Saturday, January 30, 2010

The real dangers to students

More news from the public schools:
A high school teacher in Pennsylvania was suspended for 30 days after a picture of her at a strip club was posted on a social networking site. The picture was taken at a bachelorette party. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, some students saw the picture and notified school officials. The ACLU is looking into the case.
I bet they are. I mean, what's the deal here? Are there still people who think teachers should be moral examples? Aren't we past that now? Why aren't we focusing our attention on the real dangers to students, like teachers who mention religion in class.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Moral decline? What moral decline?

At least that's the message coming from one analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, an otherwise useful organization whose analysts apparently have had no access to a television set over the last 10 or 15 years, never been past the home page on the internet, and paid no attention to the redefinition of simple, straightforward meanings of terms like 'marriage' and 'gender'. Here is Paul Wehner at the American Enterprise Institute:

In a recent story in the New York Times, we learned that Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, is starting a new radio show that will “give him greater leeway to hold forth on politics.” In announcing his new venture on his Facebook page, Dobson wrote, “Our nation is facing a crisis that threatens its very existence. We are in a moral decline of shocking dimensions.”

In fact, a great deal of empirical evidence argues that, if anything, we are in the midst of a social and cultural re-norming of some significance.
A cultural re-norming? You can say that again.

The term 're-norming' comes from the educational testing world, where it means 'dumbing down'. I was having lunch with a regional representative of a prominent national testing company several years back and we were discussing the difference between the older tests her company produced and their newer tests. The newer tests, she said, had been "re-normed."

"Now when you say 're-normed,'" I asked, "that really means that the test has been made easier, right?"

"That's right," she said, not even blinking.

One of the reasons people are not as alarmed about their schools as they ought to be is because the deterioration of academic expectations is so slow that they just haven't noticed the change.

Anyone who got into a time machine and went back, say 20 years--a very short period of time historically speaking, would enter a completely different cultural world. And if you told people then what would be commonly accepted today as cultural commonplaces, they would laugh and tell you that you were some sort of alarmist.

"Re-norming" indeed. Just as test standards are constantly deteriorating--so slowly and unnoticeably that we think the current test scores are comparable to the older scores, so moral standards are deteriorating. And we don't notice the change because we have forgotten what we once thought was the norm.

In fact, one of the measures of our moral decline is that people looking straight at it don't see it. If you don't believe it, just check out Paul Wehner's article.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Warmers broke the law, says British government

From the London Times:

The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.

The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.

The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has learnt.
Read the rest here.

But remember, the lying and cheating that resulted in this decision was in the cause of Global Warming, and can therefore be excused.

He's from the government and he's here to help us

National Review on Obama's speech:
“Let’s try common sense,” said the president. For Obama, that means that expanding Medicaid is the way to reduce the deficit. That increasing the price of energy is the way to create jobs. That further socializing medicine is the way to stay ahead of India. Nothing in his speech suggested that the government’s most important economic task might be to create the context of stability in which growth can occur. (Perhaps that thought would have interfered with the theme of “change.”) Beyond a pro forma sentence, nothing in the speech suggested that any positive economic trend could ever take hold without a direct assist from the federal government. Without its help, firms wouldn’t export or get credit. The proposal to forgive student-loan debt for people who go into “public service” typifies this administration’s attitude toward the economy: Producing wealth is less noble than rearranging it. On one of the country’s true economic challenges, runaway entitlement spending, Obama punted to a commission.
Read more here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On further denying reality: Do sexual ambiguities support the distinction between sex and gender?

Our old friend Josh Rosenau of the National Center on Science Education (NCSE) exercises his idea of science (although perhaps 'exorcising' might have captured my meaning better) on the question of the meaning of the new political term 'transgender." Normally, the NCSE occupies itself in going around the country giving finger-wagging lectures on how creationism isn't science. But Rosenau lives a double life, on one day condemning creationism for not being science, and on the next championing political ideas masquerading as science--and feeling very scientific as he does so.

Someone really needs to keep him in his little laboratory so that he doesn't wander so far off in the logical wilderness that he can't find his way home.

I had made light of the idea being espoused in higher education circles (and, incidentally, the term 'higher' in the expression 'higher education' must now be taken in its pharmaceutical sense) that people can simply change their sex by deciding to be something else.

Josh the Science Man, however, abandoning the standards he claims to apply to other scientific issues, seems himself to be as intoxicated by the idea of "transgenderism" as the silly postmodernists that came up with the concept.

