Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Battleground God

I did this quiz, Battleground God, from The Philosopher's Magazine a while back and was reintroduced by Johnny Dee at Fides Quaerens Intellectum today. And since Andrew, Peter, Ben and I have been tossing around various ideas about religion, I thought this would be great to share. You answer about twenty questions designed to see if your views about God are consistent. Unlike the What Religion Are You? quiz from Saturday, this one is more logical, rigorous and fair. It does not suppose any answer is right or wrong, but only tests to see if you have contradicted yourself. I did pretty well, with no direct hits and only one "bullet to bite." See the instructions for explanations, and have fun! There are more games on the site, which I have not tried as yet.

Don't speak for me

Standard hard left slander. Anyone who disagrees is a racist because it's the most hateful word we can think of. That, and we don't know how to debate. Or have the patience and persistence to do so. Maybe the argument is more convincing when you've been stoned for fourty years. It wouldn't be a protest without tinfoil hat Jew bashing, would it? These pictures and more are from Paul at Ravishing Light, who I hope will forgive my posting these without asking first. I wanted to get them up quick while they're current. These guys are the loud 30%. I'm sure my American friends are familiar with them, and will recognize that they do not speak for Canada, but only for themselves. If they really were representative, we'd be under a majority Marijuana Party government. Since we're not... Posted by Hello

Sunday, November 28, 2004

New blog

New blog! Before Dawn is done by Pete, who is Andrew's brother. Andrew's blog is Bound by Gravity. It appears that I now have twice the trouble on my hands...

This one's for you

Long funny post at Wicked Thoughts. You know you're a liberal when...

Gnosis of Mirth

I wonder if Flynn would (aka Simon) submit the following to the ADL: the words racist and bigot. It is plain that they are used to direct hate towards people with conservative views.
The terms "racist" and "bigot" have become powerful weapons used against conservatives. Sometimes they are justified. Sometimes they are not. They are, however, always effective - which explains their overuse. As conservatives it is important to recognize that when we fight Islamic fundamentalism we aren't fighting Muslims any more than we are fighting women when we oppose abortion. Do not allow liberals to shame us into submission.
I doubt it. Firstly, Flynn himself likes to hurl these words about, confident that he knows precisely what they mean and that he could never misuse them to score cheap points. Secondly, the terms do have a real meaning, which his poisonous attempt to defame the flag Canada flew in WWII is in danger of diluting. Let's just say that he gets his little wet dream, and the RCMP swoops down and asks the Red Ensign brigade to stop using the old flag. You know we'll just come up with a new one. Our views will still cause his hair to fall out, and he will still think we are haters. Will he go after the new symbol? What alternative is there? Debate the ideas? He doesn't like that. Let us simply agree to disagree? He doesn't like that either. He seems like the kind of out and out hater that will not allow anyone to step outside his little box of approved ideas, all of them of about a mere 30 years vintage, it seems. Would he then step up and say what it seems he really wants to say? That we should not have the freedom to say anything that might offend his bloated sense of righteousness? Get a grip man. I think your dinky little pirate is stupid. I think your apology for using it is even stupider, if that is possible. But you go right on. You see, I think in a free society people are going to get cross with one another from time to time. And there will be times when the differences are so severe that the law has to brought in. But mostly we can just let it go. The debate is a healthy thing. We have in our group, men and women, who's heritage is from all over the world. We are not masochists or sufferers of false consciousness. We have a flag that has a good history, and it is that good history that the real haters are attempting to use as a cover for their work. The very worst that could be said is that it is a symbol in contention. To put it on a level with an SS thunderbolt is to reveal an extremism and zealotry that alternatively frightful and laughable. Left to their own devices, most people would come to that conclusion. But Flynn has been crawling through broken glass (he's a martyr, dontcha know) to know the real truth. And now he's come back from his Batcave and is willing (hallelujah!) to share his gnosis with us. I suspect it will be to his shock and dismay when the result is not fear and trembling, but much mirth and spilt beer. Why? Well... I direct you to this, from the ADL, which says just what I have been saying:
Users of this database should keep in mind, however, that few symbols ever represent just one idea or are used exclusively by one group. For example, the Confederate Flag is a symbol that is frequently used by white supremacists but which also has been used by people and groups that are not racist. To some it may signify pride in one's heritage but to others it suggests slavery or white supremacy. Similarly, other symbols in this database may be significant to groups or individuals who are not extreme or racist. The descriptions here point out significant multiple meanings but may not be able to relay every single possible meaning of a particular symbol. For this reason, all of the symbols depicted here must be evaluated in the context in which they are used.

Happy New Year!

For those who are not Catholic, I'll have to explain. Today is the first day of Advent, the four weeks of waiting for Christmas. If you have an Advent wreath, today is the day you bring it out of the closet. The first day of Advent is also the first day of the Liturgical year in the Catholic church, when we begin a new cycle of readings for the next year. In lay terms, Advent might be called the official start of the Christmas season. Why do we need someone to tell us that? Well, if more people followed it, we might not have to put up with neighbors having Christmas lights up on November 14th, as I observed recently (those folks had their tree up too! Argh!). It's a minor thing, true, but it is helpful in keeping the seasonal commercialism at bay, and keeping the focus on the gift that is at the heart of the season. It is also a time of cleaning house, and examining if we are doing everything we can to be worthy of that gift. From today's reading:
Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.
For those unfamiliar with Liturgical years, there are three (A,B, and C) each with suggested readings for each day. If you do them for all three years, you will have covered well over 90% of the Bible. Who says Catholicism is unbiblical?

