Saturday, January 24, 2009

A funny way for Obama to end divisiveness

This what Obama decides to do on the day after the anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
“President Obama signed an executive order today reversing the ban that prohibits funding to international family planning groups that provide abortions . . .”
And what was that he said about ending divisiveness?

22 comments:

Jefferson said...

Yes, and what about the culture wars that Sarah Palin was supposedly stoking?

Lee said...

It's ending divisiveness when someone uses public money to kill unborn children.

It's stoking culture wars when they don't.

It's all in how you characterize things.

Art said...

Of course, Lee (and Martin) are OK with using public money to kill born children (as well as adults).

Not that anyone should expect ethical or moral consistency from conservatives. But ...

Lee said...

When someone throws an accusation like that, Art, it would seem only fair if he were to specify.

Art said...

The children of Iraq. Afghanistan. Pakistan. Gaza.

Your (well, our) tax dollars at work, Lee. Work that conservatives bless.

Lee said...

So then, Art, you consider any collateral killing done in the pursuit of a military objective as being the same, morally, as if our military objective had been to kill those children.

Along the same lines, do you also consider running over someone accidentally with a car the same as if he purposely ran over someone?

If you accidentally shoot someone, is that morally the same as shooting him on purpose?

Art said...

Lee, you've made my point ("Of course, Lee (and Martin) are OK with using public money to kill born children (as well as adults)"). Much better than I could have.

Thank you.

Lee said...

So what is your point, Art? That you are capable of displaying moral obtuseness when trying to portray accidental killing and purposeful killing as equivalent?

Please find me a bill, any bill, by Congress and signed by a President which articulates killing foreign children as a goal of foreign policy or military action.

But I think it's pretty obvious that funding abortion shows an intention to kill unborn children.

I see a difference. You don't?

Are two things always the same if the results are, or can possibly be, the same?

How far do you want to stretch such tortured moral equivalencies?

How about this one:

1. People die from being shot by gangsters.

2. People die from penicillin reactions.

3. Therefore, a doctor who accidentally kills someone with a penicillin shot is just as bad as a murderous gangster.

Does it matter at all that the doctor was trying to help, and in fact has probably helped scores of others with similar actions?

Do his employers at the hospital, to borrow your words, "bless" such killing, because they're okay with spending some of their money on penicillin?

Here's another one. Does this one go too far?

1. Stalin purposely starved the Ukrainians. Killed millions, he did, though you would not have learned that from reading the New York Times.

2. Your mother probably told you at some point, "Don't eat that Twinkie, we'll have dinner shortly."

3. Both Stalin and your mother took steps to keep someone from eating.

4. Therefore, your mother is as bad as Stalin.

Maybe your mom thought you were getting in the way of her communal farm theories. On the other hand, maybe Stalin just didn't want millions of Ukrainians to spoil their supper.

thomas said...

Lee,

It's not a simple case of equivalence in the same way as a doctor and a gangster. Methods of war which are as likely to kill innocent civilians as they are the enemy are egregiously out of proportion. Shooting back at someone who shoots at you (or would, if given the opportunity) is targeted in a way that, while it might injure civilians, can be carried out with minimal risk, even in an urban environment. Dropping bombs in a neighborhood may hit the target, but it's more likely to kill innocent bystanders, and it is an act of reckless homicide--and it should be treated just that way.

Christians in the past were not content to accept the injustice in war as justifiable simply because "it is the way things are done", and any utilitarian justifications would have been disregarded with the appropriate disdain. Just war theory, while not often perfectly applied, functioned as the moral standard to which battling factors were expected to live up to; in the United States at least, this is no longer the case.

I don't know whether American Christians (on the whole) aren't educated enough to be familiar with the wisdom of previous centuries regarding warfare, whether they don't have the good judgment to apply it properly, or whether they simply don't have the courage for the demands and possible consequences that follow from serious moral standards; but in any case the situation is lamentable. The fact that torture hasn't stirred more controversy in the Christian political community is particularly indicative of a serious deficiency in sound moral judgment.

Of course, I would affirm the validity of this line of reasoning as it applies to overseas abortions as well, but that seems to rile Christians more easily, so it seems less necessary to say.

Lee said...