Rosenau--and another commenter on my blog--invokes cases like that of Caster Semenya, as evidence for the idea that one's sex can differ from his or her gender. Now, I hesitate to try to explain fine logical distinctions to Rosenau, a proud practitioner of the fallacies of guilt by association and undistributed middle, so maybe I should just ask him the question: What does the case of Semenya have to do with the question of whether sex differs from gender?

The case of Semenya, the athlete whose actual sex came into question because of her masculine characteristics, has nothing to do with a difference between sex and gender; it has simply to do with whether she's a male or a female. It says absolutely nothing about whether sex and gender are different categories of things.

Here's what the "transgender" advocates do: Whenever you question the legitimacy of terms like 'transgender', which, used the way it was used in the article I was criticizing, are political in nature. It's as if someone were to say that they believed that race and ethnicity were not distinct categories, and someone (I'm picturing Rosenau here) responded, "How can you say such things when there are people whose racial makeup is ambiguous?"

Does racial ambiguity support the idea that there is a difference between race and ethnicity? I strongly suggest to Rosenau's colleagues that they refrain from divulging to him the existence of such natural phenomena as mules, lest he conclude from their existence that biological species must therefore be distinguished from zoological groupings.

But Rosenau's remarks do prove one thing: there is a definite distinction to be made between being a science graduate student and being a logician.

Today's Gender Theme: "Real men don't need permission"

Yesterday we discussed the problem with men who want to become women (and, conversely women who want to become men--without even going through the application process). Today we address the question: Is it okay to be a man? With society, I mean.

And we will address the issue by quoting a very interesting article in the American Spectator which has pulled yet another lesson out of the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts. In fact, so many lessons have been seen in the Scott Brown victory, that we are now officially wondering if there is anything it doesn't mean.

In any case, here is William Tucker, writing in the American Spectator:
There's lots of reason Scott Brown won Teddy Kennedy's old Senate seat this week -- health care reform, cap-and-trade, the deficit, exasperation with Democratic rule. But there's one other that shouldn't be missed -- he ran as a guy and it's OK to be a regular guy again.
Of course, there are some of us who never thought we needed anyone's permission to be a regular guy, but there you go.

Here was a guy who drove a gas guzzling pick-up truck. I'll have to admit I was shocked to find this out. I mean, can a guy get elected in Massachusetts if he doesn't drive a Volvo? In fact, it was a surprise to me that trucks were allowed in Massachusetts.

Tucker expands on his recent observations about the fact that men are losing jobs faster than women. He argues that this is partly due to the fact that service jobs are overtaking manufacturing jobs, in which men formerly thrived, and undoubtedly he is partly right. He points to the Huffington Post, which claims that government jobs and jobs in industries that serve the sick, the elderly, and the disabled are replacing jobs that involve hard, manual labor:
Does that sound like decline or what? At this rate we'll soon have an entire economy based on pushing each other around in wheelchairs. (Note also that half these sectors get their entire income from the government.)
But if you combine this with the fact that women are now more prevalent than men in higher education, you have to start to wonder if the more pressing problem is that men are getting stupid and lazy.

In fact, NPR recently ran a report talking about the problem of women who make more than their husbands--and how they wished it weren't so. They are better educated and more gainfully employed.

Surely someone can tell us how the Scott Brown victory explains this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Transgender" athletes, and other oddities colleges have to deal with

Another step in the decline of Western civilization: colleges must now accommodate "transgender" athletes:
Transgender is a broad term used to describe the experiences of people whose gender identity and expression do not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Some people transition to live as their preferred gender by changing their names and the pronouns they use to refer to themselves. They express their preferred gender through choice of clothes, hairstyles and other manifestations of gender expression and identity. Some transgender people undergo reconstructive surgery or take hormones to make their bodies more congruent with their internal sense of themselves. Others do not.

Since the increased visibility of a transgender rights movement in the 1980s and a school-based LGBT "safe schools" movement in the 1990s, more young people have the language and information they need to identify the gender dissonance they experience between the sex they were assigned at birth and the gender identity that they know to be true for them. They are increasingly identifying themselves as transgender and they are doing it at earlier ages.

...Many of these young people want to play on their schools' or colleges' sports teams. As a result, athletic directors and coaches increasingly find themselves unprepared to make decisions about what team a transgender student is eligible to play for. As the number of transgender students who want to play on school sports teams increases, school athletic leaders must identify effective and fair policies to ensure their right to participate.
Read more here.

