Friday, April 29, 2011

The War on Dairy

From the Washington Times, via the Freeman:

A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area. The product in question: unpasteurized milk. It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
A sting operation. To stop whom? The Amish. From doing what? Selling milk.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another Keynes vs. Hayek video

Here's a sequel to the first Keynes vs. Hayek rap anthem.

(Here's the link:

These guys are good; I don't care what this guy says.

Finally, a hermeneutic I can get into

Thanks to Mockingbird for pointing out this wonderful article by Timothy Beal, though I have serious problems with the interpretation they give. (In particular, I've found that Mockingbird presents a pretty distorted view of reality by relentlessly filtering it through the "law" and "gospel" dichotomy. Because of this, I also think their critique of Beal falls flat.)

This article seems to have been written just for me:
For many potential Bible readers, that expectation that the Bible is univocal is paralyzing. You notice what seem to be contradictions or tensions between different voices in the text. You can't find an obvious way to reconcile them. You figure that it must be your problem. You don't know how to read it correctly, or you're missing something. If the Bible is God's perfect, infallible Word, then any misunderstanding or ambiguity must be the result of our own depravity. So you either give up or let someone holier than thou tell you "what it really says." I think that's tragic. You're letting someone else impoverish it for you, when in fact you have just brushed up against the rich polyvocality of biblical literature.

In the midst of many discussions in which I feel sandwiched between the strident claims of atheists and the overly conservative claims of evangelical Christians, it's nice to hear someone say, as Beal puts so well,
Bible debunkers and Bible defenders are kindred spirits. They agree that the Bible is on trial. They agree on the terms of the debate, and what's at stake, namely the Bible's credibility as God's infallible book. They agree that Christianity stands or falls, triumphs or fails, depending on whether the Bible is found to be inconsistent, to contradict itself. The question for both sides is whether it fails to answer questions, from the most trivial to the ultimate, consistently and reliably.

But you can't fail at something you're not trying to do. To ask whether the Bible fails to give consistent answers or be of one voice with itself presumes that it was built to do so. That's a false presumption, rooted no doubt in thinking of it as the book that God wrote. On the contrary, biblical literature is constantly interpreting, interrogating, and disagreeing with itself. Virtually nothing is asserted someplace that is not called into question or undermined elsewhere. Ultimately it resists conclusion and explodes any desire we might have for univocality.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pragmatism and compassion: a pro-life perspective

Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones has this to say about the ongoing abortion debate:
There is, of course, no logical reason why women who get abortions shouldn't be prosecuted for feticide if abortion really is murder. And they probably will be, too, if Roe v. Wade ever gets overturned, as LaBruzzo and his allies hope. After all, LaBruzzo has merely said a little more bluntly what lots of other anti-abortion have previously said more circumspectly: the only reason to exempt women from prosecution is that it would be hard to pass a bill that didn't. It's not that they don't think these women are murderers who ought to be in prison. They do. They just don't quite have the votes to make that stick yet.
I'm not sure if he's right on either point, but he could be. That's part of what makes the abortion debate weird for me. I don't think my position on the issue is especially "conservative," in the traditional sense, yet that's how the issue seems to line up in mainstream American politics. Sometimes these alignments get a little incomprehensible to me.

From my perspective, of course it makes sense not to prosecute women for having abortions, for the simple reason that both women and children are the victims. I think it was Frederica Mathewes Green who said something like, "A woman doesn't want an abortion likes she wants a car or an ice cream cone. A woman wants an abortion like an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg." And we can extend that metaphor fairly plausibly. If you see starving people resorting to cannibalism, do you prosecute them for it? Maybe there's actually something wrong with us, who let life go by without taking care of such desperate people.

It makes sense to me to prosecute abortionists, i.e. the doctors who perform abortions, who with full knowledge of the facts break the first rule of medicine: do no harm. They ought to endure the responsibility of providing a false solution to a hard problem. And while I am well aware that many women have abortions despite having full knowledge of the facts and despite having the means to choose otherwise, it would still make sense to determine laws based on the all too widespread disadvantages women have been given in this society.

