Question and Answers from Across the World!

This starts as a reference to an ongoing discussion, but then veers into other areas, so I place it here as its own topic.

A reader named Gonzalo writes:

well, there is another option. Let’s say there was 1 stall , by lady A.
Lady A had B,C,D,E,…,etc followers.
Then one day A dies. Her books are split between the students and they all fight over who is the true disciple.
Everyone goes and put a stall under their teacher A. Since they are not the same, people call them stall B,C,D,E.
After some time, E convince people to call her A by using A stall. Then she even changes her name to A.
b,c,d,….,etc. claim the new A is not lady A but E who changed her name and stole the books and stall of her teacher.
Problem is, almost all of them claim to be the true successor of the first A.
You say that since E did not change the content of the books too much, has the right to say she is the new A.
I don’t think the problem has an answer since we don’t know the will of former A.
there are at least 3 cases:
1) one or more of them are true disciples.
2) None of them has the right to call himself A, or even disciple of A.
They are deceiving themselves. The church died with the former A.
3) Lady A was lying all along. Even her books are a lie.
Well, even if the church is fake, some of the books might still be true.
There’s plenty of people who lie with the truth. (the words are true, but their intention is not what they show).

off-topic: I’m really happy to have found your site. Is amazing how internet can reach out so far.
I liked your golden age trilogy.
I want to be a computer engineer, and kinda based my choice of career on your view of that world.
I believe internet and computer science could be the key to a better future.
Loved the concept of a temporal common mind , originated from mankind and AI’s as a way to solve hard problems (well, other authors thought it before, but i liked your version of it).
Even if it’s not completely possible, it was interesting.
are you writing a new book ? If the answer is yes, will it be about scifi ? or will your write something else ? :O
Your last posts have been all about religion and politics.
one thing I’ve missed is your view on war. To us(other countries), you guys(USA) seem to love war a little too much. One thing is defend yourself, but to go attack other countries is….
And jails with torture like Guantanamo don’t really help your case.
(the whole humanitarian and democratic country facade seems… fake.)
I see a huge conflict between a war bringer country and their christian religion. The first command was to not kill. It does not make sense to be christian and kill. Is this a lie ?
Will you write about science, ethic and other kind of topics ?
I would love to read your thoughts on genetic manipulation, and the potential creation of an AI.
do we have the right to play god ? if we tamper with our DNA, will we still be humans ?
Hope you keep writing from time to time… bye, and thanks a lot for your work. It’s nice to read a good book.

Let me answer this one point at a time.

“Problem is, almost all of them claim to be the true successor of the first A.”

Ah, but your little story leaves out something my little story left in.

Are the claims being made by all the claimants the same? Let us suppose that one claimant called A says, “I am the true heir because I can show a chain of title from (1) Peter, (2) Linus, (3) Anencletus (4) Clement, (5) Evarestus, (6) Alexander, (7) Sixtus, (8) Telesophorus …” and rattles off his genealogy like a Hobbit. The other claimant says, “At some unspecified point, the ideas in the book left by the decedent and the ideas taught by the other claimant show a discontinuity, nay, a betrayal, so that claimant is not the true heir.”

Even if we take claimant B’s claim in the best possible light, that claimant called B has not established several things: first, that the heirs have no right to develop (or corrupt) the ideas; second that attempting to develop (or corrupt) the ideas cuts the heir out of the will; third, he has not established at what point the line of title became corrupt; fourth and most importantly, he has not established why the legacy should or would fall to him.

Even if we believe that Luther was correct, and the Council of Trent was not a legal and legitimate Church Council, nay, even if we believe that the Antichrist took over the Western Church and possessed the body of Julius II — let us assume all this. The Western Church is legally and utterly dissolved, illegitimate, and gone. Even with all this, what gives Luther the right to found a new Church, and re-edit the Bible, declaring some books canonical and others apocryphal? Is he not arrogating to himself the office of the Pope, or the College of Cardinals, or even Christ Himself?

Speaking just as a lawyer now, if Luther, or claimant B, does indeed prove that claimant A forfeits his right to be the heir due to mismanagement and malfeasance and treason against his commission, et cetera — then the next heir in line for the throne is the Metropolitan Archbishop of Byzantium, or Antioch, or Jerusalem, or Alexandria. You see my point? If Luther proves the main point of dispute between the East and West in AD 1000 that the Bishop of Rome is not the Chief of the Church, then all this means, legally speaking, is that Luther now owes he obedience and fealty to the Orthodox Churches of the East. They at least can claim an apostolic succession.

If claimant B claims more dramatically that there is no succession, no heir, no pope, no leader of the Church, and indeed no church, he can claim that Christ intended to create something more like a prayer meeting and Bible study society — a group of layman who elect a pastor, but without sacraments, without hierarchy, without priests, without apostles, and so on. The main difficulty with this more radical claim is that it logically undermine itself. If there is no church, then one cannot claim to be the one true and surviving heir carrying it on.

“Well, even if the church is fake, some of the books might still be true.”

