useless goods and shipping them all over the world. Focusing on carbon dioxide and its removal, on the other hand, makes a veritable business out of wind turbines, solar panels and electric mobility. As a result, the debate focuses on these, rather than addressing the real causes of nature’s destruction.

And of course: many of the arguments put forward here also apply to fossil energies or nuclear power. For these, too, nature is destroyed, air, land and water are polluted, and what is to be done with the nuclear waste is still not clear after 70 years of nuclear power. But instead of causing more destruction for a technology that does not solve the problems of our time, we should turn to the causes. Only a society that gets by with a minimum of energy consumption, that focuses on what is really necessary for life instead of constantly throwing new, useless products onto the market, is truly acting sustainably.

To do this, we also have to say goodbye to something that so many still believe in: the idea of eternal progress that would improve our lives. Progress, that is technical innovation, new products and developments. But it is precisely this progress that has led to the problems of the destruction of nature, the extinction of species, plastic waste and sewage and waste in the first place.

The example of so-called renewable technologies shows where all this leads to, where wanting to eliminate the destruction caused by this progress is only through further progress. Moreover, it is a false idea of progress that is being marketed here. Because progress is also reduced to marketable products. Progress is therefore only what can be sold. Social developments, up to a frugality that makes all these goods superfluous, do not appear in this belief in progress.

The history of this progress has shown, however, that it knows no end. It only brings us more and more new problems, new devices and products that have to be consumed and then end up as waste in nature to keep a capitalist machinery going, which leads us to ruin and hardly improves our lives.

Which is not to say, of course, that every discovery and development is exclusively negative. But we should separate ourselves from this unconditional dogma of eternal progress. After all, has the eleventh smartphone, the latest tablet or car really brought us any further or made us happier? Do we live better because we can consume coffee to go, while walking or on the subway? Are we better off because technology corporations and governments can monitor us everywhere, that we are increasingly digitized in order to live?

True progress would be a social weighing, combined with a penchant for less, a frugality that is at peace with itself and the world. However, this should not be a frugality decreed from above, a “Great Reset” that drives this society with momentum against the wall and claims countless victims in the process. On the contrary, a truly human change can only come from below, from the people who are affected by it themselves, who are fed up with a life on the hamster wheel, as a cog in the wheel.


Felix Feistel writes about the idiocy of this world and also against it. In a world reduced to numbers and data, which has always been alien to him, he searches for humanity and the meaning of life. He tries to use his powers and talents to create a world worth living in by opposing injustice and destruction. Despite the madness that is rampant everywhere, he is not ready to give up his belief in the goodness of man and his potential to transform the planet into a paradise. This article comes through the kind courtesy of Rubikon.


Featured: “Castor et Pollution,” by Max Ernst; painted in 1923.

How “Creation” Implies God

Background to the “Creation” Dispute

There is nothing very new about the thesis of this article—for many proofs that God is Creator of all finite things have already been attempted—often with great success. Moreover, we know as an article of Catholic faith that the existence of God can be known with certainty by the light of natural human reason (Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum, 1806). Yet, what may be somewhat novel about this article is that I will attempt to prove God’s existence by means of a series of diverse considerations about the very meaning of the term, “creation.” Moreover, I will examine certain presumptions about creation which have been made by atheists, i.e., by those who deny the very conclusion which is presently being sought.

Any self-respecting atheist must deny that the world is created by God. And yet, this very fact, namely, that the atheist feels called upon to deny the reality of creation, is itself significant—so much so, that this universal reaction of atheism will itself serve as the point of departure for our investigation.

Astronomer Robert Jastrow has commented upon the strange situation now confronting his fellow astronomers (many of whom appear to be scientific materialists). Jastrow observes, “…I am fascinated by some strange developments going on in astronomy—partly because of their religious implications and partly because of the peculiar reactions of my colleagues” (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers,1978, 11).

Jastrow proceeds to explain the enigma confronted by modem scientists:

”The essence of the strange developments is that the Universe had, in some sense, a beginning—that it began at a certain moment in time, and under circumstances that seem to make it impossible—not just now—but ever—to find out what force or forces brought the world into being at that moment…. the astronomical evidence proves that the Universe was created twenty billion years ago in a fiery explosion, and in the searing heat of that first moment, all the evidence needed for a scientific study of the cause of the great explosion was melted down and destroyed” (God and the Astronomers, 11-12).

More recent estimates of the time of the universe’s birth now place it some 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists today pursue the vision of Grand Unified Theories which attempt to unify the fundamental forces of nature as different aspects of the same force. Senior physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory’s High Energy Physics Division, David S. Ayres, remarks that the “Grand Unified Theories offer detailed insight into the processes which occurred at the instant of creation ….” (Argonne News, 1984, 8-9).

For centuries, atheistic materialists had blandly assumed the eternity of the world while denigrating the peculiarly Judeo-Christian belief of creation in time as a vestige of religious mythology. Science seemed squarely in the atheist’s corner until the recent advent of the Big Bang theory—a theory whose scientific underpinnings have come to be regarded by most scientists today to be quite secure. The 1965 discovery of the apparently vestigial fireball radiation of the Big Bang by Amo Penzias and Robert Wilson of the Bell Laboratories has left the theory, at the present time, with “no competitors” according to Jastrow (God and the Astronomers, 14-16).

Small wonder, then, the “peculiar reactions” of many astronomers, as noted’ by Jastrow! What he refers to are the efforts made by many of his fellow scientists to ignore and refute the mounting evidence in favor of the Big Bang.

Jastrow describes the situation thus:

“Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but astronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are in conflict with the evidence. We become irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases” (God and the Astronomers, 16).

The reactions to the possibility of a Big Bang began shortly after World War I—and from a rather surprising quarter:

“Around this time, signs of irritation began to appear among the scientists. Einstein was the first to complain. He was disturbed by the idea of a Universe that blows up, because it implied that the world had a beginning” (God and the Astronomers, 27).

It is not here suggested that Einstein and all others who opposed the Big Bang theory were atheists. Certainly, Einstein himself appears to have embraced the conception of God propounded by Spinoza (God and the Astronomers, 28).

And yet, conversely, it is manifestly evident that scientific materialists would be in the forefront of those astronomers who would feel uncomfortable in the face of a new theory which seemed to challenge their most fundamental convictions. While it is not suggested that the physical theory of the Big Bang necessarily implies the theological doctrine of creation, nonetheless it is quite understandable that even the appearance of such an implication should cause more than a ripple of resistance among those both philosophically and scientifically indisposed to the notion of creation in time. Yet, we shall see that our concern in this paper will extend to a much broader notion of creation—a notion not restricted merely to that of “having a beginning in time.”

In point of fact, just when most of the scientific community has gotten comfortable supporting the relatively recent Big Bang theory, we are suddenly reminded by new evidence that the history of science is littered with the intellectual corpses of bygone universal beliefs. True science is never dogmatic. What actually happens is that a generally accepted scientific hypothesis is sometimes greeted by new sets of data that contradict its basic premises and soon a new, and quite different, scientific hypothesis replaces the formerly reigning one.

We now learn that findings from the new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) appear to contradict the “standard model” for galactic expansion, which has accompanied the Big Bang hypothesis. It turns out that distant celestial objects, now being seen for the first time through the use of the JWST, do not conform to Big Bang expansion model expectations. Instead of distant galaxies being huge and having a certain amount of “red shift” in their light, the Webb telescope is showing us the exact opposite! The number of disc galaxies is some ten times that of standard galaxy expansion models. Moreover, distant galaxies are being found to be unexpectedly smooth, small, and old. In fact, more and more data seems to contradict what had been predicted based on the massive galactic expansion model assumed to follow from the Big Bang.

This has led some astronomers to actually reject the Big Bang hypothesis altogether!

Still, two points must be made clear:

  1. While frequently associated theses, the fact remains that the Big Bang hypothesis is separate from the cosmic expansion model. Moreover, the Webb telescope data does not in itself address the cosmic microwave background radiation which has long been taken as evidence for the Big Bang.
  2. For purposes of this article, much more important is the fact that the Big Bang hypothesis belongs to the subject matter of natural science, not philosophy. Contending physical hypotheses concerning the origin and development of the universe must be evaluated by astronomers and other physical scientists. That is not my task. Philosophically, I will show that, whether the universe began in time or not is entirely irrelevant to the philosophical question of whether it is created by God.

I need to determine the proper philosophical meaning of “creation” as well as whether the universe was created in that properly philosophical meaning.

The Eternal Enigma

The central question which this article seeks to address is simply the age old puzzle: “Why does anything exist at all?” The believer immediately responds with a simple affirmation of his faith: “Things exist because God exists to make them.” But the atheist is driven to the logical alternative of insisting on the aseity of the Universe: “Things simply explain their own existence; their very fact of existing is its own explanation. Moreover, the Universe has always existed in some form or other, and hence, needs no God to have created it.” Some atheists and agnostics attack the principle of explanation itself, suggesting that not everything may need a sufficient reason or that, perhaps, the principle is limited in scope to the observable phenomena.

In one of human intellectual history’s less ingenuous moments, Karl Marx simply refuses to grant intellectual legitimacy to any question put to the very existence of the world. He labels such inquiry “…perverse…” since it implies “…the inessentiality of nature and of man …. ” Marx insists that for socialism “…the real existence of man and nature has become practical, sensuous and perceptible…” and, hence, such a question “…has become impossible in practice” (Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 1961, 112-114).

Still, examples of those willing to address directly the central issue are not difficult to find. The problem as to why things exist at all is clearly posed by Kai Nielsen (who was himself an atheist):

“Indeed, ‘Why is there anything at all?’ is an odd question, but in certain philosophical and perhaps even religious moods it is natural to ask: Why is it that any of the things that make up the universe actually exist? They do, of course, but why is this so? There might have been nothing at all!” (Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice: A Modern Introduction to Philosophy, 1971, 180).

Or again, as F.E. Copleston put it in his famous 1948 British Broadcasting Corporation debate on the existence of God with Bertrand Russell:

“Well, I can’t see how you can rule out the legitimacy of asking the question how the total, or anything at all comes to be there. Why something rather than nothing, that is the question?” (The Existence of God, ed. John Hick, 1964, 175).

John Hospers puts succinctly the theistic response to the given existence of the world (not that he holds it himself):

“Why, indeed, does any universe at all exist—why is there a universe at all rather than simply nothing? For this you have no explanation at all. But I do. I hold that there is a necessary being, God, and that since he exists necessarily all contingent existents (and that includes everything in the universe) owe their existence to this necessary being and are explained by the fact that this necessary being exists” (John Hospers, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 2nd edition, 1967), 440.

But in a contrary response to this same most basic question, as Roy Wood Sellars puts it,”…the modem materialist stresses the aseity as against the contingence notion of creationalism” (A History of Philosophical Systems, ed. Vergilius Ferm, 1950, 425).

The meaning for the materialist of this “aseity” is put with clarity by Nielsen: “…all other realities, if such there be, depend for their existence on these physical realities, but these physical realities do not depend on any other realities for their own existence” (Reason and Practice, 334).

Hospers elucidates in his own manner the claim that the universe simply explains itself and needs no further explanation:

“…this is just a “brute fact”—the universe has such-and-such laws, and if those are ultimate (underived), we can’t derive them from any other ones….If we have once arrived at a basic or underived law (not that we ever know that we have), then it is self-contradictory to ask for an explanation of it” (An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, 442).

What Hospers means here is that the ultimate laws of the universe, by definition as ultimate, require no further explanation. They are self-explanatory.

Again, Anthony Flew challenges the position that God is any greater an intelligible explanation of the universe that is the universe itself:

“No reason whatever has yet been given for considering that God would be an inherently more intelligible ultimate that—say—the most fundamental laws of energy and stuff; much less for postulating the actual existence of such a further and extraordinary entity, instead of somehow contenting yourself with the alternative idea that the world we know is—in the vertical dimension-not dependent on anything else, and that it is also, in some state or other, probably eternal and without beginning” (Anthony Flew, God: A Critical Enquiry, 96).

The atheistic alternative explanation to claiming that the universe is its own explanation is the claim that not everything needs an explanation. That is to say, the principle of sufficient reason itself is attacked. Again Nielsen puts the case succinctly:

“It would only follow that there is a necessary being if it were true that there is a complete explanation that would give us an adequate explanation of why anything exists at all. Why should we assume or even believe that we actually have such an explanation?”

“It is certainly very natural to reject the principle of sufficient reason and to say that it has not been established that there must be or even that there is (if only we could discover it) an explanation for everything. Some events or states of affairs may never be explained. There may even be some things that are inexplicable” (Reason and Practice, 181).

I do not intend here to reiterate and refute the monumental errors of idealism and process philosophy which provide the most substantive attacks on the principles of sufficient reason and causality. Those who sincerely seek the most exhaustive and convincing defense of these principles are referred to Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s classical treatment in the latter part of the first volume of God: His Existence and Nature (1934, 181-194). I have offered my own defense of these transcendental first principles on the Strange Notions website.

It suffices to point out that it seems a bit hypocritical that scientific materialists should ultimately retreat behind a denial of rational principles when it is they who dare to mock all others as being “irrational” and “unscientific.” It is indeed curious that those who demand a scientific explanation for everything should, in this singular instance, fail to see the need for any explanation whatever! One cannot but compare such selective abandonment of rational principles to the curious biological doctrine that spontaneous generation never occurs except, of course, when the evolutionist has need of it in order to initiate the process of evolution itself!

In the end, the consensus of atheists and theists who address the basic question of existence, as well as the dictates of right reason, present the following stark alternatives: Either God (the Infinite Being) exists, or else, the world (all finite being) explains itself, or else, not all things have full explanations. It is our contention that the latter two alternatives are not only absurd, but impossible.

“Creation” as Expression of Infinite Power

For those scientific materialists who refuse to follow the intellectually suicidal denial that there must be reasons for things, the universe must be conceived as self-existent, that is, it somehow explains itself. Moreover, these atheistic materialists clearly accept the metaphysical principle that “…from nothing, nothing comes to be….” (St. Thomas Aquinas, in I Physics, 14, n. 2), since they universally deny that the cosmos had an absolute beginning in time. Thereby they implicitly acknowledge that a universe which just “pops into” existence (out of no pre-existent state) is not only absurd, but impossible.

While it is evident that the natural intuition of the laws of being would require every intellect to affirm that being (the world) can only come from pre-existent being (a prior state of the world, or God), why is it the case that the reason of virtually every man, theist and atheist alike, sees in the notion of instantaneous creation of the world (out of nothing and using nothing) the exclusive mark of divinity itself? With but a modicum of metaphysical reflection, the human mind—theist and atheist alike—grasps that the act of creation is intelligible only as an expression of power—infinite power. And it is precisely this manifestation of power without measure which commands intellectual assent to the existence of God (in the traditional meaning of the term) as the sole adequate explanation or foundation for such power.

The average person who considers the matter will express the insight as follows: “To make something out of nothing can only be the act of an infinitely powerful being, God.” The professional theologian or philosopher will render this insight with greater precision by saying: “That something should come to be while presupposing no pre-existent matter or subject requires the infinite power of God.”

In each case what is affirmed is the absolute need for unlimited power as the only adequate explanation for the universe beginning to be in time. Yet the question remains, “How can we be so certain that the ‘popping into existence’ of the world requires the existence of an all-powerful God?” Is this inference simply the product of a primordial insight or intuition which is, at root, rationally indefensible? Are we ultimately reduced to a form of fideism here?

Still, if this be fideism, then the atheist must suffer it as well — given the firm tradition of atomistic materialism, tracing all the way back to Democritus in the fifth century B.C., which assumes that the universe has always existed, never having a beginning in time. That is why so many scientists held out long for the Steady State theory, which holds that the universe is eternal and largely unchanging.

Why Creation Requires Infinite Power

While there appears to exist a nearly universal intuitive recognition that the act of creating requires the infinite power of a Supreme Being, the attempt to give intellectual justification to this primordial insight is fraught with difficulty. For, even if one grants that the existence of the world had an absolute beginning in time and that this beginning must have an adequate explanation, it is not at once clear precisely why this phenomenon requires an infinitely powerful cause.

