200 Years After Jane Austen

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, July 18, 2017

[To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death Book Riot devoted today to all Jane Austen essays, my contribution was “Who Jane Read, Who Read Jane.”]

Isn’t Jane Austen a writer for ladies who love romance stories? What kind of appeal can she have for a 65-year-old male with no interest in young women finding Mr. Right? This past week I watched films based on all six of Jane Austen novels with combinations of four different female friends. I thoroughly enjoyed them, but I’m not sure I enjoyed them for the same reasons my lady friends did. I have read four of her novels, and parts of several biographies.

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra AustenI wished I had read Jane Austen when I was a boy because I would have been much less clueless about girls as a teen if I had. However, I’m not sure I could have liked her novels for the same reasons I do now. And I’m not sure I was a savvy enough teenage boy to decode their characters to understand how the opposite sex thinks. I didn’t discover Jane Austen until 13 years ago when I was 52 and read Pride and Prejudice because a lady friend at work praised it so highly.

I’ve been attracted to Jane ever since. Jane died in 1817, at age 41, having never married. She is sexy to me now because of her writing skills. We know very little about Jane except for what comes through in six novels, about 160 letters that were heavily censored by her surviving sister Cassandra, and three scrapbook volumes of unpublished work now called her juvenilia. All of this has been collected in a $1.99 Kindle edition called The Complete Works of Jane Austen – a handy way to carry Jane around in your smartphone.

Jane Austen imaginedPeople still argue over what Jane Austen even looked like. The drawing above was made by her sister Cassandra, with some relatives claiming after Jane’s death that it wasn’t a particularly good likeness. The drawing on the left was found in recent years and was assumed to be an imagined version of what she looked like, but many fans hope because it’s old enough, to be a drawing of Jane while she lived.

Which brings us back to why I love to read Jane. I’m driven by the mystery of figuring out who she was. She wrote six books that after two centuries is still growing her fan base, already in tens of millions, maybe hundreds. Any writer should envy that. I say she’s tied with Charles Dickens as the most remembered English novelist of the nineteenth century. Understanding why their work survives when so many others haven’t, fascinates me.

I figure less than 100 novels from any country are still popularly read and remembered today from the nineteenth-century. That begs the question: Why? In Jane’s day, Sir Walter Scott was the Stephen King/J. K. Rowling/James Patterson best selling author. Who reads Scott today? Why do we see stories on Masterpiece by Austen and Dickens reproduced over and over again? If we knew could today’s writers apply that knowledge to write books that would be popularly loved in 2317?

The films of Jane Austen seemed aimed at Regency romance fans, but I’m not sure that’s the kind of audience Austen expected. After her death, her family worked hard to censor the memory of Aunt Jane. Some conjecture has claimed she wrote over 3,000 letters. I wished we had them because I believe we’d have the real Jane. It’s a shame WordPress didn’t exist back then. I get the feeling from some of the clues that Jane was a funny sharp-tongued woman that might have had a lot to say about her world, but was held back by family, church, and publishing propriety. Her juvenilia hints at a more zany, even vicious Jane. In some ways, she reminds me of Louisa May Alcott who loved blood and thunder stories as a girl.

What we do get in the novels is a keen observer of people and society, and Jane would have been an excellent psychologist or sociologist. My mental map of nineteenth-century England comes from novelists, not historians. And I believe the everyday history included in their novels is a major trait of Austen’s and Dickens’ success. I have no interest in reading about the Napoleonic Wars which was concurrent with Jane’s stories. Some critics shame Jane for not being interested too, but I find her peripheral view of soldiers and sailors at home more interesting.

In the past two weeks, The New York Times has run two articles on textual analysis of Jane Austen and her word usage: “Charting Literary Greatness with Jane Austen,” and “The Word Choices Explain Why Jane Austen Endures.” Austen’s six novels stood out in their graph, away from all the other novels charted. (Strangely, they left out Dickens – I wonder why?)

Because of the anniversary of her death, there’s much being written about Jane. Just look at this Google search limited to the recent week. I’m sure this Jane Austen mania is invisible to most people, but for her fans, it only validates why she’s worthy of being remembered.

When I read Jane I delight in comparing then and now. Of course, Jane’s upper middle-class characters peeking inside manor houses totally ignores how ninety-five percent of England lived back then. Dickens trounced Jane at covering the full socio-economic spectrum. However, Jane covers a preindustrial time before Dickens. Jane was born the year before America declared independence and died the year before Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, A Modern Prometheus. Her novels have almost exclusive rights to that specific period of literary history. Whereas Dickens is working the same territory as the Brontës, Thackery, Trollope, Collins, and others. There were plenty of English novelists during the Regency period, but we don’t read them today.