> It's not a simple case of equivalence in the same way as a doctor and a gangster. Methods of war which are as likely to kill innocent civilians as they are the enemy are egregiously out of proportion. Shooting back at someone who shoots at you (or would, if given the opportunity) is targeted in a way that, while it might injure civilians, can be carried out with minimal risk, even in an urban environment.

I find much to disagree with, or at least to question, in what you write, thomas. But it does look like you are substantively on my side of the discussion vs. Art, though you may not be happy to hear it. You seem to be complaining that I am not making a fine enough distinction regarding the methodology of war. That's certainly debatable, but the point I have been making is that Art makes zero distinctions. In his view, folks like me are being morally inconsistent if we oppose spending money to kill unborn children on purpose while at the same time support killing innocent bystanders in a wartime setting by accident. Or, at least, that's what I get from what he said: he's not been terribly supportive of his own propositions, other than to identify a simplistic moral equivalence and then pronounce his work finished: and that moral equivalency seems to be that killing (or at least, any killing which is aided and abetted by the U.S. Treasury) is killing, regardless of who is killed or under what circumstances.

> Dropping bombs in a neighborhood may hit the target, but it's more likely to kill innocent bystanders, and it is an act of reckless homicide -- and it should be treated just that way.

By this standard, pretty much every war ever fought by the U.S. is immoral. Even those wars fought against countries who killed more innocent civilians even in peacetime than all the bombs we dropped, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ever did.

> Christians in the past were not content to accept the injustice in war as justifiable simply because "it is the way things are done", and any utilitarian justifications would have been disregarded with the appropriate disdain.

By "utilitarian", I suppose you mean any notion that we can consider the trade-offs. What is the Biblical justification for such a reading of justice? Not what so-and-so said in the 17th century: I mean, Biblical?

> Just war theory, while not often perfectly applied, functioned as the moral standard to which battling factors were expected to live up to...

Hold on there: You just said, "...any utilitarian justifications would have been disregarded with the appropriate disdain." And it's hardly out of your keyboard before you start turning utilitarian on us: "...while not often perfectly applied." By your own statement, an imperfectly applied theory of just war is wrong because, since we cannot apply it perfectly, we have to settle for some compromise between it and reality. FYI, we call such compromises "utilitarian."

Is an imperfectly-applied just war theory better than not applying just war theory at all? If so, welcome to the world of the utilitarian. If not, then according to just war theory, it is not moral to lift a finger in our defense if there is even a chance of performing, purposely or accidentally, an injustice.

There is a word for folks who believe in applying such a theory in an absolute manner: suicidal.

> ...in the United States at least, this is no longer the case.

By that standard, it needs to read not "no longer the case," but "never the case." And, incidentally, the same would be true of any other country.

> I don't know whether American Christians (on the whole) aren't educated enough to be familiar with the wisdom of previous centuries regarding warfare...

So it's not possible for American Christians to disagree with you on the merits of your case. If they disagree, it's because they're ignorant.

> ...whether they don't have the good judgment to apply it properly...

And they lack good judgment.

> ...or whether they simply don't have the courage for the demands and possible consequences that follow from serious moral standards...

Or they lack courage. In other threads, I have been accused of slandering mainstream Christian denominations for not taking theology seriously. Just want you to know, I never said anything about mainstreamers that was nearly this harsh, or unrelenting.

> but in any case the situation is lamentable.

Something certainly is.

> The fact that torture hasn't stirred more controversy in the Christian political community is particularly indicative of a serious deficiency in sound moral judgment.

It's hard to take waterboarding seriously as torture, unless someone is just dying to accuse the former president of torture and this is the only dirt we can dig up. But if you mean serious torture, I think it is morally unserious to suggest that torture could never, ever, be employed. I would have no problem running someone's index finger through a paper shredder if I knew he knew where an A-bomb was about to go off in downtown Washington, and asking him where it is, pretty-please with a cherry on top, didn't seem to make him forthcoming. Make my day.

> Of course, I would affirm the validity of this line of reasoning as it applies to overseas abortions as well, but that seems to rile Christians more easily, so it seems less necessary to say.

Maybe it riles Christians more easily because there hasn't been an unborn child in the history of the world who has committed acts of terrorism.