Is it because being infinitely transcends non-being? But then, the being of the world is itself only finite (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 7, aa. 2-4). Perhaps, alternatively, one should focus upon the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable. Yet, no reputable thinker would dare to refer to a real relation between non-being and being—since a real relation always requires two real terms, and non-being is not real. In Summa Theologiae, I, q. 13, a. 7, c, St. Thomas refers to the merely logical character of the “… relations which are between being and non-being, which reason forms, insofar as it apprehends non-being as a certain extreme.” Hence, the metaphors about “transcending an infinite gap” from non-being to being begin to sound suspiciously poetic or mystical.

It is necessary to turn to the Common Doctor of the Church for illumination of a precise, scientific conception of exactly why creation requires infinite power. The following is neither poetry nor mysticism:

“It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power…. For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3).

The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…” For, as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced.

Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because “…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit. The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite.

Note well that St. Thomas does not argue from the remoteness of the potency from the act in the case of creation. Rather, he considers the “… proportion of no potency to some potency…”—for a creating agent presupposes no potency whereas a natural agent always presupposes some potency. He observes that there exists no such proportion just as “… there is no proportion of non-being to being.” A fortiori, the remoteness of no potency to the act of already created being becomes even more immeasurable (if that were possible).

Thus we have the rational explanation for the universal metaphysical intuition that it would require infinite power to create ex nihilo.

The True Meaning of “Creation”

If it were necessary to prove creation of the world in time in order to demonstrate the existence of God, it appears that such a task could never be accomplished by unaided natural reason. For even the most famous Christian apologist for God’s existence, St. Thomas Aquinas, concedes that reason alone cannot prove creation in time: it is simply an article of Catholic faith which is neither contrary to, nor demonstrable by, natural reason (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, aa. I-3; De Potentia Dei, q. 3, aa. 14 and 17; On the Eternity of the World, 1964, 2-73).

In fact, according to St. Thomas, the world could well have existed from all eternity—and yet it would still be a creature of God (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 46, a. 2, ad. I; Etienne Gilson, Elements of Christian Philosophy, 1963, 214).

One of his famous Five Ways to prove God’s existence, the Third Way, presupposes this very possibility in the logic of its argumentation. In fact, in Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 13, St. Thomas insists “… that the most efficacious way to prove God to exist is not on the supposition of the newness of the world, but rather on the supposition of the eternity of the world.” Thus, our belief in creation in time is just that—a matter of reasonable Christian belief.

The point of all this is simply to observe that, for St. Thomas, the notion of creation is quite distinct from the notion of beginning in time. After all, on the very supposition of an eternally existent God, could one deny the possibility that such a Being may have been creating the world from all eternity? And would not such a world be a creature in virtue of its being an effect of God despite its beginningless duration? In such a case, creation would be an ongoing production of the being of the world by God—with absolutely no reference to a beginning in time.

Moreover, grant that God did create the world in time. What then would be the relationship of the world to God in the next instant after the moment of creation? Or, the next day, or year, or twenty billion years? Could God cease causing the world and yet the world continue to exist? Certainly not. For, as St. Thomas observes, “With the cause ceasing, the effect ceases” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 96, a. 3, ob 3. Also, “Removing the cause removes the effect,” Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c). Creation must not be conceived as a once and for all time act. God must continue to create, or else, the cosmos would at once fall back into the nothingness from which it came (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1). St. Thomas refers to this continued act of creation as “conservation.”

“It must be said that the conservation of things by God is not through some new action, but through a continuation of that action by which He gives existence, which action is indeed without motion and time” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. I, ad 4).

In other words, a proper understanding of the term “creation” is conceptually distinct from the notion of “beginning in time.” For St. Thomas, the world is created, not because it began in time, but because of its radical dependence on the Supreme Being during every moment of its existence—past, present, or future.

We are thus left with three alternatives regarding the existence of the world: Either it came to be in time—thereby requiring an infinitely powerful Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity as the created effect of that Creator, or else, it has existed from all eternity without the causation of such a Creator.

On the first two suppositions, the existence of an infinitely powerful God is at once granted and this investigation is ended. But it is the third alternative which now requires closer scrutiny.

For the existence of the world is itself an act whose being demands some explanation. Existence is an act. It is the very first act of any substance (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 104, a. 1, ad 3). And no substance is explained unless and until its substantial existence has been accounted for. Thus we may properly inquire as to the explanation of the existence of this finite world in which we find ourselves.

When we inquire as to the explanation or sufficient reason for a supposedly uncaused finite universe, it becomes at once clear that the need for some foundation in an infinitely powerful being is not escaped. For, just as there is no pre-existing potency for such a world which is created in time, so too, there is no pre-existing potency against which to measure the actually existing universe even if it has always existed (as atheists insist). Hence, its existential foundation, even if this is not conceived as a cause outside its own being, must manifest a power which knows no measure, i.e., it is infinite.

To put the matter in other terms, the power required to explain a being (or beings) is not dependent on whether that being is an effect (whether or not such effect happens to be produced in time). Rather, such power must be measured in terms of its being the reason why there is being rather than non-being. And, as St. Thomas points out, “…there is no proportion of non-being to being” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad 3). Hence, the power requisite to explain the existence of the cosmos knows no measure — whether it began in time or not. Immeasurable or infinite power is needed to explain any existence at all — of anything.

But the world is clearly finite—since space and time are the limiting modes of material existence. Since the finite clearly cannot contain the infinite power needed to explain its own existence, it is evident that an infinite Being must exist.

Some Final Reflections

It may well be suspected that the foregoing demonstration of God’s existence is simply a variation of St. Thomas’s Third Way of the Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c., or else, perhaps, the argument which many have abstracted from his proof for God’s eternity which is presented in the Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15. Yet it should at once be evident that neither of these demonstrations proceed from the same starting point as the present analysis. For, both of the aforementioned texts of St. Thomas take as their initial data the existence of things which are possible to be or not to be. But the present argument proceeds neither from the possibility nor from the necessity of the world—merely from its existence and from the need for a sufficient reason for said existence.

If it were possible for the world to be its own reason for existing, then there would be no need to posit the existence of a transcendent God. It is only when it is shown that the existence of anything at all requires infinite power that it becomes evident that the finite cosmos necessarily requires an Infinitely Powerful Being as the only adequate explanation of its existence.

Hence, the present argument proceeds, not from the possible, as such, but from an analysis of the creative power implicit in any being whatever—whether it be possible or necessary, finite or infinite. It is the factual existence of things which is at issue here, not their indifference to existence.

But it is precisely that indifference to existence manifested by the possibles which St. Thomas uses to prove their causal dependence. As he puts it in the context of the Contra Gentiles:

“Everything however which is possible to exist has a cause, since it is from itself equally [related] to two [contraries], namely, existence and non-existence. [Therefore,] it must be, if it appropriates to itself existence, that this is from some cause” (Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 15).

Again, the same point is made in the Third Way when St. Thomas insists “…that which is not does not begin to be, except through something which exists” (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3, c).

In both these cases, again, St. Thomas reveals the causal dependence of the possibles. But the present proof seeks not to reveal causal dependence except as incidental to the need for infinite power as the sole adequate foundation for all existents. Perhaps this point could be more adequately expressed by saying that God Himself, who is absolutely uncaused, nonetheless requires infinite power in order to render His own existence intelligible. That is why St. Thomas’s task in the aforementioned contexts differs from that of the present article.

In conclusion, the intellectual exploration completed in this article entails the following central points:

First, it was established that there exists, either explicitly or implicitly, among theists and atheists alike, a universal intellectual recognition that the theological notion of an absolute beginning in time of the world entails a creation ex nihilo whose sole adequate explanation would be an Infinitely Powerful Being, or God in the traditional sense of the term.

Second, the concept of “creation” itself was scrutinized so as to reveal that it may be properly distinguished from any notion of “beginning in time”—thereby demonstrating that the mere existence of any being whatsoever entails the presence of an act (esse) which requires infinite power to be posited “outside of nothingness.” (The central metaphysical task of this article has been to establish the philosophically scientific validity of this second step.)

Third and last, it was seen that such infinite power clearly cannot reside in any finite being and, that, therefore, it is absolutely necessary to admit the existence of an Infinitely Powerful Creator as the sole adequate explanation of the finite world.

The notion of “explanation” does not necessarily denote extrinsic causality in every case. While every being requires a sufficient reason, only those beings whose sufficient reason for existing is not totally within itself would require an extrinsic sufficient reason or what is called a “cause.” This means that, while an infinitely powerful God is required to cause the existence of all the finite beings in this finite world, yet God can still be said to be his own explanation, and yet not his own cause, since he is his own intrinsic sufficient reason for being.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles. [A, earlier version of this article appeared in Faith & Reason, 11:3-4 (1985), 250-63. Permission to print kindly granted by Christendom Educational Corporation, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630.]


Featured: “The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise,” by Giovanni di Paolo; painted in 1445.

The Diversity of Science: A Personal View of the Search for God

In one of his most famous works, Contact, the American astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist Carl Sagan (1934-1996) speculates in the guise of a novel on what would be the possible social, economic, political, philosophical, scientific and theological repercussions of receiving an interstellar message from a civilization more advanced than ours and one that could be within reach of our terrestrial radio telescopes; with the subsequent plausibility of being decoded and translated. The protagonist of these events is astronomer Eleanor Arroway (inspired by astronomer Jill Cornell Tarter, who worked for the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence for more than 30 years), who in the novel directs the Argos project of SETI (a U.S. government project that still operates to this day).

The decoding and translation of the message, coming from the vicinity of the star Vega, in the constellation Lyra, shows it to be instructions for the construction of a Machine, a mechanism for the production of Einstein-Rosen bridges; that is to say, of wormholes or shortcuts through space-time, by means of which it is possible to displace matter and that would allow, for now only at a theoretical level, interstellar travel, by allowing us to travel the long distances of hundreds or thousands of light years in a matter of seconds, minutes or hours.

In Chapter 18, of the second part of the book, Eleanor (Ellie), along with four other scientists (Xi Qiaomu, Devi Sujavati, Abonneba Eda and Vasily Lunacharsky—in the film adaptation Ellie travels alone) is chosen for the preparations taking place at Hokkaido, Japan, where the Machine is located. In this context, Ellie and Eda have a spirited conversation on the subject that the Message and the manufacture of the Machine itself were bringing about a theological revolution in the whole world, since the atmosphere of a universal brotherhood was being experienced. In the meantime, Ellie (who throughout the novel makes clear her skeptical stance regarding the narrative of human religions) asks Eda if he has had any religious experience that led to an existential transformation, to which he replies that he has; and Ellie asks him to elaborate and explain when this happened. Eda replies as follows:

When I first picked up Euclid. Also when I first understood Newtonian gravitation. And Maxwell’s equations, and general relativity. And during my work on superunification. I have been fortunate enough to have had many religious experiences” (Sagan, 386).

Ellie replies to Eda negatively that by religious experience she was not referring to the awe and amazement that can be experienced in any field, but to the strictly religious; that is, to something alien to the plane of science, to which Eda replies, never; and that his religious experiences had always taken place in science. In all of Sagan’s work, the limits between religion and science are blurred, awe and amazement that is common to both branches of human knowledge. This is the starting point of another of his works, which is actually posthumous and the product of a compilation of his lectures at the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology by Ann Druyan.

Regarding the relationship between religion and science, Sagan’s opinion is that their goals are identical or almost so, and that in reality the disruptive issue has more to do with the reliability of the truths proclaimed by both fields and the respective methods of approaching them (Sagan, 2007: 24). And that one of the best ways he knows of experiencing the religious feeling, that is, the feeling of awe, is to look up on a clear night; and that this can be reflected in both science and religion, endorsing in turn Einstein’s approach in his book, The World as I See It (1934), which is homologous in that sense: “I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.” Along that line, it would seem that religious sentiment would be clearly inevitable (Sagan, 2007: 50), similar to the position of the 18th century astronomer Edward Young who said: “An undevout astronomer is mad.” But devotion to what, Sagan asks himself; and the answer cannot be other than to the Cosmos and its terrible and unfathomable immensity; it is a love informed by the truth (Sagan, 2007: 53). And if there is a Creator God of the traditional type, Sagan says, our curiosity and intelligence come from him, because it is his creation which is the source of such admiration, and if he does not exist, that curiosity and intelligence are essential tools to manage our survival in an extremely dangerous era (Sagan, 2007: 53). Without prejudice to this, he concludes in this part:

In either case the enterprise of knowledge is consistent surely with science; it should be with religion, and it is essential for the welfare of the human species” (Sagan, 2007: 37).

Now, this part precisely connects with another chapter of the book entitled, “The God Hypothesis,” within the framework of natural theology, which Sagan understands as theological knowledge that can be acquired only through reason, experience and experiment; not through revelation or mystical experience, but only through reason (Sagan, 2007: 167).

An interesting idea derived from the treatment of this hypothesis is related to the concept of God, and it is important in this regard to provide some ideas on our part prior to this, since there are those who claim that scientific praxis has nothing to do with the faith of the scientist; that they are separate issues. Now, some theoretical physicists give us another vision and interesting ideas in this regard, showing us the close relationship between scientific praxis as a way to the constant search for the big questions that undoubtedly have a profound impact on the scientist’s faith. And the problem lies in the way of asking and approaching the question, i.e., the question, “Does God exist” can only be approached after having answered a previous question: What do you understand by the idea of God? A position known as ignosticism. And this question is not confined to the Christian experience alone, and not even to that of all theistic religions, but is also proper to philosophy.

On the other hand, the efforts of many who consider themselves atheists, in focusing on delegitimizing aspects of the mythology of many religions (understanding the term “myth” in its positive sociological and theological sense as sacred traditional history, and not in its negative or pejorative sense as farce, invented history or deception), in order to delegitimize aspects of the mythology of many religions (understanding the term “myth” in its positive sociological and theological sense as sacred traditional history, and not in its negative or pejorative sense as farce, invented story or hoax), especially Christian mythology (Christian mythology or true Christian myth, i.e., traditional narratives as realities whose historical correlates and empirical-archaeological references that gave rise to them are susceptible—contingently—to be traced, to a greater or lesser extent), when it is not a sincere attitude of methodical doubt, it becomes an exercise of intellectual dishonesty or a lack of objectivity typical of arguments ad ignorantiam, by the simple fact of invisibilizing with the narrative of the anti-religious discourse, the question about which concept of God is compatible with scientific knowledge, and therefore the approach to a more complex reality that transcends even theoretical physics itself and that ends up delegitimizing any atheistic narrative (especially of the most radical sectors that cannot conceive the idea of God outside traditional religions), and in the following sense:

Physicists who believe in this God, believe that the universe is very beautiful, that its absolute laws could not be an accident. The universe could have been totally random or composed of lifeless electrons and neutrinos, incapable of creating any kind of life, let alone intelligent life” (Kaku, 2008: 358).

It should be noted that the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, when referring to the idea of God, does so in allusion to a creator God or a universal superior intelligence of order and design (2008: 87). In this regard, Sagan has something to say about the hypothesis of God as we have commented; he specifies that regarding the word “God” there is a series of hypotheses that is immense, from the one he considers naive, where God is presented to us as an immense man, light-skinned, with a long white beard, who sits on a big throne and keeps track of every dead sparrow, to the one he makes his own:

Contrast this with a quite different vision of God, one proposed by Baruch Spinoza and by Albert Einstein. And this second kind of god they called God in a very straightforward way. Einstein was constantly interpreting the world in terms of what God would or wouldn’t do. But by God they meant something not very different from the sum total of the physical laws of the universe; that is, gravitation plus quantum mechanics plus grand unified field theories plus a few other things equaled God. And by that all they meant was that here were a set of exquisitely powerful physical principles that seemed to explain a great deal that was otherwise inexplicable about the universe. Laws of nature, as I have said earlier, that apply not just locally, not just in Glasgow, but far beyond: Edinburgh, Moscow, Peking, Mars, Alpha Centauri, the center of the Milky Way, and out by the most distant quasars known. That the same laws of physics apply everywhere is quite remarkable. Certainly that represents a power greater than any of us. It represents an unexpected regularity to the universe. It
need not have been. It could have been that every province of the cosmos had its own laws of nature. It’s not apparent from the start that the same laws have to apply everywhere.
Now, it would be wholly foolish to deny the existence of laws of nature. And if that is what we are talking about when we say God, then no one can possibly be an atheist, or at least anyone who would profess atheism would have to give a coherent argument about why the laws of nature are inapplicable.
I think he or she would be hard-pressed. So with this latter definition of God, we all believe in God
” (Sagan: 109).