So who is it that is mistakenly "assigning" their gender at birth? Nature? In the postmodernist world, we get to simply decide what we are. We are nothing by nature. We can decide whether we're male or female. Can we decide whether we're humans too? I mean if X and Y chromosomes are not determinative of gender, then why should we pay any attention to the DNA that tell us we're human?

Transhuman. I can see it now. Can I be a plant? I can think of some people that are not terribly unlike vegetables.

There's nothing to stop people from denying reality, but are the rest of us really obligated to play along?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Child sacrifice in America

Over at Ionian Enchantment, where they are busily applying the Christian system of ethics even as they openly spurn it, they are today condemning, in solemn tones, child sacrifice in Africa and wondering why this pagan practice is still being performed.

Did they really have to go that far? Have they been down to their local abortion clinic, where they are burning incense to the gods of utility and convenience?

Just wondrin'.

Top ten Intelligent Design stories of the year

Denise O'Leary on the top ten Intelligent Design stories of the year:
1. Authors William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II use computer simulations and information theory to challenge the ability of Darwinian processes to create new functional genetic information. This paper is in many ways a validation of Dembski’s core No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without intelligence, which argued that some intelligent input is required to produce novel complex and specified information ...
Read the rest here.

Same sex marriage advocates on why they should be worried about their case against California's Proposition 8

Opponents of California's Proposition 8 are worried that their case against the measure--which overturned the attempt to impose same-sex marriage on Californians--could lead to legal disaster for their movement:
Attorney Charles Cooper, a Reagan-era veteran who is well known to the justices, filed an emergency appeal last weekend urging them to block all video coverage of the trial — even if it were limited to a few courthouses in California. By Monday morning, the high court had granted the appeal and ordered a halt to any video coverage outside the courthouse.

Legal experts on the left and right gleaned three insights from the high court intervention:

First, the justices are following this case closely. They typically rule on appeals after cases are decided. It is rare for them to intervene in a pending trial.

Second, the court’s conservatives do not trust Walker to set fair rules for proceedings. Their opinion described how he had given shifting explanations of his plans. This suggests Walker’s ruling on Proposition 8 may be viewed with some skepticism.

And third, the majority has a distinct sympathy for the foes of same-sex marriage. The justices cited a series of newspaper stories reporting on the threats and harassment faced by those who have publicly opposed gay unions.

Read the rest here.

I never thought I'd say it, but let's hope the gay rights groups are right on this one.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Is religion divisive?

Anthony Esolen, one of our Modern Wise Men, in the course of explaining Christian unity, answers the common charge that religious is divisive:
I have long claimed that people who castigate religion for being divisive either do not know what they are talking about, or secretly fear the power of religion not to divide but to unite -- and, specifically, to unite against them and their own unacknowledged interests. First, while it is true that Islam has had bloody borders, it is not otherwise true that most wars have been fought over religion. A cursory look at history shows that wars are fought over territory, or goods, or either of those masquerading as an offended national pride. Rome fought wars almost constantly, from the time the Romans wriggled out from under their Etruscan overlords, to the time the last emperor was send packing to a monastery by Odoacer, and none of those wars were wars of religion. The Greek city states were ever quarreling, although they shared pretty much the same religion; and indeed, religion was one of the few things that could suffice to unite them in celebrating the games, or driving out the Persian invaders. Nationalist wars were fought under the guise of religion for a relatively brief time during the early modern period, but a glance at what France was doing under Francis I, or under Richelieu, should dispel the notion that religion, rather than what was perceived as the national interest, was the main motivation for French foreign policy. I say this, knowing full well that people hardly need an excuse to pick a fight -- and that religion will sometimes serve the purpose.
Read the rest here.

In Case You Missed Them: Top 2009 posts from Vital Remnants

Going back over 2009 (before it gets away from us), our diverse panel of judges (consisting solely of myself) determines the best posts on this blog over the course of the year. So here they are--"to cavil or applaud," so to speak:

Is the denial of Intelligent Design Unscientific? (1/3/09)
In which we point out another logical problem for the Darwinists:
This has been said before in different ways, but, put very simply, if you say that the assertion that the universe as a whole or any particular part of it are intelligently designed is by necessity a non-scientific assertion, then have you not also committed yourself to saying that the opposite assertion--that the world or the things in it are not intelligently designed--is equally non-scientific?

