Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Investigator

Enneagram free enneagram test
Type Five The Investigator The perceptive, cerebral type. Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation. At their Best: visionary pioneers, often ahead of their time, and able to see the world in an entirely new way.
I'n no nihilist, I'm not bothered much by isolation, and I'm not sure if I'm eccentric or not. Hat Tip: Moscow Metro.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The bread of life

John 6 and First Corinthians A fellow Red Ensign blogger and blogging friend left a question on Rebecca's blog on the subject of why Catholics take the Eucharist to be not just a sign of God's presence, but also God's real presence. I started to give an answer there but quickly realized that Haloscan would not give me enough space to do it justice so I invited him and anyone else who's curious to come here. I have readers of all sorts, not all are Catholics by any means, so this is probably a common question. Here's Temujin's comment:
Uh oh... an evil trolling Baptist comes to troll! Jesus also said "do this in remembrance of me". The point being that we are to remember him. Why would he tell us to remember him if he was physically present in the elements? Paul says further in Corinthians that everytime we drink the cup and eat the bread we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (although my thoughts on the parousia are different than the average Baptist's). The emphasis in Paul's letter is not on the literal, physical presence of Christ. His emphasis is also that of remembrance. I don't quite know about you transubstantiators!
And this is my response... Temujin, I take your point, but must add that "do this" is not very specific and that "in memory of" does not exclude a real presence. We both need evidence for what we take the passage to mean. The best evidence for the real presence may be in John 6. It's a long quote, sorry:
"What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
I can't think of anyone else who fulfills that description. But there's more:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I AM the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Note the two "I am". That's the name of the God who spoke to Moses. Ontologically speaking, "I am" is a breathtaking statement, suggesting the speaker is not dependent on anything outside himself. For the ancient Jews, a name was a very important, telling much about who you are. Jesus said "I AM the living bread," not 'bread represents me.' Note "I am the bread of life" is linked to the manna from Exodus. Note his stress to get his message through: "Truly, truly." It really is food and not just faith in a sign. God has the miraculous property of true Being. Everything else, including us, is simply a reflection of his Being, which he shares with us. The living bread, being God, is BOTH a sign AND the thing it represents. The reaction of Jesus' listeners tells us that they understood what he was saying and how difficult they found what they were hearing.
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
I suppose one could say that the 'flesh' being spoken of here is faith but that does not ring true to my ears. Why not say so in a more obvious way? If that were true, and it was spoken plainly, his listeners would not have been so perplexed, with some leaving altogether. I'm not sure, T, what passage from Corinthians you have in mind, but a quick search turned up two that I think are in line with what I've been saying:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Cor. 10:16
There is also this, from Cor. 11:23:
Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for [4] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
A covenant is a very, very old Jewish custom, meaning an unbreakable oath and it required an important sacrifice to seal it. It is hard to see how a symbolic sacrifice could ever carry enough value to fulfill this role. In addition, if it is only a symbol, how can taking it in an unclean manner bring judgement on himself? I hope I've shown that we 'transubstantiators' are not as kooky as it might at first seem, and we can muster good (I would argue very good) evidence for our position, including tracing the doctrine right back to the beginning. Was there a symbolic teaching church before the reformation? If the subject is of interest to anyone, I can recommend a book that was an interesting read. It's Born Fudamentalist, Born Again Catholic. I've always been Catholic - non practising for most of my life - but Rebecca has had some experience with other Churches and she says this book was helpful for her and I'll admit that I enjoyed it as well. Oh, and I don't think you're a troll. Lol.
A bit more searching, a few more passages.
Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
I do not see reading this quotation with Jesus pointing to his human self as sensible. The grammar points to the bread. 1st Cor. 11:23 Paul in the 1st Cor. passage above seems to have in mind Luke 22:19:
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
A loaf of bread and a cup of wine do not a covenant oath make, nor do they explain the confusion in Christ's hearers; they think he is leading them towards cannibalism. Cannibalism was also a common charge against Christians when they were persecuted in Rome. If the real presence was not taught the cannibalism charge would have been easier to explain away. Refering to John 6 again, Jesus asks the disciples, after he has told them about the bread of life, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter's answer goes some way to explaining Catholic attitudes towards its doctrines when the world insists it change them, or that they are not possible. I am thinking here of all sorts of things - women priests, birth control, gay marriage. If we believe Peter was correct in identifying the messiah, and that he is the first Pope, the rock, then we cannot simply ditch important dogma because it appears to us to be too hard. We are not the judges of it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Madness

The Maverick Philosopher hits one - in this case anti-religious bigot Sam Harris - out of the park. I've made arguments like this on NWW before but I consider it to be so important to an open and free society that I'm happy to include the conclusion of Bill Vacellia's post here. This is the gist of it:
[Sam] Harris appears to be inferring a normative conclusion from a nonnormative premise. Thus, he appears to be moving from 1. Evidence is what makes a belief a belief about the world to 2. We may hold only those beliefs for which we have evidence. Now even if (1) is unproblematic, how does one validly infer the normative (2) from it? But there is a second way to read the above passage, and that is to take Harris to be reasoning from (1) to the nonnormative 2*. We can (are able to) hold only those beliefs for which we have evidence. On this reading we avoid the Is/Ought fallacy, but trade it in for something just as bad: a false conclusion. Surely, (2*) is false. People are able to hold all sorts of beliefs for which they have no evidence. But there is worse to come: (1) is highly problematic. There is an ambiguity in it. Is Harris talking about aboutness, or about truth? Is he saying E1 Belief B is about the world only if there is evidence for B or E2 Belief B is true only if there is evidence for B? E1 is obviously false. Beliefs have the property philosophers call ‘intentionality’: they are necessarily object-directed. Beliefs, like many other mental states, intend an intentum: they possess aboutness. Thus one cannot believe without believing something. But it doesn’t follow that the proposition one believes is true. Thus the belief that God exists is about God’s existence whether or not God exists, and thus whether or not there is any evidence for God’s existence. Aboutness is not the same as truth. A belief can have the first without the second. Harris may be confusing them. Charitably construed, Harris is asserting E2. He is saying that a necessary condition for a belief’s being true is that there be evidence for it, whether sensory or logical. But why should we accept this? What is Harris’ evidence for it, whether sensory or logical? Clearly, one cannot have sensory evidence for E2. If you think otherwise, tell me which sense provides the evidence. I know by sight that there is a computer in front of me, but I do not know by sight (or by any other external or internal sense) that a belief is true only if there is evidence for it. Nor can one have logical evidence for E2. The proposition in question is not logically true (true in virtue of its logical form), nor is it analytically true (true in virtue of the meanings of its constituent terms). Of course, ‘logical evidence’ could mean inferential evidence: a proposition has this sort of evidence if it is a logical consequence of a another proposition. But then which proposition is E2 supposed to inherit its evidence from? And what about the evidence of that proposition? Where does it come from? One can see that E2 applies to itself. But we have just seen that there is no sensory or logical evidence for it. Given that these are the only two kinds of evidence, it follows that if E2 is true, then it is false. And if it is false, then of course it is false. Therefore, E2 is necessarily false. So far, then, I see no coherent argument for the thesis that one may (can?) believe only propositions for which there is logical or sensory evidence. How then will Harris get to his thesis that the core beliefs of religious people are "absolutely mad"? Isn’t his claim that only beliefs for which there is sensory or logical evidence are true equally "mad"? Even if religious beliefs are unsupported by evidence, the same is true of Harris' epistemological beliefs.
Going after people for the contents of their minds and hearts is an insanely troublesome idea. We deal with what we know - which is what people do. Motives can't be known and can't put on trial in a court of law, which is why the designation of an act as a 'hate crime' is sets a bad precedent. The blackest irony here is that Harris is himself the very object that he hates.

Ugliest dog... ever

Oh my! Via Amigo Boom. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Veruca Salt as a priest?