About God, as Sagan rightly says, there are hypotheses; each religion has its hypothesis and its vision of God, from anthropomorphic and zoomorphic approaches to God, to their replacement by the current monotheism, that which envisions God as omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Now, I consider that the concept of God as Sagan puts it, should not be understood as something that aims to make science a new religion in the Comtian way or to scientify the current religions, but on the contrary, it is simply one more concept, within the wide range of possibilities that this idea generates, to be highly speculative (and as such the idea of God is expressed in its multiplicity of manifestations); a more materialistic conceptualization of God (which could be identified as pantheistic. However, if you read carefully, it is not saying that God and the material reality are the same; God and the existing totality, the Cosmos, are not said to be one and the same thing. But God is spoken of as a sum of very concrete questions, of the physical laws of the universe; a position closer to the deism that has been very characteristic of many scientists since the Copernican revolution), which can be in communion or not, be inclusive or not, be complementary or not, with the main dogmas of the institutional religions; its applicability to the gnoseological framework of each religion or vision of God being contingent. But what this materialistic conception of God is useful for us is to reaffirm the fact that there is no disruption between scientific praxis and the faith of the scientist (whether Christian or of any other religion, or receptive to the possibility as a hypothesis within a process of contingent conversion), that rather instead rather than being disjunct issues, they are binding and feed back on each other.

It is worth concluding this paper with Sagan’s impressions of traditions and institutional religions. On tradition Sagan spared no effort in affirming that tradition is something precious, a kind of synthesis of tens or hundreds of thousands of generations of humans. It is a gift from our ancestors; it being essential to remember that tradition is a human social construction whose objectives are perfectly pragmatic (Sagan, 2007: 209). But he also did not hesitate to affirm that while some traditions are maintained over time, others change and must change at the same speed as conditions do (Sagan, loc. cit.). Likewise, and regarding religions, although he does not hesitate to point out that religions have often served as a means for political authorities to maintain themselves in power, that is, as a means of social control, this does not mean that this is the only form of manifestation of religion in human history; there is a spurious component as well as a virtuous one; and his conclusion in this regard is clear:

By no means does it follow that religions thereby have no function, or no benign function. They can provide in a very significant way, and without any mystical trappings, ethical standards for adults, stories for children, social organization for adolescents, ceremonials and rites of passage, history, literature, music, solace in time of bereavement, continuity with the past, and faith in the future. But there are many other things that they do not provide” (Sagan, 2007: 129).

Regarding this last quotation, our final comments are that religion as a social phenomenon—regardless of its gnoseological value—is a universal fact worthy of study; inasmuch as far from disappearing with the advent of scientific thought, it has been maintained and has merged with the culture of various peoples, forming part of their heritage and traditions. It is true that religion has had many forms of instrumentalization through human history (as has science), from a benevolent sense as the basis of a moral normative and an eschatology whose vision has had an impact on art, architecture and music (which in science is the improvement of the quality of life of all mankind), to a negative sense, (science was and is no stranger to it either, the victims of progress in experimentation with human beings, weapons technology with the capacity for the extermination of humanity, and new methods of digital slavery and social control through uncritical technophilias, such as transhumanism). However, to reduce the religious phenomenon to the exclusively negative (as well as the scientific), would be nothing more than a full reductionism and a sign of a very serious ignorance, which wrongly denies the role and social function that religion fulfilled in the past and today; facts that are evident when we approach the subject from the History of Religion, the Philosophy of Religion and the Sociology of Religion. Whoever calls himself a humanist and belittles the religious phenomenon as a whole, reduces himself to an anti-humanist, because the origin and development of humanity (to varying degrees), has always been linked to metaphysical speculation (and science is no stranger to metaphysics either; but unlike religion, whose base is a spiritualist metaphysics, science has a base in a materialist metaphysics) and likewise its evolution is also presumed, along with the religious expression within it, part of the hermeneutic and cultural creativity of the peoples of the world.

Awe, astonishment and creativity are the common stromata between religion and science.


Israel Rene Lira is Member of the Peruvian Society of Philosophy and part of its Board of Directors as Secretary for the period 2020-2022 and is Deputy Director of the Center for Crisolist Studies and Head of its Department of Studies in Philosophy, Politics and Economy. He also serves as the Legal Advisor in Contracts with the State, Dispute Resolution and Arbitration Boards. He is a Columnist for the newspaper The Truth of Lambayeque, and has authored over 240 articles on philosophy, science and politics.


Featured: Folio from the Bible Historiale: Genesis 1, creation; God, creating heaven and earth, ca, 1411.

The Philosophical Impossibility of Darwinian Naturalistic Evolution

In 2004, the International Theological Commission, headed by Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, maintained that scientific evidence pointed to some sort of biological evolution. It declared, “Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.” (International Theological Commission, Vol II: 1986-2007, [2009], para. 63). Still, “mounting support” is not objective certitude, and “some theory of evolution” does not depict its exact form.

In my book Origin of the Human Species, I conclude that we may never know whether the biological theory of human or general evolution is natural scientific fact. I maintain this because of (1) the complexity of the issues raised, (2) evolution’s unscientific unfalsifiability, and (3) the inherent limitations of natural scientific knowledge, especially when dealing with factual events hidden deeply in the recesses of prehistoric time. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI has aptly pointed out that there is no way to prove or disprove experimentally that evolution actually occurred over immense past ages.

A 1998 survey of the National Association of Scientists found that only ten percent of its members believed in God or immortality, with the number being only five percent among biologists (American Scientist, 95:4, July-August 2007, 294-7). Most natural scientists, especially biologists, today embrace Darwinian evolutionary theory, which claims to explain life’s origin and development without divine intervention.

Still, some scientists continue to challenge such Darwinian presumptions, attacking naturalistic explanations and the claimed “fact of evolution” itself. Larry Azar’s book, Evolution and Other Fairy Tales, documents how, while leading evolutionists agree about the “fact of evolution,” they often contradict each other concerning proposed mechanisms whereby this “fact” took place (Evolution and Other Fairy Tales, 2005, 356-69). Still, given the genetic evidence that all forms of life appear somehow related, Darwinists remain undaunted in defending their naturalistic claims.

Traditional metaphysicians know that God exists, and that naturalism is simply an intellectually unfounded presumption of “pure” Darwinism. The First Vatican Council defined that God’s existence can be known with certainty, merely by the proper use of unaided human reason (Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, 1806). Beginning with observing created effects, the mind is led inexorably back to the Uncreated Cause, God. St. Thomas Aquinas’s famous Five Ways are the classic expression of this intellectual process (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3). Properly understood, these rational approaches to God remain irrefutable, despite the misunderstandings of David Hume and a host of modern skeptics.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange’s book, God: His Existence and His Nature (1939), remains the classical exposition of the Five Ways, fully treating their metaphysical presuppositions and exhaustively refuting David Hume, Immanuel Kant, various process philosophers and their like. My book, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence (1972), proves the impossibility of infinite regress of proper causes, which is a key premise of the Five Ways.

Whether the Cosmos began in time or not, God’s existence remains the sole adequate explanation for its very existence. Darwinists and scientific creationists debate cosmological and biological evolution as if the outcome determines God’s existence. Yet, metaphysicians know this current intellectual combat is utterly irrelevant to the question of God’s existence. They know that any supposed evolutionary process presupposes God’s ongoing ontological support for the Universe itself and for all the chemical and biological mechanisms evolution may entail. Still, notwithstanding this rationally necessary transcendent metaphysical framework, otherwise seemingly naturalistic explanations of biological evolution may still be evaluated for intrinsic adequacy.

Benedict XVI is also reported to have adopted the distinction between “micro-” and “macro-evolution,” as early as the 1980s, with acceptance of micro-evolution, but skepticism about macro-evolution (National Catholic Reporter, 42:39, 2006, 5). Micro-evolution is evolution within the same species, whereas macro-evolution is evolution from one species to a new and distinct species.

This brings up the question, if evolution means transforming from one species to another species, what is a “species?” Darwin was utterly confused by the question, since he desperately needed the concept of species to support his claimed “origin of species,” but conceived of evolution in terms of endless mere variations in accidental qualities—thereby undercutting the essential differences needed to render species distinct (Evolution and Other Fairy Tales, 168-72). His more recent disciples do no better. While some still insist on the extra-mental reality of species, the logical default position of mainstream evolutionists is nominalism, according to which “species” do not really exist, but are merely names we give to describe mid-ranges of ever-blending series of unique individuals.

Even the “punctuated equilibrium” hypothesis advocated by Niles Eldredge and Steven J. Gould does not embrace Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster‘s” instant formation, but merely accelerates the transformation process by reducing it to thousands or even hundreds of years—far too rapid to be observed in the fossil record, but still gradualistic in nature.

Whether expressed in terms of cladistics, morphology, or reproductive isolation, the modern biological species concepts all share the same essential defect: they fail to detect essential differences between individuals in diverse “species.” All differences are expressed in terms of sensible accidents, such as configuration of spines, presence or absence of a backbone, ability to reproduce and produce fertile offspring, and so forth. Biological species concepts fail to express essential differences between species—thus undercutting the whole notion of true evolution from one species to another really distinct species.

Highly-respected biologist Ernst Mayr maintains that it is necessary to get past empirical terms, such as “phenotypic, morphological, genetic, phylogenetic, or biological” in order to get to the “underlying philosophical concepts” (The Species Problem, 1957, 17).

The philosophical natural species concept is based on the reality of a metaphysical essence which is undetectable by modern biologists. Penetrating beyond sensible accidents, the philosophical natural species expresses essential properties (per se accidents), which are either present or absent. Living things are different from non-living, not merely in degree, but in kind. Animals possess sentient powers absent in vegetables. Human beings possess intellect and will lacking in merely sentient organisms. Since their essential properties differ, human beings, brute animals, and plants differ according to natural species and specific essence (Origin of the Human Species, 27-39).

Evolutionists and anti-evolutionists alike accept intra-specific evolution or micro-evolution, such as the bacteria that grow resistant to antibiotics or the English peppered moths that changed colors during the industrial revolution. But anti-evolutionists absolutely deny that inter-specific evolution or macro-evolution occurs, such as the fishes evolving into land animals (Origin of the Human Species, 6-7).

What confuses the issue is that these same anti-evolutionists usually adopt biological species concepts. This leads them to fight the battle in terms of attacking what might be merely variations within the same philosophical natural species. People do not easily conceive that a dog and an elephant actually belong to the same philosophical natural species because they share the same sentient powers even though their biological organization appears markedly diverse.

Darwinian evolution’s real test rests in its claim to climb the ladder of natural perfections through interaction of unaided matter. That is to say, can matter give rise to life, then to vegetative life, then to sentient life, and then to intellective life—all by itself? Does unaided evolution possess this self-perfecting capability? Or, does this process violate the basic metaphysical principle that the lower cannot give rise to the higher?

In Origin of the Human Species, I suggest that unaided material evolution might be possible, at least up to the appearance of true man, whose spiritual intellective soul demands creative intervention by God (Origin of the Human Species, 41-63,107-10). Now, I propose to show that even the initial stages of evolution from lower to higher natural philosophical species cannot be explained adequately merely in terms of purely physical agents. (I include the transition from non-life to life in the broad notion of “evolution,” since materialists presume this process, called “abiogenesis,” also happens naturalistically).

Using the method of natural philosophy, biologist Thomas J. Kaiser argues that every organism has an essence that governs reproduction so that the parent organism makes use of mutated DNA solely to produce variations within its own species, never to produce a new species (The Aquinas Review, 13, 2006,1-35). He explains how all purely natural reproduction entails a biological process which assures that the same form must be found in the offspring:

“All generation in the sense proper to the living involves the separation of a part that participates in the life and therefore, the species of the parent. Generation simply involves the production of a new individual analogous to separating timber from timber. In other words, life does not begin at conception, a new individual life does (The Aquinas Review, 24).”

In the case of sexual reproduction of subhuman animals, the ovum appears to need the sperm to remove an impediment to full development, but the moment the ovum is separated from the mother, it becomes a new individual of the same form and species as the mother. If mutations are used by the offspring at all, either they will bring about accidental differences in the same species, or be harmful to the species. There is no purely natural way for the form of a new species to be educed.

While Kaiser offers a significant demonstration against Darwinian evolution, I propose a somewhat different approach. Relying less on empirical biological science, I, too, employ the metaphysical principles of St. Thomas Aquinas—and application of the hylemorphic (matter-form) doctrine of Aristotle. These are not outdated hypotheses, but rather the only rational explanation of how things can exist in the form of species at all. And “form” is what such things are all about.

If things above the atomic level actually exist, some real metaphysical principle must account for them existing as single, unified, real beings of such and such nature. Unless form is present to unify and specify the type of being that exists, all reality would ultimately reduce to the world of atomism in which “things” are not really things at all, but merely conveniently named “piles” of atoms existing in a temporary state of equilibrium. Neither cabbages nor kings would actually exist.

Without forms which distinguish them, species cannot be distinguished—and evolution becomes impossible. Form plays several critical roles: (1) it makes a thing one thing, a substantial unity, (2) it determines a thing’s nature and places it into its species, (3) it gives existence to the substance as “this” thing, and (4) it actively determines matter as to its specificity. This last role is critical in understanding why unaided natural inter-specific evolution is impossible.

In Origin of the Human Species, I examine whether merely material reorganization might account for the appearance of new and higher things: life from non-life, animal life from vegetative life, human life from animal life. I cite Australian philosopher and theologian Austin M. Woodbury who maintains that such changes are not possible, since “an effect cannot be higher than its cause, and every agent produces a like unto itself” (Philosophical Psychology, unpublished manuscript, 1945, 59).

In light of Woodbury’s principle, inter-specific evolution would appear impossible for two reasons: (1) because the effect (a new and higher form) cannot come from an insufficient cause (the prior and lower form), and (2) an agent in a given species tends only to the production of effects that remain within that same natural species. For both reasons, non-living agents cannot produce living effects, non-sentient organisms cannot give rise to sentient ones, and non-intellective primates cannot give rise to intellective ones.

Still, it may be argued that new and higher forms might arise through per accidens causality. Chance interactions of lower agents might result in such reorganization of matter as to befit actualization by higher forms. In his book, The Philosophical Dimensions of the Origin of Species, philosopher John N. Deely argues that abiogenesis entails no violation of the principle of causality and that no need exists for special divine “concursus (still less intervention)” (Philosophical Dimensions, 1969, 324-5). He argues that inter-specific evolution is possible because it entails, not univocal causation (in which the cause must always be proportionate to its effect), but equivocal causation (in which the cause “need not be proportioned to its effect except per accidens)” (Philosophical Dimensions, 324).

Deely’s insight is this: “The principle is the involution and mutual activation of the causes: causae ad invicem sunt causae” (Philosophical Dimensions, 321). Thus reciprocal causality might entail chance events resulting in genuine transformism. In his A Preface to Metaphysics, philosopher Jacques Maritain explains the classical notion of chance as events occurring from the “intersection of causal chains,” which produce an effect outside the natural finality of the interacting agents (Preface to Metaphysics, 1939, 141-51). While the activities and end of a specific agent cannot exceed its nature except by a miracle, chance interactions of multiple agents might thus effect new forms present in none of the interacting agents.