Where Francis Shaeffer goes wrong: Is the belief in natural theology the beginning of the end of Western culture? (1/15/09)
In which I point out a fundamental flaw in the thinking of an evangelical icon:
Most protestants know very little about St. Thomas Aquinas. But there is one thing they do know (or think they do) about him: Thomas believed that the will was fallen but that the intellect was not: that in the wake of the Fall the will was corrupt, but that the intellect remained perfect. I have heard this over and over again. And when I inquire about where they got this idea, they tell all tell me the same thing: from Francis Schaeffer, one of the most influential protestant thinkers of the 20th century.

...The chief trouble with this assertion, for which Schaeffer gives no documentation, is that it is completely the opposite of what Thomas actually said.

The Very Imperfect Storm: Ruminations after being without power and water during the ice storm of 2009 (1/31/09)
In which I recount the trials and tribulations of enduring a natural disaster:
One of the first people I have seen since clearing our road and driveway was my barber, a man who lives on my street, and was therefore also without power. His shop, as I noticed driving by this morning, was open, so I stopped in.

As he was cutting my hair, we got into a discussion about whether homeowner's insurance would cover damaged trees. He said that it was his understanding that "acts of God" were not covered. I said that, that being the case, it would not be good if your insurance company was run by Calvinists, since they believe everything was a direct act of God, and would therefore not have to pay on any claim. I suggested that, from the consumer's standpoint, the best insurance company would be one run by Arminians. He responded by insisting that, actually, it would be better to be insured by an insurance company run by atheists, since they didn't believe in acts of God at all.

The discussion, of course, was singular evidence that there are psychological effects from being isolated for more than a few days. But at least we discovered a useful purpose for Richard Dawkins.

The Evolution of the Gaps: What's wrong with the "God of the Gaps" argument against theism (2/7/09)
In which we observe that the "God of the Gaps" argument against theism ignores a simple truth that completely undermines it:
The assumption is that there is a fixed number of questions about the natural world, some of which have been answered and some of which have not, so that every question that is answered reduces the number of unanswered questions by the same amount, leaving the body of unanswered questions reduced by one, and leaving the need for the God hypothesis reduced by 1 divided by the number of unanswered questions.

Now this is obviously absurd, since science (as opposed to "Science") does not operate in a world in which there is a fixed number of questions. As science proceeds in its path of discovery, it discovers new questions which it never would have thought to ask before. Because of this there are some who would argue that the number of unanswered scientific questions is not diminishing at all: that, in fact, because of the rate of the appearance of new questions compared to number of questions having obtained answers, the number of unanswered questions is actually increasing all the time ...

Why James Hitchcock is Wrong: A Defense of G. K. Chesterton (3/15/09)
Another person 9in this case a great Catholic thinker) writing about G. K. Chesterton who has not apparently read him very well:
Is it my imagination, or are standards of criticism deteriorating at an unprecented rate? It is one thing to criticize something you know, but another to criticize something you don't know. Inside Catholic has reprinted a 1997 article by the normally sensible James Hitchcock on Hillaire Belloc, C. S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton in which he offers a more than dim assessment.

Unfortunately, it becomes clear upon reading the piece that Hitchcock does not adequately understand the writers he takes to task.

Sex Education Follies (3/24/09)
In we observe, once again the dangers of placing control of sex education programs in the hands of people who can't tell the difference between boys and girls:
I've said it before: if schools do the same thing for sex that they've done for reading and writing, then the survival of the race may be in serious jeopardy. New evidence that that may very well be the case is a new article in Time Magazine, in which the sheer silliness of the whole sex education regime is shown in lights.

Josh's World: Anti-Semites under the bed (4/27/09)
Another post in which I have to correct the always logically wayward Josh Rosenau:
I wonder what [Josh] Rosenau would have said if [Pat] Buchanan had been endorsed and had actually worked on projects with a man who called Judaism a "gutter religion" and Jews themselves "bloodsuckers." And I wonder what he would say if Buchanan had attended a church for over 20 years where the priest was a supporter of this man and who had a penchant for anti-Israeli rhetoric from the pulpit.

Josh Rosenau, meet Barack Obama.