But Daddy, I want it! Mark Peters asked about the ceremony on the St. Lawrence River yesterday, in which nine women were "ordained" as priest and deacons. I was going to comment on this even anyway, and my POV is pretty simple. These folks had themselves a little to-do on the river, during which they imitated priests. It's about as valid as the RCMP swearing ceremony I had in my backyard on the weekend, during which I gave myself the right to make a jackass of myself until the wee hours. It seemed to work quite well until the "real" RCMP showed up and shut the whole thing down, the dirty fascists.
"We are worker priests," she said. "We will not be able to have parishes and that sort of thing because the church clearly forbids that, but we are doing our work in the world for humanity so we'll move forward with our work." The ordination was carried out by three of the women who were ordained in the European ceremony and later excommunicated and by the director of the group's Roman Catholic women priests ordination program. Reynolds was not deterred by excommunication, saying it is only a punishment that is given by the church. "It cannot take away the fact that in my soul I am Roman Catholic and will always be Roman Catholic and that is between me and my God. So the Vatican can offer excommunication as a punishment that I might be denied the sacrament in the church. The sacraments belong to everyone, I believe."
Can anyone follow the logic of this? This person has thrown Apostolic Succession out the window and feels she has to answer to no one but her own private idea of God. This is Canada and you can do that; but Catholic it is not. That claptrap about not having parishes "because the church forbids it" is rather suspect. The church does not believe it has the power to ordain women, but they've overlooked that in order to have a little show. Why stop there? The real reason they're 'respecting' the no parish thing is because 1) no one has handed them one and 2) property laws protect church property and attempting to seize it will land you in jail. Btw, I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as "Roman Catholic women priests ordination program." It seems to me that this group has reporters eating out of their hands. They can call themselves anything, create programs out of thin air, and no journalist, it seems, is willing to do even the most rudimentary fact checking before going to print. Father Raymond DeSouza had a good editorial on this subject in The National Post this morning. He reminded us that in the Gospels, Jesus overturned a number of customs and social expectations. At no point did he ordain a woman or speak to the subject. That leaves us two responses: 1) The gospels have been tampered with in order to discredit women, or 2) there is a message in his choice of twelve male apostles. Catholics reject option one. The message I take from a male priesthood is that contrary to what some of the gender warriors tell us, gender does matter, at least for some things. Men are not better or more worthy than women because priests are not better or more worthy than lay people. Men, regardless of whether they have received Holy Orders or not, take communion in the same way as women do, and that, to me, is a more important indicator of equality and dignity than consecration or any other priestly function. Consecration is not dependent on the holiness of the person performing it. If it were, Parishes the world over would be watching their priests critical eyes, lest their Eucharistic well be poisoned. The critical factor in consecration is that the person be in a true line of Apostolic Succession and there is no line of women apostles, nor can one be created by simple human desire. Different talents mean that we are dependent on one another, like the parts or the cells of the body. This, I think, gets right at the nub of why some moderns are so intoxicated by the idea of equality. If we can only be totally equal, we can be totally independent, not wanting anything from anyone. That's a form of pride, and it might hold a clue to why gender distinctions as a whole were never questioned by Christ. Remember, He summarized the commandments by asking that we "Love one another, as I have loved you." The qualification is very important and adds tremendous weight to the actions that were recorded. One cannot blithely assume that God himself was cowed by the social conventions of the ancient Jews. Under the current Pope, this effort to make the re-make Church in the image of the world will go nowhere, as this exchange shows. The speaker is Tracey Rowland, dean and permanent fellow of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.
Q: What is the new Pope's view of the Church's role and its relationship to "the world" as understood by the Second Vatican Council? Rowland: The Second Vatican Council described the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. Accordingly, the Church is not an entity distinct from the world but the world reconciled unto itself and unto God. This is the kind of vision one would expect Benedict to promote. ... [Benedict] is no Pelagian. He doesn't think that with sufficient education the New Jerusalem can be built on earth. Civics education alone, lectures on human rights, exhortations about brotherly love and the common good, will get nowhere unless people are open to the work of grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. A humanism that is not Christian cannot save the world. This was the conclusion of his fellow peritus Henri de Lubac, and Benedict has made some very strong statements against the pretensions of a mere secular humanism... [and ] he has exhorted Catholics to rediscover with evangelical seriousness the courage of nonconformism in the face of the social trends of the affluent world. He has said that we ought to have the courage to rise up against what is regarded as "normal" for a person at the end of the 20th century and to rediscover faith in its simplicity.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Idle Vices

If you want to understand what motivates suicide bombers, watch the recent movie Downfall. Based on eyewitness accounts, it chronicles the final days inside Hitler's bunker. In a particularly harrowing scene, Joseph Goebbels and his wife are given the opportunity to have their six young children flee to safety. But Magda Goebbels refuses and instead drugs the kids to sleep. Then she inserts a cyanide capsule into each child's mouth and presses the jaws until the capsule breaks. When explaining why she won't allow her kids to escape, Mrs. Goebbels explains, "I can't bear to think of them growing up in a world without national socialism."
That chilling opening makes a good point. Ideological hatred is not confined to one group or region of the world - although it may take different forms depending on the soil it finds itself in. Fareed Zakaria's article on ideological hatred at Newseek is worth a moment of your time, regardless of your views on the Iraq conflict.
Like all ideologies, radical Islam is a phenomenon of the educated class. From Muhammad Atta to Mohammed Sidique Khan, almost all suicide bombers have been men who read and write. In V. S. Naipaul's book A Million Mutinies Now, the author interviews a young Hindu fanatic. The man explains his fascistic views, and then Naipaul asks the man's father, who happens to be sitting there, what he thinks. The old man explains that he works at a factory from morning till night and doesn't really have time for these kinds of ideas. Extremist ideology is a leisure-time pursuit.
Zakaria suggests that we might do a lot of good in being circumspect about who is and who is not a legitimate voice of dissent seeking asylum in the west.
We're fighting a military battle against a phenomenon that is largely nonmilitary. In a battle of ideas, no one bullet will win... The director-general of Al Arabiya TV, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, asked two weeks ago in the London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat, "Why would Britain grant asylum to Arabs who have been convicted of political crimes or religious extremism, or even sentenced to death? Not only were they admitted to this country, but they were also provided with accommodation, a monthly salary, and free legal advice... for those who want to prosecute the British government." Recall that bin Laden's original declaration of war against the West was published in only one venue, a London-based newspaper. Next time, let him publish it in Saudi Arabia if he can.
It is going to be seriously difficult to determine if a person from a country with a legal system and political culture that is very different from our own is being justly prosecuted or unjustly persecuted. We are removed from the facts in several respects. But it seems to me that Zakria may be on to something when he suggests that a person demanding extra legal methods to being about change - either here or there - has crossed a line. No matter how corrupt a state may be, advocating violence against its people is never excusable. Statements like that are past the limit of what free speech can reasonably be said to be. We should not allow ourselves to be a safe haven for the dissemenation of such hatred. Dissent yes, gathering allies, yes - but do it on your own time and dime, and do it without advocating genocide or random murder.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Short note

Just a short note so no one thinks I've tripped over the sprinkler and injured myself. It's been pretty warm this weekend and I've been working in the yard lifting sod and placing cement pavers that are something like 50 lbs. each. There were only nine of them to do, but doing the job in the heat has left me pretty drained this weekend. Maybe I'm just wussy, I dunno. I'll probably be lifting more sod next weekend, as we want to create a bed beside the pavers. If I'm out of touch here then, you'll know why. On a different note, the driver of that garbage truck who died in the accident I posted about was not my friend from high school. There are still three kids out there who lost their Dad, so our thoughts and prayers go to them in what is likely to be a diffuicult time. On a different note still, my blogging friend Andrew has created a new way of following the posts of the ever growing (so it seems) number of bloggers in Canada.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Socrates' praise

