Philosophy and Ethics

Breaking Point

What really reached out and touched me when I watched cellphone video of the immediate aftermath of the Brussels bombing was the haunting sound of children crying. They are not words, they are more fundamental than that; it’s a primal scream, a heart-rending sob in the face of inexplicable savagery. It told me how utterly heartless these people are. But as I pondered on the depths of ideological depravity, it suddenly struck me at another level: What is much more strange than the pathological bombings are the global reactions of non-Muslims. The expected anti-Muslim backlash never happened. If anything, there has been an exaggerated sense of understanding and accommodation, and I really don’t know why.
Although I am not a Christian, I take my hat off to Christians, Jews, atheists, and other non-Muslims for their open-minded tolerance. After all, we are the real victims here, not the Muslims who rage against us.

And I’m still waiting for the so-called peaceful Muslims to cheer in the streets when an Islamic terrorist is killed or apprehended. As things stand, the logical assumption is that the majority of Muslims support the jihad. Only they can change that perception, but quite frankly, I’m not holding my breath. As we saw with notorious “white widow” Samantha Lethwaite when she paid an extensive visit to South Africa, Islamic terrorists are sheltered and protected by the society in which they move and share deep religious ties.
I’m tired of hearing imams protest that Islamic terrorists don’t really know much about Islam. That is patently not true. They are all to a fault scholars of Islam who can quote vast tracts of Muslim literature by heart, and who are devout in their observances.

An interesting technical point arises from this: If the radical jihadists are not “true Muslims” as many are claiming, then they are non-believers, kafirs, infidels. In terms of the Quran, sura 47, verse 4, the true believers are instructed by Allah as follows:

“So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives). Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus [you are ordered by Allah to continue in carrying out Jihad against the disbelievers till they embrace Islam.”

Even in the midst of the horror of the Brussels bombing, a woman in a hijab was captured on French television ripping up an Israeli flag and replacing it with a Palestinian flag. This happened not in her home but at a memorial for those slaughtered by the jihad! What is perhaps even more telling was the Jewish response to this crass act – a Jew put another Israeli flag in the place of the one torn up, and did not harm or obscure the Palestinian flags there. There, in front of our eyes, is an explicit demonstration of where the hatred is coming from.
It’s time to be honest about this. Who in their right mind can fail to note the calls to violence and murder of infidels in the Quran? Who can deny that hatred of Jews in central to Islam? If what I have said here is untrue or an exaggeration, let’s see the defenders of peaceful Islam walk the walk instead of talking the talk while their comrades in arms plot our demise.

belgiumPluck out the vile demons from your ranks and deliver them to justice! Nothing else will convince us.

Islam And The Goal Of World Domination by Joel Richardson

In order to understand Islam properly, one must understand the way that Islam understands itself. Islam views itself as the only true religion – indeed the only religion worthy to be practiced. As such Islam has as one of its goals, total world domination. Islam’s driving goal is to literally eradicate what it sees as the false and misplaced worship of all other religions. Until the day that everyone says, “none has the right to be worshipped other than Allah,” Islam will continue its fight against unbelievers and unbelieving nations. We have already thoroughly examined Islam’s vision of global domination through its eschatology, but the concept is not just a future idea that Muslims are waiting idly by for the Mahdi and the Islamic Jesus to accomplish for them. The texts and scholars of Islam teach that global domination is to be striven for by all Muslims at all times. The striving for Islam’s furtherance and its eventual total world domination is calledjihad. Indeed jihad (striving) is a basic requirement of all Muslims everywhere. It is an absolutely obligatory component of Islam.
Now, Muslim apologists and propagandists will be quick to argue here, that jihad is not about fighting for world domination. Some will make such misleading remarks as “jihad is merely about overcoming adversity.” Or they will point out that the “greater jihad” is a struggle against one’s self. While this inner struggle is a legitimate aspect of jihad, do not be deceived: The jihad that is obligatory for all Muslims to fight against one’s inner weaknesses in no way lessens the centrality of the demand of Islam upon all Muslims to wage jihad against the unbelieving world until Islam is supreme. This may include other forms of warfare such as in the intellectual or the political arenas, but wherever a Muslim engages in this fight, it is viewed as just that, a fight for the eventual global domination and universal supremacy of Islam.
The word Jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means “strive.” There are five types of jihad:
· Jihad al-nafs (striving against one’s inner self)
· Jihad al-Shaitan (striving against Satan)
· Jihad al-kuffaar (striving against the disbelievers)
· Jihad al-munafiqeen (striving against the hypocrites)
· Jihad al-faasiqeen (striving against corrupt Muslims)
As already stated, all five forms of jihad are obligatory for all Muslims. If you pay attention to the discussion of jihad in the media, you will find endless articles and claims by Muslims that misrepresent jihad as something other than what it really is. But as stated earlier, those who deny the central aspect of an outward jihad in Islam are either ignorant or purposefully lying. In fact, lying to hide or misrepresent the true nature of Islam to the unbelieving world is actually part and parcel of Islam’s method of carrying out jihad against non-Muslims. We will take a look at Islam’s doctrine of lying in the next chapter.
Despite what the advertisers of a nicer, more peaceful Islam say, Muhammad clearly made the claim that his commission was to fight against the unbelievers until they all submit to Islam and become worshippers of Allah. Since the time of Muhammad, global domination has been the goal of Islam.
Allah’s Apostle (Muhammad) said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’” 1
Fight those from among the people of the Book, who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax considering it a favour and acknowledge their subjection. -Surah 9:29 (Sher Ali)
O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). -Surah 9:123 (Pickthall)
Unquestionably, we see that Muhammad encouraged the spread of his religion by force. Now, one might argue that Christianity also has a goal of spreading its message throughout the earth as well. While this is true, Christianity does not have a goal of fighting against those who are not Christians, but rather presenting the gospel message, or “good news” to everyone in order that they have the option to either freely accept or likewise reject God’s offer of forgiveness and acceptance. As someone once said, “evangelism” (preaching the Christian message to non-Christians) is merely one beggar telling the other beggars where the food is.
While Jesus, in calling new believers to follow him and serve God makes the beautiful statement:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
Muhammad calls his followers to something admittedly far more burdensome. With a tad of overt cajoling, he says:
Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. -Surah 2:216 (Pickthall)
It would be quite easy to list several pages of verses from the Quran and Hadith that reflect this mindset of jihad and fighting against unbelievers for the express purpose of the furtherance of Islam. It is awfully difficult to take these verses out of context. Nevertheless, as I have said, many western Muslims will continue to make the claim that the Quranic verses that speak of jihad are only referring to overcoming adversity or defensive war, etc. Yet, as one Muslim commentator has said:
Don’t believe those moderate Muslims in the Western media who tell you that jihad means “overcoming adversity,” 2
Or as the popular Muslim author and teacher Muhammad Saeed al-Qahtani, states:
Jihad is an act of worship, it is one of the supreme forms of devotion to Allah… They say that Jihad is only for defense. This lie must be exposed…3
Rather than getting caught up in an in-house Islamic argument, we will rather simply examine the opinions of several prominent Muslim scholars throughout Islam’s history as well as the leaders and representatives of Islam in western countries today to see what Islam really teaches.