Anyone who is a fan of Downton Abbey should be a fan of Jane Austen because that TV show chronicles the death of a lifestyle that Austen wrote about. The reason why the Crawley family had to leave their estate to a distant cousin is the same reason why the Bennets had to leave their home to Mr. Collins. Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham is pretty much a Mr. Darcy a century later who had to marry a rich American woman instead of a local Elizabeth Bennet.

I’m not an Anglophile, but to enjoy reading English novels means learning English history. Austen and Dickens anchor me in nineteenth-century England in the same way Twain and Alcott put me in nineteenth-century America, or Tolstoy lets me see nineteenth-century Russia. Their novels help me understand nineteenth-century art and art history, the time of my favorite paintings. Jane’s novels help me to appreciate on a deeper level historical novels like The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Yet, there’s another reason why I love Jane Austen novels. In the 1960s I grew up reading 1950s writers and stories. Over time I realized my favorite writers had favorite writers, and those writers had writers who inspired them. Many writers today can trace their literary genealogy back to Jane Austen. Over a lifetime of reading, I’ve been slowly studying a family tree of fiction. That gives me a great deal of pleasure.

Finally, reading Jane gives me Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, Catherine Morland and Anne Elliot. Fictional females are extremely important to understanding the history of women and the evolution of feminist thought in our culture. By reading novels, we can see how free women were in their times, from Elizabeth Bennet to Caroline Meeber to Lady Brett Ashley to Janie Crawford to Esther Greenwood to Isodore Wing to Ifemelu to Offred/June.


Is Facebook a Hive Mind?

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, July 9, 2017

Science fiction has long predicted humans meeting alien races that belong to a hive mind. The most famous example is probably the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Currently Internet Live says there are 3.7 billion users on the internet, with over 2 billion on Facebook – that’s out of 7+ billion humans. What will it mean if humanity joins a singular bio-cyber-system that allows us to interconnect?


Some people think of the hive mind in negative terms, with everyone thinking in lockstep fashion. Other people believe the hive mind could be positive, a worldwide communion of souls. I’m somewhat in the middle. Technology can produce an iPhone or an A-bomb. Also, the term hive mind is currently defined in different ways, so we need to work out a common definition.

But let’s compare Facebook to the past. The earliest forms of mass communication were the newspaper and journal, but it wasn’t until radio and television that we started talking about the impact of mass communication. 530 million people watched the moon landing. That’s a lot of people for one shared memory, especially when we were only 3+ billion. It’s not uncommon now to see a silly sentimental video on Facebook shared by tens of millions.

The difference with Facebook and older media technology is the mass audience replies. Facebook allows people to respond to what’s being broadcast to the masses. That should be good, right? We get our say. Unfortunately, what’s heard sometime is ugly.


Humans aren’t like ants and bees. We don’t have rigid roles within our society. We don’t work together in unison for some common purpose. Humans are often in conflict. But that conflict can be anything from disagreement over a movie to starting another world war.

I’m not sure where Facebook will take us, but I have noticed one interesting trend. When I got my first modem back in the early 1980s I connected to services like CompuServe, Prodigy, GEnie, AOL and various Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). In each case, I joined forums to discuss books. When I got on the internet I discussed books on Usenet News. After the web took hold I discussed books on Yahoo! Groups. At each technology stage, I was able to discuss books with more people around the world.

Via blogging and Twitter, I guessed there were just a few hundreds of fans of old pulp magazine still around. After I got on Facebook I discovered many thousands.

Lately, Yahoo! Groups, my favorite method for online book clubbing, has been dying. In one book club, we formed a Facebook group to support our Yahoo! Group. Then my co-moderator left the Yahoo! Group to manage the Facebook. His group currently has 3,617 members, whereas the Yahoo! Group membership has dwindled down to less than 12 active participants. The other day I joined a Facebook group for Western movie fans, it has over 25,000 members. They answered a question in minutes I’d been Googling for days to find.

Technology that allows thousands of people with a shared interest to connect is not a hive mind, but it’s something new. Mass communication has always been a misnomer because the conversation was always one-way. Facebook is creating two-way communication – true communication. Right now we share our minds over funny cat videos, get-togethers with friends, family events, pop culture tidbits, and polarize over political views. The potential of the Facebook technology is still unknown.