Summing up what he takes to be Socrates' greatest achievement, Frederick Copelston writes that the most famous of the ancient Greeks philosophers was one of the first to recognize the existence of a universal Human Nature, and relatedly, the Natural Law:
While we cannot accept the over intellectualist attitude of Socrates, and agree with Aristotle that moral weakness is a fact which Socrates tended to overlook, we willingly pay homage to the ethic of Socrates. For a rational ethic must be founded on human nature and the good of human nature as such. Thus when Hippias... remark[ed] that the prohibition of sexual intercourse between parents and children is not a universal prohibition, Socrates rightly answered that racial inferiority which results from such intercourse justifies the prohibition. This is tantamount to appealing to what we would call "Natural Law," which is an expression of man's nature and conduces to its harmonious development. Such an ethic is indeed insufficient, since the Natural Law cannot acquire a morally binding force, obligatory in conscience - at least in the sense of our modern conception of "Duty" - unless it has a morally transcendent Source, God, Whose Will for man is expressed in the Natural Law; but although insufficient, it enshrines a most important and valuable truth which is essential to the development of a rational moral philosophy. "Duties" are not simply useless or arbitrary commands or prohibitions, but are to be seen in relation to human nature as such: the Moral Law expresses Man's true good. Greek ethics were predominantly eudaemonological in character (cf. Aristotle's ethical system), and though, we believe, they need to be completed by Theism, in order to attain their true development, they remain, even in their incomplete state, a perennial glory to Greek philosophy. Human nature is constant and so ethical values are constant, and it is Socrates' undying fame that he realised the constancy of these values and sought to fix them in universal definitions which could be taken as a guide and norm in human conduct.
I also find the notion of "human nature" to be very intriguing when thinking about ethics. I like that it contains a mix of ideas and factual observation, tied together. An ethic based on ideas will be a rough job, and seek to make us conform to it; and it will more than likely be overly simple. An ethic based only on observation is itself simply another kind of idealized simplicity, doomed to miss the forest for the trees. Together, however, I think the two can form a dialectic, each informing the other and providing a corrective or, even - a new step in our knowledge of what we are and what that asks of us. Interestingly, according to Plato's Apology, when Socrates was tried and sentenced to death, he was asked what he did in his profession. Socrates' answer was that he sought:
to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the State before he looks to the interest of the State; and that this should be the order in which he observes in his actions
He thought a man had to know what he was before he could act properly, and before he could take care of his political duties, he had to know what the state was. Well and good - I think this is quite correct, and I agree also that knowing human nature comes before human government. You can't deal with Macro problems if can't deal with Micro problems! It seems simple enough. Where and how is this knowledge of human nature to be sought? Well, through interactions with other seekers, of course. What would such interactions look like? Family, Church and Community - in that order. The ancient Greeks did not like this answer. Socrates was charged with 1) not worshiping the Gods whom the State worships, and 2) of corrupting the young. For those offenses he was sentenced to death. That was in 400 B.C. Isn't it gratifying that we've come so far since then? Now we have religious freedom, and the state does not tell you what you must think. Of course, human nature being a constant, there are always going to be those - such as this particular fool - who either didn't get the memo or failed to understand it.

Tickle IQ

Your Intellectual Type is Insightful Linguist. This means you are highly intelligent and have the natural fluency of a writer and the visual and spatial strengths of an artist. Those skills contribute to your creative and expressive mind. And that's just some of what we know about you from your test results.
I took another online IQ test this afternoon and scored 129. Not bad after a busy day of heavy yardwork and some errand running! If you want to try it, it's at Tickle.com. Be warned that for more detailed reporting than the kind I posted above, they'll want some money from you.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Good news!

Rebecca and I have cleared - finally! - all of the obstacles preventing us from being fully accepted into the Catholic faith. We got the needed annulment a while back and now we have been cleared to arrange the ceremony to bless our wedding. A happy day. First Confession and First Communion will probably be on the same day as the blessing. From the Catechism:
Marriage in the Lord 1612 The nuptial covenant between God and his people Israel had prepared the way for the new and everlasting covenant in which the Son of God, by becoming incarnate and giving his life, has united to himself in a certain way all mankind saved by him, thus preparing for "the wedding-feast of the Lamb." 1613 On the threshold of his public life Jesus performs his first sign—at his mother's request—during a wedding feast. The Church attaches great importance to Jesus' presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ's presence. 1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning: permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts. The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it: "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.

Brit Links!

One - The Independent has an interview with Roger Scruton that includes this:
When I arrive at the farm in Wiltshire where Scruton and his wife Sophie raise their two children, Sam, six, Lucy, four, and their various animals, there is little sign of the suffering, sensitive Scruton. As he is just back from America, I ask if he is suffering from jetlag. "Jetlag is a proletarian defect," comes the crisp answer, as he leads the way into a book-lined living room stuffed with tatty furniture and a Bakelite telephone. After a drink, we move through to begin lunch, components of which have been produced on the Scruton farm. "That's Singer," declares Roger, pointing at a plate of leftover sausages. Singer the pig, mischievously named after Peter Singer, the philosopher and animal-rights theorist, has been "ensausaged" personally by his former owner. Roger beams as another lunch guest, his publisher Robin Baird-Smith, asks if he can take the final morsel. Singer, it must be said, does taste pretty good.
Interestingly, Scruton almost became a candidate for the Tory party but gave up the idea after an interviewer told him there could never be such a thing as a 'conservative philosopher.' Wot? Perhaps Scuton should run in Canada. According to Andrew (no relation to Harry) Potter, Canadians have beein sitting around pining for a philospher king ever since Pierre Trudeau left the scene. His article in today's Post, btw, is excellent and if you can get your hands on it, by all means do so. Two - Blimpish says what's on everyone's mind:
My theory is that most of us on the Right are like that - being conservative means you really, badly want to be in the mainstream, because that's what you're conserving, after all. But most people on the Left want to be considered outside the mainstream - a bit of a rebel, a bit edgy and dangerous. The problem is that, today, neither side gets what it wants - Right-wingers are always having to apologise, and Left-wingers have to resort to shock tactics (sometimes bordering on the absurd) in order to be non-mainstream again. This is why, obviously, the Left should surrender and let us have our way - then they can be all rebellious, and we can be elitist and return to unthinking defence of the status quo, which is surely when we're at our best...
Three - Blimpish (again) - A Mulsim groups's spokesperson is said to have justified suicide bombing in the past, and the spokesman 'refutes' it by saying, basically, yes I do...
He moved quickly to clarify, saying that that justification was with reference to the Palestinian situation, which was very very different. The more moderate participants in the discussion moved quickly to... agree! They said, too, that Israeli oppression in the occupied territories made that a very different situation, and that they were in solidarity with those struggling against it. Now, here is my point: for all the time that decent Muslims are willing to justify the use of suicide bombing as a legitimate means of warfare anywhere, they are leaving the door open to its use in other situations. Let's be clear on what we're talking about here. It's a legitimate opinion to believe, to take the most extreme view, that the whole of Israel is an occupation of Palestinian soil and hope for that situation to come to an end. I think that opinion is wrong, but it's fair enough. There's also some argument, if you take a certain (wrong) view of the occupied territories seized as a result of the Six Day War, to give support to armed action against that occupation. There is though no argument, in any circumstances, for the support of Palestinians' use of terrorist violence against civilian Israelis, whether suicide bombing or not.

