Thursday, August 28, 2008

P. J. O'Rourke on faith and science

The incomparably witty P. J. O'Rourke has a fabulous article in the new issue of Science and Spirit entitled, "On God." Despite the fact that O'Rourke is admittedly no scientist, he makes several excellent points about science, culture, and faith that are worth pondering.

His comment on the fact (which I have pointed out elsewhere, with much less wit) that most people believe science not on the basis of experience, but on authority:

Faith depends upon belief in things that cannot be proved, and I can prove that more people flunk physics than flunk Sunday School.

"But science can be proved," a scientist would say. "The whole point of science is experimental proof." Yet we non-scientists have to take that experimental proof on faith because we don't know what the scientists are talking about. This makes science a matter of faith in men while religion, of course, is a matter of faith in God, and if you've got to choose...

That what is intuitive and obvious is not necessarily inferior to what can be shown by experiment:
Science and religion both assert the same thing: that the universe operates according to rules and that those rules can be discerned. Albeit this does make it easier to believe in God than, for instance, organic chemistry. Just the fact of rules implies a rule maker while just the fact of mixing nitro with glycerin and causing an explosion does not imply a Ph.D.
That God has it over science any day when it comes to dependability:
I'm also given to understand that the rules of science begin to bend and even break at the extremes of the universe's scale. Down where everything is subatomic-sized, things tend to be a bit random with mesons, leptons, quarks, brilligs, slithy toves, etc., subjected to Strong Force, Weak Force, Force of Habit, and so on. Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of outer space, matter, antimatter, dark matter, and whatsamatter are tripping over string theory and falling into black holes. God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.
And then there's the matter why we fear God but are scared silly by science:
One sympathizes with science's faithful. The apocalyptic power of God has existed forever, and He's been restrained about using it, despite provocation. The apocalyptic power of science has existed only since 1945, and the A-bomb has been tried twice already.

27 comments:

Lee said...

So when did P.J. discover his faith? I always had the impression he was breezily unconcerned about faith, in the manner I've noticed among lapsed Catholics, which describes many of my close friends and relatives.

Maybe he will follow in the footsteps of Malcolm Muggeridge and turn from a youth of satirical iconoclasm and step into an old age of deep faith and spirited apologetics.

Anonymous said...

His comment on the fact (which I have pointed out elsewhere, with much less wit) that most people believe science not on the basis of experience, but on authority:
Faith depends upon belief in things that cannot be proved, and I can prove that more people flunk physics than flunk Sunday School. "But science can be proved," a scientist would say. "The whole point of science is experimental proof." Yet we non-scientists have to take that experimental proof on faith because we don't know what the scientists are talking about. This makes science a matter of faith in men while religion, of course, is a matter of faith in God, and if you've got to choose...That what is intuitive and obvious is not necessarily inferior to what can be shown by experiment:
Science and religion both assert the same thing: that the universe operates according to rules and that those rules can be discerned. Albeit this does make it easier to believe in God than, for instance, organic chemistry. Just the fact of rules implies a rule maker while just the fact of mixing nitro with glycerin and causing an explosion does not imply a Ph.D.That God has it over science any day when it comes to dependability:
I'm also given to understand that the rules of science begin to bend and even break at the extremes of the universe's scale. Down where everything is subatomic-sized, things tend to be a bit random with mesons, leptons, quarks, brilligs, slithy toves, etc., subjected to Strong Force, Weak Force, Force of Habit, and so on. Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of outer space, matter, antimatter, dark matter, and whatsamatter are tripping over string theory and falling into black holes. God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.And then there's the matter why we fear God but are scared silly by science:
One sympathizes with science's faithful. The apocalyptic power of God has existed forever, and He's been restrained about using it, despite provocation. The apocalyptic power of science has existed only since 1945, and the A-bomb has been tried twice already.

Anonymous said...

MC/PJ: [P.J.'s] comment on the fact ... that most people believe science not on the basis of experience, but on authority:

That's true. Not every scientific finding can be repeated by every single person in order to verify the original conclusion. But many people have verified many experiments. And many predictions have been confirmed. So almost anyone willing can confirm some part of science. The rest has to be accepted on trust in the method and participants. But it is certainly better to defer to authorities than to rely on one's own feelings.



MC/PJ: "But science can be proved," a scientist would say. "The whole point of science is experimental proof."

Nope, science does not involve proof. Science is based on modelling experiments, not "proof" in any formal logical or mathematical sense.