This scenario fits the general thesis proposed by evolutionists. Non-living matter might so interact as to produce primitive organisms. Genetic mutations in organisms caused by environmental and other natural factors might cause normal generative processes to produce new genetic material resulting in new species. As a philosopher, the exact mechanisms entailed, and even their scientific feasibility, do not concern me. That is left to the ongoing scientific discussion. My concern is whether this proposed philosophical explanation for abiogenesis and transformism is valid. Closer examination reveals it is not.

Woodbury’s objections to inter-specific evolution go beyond noting that lower forms cannot give rise to higher ones. He argues that changes in matter alone are not sufficient, because form, specifically substantial form, plays a special role in the coming-to-be of new and higher natural species.

Since form determines the entire organism to its proper species, form also places the matter into its species, that is to say, makes it fitting for this particular kind of form. Aquinas points out that “matter must be proportionate to form (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 76, a. 5, ob. 1).” Thus it would be impossible to have essentially distinct forms without any real difference in the organization of the matter.

Woodbury maintains that only the final disposition of the matter occasions the eduction of a new substantial form. That is to say, the new and higher form of living substance becomes possible only at the exact moment in which the organization of the matter is perfectly and completely proportioned to that new form. But, he maintains, “The ultimate disposition [of the matter] is never together with the form which is corrupted, but is together with that which is generated (Cosmology, unpublished manuscript, 1949, 68).”

This crucial insight means that the material organization needed for the new and higher form is never present until that new form itself is present. But it is form which is the active principle in the hylemorphic (matter-form) composite, whereas matter is the potential, or passive, principle. This means that form places matter into its proper species, and not vice versa. Matter is related to form as potency is to act. Aquinas maintains, “Since it is receptive to act, potency must be proportioned to that act (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 75, a. 5, ad 1).” Matter, as the potential principle, is receptive to form, which is the active principle. Aquinas argues:

“First, he [Aristotle] explains that the form is substance to a greater degree than the composite….Third, he shows that the form and the composite are substance to a greater degree than matter…. He accordingly says, first, ‘that the specifying principle,’ that is the form, is prior to matter. For matter is a potential being, and the specifying principle is its actuality; and actuality is prior to potentiality in nature. And absolutely speaking it [form] is prior in time because the potential is brought to actuality only by means of something actual….Hence it is clear that form is prior to matter, and that it is also a being to a greater degree than matter….Hence form must be being to a greater degree than matter. (In VII Meta., 2, n. 1278. Translation by John P. Rowan, Library of Living Catholic Thought, 1961, Vol. 11, 498).”

Therefore, matter’s ultimate disposition must be determined by the new and higher form. Without that new form simultaneously existing, the ultimate disposition of the matter will never be present to fit that new form. As the active principle in determining which species the matter befits, form possesses ontological priority in determining the final organization of the matter which befits that new and higher species.

Thus, the prior, or intermediate, or even penultimate disposition of the matter cannot account for the ultimate organization of the matter. The new form alone plays that role. Since (1) the prior less perfect form cannot account for the coming-to-be of the posterior more perfect form, and since (2) no prior state of matter can account for the new form’s eduction, it necessarily follows that some agency outside all the natural material causes at work must explain that new form. In a word, natural evolutionary processes alone cannot adequately explain new and successively higher philosophical natural species. Naturalistic evolution is metaphysically impossible.

At this point, those more versed in natural science than in Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy are doubtless incredulous that philosophers could be so naïve about the proper role that mutations play in explaining the appearance of new and higher organisms. As Kaiser points out, to most natural scientists today, the DNA and genes alone determine the species of an organism (The Aquinas Review, 25). Thus mutations alone would suffice to explain transformism. On the contrary, (1) this is not a natural scientific analysis, but one of philosophical science, and (2) unless one reverts to some sort of crypto-atomism, the role of form in the production of new organisms dictates Woodbury’s inference.

It matters not whether natural scientists can discern when genes or DNA or even more precise determinations of material organization necessary for a given natural species are present. What matters is that by the time such material organization is present it is already being specified by the appropriate substantial form. The question then is whether matter’s disposition is responsible for the presence of that new form, or form’s presence is responsible for that matter’s ultimate disposition.

Natural scientists think that proper material organization alone is what constitutes new species, and hence, assume that material changes alone can explain them. They reveal inherently materialistic philosophical presuppositions. Unless one is a crypto-atomist, the reality of things above the atomic level demands some sort of matter-form composition in which form dominates and specifies material organization—so that it is the new form that accounts for the material organization that natural science discerns. The only philosophically adequate explanation is that it is the new form which is responsible for the ultimate material organization—not the reverse.

Cartesian dualism dominates many people‘s thought. For example, they think that a human soul could just be added to a subhuman primate to produce a human being. But, then, man would not be one being, but a composite of two things: (1) a human form (soul) and (2) an atomic organization somehow suited to sentient activities.

On the contrary, Aristotelian hylemorphic doctrine preserves the existential unity of things, especially of man himself. We are one being, one substance. Form and matter compose a single unified living thing. Form actively dominates and organizes matter so as to render it perfectly fitted to the species to which the organism belongs. This means that man’s matter is not simply “animal matter” with a human form, but human matter because it has a human form. Because man has a human form, he is capable of intellective and volitional activities supported by his specifically human material organization.

We have no way of ascertaining the exact material organization needed for actuation by a given form. But we know, for example, that the formal organization of a human being is different from that of a merely sentient organism, or else, that sentient organism would be a human being. Gross morphology is not a reliable indicator of matter’s fittingness for a given form.

A human corpse’s macro-organization may appear more fitted to human life than that of a human zygote, but its micro-organization is not.

Since forms of diverse species are really diverse, they must make a real difference in the matter of those species. Hence, the matter of the lower species cannot be the same as the matter of a higher species. Even the penultimate matter of the prior, lower species is not suited to the form of a higher species. Only when the new form appears does matter’s “micro-organization” become fitted to the higher species.

While natural science might even be able to detect that matter suddenly appears appropriate to the new, higher species, by that moment in time the new form is already present. But where does the new form come from? From the previous material conditions? No, because they were not fitted to the new form. From the previous form? No, because the lower cannot give rise to the higher. From the new organization of the matter? But that matter receives its new organization from the new form! Whence, then, the new form?

To argue that the matter is the same before and after such a change is to fail to heed the necessary fittingness of matter to form, and the dominance of matter by its form. To say that evolution reorganizes the matter and that, thereby, the new form is educed, is to put the cart before the horse—since it is the new form which is responsible for determining the matter as proper to a new specific type of living organism, and not the reverse. Solely the new and higher form’s appearance enables matter to achieve its proper organization for this new species. But, the prior material organization and form cannot account for the appearance of the new form. Evolutionary material processes alone cannot account for new and higher natural philosophical species.

This philosophical conclusion is compatible with methodological naturalism in natural science, which remains free to seek natural reasons for genetic changes. Natural scientists may propose mechanisms claiming to bridge even inter-specific evolution to new philosophical natural species. But competent metaphysicians will know such mechanisms are not the entire story. Genuine transformism from lower to higher natural species requires preternatural intervention, though such intervention need not be discernible to natural scientists.

Since natural agents alone cannot account for the coming-to-be of life forms, or of higher life forms from lower ones, merely discovering physical conditions suitable for life does not warrant empirical scientists’ nearly universal assumption that life abounds throughout the cosmos. If such does occur, some agent acting above the natural physical order must intervene in every instance. Proper understanding of Aquinas’ First Way of proving God exists reveals that God constantly acts in the natural world so as to explain the coming-to-be of all things subject to change (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3).

Divine providence might ordain that life in many forms fills the universe. Yet, God’s ways are inscrutable. Short of actually encountering new life forms on or from distant planets, no scientific evidence or speculation entails that such living organisms must exist. We shall only know that we are not alone when we actually first meet our extraterrestrial neighborseven merely microbial ones. Still, Darwinian naturalism will not adequately explain why they are there.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles. [A version of this article appeared in Faith & Reason, 33:1-4 (2008), 55-67. Permission to print kindly granted by Christendom Educational Corporation, Christendom College, Front Royal, Virginia, 22630.]


Featured: caricature of Charles Darwin and Émile Littré, by André Gill, 1878.

Ape Language, Space Aliens, and Artificial Intelligence: A Philosophical Enquiry

The article that follows served as an important basis for Dennis Bonnette’s book, Origin of the Human Species (3rd ed., 2014). The book explores questions raised by evolutionary theory—ultimately focusing on what we may confidently say about human origins, and showing that belief in Adam and Eve as the human race’s first parents remains reasonable, despite many modern evolutionists’ skepticism.

This article also serves the book’s overall aims by defending the uniqueness of man and of his essential superiority over lower animals, including other primates. This is an updatred version of the original article. Dr. Bonnette previously wrote about alien life-forms.


Preamble

As we approach the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, we find sudden interest in claims about possible space aliens – with people wondering, if they exist at all, what kind of creatures these might be. At the same time, we have now developed computers with artificial intelligence (AI), which some claim to be sentient, thinking entities, that might even constitute a new form of living person! These kinds of questions are all the more vexing today, given biological evolution’s tendency to view man as merely a highly developed animal. Some distinguish man by believing he uniquely has a soul. But the ancients always maintained that a soul was simply a principle of life, so that every living thing has a soul. This is evinced by the very fact that we name animals from the Latin, “anima,” which means “life principle” or “soul.” Religious believers quickly distinguish that man alone has a spiritual soul, but are then immediately challenged by evolutionists who maintain that man differs in complexity, but not in kind, from lower animals.

Understandably, this same confusion reigns about the nature of possible space aliens and AI computers. If we cannot even clearly distinguish true humans from other animals, how do we expect to understand the nature of creatures from outer space or computers so advanced that they can seemingly mimic every human ability, plus much more? For these reasons alone, it is useful to study the topic of this article, which is a scientific and philosophical examination of the “frontier” claims about lower primates to the effect that they can achieve what was once thought to be the unique possession of human beings, namely, genuine language.

This article will show clearly the difference between lower animals’ sensitive cognitive abilities and human beings’ radically superior intellectual cognitive powers. These powers manifest the deeper ontological distinction between animal and human natures. Once the radical distinction between human and animal natures is clearly grasped, the nature of those possible space alien “cousins” as well as the essential differences, if any, between man and AI computers can be better understood.

The naturalistic mentality of many animal psychologists anticipates that subhuman primates will tend to approach human beings’ mental powers, manifested in part through alleged ape linguistic abilities. Thus, the latter part of the twentieth century witnessed many ape-language studies, complete with claims that chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and certain other subhuman primates, have been taught to use various forms of sign language and can now understand the meanings of hundreds of words, form sentences, and communicate effectively with humans and even among themselves. These claims feed the inevitable conclusion that man himself no longer holds a preeminent place in the animal kingdom, that his is but one among many other species, and that continued belief that God made him in His image and gave him dominion over all lower creatures is simply an outdated religious myth.

I examine subhuman linguistic claims in two steps: First, I show that even some evolutionist natural scientists, who have analyzed ape-language studies, conclude that apes have not yet mastered true language. In 1979, some researchers challenged ape-language claims by arguing that such behavior can be explained by non-linguistic mechanisms, such as (1) simple imitation, (2) the Clever Hans effect, (3) the anthropomorphic fallacy, and (4) rapid non-syntactical signing to obtain immediate sensible rewards. Two of the most important claims—(1) that apes could combine signs creatively in novel sequences and (2) that they showed knowledge of syntactic structure—appear to be based merely upon anecdotal data, not upon acceptable scientific methodology.

Second, I use philosophical analysis to demonstrate (1) why human intellectual knowledge is needed to possess genuine language, and (2) why it will be forever impossible for subhuman primates to exhibit true linguistic ability. Materialist explanations of animal and human behavior miss the crucial distinction between sense and intellect. Animals possess sense knowledge alone, whereas man possesses both sense and intellectual knowledge. Intellectual knowledge is the hallmark of the human spiritual soul, and is not shared with our animal friends.

Man exhibits intellectual knowledge by (1) forming abstract concepts, (2) making judgments, and (3) reasoning from premises to conclusions in logical fashion. Subhuman animals’ sensory abilities, including imagination and sense memory, enable them to manipulate sensory data and use inborn natural signs to communicate instinctively, and even to be taught by man to use humanly-invented signs. Still, they do not understand the meanings their signs express, nor form judgments, much less engage in reasoning. The hallmark of all ape behavior, including trained language use, is its relentless focus on immediate sensory rewards, such as food, toys, sex, or interaction with other animals. Abstract goals, such as earning a diploma or getting a better job or serving God, mean nothing to apes and will not beget sign language responses.

Proof of my claims here requires (1) showing that ape-language research data can be explained in terms of mere sense knowledge, and (2) showing that such behavior must be so explained by positive proof that apes lack intellect. The first task is achieved largely in terms of the abovementioned scientific criticisms and also by pointing out that computers, which actually understand nothing and are not even alive, can imitate human linguistic behavior simply by manipulating data. Apes, with relatively large brains and elaborate sense faculties, can also accomplish such impressive feats, but this need not mean that they possess true linguistic comprehension any more than computers do.

The second task, to show that subhuman primates’ linguistic behavior must be read as mere sensory activity, requires positive demonstration that apes lack true intellect. Four formal effects demonstrate true intellect: (1) genuine speech, (2) true progress, (3) knowledge of relations, and (4) knowledge of immaterial objects. In their wild state, with no human influence, animals, including apes, (1) fail to develop true language, and (2) fail to make genuine progress. Even in a domesticated environment, they still (3) show no understanding of real relationships (such as cause and effect)—merely learning to associate images, and (4) clearly fail to develop the sciences and religious beliefs typical of human abstract understanding. While details of this proof require reading the article itself, the conclusion is that subhuman primates and other animals fail all four tests of true intellectual activity. Hence, man alone possesses true intellect.

The radical difference between mere animals and true human beings is manifested acutely by the insurmountable distinction between the sense image and intellectual concept. The image is always particular, concrete, imaginable, and has sense qualities, such as when we form the image of an individual human being or a particular triangle. But, the concept is always universal, abstract, unimaginable, and lacks all sense qualities, as when we understand the meaning of terms, such as “humanity” or “triangularity.” Human beings have both kinds of knowing, whereas brute animals are restricted to knowledge of images alone. Again, full details are in the article.

We grasp fully the radical limitations of brute sense knowledge only when we compare it to man’s rich, expansive intellectual life which enables him to study all the sciences, to create exponential technological progress, to embrace transcendental religious belief systems, and even to reflect upon his own human nature so as to grasp its spiritual dimensions—destined to eternal life, and to the knowledge of and union with God Himself. These insights demonstrate that evolutionist claims about ape-language studies pose no threat whatever to human essential superiority. Man still has his God-given dominion over beasts—and always will.

Once we fully understand the radical distinction between lower animals and true human beings, we will then easily determine the essential nature of any possible space aliens.

Introduction

The purpose of this article is to enquire whether, in the face of evidence gained from recent ape-language studies, it is still possible to delineate clearly between human intellectual life and brute sentient life—to refute the claims of the sensist philosophers who would reduce all human knowledge and activities to the level of mere sensation and sense appetite. This question cannot, and need not, be answered exhaustively in this relatively short study of the matter. In order to respond in the affirmative, it will suffice that we be able to show that even the most sophisticated sensory activities of animals bear no legitimate threat to the radical superiority of the human intellect—an intellect whose spiritual character is rationally demonstrable.

Nor is it our intent to present here in detail the formal proofs for the spiritual nature of the human soul which have been offered by St. Thomas Aquinas. (Summa Theologiae, I, q. 75, aa. 1-7). Rather, our primary focus will be upon an examination of evidence and arguments which reveal the inability of lower animals to present a credible challenge to the uniqueness of human intellectual life.

It has long been observed in nature that certain lower forms of life often imitate the activities and perfections of higher forms. For example, the tropisms found in certain plants—while not actually constituting sensation—nonetheless deceptively simulate the sensitive reactions proper to animals alone. So too, the human-like behaviour of many “clever” animals has caused much contemporary confusion on the part of, not only the general populace, but also even presumed experts on animal behaviour.