Starting points

Alvin Plantinga on Christian scholarship.
a Christian philosopher may be interested in the relation between faith and reason, and faith and knowledge: granted that we hold some things by faith and know other things: granted we believe that there is such a person as God and that this belief is true; do we also know that God exists? Do we accept this belief by faith or by reason? A theist may be inclined towards a reliabilist theory of knowledge; he may be inclined to think that a true belief constitutes knowledge if it is produced by a reliable belief producing mechanism. (There are hard problems here, but suppose for now we ignore them.) If the theist thinks God has created us with the sensus divinitatis Calvin speaks of, he will hold that indeed there is a reliable belief producing mechanism that produces theistic belief; he will thus hold that we know that God exists. One who follows Calvin here will also hold that a capacity to apprehend God's existence is as much part of our natural noetic or intellectual equipment as is the capacity to apprehend truths of logic, perceptual truths, truths about the past, and truths about other minds. Belief in the existence of God is then in the same boat as belief in truths of logic, other minds, the past, and perceptual objects; in each case God has so constructed us that in the right circumstances we acquire the belief in question. But then the belief that there is such a person as God is as much among the deliverances of our natural noetic faculties as are those other beliefs. Hence we know that there is such a person as God, and don't merely believe it; and it isn't by faith that we apprehend the existence of God, but by reason; and this whether or not any of the classical theistic arguments is successful. Now my point is not that Christian philosophers must follow Calvin here. My point is that the Christian philosopher has a right (I should say a duty) to work at his own projects-projects set by the beliefs of the Christian community of which he is a part. The Christian philosophical community must work out the answers to its questions; and both the questions and the appropriate ways of working out their answers may presuppose beliefs rejected at most of the leading centers of philosophy. But the Christian is proceeding quite properly in starting from these beliefs, even if they are so rejected. He is under no obligation to confine his research projects to those pursued at those centers, or to pursue his own projects on the basis of the assumptions that prevail there.
Note that this is not special pleading. The positivist 'verificationist theory of truth is valid in all fields' theory that Plantinga is taking on is itself a matter of faith. Thus, Plantinga is responding to what has been a double standard in which a theist is held to a higher standard of truth than his critic.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Welcome to Mordor

Here's a terrific column from the Toronto Sun, written by Lorrie Goldstein. When can we get people like this to help out on the CPC campaign?
Liberals always accuse conservatives of having sinister motives. You know, Harper has a "hidden agenda." the Canadian right wants "American-style, two-tier health care" and now, conservatives hate Canada. The problem with conservatives is that they get all defensive when these silly allegations are made and start whining. Worse, having allowed liberals to frame the debate as in -- "Do conservatives hate Canada? -- Discuss" they've already lost before they even begin to respond. That's why I will now redefine this debate by proving to you that it is liberals (and Liberals) who hate Canada with a passion. Liberals hate Canada because they see it as a dark and evil place where there are Nazis, Klansmen, Holocaust deniers, bigots and racists hiding behind every tree. Liberals worry that Canada is ready to go medieval on them the second they turn their backs. Take Liberal MP Hedy Fry, please. For her, Canada is such a rotten country that, back when she was multiculturalism minister, she said that the KKK were burning crosses on the lawns of Prince George, B.C. This would have been horrible, had it been true. Since it wasn't, we must assume Fry was having a "Lord of the Rings" moment. Remember how the closer Frodo got to the evil land of Mordor, the more dark and disturbing his hallucinations became? Well, for Liberals, Canada is Mordor.
Humour good, anger bad; it just ain't that complicated. "I do not hate Canada" is a stupid answer and too often that's all we get.

Yesterday's tragedy

If I had been twenty minutes ahead of where I was, I would likely have been a witness to a terrible automotive accident that took place yesterday in the late morning. From The Vancouver Sun:
According to police, witnesses saw the front forks of the eastbound garbage truck lifting as the vehicle approached the overpass. The forks hit the overpass, shearing it from one of two concrete supports and causing the collapse. The driver was trapped inside his cab as the heavy structure crashed down. "I saw his body get smaller, and [I] stopped my truck inches away from his and jumped out and tried to help him," one witness told BCTV News on Global. "I grabbed him by the hands and tried to tell him help was on the way. He said "help" to me one more time and then died in my hands.
A more recent news story on the accident is on the local CBC News webpage. The clearest picture is this one, from the local newspaper's website, where you can get the best idea of what happened. Yesterday's accident scene. The driver's name has not been released yet and I'm hoping it will be soon. You see, one of the guys I hung out with in high school with drives a garbage truck, and he used to do it in that area. The age and all the rest don't rule him out either. Even though it's unlikely, I'd like to put the thought to rest.

Corporeal Christendom

It is not very well known, even among Catholics, that the word 'Roman' in 'Roman Catholic' is a modifier describing a rite and not an entire Church. The word 'Catholic', of course, does mean 'universal', but there is more to the universal church than the Roman rite.
When Christ founded His Church, He commissioned the apostles to go out into the world to preach and baptize. Most Catholics are familiar with the founding of the see of Rome by Peter. The primacy of that Church was sealed with the blood of Peter and Paul, and the succession of bishops continues to the present day. What many do not know is that the other apostles themselves founded churches, and that their own successions of bishops continue as well. As presently defined, there are 24 Catholic Churches that can be grouped into eight different rites. A rite is a liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony of a distinct people manifested in a Church. While each Catholic Church may have its own rite or customs, in general, there are only eight major rites. History, language, misunderstandings, nationalism, and basic human weakness have resulted in the current communion of 24 Churches. With a few exceptions, the Eastern Catholic Churches result from incomplete reunions with the Orthodox Churches. In those instances, large numbers of bishops and faithful of the Orthodox mother Churches either held back or later rejected union with Rome. Today, many Orthodox are fearful of losing their distinct traditions in a world dominated by the Latin Church. Making matters worse, some of the Eastern Catholic Churches have adopted Latin customs and haven’t been very good examples of how union with Rome should work. This is tragic, since the traditions of these Churches are themselves apostolic and help preserve the catholicity of the Church with their own unique development of the gospel message. For example, unlike a good Latin parish, in a traditional Eastern Catholic parish you won’t find musical instruments, statues, rosaries, or stations of the cross. Indeed, the priest may well have a wife and children, and the church might be without pews or kneelers. In some circumstances, even the Bible might have a larger canon and include Third and Fourth Maccabees. Unity does not mean uniformity.
This brings up an interesting point, in that being Catholic needn't mean dressing and doing as the Roman Church does. It does mean holding to a uniform doctrine. That's why talks about re-union in the Church usually involve the remaining eastern churches and not the Protestant Churches that dominate North America. Those Churches have doctrine that ranges from close to a long ways off, thanks to the free reign given to creative theology students by the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. This corporate organization has not always worked as well as it ought to have, as the story of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church shows:
The first Christians in India were evangelized by the apostle Thomas in what is now the state of Kerala. For most of their history, they were in communion with the Chaldean-Assyrian Church. Indian Christians first encountered the Portuguese in 1498, when they warmly received the representatives of the Church of Rome, whose special status they continued to acknowledge despite long isolation. Sadly, the Portuguese didn’t initially accept the legitimacy of the Malabar Church, and in 1599, Latinizations were imposed—appointments of Portuguese bishops, changes in the liturgy, Roman vestments, clerical celibacy, and the Inquisition. In 1653, after years of bitterness and tension, most Indian Christians severed their union with Rome. Alarmed, Pope Alexander VII sent Carmelites to India to repair the situation, and most of the Christians eventually returned to full communion with the Catholic Church. In 1934, Pope Pius XI initiated a process of liturgical reform to restore the historic Syriac nature of the Latinized Syro-Malabar Church. Unfortunately, tension with the Latin Church remains over the establishment of Syro-Malabar jurisdictions in other parts of India where Latin dioceses already exist.
These churches have always been defined as a 'people' and have had close ties to the land and the culture in which they find themselves. Reading over this interesting article, I wondered if this is an essential feature or not. The question arises because I wonder if western Catholics, currently served by the Roman Church, could regain some of their separated brothers by allowing another rite in the region. Could that address some of the complaints we hear about the supposed 'need' for married clergy or a looser, more spontaneous church culture? A rite like that has no appeal for me, but getting people to get their doctrine right is a big carrot, is it not? The principle that their worship can take different forms seems well established. Then there's this little tidbit:
the London Times reported that, behind the scenes, Vatican authorities had been corresponding with the Traditional Anglican Communion inside the Church of England, discussing the possible formation of an Anglican-rite body in communion with Rome. This network claims the loyalty of more than 400,000 Anglicans around the world and perhaps 500 parishes. Who was the key Vatican official behind these talks? According to Archbishop John Hepworth of Australia, it was Cardinal Ratzinger.
Interesting, no? A point form outline / history of Catholic - Anglican talks is here. Talks continue.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It takes two