My own private homicide

Life, Liberty and all my limbs This one is for my Libertarian leaning readers. And for Shannon at Shenanigans, who appears to be in danger of advocating both positive and negative interpretations of freedom. I doubt that was intended, and I'm going to try and illustrate the problem as gently as I can. In her post on a pharmacist's right to sell or not sell birth control, she says:
If I did not succeed in getting my [birth control] prescription filled, I would inform them [the store owners] that in the future I would be taking my business elsewhere. I would be extremely annoyed at the inconvenience, and I would tell all my friends how annoyed I was and encourage them to shop elsewhere. What I would not do, however, is demand that the government-sanctioned body responsible for regulating pharmacists force this particular pharmacy to fill my prescription. I would not presume I have the right to demand that a private business person be forced by law to do what I want.
She's right to think that forcing pharmacists to sell something is an abuse of freedom. She's also right about being able to criticize a vendor's point of view on most things. These are both defensible from someone who thinks that freedom is freedom from coercion, which is known as negative freedom. But Shannon goes on to articulate a pro abortion ("choice") stance (which is implicit in the choice to use birth control, but that is another matter). She does not think anyone ought to be coerced into giving her what she wants when she's writing about birth control, but I'm left to wonder how she would react to a doctor who refused to perform an abortion. Is coercion justified then? Because if coercion is justified in this case, the argument is one of positive freedom, where we must be given certain things in order to be free. That would be completely at odds with the generally libertarian point of view she is putting forward, and I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she recognizes that. The ultimate point, however, is that abortion is inconsistent with even the negative view of freedom common to the kind of libertarian thought Shannon has articulated on her blog. I'm suggesting that a re-evaluation is in order if consistency is to be maintained, because:
The unalienable right to life, liberty, and property is, essentially, only one: the right to be free from aggression. This right stems from the obligation not to aggress against anyone; this right and this obligation are opposite sides of the same coin.
Libertarianism does not address morality in general. It addresses only one category of good versus evil: justice versus injustice, non-aggression versus aggression. To violate another's rights is to be unjust. Libertarianism's basic principle is the obligation not to violate rights. This non-aggression principle is the foundation, the sine qua non, of a moral society. We owe others non-aggression. People who commit murder, theft, kidnapping, rape, or fraud, or fail to pay their just debts, are aggressors.
No matter the circumstances, no individual or government may use the sword, except in fair responses to rights violations. Implicit in the non-aggression principle is the right of defense. We have no obligation to allow others to succeed in attacking us before we react. There is a related principle: no one has a right to negligently or intentionally endanger the innocent and then allow the harm to happen. If we endanger others without their consent, we incur a positive obligation to prevent the harm. This might be called the non-endangerment principle: you endanger them — you protect them from the harm.
Non-aggression is an ongoing obligation: it is never optional for anyone, even pregnant women. If the non-aggression obligation did not apply, then earning money versus stealing it and consensual sex versus rape would be morally indifferent behaviors. The obligation not to aggress is pre-political and pre-legal. It does not arise out of contract, agreement, or the law; rather, such devices presuppose this obligation. The obligation would exist even in a state of nature. This is because the obligation comes with our human nature, and we acquire this nature at conception. Each of us has this obligation regardless of contrary personal opinions, consensus, or laws. We have it whether we wish to obey it or not. We have it even when others are not able to defend themselves. This obligation can neither be created nor destroyed. It is logically necessary to the concepts of liberty and property.
This passage is from Libertarians for Life. The argument here is something like a Natural Rights, or Natural Law argument. As such, it has many similarities to Catholic teaching. Thomas Aquinas, for example, was a Natural Rights thinker and he is a very large figure in Catholic thought. I particularly liked this:
Some people appeal to "neutrality" in order to sidestep the question of prenatal rights in the abortion debate. Their contention is that the "law should not get involved." There is a distinction, however: the state can be "neutral" regarding only the desirability of an act, not the right to perform the act. Obviously, the state is not neutral in practice when it enables killing by legalizing it, subsidizing it, and giving it police protection.
Speaking about Row v. Wade, the argument they give is very good. It is, in fact, the same argument that I used in an earlier post:
The most notable evasion of the homicide charge was made by the United States Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. In two cases, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, seven of the nine justices on the Court legalized abortion on demand until birth. To rationalize their decision, they inappropriately invoked the right of privacy — while sidestepping both the moral nature and the rights of the prenatal child. Writing for the seven, Justice Harry A. Blackmun proclaimed, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins." His explanation for why not was unsatisfactory. He went on to explain: "When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary at this point in the development of man's knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." This admission of intellectual inadequacy on the main objection to abortion — homicide merely serves to prove that the judiciary had no good reason to legalize abortion. ... How should courts act when undecided on pivotal questions affecting two parties and when they cannot avoid making a decision? Tossing a coin will not do in such cases. Their only reasonable course is to weigh the possible injuries that they would impose by a wrongful decision either way and then choose to avoid the worst possibility. When a human being's life is on the block, a proper legal system gives the benefit of the doubt to life. This is why even advocates of capital punishment call for stringent proof. If individuals accused of felonies get the benefit of such doubt, why not the beings in the womb? What possible wrongful injuries should the Roe Court have considered? The pregnant woman allegedly faces a partial and temporary loss of liberty; her fetus, however, allegedly faces the total and permanent loss of life and therefore liberty as well. The answer is obvious. The Court should have decided for life. Instead, the Court wrote that "the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense." Interestingly, lack of legal personhood is not necessarily a disqualification for legal protection under current law. For example, eagles and their eggs are not considered persons, yet they have legal protection. In Roe, the Court went beyond a two-tiered view of humanity that perceives human fetuses as inferior to human adults, for it saw human fetuses as also inferior to eagle fetuses.
The article goes on to note that blacks and women have, in the past, been denied the full benefit of their personhood, to our shame. Only cranks and cackpots will today argue that either group is any less than a full human being, with all the rights that follow. We are now in a precarious position because the court sidestepped its duty to protect life and liberty. It caved in to power and wealth in arguing that the individual has the right to decide the question alone and in private.
If the Court could have shown that abortion is not homicide, it would have done so. And that would have resolved the debate, at least for libertarians. Libertarians support the right to privacy. But homicide, the killing of one human being by another, is not a private matter. It is not a simple matter of choice. If it were, then "rights" would mean that the weak have no rights, and libertarianism and the very idea of rights would be meaningless.
The article goes on to counter many common arguments for abortion. I encourage everyone to give read it and give it some thought. Who knows, perhaps generations of future people will thank you for these moments of your time.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Been there, done that. From Cox and Forkum. Posted by Hello

Reform or Revolution

More from Dallas Willard:
The morally good person, I would say, is a person who is intent upon advancing the various goods of human life with which they are effectively in contact, in a manner that respects their relative degrees of importance and the extent to which the actions of the person in question can actually promote the existence and maintenance of those goods. The person who is morally bad or evil is one who is intent upon the destruction of the various goods of human life with which they are effectively in contact, or who is indifferent to the existence and maintenance of those goods. Being morally good or evil clearly will be a matter of degree and there surely will be few if any actual human beings who exist at the extreme ends of the scale. (An interesting but largely pointless question might be how humanity distributes on the scale: a nice bell curve or...what?) Here, I submit, is the fundamental moral distinction: the one which is of primary human interest, and from which all the others, moving toward the periphery of the moral life and ethical theory, can be clarified. For example: the moral value of acts (positive and negative); the nature of moral obligation and responsibility; virtues and vices; the nature and limitations of rights, punishment, rewards, justice and related issues; the morality of laws and institutions; and what is to be made of moral progress and moral education. A coherent theory of these matters can, I suggest, be developed only if we start from the distinction between the good and bad will or person--which, admittedly, almost no one is currently prepared to discuss. That is one of the outcomes of ethical theorizing through the 20th Century. I believe that this is the fundamental moral distinction because I believe that it is the one that ordinary human beings constantly employ in the ordinary contexts of life, both with reference to themselves (a touchstone for moral theory, in my opinion) and with reference to others (where it is employed with much less clarity and assurance). And I also believe that this is the fundamental moral distinction because it seems to me the one most consistently present at the heart of the tradition of moral thought that runs from Socrates to Sidgwick--all of the twists and turns of that tradition notwithstanding.
I have posted more from Willard's interesting essay because it brought to my mind what I thought was an interesting and useful distinction. When we engage people of a left leaning persuasion (particularly the hard left), and we attempt to take them to task for their eagerness to tear down the traditions and institutions around them, they will very likely reply that they are not destroyers but are in fact "hyper patriots." I think this is the tactic taken by Michael Moore, hence his slovenly appearance and shaggy beard and slouched posture. His carefully constructed visuals are trying to tell us, "I'm just a dude. I coulda been a nerd in a comic or video game store, but I'm such a patriot that I'm trying to reform these evil structures instead." I am not claiming that Moore, or even our own friend and blogger, Robert McCelland, are evil. Not at all. I am saying that in their zeal to "bring about change" they are no different than a lumber company clearcutting trees off of a mountain faster than they can re-grow. Civilizational Ethics are even more slow growing than trees. And the lens used in deciding what has to stay and what has to go is far too often a mere blip - the product of less than a generation of thinking. Naturalism can offer little or nothing in resisting the attack on human institutions that took so long to reach us in their current form, because:
Something peculiar happens when we view action from an objective or external standpoint. Some of its most important features seem to vanish under the objective gaze. Actions seem no longer assignable to individual agents as sources, but become instead components of the flux of events in the world of which the agent is a part.... The essential source of the problem is a view of persons and their actions as part of the order of nature.... That conception, if pressed, leads to the feeling that we are not agents at all, that we are helpless and not responsible for what we do.
This is why the embrace of naturalism leads to left thinking; in naturalism we might as well be pumpkins rather than humans. What we need is not so much a strong web of human interaction, but enough of certain physical conditions - food, shelter, and so on. And because we need them we are justified in doing anything, and I do mean anything, to get them, whether it means using the government to rob other people, or simply doing it ourselves.