The Scholars on Jihad

Ibn Kathir lays out the prominent role of offensive jihad in Islam’s early days as he comments on Surah 9:123 above:
Allah commands the believers to fight the disbelievers, the closest in area to the Islamic state, then the farthest. This is why the Messenger of Allah started fighting the idolaters in the Arabian Peninsula. When he finished with them… He then started fighting the People of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians). After Muhammad’s death, his executor, friend, and Caliph, Abu Bakr, became the leader… On behalf of the Prophet , Abu Bakr… started preparing the Islamic armies to fight the Roman cross worshippers, and the Persian fire worshippers. By the blessing of his mission, Allah opened the lands for him and brought down Caesar and Kisra and those who obeyed them among the servants. Abu Bakr spent their treasures in the cause of Allah, just as the Messenger of Allah had foretold would happen. This mission (of world domination) continued after Abu Bakr at the hands of he whom Abu Bakr chose to be his successor… Umar bin Al-Khattab. With Umar, Allah humiliated the disbelievers, suppressed the tyrants and hypocrites, and opened the eastern and western parts of the world. The treasures of various countries were brought to Umar from near and far provinces, and he divided them according to the legitimate and accepted method. Umar then died… Then, the Companions among the Muslims… agreed to choose after Umar, Uthman bin Affan… During Uthman’s reign, Islam wore its widest garment and Allah’s unequivocal proof was established in various parts of the world over the necks of the servants. Islam appeared in the eastern and western parts of the world and Allah’s Word was elevated and His religion apparent. The pure religion reached its deepest aims against Allah’s enemies, and whenever Muslims overcame a community, they moved to the next one, and then the next one, crushing the tyranical evil doers. They did this in reverence to Allah’s statement, O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you. 4
It is clear that Muhammad, and then his successors, Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar, and Caliph Uthman all attacked the surrounding nations offensively for the purpose of spreading Islam. These were not as is claimed by the historical revisionists, defensive wars. They were offensive wars whose goal was to force the victims to submit to Islam or be “crushed.”
Ibn Khaldun, the famous 14th century Islamic historian and philosopher in his classic and most notable work, the Muqaddimah says of jihad:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. Therefore, the caliphate (spiritual), the royal (government and military) authority are united in Islam, so that the person in charge can devote the available strength to both of them at the same time. 5
In his book, “Jurisprudence in Muhammad’s Biography” the renowned Egyptian scholar from Al-Azhar university, Dr. Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti writes that offensive and not defensive war is the “noblest Holy War” within Islam:
The Holy War (Islamic Jihad), as it is known in Islamic Jurisprudence, is basically an offensive war. This is the duty of Muslims in every age when the needed military power becomes available to them. This is the phase in which the meaning of Holy war has taken its final form. Thus the apostle of Allah said: ‘ I was commanded to fight the people until they believe in Allah and his messages… The concept of Holy War (Jihad) in Islam does not take into consideration whether defensive or an offensive war. Its goal is the exaltation of the Word of Allah and the construction of Islamic society and the establishment of Allah’s Kingdom on Earth regardless of the means. The means would be offensive warfare. In this case, it is the apex, the noblest Holy War. 6
According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, “the fight is obligatory even when the unbelievers have not started it.” 7 The concept of jihad in Islam is to literally attack unbelievers for the purpose of converting them to Islam “by persuasion or by force,” “even when they have not started it.”
Global Domination
Born in 1905, Mawlana Sayid Abul Ala Mawdudi was an Islamic scholar from the Indian subcontinent. His sermons (khutbat) and writings are world-renowned. He is viewed throughout the Islamic world as one of Islam’s greatest scholars. Here is what he had to say about Islam and global domination:
Islam is not a normal religion like the other religions in the world, and Muslim nations are not like normal nations. Muslim nations are very special because they have a command from Allah to rule the entire world and to be over every nation in the world. 8
Mawdudi explains Islam’s goals and purpose:
Islam is a revolutionary faith that comes to destroy any government made by man. Islam doesn’t look for a nation to be in a better condition than another nation. Islam doesn’t care about the land or who owns the land. The goal of Islam is to rule the entire world and submit all of mankind to the faith of Islam. Any nation or power that gets in the way of that goal, Islam will fight and destroy. In order to fulfill that goal, Islam can use every power available every way it can be used to bring worldwide revolution. This is Jihad. 9
We have seen what some of Islam’s most respected scholars have said about jihad and Islam’s goal of global domination. Their viewpoint is undeniably clear. But what do the more modern, western Muslim leaders have to say about this subject?
Modern Western Muslims on the Islamic Goal of World Domination
Aduallah al-Araby in his book The Islamization of America cites a very frightening letter from one Catholic Archbishop to the Pope. In this open letter to the Pope, the Archbishop of Izmir (Smyrna), Turkey, the Reverend Guiseppe Germano Barnardini, spoke of a recent gathering of Christians and Muslims for the purpose of interfaith dialogue. An excerpt from his letter recounts that during the meeting, an authoritative Muslim stood up and spoke very calmly and assuredly:
Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you, Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you. 10
If you go to the web site of almost any Mosque in the United States, you will invariably see a link to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. CAIR, as it is called, is a Washington based Islamic group that likes to present itself as a moderate Islamic civil rights group. “We are similar to a Muslim NAACP,” says spokesman Ibrahim Hooper. “Since its founding in 1994, CAIR has been garnering sizeable donations, invitations to the White House, respectful media citations and a serious hearing by corporations.” 11
Yet, according to Omar Ahmed, Chairman of the Board of CAIR:
Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Quran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth.12
This is the same Omar Ahmed who tore into the Reverend Franklin Graham for calling Islam “an evil religion.” Mr. Ahmed addressed Graham in an open statement:
Learn more about Islam and Muslims before you repeat your erroneous and divisive statements about one of the three great Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Such statements only sow animosity and mistrust among Americans. As a religious leader you should instead work to rebuild our national foundation instead of trying to tear it down. 13
Perhaps Reverend Graham was more in touch with the true totalitarian doctrines of Islam than Mr. Ahmed realizes. Perhaps Mr. Graham had read Mr. Ahmed’s statement regarding Islam’s goal of domination in America and abroad when he made his statement. In any case, through these two statements, it is easy to see the double-speak that is displayed by Mr. Ahmed and many like him. When speaking privately to Muslims, Mr. Ahmed speaks of Islam as the only valid religion, with a goal to take over America, but when addressing the media, he speaks of “The three great Abrahamic religions,” and then he accuses Mr. Graham of being “divisive”.
Daniel Pipes, a scholar of militant Islam and director of the Middle East Forum, points out the case of one prominent American Muslim’s open aspirations to take over America. Pipes introduces one Isamil Al-Faruqi:
Ismail Al-Faruqi a Palestinian immigrant who founded the International Institute of Islamic Thought and taught for many years at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Nothing could be greater,” Al-Faruqi wrote in the early 1980’s, “than this youthful, vigorous, and rich continent [of North America] turning away from its past evil and marching forward under the banner of Allahu Akbar. [Allah is Great]” 14
In England, and throughout Europe, Islam has progressed in strength far beyond that of Islam in America. Therefore, in such a context, we see aggressive statements being made far more openly. As early as 1989, Europeans were shocked to see thousands of Muslims openly protest in the streets of Britian, France Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands carrying signs with the provocative slogan, “Islam – our religion today, your religion tomorrow.” 15
Dated June 15 1990, The Muslim Manifesto, published by the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui, who was then the head of the Muslim Institute, (now the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain) on page 16 paragraph 7 states:
Jihad is a basic requirement of Islam and living in Britain or having British nationality by birth or naturalisation does not absolve the Muslim from his or her duty to participate in Jihad. 16
Dr. Siddiqui does not exclude Britain from the places where “armed struggle” is necessary. Jihad is obligatory everywhere. And as time has passed, the call to jihad in Europe has progressed to the point of being proclaimed openly in the streets by radical Muslim leaders. From the New York Times, April 26, 2004, we read:
The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe… In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons… say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street. They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the “Magnificent 19” and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe. Their leader, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammad, spoke of his adherence to Osama bin Laden. If Europe fails to heed Mr. bin Laden’s offer of a truce — provided that all foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq in three months — Muslims will no longer be restrained from attacking the Western countries that play host to them, the sheik said. “All Muslims of the West will be obliged,” he said, to “become his sword” in a new battle. Europeans take heed, he added, saying, “It is foolish to fight people who want death — that is what they are looking for”… And he warned Western leaders, “You may kill bin Laden, but the phenomenon, you cannot kill it — you cannot destroy it. Our Muslim brothers from abroad will come one day and conquer here and then we will live under Islam in dignity,” he said. 17
Dr. Siddiqui and Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammad are far from alone in their calls for radical Islamic jihad against their very homes in Europe:
Abu Hamza, the cleric accused of tutoring Richard Reid before he tried to blow up a Paris-to-Miami jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoe, urged a crowd of 200 outside his former Finsbury Park mosque to embrace death and the “culture of martyrdom.” 18
It is not surprising then, that in the war with Afghanistan, there were among the captives taken by American forces, at least three British citizens. Or in April of 2003, it was two British citizens who were responsible for a suicide bombing that killed three others at a café in Tel Aviv. And when Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was beheaded in Pakistan, it was Omar Sheik Saeed, a well educated native of Britain, described as once being “a perfect Englishman”, who was transformed into a radical Muslim, eventually masterminding the kidnapping and videotaped beheading of Pearl. Should we really be surprised? Should we be surprised that Islam has this effect on people? If prominent Muslim leaders in Europe are openly praising Osama bin Laden, and calling for jihad and matyrdom, then why should we be surprised when impressionable young Muslims answer this call all over the world. While fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudi Arabians in the last big attack, will the world be shocked when such an act is carried out by British Muslims? How would the West have reacted if the “black boxes” salvaged from the wreckage of the World Trade Center bombing had contained recordings of young men yelling “Allahu Akhbar!” in distinctly British or American accents?
Muslims in the West regularly refer to Islam as the “religion of peace”, yet this religion of peace is responsible for over 90 percent of all fighting presently in the world. Think about that fact. The vast majority of world terrorism, violence and war is religiously motivated by Islam.
There are about 400 recognized terrorist groups in the world. Over 90 percent of these are Islamist groups (radical Islamic terrorist groups). Over 90 percent of the current world fighting involves Islamist terror movements. 19
The endless goal of moderate Muslim apologists is to make the claim that the radical terrorist groups are not behaving in an Islamic way. While I have no doubt that many moderate Muslims have a strong disdain for the murderous behavior of many of the most violent groups, the terrorists are actually carrying out a very legitimate aspect of Islam as defined by Islam’s texts, scholars and representatives. They are indeed behaving in an Islamic way. They are behaving like Muhammad and his successors. While it is often said that the terrorists have “high jacked” Islam, judged by what Islam really teaches, it is in reality the so-called moderate Muslims who are trying to change the true teachings of Islam.
When we look at the growth rates of Islam combined with the concept of jihad in Islam, and the growing popularity of its most radical interpretation, even in the West, the concept of a future Islamo-fascist world dictator becomes a genuine possibility. Based on trends and statistics alone, it really doesn’t take a stretch to see the possibility of this reality within this century. The Bible teaches that in the future, a man will arise whose sole driving goal will be to achieve complete world domination through his political-military-religious empire. Islam has this very same goal inherent in its most core doctrines. And today, as we watch the call to jihad being trumpeted ever louder by radical Muslim leaders all over the world, Islam is slowly moving ever so much closer toward achieving that very goal.

