Health Care Rationing is N.I.C.E.

One Eternal Day assembles material from a number of sources on how nationalized health care can lead to rationing which can lead to passive euthanasia. The whole post is worth reading, but I call your attention to what is already happening in England:

From Wesley J. Smith’s blog, Secondhand Smoke, a series of posts describing how rationing actually works in a country that has nationalized health care.

In the UK, utilitarian bioethicists control who gets–and who is denied–treatment via the Orwellian named organization NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence). NICE explicitly uses a quality of life judgment (QALY–quality adjusted life year) to determine which patients are worth treating. It has now denied coverage for anti-dementia medications to mild Alzheimer’s sufferers. From the abstract of the story in the British Medical Journal:

The hopes of people with mild Alzheimer’s disease have been dashed again by the agency that appraises treatments for use by the NHS in England and Wales, which has reaffirmed its original decision to deny them treatment with dementia drugs. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued amended guidance but still asserts that the drugs would not be cost effective for the mild stages of the disease.

The acronym of the board “N.I.C.E.” is described as Orwellian, which it is. But it is also the name of an organization in another dystopian novel that renders it even more scary. Before following the link, who can name it? And what would that connection add to the discussion?

Shakespeare on postmodernism

Four hundred years ago, the bard saw it coming and saw where it would lead. This is Ulysses’ speech from “Troilus and Cressida” on the order in the universe and what will happen if we embrace disorder instead :

The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre 88
Observe degree, priority, and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office, and custom, in all line of order:
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . How could communities,
Degrees in schools, and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores, 108
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string, 112
And, hark! what discord follows. . .
. . . . . . . . .
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong—
Between whose endless jar justice resides— 120
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, a universal wolf, 124
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce a universal prey,
And last eat up himself. Troilus and Cressida, Act I. Scene III

Lars Walker’s new novel

Lars Walker, a frequent commenter on this blog, is a novelist of note. He is also a Christian and a Lutheran. His faith comes out loud and clear in his fiction, but, unlike many “Christian novelists,” he is not preachy or sappy or didactic. With Lars, the Christian themes don’t substitute for a good story; rather, they contribute to the good story.

Lars specializes in historical fantasy. He is especially interested in Vikings, writing about the ancient Norse seafarers and warriors at the time when they were first getting converted to Christianity (around the year 1000). In addition to all kinds of swordplay, battles, and adventures, his characters are involved in spiritual warfare, as the old heathen magic, lore, and demons array themselves against the followers of Christ.

Lars has a new book out, West Oversea, that I enjoyed greatly. Like his earlier Viking novels, Erling’s Word and Year of the Warrior, it features the characters of the warlord Erling, a historical figure, whose dedication to doing what is right sometimes gets him into trouble, and Father Aillil, an Irish priest with a vivid personality (who reminds me somewhat of Martin Luther in his self-deprecating but life-affirming faith). This time, they journey to Iceland, then Greenland, then Vinland, a.k.a. America. They connect with the discoverer of that rich but dangerous land, Leif Erikson. (I did not realize that he was a Christian. His father, Erik the Red, was not.) At one point, Father Aillil has a vision of the future that perfectly captures–and refutes–the particular kinds of Godlessness of both modernism and postmodernism and suggests what might come next. The book is full of fascinating lore, thought-provoking ideas, memorable characters, exciting action, and just good story-telling.

I could hardly put the thing down. You can buy it here for less than ten bucks.

Lars Walker's new novel

Stanley Fish defends faith

Stanley Fish is a major postmodern literary critic, but before he got famous for that, he was a 17th century English literature scholar like me. He was consistently good in explicating the religious depths of authors such as John Milton and George Herbert. In fact, he and I were both in the same camp in insisting on the impact of the Reformation–specifically, the doctrines of God’s grace and the Gospel of Christ–in the literature of this time. Though he has been rather radical in his time, recently, he has been using the weapons of postmodernist literary criticism for more conservative ends. Here he takes on the “new atheists” and their notion that science is purely objective, while faith is illegitimate. After, well, deconstructing that modernist assumption, he goes on to deal with the another misconception about Christianity, in particular (quoting some of his commenters on a related blog post):

If there is no thought without constraints (chains) and if the constraints cannot be the object of thought because they mark out the space in which thought will go on, what is noticed and perspicuous will always be a function of what cannot be noticed because it cannot be seen. The theological formulation of this insight is well known: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11). Once the act of simply reporting or simply observing is exposed as a fiction — as something that just can’t be done — the facile opposition between faith-thinking and thinking grounded in independent evidence cannot be maintained.