Naturalism ex nihilo

Back to weightier things. I found this essay by Dallas Williard and I'm certain it will bore the heck out of my non philosophically inclined readers, but I think this is a very important point: naturalism is inconsistent with any kind of ethics. The best it can do is Utility, and in that scenario anything can be justified "if it works." Nothing is out and out wrong. In practice I think few people actually subscribe to this, even when they say otherwise. If you were to rob or hurt them to better yourself, or even if you gave the money or property to widows and orphans, I think it is almost certain that people claiming ethical utility would be outraged. I've used emphasis to help anyone skimming to find the key points quickly.

Naturalism staggers back and forth between physicalism (materialism) as a general ontology or first philosophy, and outright physicsism or scientism (which need not take the form of physicsism)--often, though not always, trying to derive physics-ism from scientism and then physicalism from physics-ism. This continues up to the present.

In a recent review Patricia Kitcher chides Stephen Stich for "philosophical Puritanism" when he takes Naturalism to hold that the only real entities are physical. (In her review of Stich's Deconstructing the Mind, in The Journal of Philosophy, 95 (December 1998), 641-644, pp. 641-642) Such a position apparently has now led Stich to give up Naturalism "in favor of an open-ended pluralism." Pluralism, as he takes it, is a position that counts as legitimate all properties "invoked in successful scientific theories." But for Kitcher, it seems, such "Pluralism," tied to "successful science," is just the Naturalism we want. She points out how "the obvious authorities" on naturalistic epistemology (Quine, Goldman) counsel us to "make free use of empirical psychology" and to "reunite epistemology with psychology." (Kitcher, p. 642) Forget physicalism, her point seems to be. A loose scientism is enough to secure Naturalism for us. Indeed, many of the "generous" Naturalists of the mid-20th century gathered around Dewey and Sidney Hook identified Naturalism precisely with acceptance of science and only science as the arbiter of truth and reality, and seemed, at least, to accept whatever came out the end of the pipe of "scientific inquiry" as knowledge and reality.

But if the points made above about science, even "successful science," and about psychology in particular, are true, Kitcher's advice--similar to the advice of a Dewey or Hook--simply cannot be followed. It is vacuous in practice, for there is no way of identifying and accessing the "successful science" which is proposed as defining Naturalism. At most you get "science now," which is really only "some scientist(s) now." And certainly no science (including psychology) that was not Naturalistic in some strongly physicalistic or at least Empiricist sense would be accepted as "successful" by those inclined to Naturalism. Then we are back in the circle: Naturalism in terms of science--but, of course, naturalistic science.

For these reasons I take it that the appeal to science cannot serve to specify naturalism. There are, then, good reasons to be a "Puritan" if you want to advocate Naturalism. Naturalism has to be an honest metaphysics; and that metaphysics has to be "unqualified physicalism" as referred to above. But then a thinker who would be naturalist would feel pressure to have recourse to some specific a priori analyses to render his ontological specification of Naturalism plausible. Short of that one simply can find no reason why naturalistic monism with respect to reality, knowledge or method should be true: no reason why there should not be radically different kinds of realities with correspondingly radically different kinds of knowledge and inquiry. Why a priori should one suppose the sciences could be "unified"? And why should we think that the identifiable sciences together could exhaust knowledge and reality? It is simply a hope that some people have shared. ... In addition to the difficulty of coming up with the required a priori analyses, however, to turn to such inquiry as might produce them would (as I have already indicated) be to break with the epistemological monism essential to Naturalism and introduce something like a "first philosophy." This would be discontinuous with the empirical methods of the sciences. In showing its justification through a priori analysis, Naturalism would simply give up the game.
Via The Maverick Philosopher

I knew this

You scored as Lust.

Lust

44%

Wrath

38%

Gluttony

31%

Pride

25%

Envy

19%

Sloth

19%

Greed

6%
Seven deadly sins created with QuizFarm.com

Saturdays are for quizzes. I think I knew this already. Which is why I don't need any help in finding it.

Interesting Quiz

You scored as Catholic. Welcome to the One, Holy, CATHOLIC, and Apostolic Church! You my Friend are a Catholic. You have a strong sense of something outside of yourself and feel drawn to answer profound questions to satisfy your desires. You recognize that truth isn't self-centered or about inventing something new, but rather following the road map of your heart to a bigger picture. You are probably baptized.

Catholic

90%

Christian

70%

Jewish

60%

Buddhist

40%

Cult

40%

Anarchist

15%
Religion created with QuizFarm.com
Also via Happy Catholic This was an interesting quiz! I'm very interested in seeing how some of my blogging friends do. Any takers?

My dream place

mountain Mountains! Where is your dream place? brought to you by Quizilla Via Happy Catholic

Thursday, November 25, 2004

So hard to choose

If you're not reading Eternity Road, you really out to give it a try.

For Ross

I was shocked this morning when we were called to a brief meeting. It wasn't the meeting, we have those once a week. It was because the only item on the agenda was that one of my co-workers had passed away yesterday. Ross had been away from work for, I don't know, a month or so. He had skin cancer and was getting treatment was all I heard. There was a card passed around for him when his friends at work heard he was getting down on his prospects. His sister had passed from the same thing. I signed it and I expected to see him not too long after that because he wasn't old or unhealthy looking the last time I saw him. He was probably in his fourties. He came to our office after spending some time in another location for the same company, doing a different job. I remember spending a week with him, training him, and I remember how swamped he felt. He wasn't sure he'd stay. But stay he did. He thanked me for the training long after it was done. I'm now on the list as available to train new staff, perhaps because of his encouragement. He loved hockey and was always talking about the players and the game, even in August. He always smiled at you and said hello. He was older than I and we didn't hang out together. I can't say I knew him well. I think he leaves some kids behind. I can't quite believe it. Reach for the stars while you can.

Commanding Heights

I really ought to steer clear of more left leaning blogs, even if they are Canadian. They make my head hurt. A few more are continuing to take a run at the Red Ensign group for (what else, these are not very original people) being racist. This time they are being slightly more sophisticated. Two that I'm aware of rightly point out that there are Canadian racist groups who are attempting to lay claim to the Red Ensign and use it as their own version of the Confederate flag. One of our two critics has done some digging and says that it was Canada's flag for only X number of years, until we got our current one. Even if he has his facts right, and he might, it boggles my mind why he should stoop to allow official government acts to define what is and is not Canadian. There are more things outside government than in; are they not real? As for me, I take it that the people of Canada come first. We have a government to do governmental things- above all, to defend the nation. Today we have a navy that does not have boats with icebreaking capability and that is shameful for a country with a huge ice bound northern border. Why do they not get upset about that? There may be minerals and other valuables there that other nations could lay claim to. Such weaknesses, aside from making us less secure, could mean a loss of territory and therefore, a lost source of tax dollars. According to our critics, we can only be advocating a properly equipped and funded military because we want to be (and isn't this original?) Americans. The non logic! The horror! Owww! As I write this, a new and more gently worded post has appeared:
So the point is not to say the Red Ensign Brigade are racists. The point is to warn those who might belong or those thinking to join this Brigade: don't. There's a chance you could be connected in the public mind with these racist groups. Take it under advisement. Reclaiming the flag is certainly legitimate. I would object to this, because I believe the Red Ensign is an Imperial Flag (and I think it shows that Tories don't understand this country -- when they choose symbols from the past, they always choose the wrong ones). But good luck anyways.
I suppose this is fair, although I disagree. I still work under the umbrella of "innocent until proven guilty," and I don't see enough of this in our critics on the left. Always we are assumed to be under the burden of proof. Not just the Red Ensign, but Conservatives generally. Why? There seems to be a conviction that Canada's past (all of western history, actually, but that would be a book, not a blog post) is guilty of something. It must be torn down and replaced with something new. What, exactly? Well, let's not get hooked up on details. Most Canadians will not stand for this tearing down because they are dumb fearful rubes (leftist elitism, they never get tired of it). So the best among us (their thinking, not mine) must capture the commanding heights of the culture and then define that and only that as culture worthy of the name (perhaps Kulture would be better). The commanding heights would be the government itself, obviously, and the courts, but it also includes things that are not traditionally considered to be governmental domain - the culture itself. We will have the government expand to fund, and therefore define, what culture is in Canada. There will be things outside, but we will look down upon them until they are too shriveled to matter. The Red Ensign bloggers dissent from that view of Canada. Canada is the people of Canada. Canadian culture is what Canadians do. Conservatives and Red Ensign bloggers not only stand outside the circle of power, we mock it. They shame us as an attempt to bring us inside that circle and make us conform. As Conservatives, and even more so as Canadians, we cannot allow ourselves to fight on the terms of our foes. When an accusation comes to the Red Ensign group, we should ask for proof to support the claim, and it should come from within our group, not some one we don't know or have any association with. If the proof is from someone outside our group, we ought to tell the critic he has no case. We are innocent until proven otherwise. If we were infiltrated by haters, I'm certain that person would not last. And we ought not never to concede that we could "only" support X because we are (insert leftist hate term here). The world is bigger than that. What we ought to ask is why some people continue to insist that they are the arbiters of all that is right and good and true, and that Canadians cannot be trusted to find those things for themselves. Make them attack us, not the straw man they like to draw up. Make them the defend their arrogance. Make them defend their shame and guilt. Above all, be not afraid.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Thinking out loud

