The bane of eisegesis

I first encountered the word eisegesis in Bible study. As a Christian who believes the Bible is the Word of God, it's important to know the meaning of what the Bible says. Eisegesis is a type of interpretation that allows the reader to view the text through a lens, usually bent to his prejudices. View anything through a lens, and it's distorted, changed from the original. Exegesis is the opposite, an attempt to find the text's true original meaning.

Eisegesis is the reason you hear nonsense like the Bible endorses socialism in Acts 2, or Jesus commands His followers to be pacifists in Matthew 5. These are instances of people seeing what they want to see in the text, rather than letting the text speak for itself. Not only is the eisegetical interpretation false, it holds zero binding power since it's entirely subjective. When you realize someone's interpretation of a text is eisegetical, that should be the end of your giving it any consideration.

Mark Twain said whatever your bugaboo, you will find it therein. People have powerful prejudices. They often don't realize they're reading something that isn't there.

Take, for example, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. It's taken for granted this was a racist act by the cop. This interpretation fits neatly into a perceived pattern of racism in America because the cop is white and Floyd was black. But without proof of racism these facts are incidental. What evidence is there that the cop acted the way he did because of racism? The reports are the cop knew the victim, that he had come under fire within the police department before. The text of the event doesn't directly refute the interpretation, but the interpretation doesn't logically flow from the text, either.

Critical theory is an area where eisegesis is actively encouraged. I took a semester of this in college and it was my least favorite class. We learned about different theories of critique, from feminism to queer theory to Freudian psychoanalysis to post-colonialism to structuralism to deconstructionism. There were others. We learned Edgar Allen Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" is actually about the narrator's homophobia and suppressed homosexual urges.

I didn't know it at the time, but that class could have done great harm. It taught me—or tried to teach me—there is no true meaning of a text per se, but a million interpretations from a million lenses I may look through. Even if I strived for objectivity, my lens would still determine what I saw. I could not rise above my upbringing, my psychology, my politics, the facts of my birth, etc. I was alone, and I had no way with words or reason to find someone to share something meaningful with.

If you accept that, really accept that the world can only be viewed through ideological and personal lenses, it will undermine your sanity and turn you into a hyper-individualized brute, more responsive to power than to reason. These days you don't need to look far to find antisocial behavior. How much is that due to the deliberate and unmitigated lensing of our shared reality into subjective experience? Quite a bit, I'd wager.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.

Challenge accepted

When Apollo 11 landed on the surface of the moon in 1969, the crew left behind Neil Armstrong’s iconic footprint, and also 96 bags of human waste. But no more. The Moon deserves better. To this end, NASA last week launched the “Lunar Loo Challenge,” imploring the citizens of Earth to design a toilet for use in its Artemis Program, whose lunar lander is scheduled to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. For the winners, there is a $35,000 prize pool that will be split between the three teams with the best designs, as decided by a panel of NASA engineers. The challenge also includes a junior competition where toilet engineers under the age of 18 can submit their designs.

I may be twice the age of the demographic this competition is geared towards, but, as the author of a book about a commercial expedition to colonize the Moon, I've given this some thought.

Let me begin by saying that 96 bags is an awful lot of human waste for two men to produce in barely a day. Such massive waste cannot be tolerated in future lunar operations if sustainability is the goal. Feces should be used to compost the lunar soil, and potable water should be distilled from urine.

The most dangerous part of space is the lack of atmosphere. It's the underlying threat that poses near-instantaneous death to astronauts. It's also an undervalued resource. When you expose a pressurized environment to vacuum, you turn an incremental drop in air pressure into kinetic energy. This energy can transport human waste to where it needs to be, much like flowing water carries human waste through a sewer.

If I were 17, my toilet design would take advantage of vacuum. It would be modeled after a flush toilet, use gravity to trap human waste, and have two settings: dry flush and water-assisted. The lid would be sealed after use, and the air trapped inside the bowl would be sucked, along with the waste, into another chamber. Filters would catch the waste, allowing water to pass through to be distilled. The air, separated by gravity from the water, would go to compost with the waste.

There's no reason to overthink this. Technically complex solutions to mundane problems like how to use the john collectively present a significant barrier to people's enthusiasm for space exploration. People will suffer much for a chance to thrive. They'll balk if the reward for years of toil is a joyless, artificial life experience totally disconnected from what they left behind on Earth.