What if Donald Trump used Facebook instead of Twitter? Twitter can be two-way communication, but usually, it’s not. Twitter is a favorite tool of cyber bullies. Facebook can be more like virtual get-togethers. Facebook is more inclusive because it is family friendly. That is more of your entire family probably uses Facebook than Twitter.

I doubt Trump would read replies to his posts on Facebook, but wouldn’t both sides of our political divide have to reply in the same place? That would probably the largest flame war ever. A riot in cyberspace. However, what if the Like icons became an instant poll so Trump would have immediate feedback on his ideas. (We’d also need a dislike button icon added to the array.) Wouldn’t that be kind of hive mind like? A president could know rather quickly what voters thought. That’s a sharing of minds.

If Facebook became real-time Gallup Poll for global opinions wouldn’t that produce science fictional results that change our future? Whether we call it a hive mind or not doesn’t really matter. But we want to call it something. Our own individual minds work through a cooperation of many subfunctions. If we create technology that allows billions of humans minds to create gestalt functions we need to name and study them.


Writing About Science Fiction

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I have a new essay up at Book Riot, “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Science Fiction?” It’s always fun to see other sites publish something I’ve written. And it’s an essay I’m proud of and want people to read. However, I’m not sure it’s the essay I intended to write. I don’t know if you have ever written an essay but if you have, do the thoughts you want to write ever come out the in the words you type?

Book Riot

Inspiration is often a vague idea, or maybe just a feeling. When you start writing about that momentary impulse other ideas start flowing out too. Ideas you haven’t thought of before, or planned. Quite often an essay will take off in a new direction, even a better direction. When I first started writing “What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Science Fiction?” I planned to list and categorize all the main topics of science fiction. I felt there were a finite set of topics we label as science fiction. The essay covered that somewhat, but not in the way I planned. It veered off into another thought, that science fictional ideas are descended from myths, religion and fantasy stories. I ended up saying when we talk about science fiction we’re talking about ideas that we’ve been talking about ever since we shared Europe with the Neanderthals. Science fiction has redefined some of those ancient desires. The few that have any kind of scientific possibility we call science fiction, the rest we call fantasy, religion, or myths.

Since I hang out in book clubs and forums devoted to science fiction I talk and write about science fiction a lot. More often than not we end up talking about stories, storytelling, plots, characters, authors, publishing, reviewing, cover art, and all the things that go into the making of the genre of science fiction, but not the actual philosophy of science fiction. It usually comes down to whether or not the story entertained us, rather than did the story have an original speculative idea.

I actually believe science fiction is a very limited area of discourse. I believe science fiction is the act of speculating about specific unknown aspects of reality. I believe reading a story that makes us think about life on alien worlds is science fictional, but I believe that’s different from enjoying an adventure story that’s set on another world with aliens.

I often wonder if the stories we’ve inherited from myths and religions are the entertainment versions of once serious speculations about reality. That one-day science fiction from the 20th century will be like us reading about Greek mythology. Will they ask, “Did they believe these stories were true?”

When Robert A. Heinlein wrote stories about people living on the Moon in the 1950s he thought his stories were speculating about the possibility of colonizing the Moon. He wanted his stories to inspire a generation that would actually go into space and build the high frontier. Now we read those stories for entertainment or nostalgia.

I’ve always believed the science fiction magazine was where the cutting edge of science fictional ideas first appeared. But few people read those magazines anymore. I’m out of touch with most of the popular SF novels. Few of them seem to be serious science fiction speculation. People want a thrill ride, not philosophy.

I’m not sure all the serious speculative ideas of science fiction haven’t become part of our everyday culture. Forbes, a magazine devoted to business regularly covers astronomy, cosmology, theoretical physics, and space travel at its website. Artificial intelligence and robots are now part of the corporate bottom line. Miracles of biotechnology and engineering are on the news every day.

So what are we talking about when we talk about science fiction? I worry science fiction is a dying area of philosophy that’s being transformed into entertainment category. For Example, why is a sequel to Blade Runner coming out soon, and not an honest version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? PKD was a weird-ass philosopher, not a writer of action hero adventure stories. In many ways, movie and television science fiction is stuck in the era of Planet Stories and never reached what was going on in Galaxy, F&SF and IF in the 1950s, much less what came out in the 1960s and 1970s.


I used the essay as a post of the Facebook group Space Opera Pulp and some of the people also said that movie science fiction wasn’t like what we used to read. So maybe I’m not alone in thinking science fiction is changing.