The Ballad of Nick and Theresa The tempest between Nick Packwood (the Flea) and Theresa Zolner got me to thinking, which is always dangerous. I have also had disagreements with bloggers. The Raving Atheist comes to mind (funny, I've never actually heard from him directly). Ben and I appear to disagree about everything, but do like and respect him, and I know that there is a great deal of common ground. Andrew and I have also had a civil disagreement, one that has proven to be quite entertaining (for me, anyway). On my own blog I think that the back and forth of opinion is one of the best things going on. That's what I made it for. I respect that other bloggers may have different goals for their blogs, and there's no reason why those shouldn't be valid. The facts in this particular case, as near as I can tell, are that Theresa tried to engage Nick on the subject of his not infrequent posting of various female models on his site. Nick did not want to talk about it, and now both of them are steamed at the other. From the sidelines, I'd say there is nothing amiss here. As far as I can tell, Theresa hasn't told him what to post, except that she dislikes one aspect of his site. That would seem to be fair game if it is done civilly. I think she went too far in taking exception to having her comments deleted. Theresa, after all, has her own vehicle from which to speak, and a blog is not a democracy unless the owner(s) make it one, and one shouldn't presume otherwise. As Nick wrote:
If you spot something here and choose to write about it please have the common courtesy to offer a link in recognition of my work. If you are an argumentative soul regularly outraged at my ramblings I suggest you vent your feelings at your own expense elsewhere.
I am probably a rarity among the Red Ensign group in that I don't care for the girlie pictures leading the Flea's entries. I like Flea's site and I like my co-Red Ensigns. I really like Nick's Winston Review and I do take a look at some of the other things he posts. But the girlie stuff is so cheap that anybody could post it. And aren't those pictures copyrighted? Nick's a good writer and I suspect that he doesn't need that gimmick in order to get people to visit. None of the other Red Ensign blogs that I'm aware of posts that kind of imagery, so I'll bet I'm not the only one who thinks we might get more respect without it, however independent we'd like think we are. Ghost of a Flea is Nick's site, however, and he can do as he wishes there, although copyright does come into play. Furthermore, since Nick's the closest thing the Red Ensign has to a captain, I had to weigh my objections to those images before I signed on to his blogroll. In the end, I decided I could live with them, if not love them. It's one of the facts of life that you have to get along with people. If you only associate with those who mirror yourself, you're going to be lonely and you're not going to get a lot done. And the Red Ensign as a group seems to be a group in which you can stand apart without being torn down. It's that whole freedom thing. It's true I'm offended, but I'm not that offended. I could stop visiting. I could drop the Red Ensign group. I could stand in the corner all by myself. I prefer to try and work it out. I also think that Theresa's holding Nick to account because of what his job is (he teaches at a Canadian university) is unfair, and it reminds me of a very ugly case here in B.C. (I think it was B.C.). In that case, a Christian man who was a public school teacher was hounded out of the teacher's union and I think out of a job, for writing letters to the editor that were critical of homosexuality. He did not bring his views to the classroom. This is an issue that is at play in our society and it is highly unfair to tell this man that he can't speak to it because of the job that he holds. There is a reason we distinguish between public and private lives. Privacy is not sacrosanct, but I would tread more cautiously than Theresa is advocating. I would not describe my exception to the pictures as an objection to sexism, rather I think it is simply coarse. Not everything that passes between my ears is fit to speak, never mind publish, and so I filter what appears here. ... I'll also respond to the Monger's comment that:
The women whom Flea features in his daily posts are not pornographic "starlets" or centerfold "models". They are invariably (I believe) musicians and actors who happen to be physically attractive to most men
This is a distinction without a difference. It might matter if the topic was the women's acting or music, but it's not. And since it's not, you might as well Post Jenna Jameson for all the merit it'll do you. Blogging is a new activity and it blurs the traditional lines of public and private space, so I'd be interested in hearing feedback on this. I think it'll be some time yet before public attitudes settle on issues such as these.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

We shall overcome

It will please my readers to know that the Raving Atheist and I have worked out our differences. It occurred during a nice chat that, fortunately, was caught for posterity by a passing cartoonist. For some unknown reason, he chose to depict me as the pink balloon. See also here and here. Hat Tip: Mark Shea

More Tea please

From Catholic Exchange, more on the U.S. election.
The leftists thought they were on the ascendancy; that Christians were a dying breed with little chance to shape the culture. They thought that Hollywood and media were creating a new America where the views of Whoopi Goldberg and Michael Moore were becoming mainstream. That is why Bush’s victory troubles them more than Ronald Reagan’s victories, even though Reagan was at least as conservative as George W. Bush. When Reagan was elected in the 1980s, the leftists in the media and the academy were not yet fully in control of the institutions where they were labored. They did not expect to get their way back then. They understood that they were still the young upstarts, the proponents of the 1960s counterculture’s and new Left’s understanding of America’s role in the world. The Clinton victories at the polls changed the equation; led them to believe that their time had arrived, that they were the new establishment that would drive the agenda for the country in the decades to come. Instead, they now have to confront the map with the tiny atolls of blue in the vast sea of red counties that voted for Bush. The map was a jolt to them. They can see that the country has not been won over to their agenda. They have been knocked from their perch, and they don’t like it. They get the point when they hear the wisecracks about Michael Moore and Bruce Springsteen winning more votes for Bush than for Kerry.
Even though I know that the famous red / blue map is simplistic, given the way states hand out their electoral college votes (all or nothing), and knowing that many voters could easily be swayed back to a Democratic party that is too friendly with people who do not have America's interests at heart, I am still quite pleased with the result. I thought it would have been even more lopsided for Bush if he had fared better in the debates, especially the first one. But the barbarians have been kept from the gates for another four years and there are signs that it might be that way a while. Maybe. As I read articles like the one above, I keep wondering if the day will ever come when Canadians rise up and kick their robed masters (Paul Martin, justice Abella) into the street and reclaim their country, burning P.E. Trudeau in effigy in ecstatic riots that make our traditional Stanley Cup crack up look like a tea party hosted by Ann Murray, and let loose the hounds of... What am I thinking? This is Canada. ... I say, old chap, would you like more tea? Dreadful about that Bush fellow, eh?