The fundamental principle at work here is that laws are meant to protect the vulnerable. If both women and their unborn children are vulnerable members of society, then it is not inconsistent to suggest alternatives to holding women directly responsible for seeking abortions. And if this happens to be pragmatic, so much the better. My goal is to see more people live, not to achieve perfect abstract consistency in legislation.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A foundationalist moral philosophy?

Blogger Matt Zwolinski over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians has an article on how our emotions cloud our moral judgments. He writes specifically concerning the libertarian belief in open immigration. I appreciate his argument, since I'm inclined to favor his conclusions. But ultimately, I wonder about the merits of moral foundationalism, by which I mean the belief that all moral truth can be expressed in the form of consistent abstract propositions.

For instance, Zwolinksi uses this argument against critics of open immigration: "If we are justified in using men with guns to stop poor people from crossing the border, are we justified in using them to stop poor people from having children as well?" The argument being made is that both immigrants and newborn children fall under the same abstract principle: people should be free to live wherever they wish, so long as they do not infringe on the basic rights of others. Our sense of repugnance, Zwolinski argues, clouds our minds from seeing the same abstract principle at work in both cases, and thus we come to the wrong moral conclusion.

Another example he uses, perhaps just as provocatively, is an argument by Janet Radcliffe-Richards in favor of permitting people to sell their organs. If all people have the right to their own bodies to use as their own property, why should that not apply to organ sales? He applies the same reasoning to a string of other controversial issues: "Much the same, I suspect, could be said about objections to the legalization of certain drugs, for the repeal of laws against price gouging, for the toleration of sweatshop labor, and so on."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Meditation

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father to and to your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18
This passage has made me cry, at least in recent years, every time I read it. As we heard this morning, it really is the most tender moment in all of the Bible: a woman restored to intimacy with the one man who gave her identity in a cruel world. In all of the gospel accounts, it is the women who see Jesus risen first. John makes this particular woman, Mary Magdalene, the first witness of the resurrection. Here is the woman who was once possessed by seven demons; Mary, who anointed Jesus' feet with costly perfume and wiped them with her hair. Gross speculation here probably causes us to shy away from the beautiful fact that Mary's love for Jesus was passionate and expressive. Here she is now at the tomb, crying alone, stooping in for another desperate look at the empty tomb. Here she is now, clutching onto Jesus so tightly that he has to say to her, "Do not hold on to me."

It seems in many ways crucial to this passage that Mary is a woman. Only a woman can have the same love for Christ which the church ought to have for him. The Lord has found his bride. Her tears are the manifestation of a fully realized faith, one which outshines the implicit rationalism of the male disciples--"for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead." The disciples returned home because they dismissed what they could not understand, leaving the hysterical woman to grieve alone. But Mary could not leave, not because she had some secret knowledge, but only because her heart burned within her. Love held her there, love which prefers the bitter agony of tears to the quiet contentment of reason. Surely she could not bring her beloved Jesus back with tears; but love needs no such justification.

Mary here represents faith; the male disciples represent skepticism. Indeed, in just a few more lines we read that Thomas will not believe "unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side." What is faith, then? Faith is a woman clinging to the man she thought she had lost forever. Faith is a vulnerable woman with no status or credibility announcing to the world of men, "I have seen the Lord." Faith is the epistemology of grace, which finds that which is worth knowing without earning it. Faith is the epistemology of love, which refuses to give up seeking the heart's desire. Skepticism, by contrast, is the approach of the powerful, the method of men who have status and credibility, the belief that righteous men have wisdom and foolish women don't. It is an epistemology which has no tears, but only resignation: we can only accept what is proven, and perhaps what is proven will never come.

Christian faith, then, is a feminine epistemology. The church is the bride of Christ. In her purest form, she has no status, no credibility, no presumption; she has only tears and a broken heart, followed by the beautiful sound of her master's voice. "Mary." That is the word which changes everything. The adulteress has been restored to her husband. Zion has been vindicated. A new creation has begun.