But I would be interested in hearing from you whether you think the just war theory you write about would indict God himself for ordering the Hebrews, essentially, to commit genocide against the Canaanites.

Art said...

Lee, your attempts to distract the thread from my point does nothing but bolster my argument. I am not going to try and weigh the relative worths of human lives and of not-yet lives. Because that is quite beside my point.

Which is that you (and, as far as can be told, Martin) have no problems with the use of your tax dollars to kill (even murder) children.

I find your moral standards to be appalling.

Lee said...

> Lee, your attempts to distract the thread from my point does nothing but bolster my argument.

You call them distractions, I call them analysis.

> I am not going to try and weigh the relative worths of human lives and of not-yet lives.

Not-yet lives? Unborn children have done nothing to deserve death, and they have lives, that much we know -- they are simply lives that cannot defend themselves and can be killed without legal consequence.

As for humans who have already been born, some of them don't deserve life. Osama bin Laden and his followers are on my short list. Killing such people should not cause anyone's moral compass to do backflips, can we agree on that much?

And sometimes we mess up. That's a bad thing, but it's a bad thing that is an inevitable consequence of trying to prevent a worse thing, which would be to let the bad guys run loose and do whatever they want.

> Because that is quite beside my point. Which is that you (and, as far as can be told, Martin) have no problems with the use of your tax dollars to kill (even murder) children.

Murder? It isn't *murder* unless it's intentional. Is that what we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan? We're spending billions with the goal of killing children? Really?

Sorry: everything I have said so far is precisely on point. You appear to draw no distinctions between killing innocent people on purpose, and killing innocent people accidentally while trying to kill guilty people on purpose. Thus, a dollar spent to abort an unborn child is the same thing as a dollar spent to kill a terrorist, if so much as a penny of that dollar bought the bullet that killed someone else accidentally.

> I find your moral standards to be appalling.

Based on your views as expressed thus far, I'm forced to conclude that I must be doing something right.

thomas said...

On the one hand, I do agree that a distinction must be made between accidental civilian casualties and government funded abortion: a distinction must be made between premeditated killing and a killing which was entirely unintended. However, civilian casualties cannot always be called accidental in the same way; we might call a death truly accidental when the victim's death stands entirely outside the purposes of the killer--as, for example, in the case of most car accidents. We might call a death reckless when the killer does not intend the death of another, but pursues his aim in a fashion which does not take measures to protect innocents; one good example of this would be drunk driving. We might call a death incidental when the killer knows that innocent deaths will result from his actions, but determines these lives to not be worth a different course of action; sticking with the car example is a bit more difficult with this one, but we might think of someone running from the police (or the police chasing someone) down a crowded sidewalk at high speeds. Finally, we might call intentional those deaths which serves as the end of the killer's activity; here we might think of vehicular homicide.

I believe these distinctions to be valid a priori and applicable to both private (individuals or corporations) or public (government officials, armies, etc.) interests. These distinctions bear directly on just war theory, which holds that even if a war is just, nothing becomes licit that was illicit before; to put it another way, the same moral laws regarding the distinction between accidental, reckless, incidental, and intentional killing during peacetime apply just as much during wartime as well. We can judge the rules of conduct during war in this fashion: do they require that soldiers take care to avoid civilian casualties in such a way that it remains unlikely, thereby avoiding what, in ethical terms, is reckless homicide? Do they allow a military person to behave in such a way that in a particular action civilian casualties are virtually guaranteed? Then we move past the reckless homicide territory into murder. Do the rules of engagement actually allow military personnel to kill persons in order to effect some further purpose? Then we must judge such acts among the more egregious forms of murder.

It takes a particular examination of particular cases to make a determination about US foreign policy, but I must note that if one wishes to avoid the worst kind of moral relativism one cannot appeal to the fact that the other side is worse. That is irrelevant to any objective assessment of the morality of US policy.

It must also be noted that abortion invariably falls in the last and worst category.