MC/PJ: Yet we non-scientists have to take that experimental proof on faith because we don't know what the scientists are talking about.

Unless of course people don't like the experimental evidence and despite a background in science, prefer some other interpretation such as a young earth or creationism.


MC/PJ: This makes science a matter of faith in men


The fact that some people don't understand science does not mean that science depends on faith. The people who do understand and do science are not relying on faith. Is there a name for this fallacious logic?

MC/PJ: while religion, of course, is a matter of faith in God, and if you've got to choose...

That's true.

MC/PJ:
Science and religion both assert the same thing: that the universe operates according to rules and that those rules can be discerned.

Scientists have modelled lots of phenomena. How does religion assert that the universe operates according to rules? Please give some examples of where what rules can be found.

MC/PJ: Albeit this does make it easier to believe in God than, for instance, organic chemistry.

Organic chemistry can be demonstrated - see for example the synthesis of urea which vitalists had claimed was impossible. How can God be demonstrated?


MC/PJ: That God has it over science any day when it comes to dependability:
I'm also given to understand that the rules of science begin to bend and even break at the

Nope, science is dependable. The fact that different models are applicable to different regimes does not imply that the individual models are undependable.



MC/PJ: God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.

Can anyone explain what this means?



MC/PJ: The apocalyptic power of God has existed forever, and He's been restrained about using it, despite provocation. The apocalyptic power of science has existed only since 1945, and the A-bomb has been tried twice already.


Man detonates bombs, not science. Whether someone wants to use a drug to cure a patient or kill someone with an overdose is determined by a person, not "science". This is the same as blaming a religion for the atrocities which followers commit in its name.


MC/PJ: That what is intuitive and obvious is not necessarily inferior to what can be shown by experiment:


Inferior in what sense of the word? Science is inferior to religion in the sense of work - it takes many hours of work to produce scientific conclusions. But in science what it intuitive and obvious may be incorrect.
The main problem with this post is that what is intuitive and obvious religiously to one person is not intuitive and obvious to another. There is not way of checking religion as there is with science.

One may very well claim that religion (intuitive and obvious) is superior to science, but one can just as validly make the claim that all those humanities, pomo, minority/unempowered-centric views are superior to science on the same basis of "intuition and obvious.






jah

Anonymous said...

PJ admits he knows nothing of science:
My entire store of information about scientific activity comes from what I’ve seen in the movies.
...
Let me resort to the usual practice of the ignoramus and give up on philosophical inquiry and just proclaim an opinion: Science requires more faith than God.

I came to that conclusion in my high school physics class (a course that was required, by the way). The physics teacher had just explained how electricity makes a refrigerator work. I raised my hand.

Me: “Electricity is energy.”

Physics teacher: “Yes.”

Me: “Energy is heat.”

Physics teacher: “Yes, heat is one way to measure energy.”

Me: “A refrigerator is cold.”
-----------

It is no wonder that his comments regarding science are so ludicrous.

jah

Lee said...

MC/PJ: God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture.

> Can anyone explain what this means?

It means, none are so blind as those who will not see.

kycobb said...

I love P.J. O'Rouke's humour-that article is funny! It is so typically creationist, though, to get one's philosophy about science from a comedian!

Lee said...

I'm so used to hearing from liberals who think Jon Stewart is the height of intellectual acument, it's actually quite amusing to hear your critique of P.J.

I would suggest you read his books before you dismiss him as an inferior intellect, however. The befuddled everyman is just his posture.

kycobb said...

Lee,

I have read O'Rourke's books, and I think he's a terrific humorist and a very smart man. That being said, his article was clearly written for laughs, not to be taken too seriously.

Lee said...

> I have read O'Rourke's books, and I think he's a terrific humorist and a very smart man. That being said, his article was clearly written for laughs, not to be taken too seriously.

I think there is some serious content in the article, and it has to do with the Biblical message not to trust in the wisdom of man.

Man is often wrong.

Anonymous said...

lee: the Biblical message not to trust in the wisdom of man.
Man is often wrong.

This is back to the absolute morals issue. Of course man is often wrong. By definition an omnipotent being is not. But this gives rise (for some) to the same dilemma - how does an observer know that God exists and what His message is?

lee: none are so blind as those who will not see.

So the answer is, just go with intuition and obviousness. But for some people, there is no obvious or intuitive insight.