Excerpt from Robert Ardrey, The Social Contract (Dell Publishing, NY, 1970) pp 92-94

[Hilton’s note: In 1970, anthropologist Robert Ardrey published a book with the same title as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 landmark work, The Social Contract, which established the French philosopher as the father of the Romantic Movement. Ardrey’s text constitutes a logical counterpoint to Rousseau’s thesis about humankind by introducing the discoveries of ethology to the mix.]
From most ancient times we have recognized the demands of outward defense and internal order. They are closest to our evolutionary origins. In more recent times of technological advance we have recognized or begun to recognize the educational imperative, and the unarguable truth that the strongest and most durable of societies will be founded on maximum development of its members. But not even now do we begin to recognize the psychological function—to glimpse even dimly that as security is enhanced, so are boredom and anonymity. The very conquests of production which today promise to reduce material anxiety from human preoccupation have ignored or repressed other innate needs of the individual.
And we do not know what we are doing. There is no contemporary disaster to compare with the bankruptcy of human reason in its confrontation with the human being. The perceptions of Elizabethan theatre, almost five centuries ago, offered insights more profound concerning the nature of man.
In simple bewilderment we watch the spread of violence through what once were peaceful streets. We note in anguish the rise of crime unprecedented in America; and we blame it on our racial problems while ignoring its rise in lands where race is no factor; or we blame it on poverty, forgetting that in the 1930s, when poverty was a common possession, crime was endurable. Earnestly we grope for clues to explain the revolt of the young, the persuasions of alcoholism, hallucinatory drugs, pornography. Explanations become dust even as we touch them. Yet why should such a simple explanation elude our reason?
The hungry psyche has replaced the hungry belly.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau at the beginning of The Confessions wrote, “I am made unlike anyone I have ever met; I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world. I may be no better, but at least I am different. Whether nature did well or ill in breaking the mould in which she formed me, is a question which can only be resolved after the reading of my book.”
That all men are different; that nature, through sexual recombination, breaks every mould in which men are cast: neither comment detracts from a mad night’s accident that presented to mankind a Rousseau.

Excerpt from Robert Ardrey, The Social Contract (Dell Publishing, NY, 1970) pp 95-98