Pking gets it right. “To torpedo faith is to destroy the roots of . . . any system of knowledge . . . I challenge anyone to construct an argument proving reason’s legitimacy without presupposing it . . . Faith is the base, completely unavoidable. Get used to it. It’s the human condition.” (All of us, not just believers, see through a glass darkly.) Religious thought may be vulnerable on any number of fronts, but it is not vulnerable to the criticism that in contrast to scientific or empirical thought, it rests on mere faith.

Some readers find a point of vulnerability in what they take to be religion’s flaccid, Polyanna-like, happy-days optimism. Religious people, says Delphinias, live their lives “in a state of blissfully blind oblivion.” They rely on holy texts that they are “to believe in without question.” (C.C.) “No evidence, no problem — just take it on faith.” (Michael) They don’t allow themselves to be bothered by anything. Religion, says Charles, “cannot deal with doubt and dissent,” and he adds this challenge: “What say you about that, Professor?”

What I say, and I say it to all those quoted in the previous paragraph, is what religion are you talking about? The religions I know are about nothing but doubt and dissent, and the struggles of faith, the dark night of the soul, feelings of unworthiness, serial backsliding, the abyss of despair. Whether it is the book of Job, the Confessions of St. Augustine, Calvin’s Institutes, Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding to The Chief of Sinners,” Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling” and a thousand other texts, the religious life is depicted as one of aspiration within the conviction of frailty. The heart of that life, as Eagleton reminds us, is not a set of propositions about the world (although there is some of that), but an orientation toward perfection by a being that is radically imperfect.

The key event in that life is not the fashioning of some proof of God’s existence but a conversion, like St. Paul’s on the road to Damascus, in which the scales fall from one’s eyes, everything visible becomes a sign of God’s love, and a new man (or woman), eager to tell and live out the good news, is born. “. . .

So to sum up, the epistemological critique of religion — it is an inferior way of knowing — is the flip side of a naïve and untenable positivism. And the critique of religion’s content — it’s cotton-candy fluff — is the product of incredible ignorance.

HT: Strange Herring, who also links to some other heavy-weight critics of the new atheists.

Another kind of God-talk in the public square

In the course of a discussion about that litigious atheist who is seeking to censor “In God We Trust” from the nation’s coins, Pastor Cwirla makes a fascinating point:

Newdow is that new breed of assertive atheist who doesn’t want to hear or see the G-word in public, especially at public expense.  Apparently putting the G-word on currency is the equivalent of state-sponsored religion, contrary to the 1st amendment, or so he argues.  I guess no one ever thought of that back in 1864.  To call this state sponsored religion is a bit like suggesting that a teenager who says “ohmygod” every other sentence is being very religious.  

If we are going to ban the mention of “God” and religious references from the public square, let’s enlist the ACLU and militant atheists in a crusade to ban profanity. (Scatology [bodily function words] and obscenity [words about things that should take place out of sight, “outside the scene,” such as sex talk] can, of course, remain.)

Taking God’s name in vain, curses that consign individuals or objects to eternal punishment, and the like are all primitive and atavistic, if you come to think of it. And the speech of unbelievers tends to be full of this supercharged religious language. Its persistence strikes me as an odd proof that the religious impulse is innate and cannot be gotten rid of.

This reminds me of Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor’s novel “Wise Blood” who is running away from God and so goes to morally degraded people and places and actions that he thinks are the farthest away from any kind of Christianity. But the bad language of his new companions–“Jesus Christ!”–cuts through him like a knife. Even in the depths of Sheol, He is there.

A new Tolkien book

J. R. R. Tolkien’s translation of the Norse saga The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun has just been released. Remember that before he was a fantasy writer, he was a scholar. His other translations of ancient and medieval literature, though, bear the mark of his imaginative genius.

This is the kind of tale that would be one of the inspirations for Middle Earth. It has a magic ring, a dragon, and battles galore. Also valkyries. It appears to be the Norse version of the German legend that Wagner drew on in his opera cycle, “The Ring of the Niebelungenlied.”

Buy it here:

HT: Wheatstone Forum