PJ: That what is intuitive and obvious is not necessarily inferior to what can be shown by experiment

Inferior in what sense? by what standard? for what purpose?
The question is poorly posed and can't be answered as stated.
1) Intuitive and obvious is superior to experiment for intuitive and obvious reasons, no explanation is necessary.
2) Experiments are superior to the intuitive and obvious because experiments have shown that different people (e.g., the Chritian, the Moslem, and the Hindu) have inconsistent versions of what is intuitive and obvious.


jah

kycobb said...

Lee,

You are right, man is often wrong. One of the things man is often wrong about is what the Bible means. 50 years ago, Jerry Falwell was preaching that the Bible required racial segregation. Heck, Bob Jones University believed the Bible prohibited interracial marriage until only eight years ago.

So fundamentalists got something extremely important wrong because of their cultural biases, something that should have been easy for them to get right because it was a purely moral issue. That makes me extremely skeptical when they claim that their interpretation of the Bible shows that modern science is completely off-base.

Lee said...

kycobb, if we're going to paint fundamentalist Christians as narrow bigots, the rest of the story is that the entire institution of slavery -- a fixture of human culture since there has been a human culture -- was finally treated as wrong and ended...? Where? In the enlightened socialist paradises of the Soviet Union, China, or Cuba? In the unjustly conquered cultures of pre-Columbian America? In the atheistic world of the Mongols? Nope. In Western Civilization, England in particular, due to the efforts of Wilberforce and his allies in the world of... evangelical Christianity. Darn. I guess good things can happen when evangelicals get involved in politics.

You got it right, I'm afraid, that they allowed their cultural biases to sway their interpretation. I guess we're all vulnerable to letting cultural biases get the better of us. It might even explain why evolution predates Darwin. To some degree, it is present in the economics of Adam Smith, but to a larger degree it imbues art. E.g., the poetry of Keats and the Gesamtkunstwerk of Richard Wagner. The Ring Cycle is a paean to the children growing to be greater than the parents that gave them birth.

The time was right, in other words, for evolution to blossom in science, as well. I wonder how much cultural biases had to do with that. Come to think of it, hadn't the intellectual world already been softened up by the so-called "Age of Reason"? What better thing, then, to come along but a scientific notion that makes God unnecessary?

I guess the bottom line in this sort of diversionary debate is to realize that an idea is not responsible for the person who holds it. That goes for any fundamentalists who cherry-picks the Bible looking for reinforcement for his biases, as well as scientists who famously use the scientific method to dress up their faith in a godless universe.

Lee said...

jah> "This is back to the absolute morals issue. Of course man is often wrong. By definition an omnipotent being is not."

I would have thought that all-powerful and all-righteous are two different concepts, but of course as a Christian I do believe they reside together in our Lord. Just don't know why you would concede as much without any prodding.

> jah: "But this gives rise (for some) to the same dilemma - how does an observer know that God exists and what His message is?"

I think it's simpler than that. I believe that we are all believers, in the sense that we all know instinctively that God exists. There are just those who respond, and those who deny.

If I'm right, that would make atheists not unbiased but unconvinced questioners, but rather just people who prefer to shake their fist at God than bow the knee to God.

And if that were true, what would it look like? I think it would look an awful lot like Christopher Hitchens sputtering with moral indignation over the effects of religion in the world, but without a clue about where his moral indignation comes from or why anyone should pay it heed. I think it would look a lot like many of the atheist web sites that seem to live and salivate at the prospect of Christian-baiting.

And, especially, it would look like Richard Dawkins, whose pose it is that atheism is where science leads us.

Which makes no sense, even on Dawkins' own terms. If human beings are the way they are because of evolution, natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc., then religion served a purpose in getting us where we are. If Western Civilization is the dominant world culture, then religion helped it to arrive there. How come evolution is credited with so much, and its results never attacked but always heralded and cheered -- except when it comes to religion? to Christianity?

Okay, fair enough, if Dawkins believes that Christianity has served its purpose and needs now to vanish, at least that's a proposition that deserves a good debate or two. But it's hard to see how atheism could win that debate. The choice in the future is not going to be between Christianity and atheism, but Christianity vs. Islam. Advanced, cultured, agnostic Europe is in its post-Christian phases, and it appears that people who don't believe in God don't reproduce. Your culture can't succeed if it doesn't breed -- and without religion to force the issue, the rational choice in an atheistic world is to live for the here and now and let your kids deal with the rise of Islam. You are watching what has to be the pinnacle of atheistic achievement, modern Western Europe, in its cultural death throes. In forty years, Europe's atheists won't be debating in the halls of Oxford whether atheism is better than religion; they'll be rounded up and beheaded, or else intimidated into silence.