[Hilton’s note: In 1970, anthropologist Robert Ardrey published a book with the same title as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 landmark work, The Social Contract, which established the French philosopher as the father of the Romantic Movement. Ardrey’s text constitutes a logical counterpoint to Rousseau’s thesis about humankind by introducing the discoveries of ethology to the mix.]
When Dobzhansky writes, “The philosophy of modern democracies, of Western and eastern varieties as well, is the doctrine of equality, natural goodness, and the limitless perfectibility of man,” with a certain reservation all is purest Rousseau. Perfectibility was to be the contribution of the nineteenth century. But as the image of God may be viewed from a thousand angles, so the image of Rousseau inhabits our day.
And the image may well inspire the future as well. Should any doubt it, they have only to read a roaring summation by the Durants:
“First of all, of course, he was the mother of the Romantic movement…But what shall we mean by the Romantic movement? The rebellion of feeling against reason, of instinct against intellect, of sentiment against object, of solitude against society, of myth and legend against history, … of emotional expression against conventional restraints, of individual freedom against social order, of youth against authority, of democracy against aristocracy, of man against state.”
The Durants’ catalogue of revolt, one image of Rousseau, forms a useful checklist for measuring his reincarnation in the spirit of the contemporary young. With the ebb of the Romantic tide many an idol was carried out to sea, never, we thought, to be seen again. But with the tide’s new flow we watch the same old breakers crashing on the same old beaches.
Such a spirit as the Durants record stemmed largely from his earlier work, Discourse on Inequality, often known as the Second Discourse, which he published in 1755. In it he analyzed primal men as equal and good, the coming of property rights as the source of inequality, and society as the final instrument of ruin created to perpetuate inequality. In 1762 he presented The Social Contract as the revolutionary society in which, property abolished, individuals surrender all sovereignty to “the general will,” thus regaining as fully as possible the amity and equality of the origins. The principle was to reappear as the mystique, if not the reality, of the totalitarian state.
Rousseau’s work appeared over a century before Darwin’s Descent of Man, whereas mine appears just a century afterward. And if I have taken his title and dedicated this work to his memory, it is to throw into sharpest relief just what the natural sciences have brought to our understanding of man and the group. In many a way his mind was remarkably modern. He saw man, as I have mentioned, as a portion of nature. He looked to human origins for better understanding of the human outcome. From many a hint one may gather that he pondered over the way of the animal as of significance to the way of man, and one must bow to a visionary who centuries before the coming of ethology glimpsed a truth. And finally one must recognize that Rousseau’s objective, no less nor more than my own, looked to nature and natural law for human solutions.
In a sense he asked all the right questions. But he asked them too soon. Without the theory of evolution to guide him, without the past century’s assimilation of proven conclusions in the natural sciences, and in particular without the explosion of the past two or three decades that has transformed biology into virtually a new science, Rousseau could use only his intuitions concerning the nature of nature. And never could a man have guessed so disastrously wrong.
Rousseau’s vision of asocial primal man became his founding fallacy. He could not know that not a species in our primate family since the early pro-simian, the mouse lemur, has led a solitary life. He could not know that life in organised societies is so characteristically the animal way that a few brief references to such species as the leopard have been sufficient to dispose of those capable of solitary existence. He could not know that xenophobia in a state of nature is as common as the grouping of familiars.
“Man is born free, yet everywhere we see him in chains” is the celebrated opening line of The Social Contract. Yet more definitive of Rousseau’s thought is the opening line of Emile, published in the same year and a work he regarded as more important. […] With the opening sentence of Emile the Age of the Alibi was launched: Nature made me happy and good, and if I am otherwise, it is society’s fault. Rousseau’s founding fallacy that primal man knew no society is compounded by the second assumption that man in a state of nature was happy and good. That Rousseau knew nothing of the territorial imperative in animal life and regarded the invention of private property as the curse that man brought on himself becomes a minor ignorance.
What I believe should be stressed is that Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his time had every right to be wrong. How could he know that natural men were created unequal, or that original goodness is as unlikely as original equality? How could he know that the institution of privately defended property, like the institution of society, was an evolutionary invention far antedating man and his primate family? How could he know in the days before dart that man was descended from predatory primates who killed for a living? Not even Darwin knew that.
The catastrophe is not that Rousseau was wrong but that after two centuries we are wrong; that biological advances since Darwin’s time have penetrated our thinking not at all; that fashions of thought today are as firmly grounded in the Rousseau fallacies as if the natural sciences had never existed.


There is no group of people this large in the world that can keep a secret. I find it comforting. It’s how I know for sure that [we’re not] covering up aliens in New Mexico.”
—CJ Cregg
A couple of years ago, I was mentioned at a meeting of the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa, of which organisation I am a proud contributing member of many years’ standing. I was not present at this particular meeting, held at the Johannesburg branch of the Society. It appears that a member in the audience challenged some statements made by the guest speaker, and supported his challenge with quotes from my book, The Virtue of Heresy.
Sensing that the invited speaker was being scurrilously questioned, the chairman leaped to his defence. “We take no notice of what Ratcliffe has to say,” the chairman declared, “because he is a conspiracy theorist.”
Good grief. In a manner of speaking, that’s akin to being called the antichrist. There can hardly be another member of the global scientific community who is as anti-conspiracy theory as I. I detest them. I rail against them and their proponents at every opportunity. So I am left to wonder whether my accuser had even read anything I’ve written.
Let me try to clarify this misconception. My position is this: For reasons of efficiency and brevity, science is done by means of widely accepted standard models. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we analyse the results of an experiment or attempt to explain novel observations. We can quickly make great leaps in our reasoning by slotting in the appropriate standard model, which for our purposes is assumed to be true to material reality. However, it should be borne in mind always that the standard models are hypothetical constructs, which may in due course be falsified by more recent discoveries.
Meanwhile, the standard models form the basis of scientific education and constrain the mindset of future generations of researchers and educators. It is inevitable that properly qualified reviewers and editors of mainstream journals will test submitted material against the standards of university science curricula, and therefore, strictly in terms of the accepted standard models.
This not a conspiracy. There is no sinister plot in which people secretly conspire to get rid of opposition. It simply a natural consequence of our education. I know from long experience that professors and journal referees participate in this practice with great sincerity and without any trace of malevolence. The inevitable consequence of this part of the scientific method is that dissenting results are rarely, if ever published.
As a result, it becomes patently ludicrous to measure the veracity of a theory by the proportion of peer-reviewed papers that support the popular view. It is a very real, if entirely unintentional bias in the publication of scientific results.
No, Sir, I am not a conspiracy theorist; but I am, very definitely, a dissident.
From RationalWiki: “”Modern political religions may reject Christianity, but they cannot do without demonology. The Jacobins, the Bolsheviks and the Nazis all believed in vast conspiracies against them, as do radical Islamists today. It is never the flaws of human nature that stand in the way of Utopia. It is the workings of evil forces.
—John Gray, political philosopher
“”Conspiracy theories: They’re just fairy tales adults tell each other on YouTube.
—John Oliver
A conspiracy is a secret plan to achieve some goal. Its members are known as conspirators. A conspiracy theory originally meant the theory pre-formed conclusion that an event or phenomenon was the result of conspiracy; however, from the mid-1960s onward, it is often used to denote ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories.
Daniel Pipes, in an early essay “adapted from a study prepared for the CIA”, attempted to define which beliefs distinguish ‘the conspiracy mentality’ from ‘more conventional patterns of thought’. He defined them as: appearances deceive; conspiracies drive history; nothing is haphazard; the enemy always gains power, fame, money, and sex.
One of the worst things about conspiracy theories is the fact they are almost airtight. Every debunking or piece of evidence against it will be viewed as an attempt to “misinform the public”, and the lack of evidence for it is viewed as a government cover-up.
The flood of conspiracy theories results in possibly-rational conspiracy theories getting lost in the midst of the noise of newsworthy but disingenuous ideas such as New World Order or the Moon landing hoax.
Not everyone involved in a conspiracy necessarily knows all the details; in fact, invariably none do.

Capitalism and Morality

When I set out to research a book on economics, I had not heard of the correlation between morality and capitalism, and I must say my initial reaction was one of sheer incredulity. It seemed like a long stretch, to say the least. Before long though, I realised that one cannot properly argue any social system, real or imagined, without discussing also morality. The association of economics and morality, in whatever form either may manifest itself, is now central to my formative book, Capitalism – The De-Regulation of Pressure. It speaks directly to the threat posed by population pressure, and there can be arguably no more relevant call to morality than the seemingly insoluble problem of the weight of numbers in our future as a species.

Ants are probably the most successful of all the several million species of living things on Earth. They are so successful, in fact, that their total biomass is the same as the biomass of human beings. What can we learn from ants?