Now any killing which passes beyond truly accidental killing must be regarded as evil, though in varying degrees. Now the criticism of "pro-lifers" who see no problem in reckless (or worse) policies in wartime does possess a good deal of validity. While it may be true that abortion may be worse in degree than reckless policies at wartime (though I think it true that US policy has on occasion fallen within the more murderous categories, and in this case the two are more on the same level), they are wrong for the same reason. For Christians, at least, behavior which does not recognize the inviolability of human life or which explicitly denies it impugns God himself, as it violates the Imago Dei which all humans, however corrupt, possess as a direct gift from God. That is to say that an action which does not recognize the incorruptible dignity of human life constitutes an affront to God himself and is an act of sacrilege. Murder obviously falls into this category.

It shouldn't need to be said that torture, or even degrading and humiliating treatment, violates human dignity in the same way as does murder, though often to a different degree. The human body cannot be entirely separated from the soul, and it simply is not possible to defile the body without touching the soul. Degrading treatment of prisoners, if one accepts the Christian anthropology, cannot be called anything other than an act of sacrilege--what one does to another's body cannot help but be done to that person's soul, and therefore to the image of God.

The term "utilitarian" means the ethical position that right actions consist of those which produce the greatest good. J. S. Mill propounded it most famously, but it was known and rejected by Greek philosophy and Christian theology for the entirely defensible reason that an act must be taken as a whole, and therefore the end cannot justify the means. Utilitarians often appeal the extreme and highly unlikely situations in which the end is so terrible and catastrophic that the means must be justified (as you did in your "ticking time bomb" scenario); this, of course, does nothing to one who does not believe that the end justifies the means. And one can always take the logic which is supposedly compelling in such a scenario and apply it to situations in which no reasonable person would accept. You completely misread what I said about imperfectly applied just war theory; rather than retype it I will suggest that you read it again, and consider the fact that imperfectly applied just war theory -- a priori and analytically -- falls short of the moral standard. The answer, simply, is to demand that it conforms to that standard.

thomas said...

And, as I've already been too verbose, I'll simply note that the idea that waterboarding is not torture is sheer nonsense. It's controlled drowning. it was used as a form of torture during the Inquisition, by the Gestapo, the Japanese in WWII, and by the Khmer Rouge. Deaths from waterboarding are fairly frequent and gruesome. It causes both extreme mental and physical pain, which satisfies the definition of torture in both national and international law.

If you're still unconvinced, you can always to what Christopher Hitchens did (who previously maintained water boarding was not torture) and undergo it yourself. He lasted 12 seconds the first time, 19 the second time, and still has panic attacks resulting from the psychological damage which resulted from his extremely brief experience of water boarding.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/08/hitchens200808

Lee said...

> It takes a particular examination of particular cases to make a determination about US foreign policy, but I must note that if one wishes to avoid the worst kind of moral relativism one cannot appeal to the fact that the other side is worse.

Thomas, that is itself a morally relative position. What if the other side *is* worse? What if, in fact, it is so much worse that one simply cannot tolerate a world in which the other side wins?

Why did God tell the Israelites to kill all of the Amalekites? Men, women, children, and even livestock? Was God adhering to the mistaken notion that the Israelites were not as bad as the Amalekites, and thus committing unjust war and fomenting the worst kind of moral relativism?

Maybe the Canaanite tribes were among the most depraved tribes in human history, and they simply had to be obliterated to prevent their sins from damaging more and more generations, with their child sacrifices and worship of idols. The idea seems to be that, as bad as the Israelites were capable of being, the Amalekites were worse.

> That is to say that an action which does not recognize the incorruptible dignity of human life constitutes an affront to God himself and is an act of sacrilege.

What scripture backs this up? I don't find the phrase "incorruptible dignity of human life" in the Bible. I don't think it's a Biblical idea at all. In fact, the Bible doesn't seem to think very much of humans. We're so bad, in fact, that it took Jesus dying on the cross to justify us, not by our own merits, but by the imputation of His righteousness to us. The central idea of scripture, to me, seems to be the Lord bringing His kingdom to Earth and extending His kingdom on it. That's not always the same thing as preserving the dignity of human life, though certainly we're allowed to be grateful for those times when the two ideas don't seem to be in conflict.

But preserving the dignity of human life does not seem to be an absolute rule as established in the Bible. If I Samuel 15 holds any message for us, there must be something more absolute than that.