So, even Dawkins' own values ought to show him that he and his fellow atheists would be better off if they were to cheer Christianity against the Muslims. But he doesn't do that. He chooses instead to write books that are calculated to insult and enrage, or to demoralize, Christians. Since atheists aren't likely to breed enough atheists to defend their right to atheism, the rational thing would be for him to enjoy his own intellectual superiority quietly and let Christians fight to give him that freedom.

But as I said, the point is not to believe in no god, but to shake his fist at God. Once you realize that, everything makes sense.

kycobb said...

Lee,

I never said all christians were bad, I was only agreeing with you that men are often wrong, and pointing out that this fact also applies to biblical interpretation. Since biblical interpretation has little to do with fact, and much to do with one's viewpoint, it was possible, nearly two centuries after more enlightened christians sought abolition of slavery in the British Empire, for other christians (the same ones who are bulwarks of anti-evolutionism in the U.S.) to continue to use the Bible to justify their racism.

Since we agree that men are often wrong, its puzzling why you would view as more suspect the one method of learning about the universe which requires more than mere biased opinion, but actual, empirical evidence. Evolution predated Darwin because the fossils showed that creatures different-but discernably related to-modern animals lived in the past. It just took Darwin to determine a mechanism to explain the evidence-natural selection. The pre-Darwinian cultural bias was for biblical literalism-but that bias couldn't stand in the face of the overwhelming empirical evidence. When evolution opponents rely almost solely on their biased opinion on the meaning of biblical verses, an opinion we both agree has a high probability of being wrong, there really isn't any contest.

Lee said...

kycobb, I never said you said all Christians are bad. I only saw where the discussion was going and decided to show that was the wrong direction.

If one's core belief is that the Bible is infallible, then it follows that there is a right way to interpret the Bible, though we may not know perfectly what that is. It is actually amazing that there is so much agreement that there is actually a mainstream or two. But history is filled with different interpretations.

And that's when God gives us something to start with. When man creates his own wisdom, it's not like the practical problems of like disappear. Surely the history of the 20th century is a sad testament to all of the ideologies put forth by man to (to borrow Eric Voegelin's phrase) immanentize the eschaton. Much of the mayhem was accompanied by reassurances of how very and wonderfully scientific it all was.

One can posture about science being somehow above and untouched by the ongoing political fracas, but of course it isn't. Lysenko's stuff was bunk, but it was politically approved bunk -- something that should give pause to all the global warmists and other propagandists. When science is paid for by the govenment, science will serve the government, and the government's agenda may not be congruent with good science.

But of course the history of science itself is crammed full of things everyone knew but wasn't so.

Bottom line is that science is values-free. The fellow who stood in his white jacket with a pencil and a clipboard, taking careful notes, while a Jew thrown naked into a pile of snow died of hypothermia, was no less a scientist than Jonas Salk or Louis Pasteur. All sought knowledge, and all have provided humanity with useful data. (Yes, the data collected by the Nazis over the bodies of Jews, horrifically, is useful data.) In short, without God, knowledge is just data. It is not the kind of knowledge that will save the world, or even one soul.

Science isn't here to save anyone. It isn't here to do anything except play the tunes called by its patrons. There is nothing exalted about it. It is not worthy of worship, but only of guarded gratitude and cynical skepticism.

The authority of the Bible is hardly "mere biased opinion." It simply does not fit easy categorization. And it must be taken whole. The best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself.

Most religions probably contain some important moral truths. But how many religions are there that paint the picture of a humble God? What does God have to be humble about? The Creator of everything and the author of all good? Humble? This *only* makes if something like the Trinity is true; the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit have had an eternity to get to know each other, and the Bible has it that they constantly defer to one another. What use has Allah, a monadic God, for humility? Bottom line is that Christians are never more like God than when they bow down to worship Him, while Muslims are never less like Allah when they worship him.

Yet if God is supposed to be the embodiment of goodness, and humility is good, how could the nature of God be something other than what Christianity says it is?

> it was possible, nearly two centuries after more enlightened christians sought abolition of slavery in the British Empire, for other christians (the same ones who are bulwarks of anti-evolutionism in the U.S.) to continue to use the Bible to justify their racism.