Monday, November 22, 2004

More on Hatred

And forgiveness Pat Buchanan wrote to Jeff Jacoby and defended President Bush for asking God to forgive Yasser Arafat. Jacoby had criticized the president for doing so. He says of the incident:
[M]any readers defended Bush's reaction. One of them was Pat Buchanan, who replied to my column in one of his own. He began with a jab at the presumption of "columnists who know the mind of God." Then he wrote: "In defense of President Bush, if that was his first reaction to Arafat's death, it bespeaks a Christian heart. As a boy in World War II, I was taught by Catholic nuns that while permissible to pray for the death of Hitler or Tojo, it was impermissible to pray for their damnation. That was hatred, and hatred is a sin."
Buchanan is undoubtedly voicing the Catholic response, which often scandalizes those not familiar with it. It is not unique to Catholics, however, most people who have at least some Christian scruples are familiar with it. Jacoby, however, is Jewish, and he shares with us another point of view:
Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate. The Hebrew Bible enjoins us to love our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) and to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19), but that love has its limits. We are not expected to love savage thugs or to ask God's mercy on them. On the contrary, we loathe the unrepentantly cruel because we believe God loathes them too. It defies reason and upends morality to claim that God loves both Saddam Hussein and the innocent Kurds he gassed to death -- that He bestows His love on Osama bin Laden no less than on the 3,000 souls he butchered on 9/11. Of course we should pray that an evildoer will realize the awfulness of his ways and atone for his crimes. But to love him even if he doesn't? To bless him when he dies? God forbid! To bless the Hitlers and the Arafats of this world is to betray their victims. That we must never do.
It will shock no one if I say that I find the actions of mass murderers abhorrent. But I disagree with Jacoby when he says we should not pray for such a person if they do not repent. It is impossible to know what is going on in another person's mind. It is a mistake to assume they operate under the same constraints as the rest of us. They may be like child born with only nine fingers, except that their missing finger is all or part of the conscience. And it really is presumptuous to assume that we know what God thinks of the matter. What about the victims though? Is Jacoby right to say that to forgive the killer is to betray the victim? This line of the thought is too obsessed with the here and now on earth, when the ultimate goal of our lives to union with God. The victims, united with God, will understand God's reasons, and I doubt very much that they will have much if any concern for how we treat the aggressor. Lashing out at the killer is very much about us, here and now. Were we to follow Jacoby, we would be using the dead to justify our anger, and our need for revenge, whose source is Pride.

Raving Hatred

Well, it's official. The Raving Atheist has put NWW on his "Hate List." I can only take that to mean that he hates me for daring to question him. Must be pretty fragile, as most zealots are. I wonder how he defines tolerance? Oh, it's like this: "A hate site is one which explicitly attacks a person or group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation or creed." It certainly takes all kinds to make this world go around since I have never done such a thing. RA, meanwhile worships Sam Harris, who thinks merely being religious might be grounds for the death penalty. Give me a friggin' break.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Generations of Valour

Nothing good comes easy
Bumf Online lead me to this touching picture from Veterans Day in the U.S. Here's three essays on why the sacrifice is worth it. The Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk says:
"We have a government now that is setting up elections, and those who want to run for government can do so, freely," he explained. The archbishop said that the "war being fought by the terrorists is senseless." If they want an "open, modern and democratic Iraq" they "can register to vote, negotiate with the new government, and use the instruments of dialogue," he stressed. Convinced that the elections in January "will be a starting point for a new Iraq," the prelate observed that instead "Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation." "Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity," he said. "Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose. "Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?"
Indeed, why is that? Maybe it has to do with MSM press pu**ies who only view totalitarian societies either from afar or from government granted hotel rooms and guides. Then again, maybe it's just gremlins in Windows XP changing the copy that gets sent in. David Warren continues to make me think we are tuning the same frequency:

There was no excuse for anyone to flatter or appease this monster, in life or in death. His narcissism and corruption were his most attractive qualities. He left bloodlakes behind him when he was taken in and sheltered in Amman, and Beirut. His Black September pioneered the modern arts of aircraft hijacking, and hostage butchery. The Intifadas he launched ended or destroyed the lives of countless innocents, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim alike. The hushed tones of respect -- whether from the CBC and affiliates, or from Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Jacques Chirac -- is indicative of a posturing moral attitude that stinks to heaven. ... It should be said that the person who spits at the mention of George W. Bush, but weeps for Arafat, is beyond twitting. Such a person is sick in the head. He represents a form of judgement so totally inverted as to be indistinguishable from madness. And yet among our intellectuals, this inversion is commonplace.
If the West had any guts, Arafat would have been dead long ago. Peace prize my hairy behind. Finally, some thoughts on the enemy's methods and what they mean for us. Eternity Road writes a mean blog.
Our domestic forces of political correctness will continue to deny that the sauce served over the American goose ought to be poured liberally over the Islamic gander. It will not matter. The meaning of the Islamic insurgents’ communication to us is indisputable. The cybernetics of the thing are plain as print. Every American soldier in Iraq now knows that there are no standards on the battlefields of the Middle East—that mercy or forbearance shown to a seemingly disabled enemy puts his own life, and the life of his squadmates, at terrible risk. But then, given the innumerable atrocities committed throughout the world by Muslim madmen determined to impose shari’a and a new Caliphate willy-nilly upon the world, we had ample reason to suspect that from long, long ago.
I think this is correct, even though there is great danger of being dragged into the mud and allowing those so eager to cry 'equivalence' to score a point. We must remember that we accept these terms reluctantly, and that if we could, we would seek a higher standard. But war has always been something negotiated by two or more. It is simply not possible for one side to dictate 100% how the fighting will be done. I agree that seeking total surrender from the enemy is the only solution, and to minimize the loss of life, that end should be sought resolutely, so that they fighting can end quickly. You have no business being in a war you'd rather not fight. Posted by Hello

Keep Silence

"Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" is probably my favourite hym in church. It has a haunting melody and it sets quite a tone. The words are here, and the melody can be heard here (it even works in Firefox, because the page uses Media Player instead of QuickTime, for which, it seems, there is no Firefox plugin as yet). I did not know before today that the words and the music originated independently. The words go back to the 4th century, while the tune is from 17th century France.
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence Let all mortal flesh keep silence And with fear and trembling stand Ponder nothing earthly minded For with blessing in His hand Christ our God to earth descendeth Our full homage to demand King of kings, yet born of Mary As of old on earth He stood Lord of lords, in human vesture In the body and the blood He will give to all the faithful His own self for heav'nly food Rank on rank the host of heaven Spreads its vanguard on the way As the Light of light descendeth From the realms of endless day That the pow'rs of hell may vanish As the darkness clears away At his feet the six-winged Seraph Cherubim, with sleepless eye Veil their faces to the presence As with ceaseless voice they cry Alleluia, Alleluia Alleluia, Lord most high!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A Quick Response for Andrew