For the unborn, we can at least argue that they are as innocent as humanly innocent can be. But the Bible doesn't even support that notion in any absolutely sense, warning us instead that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children even to the third and fourth generations.

> It shouldn't need to be said that torture, or even degrading and humiliating treatment, violates human dignity in the same way as does murder, though often to a different degree.

Regardless of who the human being degraded or humiliated happens to be? Or what he has done, or what stands to be gained by degrading or humiliating him?

I can think of all sorts of higher moral goods than respecting the human dignity of a terrorist. It seems to me your views are dependent on the notion that everyone is equally deserving of dignified treatment. Now, *that's* moral relativism.

Hanging Eichmann seemed pretty degrading and humiliating, and it probably hurt a lot, too, if they did it right. But looking at the things he did, it's hard to argue he deserved better, while a strong case could be made that he deserved far worse.

> Degrading treatment of prisoners, if one accepts the Christian anthropology, cannot be called anything other than an act of sacrilege...

If you're going to use the term sacrilege, you're going to need to employ something authoritative to make your case. Scripture, please.

I'm more concerned, not about what we do to the tortured, but what we do to ourselves when we're torturing. We should be afraid, very afraid, to indulge the dark side of our natures. As humans, we are all depraved, and giving into the depravity can damage our own souls. Never do anything out of vengeance or self-righteousness, but out of a desire to restrain an evil person's works.

Thus, in the hypothetical "hidden nuke" scenario, the moral thing to do would be to try to restrain the evil one by finding where he has hidden the bomb, and to do our best to find and disarm it, up to and including causing him physical and mental anguish. His act of setting the bomb has already robbed him of human dignity -- nothing we can do to him can hurt his human dignity any worse than he has already done. And we will certainly be helping his intended victims keep their human dignity.

> The term "utilitarian" means the ethical position that right actions consist of those which produce the greatest good.

Do you take the view that all good things are equal? Or does a greater good exist? If it does, then why is it wrong to seek it? Is utilitarianism the same as moral relativism? Why? It seems to me that sacrificing a lesser good for a greater good is the *opposite* of moral relativism, and insisting that all good things are equal (e.g., the human dignity of an innocent child vs. the human dignity of a terrorist) is to embrace it.

We see war as evil, but even just war theorists admit there is a time for war. Therefore, we accept the idea that something bad is preferred to something worse. No matter how careful you are in a war, the number of innocent victims will always be more than zero. Why tolerate that at all, unless something worse is in store if you don't?

> Utilitarians often appeal the extreme and highly unlikely situations in which the end is so terrible and catastrophic that the means must be justified (as you did in your "ticking time bomb" scenario)...

Just because a situation is extreme and unlikely does not mean it cannot be illuminating. I don't know how unlikely that particular scenario is. I *hope* it's not merely unlikely but also impossible. But the purpose of bringing up such scenarios is to remove the background noise and reduce the moral question to its essence. The "hidden nuke" scenario reveals the moral issues at stake, and the potential costs of taking one moral proposition and stretching it out beyond all sense of proportion. If it is wrong under any and all circumstances to torture, my extreme example ought not deter you. If it is not wrong under extreme circumstances, then yours is not an absolute principle.

> this, of course, does nothing to one who does not believe that the end justifies the means.

Don't we have to ask, "What end?" and "What means?" What if debt isn't good, but having a daughter whose teeth are crooked isn't good either, and I'm forced to decide whether I should get her teeth fixed even if it requires me to go into debt?

Are there means that are so foul that they can never be employed, even toward an end which is so wonderful we can scarcely contemplate it? That's an abstract question that can probably never be answered by mere humans. But if we happen to know what the end is that we desire, and what means we have at our disposal, we can draw distinctions and make an intelligent decision about which means to use. It's called a trade-off; we make them every day.

> ...The answer, simply, is to demand that just war theory conforms to that standard.

You cannot reasonably say, e.g., "Just war theory, while not often perfectly applied, functioned as the moral standard to which battling factors were expected to live up to...." By your own logic, imperfectly-applied just war theory is not just war theory at all, but some utilitarian perversion of it. Imperfect application of just war theory cannot serve as a moral standard. Your logic, not mine.