This passage is an excerpt from my book, Stephen Hawking Smoked My Socks (Muse Harbor Publishing, 2014):

Nevertheless, in a frame of reference that’s limited to the last two or three thousand years, we can make some useful projections of our future on the planet. As a biologist friend said over lunch the other day, we are now able to see evolution of the gene itself, a maturation of the code, and it is happening fairly rapidly (quickly enough for measurable changes to the code in 50 elapsed years). How significant this is, I don’t know, given that genetically, we are nearly identical to primates, and very, very similar even to bacteria. But I suspect that we are still constrained by the basics of the code that defines our species, and slightly more broadly, defines all living things. We can learn a lot about those constraints by studying less-sophisticated species. How do different species adapt to changes in their environment? In the 1970s, the docudrama “The Helstrom Chronicle” (a story about competition for the world about us) created a buzz in cinemas around the world. The narrator, biologist Nils Helstrom, uttered the following memorable line: “Human beings compete for the world by trying to adapt the environment to suit themselves; insects do it by adapting themselves to suit the environment. Insects will win.”

Cosmology: Dickensian Misery

(This note is an excerpt from chapter two: The Hubble Universe in the book, The Static Universe by Hilton Ratcliffe, C. Roy Keys 2010)
Before we move on to other pastures and fresh contemplation, we should discuss the “subsequent work” so often alluded to but seldom decently identified in articles and papers about the Hubble Law. Surely there have been more recent tests, using modern equipment? Indeed there have; several in fact. All those that I have seen are unanimous in their support for the Hubble Law and concomitant expansion. Did the later redshift-luminosity data succeed where Hubble’s original effort had failed? That question haunted me. The way to check it out would come to me quite unexpectedly on a dark and windy night in the mountains. Professor Paul Jackson, a retired physicist and trusted confidant, lives in an intriguing, charmingly Heath-Robinson, self-built home on the inland slope of KwaZulu-Natal’s Karkloof range. From time to time I visit him there, usually to take advantage of some fresh mountain air, good farm cooking, and solid advice.
The night in question was Dickensian in its misery. The freezing wind howled through the whipping pines behind us, and anyone outside must have been convinced that ice, not fire, would signal Armageddon. Inside though, I was as snug as a bug in a rug, quite unaware of the impending epiphany. My bedroom doubled as Paul’s study, and I was delighted by the prospect of exploring his pregnant bookcase. I pulled a large, dog-eared book from the shelf and settled down to read.
One of the standard texts in the field is the definitive volume The Principles of Physical Cosmology by eminent Princeton physicist Dr Jim Peebles.[1] The context of what follows will be taken from Dr Peebles’ concise summary of the expansion concept on page 71: “The expansion of the universe means that the proper physical distance between a well-separated pair of galaxies is increasing with time, that is, the galaxies are receding from each other. A gravitationally bound system such as the Local Group is not expanding … the homogeneous expansion law refers to galaxies far enough apart for these local irregularities to be ignored.” There you have it, in a nutshell, from the pen of one of the most revered spokesmen of consensus cosmology. Expansion, and indeed any consistent sign of it, can only exist at extremely great but apparently indeterminate distances.
Like the persistent whine of a determined and hungry mosquito, the notion of non-locality hovered subliminally in the recesses of my mind, and as we shall soon see, improperly tinted my spectacles on this occasion. On page 50 of that book, figure 3.13 is a graphical representation of the correlation in a sample of elliptical galaxies of their velocity dispersion (represented by σ, the Greek letter sigma) with their apparent luminosity.[2] There is, without doubt, a linear trend through the scatter of data points in the plot, so for the sake of argument, let’s assume that there is a real trend in the data. Theory relates velocity dispersion to cluster mass, and mass in a body of incandescent stars is proportional to intrinsic brightness (because, simply put, more mass means more stars, and therefore more light). What does this actually tell us? Certainly not what I thought at the time, and somewhat less than Dr Peebles implies.
My weariness must have blurred my concentration somewhat, because (as Paul later pointed out) I mistakenly took the diagram to represent a direct extrapolation of the relationship Hubble tried to establish in 1929 (redshift versus measured brightness of galaxies), whereas Dr Peebles plots the velocity dispersion of stars within galaxies without invoking redshift of the galaxies themselves. It doesn’t particularly worry me that I made a mistake; I often do, and gladly admit my error as soon as it is revealed to me. In this case, it was the principle involved that pitched a curve ball at the science I was tracking, and gave me a positive clue to the Achilles’ heel of redshift cosmology.
I consider it vital that we take due cognisance of a pervading habit in any zealous search for observational evidence. This treatment of observationally acquired data sets has haunted relativistic cosmology since its inception: Commencing with the eclipse data reported by Sir Arthur Eddington in 1919 [3] and punctuating the development of Big Bang Theory all the way through to the latest claims being made in the first decade of the 21st century, evidence is somehow found in observational measurements that either does not meaningfully exist in the unadulterated data, or if a pattern is found, does not refer to or in any way validate the preferred theoretical model. Objectively inconclusive results are given meaning that closer analysis reveals to be pointing in another direction completely. It’s a dangerous game. Like a cornered dog, synthetic evidence can bite you, and in the case of establishing a trend of luminosity versus redshift, it bit. What I needed to do was find the wound. I did find it, some time after my return from the Jacksons, and further careful inspection of my own copy of The Principles of Physical Cosmology provided the crucial and long-sought breakthrough.
What struck a chord for me was that the galaxies in Dr Peebles’ sample are ellipticals from the Virgo and Coma clusters. We all know that the postulated expansion of space does not occur locally, and “local” includes the Virgo cluster and almost certainly also the Coma cluster. With unsubstantiated optimism, the standard theory alludes to a threshold for expansion at around 100 Mpc from the Earth, meaning that for the first 350 million light years or so, space does not expand. Any perceived pattern in these data cannot indicate expansion, in terms of Big Bang Theory. This would be an utter train smash for the Hubble law if only I could find proof in the form of a published data table or graph.
It wasn’t hard. It’s right there in black and white on page 86 of Dr Peebles’ book. Figure 5.4 bears the caption, “Test of Hubble’s law using Tully-Fisher distances.” [4] Before we continue, I wish to acknowledge Dr Peebles’ self-deprecating honesty in the statement, “The distances in figure 5.4 are expressed in megaparsecs, but this is based on the still somewhat controversial calibration of the absolute magnitude-δν21 relation”.[5] We shall be discussing this controversial uncertainty in the next chapter.
The plot in the diagram shows the Hubble relationship established in the supposed redshift-distance correlation for a sample of galaxies in the vicinity of an object popularly identified as the Great Attractor. Although it has never been seen (it would in any event be obscured by the Milky Way’s disk), it has been invoked to explain the peculiar streaming motion of galaxies in the neighbourhood. A team led by Lyndon-Bell discovered in 1988 that peculiar velocities in this region are puzzlingly large, around 600 km sec-1 for the entire Local Group, and this could only be explained by the presence of an extremely massive object somewhere in the direction they were headed (Aside: this also caused a bad headache elsewhere in consensus cosmology, because the anisotropy—a local effect—shows up persistently in the CMBR, which of course is expressly forbidden by underlying theory).
The crucial significance of this geographical location is twofold: Firstly, it is local (all galaxies on the plot are <100 Mpc); and secondly, the presence in this locale of a structure massive enough to divert entire clusters of galaxies from the mooted Hubble flow is in defiance of the Cosmological Principle, and therefore rules out Hubble expansion in the region being observed. Despite the fact that all parties to the debate would agree that the galaxies represented in the graph occupy a volume of space that is definitely not expanding, Professor Peebles is quite clear in his conclusion about this particular plot: “We see that, even with the anomaly in the direction of Centaurus, Hubble’s law is quite a good description of the redshift-distance relation.” [6]
There you have it. Bingo! The Hubble law shows up in non-expanding space, and would therefore manifest in a static Universe. Hubble’s 1929 discovery and all the subsequent developments upon it are clearly invalid as indicators of universal expansion. As I perused further in The Principles of Physical Cosmology, I quickly saw that there is an abundance of such observational evidence refuting the notion of redshift-verified expansion, but of course I need only one substantive example to make my point.
At the risk of labouring the point, here’s the principle: Any correlation in observational data, perceived or real, between redshift and brightness cannot be taken to indicate expansion if it is also seen in static space. In fact, by their own logic, Standard Model theorists should concede that observationally, a linear relationship between the redshift of local galaxies and their apparent luminosities indicates quite the opposite: A static universe, not an expanding one.
[1] P J E Peebles The Principles of Physical Cosmology (Princeton University Press, 1993).
[2] Velocity dispersion is the spread of velocities of stars or galaxies in a more or less spherical cluster. It is estimated from the radial velocities of selected component objects in the group, and once established can give the cluster mass by means of the virial theorem.
[3] In my opinion, it is argued with merit that it started well before Eddington’s blatantly censored Principe and Sobral eclipse data. The Michelson-Morley experiment of 1887 is a case in point. However, we cannot afford to be distracted by peripheral arguments right now.
[4] The Tully-Fisher relation is a robust correlation between internal rotational velocity in spiral galaxies (a function of stellar abundance) and their intrinsic luminosity. See chapter 5 for further discussion.
[5] The term δν21 refers to the width of the atomic hydrogen 21cm radio line from the galaxy disk, a standard measure of rotation.
[6] P J E Peebles, op cit.