Christ does not denounce the skeptics; he calls them "my brothers." Christ, the Lord of the universe, calls men his brothers. Go to them, he says. Tell them what you have seen and heard. They are my brothers. It does not matter, as Matthew reports and as John elaborates in the story of Thomas, that "some doubted." They, too, are his bride, though "as yet they did not understand."

It is not for any of us to say which role we actually play in this story. Some of us are really skeptics even though we fancy ourselves faithful. Some of us are blindly faithful though we believe ourselves to be utter skeptics. Some of us look down on others for being too proud of their reason, and some of us look down on others for not having intelligence. In different relationships, the weak may become the powerful, or the powerful become the weak. We cannot identify ourselves as permanently fixed in an unchanging power structure. Perhaps, then, we can and we should identify with both the masculine and feminine, the skeptic and the faithful, in this passage. But the point is this: we all have a place in the story of Christ remaking the world, and that story is beyond human control. It is a story told first by those who were thought least deserving. I suppose that no matter how many times I hear it, I will never find it a simple matter to believe; but that is simply because I have not yet attained the wisdom of Mary's tears.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More on health care and bureaucracy

Dr. Donald P. Condit writes in The Detroit News:
The sugar-coated rhetoric from HHS cannot disguise the bad medicine in this part of the Affordable Care Act, which intends to bureaucratically cut as much as $960 million in Medicare spending over three years. This Obamacare prescription threatens patients, the physicians who care for them, and the common good.

The only clear winners are the consultants and lawyers busy trying to decipher this 429-page tome.

Medicare beneficiaries will be "assigned" to 5,000 patient-minimum organizations to coordinate their care. While HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius talks about improvement in care, the politically poisonous truth is that Medicare is going broke and ACOs are designed to save money.

The words "rationing" or "treatment denial" or "withholding care" are not part of her press release, but reading the regulations reveals intentions to "share savings" with those who fulfill, or "penalize" others who fall short of, the administration's objectives. The administration's talking points include politically palatable words that emphasize quality improvement and care enhancement when the real objective is cost control by a utilitarian calculus.
Read the rest here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Markets and Rationing

I just can't accept Andrew Sullivan's argument concerning rationing: "At some point, then, we have to ration." Rationing is something done by an arbitrator of some kind. This means the arbitrator himself apportions the resources; the amount you get depends finally on the arbitrator.

Markets simply don't ration. To speak that way is nothing other than a modern form of animism, attributing personality to something which is impersonal and abstract. Metaphors like "hidden death panels" are particularly insidious, since they to make equivalent two things which are decidedly opposite one another: markets governed by the rule of law and rationing governed by a bureaucracy. Perhaps Hayek was right when, particularly in The Fatal Conceit, he argued that the human tendency toward animism is an ever-present obstacle to perfecting the free society. This tendency, it seems, is as vibrant among the intelligentsia as it is among the average person.

As rationalists we tend to act as if the choice is between smart, benevolent people doing their best to give everyone a fair share and a cold, impersonal system which amounts to nothing more than "survival of the fittest." This dichotomy is built on the presumption that our reason is sufficient to solve the economic problem of scarcity. Completely ignored is the problem of information. We tend to think that all the knowledge needed to run things is theoretical. In the health care debate, people talk as if the only thing we need to do is more research in laboratories to try to make health care technology even better. This is not the case. The health care problem is the same as any other economic problem: trying to match the needs of consumers with the resources available. This problem is what I call a higher-order problem, in that no one human mind or even team of minds can solve it (not even in theory, I would argue). This is a consequence of the fact that there does not exist a complete list of values by which to match resources to individuals.

Thus we would like to have a mechanism by which to allow some spontaneous order, which tends to match consumers to their needs while overcoming the problem of information. This is what a free market does. It is a decentralized solution; no arbitrator need make any decisions about who gets what. The only need for government is to make sure everyone follows the rules of the game (which is certainly not always the case today!) and perhaps to provide a uniform base level of insurance to all participants (provided the resources exist). A base level insurance, in the case of health care, could be some sort of catastrophe insurance, or perhaps a certain dollar amount which may be spent on medical treatment. Nothing like the plan which exists today, which gives the government ever more increasing power over which kinds of health insurance options we have, could possibly be called a free market solution.