As to deciding whether just war theory needs to be implemented at all, I will wait for a Biblical case to be made.

> ...the idea that waterboarding is not torture is sheer nonsense. It's controlled drowning.

If they're still alive after the waterboarding, then they weren't drowned.

> it was used as a form of torture during the Inquisition, by the Gestapo, the Japanese in WWII, and by the Khmer Rouge.

I'm sure the Nazis, et. al., also asked questions. So is it wrong for us to ask questions, too? Is it wrong that we breathe air if they breathe it, too? The Inquisitors also poured water down someone's gullet until they burst. The Japanese cut open the bellies of pregnant women with their bayonets. The Nazis skinned people alive. I hope waterboarding is the worst torture we ever need to use on anybody, but using it doesn't make us Nazis.

> It causes both extreme mental and physical pain, which satisfies the definition of torture in both national and international law.

If you're referring to the Geneva Convention, it only protects civilians and uniformed combatants. If you're talking about the U.S. Constitution, it only applies to American citizens.

But the idea that we can't use torture under any circumstances, ever, seems better designed to allow liberals to sleep contentedly and securely in their moral superiority at night than to protect American citizens.

If I were in charge, I would ask why someone wants to waterboard a particular prisoner, and my answer (yes or no) would depend on what we would stand to lose vs. what we would stand to gain. Waterboard for petty vindictiveness? Wrong answer. Waterboarding to save American lives? Keep talking. Convince me that lives will almost certainly be saved and worth the potential damage to our own souls.

We're a fallen race, after all, and have to behave as if, without God's grace, we are capable of descending as low as the dirtbags we're considering torturing. That means if we torture, we torture seldomly. But not never.

thomas said...

I'm not sure quite how to respond to someone who can't find the basis for the Christian anthropological thesis that human being contains the image of God (which happens to be in the first chapter of Genesis), doesn't see the Bible as endorsing human dignity (Jesus repeatedly maintained just such a position), thinks that genocide is not intrinsically disordered, believes that just war theorists consider war to be an evil (they obviously don't) and doesn't think that waterboarding is torture (when the United States previously tried and found guilty of torture soldiers from other countries who used waterboarding). I'm a bit baffled that one might consider this consistent with Christianity, and I now realize why guys like Richard Dawkins consider religion violent and depraved.

So we can't call genocide intrinsically disordered, nor even abortion--after all the child's parents or great-grandparents may have committed some great sin. What that could be, I couldn't begin to imagine, since even if they committed genocide that might be acceptable. I wonder what the fuss about homosexuality is, in light of your comments that we can't know whether any means might be too foul to be employed. Stem-cell research, here we come. Under your scheme, a child who deserves to die, by virtue of a relatives guilt, may be aborted and have his or her stem cells harvested for the greater good. Or perhaps this simply wouldn't be possible because human lives are so worthless (since the Bible doesn't think much of us). This is what theologians in the past have called "moral idiocy."

Your defense of utilitarianism is, frankly, ridiculous. A father taking on debt to pay for his child's well-being is not an example which would justify utilitarianism: taking on debt is not something that is intrinsically disordered, it is simply undesirable. You declare that we can't know whether some means are too evil to every be employed, which makes sense, because utilitarianism requires that the conscience be dismantled; but I'll go out on a limb--the rape of a child, the beating of a woman, suicide.

I don't expect that you'll find these arguments convincing as you have apparently divested yourself of the moral intuition that genocide is wrong (and so on...). I hope, though, that deep down you find such things revolting and unconscionable, and that you hold to them because you feel an intellectual obligation to the truth, however gross it might be. Maybe, if you look, you'll find the reasons why Christian tradition (as well as every sensible philosopher) rejected utilitarianism, declared the dignity of man to be upheld in the divine act of creation, and recognizes murder, rape, suicide etc. as wrong regardless of the consequences.

Lee said...
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Lee said...

Thomas, you're making the argument about me, not about the ideas you've put forth nor my counter to them. Of course, I always cheerfully accept approval from others, but I don't specifically require yours. Glad we understand each other.

Of course I'm fine with the Biblical truth that man was created in God's image. It's what man did after that which muddies up the waters a bit.