Don’t Hate Me Because I Look Like Them

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I’m a liberal atheist who’s always voted Democratic – but I look like a Republican – an old white guy. That’s getting to be a problem. Women and people of color are being political disenfranchised by the current political regime. I don’t think I’m being paranoid when I think they’re starting to hate old white guys. I don’t even blame them. Not only that, I’m getting tired of old white guys coming up and immediately telling me their weird-ass political ideas assuming I’m a member of their secret fraternity. I’m totally freaked out people will think I’m a Trump supporter because of my looks.

13 white guys

It’s a good thing I don’t want to be a politician because this country doesn’t need any more old white guys wanting to run the joint. I do want to be a writer, and unfortunately, there’s a long legacy of wordy old white bastards hogging the literary canon. I write for a site that works very hard to promote diversity in reading. I feel guilty even submitting essays. Yet, I’m very thankful to be their token old white guy. I’ve always been for diversity but I’m learning even more by hanging out at Book Riot.

The trouble is there’s a large segment of our country that wishes we all looked alike. Yesterday, The Atlantic reported “It Was Cultural Anxiety That Drove White, Working-Class Voters to Trump” and not economic anxiety. These people want to return to a paternalistic white past where women and people of color don’t disturb their vision of a homogeneous America. Recently, I’ve heard second-hand personal stories and read many reports in the news about people going up to Hispanic folks and telling them they should go home. That’s incredibly shameful. Knowing the president and leaders in Congress inspires such horrendous behavior makes watching shows like The Handmaid’s Tale unnerving. I thought climate change was dooming our future, but alt-right politics is going to destroy us first.

Not only do the Republicans not see anything wrong in having all old white guy committees, they take pride in claiming they don’t play identity politics. They even jockey with each other to out-do their denials claiming nothing is wrong. But it’s very wrong! The fact they can’t see their evilness is equal to Trump’s own anosognosia. Their blind spots are so huge it’s surprising they can see at all.

What really bothers me is their claim to be Christians, a religion based on teaching compassion. If these old Republican white guys are really going to church every Sunday they should stop. If they haven’t gotten the message after all these years then they are wasting their time. I’m an atheist that quit the church when I was twelve, but I did learn this in Sunday school at age five:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Obviously, they didn’t. Women are half the world, and the whole world is diverse. Why can’t they see that? I think I know why, but it’s a terrible thing to think about another human being. Women, minorities, and immigrants tend to vote Democratic. Republican’s in their single-mindedness to lower their taxes will do anything, and I mean anything, to achieve that goal. In other words, greed has driven them blind, even to the point of abandoning their faith and becoming hateful.

They have sold their souls to lower their taxes.

I just want people to know that I might look like those zombies, but I ain’t one of them.


All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

by James Wallace Harris, Tuesday, May 9, 2017 (reprinted from SF Signal)

[Because All the Birds in the Sky is up for a Hugo award I thought I’d reprint my review from last year.]

“Too late, too late” the birds chorused.

Our futures are different in every generation. Back in 1966, my generation, the Baby Boomers, feared nuclear annihilation, hoped for colonies on Mars among other dreams, but nothing was certain, and we were surprised by the Internet and the Hubble Telescope. In 2016, I am concerned for the current generation, because their futures of climate catastrophe and mass extinctions do seem inevitable. How do young science fiction readers find hope in their futures? And what unexpected amazements awaits them?

Is science fiction ever about the future? Isn’t it always about the present? Science fiction represents the hopes and anxieties of each generation about their future. Science fiction set in the far future, like stories about interstellar travel, represents a kind of extreme optimism, whereas science fiction set in a middling distance of interplanetary travel, represents another kind of hope, a hope that we can build that future today if we only would. Science fiction set in the near future, often explores our fears more than our dreams. Writing near future SF requires juggling the hard cold facts of today against dreams for better tomorrows. Science fiction is each generation’s barometer measuring its faith in their futures.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane AndersAll the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders walks the razor’s edge of a very near future science fiction, confronting the obvious dooms while still offering hopes. Anders impressed me with her faith in our future. She accomplishes her task with a light touch, producing a novel that is a joy to read, yet is as deep as you’re willing to dig. I expect many to speed along in this story because of its shiny science fiction bits, but those who read slower, analyzing its fantasy and literary symbolism will find deeper concerns to contemplate.

At the surface of this novel is a love story between Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead that begins in their troubled childhood. Patricia survives by discovering the old religion of magic, while Laurence endures by mastering technology and science. They cope emotionally by sharing their misery, until outside forces split them up. Years later they rediscover one another only to find they have taken radically divergent philosophical paths. Their beginning reminds me a of Among Others by Jo Walton, and how children of genre find themselves by finding people like themselves.