I am afraid I cannot imagine such a thing. Or rather, once the witness has been impeached, everything she says has to be greeted with skepticism. And my whole argument rests on the fact that she is the only witness to ask. The book she offers was written by her and contains what is little more than her lecture notes, her memorandum to herself of things she and she alone remembers.

I put it to you this way. Once we reject, say, Second Maccabees or the Book of Tobit as a lie told by the dishonest witness, which is the easier and better model of the world, the more elegant explanations: theory one – the liar lies about it all; theory two – the liar lied about the scene in Maccabees where God shows it is okay to pray for the dead as Catholics do, but the liar did not lie about A MAN BORN OF A VIRGIN COMING BACK FROM THE DEAD and floating into heaven. Er, after claiming to be God.

Once we grant that the lady lies about a trivial thing, easy to believe, like prayers for the dead, why to we believe that the liar is telling the truth about the thing that is so much harder to believe that only a supernatural power can make any man believe it, namely, that a man can be divine and rise from the grave and you can too?

“I liked your golden age trilogy.”

Why, thank you very much! I hope you seeing the dark side of me here on the internet will not put you off buying some other offering of mine in the future.

are you writing a new book ? If the answer is yes, will it be about scifi ? or will your write something else ?

Two books, or, rather two series. One is called CONCUBINE VECTOR, and the continuation of COUNT TO A TRILLION. The other is called SOMEWHITHER. The first is space opera, about two men who keep forcing themselves into larger and ever larger steps of intelligence augmentation, first biological and then cybernetic and then by download into world-sized brains, and then gas giant sized brains and then into large scale housings, in order to save or destroy the universe and win the girl. The second is sideways in time travel fantasy which I call my Anti-Dan Brown book, where the assassins of Opus Dei or the Knights Templar or whatever have the secret of paratime, and are trying to organize a coalition of alternate versions of the Roman Catholic Church against the one timeline where the Tower of Babel never fell, and the sons of Nimrod, and the giants not wiped out by the Deluge, cannot be stopped in anything they do. As an homage both to HIGHLANDER and A PRINCESS OF MARS your friendly author decided to make his hero just out-and-out unkillable. Fight scenes are easier to choreograph that way.

one thing I’ve missed is your view on war.

I am a hawk. After 9/11, the war is completely morally justified. Merely because the enemy fights out of uniform and hides behind civilians does not suddenly make it immoral or wrong to prosecute the war in the most prudent way possible.

To us(other countries), you guys(USA) seem to love war a little too much.

With all due respect, I believe the opposite. The main thing wrong with America is that we love war too little. We are very, very reluctant to go to war, we wait and wait until someone attacks us at Pearl Harbor or Manhattan Island, or until some small country we promised to defend is invaded, and then we fight so tentatively, with such an overwhelming regard for the lives of civilians and collateral damage that we double and triple the costs and losses of lives, theirs and ours, and embolden our foes.

One thing is defend yourself, but to go attack other countries is….

I am not sure to what this refers. There is no country which we have attacked where we struck first. A nation that harbors, aids and supplies an enemy who commits an act of war is a legitimate target. A nation that invades a neighbor we are obligated by treaty to defend, whom we defend, who sues for an armistice whose terms he then breaks is clearly the aggressor, not the victim. This is so even if the armistice is a long one. Even shooting down a single American plane is casus beli. Are you familiar with the laws of war?

And jails with torture like Guantanamo don’t really help your case.

While persons whose opinions I respect have said they have seen evidence that torture actually took place is convincing, what little evidence I have seen is the opposite. Unfortunately, even if the accusation of torture are true (and I do not as yet believe they are), the accusations have been made in precisely the way every radical propaganda machine spreads lies.

I am not saying there is no wolf. I am saying the boy who cries wolf has earned my distrust, and I have not seen the wolf myself.

That said, were it proved that the accusation is true, I would condemn it as monstrous and utterly morally evil. Torture is never justified.

So, if you were to say “spokesmen on the Right who make arguments in favor of torture hurt your cause” I would completely agree. That sounds like an admission that such torture has taken place, and that we have abandoned our civilization and our humanity.

(the whole humanitarian and democratic country facade seems… fake.)

I am not sure to what this refers. Are you claiming that America is neither a democracy nor offers more humanitarian aid than all the countries in Europe combined? Or are you claiming that the brave but vain attempt to establish a democracy in the Middle East for humanitarian reason is a mask to cover some more sinister purpose?

If so, it sounds like you listen to propaganda of the worst sort. If you believe such things, you are gullible. My advice to you, if I may be a little sharp with you, is that you learn to practice skepticism, and to question authority, particularly the lazy authority of received popular opinion. Look into the matter yourself, trusting no one source. Do not let emotion or sentimentality cloud your faculty of logical reasoning. Think.

I see a huge conflict between a war bringer country and their christian religion.

Allow me a moment of satire: To what war bringer country does this refer, my dear sir?