Regarding the notion of human dignity, it depends on what you mean by it and how you use it. As you put it forth, it's a marvelously abstract statement, but you make it carry a lot of your baggage. I meant to point out that there is much in the Bible to indicate that man is a fallen creature, incapable of doing good or seeing truth on his own, and in his natural state depraved. In other words, there are qualifications to his purported dignity, and we must consider what these other truths mean in that same context, as well.

> ...thinks that genocide is not intrinsically disordered...

Hold on there: I asked an honest question. I asked, in light of God's charge to the Israelites to kill all the Canaanites, how does that fit into your just war theory? You never even attempted to answer it.

> believes that just war theorists consider war to be an evil (they obviously don't)

Fine, perhaps I overstated my case on that issue. If you say so, Thomas, but how can they not, since they know going in, that the number of innocent people killed will be greater than zero? Not intending to put words in their mouths, but it follows from your statement here:

> We might call a death reckless when the killer does not intend the death of another, but pursues his aim in a fashion which does not take measures to protect innocents....

All I'm doing is taking it to its logical conclusion. Since the number of innocent deaths in wartime will never be zero, one can always pursue this principle until it says, so long as a single innocent is killed, then obviously sufficient measures were not taken. Who is to say which measures are sufficient? In the real world, some sort of utilitarian arrangement is accepted, and thus the entire house of cards falls since it is no longer pure. To be pure, we have to avoid killing innocents, and the only way to guarantee that is to not pursue war.

Of course, innocents will be killed anyway when the enemy targets your own people and sometimes his own. But at least we won't have done that, and we can pursue our moral duty to die with dignity.

> ...and doesn't think that waterboarding is torture (when the United States previously tried and found guilty of torture soldiers from other countries who used waterboarding).

I don't think it is the *kind* of torture that qualifies a country as Nazi wannabes. You absolutely refuse even to engage my discussion on trade-offs.

> I'm a bit baffled that one might consider this consistent with Christianity, and I now realize why guys like Richard Dawkins consider religion violent and depraved.

Religion is violent and depraved. So is non-religion. That's man's fallen nature coming through. Christianity simply shows us the way, the only way, to rise above it. Dawkins and his fellow peace-loving antiseptically-agnostic post-Christianity Brits, in any event, are going to understand and experience religious violence on a personal level in the coming years, as their enlightened and pristine atheism fails to sustain England against the coming tide of Islam. His refined sensibilities aren't going to be of much help to Mother England, I'm afraid. And if he thinks Christians are violent, just wait until he experiences Islam first-hand.

As for my views being consistent with Christianity, I certainly hope they are, but will grant that as you understand my views, probably they don't. I'm certainly *trying* to grapple with your questions and reconcile them with my understanding of theology, and I'm trying to do it by invoking the Bible as the higher authority.

Take your refusal (thus far) to answer my question about God's will regarding the Amalekites. IN know you'd prefer to blame it on me, but sorry, I didn't write the Old Testament. If the Biblical account is true, then let's be intellectually honest about what God is telling the Israelites to do:

"Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'"

By all means, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that what we today would call 'genocide'?
What are we to make of that? Is Samuel lying or deluded? Is the account itself trustworthy? If that's how you come down on this, then you don't take the Biblical account as authoritative, and thus are hardly in a position to question whether *my* views are square with Christianity. The alternative is that you believe the Bible's account to be authoritative, as I do, so now I ask you, again: how does this square with your views of just war? If God Himself does not follow just war theory, how does it apply to the rest of us? Was God wrong? Was He right then, but wrong now?

Your response will help me decide whether just war theory, as you portray it, is Biblical and thus something I need to consider with fear and trembling, or something that a bunch of men conjured and dressed up as theological truth.

> So we can't call genocide intrinsically disordered, nor even abortion--after all the child's parents or great-grandparents may have committed some great sin.

I did not author the concept of original sin. Believe it or not, it's been around for some time. Some folks even think it's an intrinsic part of this religion called Christianity. Should I tell the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, John Calvin, et. al., that they have made a big mistake? That their views do not square with Christianity? Sorry, your quarrel is not with me, but with the scriptures.

> What that could be, I couldn't begin to imagine, since even if they committed genocide that might be acceptable.