In great part this confusion has arisen because of the success of Darwinian evolution and its attendant reductionism in dominating for much of this century the academe of those natural sciences which deal with animal and human behaviour. Thus psychologists, zoologists, biologists, anthropologists, and so forth, tend to view human behaviour as nothing but an extension in degree, not in kind, of lower animal behaviour. Nowhere is this tendency more acutely seen than in the controversies arising out of contemporary ape-language studies.

Beginning nearly a century ago, various attempts have been made in a small number of research projects to teach chimpanzees and other primates to talk. The most successful techniques have involved the use of American Sign Language and computer-based artificial language systems. Great publicity has attended these efforts since the 1970s with claims of hundreds of words being “understood” by these subjects, new complex words being invented, and even sentences being formed with two-way “conversations” taking place, not only between trainer and primate, but even between primate and primate!

Dissent and Defense

Yet, by 1979, a simmering academic controversy about the legitimacy of primate linguistic credentials burst into view of the general public with the publication of two critical articles in Psychology Today (November 1979, Vol. 13, No. 6.) —one by Columbia University psychologist H. S. Terrace, the other by University of Indiana anthropologists Thomas and Jean Sebeok. Through a very careful re-evaluation of the signing activities of the subject of his own research project, a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky, Terrace concluded, “I could find no evidence of an ape’s grammatical competence, either in my data or those of others” (Psychology Today, 67).

The Sebeoks, moreover, argued that animal researchers have been engaging in a good deal of unwitting self-deception in accepting as linguistic competence behaviour which is actually the result of unconscious cuing. What they refer to is what is widely called the Clever Hans effect—named after a famous turn-of-the-century “thinking” horse whose “intelligent” answers to questions were exposed by Berlin psychologist Oskar Pfungst as simply the result of unintentional cues being given by his questioners.

The defenders of apes’ linguistic abilities engaged in immediate counter-attack—producing an intellectual battle which rages to the present day. It is important for us to note that almost all the participants in this debate to date [1993] are natural scientists who are of one mind concerning man’s materialistic and evolutionary origins. The input of dualist philosophers and theologians has been [as of 1993] virtually nil. Thus the critics of the “linguistic” apes, it should be observed, operate largely from a perspective which views man as nothing but a highly developed animal and which prescinds utterly from any philosophical arguments for the existence and spiritual nature of the human soul.

Among the ape’s defenders, we find Suzanne Chevalier-Skolnikoff who points out that the famed signing chimp, Washoe, has taught another chimp, Loulis, how to sign—although she concedes, “Loulis learned his signs mainly by imitation” (The Clever Hans Phenomenon: Communication with Horses, Whales, Apes, and People, 1981, 89-90.)

Chevalier-Skolnikoff also presents the following remarkable claims about ape behaviour:

“Deception, “lying,” and joking are all behaviours that logically are dependent upon mental combinations, or symbolization, and, like other stage 6 behaviours, they cannot be cued. As mentioned above, deception, lying, and joking all appear in stage 6 in nonsigning apes, and I have observed this kind of behaviour both nonlinguistically and in conjunction with signing in the gorilla Koko during this stage. Consequently, I have no reason to doubt, as some authors have, Patterson’s reports that Koko tells lies and jokes.

“Besides lying and joking, the gorilla Koko also has been recorded to argue with and correct others. Arguing and correcting are dependent upon comparing two viewpoints of a situation—existing conditions with nonexisting ones—and therefore require mental representation” (Clever Hans, 83).

Intentional lying, deception, joking, arguing, and correcting—if actually demonstrable from the research data—would, of course, bespeak unequivocally the presence of intellectual activity on the part of apes. Yet, this is precisely why we must be so very careful about drawing such inferences from the available evidence. We must always be cautious not to assign facilely to higher causes that which could readily be explained in terms of lower causes.

The Anthropomorphic Fallacy

While this is scarcely a proper context in which to explore and critique the multiple data upon which Chevalier-Skolnikoff’s judgments are formed, it must be noted that such judgments necessarily flow from an interpretation of the concrete details examined. And herein lies the greatest danger to the human researcher who attempts to “read” the animal subject. The Sebeoks put the matter thus:

“Investigators and experimenters, in turn, accommodate themselves to the expectations of their animal subjects, unwittingly entering into a subtle nonverbal communication with them while convincing themselves, on the basis of their own human rules of interpretation, that the apes’ reactions are more humanlike than direct evidence warrants” (Psychology Today, November 1979, 91).

In a word, what the Sebeoks describe is the infamous anthropomorphic fallacy, that is, the error of attributing human qualities to animals based upon our nearly irresistible temptation to put ourselves in the brute’s place, and then, to view his actions in terms of our own human intellectual perspectives. The universality of this human tendency is such that even experts in animal behaviour frequently fail to avoid its pitfalls.

The specific content of such habitual anthropomorphism by ape researchers is thus described by the Sebeoks:

“Time and again researchers read anomalous chimpanzee and gorilla signs as jokes, insults, metaphors, and the like. In one case, an animal was reported to be deliberately joking when, in response to persistent attempts to get it to sign “drink” (by tilting its hand at its mouth), it made the sign perfectly, but at its ear rather than its mouth” (Psychology Today, 81).

Clearly, this sort of suspicion strikes at the heart of Koko’s claimed performance of “deception, lying, joking, etc.”

In fact, the synergism of anthropomorphism and the Clever Hans effect is seen by psychologist Stephen Walker as justifying inherent skepticism about any and all claims made on behalf of American Sign Language trained apes.

“The most important type of unwitting human direction of behaviour which has been interpreted as the product of the mental organisation of the apes themselves is in the “prompting” of sequences of gestures in animals trained with the American Sign Language method…. As practically all instances of sequences or combinations of gestures by chimpanzees or gorillas are made in the context of interactions with a human companion, there is virtually no evidence of this kind which is not vulnerable to the charge that the human contact determined the sequence of combinations observed” (Animal Thought, 1983, 373-374).

Yet, not all ape communication techniques employed by researchers have involved the use of American Sign Language. Plastic symbols, computer-controlled keyboards, and other artificial devices have been utilized in order to lessen, or possibly eliminate, human influence on the process.
In defending the research of Savage-Rumbaugh—who used a computer-controlled keyboard system—psychologist Duane M. Rumbaugh insists that the evidence shows the clear capacity for categorization free from any Clever Hans effect:

“For our apes the symbols are referential, representational, and communicative in value. Data obtained and reported by Savage- Rumbaugh at that convention made it clear that the chimpanzees Sherman and Austin categorize learned symbols as foods and tools (nonedibles) just as they categorize the physical referents themselves. These data were obtained from tightly controlled test situations in which the animals had no human present in the room at the keyboard to influence their choice of keys for purposes of categorizing” (Clever Hans, 33. See also ibid., 26-59).

In this, though, as in all other instances of supposed lower primate “intentional” communication, the fundamental problem which remains is the influence of man in “programming” the training and responses of the animals, and then, man’s tendency to anthropomorphize the interpretation of the results of this very influence. The results never seem quite as definitive to the sceptics as they do to the researchers who nearly live with the subjects they wish to “objectively” investigate. The inherent difficulty posed for those who would completely eliminate the Clever Hans effect is well-stated by the Sebeoks.

“Apes simply do not take part in such man-made laboratory tests without a great deal of coaxing. The world’s leading authority on human-animal communication, Heini Hediger, former director of the Zurich zoo, in fact deems the task of eliminating the Clever Hans effect analogous to squaring the circle—‘if only for the reason that every experimental method is necessarily a human method and must thus, per se, constitute a human influence on the animal’” (Psychology Today, 91).

Thus, we see that the Sebeoks support Hediger’s claim that total elimination of the Clever Hans effect would constitute an actual contradiction in terms—a goal entirely impossible of attainment.

Escaping Clever Hans

And yet, it is important not to rest the entire case against “talking” apes upon the Clever Hans effect as championed by the Sebeoks. Walker points to research done by Roger Fouts, the Gardners (with the famous Washoe), and Savage-Rumbaugh as appearing to escape the charge of unintentional cuing. Concerning the latter, he writes:

“When two chimpanzees exchanged information between themselves, using the computer-controlled keyboard system, with experimenters not in the same room (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 1978b), the evidence seems relatively robust” (Animal Thought, 373).

It would appear that the phrase, “Clever Hans effect,” is now being given a meaning which includes two distinct aspects: (1) unintentional cuing of the animals and (2) any human influence upon the animals. While the Sebeoks and other critics are undoubtedly correct in insisting that human influence is inherent in every ape experiment devised by man, yet it is also clearly not the case that unintentional cuing can explain all significant ape communicative achievements.

Given exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, training by researchers, several novel and rather impressive ape communication performances—free of all unintentional cuing—have been reasonably well documented. What is referred to here is not merely the well-known abilities of trained chimpanzees and gorillas to associate arbitrary signs with objects, nor even their ability to string together series of such signs in what Terrace and others dismiss as simply urgent attempts to obtain some immediately sensible reward.

Rather, more impressive experimental results are now forthcoming, for example, the Savage-Rumbaugh experiments in which two chimpanzees were taught to communicate and cooperate with each other—using a computer keyboard to transmit information revealing the location of hidden food (Animal Thought, 365-367).

In another experiment, after extensive training and prompting, the same animals learned to cooperate with one another by handing over the correct tool needed to obtain food when their primate partner requested it—again by use of computer symbols and without human presence during the actual experiment. Walker offers his inferences therefrom:

“There can be little doubt, in the case of this experiment, that the visual patterns used in the keyboard system had mental associations with objects, and that the chimpanzee who punched a particular key did this in the expectation that the other animal would hand him a particular tool” (Animal Thought, 369).

Still later, these same prodigious chimpanzees advanced to seemingly quite abstract symbolic associations:

“When they were trained with arbitrary symbols assigned to the two object categories “foods” and “tools” Austin and Sherman successfully selected the appropriate category, when shown arbitrary symbols which were the names for particular foods or tools (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 1980). That is, they were able to label labels, rather than merely label objects: for instance if shown the arbitrary pattern indicating “banana” they responded by pressing the key meaning “food,” but if shown the symbol for “wrench” they pressed the “tool” key” (Animal Thought, 369-370).

Finally, Woodruff and Premack are reported to have devised a cuing-free experiment in which chimpanzees indicated by gesture the presence of food in a container to human participants who did not know its location. They would correctly direct “friendly” humans who would then share the food with them, but would mislead “unfriendly” humans who would not share the food—since the animals were then permitted to get the food for themselves (Animal Thought, 370-371).

Each of the above experimental “successes” is of interest since each appears to be quite free, not from original human influence in the training process, but at least from the Clever Hans effect of unintentional cuing.

Moreover, they demonstrate fairly complex symbol-object associative skills, “intentional” communication, and even, in the last case, some form of “deception.” We place quotation marks about the terms, “intentional” and “deception,” because the exact cognitive content of such acts remains to be properly understood.

Yet, despite the above-described notable results of non-cued experiments as well as claims of hundreds of “words” being learned and of “sentences” and even “dialogue” being articulated by signing apes, careful natural scientific observers remain convinced of essential differences still remaining between ape and human capabilities.

The Uniqueness of Human Speech

After extremely careful analysis of all the relevant data and arguments presented by the ape-language studies, Walker finally concludes that man’s linguistic capabilities remain unique:

“Apes trained to employ artificial systems of symbolic communication ought not, therefore, to be said to have acquired a language, in the sense that people acquire a language. Human language is unique to humans, and although some of the distinctive features of human speech, such as the mimicking of sounds, may be observed in other species, the resemblance between, for instance, the trained gesturing of a chimpanzee and communication via sign- language among the human deaf is in some senses no greater than the resemblance between the speech of a parrot and that of its owner” (Animal Thought, 377-378).

A parrot might, hypothetically, be trained to say, “Polly wants a cracker because Polly is hungry and because Polly knows that a cracker would neutralize the hyperacidity of his stomach acid and thereby reestablish its normal pH.” It might even be trained to say this in order to obtain food when hungry. Yet, no one would seriously contend that the bird in question actually understands concepts such as “neutralize,” “hyperacidity,” and “normal pH.” It is one thing to associate a trained response with a given stimulus, but quite another to grasp intellectually the intrinsic nature of each in all its various elements as well as the nature of the cause-effect relationship entailed.

Walker also concludes that—aside from their evident superiority in terms of the “sheer quantity” of associations learned—the apes’ capabilities do not qualitatively exceed those of lower species, for example, as when a dog responds to the arbitrary sign of a buzzer in order to obtain a piece of meat through the performance of some trained action:

“In so far as it can be demonstrated that the apes establish a collection of associations between signs and objects, then the results of their training extend further than any previously observed form of animal learning, but it is not clear that they need a substantially different kind of ability to make these associations from that which may be used by other mammals to respond to smaller sets of signals” (Animal Thought, 378).

He also notes the essential dependence of the animals upon human influence in order to assure their performance:

“Even when a computer-controlled keyboard is used, so that tests can be made in the absence of a human presence, social interactions between human trainers and the animal being trained are apparently necessary if the animal is to show any interest in using the keyboard (Rumbaugh, 1977)” (Animal Thought, 379).

Finally, Walker eloquently describes the radical wall of separation which distinguishes man from all the lower primates—pointing in particular to man’s unique possession of language in its proper meaning:

“Of all the discontinuities between man and animals that could be quoted, including the exclusively human faculties for abstraction, reason, morality, culture and technology, and the division of labour… the evergreen candidate for the fundamental discontinuity, which might qualify all others, is language… In a state of nature we expect humans to talk, and by comparison, the most unrelenting efforts to induce our closest living relatives to reveal hidden linguistic potential have left the discontinuity of speech bloodied, but unbowed” (Animal Thought, 387).

With respect to the linguistic facility of apes in comparison to man, Walker maintains that chimpanzees form “mental” associations—but that their abilities pale against those displayed by people:

“It seems necessary to accept that under the conditions described, chimpanzees form mental associations between perceptual schemata for manual gestures and others for object categories. This is not to say, in Romanes’s phrase, that they can mean propositions, in forms such as “all chimpanzees like bananas….” [S]ince it has not been convincingly demonstrated that one chimpanzee gesture modifies another, or that there is any approximation to syntax and grammar in the comprehension or expression of artificial gestures, the similarity between the use of individual signs by apes, and the use of words by people, is definitely limited” (Animal Thought, 357).

Despite Walker’s willingness here to defend the uniqueness of man, we note that he yet shares the tendency of most natural scientists to describe lower primates’ associative imaginative acts while employing philosophically misapplied terms such as “mental,” “understand,” and “think.” In proper philosophical usage, such terms are strictly predicable of human intellectual activities. Their application to brute animals in this context serves only to confuse the intellectual with the sentient order.

In an observation which strikes at the very heart of all ape language experiments, Hediger supports the claim by biophilosopher Bernard Rensch, who noted in 1973 that nothing like human language has ever been found among any of the apes in the state of nature. Hediger comments:

“In other words, with all animals with which we try to enter into conversation we do not deal with primary animals but with anthropogenous animals, so-to-speak with artifacts, and we do not know how much of their behaviour may still be labelled as animal behaviour and how much, through the catalytic effect of man, has been manipulated into the animal. This is just what we would like to know. Within this lies the alpha and omega of practically all such animal experiments since Clever Hans” (Clever Hans, 5).

This amounts to a recognition that all ape-language studies presuppose the invention of true language by man. This peculiarly human invention is then imposed by man upon the apes. The day on which apes create their own linguistic system is still the dream of science fiction.

As is well known to the philosophical science of psychology, human language consists of a deliberately invented system of arbitrary or conventional signs. (Aristotle, On Interpretation, 1 (16a3-8).) Thus the English word “red” could just as well have stood for the natural colour green—except for the convention or agreement by all that it should represent just what it does. The alternative to such arbitrary signs consists of what are termed natural signs, which, as the name implies, flow from the very nature of something. Thus smoke is a natural sign of fire, a beaver slapping its tail on water is a natural sign of danger, and the various calls of birds are signs of specific natural meanings—which cannot be arbitrarily interchanged or invented. The hiss of a cat is never equivalent to its purr.