I don't know whether free markets are the best at solving problems the way we wish them to be solved. However, I also understand that the way we wish a certain problem to be solved now is necessarily based on the knowledge which we currently possess, and there is no reason to suppose that this knowledge is really sufficient to make long-term decisions about how the economic problem of health care will be solved. What we need, rather, is a solution which is itself dynamic, which can grow and adjust to coming changes, which will naturally adapt itself to changing and perhaps unknown needs. This is something only free markets can do.

It isn't a matter of "trusting" free markets, to return to my original theme. It is a matter of understanding them. Any talk about "market rationing" is simply a philosophical and/or scientific misunderstanding, and it obscures right thinking about economics. True, we may prefer to trust governments to ration rather than allowing markets to provide spontaneous order. And true, we may after all believe that governments have enough information to properly distribute health care to individuals. But that is a choice based on a remarkable amount of faith, of which I for one am skeptical.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Privatizing health care

I've been reading Tyler Cowen on Medicare, as well as some of the responses to him. Ezra Klein's recent response is especially effective:
Tyler Cowen and Matt Yglesias are going back and forth on the appeal of converting Medicare into a straight cash grant. This isn’t the Ryan plan they’re talking about. They mean handing seniors cash. As Matt writes, “If grandma wants to spend that money at the hospital, good for her. If she wants to spend it on heroin or a television, then that’s good for her, too.” Cowen concurs. “What would terrify the left,” he says, “is the likelihood that genuine privatized cash would actually win that competition.”

This has a lot of wonkish allure, particularly if you think, as I do and Matt does and Tyler does, that medical care is overvalued. But it misses the problem that leads to universal health-insurance systems: As a society, we are not willing to let people die painfully in the street, even if they have previously made decisions that would lead to that outcome. In reality, what terrifies all of us is what happens after someone takes the cash and then gets sick.
That's really it. And it's why I really waver on this issue. I believe in the absolute value of human life--one human life is not more valuable than another. But reality doesn't give us the option to put that into practice: preserving lives always comes at a cost, some lives more than others. Discerning the most life-affirming health care system (or economic system more generally) is tricky precisely because we don't know what it means to affirm the value of life in a world that generally isn't conducive to immortality.

But I still hesitate to accept Klein's conclusion, because I think there is a legitimate slippery slope argument to be made. If we're unwilling to hold individuals responsible for their decisions about health care, why are we willing to hold them responsible for other economic choices, like what food to buy or what career path to take? Since both of these choices really do affect long-run health, it seems only natural that a society determined to guarantee a certain quality of health care would eventually force its will in these common affairs, as well. After all, this may be the only way we know to lower health care costs while preserving health care entitlements.

To me the argument isn't solely about individual liberty, nor is it just about compassion. It's also about how we learn as a society. A society that respects free individual behavior doesn't necessarily do so because it thinks all people are entitled to be left alone, but rather because it favors experimentation and spontaneous innovation. Personal responsibility creates that sense of necessity which is the mother of invention. Who knows what kind of creative health care solutions people will come up with if they're free to use their money however they wish?

Such freedom comes at a cost, of course, but it is a cost we can measure. The problem with the alternative--individual mandates in health care--is that we can't measure the cost. We simply don't know what new ideas might have been discovered in a free system. In the long run, I would argue, what we don't know yet is more valuable than what we do know. This, to me, is the best argument for a free, privatized health care system.