Check out also: Josh Rosenau lays a logical egg (5/1/09)

Coyne's Confusion: How a prominent scientific atheist can't agree with himself about metaphysical naturalism (7/6/09)
In which we have to correct more misapprehensions about reality from biologist Jerry Coyne: Advocates of Intelligent Design and others who practice skepticism toward the pomposities of much of modern Darwinism can be forgiven a little amusement when they see their detractors engaged in an internal squabble that highlights the philosophical absurdities of the scientistic rationalism that pervades much of modern Darwinism.

Cothran's Fork: Why there can be no scientific objection to religious miracles (07/07/09)
Trying once again to introduce a Darwinist to the ins and outs of logic:

In yesterday's post on Jerry Coyne and the New Atheist argument that science and religion are incompatible, I pointed out that there can only be two objections to religious miracle claims: either a philosophical objection or a historical objection, and given this, that there can be no scientific objection to the miraculous. I made the argument in response to the claim of some scientists that we know, based on our scientific knowledge, that miracles can't happen.

My Life With the Kentuckians: Is Dennis Cheek fit enough to survive the vetting process for education commissioner? (7/10/09)
In which we respond to Richard Day, a KY education commentator on whether someone who practices critical thinking skills on the evolution issue should serve as state education commissioner:

According to several news sources, Dennis Cheek, one of the candidates for the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, a man who is an experienced science and social studies teacher and school administrator, the director of the Office of High School Reform, Research, and Adult Education in Rhode Island, and who possesses two PhDs, once wrote a paper that questioned the evidence for whether human beings evolved from apes.

... Richard Day, a dominant male in the education community and the one who dug up the old creationist paper, displayed openly aggressive behavior at his blog "Kentucky School News and Commentary" in response to the revelation about what he considers Cheek's checkered past.

Empiricists behaving irrationally: Show me the laws of nature (7/11/09)
Why does Coyne (and Lyceros, author of the post at the Reason Lyceum) reject the Virgin Birth? Because he has seen many births and none of them are parthonogenic. Why does he reject the Resurrection? Because he has seen many deaths and none of them have been followed by the person coming back to life. In other words, he bases his view on the impossibility of an event by the fact that he has seen many other events similar to them that have not involved related miraculous events.

I'm trying to think how this kind of reasoning be received at, say, a trial.

The Tortured Logic of the New Atheism (8/8/09)
Dueling atheists:

The atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once told the story of a cave in the East in which, for many years after the death of Buddha, visitors could still see his shadow:
God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be cast.— And we—we still must vanquish even his shadow!
Nietzsche was wrong about the death of God, but he was realistic about what the rejection of God implied, and he despised those who rejected God but refused to accept the logical implications of that unbelief.

The Pitinos: The Complete Eighth Season (08/13/09)
In which we somewhat fancifully recount the escapades of Rick Pitino, the University of Louisville's wayward basketball coach:

Episode I:
Rick consolidates his position as basketball coach by winning lots of games
Episode II: Rick is the object of an extortion attempt by a woman
Episode III: Rick decides that $10 million is too much to pay for the woman's silence, although this particular woman's silence would be beneficial to everyone, including herself.
Episode IV: ...

You might also try Lee Todd and James Ramsey: the hollow men who run our universities.

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Reality: Edward Feser's The Last Superstition (8/17/09)
A review of Edward Feser's great popular defense of Aristotelian thinking:

Professionally speaking, [Edward] Feser is small potatoes compared with [John] Whitehead, and given his explicit Aristotelian inclinations, he must necessarily occupy that outer darkness prepared by the academic establishment for Aristotle and his angels. But those of us who paint our faces and wander the outskirts of the intellectual world waiting for the Return of Reason can still take heart from a book like this.

Hoping the Woodstock reminiscing will now just f-f-fade away (8/24/09)
Sick of hearing about the 4oth anniversary of Woodstock, we finally lose it:

Woodstock was a 3-day long gathering of slightly overgrown, spoiled adolescents who were members of the first g-g-generation of Americans to be excessively coddled by their parents, given too much money and comfort, and who, in what was undoubtedly one of their many attempts to escape responsibility, ran away from home for three days and then tried to justify their self indulgence by spouting platitudes about peace and love that were as sanctimonious as they were lacking in any real meaning.

Why the Bible should be taught as literature in public schools (9/7/09)
Another appeal to those we used to think were passing on Western culture not to abandon it:

The question of whether public schools should teach the Bible as literature has come up again, this time as a result of a piece of legislation in the Texas legislature that proposes to do just that. Some people seem to think that there are two sides to this issue: secularists who don't want the Bible taught in any way because it would violate the separation between church and state, and religious people who want the Bible taught in schools because they think it's true.