It's a busy weekend, what with the Grey Cup and a lot more going on, but I find myself with a few moments in which I can quickly respond to some questions raised by Andrew at Bound by Gravity.
Argument 1: And if free will is only an illusion anyways? What if God-given free will is an illusion as well? What basis do you have to claim that our so-called "free will" is authentic? Since you are the one claiming that naturalistic free world is less authentic than god-given free will, I belief the burden of proof lies with you.
Well... I would respond that the theory that we are all unknowing, unthinking, immoral robots has the virtue that you claim - it has some ring of coherence to it. I grant that. But if you were to "win" our debate on that theory it would be a Phyrric Victory. Our debate, not to mention our very existence, would be quite meaningless. I find that quite unattractive. You could say that you believe this and live this, but if it is true you could take no credit for it.
Argument 2: It does not immediately follow that a mechanical process cannot give rise to authentic free will. This especially true when the mechanical process we're talking about (in this case the universe) is neither fully defined nor fully understood. It can be argued that given the knowledge that we have today, authentic free will could not arise naturally. My problem with that is that in order to accept that "fact" you have to stomach the time-honoured human conceit that we know enough about ourselves to make any clear statements about how we work.
A mechanistic universe simply could not give us free will because it is simply not made that way. It would be like a assembly line for making cars that suddenly started to make cats, all by itself. No amount of evolved complexity could grant this because it simply would not be there to give. I certainly don't claim that humans know how it is that we came to be, to have the sense that we really do know some things (and not just a theory that fits the facts), and that we are bound by a Natural Law to do some things and avoid others, not for mere survival (although that plays into it), but because they are Wrong. One of the things that we rely on very heavily, for example, is logic itself. And logic tells us that our universe is either run by rote, or it is free. The notion of one leading to the other has a square circle quality to it. This is like argument one, where you could argue that logic itself can be doubted, but it would seem that you loose more than you gain by doing so. Andrew then asked me to elaborate on the following from an earlier post:
If we look at the God premise, we have something that would allow free will and some degree of rationality. We are lead to discuss our differences in terms of what we think the nature of reality is, and how we ought to respond to it. In other words, we discuss God.
He asks, "If I understand correctly you just defined your conception of God as reality. Please confirm and/or clarify." I can see how this was misleading. What is missing is that reality is God's creation, and as such it tells us a great deal about him. The idea here is a bit like art telling us about the artist. Such reading is a bit out of fashion today, where every work is merely a "text" into which anyone can read just about anything. I find these new schools to be narcissistic, like much modern philosophy, in which we never seem to engage with anything other than ourselves. It's a masturbatory outlook. Lastly, we agreed that The Raving Atheist didn't have particularly strong arguments, with the exception of this, which Andrew thought had some merit:
Fourth, any person asserting a special individual right or attempting to dictate social policy based about a belief in god must first 1) define the god, 2) prove that the god exists and 3) demonstrate how the right or policy follows from the belief in god. Because there is no god, nobody will ever be able to do this.
I'll say right off the top that a cold, hard, purely rational reason for God is not forthcoming, because there is no such thing. This brings up some very interesting points. The first is why such a proof is demanded, when they alternatives we discussed above are so unpalatable. They have coherence but they are empty. The God premise has the same virtues, but not the drawback of a useless empty existence. There is no purely rational reason, however, to pick one over the other. The human heart, however, balks at meaninglessness. Why should that matter? A purely rational approach cannot choose either course and leads to agnosticism. Here is why the heart is important. Because the decision to think with only reason is itself purely arbitrary. There is no compelling reason to choose that over what might be called a heart and head decision, the God premise. The question of an axial point from which all thought begins is quite an interesting one, but the desire to find one with only reason as a guide is inevitably an infinite regress. Reason can't prove it's own objectivity. And that is why I chose the C.S. Lewis quote the sits at the top my of blog:
To see through all things is the same as not to see. C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
The God premise is unprovable, except that it is better than all the alternatives. This is not a purely rational reason, and that is part of why religious people speak about faith. Faith that we can learn and know, faith that life is not robotic and meaningless, faith that makes our troubles and pains worth suffering. If we claim to choose the alternatives, we deny the possibility of choice itself. Andrew writes:
The burden of proof should lie with the people making the claims of an omnipotent being, even if those claims have been accepted without proof for thousands of years. Considering that early in the Bible's history you could be killed for questioning the existence of God, it's easy to see how people came to take what the church said on blind faith.
The kind of proof I just outlined has always been available. Our ability to put a man on the moon has no affect on this kind of question. It is not an empirical question, but a logical one. So to say that it was accepted without proof for thousands of years is wrong. Plato's works come quite close to some of the ideas here, so they have always been available. In fact, Plato hits on one of the best arguments any theist has to face, namely the Euthyphro Dilemma: "Is an act good because the gods command it, or do they command it because it is good? I think this is a serious problem, and that it arises from the limits of human knowledge. C.S. Lewis (who else?) puts it like this:

When we attempt to think of a person and a law, we are compelled to think of this person either as obeying the law or as making it. And when we think of Him as making it we are compelled to think of Him either as making it in conformity to some yet more ultimate pattern of goodness (in which case that pattern, and not He, would be supreme) or else as making it arbitrarily … But it is probably just here that our categories betray us. It would be idle, with our merely mortal resources, to attempt a positive correction of our categories. … But it might be permissible to lay down two negations: that God neither obeys nor creates the moral law. The good is uncreated; it could never have been otherwise; it has in it no shadow of contingency; it lies, as Plato said, on the other side of existence. [But since only God admits of no contingency, we must say that] God is not merely good, but goodness; goodness is not merely divine, but God. These may seem like fine-spun speculations: yet I believe that nothing short of this can save us. A Christianity which does not see moral and religious experience converging to meet at infinity … has nothing, in the long run, to divide it from devil worship.
Lewis' explanation (it might not be original with him) is the best solution I've seen. All of existence, all that is good, comes from God. This property, something that is dependent on nothing else - the holy grail of philosophy - is called Aseity.

Friday, November 19, 2004

When saying 'Sorry' is hard to do

I recall that when Ronald Reagan died, there was an almost universal outpouring of support for the 'great man.' I use the scare quotes not because I disagree with the sentiment (I think Reagan was one of the great presidents of the 20th century), but because an awful lot of people saying he was great are liars. Well, maybe they aren't liars exactly. Maybe they changed their minds about him. But if that is the case, we should be hearing stories about how people came to recognize that Reagan was not a buffoon actor, but a brave, disciplined and intelligent man. There was very little of that. I point this out because what happened in the wake of Reagan's funeral was no fluke. It is happening again, in regard to the recent war in Afghanistan. Victor Davis Hanson in NRO writes:
... after the recent and mostly smooth elections, Afghanistan has slowly disappeared from the maelstrom of domestic politics, as all those who felt our efforts were not merely impossible but absurd retreated to the shadows to gnash their teeth that Kabul is not yet Carmel. Western feminists, homosexual-rights advocates, and liberal reformists have never in any definitive way expressed appreciation for the Afghan revolution now ongoing in the lives of 26 million formerly captive people. They never will. Instead, Westerners simply now assume that there was never any controversy, but rather a general consensus that Afghanistan is a "good thing" — as if the Taliban went into voluntarily exile due to occasional censure from The New York Review of Books.
That is exactly what happened with Reagan. I lived through the Reagan presidency and I remember darn well how the president was reviled - reviled! - because of his crazy cowboy attitude towards the murderous USSR, the arms race, opposition to abortion, and because he dared to cut taxes. You name the issue, all the fat cat pundits swore up and down that Reagan was a disaster and that he would ruin the US with his atiquated ideology and recklessness. So when they say the same stuff about Bush, and lets face it, many of the critics are the same people who pilloried Reagan and then shed crocodile tears for him, we ought to remember how this story goes. We've seen it before. You never seem to see anyone mourning the death of the USSR (outside a university campus), and yet during the Cold War supporters were not hard to find. Never forget. Some people stand tall for what they believe to be true, no matter how the wind blows. And some are thin reeds that twirl in the breeze singing "never retreat, never apologize." They say it because they think you're too busy, or perhaps too stupid, to remember. And all they want is power and fawning applause anyway. My wife and I attended a Pro Life fundraising diner tonight, at which Canadian Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenny was the keynote speaker. Kenny was very good. I hadn't had much of a chance to hear him speak before. He was informative and enthusiastic, good enough, even, to make me overlook his support of Stockwell Day as the leader of the Her Majesty's Official Opposition a few years ago (for my American readers not familiar with which recent Canadian Parliamentary history, Stockwell is universally acknowledged to have been a disaster, although he's been better as Foreign Affairs Critic, where he still is today). Some statistics I walked away with tonight include the following. In British Columbia, my home province, almost 4 out of 10 pregnancies end in abortion. That one makes we wonder how many of those are native, and how on earth we can be said to be proud and supportive of native culture when we are assisting them to die. I raise this point too, because it is widely reported that natives have a suicide rate well above the rest of the population. It seems obvious to me that a culture that does not have a great will to live, is also a culture that would find it hard to muster the will to raise children. I'm not running down natives in pointing this out - I'd like to see a healthy, happy and growing native population. That is my point. The other statistic that hit hard was that if we stood in silence for one second for every baby aborted in Canada this year, we would be standing for a day and a half. A day and a half? That is a lot of seconds! The night had me thinking that our fight is like the fight to end slavery in the US. Not the fight to end overt racial discrimination in the 1960's, which was a good and worthy cause, but the fight to end slavery was first, and it was harder to achieve. The civil rights battle took place on the back of that first success. I don't want to pillory people who are pro choice, although there are some who deserve it (such as the Kansas doctor who came up with partial birth abortion, a horrid procedure if ever there was one). I don't want to pillory them because I really think that most of them don't get it. They see the woman and the baby as being in an irresolvable conflict, and the baby has no voice. It can't make it's case. The abortion choice wounds both, however. There is no victor. There can be complications during the procedure, which can make future pregnancy impossible. Often, a woman has only a poor grasp of what is about to happen. She feels trapped. She thinks adoption is abandonment, and that it makes her a worse mother than abortion. To refute that notion, we only have to ask kids who have been adopted what they think. I've done it and to a person they are grateful and understanding of the parent they never met. I think this is a battle that can be won. And it will be a great victory, as great as President Lincoln freeing the slaves in the 1863; a victory for the ages. I will be a grizzled old man who will be able to say I was on the right side all along, and I will smile inwardly at all the nodding heads and crocodile tears and I will think, "yes, we did know it all along, didn't we?"
Posted by Hello
I'm happy to include a link to a post by Julie at Happy Catholic, which has links to more articles on this theme.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A Very Long Post on Atheism