On the other hand, I don't mind if we continue to waffle on the issue; being "too compassionate" is not such a heinous crime, after all.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Uncle Sam is a pervert

It's bad enough that our 4th amendment rights have been totally violated. Turns out little girls are being violated, too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Evangelicals and doctrine

I've been thinking a lot about the issue Kevin Vanhoozer attempted to address at his recent talk here in Charlottesville. The issue is simple: why aren't Christians interested in doctrine anymore? Vanhoozer cited some study (by a "secular author," which, I suppose, was meant to indicate there was no bias in it) showing that in the past 50 years or something churches in America have gradually abandoned talk about doctrine. I suppose what they've replaced it with varies from church to church; some devote themselves to programs and activism, others to emotionalism and/or spiritual self-expression, while other churches become mere social clubs. But as Vanhoozer points out, all practice is based on some sort of doctrine. You can only abandon talking about doctrine if you've decided that there really are no doctrinal problems to be worked out, and that everything you implicitly believe about the world is basically right. Thus most teenagers who are involved in religious life, though they are unable to verbalize it, really subscribe to a "moralistic therapeutic deism" rather than authentic Christianity.

I suppose I'll grant Vanhoozer and others the basic premise, that doctrine isn't as popular these days as it should be. But I find that the explanation for this state of affairs is far too simplistic. Personally, I find obstacles to real doctrinal discussion at every turn. I thought I'd try to list all the obstacles I can think of which cannot be reduced down to a common cause; they are fundamentally distinct, yet all play an important role.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Walk for Life fundraising update

My ChipIn page hasn't really made waves in the past few days, but nevertheless, I'm actually doing pretty well. Thanks to the amazing generosity from some folks in the choir at Trinity Presbyterian and several of my family members, I'm up to $370, including the ChipIn donations.

If you'd like to sponsor me and help support babies and mommies, consider a donation.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Origen on justice and goodness

Origen, in refuting the heretics who separate the God of the Old Testament from the God of the New Testament, and thus separate justice and goodness accordingly, seems to rather make the issue of biblical interpretation more difficult, rather than less:
Now I think they must, in the first place, be required to show, if they can, agreeably to their own definition, that the Creator is just in punishing according to their deserts, either those who perished at the time of the deluge, or the inhabitants of Sodom, or those who had quitted Egypt, seeing we sometimes behold committed crimes more wicked and detestable than those for which the above-mentioned persons were destroyed, while we do not yet see every sinner paying the penalty of his misdeeds. Will they say that He who at one time was just has been made good? Or will they rather be of opinion that He is even now just, but is patiently enduring human offences, while that then He was not even just, inasmuch as He exterminated innocent and sucking children along with cruel and ungodly giants?
If I didn't know any better, I'd almost say this was an atheist responding. It would be one thing, after all, if every evildoer really got his just deserts; then perhaps we could make sense of God's wrath in the Old Testament. Since real life doesn't quite work that way, what are we to do with God's "justice"? It gets even worse, as Origen points out the troublesome manner in which the New Testament presents God's goodness:
Again, in a certain parable of the Gospel, where the king enters in to see the guests reclining at the banquet, he beheld a certain individual not clothed with wedding raiment, and said to him, “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” and then ordered his servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Let them tell us who is that king who entered in to see the guests, and finding one amongst them with unclean garments, commanded him to be bound by his servants, and thrust out into outer darkness. Is he the same whom they call just? How then had he commanded good and bad alike to be invited, without directing their merits to be inquired into by his servants? By such procedure would be indicated, not the character of a just God who rewards according to men’s deserts, as they assert, but of one who displays undiscriminating goodness towards all. Now, if this must necessarily be understood of the good God, i.e., either of Christ or of the Father of Christ, what other objection can they bring against the justice of God’s judgment? Nay, what else is there so unjust charged by them against the God of the law as to order him who had been invited by His servants, whom He had sent to call good and bad alike, to be bound hand and foot, and to be thrown into outer darkness, because he had on unclean garments?
If Origen, in seeking to refute heretics, only plunges us deeper into doubt over the Scripture's portrayal of God, what are we to do? The resolution seems to be this line:
Now, such are their opinions, because they know not how to understand anything beyond the letter; otherwise they would show how it is literal justice for sins to be visited upon the heads of children to the third and fourth generation, and on children’s children after them. By us, however, such things are not understood literally; but, as Ezekiel taught when relating the parable, we inquire what is the inner meaning contained in the parable itself.
In other words, we just need to get back to the Origen-al meaning of the texts.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Walk for Life 2011

I have failed in the past few weeks to begin raising support for the Walk for Life, which will be here in Charlottesville next Saturday morning, April 16. That leaves me about ten days to raise as much money as I can. Last year I gathered $500 in support; I'm hoping I can do something similar this year, in spite of my limited amount of time.