On Thursday, 11 February, 2016, a group of some one thousand scientists co-authored a paper announcing that the LIGO interferometric array had after more than a decade of fruitlessly accumulating data , positively identified the signature of gravitational waves coming from a deep space event. This was a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein in 1915 in a landmark paper henceforward known as The General Theory of Relativity. I have known for some time that results are being attributed to observations made with instruments that were inherently incapable of doing so. My scepticism is well known, and I consequently received dozens of requests to publish my view of the matter. In general, layman’s terms, here it is.
My analysis:
On September 14, LIGO observed a “chirp” lasting about a fifth of a second. Analyses of the signal suggest that it was produced by the cataclysmic collision of two black holes a billion light years away. Question: The almighty collision between two supermassive bodies produces a wave lasting just a fifth of second? The instruments that comprise LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) were set up to try to achieve a specific goal, consequent to the predictions of General Relativity Theory. The mirrors in the interferometer are set 4km apart. The expected variation in that distance would be 10^-18 metres or 10^-15 millimetres. In layman’s language, they are looking for a change in distance over the four kilometre separation of ONE THOUSAND TRILLIONTH OF A MILLIMETRE!
The change in distance equates to a required design sensitivity of the LIGO interferometer of one part in 10^21. That is, a resolution of ONE PART in ONE BILLION TRILLION.
Let’s try to put the expected variation into some sort of comprehensible perspective. The diameter of a hydrogen atom is obtained experimentally at 10^-7 mm. Therefore, Ligo seeks to measure a distance that is ONE HUNDRED MILLIONTH of the diameter of a hydrogen atom. Put another way, if the change were one hundred million times greater than the one they claim to have measured, it would be the same as adding or subtracting a SINGLE ATOM to or from the four kilometre distance separating the mirrors.
That is probably unimaginable to most people, so let’s try to add further perspective.
The best precision mirror surfaces are polished to match the ideal, nearly parabolic surface to about 25 nanometres – about 3 ten-thousandths of the width of a human hair. That is incredibly fine tolerance, but let’s compare it with the difference in length that LIGO claims to measure. A nanometre is a unit of spatial measurement that is 10^-9 meter, or one billionth of a meter. Take it down one level – a nanometre is a millionth of a millimetre.
The most precisely polished astrophysical mirrors, like those used in LIGO, can have peaks 25 nm above and below the theoretical surface plane of the mirror. 50 nm is a BILLION TIMES bigger than the gravitational wave signature. In practical terms, it is impossible to measure the distance between the two mirrors in each interferometer (actually said to be 3999.5 metres) to the required tolerances, so they have had to take an average, which is guesswork.
There are other conditions which change the distance between the mirrors by many orders of magnitude greater than the anticipated gravitational wave fluctuation. There is change in ambient temperature as the array goes through day and night cycles, and therefore expansion and contraction. Waves caused by seismic fluctuations are ever present, disturbing the separation. There are also anthropogenic waves, resulting from trucking, blasting, mining, and railroads, for example.
Then there are the influences affecting the light and its frequency that lie between the source of the radiation being measured and the Earth. There are all manner of objects, systems, and force fields in inter-galaxian space. These are not precisely known; some are completely invisible to us, yet they have a profound effect on light signals that simply cannot be quantified by measurement.
The LIGO instruments have all sorts of protective devices shielding them from extraneous kinetics and noise, but to filter those impediments out without fiddling with the sought-after signal, the LIGO scientists would have to guess their magnitude. That is not an empirically sound way to arrive at an accurate answer.
Ligo cost over $620 million US to construct. Research grants and operating costs take that figure to well over one billion US dollars. Hold that thought.
To summarise, paraphrasing the words of Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg in reference to Edwin Hubble’s initial interpretation of galaxian redshifts, “…it seems they knew the answer they wanted to get.”

Skywalker interviewed by Author Poppet


Today I’m chatting with published astrophysicist Hilton Ratcliffe. Hilton is just one of those people who makes life infinitely interesting. No matter what question I have, he takes the time to *put things into perspective* for me, and he’s rather lovely. I’m pleased my path crossed his last year, and that we’ve maintained contact… let’s talk books, space, and big bangs (the innuendo in that is endless)…
Poppet • • • looks to Hilton…


• The Virtue of Heresy: That’s quite a title – care to explain it?

The full title of my first book is “The Virtue of Heresy – Confessions of a Dissident Astronomer”. It has nothing to do with religion. Science progresses by being challenged. The history of organised knowledge has been characterised by periods – I suppose we might even call them dynasties – during which a prevailing dogma has held sway, and this has always meant the suppression of dissent. For example, the regime that promoted the Earth-centred Universe ruled science and society for about 2,000 years. It has invariably been the efforts of a few resolute individuals, the heretics that brought about regime change described as a paradigm shift by Thomas Kuhn. We owe the ongoing development of true science entirely to the efforts of those few dissidents like Copernicus and Galileo who risked their lives to challenge the orthodoxy, hence “the virtue of heresy”. My book puts that into a contemporary idiom, focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on insidious repression of dissent by a clique promoting Big Bang Theory in cosmology.

• Now, you have released your latest book, *The Static Universe* – that alone to me feels like a contradiction. Static implies, “unchanging” – is this what the title is insinuating?


The full title of the book is “The Static Universe – Exploding the Myth of Cosmic Expansion”. The term “static” has a specific meaning when used in astrophysics, quite different from the meaning it has in natural English. It means “non-expanding”, not “standing still”. This is part of standard terminology in the field, and I explain it early on in the book, and again in the glossary. It’s interesting to note that from far enough away, the perception of relative motion disappears. The distant stars appear fixed on the sky, yet they are in reality moving around at hundreds of kilometres per second relative to one another. It’s called an “observer effect”.