Mark Steyn:
It was Prime Minister's wife [Cherie Blair], you'll recall, who last year won a famous court victory for Shabina Begum, as a result of which schools across the land must now permit students to wear the full "jilbab" - ie, Muslim garb that covers the entire body except the eyes and hands. Ms Booth hailed this as "a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry". It seems almost too banal to observe that such an extreme preservation of Miss Begum's Muslim identity must perforce be at the expense of any British identity. Nor, incidentally, is Miss Begum "preserving" any identity: she's of Bangladeshi origin, and her adolescent adoption of the jilbab is a symbol of the Arabisation of South Asian (and African and European) Islam that's at the root of so many problems. It's no more part of her inherited identity than my five-year- old dressing up in his head-to-toe Darth Vader costume, to which at a casual glance it's not dissimilar. Is it "bigoted" to argue that the jilbab is a barrier to acquiring the common culture necessary to any functioning society? Is it "prejudiced" to suggest that in Britain a Muslim woman ought to reach the same sartorial compromise as, say, a female doctor in Bahrain? Apparently so...
Sad but interesting, isn't it, how some of the more extreme arguments for multi culturalism are so banal, with little of no thought about what identity is. The argument is all surface and all based on the present, not history. It seems Cherie's argument has more to do with satisfying the needs of those British enraptured by the altar of difference, and who think that the more visible that difference the better. The meat and the grisle of the issue is below the surface, in ideas, but that just won't make the papers in quite the same way. A text story on A12 can't compare to an emotion laden photo on the cover, can it? Note that I'm not commenting on any particular Cherie Blair story or event here, I'm just saying that when we think about issues related to mixing cultures, we ought to do more thinking than public posturing. I'm a child of immigrants and in my experience, the question of identity is not a simple one. We want to allow a free flow of people and ideas, but not so much that anything goes. The liberal idea of free borders sounds fine on paper but does not seem to me to be adequate in dealing with real people, who survive not as identical replacable parts, but as individuals reliant on a web of social connections and conventions. These webs can change and accomodate new things, yes, but not indefinately. Analogies can be found in economics - the law of diminishing returns - and in biology - too much change in an ecosystem can create the conditions for collapse. It seems to me that a culture ought to be able to discuss the issue openly, without fear. The idea that a culture willing to take in strangers does not abjure the right to act in it's own interests should not be dismissed out of hand. In this issue as in so many others, it takes time for prudent compromises to be hit upon. What's wrong with a jilbab? As I understand it, some versions cover the face, and that is not something a free society can admit without some careful consideration. I'm less concerned with the isolation Steyn discusses. I do think newcomers should be encouraged to mingle with their neighbors, and to learn about them and their values. I'm less certain that it should be a legal issue. I'm inclined to think it is one that communities can look after themselves. Personally, I do not see why a private school can't uphold a dress code. Students who don't like it can try to find another school that will accomodate them. The ruling, supposedly in favour of religious freedom, is in fact no such thing. It is another encroachment of the state into private affairs in which it has no business, and it tramples on the rights of those who do wish to uphold the school's dress code.

Revealing too much

On a lighter note... Wal-Mart, love or hate? Hate. Martha Stewart, love or hate? Love. CBC, love or hate? Hate. The Dukes of Hazard? Love. Paris Hilton, love or hate? Hate. Honeymooners or I love Lucy? Honeymooners. Globe and Mail or National Post? National Post. Coffee or tea? Coffee. Salty or sweet? Sweet. Food fast or slow? Slow. Mornings or evenings? Mornings. Phone or e-mail? Hate them both. City or Country? Country. Church, high or low? High. GM or Ford? Ford Dogs or cats? Dogs. Ginger or May-Ann? Mary-Ann. Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Anniston? Angelina Jolie. Scarlett Johansson or Maria Sharapova? ... don't make me choose...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Timid Dogmatists

Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell on the BBC, 1948 The BBC aired this this debate between Bertrand Russell and Frederick Copleston back in 1948. It's an interesting debate, if a little jargon laden at the beginning. I've tried to quote a section with less jargon, allowing readers to decide which one of these men is advocating a position akin to a timid flat worldism, and which is eager to set out on a course of discovery. The topic is the contention that there exists a being whose existence is not contingent on anything else, and this quickly becomes a discussion of how it we know anything at all. What are we permitted to assume when we open the shutters of our minds and look out at the world?
Russell: But when is an explanation adequate? Suppose I am about to make a flame with a match. You may say that the adequate explanation of that is that I rub it on the box. Copleston: Well, for practical purposes -- but theoretically, that is only a partial explanation. An adequate explanation must ultimately be a total explanation, to which nothing further can be added. Russell: Then I can only say that you're looking for something which can't be got, and which one ought not to expect to get. Copleston: To say that one has not found it is one thing; to say that one should not look for it seems to me rather dogmatic. Russell: Well, I don't know. I mean, the explanation of one thing is another thing which makes the other thing dependent on yet another, and you have to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire to do what you want, and that we can't do. Copleston: But are you going to say that we can't, or we shouldn't even raise the question of the existence of the whole of this sorry scheme of things -- of the whole universe? Russell: Yes, I don't think there's any meaning in it at all. ... Copleston: Well, I can't see how you can rule out the legitimacy of asking the question how the total, or anything at all comes to be there. Why something rather than nothing, that is the question? The fact that we gain our knowledge of causality empirically, from particular causes, does not rule out the possibility of asking what the cause of the series is... Russell: I can illustrate what seems to me your fallacy. Every man who exists has a mother, and it seems to me your argument is that therefore the human race must have a mother, but obviously the human race hasn't a mother -- that's a different logical sphere. Copleston: Well, I can't really see any parity. If I were saying "every object has a phenomenal cause, therefore, the whole series has a phenomenal cause," there would be a parity; but I'm not saying that; I'm saying, every object has a phenomenal cause if you insist on the infinity of the series -- but the series of phenomenal causes is an insufficient explanation of the series. Therefore, the series has not a phenomenal cause but a transcendent cause. Russell: That's always assuming that not only every particular thing in the world, but the world as a whole must have a cause. For that assumption I see no ground whatever. If you'll give me a ground I'll listen to it. Copleston: Well, the series of events is either caused or it's not caused. If it is caused, there must obviously be a cause outside the series. If it's not caused then it's sufficient to itself, and if it's sufficient to itself it is what I call necessary. But it can't be necessary since each member is contingent, and we've agreed that the total has no reality apart from its members, therefore, it can't be necessary. Therefore, it can't be -- uncaused -- therefore it must have a cause. And I should like to observe in passing that the statement "the world is simply there and is inexplicable" can't be got out of logical analysis. Russell: I don't want to seem arrogant, but it does seem to me that I can conceive things that you say the human mind can't conceive. As for things not having a cause, the physicists assure us that individual quantum transitions in atoms have no cause. Copleston: Well, I wonder now whether that isn't simply a temporary inference. Russell: It may be, but it does show that physicists' minds can conceive it. Copleston: Yes, I agree, some scientists -- physicists -- are willing to allow for indetermination within a restricted field. But very many scientists are not so willing. I think that Professor Dingle, of London University, maintains that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle tells us something about the success (or the lack of it) of the present atomic theory in correlating observations, but not about nature in itself, and many physicists would accept this view. In any case, I don't see how physicists can fail to accept the theory in practice, even if they don't do so in theory. I cannot see how science could be conducted on any other assumption than that of order and intelligibility in nature. The physicist presupposes, at least tacitly, that there is some sense in investigating nature and looking for the causes of events, just as the detective presupposes that there is some sense in looking for the cause of a murder. The metaphysician assumes that there is sense in looking for the reason or cause of phenomena, and, not being a Kantian, I consider that the metaphysician is as justified in his assumption as the physicist. When Sartre, for example, says that the world is gratuitous, I think that he has not sufficiently considered what is implied by "gratuitous." Russell: I think -- there seems to me a certain unwarrantable extension here; a physicist looks for causes; that does not necessarily imply that there are causes everywhere. A man may look for gold without assuming that there is gold everywhere; if he finds gold, well and good, if he doesn't he's had bad luck. The same is true when the physicists look for causes. As for Sartre, I don't profess to know what he means, and I shouldn't like to be thought to interpret him, but for my part, I do think the notion of the world having an explanation is a mistake. I don't see why one should expect it to have, and I think you say about what the scientist assumes is an over-statement. Copleston: Well, it seems to me that the scientist does make some such assumption. When he experiments to find out some particular truth, behind that experiment lies the assumption that the universe is not simply discontinuous. There is the possibility of finding out a truth by experiment. The experiment may be a bad one, it may lead to no result, or not to the result that he wants, but that at any rate there is the possibility, through experiment, of finding out the truth that he assumes. And that seems to me to assume an ordered and intelligible universe. Russell: I think you're generalizing more than is necessary. Undoubtedly the scientist assumes that this sort of thing is likely to be found and will often be found. He does not assume that it will be found, and that's a very important matter in modem physics. Copleston: Well, I think he does assume or is bound to assume it tacitly in practice. It may be that, to quote Professor Haldane, "when I Iight the gas under the kettle, some of the water molecules will fly off as vapor, and there is no way of finding out which will do so," but it doesn't follow necessarily that the idea of chance must be introduced except in relation to our knowledge.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Being anti Anomie