That would be a dramatic oversimplification of the situation. You could just as well point out that there are secularists who, whatever they think of the Bible, agree that there is an educational value attached to Biblical literacy that is essential to understanding, for example, much of Western literature. And there could certainly be a case made by a religious believer that he doesn't want the teaching of the Bible placed into the hands of an unbelieving public school teacher.

Roman Polanski is a god, and other observations about whether artists should be expected to act like the rest of us (10/2/09)
Even Vladimir Nabokov couldn't have thought this up:

One wonders about the judgment of the critics of Roman Polanski, the famous cinematic auteur (I would say "movie director," but that would fail to capture the ambiance of the artistic genius of the man). They seem to think that he is somehow subject to the rules by which the rest of us--we mere mortals--must abide.

They forget that Roman Polanski is an artist.

Now this simple truth is being completely ignored by Polanski's critics, who fail to make a distinction between those of here on earth, and those, like Polanski, who inhabit the empyrean heights. He is guilty of raping a 13 year-old girl they say. But what is 'rape'? What is 'guilty'? What is 'a 13 year-old girl'?

Bellydancing Toward Gomorrah (10/5/09)
The grim professors at University of Kentucky try to tell their students about the birds and the bees:

This week is "Sex Week" at the university. Why does the university need a "Sex Week"? According to the Lexington Herald-Leader's Ryan Alessi (a reporter who, we should probably point out, is not serving in an embedded role on this story), the main aim of organizers is "sexual literacy." That's right. Today's college students apparently don't know enough about sex. If you didn't get that memo, don't worry, neither did we.

Governor Grinch Gets Global Grilling (11/9/09)
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear gives the Keystone Kops another lesson on how to do it:

Apparently, the Governor really thought this act would be appreciated. So he put his hand to his ear. And he did hear a sound rising over the bluegrass. It started in low, then it started to grow...

Problem was it was sound of over 25,000 people on the "Save the Christmas Tree" Facebook page wanting their Christmas tree back. In fact, the thing blew up into a major public relations headache for state Grinch officials.

The Banning of Academic Rigor: Anti-censorship groups now calling enforcement of curriculum standards "censorship" (11/30/09)
Another incident wherein we learn just how lacking in seriousness some people are about education:

In Montgomery County, Kentucky, several parents whose children are in an accelerated college preparatory class questioned several books a teacher had planned on using in the class because they don't adequately contribute to accelerated college preparation. The parents apparently had the crazy idea that putting their kids in an advanced college prep course meant that they would be reading academically challenging books instead of literary fluff.

... Now I haven't read these books, and, being an English instructor and a fairly well-read person, I've never, with one exception, even heard of them either. If they're on a list of great books somewhere, I've never encountered it. Maybe they're appropriate for a course on Early 21st Century Lightweight Pop Fiction for Bored Teenagers, but a college prep course? C'mon.

Also check out Do you have to have read a book to say anything about it at all? More on the Montgomery County "censorship" case (12/1/09), Barbarians at the Gate: A response to Chris Crutcher on the Montgomery County curriculum case (12/2/09), and What the Cultural Philistines Don't Know Can Hurt Them--and Us: Why some people disparage classic books (12/3/09).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In defense of "traditional Western civilization WASP heterosexual culture": Another response to Richard Day

In a previous post, I criticized the promotion for a movie called, "Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up." I made the general case that it was one more strike against reason, common sense, and one more contribution to the decline of Western culture. In doing so, I managed to incur the wrath of feared the Gender Department of the Tolerance Police, who, after clicking their heels, explained that, in expressing my opinion about such things, I am being intolerant and insensitive.

I have therefore been issued several directives, dripping with tolerance and sensitivity, ordering me to zeaze und dezist from zese ekshpreshons of incorrect zought, und eksplaining zat such views vehr zimply verboten, although really the only danger I have felt during this controversy is the kind one would feel when in the presence of Colonel Klink.

One of these directives has come from Richard Day, who explained, in a post at his own blog Kentucky News and Commentary, why such views were unacceptable.

Richard has recently expanded his writing style from pretty lucid educationese to sounding now more like a women's studies professor having a bad hair day. He criticizes me for "clinging to the vestiges of western cultural domination."

I have apparently deviated from the more acceptable neonarrative about gender by returning to a preconstructivist paradigm which is undergirded by a pretextual patriarchalism that fails to take account of the poststructural sublimation of sexual identity and does not recognize the nonstatic nature of sex.