I came home today to find that one of my posts last night triggered a small debate between two of my readers. Andrew and Julie managed to play nice and I hope it'll stay that way. I'm saying this not because I doubt these two can remain civil, but because the topic that came up - Atheism - can be quite divisive, and I have never articulated my ideas about how I police my comments. You didn't know they're checked? Well, they are. Disagreements are fine as long as everybody is polite. You can argue strongly, but curses and insults will be deleted. The focus should be on the ideas. The post that got things rolling was the one linking to The Anal Philosopher, where he argued that theism can't reasonably be linked to stupidity. I was drawn to the post out of exasperation with some of the stuff that is coming out of some people who really, really don't like President Bush. If you don't like him, that's fine. You'll get another chance to make your appeal in four years. There's no reason to resort to this:
What I’ve had to face is the last three days is this: a desire for competency and respect for political process is a cultural value, as surely as abortion is. My intense belief in the importance of those things is just that, a belief. More to the point, it is a self-serving belief that advances the interests of my own social class. I believe in the importance of competency, knowledge, "best practices" of decision-making because I’ve been trained to be apart of an elite that holds those things to be of importance, and aspires to them as a matter of course. I believe in those things as a way of life, as a part of self and identity, as deeply as any evangelical believes in the spiritual presence of Jesus Christ in all things.
This is not an either/or situation. The writer is simply wrong to frame it as such, and he has likely made the link in order to be intentionally hurtful. The arrogance gets worse:

People living in many of the communities that compromise the red states are there because they could not or would not leave. . . . Why should the love us? We steal their children, we kill their towns. We show the next generation the bright lights of the big city everyday and we ask them to love us for doing so. . . .

Whomever is left in the red states is left because they have no skills which are transportable, because they have no capital to pay for the costs of relocation, because they have no social networks to act as their safety net in the blue-state world, because they have family or friends who are not leaving and they cannot bear to leave, because some dominant person in their life terrorizes them and bullies them into staying. Because they like it where they live and figure nowhere else could be better, even if their aren’t any jobs besides minimum-wage service jobs where they are. Because, . . . , they don’t particularly have any ambitions beyond getting along o.k.

Good grief! This is so full of towering, insulated arrogance and cliche that the mind boggles. Then you pause and it becomes clear that this is most likely sophomoric hyperbole. This is likely a young person caught up in Micheal Mooreland. I read enough reports of that kind of thing that I was happy to find the quote I used as a rebuttal. It was a intended as rebuttal, and not an attack. It was not addressed to anyone in particular. I didn't call anyone dumb - just the opposite, in fact. It was simply 'up for discussion,' as is everything that I post. Andrew (from Bound by Gravity) has responded by saying that he wants to do a post in response to my suggestion that it is useful to understand right and left political divisions as being the result of where a person places ultimate authority (first made here, and re-stated in the post in question). Andrew found my wording unclear in the second post, and he probably has a point. So I'll try to do it better, while admitting that the best direction I can give is to suggest a look at C.S. Lewis' book Mircales, which might not be authoritive, but it is easily available and well written. 2nd try. If you are Left, you are of the opinion that you can pretty much do anything you want. You don't find this alarming because you think humans are naturally good. But what happens when you are confronted with people who violently disagree with you? There can be no appeal to anything objective if you've placed authority in your own breast. So it becomes might makes right. Naturalism could be likened to narcissism just as easily as empiricism. Might makes right is very hard to reconcile with a free society, but there is a more daunting problem with the Left, Naturalistic stance, and that is its inherent mechanistic underpinnings. Andrew has said that he thinks we will someday see how a mechanistic Naturalism has given rise to our free will. I'd like to see this argument because from where I stand, a mechanism giving birth is a more fantastic story than the one that Mary told. Naturalism could give us the illusion of free will, but never the real thing. Ditto for real knowledge. If we think that we really are free, and that we really are engaging reality with our minds, we do so because God has allowed it to happen. If we look at the God premise, we have something that would allow free will and some degree of rationality. We are lead to discuss our differences in terms of what we think the nature of reality is, and how we ought to respond to it. In other words, we discuss God. Now, people do drape themselves in God all the time, and say that God wills this or that. But that is no different from someone who says I will this or that. It is a ruse; a wolf in sheep's clothing quite literally. How do we tell the difference? If millions of people think X about God, and their views do not change much over time and space, then we might say we are on to something. Our limited wisdom accumulates over time, but in the end, God his ways are a mystery, and we do not know him precisely. I look forward to seeing what Andrew might come up with, and out of curiosity I did a little digging on the subject of Atheism myself. While I'm new to Catholicism, I never called myself an Atheist and I was curious to see what Atheist blogs might look like. I was not impressed. Perhaps there are better blogs of that sort out there. For tonight, I want to make some observations about The Raving Atheist (RA). Right off the top, it's a bit weird to list as "hate sites," major Religions, including the Vatican, just because they disagree with Atheism as a philosophy. RA also lists PayPal and RA itself as hate sites. Maybe this passes for that 90's cliche, "quirky" humour. Then again, maybe RA really does hate PayPal and himself. There's nothing in it's philosophy to argue against self hatred or the existence of logic itself. The first assumption of RA is that the author can use logic to disprove the existence of God, which is funny, because I don't see how you can trust in your mind or in logic if they are merely Darwinian adaptations. In my own journey, that was the single most powerful argument that I found. RA simply assumes his thoughts are in order and then uses paradoxes to argue that God can't possibly exist. Even if we give RA his rationality, it has to be pointed out that this is very weak stuff:
5) God's omniscience conflicts with his disembodiedness, since a being without a body could not know how to drive, swim, or perform any activity associated with having a body
The creator of space and time needs first hand experience or he's going to drown in a kiddie pool? The other points in the first section of logic proofs are not much better. They fail to grasp what Monotheism means. RA fails to provide a basis for trusting in rationality, and failure here makes all the other points moot.
Second, Atheism is not merely one possible theological theory among many. Rather, it is the only true, provable theory, and all other religious theories are false and delusional. The mere fact that you believe or have faith that god exists does not make it so, anymore than unicorns, ghosts, leprechauns would exist simply because you believed in them or had faith in them. Nor does the fact that you have a legal right to believe in god prove that god exists. Similarly, the fact that American law purports to be "neutral" as between theism and atheism does not mean that the theories are equally plausible.
This is positively weird. If you have faith in God, you have nothing. But if you have faith in Atheism, and in your own rationality, you have something. Huh? RA fails to address how it is that rationality and freedom emerged from the mechanical universe. And the dogmatism here is creepy. Contrast this with the idea of God as a benevolent mystery.
Third, because there is no god, any attempt to premise moral, social or political doctrine upon a belief in god is fruitless and potentially harmful. Laws, judicial decisions or social policies, which promote, accept or accommodate religious beliefs proceed upon false premises and may have harmful and unfair effects. The law should employ the same standards of logic and evidence in evaluating claims based on religious assertions that it does in adjudicating (and frequently rejecting) claims based on every other type of ideology and belief. In fact, the law should be governed by a militantly rationalistic and atheistic presumption that discourages all forms of irrational and superstitious conduct to the extent it conflicts, as it frequently does, with the general welfare or individual rights.
The law presumes that we are free in our actions. If we were not free, it would make no sense to have a system of law at all. Falsely premised laws are indeed a bad thing, but it does not follow that all law that presumes God exists is bad. If we are wrong about God, we have only proved that our minds are weak. It says nothing about God.
Fourth, any person asserting a special individual right or attempting to dictate social policy based about a belief in god must first 1) define the god, 2) prove that the god exists and 3) demonstrate how the right or policy follows from the belief in god. Because there is no god, nobody will ever be able to do this.
This is simply shifting the burden of proof, and RA has not provided any reasons why we should do so. For me, choosing between 6,000 years of accumulated human wisdom and the world according to RA is pretty easy. So, there's a few thoughts to mull over. They're not original to me, but are some of the better one's I've seen and picked up over the years. They seem solid to me, but I look forward to vetting them through some other minds.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Woof