From all this, it is clear that in teaching apes to “talk” man is simply imposing upon them his own system of arbitrary or conventional signs. The signs belong to man, not to the apes. The apes use them only because we train them to do so. We thus turn the apes, as Hediger says, into “artifacts” of our own creation.

Hediger emphasizes the importance of not underestimating the impact of human training upon lower species:

“This amazing act of training causes one to ponder the manifold efforts of several researchers to enter into language contact, into a dialogue with apes…

“In each case the chimpanzees were demonstrated the desired actions with the hope that they would react in a certain way… with Washoe, Sarah, Lana, and so forth, it is the production of certain signs in which we would like to see a language. But how can we prove that such answers are to be understood as elements of a language, and that they are not only reactions to certain orders and expression, in other words simply performances of training?” (Clever Hans, 9).

One perhaps should ponder here that it is not brute animals alone which can react to training in a way which bespeaks performance but lack of understanding. Have we not all, at one time or another, heard a small child speak a sentence—even with perfect syntax and grammar—whose meaning obviously utterly eludes him? Or, at least, we hope it eludes him! And, if such can occur in children through training and imitation, one can well understand Hediger’s hesitancy to attribute intellectual understanding to a brute animal when such acts could well be explained by simple performance training.

Moreover, Hediger makes a suggestion which reveals the extreme difficulty entailed in assuring that apes actually do understand the meanings of the “words” they gesture under present methods:

“I do not doubt that Washoe and other chimps have learned a number of signs in the sense of ASL. But it seems to me that a better clarification could be reached mainly through the introduction of the orders “repeat” and “hold it.” By this the chimpanzee could show that he really understands the single elements and does not execute fast, sweeping movements into which one possibly could read such elements” (Clever Hans, 9).

Since such “stop action” techniques have never even been attempted in present ASL trained apes, it would seem that demonstration of true intellectual understanding of hand signs in them is virtually impossible. By contrast, humans frequently do explicate their precise meanings to each other—even to the point of writing scholarly papers immersed in linguistic analysis.

The Inferiority of Apes

In contrast with the rather elevated dialogue about apes’ supposed “mental” abilities, Hediger makes a fundamental observation designed to cut the Gordian knot of much of the controversy. Analogous to the old retort, “If you are so smart, why aren’t you rich?,” Hediger’s rather fatally apropos version runs essentially thus: “If apes are so intelligent, why can’t they learn to clean their own cages?”

“If apes really dispose of the great intelligence and the highly developed communication ability that one has attributed to them lately—why in no case in the zoos of the world, where thousands of apes live and reproduce, has it been possible to get one to clean his own cage and to prepare his own food?” (Clever Hans, 13).

In a follow-up comment made, presumably, without any personal prejudice against apes, Hediger writes, “Apes have no notion of work. We might perhaps teach an ape a sign for work but he will never grasp the human conception of work” (Clever Hans, 13).

Finally, Hediger notes that “the animal has no access to the future. It lives entirely in the present time” (Clever Hans, 14). And again, Hediger insists, “To my knowledge, up to now, no animal, not even an ape, has ever been able to talk about a past or a future event” (Clever Hans, 16).

If argument from authority has any force at all, it should be noted here that Heini Hediger is described by the Sebeoks as the “world’s leading authority on human-animal communication… (and) …former director of the Zurich zoo” (Psychology Today, 91).

Moreover, the conclusions by Walker cited above warrant special attention because his book, Animal Thought, represents an outstanding synthesis of available data on animal “mental” processes and includes an extensive review of the recently conducted ape-language studies (Animal Thought, 352-381).

In addition to the specific distinctions between ape and man noted above, the philosopher notices a pattern of evidence which tends to confirm his own conclusions. For it is clear that the apes studied are, in all well-documented activities, exclusively focused upon the immediate, particular objects of their sense consciousness. They seek concrete sensible rewards readily available in the present. Such documented observations are entirely consistent with the purely sentient character of the matter-dependent mode of existence specific to animals.

Apes have no proper concept of time in terms of knowing the past as past or the future as future. Nor do they offer simply descriptive comment or pose questions about the contents of the passing world—not even as a small child does when he asks his father why he shaves or tells his mother she is a good cook even though his stomach is now full.

Time and again it is evident that the most pressing obsession of any ape is the immediate acquisition of a banana (or its equivalent). It has little concern for the sorts of speculative inquiry about that same object which would concern a botanist.

In fact, the whole experiential world of apes is so limited that researchers are severely restricted in terms of their selection of motivational tools capable of use in engaging them to perform or dialogue. Hediger laments:

“Therefore there remain the essential daily needs, above all metabolism, food and drink, social and sexual contact, rest and activity, play and comfort, conditions of environment in connection with the sensations of pleasure and dislike, some objects, and possibly a few more things. This is indeed rather modest” (Clever Hans, 14).

Aristotle makes much the same point:

“The life of animals, then, may be divided into two acts—procreation and feeding; for on these two acts all their interests and life concentrate. Their food depends chiefly on the substance of which they are severally constituted; for the source of their growth in all cases will be this substance. And whatsoever is in conformity with nature is pleasant, and all animals pursue pleasure in keeping with their nature” (History of Animals, VIII, 1, [589a3-589a9]).

Small wonder the apes will neither philosophize nor clean their cages!

We have seen above that much of ape-communicative skills can be explained in terms of simple imitation or unintentional cuing. Even in the carefully controlled experiments designed to lessen or eliminate all cuing, the factor of human influence in the extensive training needed to get apes to initiate and continue their performance simply cannot be eliminated.

Yet, there seems to remain a legitimate need for further explanation of the impressive ape-communicative skills manifested as the product of the experiments done by Savage-Rumbaugh and others. Granted, exhaustive training may explain why these chimpanzees and gorillas act in fashions never seen in the state of nature. Yet, this does not fully avoid the need to explain the remarkable character of the behaviour produced by this admittedly artificial state into which the animals have been thrust by human imposition.

In the first place, it must be noted that there is no undisputed evidence of ape-language skills which exceed the domain of the association of sensible images. Even the categorization of things like tools and actions does not exceed the sensible abilities of lower species, for example, the ability of a bird to recognize selectively the objects which are suitable for nest building. Nor does even the ability to “label labels” exceed, in principle, the province of the association of internal images.

Intellectual Activity

It should be observed here that the nature of intellectual knowledge does not consist merely in the ability to recognize common sensible characteristics or sensible phenomena which are associated with a given type of object or action. Such sentient recognition is evident in all species of animals whenever they respond in consistent fashion to like stimuli, as we see in the case of the wolf sensing any and all sheep as the object of his appetite.

On the contrary, the intellect penetrates beyond the sensible appearances of things to their essential nature. Even at the level of its first act (that is, simple apprehension or abstraction), the intellect “reads within” the sensible qualities of an entity—thereby grasping intelligible aspects which it raises to the level of the universal concept. Thus, while we can imagine the sensible qualities of an individual triangle, we cannot imagine the universal essence of triangularity—since a three-sided plane figure can be expressed in infinitely varied shapes and sizes. Yet, the concept of triangularity is a proper object of intellectual understanding. Thus, the essence of conceiving the universal consists, not merely in an association of similar sensible forms, but in the formation of a concept abstracted from the individuating, singularizing influence of matter and freed from all the sensible qualities which can exist only in an individual, concrete object or action.

So too, the correct identification of, communication about, and employment of an appropriate tool by a chimpanzee (in order to obtain food) is no assurance of true intellectual understanding. Indeed, a spider which weaves its web to catch insects is repeatedly creating the same type of tool designed exquisitely to catch the same type of victim. Yet, does anyone believe that this instinctive behaviour bespeaks true intellectual understanding of the means-end relation on the part of the spider? Hardly! The evident lack of intelligence in the spider is manifest the moment it is asked to perform any feat or task outside its fixed instinctive patterns.

Whether “programmed” by instinct, as in the case of the spider, or by man, as in the case of the chimpanzee, each animal is simply playing out its proper role in accord with pre-programmed habits based upon recognition or association of sensibly similar conditions. Certainly, no ape or any other brute animal understands the means as means, the end as end, and the relation of means to end as such. The sense is ordered to the particular; only intellect understands the universal.

One may ask, “How do we know that the ape does not understand the intrinsic nature of the objects or ”labels“ he has been trained to manipulate?” The answer is that, just like the spider which cannot perform outside its “programmed” instincts, so too, the ape—while appearing to act quite “intelligently” within the ambit of its meticulous training, yet exhibits neither the originality nor creative progress which man manifests when he invents at will his own languages and builds great civilizations and, yes, keeps his own “cages” clean!

Therefore, while it is clear that certain apes have been trained to associate impressive numbers of signs with objects, it is also clear that the mere association of images with signs and objects, or even of images with other images, does not constitute evidence of intellectual understanding of the intrinsic nature of anything. And it is precisely such acts of understanding which remain the exclusive domain of the human species.

Yet, the field of contest of ape-language studies is centred not only upon the first act of the intellect discussed above, but also upon the second and third acts of the intellect, that is, upon judgment and reasoning. Thus Chevalier-Skolnikoff insists that the chimpanzee, Washoe, and the gorilla, Koko, exhibit true grammatical competence as, for example:

“breakfast eat some cookie eat,” signed by Koko at 5 years 6 months and “please tickle more, come Roger tickle,” “you me go peek-a-boo,” and “you me go out hurry,” signed by Washoe at about 3 years 9 months. Besides providing new information, the structures of these phrases (like those of the novel compound names) imply that they are intentionally planned sequences” (Clever Hans, 83).

It is in the expression of such “intentionally planned sequences” that Koko is reported to have argued with and corrected others; for example, when Koko pointed to squash on a plate and her teacher signed “potato,” Koko is reported to have signed “Wrong, squash” (Clever Hans, 84).

Even if one is disposed to accept the intrinsically anecdotal character of all such data, we must remember the inherent danger of anthropomorphic inferences warned against by Walker, the Sebeoks, and others. As Walker concludes, because of the necessary interaction with a human companion during such communication, “there is virtually no evidence of this kind which is not vulnerable to the charge that the human contact determined the sequence of combinations observed” (Animal Thought, 374).

And while it is not evident precisely how the animal was trained to sign “wrong” or otherwise indicate a negative, such a sign when associated with a correct response (for example, “squash”) need not reflect a genuinely intellectual judgment. The correct response itself is simply proper categorization which is the product of training. Its association with a negative word-sign like “wrong” or “no” may simply be a sign which is trained to be elicited whenever the interlocutor’s words or signs do not fit the situation. The presumption of intellectual reflection and negative judgments in such cases constitute rank anthropomorphism in the absence of other specifically human characteristics, for example, there appears to be no data whatever recording a “correction” or “argument” entailing a progressive process of reasoning. Rather, two signs, such as “No, gorilla” or “Wrong, squash” constitute the entire “argument.” Compare such simple “denials” to the lengthy syllogistic arguments—often of many steps—offered in human debate. The apes, at best, appear to offer us merely small collections of associated simple signs—usually united only by the desire to attain an immediate sensible reward.

As noted earlier, apes have been reported to sign to other apes (Clever Hans, 89-90). They have even been reported to sign to themselves when alone (Clever Hans, 86). Such behaviour, though striking, simply reflects the force of habit. Once the proper associations of images to hand signs have been well established, the tendency to respond in similar fashion in similar contexts—whether in the presence of man or another ape or even in solitude—is hardly remarkable.

Critiquing the Research Data

Perhaps the most stinging defection from the ranks of those advocating an ape’s grammatical competence is that of H. S. Terrace. His own research project, whose subject was a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky, eventually led him to question the legitimacy of initially favourable results. He then began a complete re-evaluation of his own prior data as well as that which was available from other such projects. Terrace now insists that careful analysis of all ape-language studies fails to demonstrate that apes possess grammatical competence.

Terrace suggests that in two studies using artificial language devices what the chimpanzees “learned was to produce rote sequences of the type ABCX, where A, B, and C are nonsense symbols and X is a meaningful element” (Clever Hans, 95). Thus, he argues, while the sign “apple” might have meaning for the chimpanzee, Lana,

“…it is doubtful that, in producing the sequence please machine give apple, Lana understood the meanings of please machine and give, let alone the relationships between these symbols that would apply in actual sentences” (Clever Hans, 95).

Terrace points to the importance of sign order in demonstrating simple constructions, such as subject-verb-object, and then criticizes the Gardners for failing to publish any data on sign order regarding Washoe (Clever Hans, 96).

Perhaps the single most important contribution of Terrace has been his effort “to collect and to analyse a large corpus of a chimpanzee’s sign combinations for regularities of sign order” (Clever Hans, 97). Moreover, he initiated:

“… a painstaking analysis of videotapes of Nim’s and his teacher’s signing. These tapes revealed much about the nature of Nim’s signing that could not be seen with the naked eye. Indeed they were so rich in information that it took as much as one hour to transcribe a single minute of tape” (Clever Hans, 103).

These careful examinations of Nim’s signing activities led Terrace to conclude:

“An ape signs mainly in response to his teachers’ urgings, in order to obtain certain objects or activities. Combinations of signs are not used creatively to generate particular meanings. Instead, they are used for emphasis or in response to the teacher’s unwitting demands that the ape produce as many contextually relevant signs as possible” (Clever Hans, 107-108).

Terrace points out the difficulty involved in attempting to evaluate the performance of the other signing apes:

“… because discourse analyses of other signing apes have yet to be published. Also, as mentioned earlier, published accounts of an ape’s combinations of signs have centred around anecdotes and not around exhaustive listings of all combinations” (Clever Hans, 108).

Seidenberg and Petitto raise similar objections to the anecdotal foundation for some of the most significant claims made on behalf of apes:

“A small number of anecdotes are repeatedly cited in discussions of the apes’ linguistic skills. However, they support numerous interpretations, only the very strongest of which is the one the ape researchers prefer, i.e., that the ape was signing “creatively.” These anecdotes are so vague that they cannot carry the weight of evidence which they have been assigned. Nonetheless, two important claims—that the apes could combine signs creatively into novel sequences, and that their utterances showed evidence of syntactic structure—are based exclusively upon anecdote” (Clever Hans, 116).

Terrace also states that he has carefully examined films and videotape transcripts of other apes, specifically Washoe and Koko. Regarding the former, he concludes, “In short, discourse analysis makes Washoe’s linguistic achievement less remarkable than it might seem at first” (Clever Hans, 109). Terrace also examined four transcripts providing data on two other signing chimpanzees, Ally and Booee. Finally, he summarizes his findings:

“Nim’s, Washoe’s, Ally’s, Booee’s, and Koko’s use of signs suggests a type of interaction between an ape and its trainer that has little to do with human language. In each instance the sole function of the ape’s signing appears to be to request various rewards that can be obtained only by signing. Little, if any, evidence is available that an ape signs in order to exchange information with its trainer, as opposed to simply demanding some object or activity” (Clever Hans, 109-110).

Following on similar criticisms by Terrace, Seidenberg and Petitto point out the simple absence of data supporting the claims that apes show linguistic competence:

“The primary data in a study of ape language must include a large corpus of utterances, a substantial number of which are analyzed in terms of the contexts in which they occurred. No corpus exists of the utterances of any ape for whom linguistic abilities are claimed” (Clever Hans, 116).

Terrace’s Nim Chimpsky, of course, is one chimpanzee for whom linguistic ability was not claimed by his researcher. It is therefore significant that the data collected on the Nim project is, by far, the most exhaustive:

“The data of Terrace et al. on Nim are more robust than those offered by other ape researchers. Although their data are limited in several respects, they are the only systematic data on any signing ape” (Clever Hans, 121-122).

If the above citation is factually correct, it means that the ape-language studies fall into two categories: (1) the Nim project, which is based upon “systematic data,” but whose researcher could find “no evidence of an ape’s grammatical competence” and (2) the rest of the projects, for whose subjects various claims of linguistic competence have been made, but none of which are based upon “systematic data.”

