The Coming War on Reality ((Corrected))

Posted on 2024-03-07
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(The original post had a significant error concerning the two separate entities, Sanctus Ranch and Mission of Divine Mercy – both near San Antonio. So I am reposting the entire thing so that folks who only get this by email also have the corrected version. – CJ)

Christ of St. John of the Cross – Salvador Dali

St. Louis, Missouri – I spent a couple of days passing through my old home county – Lake County, Illinois. It was kind of bizarre seeing five roads and such named in memorium for people I once worked and was friends with. I’m sure there were more. I guess that is what comes of getting into serious politics at a local level when you are in your teens. When you are in your 60’s, if you go back home, it relentlessly reminds you of how old you are.

In St. Louis, though, the Arch is now well lit up at night. That was not the case during the six years I lived in the area. I like it.

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By now almost everyone has heard of the disastrous launch of Google’s Gemini Artificial Intelligence (AI) system. A month or two ago I read about an AI system that not only answered a question wildly incorrectly, but generated a phony “source document” to back its nonsense up. Then, of course, Microsoft’s AI sometimes pretends to be our robot overlord.

One can dismiss all these as either disturbing or amusing anomalies. But it does underscore what I have been saying about AI from the start: it is not intelligence at all. It is just a foundational algorithm that can incorporate things it finds in searches into its responses. The foundational algorithm is always a section of the consciousness of its programmer. The program acts with lightning-fast speed so, basically, this is just your crackpot neighbor writ large with footnotes. It is why, when my long-term search engine Bing went to all AI in order to give me context and tailor my searches, I immediately dropped it and went to DuckDuckGo. I don’t need any woke programmer telling me what I should think – with or without footnotes.

An unintended danger of rising technology has been its crippling effect on people’s capacity for critical thinking. It turns out that learning foundational skills is critical to developing how things work. If you just get an ‘answer’ without being forced to learn how to figure out answers, you are vulnerable to any poppycock anyone else is peddling – particularly if they package it well. Thirty years ago, if I knew your name I also most likely knew your phone number by heart. The rise of speed dial has been a great convenience – but sometimes I struggle to remember my own phone number. I absolutely rely on my GPS (a basic form of AI) to get around the country. I work to maintain my facility with maps, though. But an entire generation has lost the capacity to read a map effectively. Keyboards have become ubiquitous, both on our desks and on the phones in our hands. They are a great convenience. But if you want to write in a secret code young folks can’t read, just write in cursive. I love automatic transmissions on cars, but who thought that manual transmissions would become a very effective theft prevention device against young people we have incapacitated?

As a researcher it has annoyed me to no end that moderns call watching their preferred TV news shows ‘research.’ It is no such thing. Bad or good, it is just a framing of the conclusions of research someone else did. It is entirely subjective, like choosing which sports team you will root for. Even when I was very young I made assessments of which news sources I could trust by keeping track of how frequently events proved them wrong – and how they reacted when it happened. What passes for news these days rarely is. It is all narrative, all the time – and its followers are as fanatical and blinded to rational thought as the most blinkered hometown football fan.

With every new technological convenience, life gets a little easier and we get a little dumber – crippled by walking around with a crutch all the time. Our legs were perfectly fine before we atrophied their muscles by constantly leaning on that crutch. Now with AI, we think we can let machines do all our advanced thinking for us. Sheesh! I have often been critical of what I sometimes call “Google intellectuals.” They are folks who thought, with the rise of search engines, they did not need to do any hard study or contemplation – and just parrot basic information they glean from their search engine. It comes without context, depth, or nuance and is as unintentionally comical as a fellow who has never spoke a word of German thinking he is fluent because he carries an English-German dictionary. If he is very good, he may fool those around him who are equally ignorant of the language, but when confronted with a native speaker the jig is up and his pretensions are an object of derision.

With its lightning-fast search and generation capabilities AI can mimic intelligence better than anything before it – and create documentary ‘source’ material to back up whatever it says. Like I said, that seems moderately disturbing or even amusing right now. After all, the AI that created a ‘source’ document to bolster its errant claim was quickly outed. The Google Gemini AI was a disaster because people already knew that the American founders were not Indians, Asians, Blacks and Women. Comical stuff. But what happens when the entire online archive is populated with these phony ‘documents’? At first it will be hard to tell what is real and what is not. Shortly thereafter it won’t matter. Just pick your favorite football team – then call everyone who supports another team a stupid rube.

As has ever been the case, when garbage goes in, garbage comes out – and things fall apart. AI will just do it faster, while making it harder to find what, actually, is not garbage. This is a tool designed to usher us back into the dark ages while pulling up the ladder that would allow us to climb our way out. It is an effort to put our current dystopian nightmare on steroids and growth hormones, a great way to form massive, malignant tumors on the body politic. If it were to continue, the time is close at hand when the most valuable expertise will come from people who learned from hard copy books and developed serious experience, as well. Those will be the people who can build things instead of just rooting on their toxic teams. Academic credentials are already in deep eclipse. Soon enough they will be in full blackout. Results will become the only thing a desperate and crippled people will be able to rely on for expertise.

Fortunately, things will not long continue on the trajectory they have been for decades. We are about at the penultimate point of the modern Tower of Babel we have been erecting. Ordinary people are already, like woodland creatures before a big storm, sniffing the air in preparation for hard times. I believe that God, Himself, will intervene directly right soon – and not in a way we will like. We have already entered into the Divine chemotherapy that will ultimately deliver us from the malignantly hubristic cancer that has captured our culture. What the godless, leftist, expert class has mounted is a war on reality itself. They want their garbage to supplant the accumulated wisdom of the ages. All they are capable of producing from all this is garbage. The end of all that is nigh.