Right now no one knows precisely how it came about that a U.S. Marine was filmed shooting a captured enemy in Iraq. It is under investigation and we ought to let more information come forward before leaping to a decision. It should also be observed that very few of us know one thing about combat in the 21st century. So it stands to reason that we ought not to flap our holes about it, based on a few seconds of film whose context is at the moment mere heresy. Even when information comes out, most of us will lack any first hand context in which to evaluate it. That does not mean that we can't ever judge. It just means we ought to take our time about it, and do so with caution and charity (towards all sides). There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by when I don't read comments on the web by people who think U.S soldiers ought to brought to Brussels and charged with 'war crimes' because they happened to say something exuberant and nasty about people who are trying to kill them. It is clear that you would seize on any pretext to hinder U.S. efforts in Iraq. Heck, some of you want to seize W. when he visits Canada next (gee, that'll smooth relations!). And this is precisely why you have no credibility. You'll need to stop crying wolf for a while before anyone with a current in their skull listens to you.

Romance Movies

casablanca "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss". Your romance is Casablanca. A classic story of love in trying times, chock full of both cynicism and hope. You obviously believe in true love, but you're also constantly aware of practicality and societal expectations. That's not always fun, but at least it's realistic. Try not to let the Nazis get you down too much. What Romance Movie Best Represents Your Love Life? brought to you by Quizilla The funny thing is that I've never even seen the movie.

Fabulous

Lovely commentary here from Keith Burgess-Jackson, also known as The Anal Philosopher:
Is there any evidence that religious people are less intelligent than nonreligious people? I’ve never seen any. Some of the greatest thinkers in the history of humankind have been devout theists. Thomas Aquinas was a theist. Isaac Newton was a theist. RenĂ© Descartes was a theist. Immanuel Kant was a theist. William James was a theist. Ludwig Wittgenstein was a theist. What are we to say of these people: that they’re stupid? But we know on independent grounds that they were the opposite of stupid. They were fabulously intelligent. They were brilliant. I’ve been teaching philosophy of religion for more than twenty years. I can assure you that theists hold their own in intellectual contests with atheists. If they didn'’t, or couldn’'t, there would be nothing for me to teach. Read some Aquinas if you don’t believe me. He'’ll run intellectual circles around you. In my discipline, philosophy, there are as many theists as there are atheists. The ratio of atheists to theists may be higher among philosophers than among people generally, but if the hypothesis of stupidity is correct, shouldn'’t the ratio be extraordinarily high in a field such as philosophy, which attracts people of such impressive intelligence? Shouldn'’t it be extremely unusual to find a theist in a philosophy department? I can assure you that it’'s not. Many of the best philosophers in the world today are theists: William P. Alston, Peter van Inwagen, Marilyn McCord Adams, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Philip L. Quinn, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne. See here. They work not just in philosophy of religion but in epistemology and metaphysics. They are as hard-headed, rigorous, and intellectually demanding as anyone, anywhere, in any field.
I've said it here before, but I'll say it again. Political divisions are not about smarts. It's about where you locate transcendent authority. You can only have two choices: a transcendent God or yourself. But there is a problem with the second choice. If it's true, then there is no such thing as choice. Nevertheless, there are many smart and decent people who take the second choice and then erect very elaborate theories on it. Because they are smart, and because this second choice *appears* to place few if any obligations on its adherents, others find those theories attractive.

Smart like a Fox

Only Liberals whine, in full-on sincerity, that everybody ought to be above average. Wait. Think. Hey! So it comes as no surprise that they can't get their pants on about the subject of IQ either, as Steve Sailer at The American Conservative points out:

Still, as politically incorrect as cognitive tests have become, colleges and the military have not dropped them. They are simply too useful in sorting large numbers of applicants.

Nor have people stopped talking privately about IQ—especially liberals, who seem to believe, with deepest sincerity, both that IQ is an utterly discredited concept and that liberals are better than conservatives because liberals have much higher IQs.

The winning quote is here:
Democrats’ denunciations of the president’s IQ bemuse me because Bush strikes me as a lazy but clever and unscrupulous operator who, ever since he quit drinking in 1987, has contrived to get whatever he wants out of life... “In the president’'s lone losing race, his 1978 run for Congress from West Texas, the victor stressed Bush'’s two Ivy League degrees. Bush resolved never to allow himself to be outdumbed again. And the Democrats haven’'t outsmarted him since.
I have head W. described as a rope-a-dope fighter, lulling his opponents into thinking that he is reeling and disoriented, and then laying the hammer down when it isn't expected. I think that's true. That's a strategy that I would describe as smart. His opponents have expectations of what a smart opponent looks like and sounds like. So don't do that, do the unexpected. They've had four years to figure this out but they can't see around their contempt.

No Offense Taken

"I just went to see 'The Passion of the Christ,' a film as bad as an LSD trip which shows once again that also in the sewers of Christianity collective daftness just leads to mud."
Y'know, I can't say that I like that statement by Theo van Gogh, but would never occur to me to call for his murder because I was offended. I see everyone as working on their relationship with God. Some people appear to have more work cut out for them than others. I'm also aware, however, that people work under constraints that are invisible to my eye. For those reasons, I leave it to God and the individual to sort out the relationship. Why would God need a fatwa? If he wanted it done, is there any doubt that he'd get it done in his own way, and in his own sweet time? That goes for Sony and Tom Hanks too.