All the Birds in the Sky is getting great reviews and buzz. How you read this book will determine how you label it, fantasy or science fiction, because the story apparently asks us to take sides. All the Birds in the Sky is a horse of many different colors, making it hard to categorize.

At first, I thought All the Birds in the Sky as three weddings: a marriage of science fiction and fantasy, a marriage of YA and adult, and a marriage of genre and literary. The novel makes us feel Cory Doctorow and J.K. Rowling should have tied the knot long ago. It also feels quite natural to bolt a YA section onto the beginning of a novel that’s meant for adults.

All the Birds in the Sky is a fast, fun read, but it’s about children being bullied by their parents and peers, who become adults during the climate apocalypse. How fun can that be? It is. The story does have talking animals and intelligent computers that are enchanting, and a serial killer assassin that feels like someone from The Grand Budapest Hotel, which for me was the only weird thing in the story that didn’t work (but I might change my mind in later readings).

Because All the Birds in the Sky is set in San Francisco, it makes me wonder if it’s a counter-culture novel too, but not the counter-cultures I knew, of Beatniks and Hippies, but Geek counter-culture from Silicon Valley startups and Maker subcultures. I also wonder if the novel isn’t a jab at Silicon Valley, who some San Franciscans believe is destroying their city. (Watch San Francisco 2.0 on HBO to see what I mean.)

All the Birds in the Sky are about two forces at war: magic and science. The novel begins with Patricia as a small child learning she can converse with birds. This is a very strange way to begin a science fiction novel, but Anders eventually makes it work for me. I totally get the Wired-Maker-SF side of this story because of my background. I just didn’t understand Patricia’s story at first, of talking animals, magic and secret covens of witches and wizards. I never played Dungeons and Dragons or read The Lord of the Rings. My only knowledge of magic comes from reading the Harry Potter books. The whole magic angle didn’t work for me until I reread some chapters. Then it clicked. I don’t believe Anders added magic to her story just to have a genre mashup, its integral to her message.

Good writers make their stories ambiguous, which allows readers to find their own meaning. However, that leaves us never knowing if we found the meaning, if there truly is one. But once I found a symbolic way to interpret the magic in All the Birds in the Sky, I was quite satisfied with this novel. I’d love to read how others interpreted the magic, but to do so in public would create spoilers.

I believe Anders is offering philosophical inspiration to young people. She knows they face grim futures. She wants young people to have faith they can solve the problems they’ve inherited. To understand how we must save ourselves is to understand how we must change ourselves. Any current science fiction written about the near future needs to involve ideas from books like This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Not only is mankind the cause of our future doom, but so are our intellectual approaches to politics, economics, sociology, spirituality, psychology and self-expression.

Climate change is such a large bump in the road to the future that I’m not sure science fiction can ignore it. Anders knows that. To stop climate change requires changing ourselves, and how we interact with reality. There will be no wizards or scientists that can work that kind of magic, but Anders does offer hope in her ending. At least in the way I’ve read her story. I wonder what younger readers make of it. Birds and animals do have a say in Anders’ novel. Has Anders read The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert? Not only is human society altering the biosphere and climate, but we’re killing off all our fellow species. If animals could talk, what would they say? My guess is Anders knows about such books, but doesn’t feel the need to weave their heaviness into her story. Both rising seas and dying animals are on the perimeters of her plot. The real conflict is between two people who love each other but embrace opposing philosophies. So the story becomes fantasy v. science fiction, but not really. Isn’t it nature v. science?

“Almost too late,” the pigeon said.

I Was Wrong

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, May 8, 2017

Yesterday I wrote, “Are Republicans the Party of Darwin?” accusing conservatives of applying their understanding of Darwin’s observations on nature to justify the laws they were creating. Their laws always seem to back the strong against the weak. But I had a revelation in the middle of the night.

Everyone acts on their instincts, and those instincts are Darwinian by nature. Duh! Darwin’s theory is the most widely accepted explanation for our behavior. I was crediting Republicans for consciously using Darwin’s ideas in the formulation of their political philosophy, and this is where I’m wrong. It wasn’t a conscious decision. My essay was based on the irony that conservatives profess to be Christians but enact laws that reflect Darwin’s theory rather than Jesus’ teachings.

heaven and earth

My point being there’s no compassion in nature or Darwin’s observations about how nature works, and there’s no compassion in the laws Republicans want to support. You’d think people who follow a personal philosophy based on compassion would enact compassionate laws. This conflict of action and belief troubles me and I keep trying to figure out what causes it.