We had an excellent homily on the parable of the weeds this morning, but these two lines from today's reading from Romans struck home with me today:
We do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
I think religious faith is not, for most of us, written large, with a boom. It's not an action flick with the DTS sound turned up too high. It's more like being struck dumb for the most fleeting of moments, and if you are very attentive - very, very attentive - you might find that your heart has been reoriented just the tiniest amount. It's like Keats' Joy, "ever biding adieu." To know it was ever there you have to find the time and make the effort to be receptive rather than active. The alternative is what Francis has called the "Conundrum of Happiness":
Happiness, in Aristotle's definition, is that which we seek as an end in itself, and for no other reason. Everyone wants to be happy. However, happiness cannot be sought directly; it has to be approached through more concrete instruments. Few of us have a perfect, unerring vision of what steps and acquisitions will make us happy. The proof is in the frequently encountered anomie of the well-to-do, who are nominally equipped to do or procure anything they think they'd like.
I think it was Pascal who said that humanity is like a lock, and Christianity is the key.

The One Substance

Copleston and the Pre-Socratics I'm enjoying the first volume of Copleston's A History of Philosophy right now, and am working through the very early Greek philosophers, which can be lumped under the name Pre-Socratic. It's very interesting to see these men (they are all men) fumbling along. We remember them, not because they got the right answers to their questions, but because they asked good questions. One of the important questions is, 'Is the world made of one substance or many?' The solution that wins out is that the world is in fact one substance and this leads to the question, 'what is the one substance that the world is made of?' Thales suggested that the one substance was water. We might snicker at that, but he had his reasons. Heraclitus thought that the one substance was fire. Again, this looks silly in the twenty first century, but Heraclitus' efforts were an advance on Thales. Copleston writes that Heraclitus' contribution is in:
the conception of unity in diversity, difference in unity. In the philosophy of Anaximander... the opposites are seen as encroaching on one another, and then as paying in turn the penalty for this act of injustice. Anaximander regards the war of opposites as something disorderly, something that ought not to be, something that mars the purity of the One. Heraclitus, however, does not adopt this view. For him the conflict of opposites, so far from being a blot on the unity of the One, is essential to the being of the One. In fact, the One exists only in the tension of opposites...
Heraclitus saw this 'unity of tension' in fire more than in any other object or element:
Springing up, as it were, from a multitude of objects, [fire] changes them into itself... fire depends on this 'strife' and 'tension'...
Parmenides, a later philosopher, took a very different view, which Copleston outlines here:
[Parmenides'] doctrine in brief is to the effect that Being, the One, IS, and that Becoming, change, is illusion. For if anything comes to be, then it comes either out of being or non-being. If the former, then it already is - in which case it does not come to be; if the latter, then it is nothing, since out of nothing comes nothing. Becoming then, is an illusion.
Copleston rightly points out that these men use different ways of thinking to reach their conclusions. Heraclitus is more trusting of sense experience than Parmenides, who builds his theory very abstractly. That trend continues in philosophy to this day! Later philosophers - Democritus, Plato, Aristotle among them - would build on the work of these two writers, finding many ways of yoking their ideas together. The unifying thread is that they are not describing the same thing. Democritus, a materialist like Parmenides, adopted his ideas about the indestructibility of matter and used them in an atomistic theory of the changes our senses record. Plato took Parmenides' ideas and said that they applied to ideas and idealism and not to matter. Aristotle used Parmenides and Heraclitus to come up with the idea of the actual and the potential. It's interesting that Parmenides is credited with zeroing in on the differences between sense experience and reason, and yet his theory cannot account for reason, as it one of total mechanistic materialism. Copleston points out that despite his materialism, Parmenides is, via Plato, a harbringer of idealism. There is also, in this account, the tension between cold logic and lived, sensory experience, and there is the necessity of being careful in how we apply the conclusions these different methods of thought lead us to. In lived experience there are always tensions and factions that need to be balanced and reconciled instead of coldly dismissed. Lived experience has to take into account Time. Parmenides' abstract logic has powerful implications - when it is better directed. It would be the Jews who would suggest that one of Parmenides' premises is wrong - ie. that nothing comes from nothing is universally true. And they have a point. If the One is not a material but the thought of the totalizing ideal person, then the properties of the One are not something we have any direct access to. 0 times 0 equals 0 may not apply in all times and in all spaces if, as St. Therese de Lisieux asserted on her deathbed, everything our time bound senses experience is Grace.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Masthead

I'm toying with the masthead again. Anyone know how to remove the border? Correct answer wins a "no prize".

Strike's over

But I like football better anyway Tip: Fox and Corkum Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 15, 2005