Ultimately life on the Moon or in an off-world colony must be dynamic and full of spirit and zest. The technical architecture of life in pressurized habitats should reflect that, for the habitants' sake, on whom the colony depends for self-preservation and self-perpetuation. While regimen is a key operational factor, it must not come at life's expense.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. Be sure to browse the fine independent authors and creators in the blog roll. You'll find an extended preview of my Moon colonization book, Tendrils to the Moon, here.

An unlikely hero

In mad times, unlikely heroes emerge.

In a joint statement, Fisher, Davies and Jónsdóttir said that following Rowling’s recent intervention on transgender rights, they had asked the agency “to reaffirm their commitment to transgender rights and equality”. However, following private talks, they said: “We felt that they were unable to commit to any action that we thought was appropriate and meaningful.”

As a result, the writers felt unable to continue to be represented by the agency, adding: “Freedom of speech can only be upheld if the structural inequalities that hinder equal opportunities for underrepresented groups are challenged and changed.”

In its response, the Blair Partnership said it took pride in the diversity of views represented by their authors but it could not compromise on the “fundamental freedom” of allowing authors the right to express their thoughts and beliefs.

A spokeswoman said it would always champion diverse voices and believe in freedom of speech for all but it was not willing to have staff “re-educated” to meet the demands of a small group of clients.

So the four writers, one of whom remained anonymous, don't see the contradiction between compelling speech in support of a cause and freedom of speech? This pretzel logic is what comes of worldly ideologies that assert themselves as absolutes. They ultimately trump others' rights, including the right to speak against it, which is what Rowling did, effectively.

I must register my astonishment that a literary agency would characterize the writers' demands as Communist re-education. That kind of rhetoric is typically reserved for use by Right-wingers against mandated political correctness.

At any rate, good on Rowling and the Blair Partnership for standing up for what they believe in and protecting their employees. Some may bemoan the spat going public, the parting of ways, and the ripping up of contracts, but it's the optimal outcome in a liberal society, which is what this is supposed to be. This way, no one's conscience is violated and everyone walks away of his own free will.

Rowling may have "F-U" money a hundred times over, but we shouldn't discount a celebrity's attachment to adoration. That adoration, more or less constant for over 20 years, has turned to bullying since she spoke out. She's responded with bravery and class.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.

Tradpub vs libraries part 4

For context, here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

A practical tidbit from Brian Niemeier's Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You is to self-quarantine from the rat race of fandom, nostalgia, and corporate-owned IPs. You have other options. Partake of independently produced art from passionate, unaffiliated creators who don't have an axe to grind. Partake also of the unadulturated classics of the past, much of which are available in the public domain at sites like the Internet Archive.

The entertainment industry rightly sees the public domain as a threat to its existence, which is why you've seen the Internet Archive in the news so much the last few months. It's under attack.

MacMillan, currently being shopped to buyers by the ailing ViacomCBS, may have backed off its threats against the Internet Archive's emergency library in March, but that didn't stop Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin/Random House, and Wiley from suing to get it shut down. They scored a small victory. The emergency library was set to expire at the end of June, but under pressure from the publishers the Internet Archive shut it down 2 weeks early.

But the real ramifications of the publishers' lawsuit are pending.

The complaint attacks the concept of any library owning and lending digital books, challenging the very idea of what a library is in the digital world. This lawsuit stands in contrast to some academic publishers who initially expressed concerns about the NEL, but ultimately decided to work with us to provide access to people cut off from their physical schools and libraries. We hope that similar cooperation is possible here, and the publishers call off their costly assault.

The first 6 months of 2020 have produced two Black Swan events that exposed the expendability of modern entertainment and the entertainment industry's antagonistic sociocultural alignment. Expect their attacks on alternative media to increase as they stare down the barrel of consecutive years of negative growth.

I'll say it again, you have options. Visit the sites of the writers in the blog roll. Browse indie creators over at If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.

Insurgents at Hachette

JK Rowling as is close to a sure thing in publishing as it gets. The revenue her books generate for tradpub feeds hundreds of people across the entertainment industry. But that hasn't stopped woke insurgents at Hachette, feeling their oats after getting Woody Allen's autobiography cancelled, to turn their sights on her.

Yesterday morning at publishing house Hachette, several of those involved in Miss Rowling’s new children’s book, The Ickabog, are said to have staged their own rebellion during a heated meeting. One source said: ‘Staff in the children’s department at Hachette announced they were no longer prepared to work on the book.

‘They said they were opposed to her comments and wanted to show support for the trans lobby. These staff are all very “woke”, mainly in their twenties and early thirties, and apparently it is an issue they feel very strongly about.’

It also really burns your stomach lining when someone you thought for sure was on your side turns out to not be.