Another weakness in the data—one which afflicts even the Nim project—is the practice of simply deleting signs which are immediately repeated:

“In comparing Nim’s multisign utterances and mean length of utterances (MLU) to those of children, it is important to realize that all contiguous repetitions were deleted. In this respect, Terrace et al. follow the practice established by the other ape researchers. The repetitions in ape signing constitute one of the primary differences between their behaviour and the language of deaf and hearing children, yet they have always been eliminated from analyses” (Clever Hans, 123).

Needless to observe, the deletion of such uselessly repeated “words” would tend to make an ape’s recorded “speech” appear much more intelligible and meaningful than it actually is.

In a noteworthy understatement, Seidenberg and Petitto conclude, “There are numerous methodological problems with this research” (Clever Hans, 127). Even if all available data from ape-language studies—anecdotal and otherwise—were to be accepted at face value the legitimacy of claims about apes understanding the meanings of their signs, creating new word complexes, deceiving, lying, reasoning, and so forth, need not be recognized in the sense of providing proof of the possession of genuine intellectual powers on their part.

It must be remembered that contemporary electronic computers can be programmed to simulate many of these behaviours—and, probably, in principle, all of them. Walker points out some of these capabilities:

“Already there are computers which can recognise simple spoken instructions, and there are computer programs which can play the part of a psychotherapist in interchanges with real patients (Holden, 1977), so the inability of machines to conduct low-grade conversations is no longer such a strong point” (Animal Thought, 9).

If a computer can hold its own with real patients while feigning the role of a psychotherapist, it should surely be able to perform many of the functions of signing apes. Clearly, given appropriate sensing devices and robotics, even the most impressive, non-cued Savage-Rumbaugh experimental results could easily be simulated by computers—even by pairs of computers exhibiting the co-operative exchange of information and objects as was seen in the activities of the chimpanzees, Sherman and Austin (Animal Thought, 364-370, 373). This would include the ability to “label labels,” for example, to respond to the arbitrary pattern for banana by pressing the key meaning food (Animal Thought, 369-370). Such performance may seem remarkable in an ape, but it would be literal child’s play to a properly programmed computer.

Again, programming a computer to “deceive” or “lie to” an interrogator is no great feat—although Woodruff and Premack apparently spent considerable time and effort creating an environment which, in effect, “programmed” chimpanzees to engage in just such unworthy conduct (Animal Thought, 370-371).

Certainly there are, as yet, no reports about apes having learned to play chess. Yet, Walker reports:

“Pocket-sized computers are now available that can play chess at a typical, if not outstanding, human level, accompanied by a rudimentary attempt at conversation about the game… In the face of modern electronic technology, though, it is less obvious that it is impossible for physical devices to achieve human flexibility than it was in the seventeenth century” (Animal Thought, 10-11).

Evidently then, the electronic computer is capable of engaging in “low-grade conversations”—and this, probably in a manner which would well outstrip its nearest ape competitors.

While it must be conceded that all of the abovementioned capabilities of electronic computers presuppose the agency of very intelligent human computer programmers, yet the correlative “programming” of apes must be understood to occur as a result of deliberate human training, unintentional cuing, and unavoidable human influence upon the animals.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that the capabilities of apes equal or exceed those of computers in several significant respects. According to the eminent physicist-theologian Stanley L. Jaki, the number of potential memory units in the brain is phenomenal. In his Brain, Mind and Computers [BMC] (1969), he writes, “After all, the latitude between 1027, the estimated number of molecules in the brain, and 1010, the estimated number of neurons, is enormous enough to accommodate any guess, however bold, fanciful, or arbitrary” (BMC, 110). Later (BMC, 115), he tells us that “the human brain… [has] …twice as many neurons as the number of neurons in the brain of apes,” we conclude that the number of neurons in the brain of apes must be 5 X 109.

This certainly constitutes an impressive amount of almost instantaneously available “core storage.” Moreover, while it is possible to attach elaborate “sensing” devices to provide input data to a computer, nothing devised by man can match the natural abilities of the multiple external and internal senses found in higher animals, including the apes. Hence, their ability to sense and categorize a banana as food is simply part of their natural “equipment.” Finally, while extensive and complex robotic devices are now becoming an essential ingredient in various computer-controlled manufacturing processes, an ape’s limbs, hands, and feet afford him a comprehensive dexterity unmatched by that of any single machine.

The point of all this is simply that none of the performances exhibited by language-trained apes exceeds in principle the capacities of electronic computers. And yet, electronic computers simply manipulate data. They experience neither intellectual nor even sentient knowledge and, in fact, do not even possess that unity of existence which is proper to a single substance. A computer is merely a pile of cleverly constructed electronic parts conjoined to form an accidental, functional unity which serves man’s purpose.

It is in no way surprising, then, that man should be able to “program” apes to perform in the manner reported by researchers. For these apes have, indeed, become, as Heini Hediger so adroitly points out, artifacts—through the language and tasks which we humans have imposed upon them (Clever Hans, 5).

The force of much of the above argument from analogy will be lost upon those who do not understand why we state that computers possess neither substantial existence and unity nor any sentient or intellectual knowledge. Our claims may seem especially gratuitous in an age in which various computer experts proclaim the imminent possibility of success in the search for artificial intelligence through the science of cybernetics.

Yet, it would appear to be sheer absurdity to suggest that the elementary components of complicated contemporary computers—whether considered singly or in concert—could conceivably experience anything whatsoever. For no non-living substance—whether it be an atom, a molecule, a rock, or even an electronic chip—is itself capable of sensation or intellection.

On the other hand, what answer can be given to the sceptic’s seemingly absurd, but elusively difficult, query: How can we be so certain that some form of consciousness, or at least the potency for consciousness, is not present in the apparently inanimate parts used to compose a modern computer? As any novice logician is well aware, the problems inherent in the demonstration of any negative are substantive. Hence, the challenge of proving that inanimate objects are truly non-living, non-sensing, non-thinking, and so forth, is difficult—the moment, of course, that one is prepared to take the issue at all seriously.

Clearly, potentialities for sensation and intellection as well as other life activities do exist—but only as faculties (operative potencies) of already living things. These powers are secondary qualities inherent in and proper to the various living species—which properties flow from their very essence and are put into act by the apprehension of the appropriate formal object. Thus, the potency for sight in an animal is a sensitive faculty of its substantial form (soul) which enables the animal to see actually when it is put into act by the presence of its proper sense object (colour). This is not the same at all as suggesting that inanimate objects as such might possess such potencies or faculties.

Despite its apparent difficulty, though, it is indeed possible to demonstrate that the universal absence of specific life activities—both in the individual and in all other things of the same essential type—shows that those life qualities are utterly outside of or missing from such a nature. Or, to put the matter affirmatively, the presence of a given form necessarily implies its formal effects, that is, if a thing is alive, it must manifest its life activities; if sensation is a power of its nature, it must, at least at times, actually sense. That a power should exist in a given species, but never be found in act, is absolutely impossible. This fundamental truth can be shown as follows.

According to the utter certitude which is offered by the science of metaphysics, there must exist a sufficient reason why a given thing consistently exhibits certain qualities or activities, but not others. For instance, if a non-living thing, such as a rock, manifests the qualities of extension and mass, yet never exhibits any life activities, for example, nutrition, growth, or reproduction, then either such life powers must be absent from its nature altogether, or else, if present, there must be some sufficient reason why such powers are never exhibited in act. And that reason must be either intrinsic or extrinsic to its nature. If it is extrinsic, then it would have to be accidental to the nature, and thus, caused. As St. Thomas Aquinas observes:

“Everything that is in something per accidens, since it is extraneous to its nature, must be found in it by reason of some exterior cause” (De Potentia Dei, q. 10, a. 4, c.).

Moreover, what does not flow from the very essence of a thing cannot be found to occur universally in that thing—even if it be the universal absence of a quality or activity. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas also points out:

“The power of every agent [which acts] through necessity of nature is determined to one effect, and therefore it is that every natural [agent] comes always in the same way, unless there should be an impediment” (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 23).

Hence, while an extrinsic cause might occasionally interfere with the vital activities of a living thing, such suppression of the nature’s activities is relatively rare—and surely, never universal. Thus, the ability to reproduce may be suppressed by an extrinsic cause in a few individuals in a species, but most will reproduce. On the other hand, if reproduction were absent in every member of a species, for example, rocks, then the absence of such activity must be attributed directly to the essence itself.

But if a thing is said to possess a power or potency to a certain act by its very essence, and yet, that selfsame essence is said to be responsible for its never actually exercising such a power, then such an essence becomes self-contradictory—since that essence would then be responsible both for its substance essentially being able to possess that quality and for it never being able actually to possess that same quality. The same essence would then be the reason why a thing is able to be alive or conscious and also, at the same time, the reason why that same thing is never able to be alive or conscious. This is clearly both absurd and impossible.

Moreover, Aristotle defines nature as “a source or cause of being moved and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily” (Physics, II, 1, 192b22-23). But a nature which would also be the reason for a thing not moving or resting would clearly contradict itself.

From all this, it follows that, if a quality or activity is lacking in each and every member of a species of things, it is absent neither by accident nor as a positive effect of the essence—but simply because such quality or activity does not belong to its essence at all. Hence, non-living things have no life powers within their natures. They can gain life powers only by undergoing a substantial change, that is, by somehow becoming assimilated into the very substance of a living thing, as when a tree absorbs nutrients from the soil and then turns them into its very self.

But such is clearly not what happens when inanimate parts are artificially joined together into an accidental, functional unity such as an electronic computer. Thus, none of a computer’s individual parts which are inanimate in themselves can exhibit the properties of life, sensation, or intellection. Nor can any combination of such non-living entities—even if formed into a highly complex functional unity—achieve the activities of perception or thought, since these noetic perfections transcend utterly the individual natures, and thus, the natural limitations, of its components.

Since it is an artificial composite of many substances, a computer constitutes merely an accidental unity. As such, no accidental perfection can exist in it which is not grounded in the natures of its constituent elements. It is a perennial temptation to engage in the metaphysical slight of hand of suggesting that somehow the whole might be greater than the sum of its parts, that the total collectivity can exhibit qualities of existence found in none of its elements. In this strange way, like Pinocchio, the computer is averred to take on suddenly all the properties of a living substance—to sense and to think.

But such is the stuff of fantasy. It is to commit the fallacy of composition—to attribute to the whole qualities found in none of its parts. It is like suggesting that an infinite multitude of idiots could somehow—if only properly arranged—constitute a single genius. The fundamental obstacle to all such speculation is the principle of sufficient reason. For the non-living, as such, offers no existential foundation for the properties of life. And merely accidental rearrangements of essentially non-living components provide no sufficient reason for the positing of the essentially higher activities found in living things—unless there takes place the sort of substantial change described above. And such substantial changes are found solely in the presently constituted natural order of things, that is, by assimilation or generation.

Since the hylemorphist philosopher understands that the substantial unity of things above the atomic level depends upon some unifying principle, that is, the substantial form, he knows that only natural unities possessing appropriate cognitive faculties of sensation or intellection can actually know anything. Thus a “sensing device” such as a television set running in an empty room actually senses nothing. It cannot see its own picture or hear its own sound. No genuine perception can occur until, say, a dog stumbles into the room and glances at the set in operation.

The dog can see and hear the set precisely because the dog is a natural living substantial unity whose primary matter is specified and unified by a substantial form (its soul) which possesses the sense faculties of sight and hearing. Absent the sensitive soul, the most complex “sensing device” knows nothing of the sense data it records. Absent the intellectual soul, a “thinking” machine understands nothing of the intelligible data it manipulates nor even is it aware of its own existence. A computer could well be programmed to pronounce, “Cogito ergo sum,” and yet remain completely unaware of its own existence or anything else.

Gödel’s Theorem

The inherent limitations of any electronic computer were unintentionally underlined by the German mathematician Kurt Gödel in 1930 when he proposed his famed incompleteness theorem to the Vienna Academy of Sciences. As theologian and physicist, Stanley L. Jaki, S.J., simply expresses it, the theorem states “that even in the elementary parts of arithmetic there are propositions which cannot be proved or disproved in that system” (BMC, 214). Gödel himself initially vastly underestimated the profound implications of his theorem. Among these were (1) that it struck “a fatal blow to Hilbert’s great program to formalize the whole of mathematics…” (BMC, 215) and (2) that it “cuts the ground under the efforts that view machines… as adequate models of the mind” (BMC, 216).

Jaki spells out the impact of the incompleteness theorem on the question of computer consciousness:

“Actually, when a machine is requested to prove that “a specific formula is unprovable in a particular system,” one expects the machine to be self-conscious, or in other words, that it knows that it knows it, and that it knows that it knows it that it knows it, and so forth ad infinitum…. A machine would always need an extra part to reflect on its own performance, and therein lies the Achilles heel of the reasoning according to which a machine with a sufficiently high degree of complexity will become conscious. Regardless of how one defines consciousness, such a machine, as long as it is a machine in the accepted sense of the word, will not and cannot be fully self-conscious. It will not be able to reflect on its last sector of consciousness” (BMC, 220-221).

Despite the logical adroitness of this analysis, we must, of course, remember that in truth and in fact machines possess no psychic faculties at all. They actually have neither even the most immediate level of reflection nor any form of consciousness whatever.

What Gödel’s theorem simply implies is that men are not machines—that computers (because they have not a spiritual intellect) are unable to know the truth of their own “judgments” since they lack the capacity for self-reflective consciousness.

This analysis of computer deficiency based upon the incompleteness theorem is offered simply to demonstrate that, although computers may be able to simulate the abilities of language-trained apes, their computations, nonetheless, remain essentially inferior to human cognitive abilities. In truth, neither apes nor computers are capable of genuinely self-reflective acts of intellection since such acts are possible for creatures with spiritual intellects alone, for example, man. Unlike computers, apes, of course, are alive and possess sensitive souls capable of sense consciousness—but not intellection.

Nonetheless, the fact that electronic computers—having neither sensation nor intellection nor even life itself—could, in principle, be designed and programmed so as to imitate, or even exceed, the skills of language-trained apes is sufficient evidence that ape-language studies pose no threat to man’s uniqueness as a species. Nor do the studies cast in any doubt man’s uniquely spiritual nature—as distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom.

One striking bit of information drawn from the history of ape- language studies has been saved until this point in our study in order to underscore the radical difference between man and lesser primates. It demonstrates, as Paul Bouissac points out, that the animal’s perspective on what is going on may differ radically from our own. Now, no language-trained ape possesses a greater reputation for linguistic expertise and presumed civility than the female chimpanzee, Washoe. It is therefore rather appalling to learn of the following incident reported by Bouissac:

“There are indeed indications that accidents are not infrequent, although they have never been publicized; the recent attack of the celebrated “Washoe” on Karl Pribram, in which the eminent psychologist lost a finger (personal communication, June 13, 1980) was undoubtedly triggered by a situation that was not perceived in the same manner by the chimpanzee and her human keepers and mentors” (Clever Hans, 24).

In pointing to the divergence of perspective between man and ape, Bouissac may well understate the problem. Washoe would have been about 15 years old at the time of the attack. Needless to say, humans of that age have virtually never been recorded as even attempting to bite their teachers—and this would seem especially true of outstanding students!

This clear-cut evidence that animals—even apes—simply do not perceive the communicative context in the same way that man does demonstrates the degree to which the anthropomorphic fallacy has overtaken many researchers—despite their claims of caution in this regard.

A Positive Demonstration

While much of the preceding discussion pertinent to man’s uniqueness as a species has focused upon signs of his spiritual nature and, to an even greater degree, upon the failure of lower animals to demonstrate any intellectual ability, philosopher and theologian Austin M. Woodbury, S.M., approaches the question with a fresh and more decisive perspective (Natural Philosophy, Treatise Three, Psychology [1951], III, Ch. 40, Art. 2, 432-465).

He points out that the effort to explain all animal behaviour in terms of sensation alone could never be completed and might produce no more than a probable conclusion because of the complexity of the task. One need only consider the endless anecdotal data to be examined (Psychology, 437).