Was there some country of which I am unaware that threw two buildings into some innocent planes highjacked by terrorists who were happily minding their own business? Or was there a country that did not train, equip, and send out their soldiers in an act of war, harboring them afterward? Or a country that kept to the terms of her armistice and did not invade her neighbor, our ally?

More seriously, while my nation never has had and never will have an established religion, my national culture was once a Christian one, established for the express purpose of securing religious liberty, escaping the wars and civil wars and intolerance of the Old World. We have lost that since the 1960’s and are now a culture which is mildly secularist and mildly hostile to Christianity in general and Catholics in particular, and is sliding rapidly and awkwardly into the posture of an militantly and aggressively secularist and antichristian culture.

If you think America is immoral now, just wait until the last shred of Christian humility, decency and scruple and hesitation about using our wealth and power to force the world to worship the Moloch of abortion, the Ganymede of sexual abomination, and the Mammon of lucre has snapped like a broken chain and vanishes.  The beast will be unleashed. It will not be some halfway decent empire like the British or the Spanish, or even a healthy pagan empire like the Roman. It will be a nation of Nietzsches, worshipers of power, contemptuous of the weak. And we won’t govern as well as the Romans, or Spanish, or British, who at least had a healthy respect for family, religion, law and order.

On the bright side, such an Imperial America will go broke very quickly, since to manage finances requires a control of the appetites and a political self discipline. On the dark side, if America goes broke, the most likely power to assume world hegemony will be the Chinese, who, since World War Two, have been among the most cruel and ruthless gangsters on the planet. They have already prepared the ground, and have won many loyal hearts in the primitive and poor peoples of the world.

The first command was to not kill. It does not make sense to be christian and kill. Is this a lie ?

Let me ask Saint James the Great Matamoros the Moor-slayer and get back to you on that one.
Or Saint George.
Or Saint Constantine.
Or Saint Louis.
Or we can ask the patriarchs Abraham and Joshua or the Judges Gideon and Sampson or the Kings Saul and David. And Michael the Archangel. And the angel that passed over the hosts of Sennacherib.

Or (drawing a deep breath) Acacius of Byzantium, Adrian of Nicomedia, Saint Alfred the Great, Saint Crescentinus, Saint Demetrius of Thessalonica, Saint Eustace, Saint Florian, Saint Géréon of Cologne, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Longinus, Saint Joan of Arc, Saints John and Saint Paul, Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary, Saint Marcellus the Centurion, Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Maurice , Saint Mercurius, Saint Michael, Saint Menas, Saint Nuno Álvares Pereira, Saint Orestes , Saint Sebastian, Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Saint Terence of Pesaro, Saint Theodore of Amasea, Saint Theodore the General, Saint Typasius, Saint Victor, Saint William, and the Four Holy Marshals, namely Saint Quirinus of Neuss, Saint Hubertus, Saint Cornelius and Saint Anthony the Great. (whew).

If my point is too subtle, all these saints are either soldiers or patrons of soldiers.

The flip answer is that if God teaches pacifism, He has done a remarkably poor job of explaining His message to Abraham and Moses and the Patriarchs and Prophets and to Christ and His disciples and saints and apostles.

Let me answer more seriously: the first command is not to do murder. God does not forbid slaying either in self defense nor in the corporate self defense called war.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 2302-2317, authoritatively teaches what constitutes a just war. By authoritatively, I mean Catholics are morally obligated to believe it. Non-Catholics can be anti-war pacifists without violating their consciences; but I am a Catholic.

“1. the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

2. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

3. there must be serious prospects of success;

4. the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition”.

I believe that Desert Storm more than has satisfied these conditions, most particularly point two. I seriously doubt a campaign of aerial bombardment by itself would satisfy the Just War requirements, for the reason mentioned in point four.

I also believe that every war since World War Two in which American has participated has been unlawful, even thought it would have been just had it been lawful, for the simple reason that the Constitution provides that Congress shall declare war, and has never done so.

Will you write about science, ethic and other kind of topics ?

I have in the past and doubtless shall do so again. I fear you will find my opinions both tedious and predictable. I am however, excited immensely by recent developments in private space flight, and in the discovery (assuming the signs are right) of the Higgs Boson.

I would love to read your thoughts on genetic manipulation, and the potential creation of an AI. Do we have the right to play god ? If we tamper with our DNA, will we still be humans?

In a way, this is what my latest book is about.

I would certainly be willing to bore you with my opinions on the topic, time permitting. The short answer is that we are made in the image and likeness of God, which I take to mean a spiritual image, that is, a creature with intelligence, free will and a moral sense. If we create a slave race of creatures without a moral sense or without free will, surely this defaces and desecrates that image. If we create a race with that image, then we are not making slaves but fathering children, and we would have the duties of parents toward them. No science fiction story I have ever read treats any artificial being, either genetic chimera or artificial intelligence, using the moral category of a parental duty toward a child. They all treat child-races like slaves or tools, or, in David Brin’s excellent Uplift series, like indentured servants.