Perspective

Dean Barret at The Daily Standard on why Daily KOS' readership numbers have not dipped after the US election, while right leaning blog numbers are down:
The Daily KOS should provide the party's most devoted adherents with a constructive outlet for their energy; indeed it does. The site has raised bundles of money for Democratic politicians and its patrons certainly have a surfeit of passion that they're willing to bring to any political conversation. The problem for the Democratic party is that, like much of the country, it has a dim understanding of the blogosphere. The party is not alone in its denseness here. Much of America's existing power structure still has no idea what to make of blogs. This trait was recently put on embarrassing public display in an obtuse Doonesbury strip. In the piece at issue, Garry Trudeau suggested that bloggers were "angry, semi-employed losers"... The Democratic party, on the other hand, errs in precisely the opposite fashion as Trudeau. While Moulitsas recognizes that the left-wing blogosphere is a world unto itself, if establishment Democrats have any awareness of that fact they have yet to betray it. Where Trudeau feels bloggers are a bunch of shut-in half-wits, the Democratic party seems to be under the impression that bloggers are an enormous, important constituency--and that it must go to whatever lengths necessary to win the hearts and minds of this virtual community.
Barret offers a lot of common sense here. In Canada, for example, the polling numbers of the Conservative Party routinely dip between elections. During these dips, as sure as winter means hockey, the other side of the political sphere will point to those numbers and claim that people are 'leaving the conservatives' because of... well, pick some bugbear of the left and insert it here. Another fallacy about conservatives in politics is that conservatism is on the way out because only 'old' people hold it. When they die, look out man! Again, stop and think. People do tend towards conservatism as they age, and I'll argue that is because as they get more experience, they get wiser, humbler, and less grandiose. It doesn't happen to everyone, but it happens enough that I'm not worried about conservatism dying out any time soon. The age difference is a plus in many ways. Older voters are more likely to get out and vote, for one thing. For another, they are less likely to be easily discouraged. I have no doubt that the dip in poll numbers in Canada, and the dip in conservative blog readership in the U.S., is because these older and wiser souls have decided to tune out the gamesmanship and B.S. that comes with the day to day slugfest of political life. They're out there working, enjoying their families, and doing the things of life. When it comes time to vote, being in tune with the ins and outs of life will effect how they vote and one can argue that is a better thing than being driven by the spin machines of either political camp. I recall that when the Conservatives here tried to bring down the current minority government a short while ago, the blogosphere was all abuzz, especially the conservative ones (including yours truly). That atmosphere was not matched in my experiences away from blogs and newspapers. Some people I talked with at work and elsewhere were only vaguely aware of what was going on. They knew there might be a vote soon and if they had any nose for politics they knew how it might come about. Few if any would admit to having any personal interest in the story and there was no real sense of outrage when Stronach crossed the floor and the vote wound up a tie, allowing the government to survive. I hope and suspect that when it comes time to vote, that the story of that event will not be forgotten. It will be weighed alongside other issues, some of which will be unknown at this point. My own experiences tell me that bloggers are not representative of the population at large. While older bloggers and expert bloggers are not that unusual, I suspect that most bloggers and blog readers skew young. They have the time to devote to blogging and the ability to pick up on new technologies quickly. MSM response to the changes wrought by new tech has, overall, not been nearly as impressive. Bloggers probably also have better than average literacy and better than average curiosity. Bloggers are, in a nutshell, a notable group - youngish, smart and literate and disposed to debate and to thinking about issues more so than the general public. Can bloggers lead public opinion? That's the big question, and one that the jury is still out on. It may hinge on influential celebrity bloggers emerging in Canada, or perhaps celebrated political portals. I don't think anyone in Canada has critical mass yet.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Technocracy

Blogger James Kalb has an interesting essay published in The New Pantagruel, a webzine that looks like it is gaining steam. If you like this essay you may also want to check out Wesley J. Smith on bioethicists: Harsh Medicine. Here are a few bits from Kalb's provocative essay:
The difficulty is that when preferences clash, the liberal demand for equal treatment means in the end that the dispute has to be resolved by someone other than the parties, and the resolution has to pass itself off as something that isn’t a substantive decision. Anything else would be oppressive, since it would allow one party’s preferences to suppress another’s. That squeamishness about power makes normal political life impossible. A political issue, by definition, involves a conflict of preferences. Liberalism must therefore (at least ideally) depoliticize all serious political issues and determine them by an allegedly neutral process. It needs to rule by denying that power is being exercised, claiming in effect to be a system of power that rejects and opposes power. ... The claim that such people and the norms they enforce are neutral is, of course, absurd. Liberals plainly have a theory of what is good, a vision of what human relations should be, and the will to back their views by force and insist they be followed throughout human life so that everyone has to live in their kind of society whether he likes it or not. The ostensible neutrality of liberalism disguises a practical dictatorship of intrusive functionaries and money. The taxes, regulations, and re-education programs that feature so prominently in advanced liberal society wouldn’t be needed if liberal governments were neutral. While liberals claim to be on the side of the little guy, the claim is evidently false. They often oppose particular tyrannies, but the opposition is part of an effort to abolish local power in the interests of universal power. Respectable institutions and well-placed people are regularly liberal, while those who reject liberalism are tagged as ignorant, provincial and lower class. Can it really be true that in liberal society the well-placed and powerful become selfless while provincials and outsiders become oppressive? ... liberalism is intimately linked to a modern secular and scientific understanding of rationality that emphasizes observation and measurement. Since values can’t be directly observed or measured, liberalism treats them as subjective feelings projected on morally neutral facts. As a result, respect for them becomes simply a matter of respect for the feelings of those holding them. Equal respect for persons is thought to require equal respect for values, and the basis of morality becomes giving people equally what they want. Liberalism is thus a rather direct moral implementation of the operative philosophical outlook of our time, positivist scientism – the belief that the methods of the modern natural sciences define rationality and what’s real. ... Technocracy thus promotes the liberal moral outlook. The reverse is also true: liberal morality serves technocracy by rooting out everything at odds with its dominant institutions. A technically rationalized process strives for clarity and perfection through standardization. Differences must be as few, well-defined and technically manageable as possible. When applied to society such demands mean that the particularities of history, place, and human relationship must be deprived of significance.
That desire to flatten differences can be seen, for example, in the criticism leveled at Canada's first past the post electoral system, in which candidates are elected by the vote in a local riding. There is pressure building to move to another sort of system - a 'more rational' system, in which 'no votes are wasted' and 'every vote counts.' For myself, I don't see how your vote 'counts' for anything in a system in which a riding is too large and has numerous MPs. In such a system I think our ability to hold the technocrats to account will be weaker, along with our sense of self, place, and worth. It seems to me the alienation from the halls of power will increase if we should ever go down that road.

Books and glitches

I was waylaid last night by upgrading Firefox from 1.04 to 1.05. Firefox lost all of my bookmarks (most of which can be replaced) and forgot my toolbar customizations (easy enough to redo). It also started to do some other annoying things. It took a bit of time to get it all sorted and so, no post last night. The lost bookmarks also means that some of the things I had intended to write about might be lost if I can't find them again (or remember what they were). I may be busy for the next day or two as well, but you never know. I might sneak in here and put something together. While I'm here telling you stuff, I might as well tell you I got my latest package of books last week, including:
  • Augustine's Confessions
  • The Viking Portable Plato
  • You Can Understand the Bible, Peter Kreeft's latest.
  • and, finally, Volume One of Federick Copleston's A History of Philosophy
I picked up Augustine because I've never read anything he wrote and figured it was time to put that little bugbear to bed. I got the Viking Plato because although I've read the Republic through (it's excellent, esp. for anyone interested in politics), there's more to Plato than that. I'll start with the selections here for the time being. Viking offers a lot of these 'portables' and they're a great way to get a quick overview of a subject. Love'em. I got the Kreeft book because I have a long term goal of reading through the Bible and his overview - aimed at interested amateurs and not theologians - seemed just the thing. I have a heavy 'study' Bible that, despite it's weight, does not always have the answers to my questions, even though it has a lot of footnotes. Often the question is really broad, like 'what are the issues that this book is known for raising?' Finally, I've already eagerly jumped into the Copleston book. Copleston was a Jesuit Preist who wrote his nine volumes on philosophy as a guide for seminary students in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Yeah, philosophic study is encouraged in seminary. His series interests me because I think it will be in a little more depth than some of the things I've read (although Scruton can really get into it at times), and because I want to hear the story told from his point of view, which, I'm certain, will not be the same as that of the average academic.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Shame