Say what you want about Rowling ret-conning Albus Dumbledore into some sort of gay icon. Her comments on the transgender movement's bending of reality to conform to its vision were the sanest thing I've heard her say in years.

Hachette issued a statement that, while hypocritical, is nonetheless refreshing in today's political climate:

Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of publishing. We fundamentally believe that everyone has the right to express their own thoughts and beliefs. That’s why we never comment on our authors’ personal views and we respect our employees’ right to hold a different view.

At least someone's saying it.

Who knows what motivated Hachette to stand up for Rowling. My guess is she's simply too important to their bottom line to let go. It's a wonder that Rowling, an institution in her own right, would put up with this nonsense. She doesn't need Hachette to sell millions of books. Her name finishes the sale.

For the insurgents at Hachette, this is an opportunity for reflection. How many, when put to it, would pass an ideological purity test? How many have never compromised with society? How many have never uttered a word of doubt about a beloved cause? Knowing how few in number such people are, they cannot maintain the fiction of their ascendancy.

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Inevitably cultural revolutions die out when they turn cannibalistic. Once the Red Guard started killing party hacks too close to Mao, it began to wane.

Once cultural revolutions turn anarchic and eat their own, they lose support. When quiet sympathizers conclude that they too may targeted, to survive they turn on their former icons.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.

Exclusivity in chess

I love Antonio Radic's breakdowns of professional chess games, and I don't even play chess. He devotes most of this 14-minute video to posing a question about the efficacy of a chess tournament hosted on Twitch to promote chess.

It comes as no surprise Radic himself and the majority of YouTube commenters think the PogChamps chess tournament is a good thing because they think anything to promote chess is a good thing. Chess brings them joy and they think it will bring joy to others. There's a sense of validation in seeing your pastime increase in popularity.

The man who thinks PogChamps is bad for chess seems to take his minority stance as a given and goes full curmudgeon. In the process, he gives short shrift to a straightforward, reasonable argument. For the crux of the matter is this: Is outreach to grow membership in your club a worthy endeavor?

If you answer in the affirmative, you are assuming:

  1. There are people who have not heard of chess who would love it.
  2. "Chess," or the chess community, will be enriched by letting in more people who were not willing come on their own.

Both these assumptions are specious, and as a matter of principle they should be rejected. There are very few people in the world who have not seen a game of chess. Going out and finding them is a quixotic endeavor. As for the second point, history shows that absorbing and catering to newbs weakens a community's distinct culture and cohesion. Your ranks will swell, but cultural bonds will weaken.

Someone who is willing to join a community on the community's terms, to learn, to be silent and listen, that is the kind of person chess—or any club—should want. They're the kind of people who will form the next generation of leaders. But you don't find them with outreach programs. You find them by steadfastly being who you are.

Counterintuitively, the best way to grow your club, as it is, is to embrace it as it is, with its present makeup. It's okay if that turns some people away. Clubs wouldn't be clubs if they weren't inherently exclusive.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.

Disarm and disengage

I finally got around to reading Brian Niemaier's Don't Give Money to People Who Hate You. Congratulations are due to Brian, who couldn't have timed this book's release any better.

Watching every IP I grew up with be systematically subverted and weaponized against me is a unique right of passage for young men in my age bracket. The biggest and best example is Star Wars, which Brian cites often. The MCU and Disney's other properties also come in for their fair share of criticism. There are so many more examples, it's inevitable a book addressing such an encompassing issue would feel incomplete.

This problem goes well beyond corporate-owned IPs. It's a good bet that most big-time authors, actors, and athletes you follow stand opposed to the values you embody in your life, whether those values be morality, minimally invasive government, the right to own guns, etc. Managers of most billion-dollar companies subscribe to the post-war liberal consensus. Among this group, guilt for Western Civilization runs through a positive feedback loop, spiraling towards quasi-religious displays of fealty to the latest fad.

Brian, ever the rhetorician, calls it the Death Cult. Looking at its fruits in the secular world, I can't argue with that term.

We have never needed the core message of this book more than now. If the last 2 weeks haven't put you on a war footing, I don't know what will. The culture war is heating up, and it will take strong faith and discipline to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming a victim of it.

As the book's title says, don't give money to people who hate you. But don't let your actions stop there. The world's venom only has as much power over you as you give it time and attention. Disarm it and disengage. Trade with people who don't have an axe to grind. Confront the enemy where he can be beaten, not on social media, but right in front of you. And don't forget your best tool in defense of the truth, the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments. If you like hard sci-fi, check out my books Seeds of Calamity and Tendrils to the Moon. You can find extended previews for each here and here.