In the meantime, hold onto your old hard copy books and manuals. They won’t give you the volume of information you currently have access to, but there is a lot less garbage in the mix. If you have lost touch with basic skills, recapture them. They protect your ability to think critically and act prudently. Don’t become a casualty in the ruling class war on reality.

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((Corrected)) Some controversy has arisen over the Sanctus Ranch near San Antonio, Texas. Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller has ordered Catholic entities and Parishes not to use the retreat facilities and has urged Catholics not to, either.  (The Sanctus Ranch is northwest of San Antonio – The Mission of Divine Mercy Retreat Center is northeast of the city)

I toured the beautiful and expansive grounds of the Mission of Divine Mercy last fall while I was in the San Antonio area. The people were nice and engaging, seemed deeply faithful to me, and very open about what they were doing.  I thought it was a beautiful spot and the facilities quite worshipful.

(The proximity of the two properties to each other – and similarity of some of the buildings has led some – including me – to mistakenly conflate the two).   The Archbishop has legitimate authority to forbid formally Catholic organizations from using Sanctus Ranch, though it is unusual to ban a retreat facility that is not overtly anti-Christian. Dan Sevigny, founder of the property, has indicated that he will make a response, presumably based in canon law. While I am unaware of a formal, juridical response, Sanctus Ranch has alleged that the basis of Abp. Garcia-Siller’s accusations are incorrect. There seems to be more to than meets the eye here, so I will wait to see how it plays out.)

Meantime, the Mission of Divine Mercy has begun promulgating messages it claims are from heaven. Many are confusing the Archbishop’s restriction on Sanctus Ranch for a suppression of these messages – but they are not connected. I can find no official comment on those from the Archbishop.  I have read through the messages. It is the Church’s place to rule on such things, not mine, but on first read, I found the messages plausible and nothing jumped out at me as contrary to faith and morals. In fact, I found them credible. Frankly, that is rather rare for me.

At this point, specifically what the Archbishop has done is within his legitimate authority, if unusual. But it is important not to confuse the two separate issues or conflate them – as I did in the original version of this section.

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I have to give a huge hat tip to Mary Kathryn King who sent me this information about the St. Joan of Arc Chapel at Marquette University in Milwaukee. It is an actual chapel St. Joan prayed at in France. It was taken down, brick by brick, shipped to New York, then faithfully reconstructed at Marquette nearly 60 years ago. I am astonished. It is barely more than 50 miles from where I lived most of my life and I was not aware of it until last week. You better believe the next time I am near the old home turf, I will be there to pray.

*********

From now until Easter I will remain rather subdued here, posting short pieces and repeats. I’m sure you have noticed I have been a bit subdued, of late, already.

Except for scheduled events and short things, I am entirely focused on finishing the CORAC Handbook and Primer on Building Functional Communities in Difficult Times. I have struggled with this in fits and starts for over a year, getting pieces done, then realizing it was not enough, and going back to the drawing board. Finally, at the beginning of Lent, I realized it really was not enough. I speak of building community at the local levels and collaborating with each other under Judeo-Christian faith-based principles. I have never been talking about founding a retreat center or a religious community: for me the focus has always been building normal working communities where the existence and presence of God is assumed. That is how America largely worked for its first 180 years. Then things started fraying slowly, then unraveling, and now we are functionally and governmentally a post-Christian society. We are not better off.

To accomplish my aim effectively, though, people have to have a comprehensive overview of the simple steps they can take right where they are to rebuild such Godly communities. Currency, commerce, defense, education, justice…all of these things must be addressed in practical terms that people can use to organize and build, right where they are, simply stated and clearly described. It is a massive project – and an intimidating one. But it started to flow far more smoothly once I received this insight. From the beginning, CORAC has been focused on things that are often unglamorous but are simply practical and require practical work. That is why we have over 500 instructional videos and pdf’s for practical skills on the website. Each one of those took real time, effort, and commitment by real people, driven by their love of God and neighbor.

Now is the time. I will finish the book on Easter and I expect it to be ready for distribution by Divine Mercy Sunday. We will make it available as a free pdf on the website and, a little later, have it printed up as hard copy booklets you can purchase (but it will always remain available free on the website). It will give you what you need to get started in earnest.

I ask again for you to be generous in your financial donations to CORAC. We do not require much to operate, but we do require some to keep the lights on. I think much of that will resolve itself once we issue this Handbook.

In 2013, I was trying to figure out what to do to get the word out and get people going. I initially formed the idea of a ministry. At the time, the Archdiocese was ignoring me, my conception was too broad, and did not really fix a way for people to come back to God through the prayer of doing, effectively. I was enormously frustrated, complaining to my Priest directors and whining that I was trying, just not getting any traction. Then one day, standing on the back patio, I believe I heard my angel tell me, “You will have no ministry. Rather, you are to be the spark that ignites a thousand ministries.” From that point on things started flowing. Each of you who starts the hard work of building your community where you are, that is your ministry. And CORAC is a key to how all of our ministries live solidarity with each other. And yes, I believe with all my heart that is a primary tool God will use to renew the faith and the face of the earth.

I leave it to others to complain of the outrage of the day. However well said any commentary is, our portion is to cultivate our garden and build the boats to carry us – and our fellows – safely through this great storm. Let us participate together with God in the Second Greatest Story ever told – unfolding before us now.


St. Joan of Arc Chapel, Marquette University, Milwaukee

If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.

Find me on Twitter at @JohnstonPilgrim

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