Everyone is abuzz about The New York Times story that focused on Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization. I find these squabbles over her legacy most unseemly: There is plenty in the life of this complex, holy woman to challenge everyone. I hope her cause prospers because her sanctity seems to me to be beyond doubt, but that does not mean I have to share her politics or her pieties. It should encourage us all to ask ourselves some probing questions about the degree of our commitment to the Lord and to his church.
Also in the Times, the incomparable Michelle Cottle of the paper’s editorial board looks at the way Ann Coulter is stirring the pot in the growing fracas between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Coulter soured on Trump soon after he became president because he was not draconian enough on immigration. What she lacks in moral sensibilities she sometimes makes up for in ringside assessments of GOP politics. For example, “The best thing that could have happened to the Republican Party (and the country) would have been for him [Trump] to be vaporized at the moment he was announcing his victory. Pence would have been afraid to betray Trump’s supporters. Trump wasn’t!” I suspect that is exactly right. And Cottle always hits the nail on the head, as in this: “Going forward, Ms. Coulter won’t be the only force tweaking Mr. Trump and focusing on any hint of friction. As usual, she’ll simply be more shameless about it than most.”
At Lawfare, Elizabeth McElvein and Benjamin Wittes undertake a deep dive into the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to overturn a lower court decision that rejected former President Donald Trump’s claim to executive privilege regarding documents sought by the House Select Committee looking into the events of Jan. 6, 2021. The Supreme Court — with only the embarrassing Clarence Thomas in dissent — did not address whether a former president can invoke executive privilege. Instead, they said that even if Trump were the incumbent president, his claims to executive privilege would not prevail. If you are one of the former president’s lawyers, things just went from bad to far, far worse.
Just what the country needs: More money in politics. Yeesh. Politico reports on the millionaires who are flooding Senate races with campaign contributions or, worse, running for office themselves. Always on the lookout for a silver lining, I will only point out that many of these filthy rich candidates will soon discover that politics is not like business, and they will have spent gobs of money to no end. Lest we forget, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made every dollar of Michael Bloomberg’s more than $1 billion, with a “b,” meaningless in just under one minute.
The Winter Olympics begin in less than two weeks and one predictable hurdle the International Olympic Committee overlooked when it selected Beijing to host the games is the dreadful smog from which the city suffers, as The Washington Post reports. It tells you all you need to know that the IOC was so concerned to cater to the Chinese government that it ignored not only the abysmal human rights abuses of the regime, but its inability to provide clean air to its people. Send the games to a permanent location and be done with it.
In the Catholic Standard, outgoing President John Garvey of the Catholic University of America manages to embarrass himself one last time with a ridiculous attack on “scientism.” Mind you, there is a smart and informed attack to be made against scientism, and it was already made by one of my mentors, Leon Wieseltier, in his famous 2013 critique of Steven Pinker, published under the puckish title “Crimes Against Humanities” in the New Republic. The key graph was this:
Yet the purpose of Pinker’s essay is not chiefly to denounce religion. It is to praise scientism. Rejecting the various definitions of scientism — “it is not an imperialistic drive to occupy the humanities,” it is not “reductionism,” it is not “naïve” — Pinker proposes his own characterization of scientism, which he defends as an attempt “to export to the rest of intellectual life” the two ideals that in his view are the hallmarks of science. The first of those ideals is that “the world is intelligible.” The second of those ideals is that “the acquisition of knowledge is hard.” Intelligibility and difficulty, the exclusive teachings of science? This is either ignorant or tendentious. Plato believed in the intelligibility of the world, and so did Dante, and so did Maimonides and Aquinas and Al-Farabi, and so did Poussin and Bach and Goethe and Austen and Tolstoy and Proust. They all share Pinker’s denial of the opacity of the world, of its impermeability to the mind. They all join in his desire to “explain a complex happening in terms of deeper principles.” They all concur with him that “in making sense of our world, there should be few occasions in which we are forced to concede ‘It just is’ or ‘It’s magic’ or ‘Because I said so.'” But of course Pinker is not referring to their ideals of intelligibility. The ideal that he has in mind is a very particular one. It is the ideal of scientific intelligibility, which he disguises, by means of an inoffensive general formulation, as the whole of intelligibility itself.
Sadly, Garvey is incapable of such depth. And to raise his tiny intellectual fists against science when so many of his co-religionists are ardently opposing sane, moral steps to confront a pandemic, Garvey’s writing is as morally irresponsible as it is intellectually thin.