Who made the standards by which some Christians are considered "more enlightened" than others? I think the standards of evolution are pretty clear: living creatures struggle to survive, and may the strongest win. You can't condemn Christians for misrepresenting the Bible for their own bigotry without holding up the standards of Christianity to convict them with.

Anonymous said...

lee: Lysenko's stuff was bunk, but it was politically approved bunk -- something that should give pause to all the global warmists and other propagandists. When science is paid for by the govenment, science will serve the government, and the government's agenda may not be congruent with good science.

The Soviet government supported Lysenko. The Bush administration does not support global warming. So US scientists are not serving the government. Does this make anyone more inclined to believe in the integrity of the scientists?
jah

Anonymous said...

lee: Who made the standards by which some Christians are considered "more enlightened" than others? ... You can't condemn Christians for misrepresenting the Bible for their own bigotry without holding up the standards of Christianity to convict them with.

Yes, "enlightened" is in reference to a value system. Here it is used to refer to those who think slavery is wrong. Values system based on humans tend to condemn slavery. Lee himself has argued that slavery is not necessarily immoral.

jah

Anonymous said...

lee: the entire institution of slavery -- a fixture of human culture since there has been a human culture -- was finally treated as wrong and ended...? Where? In the enlightened socialist paradises of the Soviet Union, China, ...? ...In the atheistic world of the Mongols? Nope.

Here is some information without great references:


The Xin Dynasty (ad 9-23)

During this period of disorder an ambitious courtier, Wang Mang, deposed an infant emperor, for whom he had been acting as regent, and established the short-lived Xin dynasty. Wang Mang attempted to revitalize the imperial government and relieve the plight of the peasant. He moved against the big tax-free estates by nationalizing all land and redistributing it among the actual cultivators. Slavery was abolished.
http://www.chinahistoryforum.com/index.php?showtopic=53


Ghengis Khan

He outlawed slavery, and required every man to join the army.

http://essayfarm.com/view.php?id=24592&title=Genghis%20Khan%20&%20The%20Mongol%20Empire&make=1017106854&rating_current=10&words=&count=328&subject=People



Contrary to his ruthless and barbaric reputation in the west, Genghis Khan promulgated several enlightened policies that would not become common practice in Europe for centuries more.

He guaranteed freedom of religion, protecting the rights of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus alike. Genghis Khan himself worshipped the sky, but he forbade the killing of priests, monks, nuns, mullahs, and other holy people.

The Great Khan also protected enemy envoys and ambassadors, no matter what message they brought. Unlike most of the conquered peoples, the Mongols eschewed torture and mutilation of prisoners.

Finally, the khan himself was bound by these laws as well as the common people.
http://asianhistory.about.com/od/profilesofasianleaders/p/GenghisKhanProf.htm



jah

Anonymous said...

lee: In Western Civilization, England in particular, due to the efforts of Wilberforce and his allies in the world of... evangelical Christianity.


I think the point is that it wasn't until 1700 AD that Christianity concluded slavery was immoral. This argues against a readily perceived absolute morality. [Lee has already responded to this point by suggesting that human morality is approaching the absolute standard.] But monotonically?

jah

Anonymous said...

lee: I would have thought that all-powerful and all-righteous are two different concepts,

Yes, after typing omnipotent, I wasn't happy with it but then I got to thinking:

1) Presumably there can be only one omnipotent being; otherwise the definition would be contradicted.
2) There could be a separate all-righteous entity.

But then what would be the source of this righteousness?

This got confusing and I decided that omnipotence included the ability to define righteousness.

jah

Anonymous said...

lee: I believe that we are all believers, in the sense that we all know instinctively that God exists. There are just those who respond, and those who deny.

Again, I think there are two extremes of ways of knowing here.

At one extreme is the look at the physical evidence and draw tentative conclusions (science type) and at the other is the revealed truth, obvious intuition (religion type).

There is no way I can determine if lee has access to the Truth or not; it is not subject to investigation.

I am sure most people routinely use the first type of knowing (for example, picking out what washing machine or car to buy) employing a rational if not always practical method. On the other hand, I seem immune to the instinctive type of knowing (yes, I assume my senses are usually reliable, but that is a necessary prelude, (see Oliver Sacks for problems there)).