Schutzgefühl The fallout from C38 continues as we hear more stories like the one Angry is reporting on. Here in BC, the Teachers are getting ready to roll out new SSM positive curricula, and are making noises to the effect that independent schools must (must!) be forced to comply with it. After all, they argue, these schools recieve public tax money. It's like we own them, isn't it? What are our schools producing? Our kids are really smart in many ways, that I don't dispute. We tend to overlook that we shortchange them in others. As this writer says:
state education is not a failure from every point of view. It mass produces exactly the kind of citizen that is now in demand: one who is capable of exercising managerial responsibilities within a pluralistic, hedonistic, atheistic setting, but who would never question the goals and commitments of the enterprise he manages. In the second place, the state is more than just indifferent to children of the kind we wish to raise. It is hostile to them. It does not want us to have children in the manner we do (in greater than average numbers, the natural offspring of heterosexual, monogamous parents). It does not want us to raise them as we do (in intact homes, on traditional religious principles). It does not appreciate the aspiration in life we try to foster in them (of becoming men and women who kneel before God, but stand up to the state). When will religious people begin to see their qualms about public education in a more general light? The stream of obscenities being shouted through the public bullhorn is not simply lowbrow, crude and insulting. It contains a message for us. And the message is, "get with the program or get off the planet".
How on earth has it come to this? Roger Scruton muses on the issue:
The German philosopher Max Scheler described sexual shame as a Schutzgefühl - a shield-emotion that protects you from abuse, whether by another or yourself. If we lose the capacity for shame we do not regain the innocence of the animals; we become shameless, and that means that we are no longer protected from the sexual predator... Shame has... been banished from the culture. This we witness in Reality TV — which ought to be called Fantasy TV since that is its function. All fig leaves, whether of language, thought or behaviour, have now been removed, and the feral children are right there before our eyes, playing their dirty games on the screen. It is not a pretty sight, but nor is it meant to be. This shamelessness is encouraged by sex education in our schools, which tries both to discount the differences between us and the other animals, and to remove every hint of the forbidden, the dangerous or the sacred. Shame, according to the standard literature now endorsed by the DES, is a lingering disability. Sexual initiation means learning to overcome such 'negative' emotions, to put aside our hesitations, and to enjoy 'good sex'. Questions as to 'who', 'whom' or 'which gender' are matters of personal choice — sex education is not there to make the choice, merely to facilitate it. In this way we encourage children to a premature and depersonalised interest in their own sexuality, and at the same time we become hysterical at the thought of all those paedophiles out there, who are really the paedophiles in here. I see in this the clear proof that shame is not a luxury, still less an inhibition to be discarded, but an integral part of the human condition. It is the emotion without which true sexual desire cannot develop, and if there is such a thing as genuine sex education, it consists in teaching children not to discard shame but to acquire it.
Where is it all going, if the course is unchanged? Down the toilet, of course.

Which theologican are you?

You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'

Anselm

93%

Augustine

80%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

73%

Karl Barth

73%

John Calvin

60%

Martin Luther

60%

Paul Tillich

47%

Charles Finney

40%

Jürgen Moltmann

20%

Jonathan Edwards

7%

Which theologian are you?
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Tip: Sirius

Monday, July 11, 2005

Wilting?

An interesting comment in a rather biased article from MSNBC on the woes of Germany's Green Party.
If Cologne University sociologist and Greens expert Markus Klein is right, Germany is in the grip of a "values rollback," away from the post-materialist values of the comfortable 1970s and '80s—including concern for the environment and minority rights—to a more conservative emphasis on achievement, responsibility, family, career and, to a small extent, even religion. Young Germans who grew up in the economically insecure 1990s, he says, worry about jobs and education, not the second-tier issues with which the Greens are identified. Already, says Klein, Green voters are concentrated in the 40-to-49 age bracket, while young voters are increasingly flocking to conservative and liberal-democratic parties. "The Greens are a one-generation project," says Klein. "Their core voters will just die out."
***** More from Germany: David's Medienkritik on how Checkpoint Charlie came to be demolished. Hint: Former Communists and sympathsizers in Berlin's municipal government.

Fighting words

Bloggette finds part of Paul Martin's diary. Hilarious!
then schorder looks at us all like screw both of u so i stick my tung out at him becose who made him the boss of the g8 anyway? so after that we sat around a bit and then sign som stuff and blah blah and all that. and then there was a bunch more stuff happened and then i ask the guy who does the goodbye dinnur if he can play hot in herre insted of god save the queen and he says no.
Check out the fights in the comments sections of these two blogs - here and here - and then check out Greg and I at (some) loggerheads over the NYT's description of the relationship between Catholic Church and Darwinism. Greg and I aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer but at least we're not petulant children either. Starts here then moves here. Angry in the Great White North, probably THE best conservative poli blogger going right now, continues to offer insight into the fallout from Bill 38, the SSM Bill. See here, here, here and here. I tend to agree with his suggestion that Regalism may be the root issue.

The River of Belief

Links! There is some beautiful music to be found here, "in the Mp3 format." The Maverick Philosopher alerted me to this large collection of philosophic writings. The collection includes the Chesterton essay I found this quote in:
The advantage of an elementary philosophic habit is that it permits a man, for instance, to understand a statement like this, "Whether there can or can not be exceptions to a process depends on the nature of that process." The disadvantage of not having it is that a man will turn impatiently even from so simple a truism; and call it metaphysical gibberish. He will then go off and say: "One can't have such things in the twentieth century"; which really is gibberish. Yet the former statement could surely be explained to him in sufficiently simple terms. If a man sees a river run downhill day after day and year after year, he is justified in reckoning, we might say in betting, that it will do so till he dies. But he is not justified in saying that it cannot run uphill, until he really knows why it runs downhill. To say it does so by gravitation answers the physical but not the philosophical question. It only repeats that there is a repetition; it does not touch the deeper question of whether that repetition could be altered by anything outside it. And that depends on whether there is anything outside it. For instance, suppose that a man had only seen the river in a dream. He might have seen it in a hundred dreams, always repeating itself and always running downhill. But that would not prevent the hundredth dream being different and the river climbing the mountain; because the dream is a dream, and there is something outside it. Mere repetition does not prove reality or inevitability. We must know the nature of the thing and the cause of the repetition. If the nature of the thing is a Creation, and the cause of the thing a Creator, in other words if the repetition itself is only the repetition of something willed by a person, then it is not impossible for the same person to will a different thing. If a man is a fool for believing in a Creator, then he is a fool for believing in a miracle; but not otherwise. Otherwise, he is simply a philosopher who is consistent in his philosophy.

The Internet Monk keeps his distance from Rome but has a terrific sense of ecumenism.
Like an elderly randparent, the [Catholic] church believed a lot I could never believe. But I was attracted to its maturity and beauty. It's confidence in God rather than in human urgency and zealotry. Even among those who were living lives of amazing sacrifice, there was a quiet, settled center that I found wonderful. Merton experienced it in his conversion, and I could sense it whenever I came near to Catholic spirituality and tradition. "Tradition" is an important item in my enlightenment and acceptance of Catholicism. I knew that Catholic bashers never tired of pointing out that we believed only what the Bible taught, and paid no attention to tradition. "God said it. I believe it. That settles it." Right. "Tradition" was one of those words preachers spit out with disgust, right alongside "religion." But I was far enough down the road now to realize that my Baptist experience had all kinds of traditions that we reverenced as untouchable, yet we did want to admit the truth. We waved our Bibles around and then stayed safely within the traditions we'd received from our culture, our denomination and our churches. (Listing those traditions is another essay, or a comment thread, but if you haven't figured out that Protestants of every kind are steeped in their own traditions, you need to wake up.) ... The small streams of evangelicalism are sometimes so polluted that the river- with all its accumulated pollutants- still seems far more appealing. I have decided to wish the Roman Catholic Church well. I have decided to accept the kindnesses shown to me and to enjoy the status given me in the new Catholic Catechism- separated brother. As much as I can, I won't be separated. I am part of the church Catholic, and I pray that the new Pope will be a shepherd and teacher of all Christians. I believe one can be wrong about much doctrine, yet still trust Christ, know Christ, show Christ and belong to Christ. Chesterton. St. Francis. Augustine. Merton. John Paul II. Many of my Catholic friends. I expect to see them all in the Kingdom, and in the meantime, I count them as my friends here on the pilgrim way.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

What's your eschatology?

As if we needed more proof that orthodoxy is a far cry from fundamentalism. I just can't take that Left Behind stuff seriously.
You scored as Amillenialist. Amillenialism believes that the 1000 year reign is not literal but figurative, and that Christ began to reign at his ascension. People take some prophetic scripture far too literally in your view.

Amillenialist

85%

Moltmannian Eschatology

70%

Preterist

60%

Postmillenialist

25%

Dispensationalist

20%

Left Behind

10%

Premillenialist

0%
What's your eschatology? created with QuizFarm.com