• I have to argue with you (sorry I have to) – when you say this after arguing Galileo’s theory – you say: Mathematics does not exist in nature. It is contained absolutely and entirely in the human mind—which of course, by my definition, is an unnatural place! I absolutely have to disagree – how can you explain chemical bonding then? Without numbers (mathematics) how would we build sound structures? – Or measure ingredients to bake a cake? I personally feel that mathematics is the only language which cannot be manipulated or corrupted – and yet you say it doesn’t exist in nature – but it has to, because we are all just atoms bonding – our own bodies are a mass of firing neurons and chemicals inducing impulses. Hilton, you have to explain that preposterous statement. – Or you are being cunning and calling the human mind *alone* unnatural? – which would lead to a whole new debate about the theory of *mind*…

No, there’s nothing cunning about it. Mathematics is a language, a way of describing things in nature using symbols, quantities and units of measure. It’s just fancy arithmetic. Like any language, it doesn’t exist in nature, it’s simply a mental construct used by human beings to communicate ideas. Thus, we may say that you and I are about 500km apart, but go and look at the road, at the earth and the rocks and the trees. There are no kilometres there. It’s in our minds only, but it helps us to agree on certain properties of the world about us. The same is true for chemical bonding or suspension bridges or the Fibonacci curves of spiral galaxies – not one of them contains mathematics, but may be usefully described by mathematics in its role as an efficient international language. Note that I do not say that mathematics is not useful, in fact it’s essential in science. But it should be a tool, not an argument for some esoteric higher truth. Read chapter ten (or chapter nine in the 3rd edition), “The Haquar Monologue”. The idea is developed there without a single equation!
I have to chuckle when you say “mathematics is the only language which cannot be manipulated or corrupted”. How wrong you are! Black Hole theory and Big bang theory are both gross corruptions and manipulations of the field equations of the General Theory of Relativity. In The Static Universe I devote a chapter to the question of space curvature, probably the greatest corruption of mathematics ever conceived. The fact that analysts solving the equations in these fields come to so many mathematically legitimate but opposing conclusions tells us that mathematics has the limitations of any language – it cannot express truth in an immutable way. Cosmology is ruled by no more than preference, certainly not by some eternal truth revealed unambiguously by mathematical formalism.

• Okay – let’s get to the nitty gritty here – who is Hilton? And what drew you to authoring books?

I grew up in rural Zululand, with a physicist father, an astronomer grandfather, and a musician mother, under a brilliant unpolluted sky. My dad would read to us every evening from books like “Jock of the Bushveld”, and would quote from Gray’s Elegy before supper in lieu of grace. How could I not have ended up where I am? It was pre-ordained. I was infused with a love of language (including mathematics and isiZulu) from the time I was born, and absolutely everything was done to some kind of musical sound track. So, Hilton is an astrophysicist and mathematician with a love of prose, rhythm, melody, and harmony, and he sees nature through those eyes.

• Where are your books available? (And what’s this I hear about a trip abroad to promote the newest one?)
They are both available on Amazon


Yes, I have just returned from a globally-cooled UK where I stayed with legendary British Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore . It was awesome. I visited him first in 2007 following his positive review of The Virtue of Heresy (you can read the story under “Articles” on my website) and he suggested that I should write a book called The Static Universe. I was already two-thirds of the way through a follow-up to Heresy, and was initially about as enthusiastic as drunk fowl. He was right (he usually is) and a few weeks ago I went over there again to thank him and celebrate his 87th birthday. He’s physically a broken man, but mentally – wow! What a mentor to have.

• What is it like being an astrophysicist?

Very sexy!

• Do you ever walk through the mall and think – my IQ is higher than yours? Or do you feel that IQ is overrated?

No I don’t. Not in a mall. Most of my time in malls is spent planning my escape. Yes the whole thing about IQs is muddy. Is it a measure of intelligence, or perhaps something else? What is intelligence? How is that distinct from being a proficient advocate? I know people who can “win” any argument they get into, but they are not necessarily intelligent, and almost always have no respect for the truth. So morality comes into it somewhere. I was taken out of my comfort zone in standard 5 when our IQs were done and put into a “gifted child” programme that all but ruined me academically. The fact that I went on to achieve a measure of success in a mentally challenging arena of science is despite that IQ-mania, not because of it. In any case, it was really just a test of my mathematical skills, that is, the ability to see patterns, and nothing to do with my understanding of nature.

• What do you do for fun? Or is your life mostly conducted looking into a magnifying lens?

Interaction with nature. I do a great deal of naked-eye observing – of celestial objects, of birds, of trees, of termites, of crystals, of exotic motor cars. Driving well engineered vehicles is my most enduring and rewarding hobby. I read a lot. I do photography. And I write. Oh, and don’t forget music. Music is a very big deal for me. One last thing – I derive a great deal of personal satisfaction from dissing pseudo-science. Anthropogenic Global Warming and 2012 Doomsday are current favourites.

• You have looked through the biggest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere – what was that experience like? The waiting list is endless – yet a little birdie told me – you just had to flash that irresistible IQ – and you were granted passage – do tell!
No, there’s nothing sinister about my visits to Sutherland. I am part of the space science community, and despite my unorthodox views, am still respected as such. I have friends who are professional astronomers attached to the SAAO (South African Astronomical Observatory) and can generally get access to the inner sanctum. Of course, I didn’t get observation time (although in principle I could). To be granted observation time, that is, dictate where the instrument should be pointed to acquire images for research, is naturally enough a very difficult thing to achieve, but it’s not impossible! For my purposes as an astrophysicist, the data obtained from orbiting observatories is enough to keep me out of mischief. This last trip, I was there during the day and just played with that magnificent R300-million toy. Wow!

• My Mum wants to know how old you are and when she can date you? (laughs)

Oh crap! I’m 60 . I have a girlfriend (well, a friend with benefits) but I’m free on Tuesday.
(much chuckling)

• I’m going to veer off topic of your books briefly – to ask you a question that plagues one of my friends. He’s been watching the phenomenon known as *The Big Wobble* around the sun in our solar system, since 2007. – This is apparently – disc shaped *things* moving around the sun – physics dictates that anything that close – would surely disintegrate – yet these objects have been seen by a number of telescopes around the world – for a number of years – does the scientific community have an explanation for these things? (as I feel that there must be a basic, scientific – logical explanation for it)

Oh crap again! Refer to my previous comment about pseudo science and my mantras in the next answer. The Big Wobble refers specifically to a theory of aliens, and that’s just horse dung. I can’t go into detail here, but bear two things in mind: One, the centre-of-mass (known as the barycentre) of the Sun shifts fairly randomly within the orb of the Sun itself, and results in a complex set of physical wobbles throughout the Solar System, but most obviously near the Sun (eg, the precession of Mercury’s perihelion); two, the Sun and all stars and systems of stars are to some significant extent electromagnetic phenomena (refer to the chapter “A Twist in the Tale” in The Virtue of Heresy). The biggest structure in the Solar System is an electromagnetic plasma sheet. The Sun has an electrical potential with respect to surrounding space of a billion volts. There is copious geological evidence of electrical arcing in all Solar System bodies studied in surface detail (eg striations and lines of mini-craters that the nutters say are caused by alien warships). Bottom line: We’ve got enough real stuff to keep us mystified without this kind of dark and mysterious nonsense.

• What do you tell yourself on bad days? When the world gets you down – do you have a winning formula or mantra?

Keep it real. No hocus-pocus. Emotion is wonderful and therapeutic unless you wallow in it. I’m REALLY small. In an infinite Universe, we will always be infinitely more ignorant than we are wise. Cats rock!

(yes they do)

• What’s your favourite food?
Varies with my mood and what I ate last. A good English breakfast is right up there. Fish. Vegetables, raw or hardly cooked. Brown rice. Scrambled eggs. Ice cream. Pies. Apple tart. Prawn curry. Grilled pepper-lemon calamari. Mealie meal porridge with peanut butter. Tea and scones. Buttermilk rusks and Horlicks.