The Walk for Life is a fundraiser for the Pregnancy Centers of Virginia, which supports women through difficult pregnancies. See my post from last year for my full spiel. And while you're at it, check out my pictures from last year to get a taste of the event itself.

If you know me personally and/or trust me with your information, just send me an e-mail, facebook message, etc. with your mailing address and an amount you want to pledge (this isn't per mile or anything, you just donate whatever you want). The Pregnancy Centers will kindly send you a bill in the mail to ask for the money you pledged.

Alternatively, you can donate via my ChipIn page. I will donate whatever funds I receive via ChipIn to the Pregnancy Centers of Virginia. This is for people who like to get things done electronically.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to mention a certain other supporter who is walking for life. I plan to sponsor her, so you can feel free to throw in your support for her, as well.

This is the one time per year I will use my blog to solicit donations, I promise; but I'm hardly being inconsistent. This blog is all about making the world a little better in my own tiny way. I can't help but ask for some support in that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Love and Science

Try Googling "faith and science," and immediately you'll encounter web pages and opinion articles and blog posts devoted to studying the conflict between religion and science. Some will try to take one side over the other; many will try to find some new way to reconcile the two. In all cases conflict is assumed, because that is the culture we live in.

Certainly some argumentation is needed to help resolve this conflict. Those who care about truth will not be content with all the messy details being swept under the rug. Yet popular discussions of this topic seem altogether lacking in what Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the only creative, redemptive force in the universe." Love, of course. Whether it's deciding on science curriculum in public schools or dealing with global climate change, we would do infinitely better than we are doing if only love were more deeply cherished as a political virtue.

If intellectuals find this embarrassingly trite, perhaps this is the result of a faulty epistemology, which does not acknowledge love's central role in acquiring knowledge. Scientists sometimes appear prone to accept that absurd caricature made by the public, which makes science out to be a cold, detached endeavor whose reliability stems precisely from that detachment. Nothing could be further from the truth, as any real scientist very well knows. All those hours spent in the lab, or staring at equations, or out in the field (possibly in danger), or analyzing data--no one would ever demonstrate such dedication if not for the love of the subject.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Florensky on space-time

Toward the end of his life in a Soviet prison camp, Florensky had one last burst of creative insight:

"On 3 April [1936], Florensky directed a letter through Kirill [his son] to his teacher, Academician Vernadsky, in which he overcomes his anger at 'human stupidity' and tries to reformulate the cornerstone of his philosophy: the reality of time and space. Thought of by rationalists as an abstract way of organising our perceptions and by the sensualists as subjective delusion, for Florensky space and time are the key to understanding and
the most weighty proof of the reality of space-time is the fact of the existence of asymmetry in nature and of irreversibility in the temporal ... Asymmetry in time is irreversibility. To be is to be in time, to be in time is to be irreversible, that is 'historical'.
We cannot, as the cinema can, turn time around and have the splash before the dive. ... 'Physical space-time cannot be thought of other than as potentially immense in compass yet endowed with distinct content. And that leads to the assertion of the curvature of space-time'. Different sections of the curve have different surfaces: a rough surface wears more slowly, a jutting corner weathers faster. We cannot conceive of the border between the inner and outer body as flat. Thus time itself can be measured differently in different spatial conditions.

These hypotheses, Florensky tells his son and through him his son's teacher, still out there and able to study and publish in the world of science, may be proved wrong tomorrow but will surely be proved right the day after and he needs to record them. So the free mind, struggling in the weary body amid the white mice, winter flies and billowing steam, still fought to communicate, to leave some trace..." (Pyman, p. 178)

If the Soviets had allowed Florensky to live, and if before his death he had been allowed to continue his own research, they might very well have had the philosophical counterpart to Einstein's general relativity.