My revelation last night is everyone acts Darwinianly, despite what they profess philosophically. I am an atheist, but I give Christianity credit for inventing many compassionate philosophical concepts. I attribute those ideas to Jesus like we attribute other philosophical ideas to Plato or Aristotle, but I’m not sure they came from the man we historical think of as Jesus. Many of the ideas were developed by his followers and attributed to him in the first few centuries after his death.

Organized compassion for the weak is a relatively new idea in history. Limited forms of compassion have been around in evolutionary terms for a very long time, even in plants and lower animals, but to develop a religion, philosophy, or political system to protect the weak wholesale is relatively new.

I just think it’s ironic that the political party that claims to be the most Christian reflects it least in their laws, and the party that folks general assume is least Christian reflects compassion the most in their laws.

Our political divide really comes down to how much we want to support the common welfare over the freedom of the individual. The more socialistic we are, the more we want everyone to contribute to improving society, the less socialistic we are, the more we want to give the maximum freedom to individuals and ignore the suffering of the masses. Such socialism counters Darwin’s observations on animal behavior.

Thus Christianity is inherently anti-Darwinian. For twenty centuries it seemed like Christianity was catching on, especially in the Western world. But that’s probably an illusion. What really caught on was a belief in life after death via easy salvation. The idea of heaven on Earth hasn’t.

In other words, conservatives are Darwinian on Earth, but Christian in their hopes about an afterlife. Which might explain why liberals are more socialistic. Many of them doubt the afterlife, and thus they’d want to create heaven on Earth. The conservatives are more pragmatically Darwinian, they want all they can get while living, and then assume things will magically go great after they die despite what they do while living. Liberals evidently feel this is all there is so we better make the best of it.

This is a huge problem for liberals. To get more people to vote for social welfare might require convincing people to think less about an afterlife. In other words, the concept of heaven has corrupted people’s attitude towards Earth. This might also explain climate change deniers. They might unconsciously realize to think more about Earth means to think less about an afterlife.




Are Republicans the Party of Darwin?

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, May 7, 2017

As a lifelong atheist, I find most of my political convictions comes from the words printed in red in The New Testament. Shouldn’t unbelievers use Charles Darwin’s scientific insights to model how society should be governed? Yet, as I study Republicans, the party I oppose, I wonder why they act the way the do. I can only conclude they base their philosophy on the survival of the fittest.


I hate Republicans for not carrying about suffering, whether it’s the suffering of people, animals, plants, or the biosphere. If you study Darwin’s observations you realize that nature ignores suffering too. The Republicans work with all their might to create a political system that helps the strong while ignoring the weak. In fact, Republicans are the strong feeding off the weak. Yet, publically Republicans claim to be Christians. Shouldn’t a Christian political party promote the way of life Jesus taught? And wouldn’t that be anti-Darwinian?

If you study the Sermon on the Mount, you know it’s impossible for a Christian to own an AR-15. The meek will not be carrying Glocks when they inherited the Earth. Darwin’s red tooth and claw philosophy would embrace such weapons. Darwin would be pro-gun, but not Jesus. Yet, typically Republicans express a hatred for Darwin and a love of Christ.

The Democratic party which wants to feed the poor and heal the sick is labeled the Godless party. However, if the beliefs in The New Testament were converted into a political system it would be socialistic, and look much like the political goals of the DNC.

Is it possible to create a political system that reduces suffering while still encouraging all its citizens to become stronger? If Republicans were honest they’d admit they believe far more in Darwin than Christ. Yes, helping people can make them weak, but ignoring their suffering also makes you heartless.

Isn’t there some kind of compromise we could make? Can’t we start the competition for survival on an equal playing ground? Wealth inequality shows the competition isn’t equal like what Darwin saw in nature. Human intelligence allows us to multiply and horde our strengths, which is why we’re destroying all the other species, and why those humans on the receiving end of wealth inequality can so easily destroy those on the losing end.

Republicans appear to totally embrace Darwinism, including ignoring suffering. Democrats want to create a political system that eliminates some sufferings. I would think any political system that ethically allows for some members to become billionaires should allow for universal healthcare. How can any system that allows for some players to have everything and others nothing be Christian?

Isn’t Christianity about compassion? I can understand why conservatives embrace Darwinian actions. Republican ideals are very close to nature. And don’t Christian beliefs defy the natural? Isn’t The New Testament all about protecting the weak?