• Tell me your take on the Big Bang Theory

An incredibly complex mathematical theory that has no basis at all in reality. Creationism without God (unless man is god). The ultimate impossible theory of A to Z evolution. Prevailing dogma, the paradigm about to shift.

• What is it you would like the world to remember you for?

An uncompromising desire for truth, independent of any model or subjective opinion.

• What would you like the people you’ve known, to remember you for?

Well, I’m trying to be a decent person, so I guess if I succeed, people will include in their cocktail of memories of me that I was sincere and honest to a large degree.

• If you could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

That animals eat other animals. Cruelty appals me.

• Do you have an *idol* – a person who’s inspired you – or someone whose magnificence simply humbles you – and you can’t help feeling – one day – I’d like to be just like that?

Gautama the Buddha.

• And… what is your ideal gift? (I’ve always wondered what sort of gifts astrophysicists like to unwrap on Christmas morning)

Books. Washburn D10SNSK steel-string acoustic guitar. BMW R1200GS. 20” Meade reflector. Love. okie.

Hilton, thank you so much for this – it’s been great fun. I really enjoyed what I read of- “The Virtue of Heresy” – it’s a fun read, which is fascinating, informative, and really not what I expected. You blow the boring badge into smithereens. Good luck with both books …

Astrophysical Bohemia (Being the Further Adventures of a Cosmic Terrorist)

Astrophysical Bohemia

(Being the Further Adventures of a Cosmic Terrorist)


By Hilton Ratcliffe



Voelvlei is a 300-acre patch of pristine veld and wetland in the lee of KwaZulu-Natal’s Karkloof Mountains. There, in a rambling Meccano-set, double story house, shaped, it would appear, more by its inventors’ exploratory drive than by architectural vision, live Paul and Jill Jackson. Paul is a retired professor of physics and general inquisitor of nature. From time to time, I make the two-hour journey through the rolling emerald hills of Natal’s magnificent midlands to spend some quality learning time with the Jacksons, gazing out over the valley towards distant timber plantations with their two dogs and a cat that came in from the cold. I would like to recount a recent visit, because it illustrates the long-term benefits of listening to someone who knows more than you do, even if you don’t always agree. The dialogue took place in warm autumn sunshine on the front lawn, traced over a litany of birdcalls and buzzing friendly insects. I have named it “The Lesson of Voelvlei” and my account takes the form of an unsent letter to Prof Jackson.


“Dear Paul,

“I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation yesterday. There’s good news and there’s bad news. First, the bad news. You pointedly advised me to be wary of logic and rational thought as the means to reach conclusions about the world. Thank you for the advice, but it occurs to me that you used logic to frame your argument! It’s a paradox in the purest sense. I listened carefully, and weighed up what you said—with logic again. I’m afraid it’s a dead-end street, a classical circulus in probando sand trap that leads nowhere useful. Actually, I must say, it’s just plain bad advice.


“Notwithstanding that, I came away enriched by something else. You told me to remember who I am. Where do I come from? How am I equipped to deal with my shift in history? Yes, I am indeed a chattering African ape with interesting thumbs, given to exuberant vocal signalling called speech. This is where our dialogue, essentially between two monkeys on a hillside, barking and coughing at each other under a clear blue African sky, has led me: To look carefully at just what sort of machine I am in this magnificent wilderness, and how the cogs and wheels of my consciousness equip me to derive, hold, and express an opinion on anything at all that drifts in through the windows of perception.


“The Lesson of Voelvlei is profound, and may in fuller time emerge as a book in its own right. For now, I want only to set the wheels in motion. What kind of monkey am I? This is the threshold of a tricky game in which I think about thought, and I must be careful not to out-clever myself.


“It would appear likely that in common with all sentient species, my mental pictures mimic—that is, symbolise in a faithful way—the world outside. The first principle is that the spatial frame of reference in my mind is the same as that which applies to the real world outside. It is a 3-dimensional construct, plain and simple. I can create and hold in my mind an image of a 2-D object, say the surface of a page, but must realise that the image, like a hologram, is framed in a 3-D place. If I rotate the page in my mind, it becomes obvious. We cannot conceive of any object in other than 3-dimensional space. That’s the first clue that we are designed to accommodate environmental parameters, not conflict with them.


“The next phase is how the ‘facts’ arrange themselves; the way cause proceeds to effect; and how our mental processes best deal with this. Essentially, what happens is that we can manipulate these mind-bytes, using our designed-in cerebral abilities, in such a way that we are able, more or less successfully, to predict a given effect from observed causes. This is logic. The rational, dependable progression from cause to effect is a process that we are cerebrally equipped to manipulate towards a useful outcome. Once again, it is obvious that we are monkeys designed in harmony with natural, real world processes.


“In the context of the Lesson of Voelvlei, what emerges is this: To get a coherent mental reconstruction of external reality, we must use logic. There is no other way to consistently produce a proper result. We are simply not equipped—dare I say intended?—to deal with the world irrationally as a survival mechanism. It would be counter-productive and unnatural. Whatever we think, the only audit we have is comparison with external reality. No matter how convinced I might be that by simply flapping my arms I could fly like a bird, if I were to test my faith by jumping off the Empire State, gravity would win. If I can predict gravity’s victory, that’s logic.


“So yes, I am a chattering African ape (a notion which does not offend me in the slightest), and I babble on unashamedly in ape-talk, thinking and developing opinions in the fashion of the monkey that I am. For every yin, there is a yang. Intelligence is a mastery of logic and an appreciation of the aesthetic. Hedonism is tempered by ethics. Rational is shadowed by the irrational, and we, creatures of the little blue planet, must cope with that. It’s how well we harmonise with the laws of nature that will determine in the broadest terms the location of that seminal line drawn in the sands of time that separates success from failure. We won’t win by fighting it.


But I guess we all need to decide just what the ‘it’ is in our equation of state.


With kind regards, Hilton”


My father was agnostic, and I was brought up without religious prejudice. That really was an advantage, because when I went into science I had no philosophical or theological baggage to worry about. It was great. Eventually, my journey took me into the infinite universe of astronomy, and what I came across, what I saw with my own eyes, absolutely blew me away. There are enormous creatures out there, so big they make your eyes water, and they belong to species with the same general shape and behaviour that stretch out for as far as our instruments can see. I hadn’t expected to find what I did, and must admit to being somewhat puzzled that most professional astronomers seem to be desensitised to the spectacle and take these things for granted.


How can I possibly convey the rush that I get from looking at the cosmos? You see, what we have in the environment—and remember, astrophysicists are actually environmentalists on a really big scale—is consistently repeated patterns. We see millions of things, all with the same shape and general behaviour. Why? That’s the question! A few months ago, someone gave me an orchid to put on my desk. The buds were still furled, but over several weeks they opened up into the most stunning blooms with absolutely incredibly detailed intricacy. They were symmetrical, yet not. I spent hours gazing at them in abject wonder, and it occurred to me that orchids do not emerge because of a random, chaotic process. They are perfectly formed according to a detailed, pre-conceptual template that lays out the plan in such way a way that although all orchids of a particular species are similar, no two are identical. It’s all written in the genetic plan.


The kind of “intelligence” evolutionary processes have is a vision of the outcome before the process starts.


It’s exactly the same but on a vastly bigger scale up in the heavens. The nebulae, stars, galaxies and clusters of clusters of galaxies are blooms in the cosmic flower garden, and they reproduce themselves in the same general way. Consistently repeated patterns can’t be fobbed off as coincidence. It’s design, and it’s incredible.