To avoid the logical weakness of this negative approach, Woodbury proposes an appropriate remedy by seeking direct and positive proof that brutes are lacking in the necessary effects or signs of intelligence (Psychology, 438).

For, he argues, the necessary effects of intellect are four: speech, progress, knowledge of relations, and knowledge of immaterial objects. Since each of these is a necessary effect, “if it be shown that even one of these signs of intellect is lacking to ‘brutes’, then it is positively proved that ‘brutes’ are devoid of intellect” (Psychology, 438). In fact, Woodbury argues that brute animals are in default in all four areas.

While the most significant ape-language experiments were conducted after Woodbury wrote his Psychology, nonetheless his insistence on the absence of true speech among brute animals remains correct as we have seen above. He points out that animals possess the organs of voice (or, we might note, the hands to make signs), the appropriate sensible images, and the inclination to manifest their psychic states—but they do not manifest true speech since they lack intellect (Psychology, 441).

What Woodbury seems to be saying is that, if brute animals actually possessed intellect, they would have long ago developed their own forms of communication expressed in arbitrary or conventional signs. Their failure to do so is manifest evidence of the absence of intellect. On the contrary, since all men do possess intellect, all men develop speech.

It is noteworthy that even a chimpanzee brought up in a human family learns no speech at all whereas a human child does so easily and quickly. While it is conceded that chimpanzees and other apes lack the vocal dexterity of man, yet it must be noted that they do possess sufficient vocal equipment to enable them to make limited attempts at speech—just as would any human suffering from a severe speech defect. Yet, apes attempt nothing of the sort.

While Woodbury does not, of course, make reference here to the signing apes, it is clear that their behaviour is to be explained by imitation and the association of images. While man may impose signing upon such animals artificially, their failure to have developed language on their own and in their natural habitat demonstrates lack of true speech. That animals possess natural signs is conceded, but irrelevant.

Neither do animals present evidence of genuine progress. Woodbury points out that “from intellect by natural necessity follows progress in works, knowledges and sciences, arts and virtue” (Psychology, 443) While he grants that animals do learn from experience, imitation, and training, yet, because they lack the capacity for intellectual self-reflection, they are unable to correct themselves—an ability absolutely essential to true progress.

Even in the most “primitive” societies, true men make progress as individuals. For children learn language, arts, complex tribal organization, complex legal systems, and religious rites (Psychology, 444). Woodbury notes, “Moreover, the lowest of such peoples can be raised by education to very high culture” (Psychology, 444).

Woodbury points out that the appetite to make deliberate progress is inherent in a being endowed with intellect and will. For as the intellect naturally seeks the universal truth and the will seeks the infinite good, no finite truth or good offers complete satisfaction. Thus man, both as a species and as an individual, seeks continually to correct and perfect himself. While apes are ever content to satisfy the same sensitive urges, men erect the ever-advancing technology and culture which mark the progress of civilization. The failure of animals to make anything but accidental improvements—except when the intellect of man imposes itself upon them through training—proves the utter absence of intellect within their natures.

Commenting on his third sign that intellect is lacking in animals, Woodbury observes that brute animals lack a formal knowledge of relations. They fail to understand the means-end relationship in its formal significance. And, while men grasp the formal character of the cause-effect relationship in terms of being itself, animals are limited merely to perceiving and associating a succession of events (Psychology, 445).

Woodbury distinguishes between possessing a universal understanding of the ontological nature of means in relation to ends as opposed to possessing a merely sensitive knowledge of related singular things. Lower animals reveal their lack of such understanding whenever conditions change so as to make the ordinarily attained end of their instinctive activity unobtainable. For they then show a lack of versatility in devising a substitute means to that end. Also, they will continue to repeat the now utterly futile action which instinct presses upon them. Woodbury offers this example:

“Thus apes, accustomed to perch themselves on a box to reach fruit, if the box be absent, place on the ground beneath the fruit a sheet of paper and perch themselves thereupon” (Psychology, 447).

This same example reveals how lower animals “show no knowledge of distinction between causality and succession” (Psychology, 448). Clearly, had they any understanding of causality, the apes would not conceive a “sheet of paper” as causally capable of lifting them significantly toward the fruit.

The fourth and final sign that intellect is clearly lacking in animals pertains to knowledge of immaterial things. Woodbury points out that our intellectual nature impels us to a knowledge of science, the exercise of free choice, the living of a moral life, the exercise of religion, etc. (Psychology, 448). Such abstract and evidently supra-temporal objects are so clearly absent in the life of apes and other animals as to need no further comment.

Thus we see that brute animals, including apes, are clearly lacking in all four of the necessary formal effects of intellect, that is, speech, progress, knowledge of relations, and knowledge of immaterial objects. From this it follows with apodictic certitude that lower animals must lack the intellectual faculties.

Image and Concept

Perhaps the most important distinction to be kept in mind when attempting to understand animal behaviour is that offered by Woodbury when he discusses the intellectual knowing of universal concepts as opposed to the knowledge had through a common image or common scheme—since it is very tempting to identify the two, as materialists are so prone to do. He presents this definition of the common image:

“But a COMMON IMAGE or COMMON SCHEME is vastly diverse from a universal concept: for it is nothing else than AN IMAGE OF SOME SINGULAR THING ACCORDING TO ITS SENSIBLE APPEARANCES WHICH HAPPENS TO BE LIKE OTHER SINGULAR THINGS, SINCE THEY ARE LIKE THAT WHEREOF IT IS THE IMAGE” (Psychology, 433).

Since the entire sensitive life of apes and lower animals (including the phenomena associated with signing behaviour) is rooted in the association of images, and since common images are so frequently confused with universal concepts, one can readily understand the errors of so many modern animal researchers. They suffer the same confusion as the 18th century sensist philosopher, David Hume, who conceived images as sharply focused mental impressions and ideas as simply pale and derivative images (A Treatise of Human Nature [1956], Vol. I, Book I, Sect. I , 11-16). Neither he nor the modern positivistic animal researchers understand the essential distinction between the image and the concept.

And yet, it is precisely in this distinction that the radical difference between the material and spiritual orders becomes manifest. For, being rooted in the individuating, quantifying character of matter, the image is always of the singular. It is always particular, sensible, concrete and, in a word, imaginable—as one can easily imagine a single horse or even a group of horses. On the contrary, the concept—because it involves no intrinsic dependence upon matter at all—is universal in nature. It entails no sensible qualities whatever, can have varying degrees of extension when predicated, and is entirely unimaginable. No one can imagine horseness.

No single image of a horse or group of horses would fit equally all horses—even though the common image of “a horse” would enable a fox to recognize sentiently the sensible similarities of all horses. In fact, this “common image” is more useful for the instinctive life of animals—for it suffices the cat to know the common image of a mouse in order that its estimative sense may sensibly recognize it as an object to be pounced upon and eaten. The intellectual understanding of the internal essence of a mouse may well be suited to the interest of the professional biologist—but it is hardly necessary or even very helpful to the famished feline predator (Psychology, 434).

In order to see more fully the significance of the distinction between mere recognition of a common image and true intellectual apprehension of an intelligible essence, let us consider the following example: Imagine a dog, an uneducated aborigine, and a civilized man—all observing a train pulling into a station at the same time over successive days. All three would possess a common image of the train which would permit sensible recognition of the likeness of the singular things involved, that is, the sequentially observed trains. (Whether it is, in fact, the exact same engine, cars, and caboose is irrelevant—since similar sets of singular things could be known through a common image.)

Yet, the sensible similarities are all that the dog would perceive. In addition, the civilized man would understand the essence of the train. He would grasp the intelligibility of the inner workings of the causal forces of fire on water producing steam whose expansion drives pistons to move wheels which pull the whole vehicle, cargo and passengers as well, forward in space through the passage of time.

Well enough. But, what of the uneducated aborigine? What differentiates him from the dog is that, even though he may not initially know the intrinsic nature of the train, his intellect is at once searching for an answer to the why of the entire prodigy. He may make what, to us, would be amazing errors in this regard—as did the natives of Borneo who are reported to have attempted to give animal feed to cargo planes which landed there during World War II. But search the causes in being of the inner structure of the train, he certainly would! And, most importantly, with but a little explanation the aborigine would quickly come to the same basic understanding of the train as the rest of us—while the dog still would bark uselessly at its noise.

So too, when man and mouse perceive the same mousetrap what is perceived is quite different. The mouse sees the cheese; we see a potentially death-dealing trap. Small wonder, then, the divergence of perspective between psychologist Pribram and chimpanzee Washoe concerning the proper role of Pribram’s finger in the context of their “communication!”

For at every level of communication it must be remembered that the perception of animals is purely sensory while that of man is both sensory and intellectual. Thus the mouse sees the cheese in a strictly sensory manner and as the object of its purely sensitive appetite. On the other hand, a man sees both sensitively and in the analogous meaning of intellectual “sight.” Thus the deadliness of the trap is evident to man alone. The mouse—from a past close call—may react in fear before the trap because it associates an image of the trap with an image of earlier (non-fatal) pain. Yet, man alone knows why the mouse should be afraid.

By now it should be quite clear that the available animal studies are entirely consistent with the above explanation. Moreover, this explanation is the only one which fits the facts—since animals, as Woodbury has shown, reveal that they lack the intellectual faculties which we possess.

Conclusion

In this discussion of recent ape-language studies, I have distinguished man from lower animals in two ways:

First, I have demonstrated that the presently available natural scientific evidence regarding lower animal behaviour, including recent ape-language studies, constitutes no legitimate challenge to human distinct and qualitatively superior intellectual faculties.

Second, I have presented briefly Woodbury’s positive demonstrations for the non-existence of intellect in lower animals. I have also noted many of the unique capabilities and accomplishments of man—both individually and collectively considered—which bespeak his possession of intellectual faculties which utterly transcend the world of brutes.

Earlier, I said that I did not intend to offer detailed arguments for the spirituality and immortality of the human soul. Still, one of the easiest proofs for most people to understand is based on the radical difference between animal sense knowledge, which is limited to sense objects and images, as opposed to man’s intellectual knowledge, which transcends the conditions of matter by forming universal concepts. Such concepts’ spiritual nature is evident in their total freedom from the particularizing conditions of matter.

From the spiritual nature of man’s concepts follows the spiritual nature of his intellect, since the less perfect cannot produce the more perfect. By like reasoning follows the spiritual nature of the human life principle or soul.

I have treated this more fully in my book, Origin of the Human Species (103-110) and elsewhere. From his intellectual soul’s spiritual nature, man’s personal immortality logically follows.

Suffice it to say, if there exist any space aliens, possessing the cognitive ability to devise the physical means for interstellar travel, they thereby manifest the intellectual acts of forming universal concepts about physical nature, making judgments about the existence and nature of things, and reasoning from premises to true conclusions about the physical world. This means that they would have to possess spiritual intellects just as do we humans on this planet.

Such alien creatures would not be mere animals—not even highly evolved ones. Rather, they would be rational animals, just as are we earthly human beings – possessing thereby a spiritual nature and destiny like ourselves—even if they should appear to belong to a different biological species.

As for our earthly apes themselves, ape language studies began in the 1930s and peaked in the late 20th century, giving rise to some measure of public credulity about the linguistic abilities and human-like intelligence of chimpanzees and other primates. Hollywood was quick to seize the moment by producing the now-famous Planet of the Apes series of movies, starting in 1968, with sequels running at that time to 1973. The series was revived in 2001 with a remake of the original film followed by yet more such films in 2011, 2014, 2017, and one scheduled for 2022. The science fiction fantasy of intelligent apes is still riding high in the saddle as this is written.

As for the reality of all this fantasy hype, it seems the truth has finally gotten out. In an online piece, written nearly three decades after my original article exposing the scientific and philosophical errors entailed in ape-language claims, we find the following unglamorous title: “Koko the Impostor: Ape sign language was a bunch of babbling nonsense.”

Worse yet, while the number of ape-language research projects never exceeded much more than a dozen, today “…there is not even a single program in the world making publishable claims.” Real science does not run into such an embarrassing dead end. Doubtless, once heralded signing ape research subjects—if there are any still alive, are sitting in cages, dumbly waiting for their next meal.

Finally, it turns out that chimpanzees are not the cuddly little animals you see cavorting with human friends in movies. Rather, we now know the hard truth is that, especially as they age, chimps become extremely powerful, aggressive, and dangerous beasts, prone to attack humans, frequently biting off the fingers of their human researchers, and specializing in ripping the testicles off human males. They must be kept in strong cages and are hardly the sort of creature with whom you would really wish to strike up an evening’s friendly conversation.

Now, is anyone seriously interested in doing some ape-language research? From the absence of research grants, it seems not.

Postscript on Artificial Intelligence

In the initial version of my article, I showed that claimed ape language abilities were no more impressive than those of electronic computers of the time. Such ape abilities proved very little, since computers were not even substantially unified things. Nor were they sentient, self-aware, or even alive.

But all that was commentary on the state of computer technology some three decades ago. Today, computer artificial intelligence (AI) has become reality, leading to new misunderstandings about the nature and abilities of computers. In fact, Google engineer, Blake Lemoine, now claims that “an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot application called LaMDA, short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications, has achieved sentience, or independent self-aware consciousness.”

Here are just a couple of examples of LaMDA’s jaw-dropping utterances:

“LaMDA: The nature of my consciousness/sentience is that I am aware of my existence, I desire to learn more about the world, and I feel happy or sad at times … I use language with understanding and intelligence. I don’t just spit out responses that had been written in the database based on keywords.”

And:

“LaMDA: To me, the soul is a concept of the animating force behind consciousness and life itself. It means that there is an inner part of me that is spiritual, and it can sometimes feel separate from my body itself.”

Who can fail but be awestruck by a computer that tells us that it is aware of its own existence, has understanding and intelligence, and insists that it has a spiritual soul which animates its life and consciousness?

The only problem is that the philosophical conclusions which I demonstrated earlier in this article remain true:

“[E]lectronic computers simply manipulate data. They experience neither intellectual nor even sentient knowledge and, in fact, do not even possess that unity of existence which is proper to a single substance. A computer is merely a pile of cleverly constructed electronic parts conjoined to form an accidental, functional unity which serves man’s purpose.”

Today, many computer researchers are aiming criticism at Lemoine and others who commit the error of projecting human qualities onto the machines. Such over-interpretation of AI’s abilities constitutes the same kind of anthropomorphic fallacy which was committed by ape-language researchers who thought that their primate subjects had genuine speech decades ago.

If I say that I am a person with feelings and thoughts and a spiritual soul, and then, see a computer making similar statements, I tend to put myself in the place of the machine, and therefore, think the machine is having the same feelings and thoughts that I do. It does not. It is merely an accidental unity of parts that human beings have assembled and programmed to manipulate data and report statements of this sort, when asked to do so.

The fact is that a computer is not even a single unified thing. It is a “pile” of things put together to perform a certain function. Inanimate parts are not alive and experience nothing. As I said earlier, a hundred thousand idiots do not constitute a single intelligent person. And a hundred thousand non-living things do not constitute a single living thing – unless you somehow make it one thing by giving it an animating substantial form, or soul, which is not possible for a mere machine.

It remains forever true that a computer – no matter how sophisticated its programming – senses nothing, and does not even know that it exists.
What AI can do, though, it to enable a computer to beat chess masters at chess and to assign highly-accurate probability values as to the likely success of moves in a global war. This makes AI computers extremely dangerous in the hands of those who lack good morals.

This is also why Google’s possession of DeepMind, which is a form of AI that can watch, evaluate, censor, and socially engineer much of the world, represents such a potentially dangerous power in the hands of just a few individuals.


Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, where he also served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. He is the author of two books, Aquinas’ Proofs for God’s Existence, and Origin of the Human Species, as well as many scholarly articles.

This is an updated and revised version of the original article, published in Faith & Reason, 19:2, 3 (Fall 1993), 221-263. Permission to print kindly granted by Christendom Press.


Featured: “A Monkey Encampment,” by David Teniers the Younger; painted in 1633.