As PJ alluded to in the original article, science demonstrates that intuition can be good for interpolation but is not so reliable for extrapolation (behavior of items at high speeds or with small sizes).


So I cannot directly evaluate the claim that God exists due to obviousness or instinct. Or Mr Cothran's "I just think the existence of God is intuitive". But I can note that there are many different groups that claim many different gods exist. Or that the absolute beliefs of different faiths change over time. That is using a scientific method. But lee and others use a faith-based method of analysis "I believe ... we all know instinctively that God exists". And that type of logic is not amenable to a scientific procedure.

But what I am puzzled by is why lee et al. don't seem to be willing to concede that some people rely on evidence for decisions and are not merely denying an obvious truth.

jah

Lee said...

> "The Soviet government supported Lysenko. The Bush administration does not support global warming. So US scientists are not serving the government. Does this make anyone more inclined to believe in the integrity of the scientists?"

The global warming scientists aren't getting any government grants? They're not being paid salaries by universities that get a lot of their money from the government?

Lee said...

> jah: "Lee himself has argued that slavery is not necessarily immoral."

I don't think it is necessarily immoral. However, I do think slavery as practiced by most societies that have practiced it is necessarily immoral, and that includes the way the Brits and Americans practiced it. It was practiced in such a way as cruelty to weaker people was an institution.

I have stated several times that even when morality appears to be relative that there must be an absolute standard by which the relative standards are judged. It's amazing how many times you can state an argument and then have someone act like he doesn't get it.

Lee said...

> During this period of disorder an ambitious courtier, Wang Mang, deposed an infant emperor, for whom he had been acting as regent, and established the short-lived Xin dynasty. Wang Mang attempted to revitalize the imperial government and relieve the plight of the peasant. He moved against the big tax-free estates by nationalizing all land and redistributing it among the actual cultivators. Slavery was abolished.

Fair enough, jah. I yield that point, but only to amend my claim to stipulate that slavery has been with us from the dawn of time in one form or another, and that at least Western civilization abolished it from a moral perspective. There is still slavery in parts of the world today, notably in Sudan, and still describes the lot of women in Islamic cultures.

But how can you argue the Khan ended slavery when he simply forced every man to join the army? That sounds less like he outlawed slavery, more like he monopolized it.

Lee said...

> jah "But then what would be the source of this righteousness? This got confusing and I decided that omnipotence included the ability to define righteousness."

It's an interesting proposition, actually. My reasoning is that power and righteousness are separate things. Only in God do they come together.

Lee said...

> He guaranteed freedom of religion, protecting the rights of Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and Hindus alike. Genghis Khan himself worshipped the sky, but he forbade the killing of priests, monks, nuns, mullahs, and other holy people.

The Khan was an interesting mix. Yes, Pax Mongolica was a real thing. It's why, e.g., Marco Polo could travel through some of the toughest lands unmolested on his way to visit Kublai Khan in China. He wrote of the malicious stares he would receive en route from local populations, but they did not dare kill him for fear of a Mongol reprisal.

But let's not mistake the Khans for a bunch of misunderstood Martin Luther Kings, please. They murdered millions of people, including many we would consider to be innocent civilians. Baghdad was leveled. Even the Mongols referred to Kiev as the "City of Tears." The princes of Russia were gathered; then, the Mongols build a large feasting table with an airtight compartment. While the Mongol officers feasted around the table, the princes were stuffed inside it; as they suffocated, the last sounds they heard were the celebrating Mongols. One of the leaders who opposed the Khans along the way was executed with molten lead poured into his ear.

And if the Khans outlawed slavery, it was only in a matter of speaking. When they conquered a city, all the skilled artisans were forcibly emigrated to the Mongol capital, Caracorum. The women were also taken back, to be given to the Khan. Some genetic studies suggest that a common ancestor is shared by about a quarter of living Chinese; historically, it makes sense that it was the Khan.

Anonymous said...

lee: I have stated several times that even when morality appears to be relative that there must be an absolute standard by which the relative standards are judged. It's amazing how many times you can state an argument and then have someone act like he doesn't get it.

Still don't get it. I've been assuming that the reader (or I) has been doing the judging. Is this wrong? If the absolute standards or unknown to me, I cannot use them to judge. Are you using "relative" to mean "relative to absolute"? I've been assuming "relative" meant "one person to another". How about giving an example?

I'm still sticking with "relative standards cannot be judged against an absolute standard if the absolute is not known".

jah