We are all born into sin. Forget worrying about death -- a far worse fate awaits those whom the Lord does not save. But I guess belief in Heaven and Hell is may well be non-Christian too, from your perspective.

> I wonder what the fuss about homosexuality is, in light of your comments that we can't know whether any means might be too foul to be employed.

You're not dealing with my questions about means and ends honestly, here. I suggested, you can't discuss means without discussing ends -- and I hasten to point out that that's me, not the Bible. [Off topic: I have no hatred of homosexuals. I'm not the one by whose authority it has been judged as a sin. Love and accept homosexuals? Absolutely. Accept their practices? No. They're in the same boat as me: we must confess our sins and repent. I'm not a homosexual, but I am not without other types of sin, and just between you and me, some of them are doozies.]

> stem-cell research, here we come.

To what end? I am opposed to stem-cell research, for what that's worth. But you're off spinning a universe of potential issues based on your refusal to answer the questions I posed rather than the ones you think I posed.

> Under your scheme, a child who deserves to die, by virtue of a relatives guilt, may be aborted and have his or her stem cells harvested for the greater good.

Sigh. Some of the worst judgments in the history of the Bible are those made against cultures that practiced child sacrifice. You really ought to deal with the honest questions I've asked you, instead of putting words in my mouth.

> Or perhaps this simply wouldn't be possible because human lives are so worthless (since the Bible doesn't think much of us).

Your argument is not with me, but with the Bible:


ROM 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

GEN 6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

ER 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

ROM 3:10-17 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.


> This is what theologians in the past have called "moral idiocy."

It's always great fun to discover that an argument that exalts itself as higher truth is relying on mere characterizations.

> Your defense of utilitarianism is, frankly, ridiculous. A father taking on debt to pay for his child's well-being is not an example which would justify utilitarianism: taking on debt is not something that is intrinsically disordered, it is simply undesirable.

"The end does not justify the means," or so says everyone. "What end, and what means?" asks Lee, "How about this end, and this means?" "Frankly ridiculous," replies Thomas.

Well, fine, Thomas, but those are the questions that need to be asked. Let's step it up a few notches. Let's look at a possible world in the future...

The difference between the Cold War and the current struggle (so far) is that, whereas the Soviets had the means to destroy us, they lacked the desire; and whereas the Islamic terrorists have the desire, they lack the means. That may not always be true. What if, in the future, terrorist groups acquire the means to nuke us at will? Is there any doubt that they would proceed to do so?

Let's assume there is not. Boom, there goes New York City. Now, you're the president. What do you do? "Let's talk," you say, "Let's reason together." Boom, there goes Washington, D.C. "Look folks, can we talk?" Boom, there goes Boston.

How many booms have to happen before you will consider doing something that will, by necessity, kill civilians? Killing civilians is wrong, says just war theory. Well, let's go with that -- what if our morals require us to surrender. Now, we ask to ask: surrender to whom? There is no nation, no unified authority, to whom we can surrender. The enemy here is not after some other goal: his goal is to kill all of us. Fine, we surrender to alQaida, but then Hamas gets jealous of their success, and boom, there goes Baltimore.

I should point out that the logic of terrorism holds this much to be certain: they're all doomed. Once they acquire the ability to hit cities at will, sooner or later they're going to hit someone (e.g., the Russians) who are not squeamish about killing civilians, and then boom, there goes the entire Arab world, plus Iran.

The only question I have for you is, how do we adhere under these circumstances to 17th century just war theory? Do we respond? How? If the only way to survive is to level the Arab world and Tehran, do we do so? Or is it our duty to die? And if that is the case, what do you tell the (still surviving) citizens and taxpayers who are desperately depending on you to keep them safe?

Are you going to explain to them that it is wrong to kill civilians on purpose, and that the end (survival) does not justify the means (nuking innocent people), and that to proceed to do so is utilitarian and thus morally idiotic?

Anonymous said...

"..boom, there goes Baltimore." Give me a minute. I'm thinking.

Lee said...

Another Steeler fan?

Lee said...

Martin, I'd like to use this thread in my own blog. Would you have a problem with my doing so?

Martin Cothran said...

Lee,

No problem.