Now I have no idea what the previous paragraph means, but I'm quite sure that when Richard gets good in this new post-textual ideological semantics, we'll be hearing something very much like it over at his blog. Pretty soon, he'll be ready to submit articles to Social Theory and have them enthusiastically accepted.

"Vestiges of western cultural domination?" What is that? Have they run out of pop psychological fads at teachers' colleges and replaced them with neomarxist ideology? I guess when you've rejected legitimate intellectual endeavors, it's hard trying to find things to replace them with.

After quoting my summary of the movie's promotional text and expressing what appeared to me to be the clear implication of the promotional language that a Lexington's student's suicide was the fault of traditional views on sexuality, Day remarks:
Is Cothran suggesting that the nail that sticks up will be hammered down; or should be; and somehow, that's OK? ...because it's majority rule?'s traditional? ...because the kid's asking for it by daring to be different? Shipman seems to be cast as having caused his own torment.
If I was suggesting that, I would have actually..., oh, I don't know, suggested that. But I didn't. And if he thinks I was suggesting that, then he should produce some evidence that I was. What I do think (although I didn't say it in my post) was that schools should uphold the traditional family as the ideal. I think that because the traditional family is actually good for society, a belief that is not controversial among those who are familiar with the evidence on the subject, but which is apparently controversial in places like education colleges.

But now that schools have given up on passing on Western culture and are now engaged in actively undermining it--and being encouraged in the endeavor by people like Day--I suppose that is now too much to expect. So those of us in the home and private school movement will have to continue to take the refugees from the public schools, where learning is slowly being replaced with ideological indoctrination, and do it ourselves.

The boy that was the subject of the movie was bullied by his peers at school, in addition to having Multiple Disorder Disorder (MDD)-- suffering everything from a problem with "self-mutilation, feeling rejected by his mother and battles with his dad ... ADHD, bipolar disorder and an attachment disorder," to "becoming overly close to people who expressed even a minor interest in him." He also apparently suffered from too many people who were enthusiastic about coming up with names for things he was suffering from. His was a condition which, when we were ignorant teenagers, we simply referred to as being "weird." But this is a diagnosis which the modern medical and psychological establishment is reticent to give, not being nearly as scientific sounding--or lucrative--as the other alternatives.

Regardless of the boy's problems, I'm against bullying, and think it should punished. Although I realize that punishment is a vestige of Western cultural domination, I still think it's a pretty good idea. But bullying has nothing to do with whether there is behavior specifically appropriate to males or females, respectively. Bullying is bullying, and the people who run our schools have the tools to deal with it. One wonders, in this case, why they didn't.

And then we get the customary lecture about the "natural inclination" to be gay:
Shipman [the Dunbar High School student who killed himself] had every citizen's right to be whatever his creator made him. Shipman's father told H-L it was pretty clear that Josh was gay from the age of 4 or 5. That does not sound like a choice to me. It sounds more like a natural inclination.
Of course, I addressed this logically contradictory doubletalk in my original post, but Richard studiously ignored it. I don't blame him. If he could have explained the coherence of the view that, while masculinity and femininity are not inborn, homosexuality is, he would have been the first to do it.

Day, in protesting my rejection of the nonscientific and exclusively ideological view that holds gender and sex to be disconnected, rejects the heterosexual view of the connection between them. He clearly thinks my rejection is intolerant and his is not. One wonders why. But in making his case, he calls my view the view of "traditional western civilization WASP heterosexual culture."

Is it a measure of the lack of historical knowledge among public educators that they think that the historical view that heterosexuality is the norm is limited to White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs)? I mean, we all know about the historical acceptance of homosexuality among Catholics, don't we? And how about the traditional acceptance of homosexuality as the norm among African, Asian, and Latin American cultures?

I think Richard must have gotten himself confused by all that multiculturalist propaganda over at the teacher's college, where modern Western liberal ideology is mapped onto other cultures (which are largely racist and sexist by modern Western standards) and passed off as a genuine appreciation of these cultures. But it makes multiculturalists feels so accepting and tolerant, and that's its primary purpose after all, isn't it?

"WASP," Richard? Think about it.

Says Richard:
I wonder if part of the issue involves how folks see human sexuality. Many heterosexuals, it seems to me, see sexuality as a dichotomy. You have "outdoor plumbing" - you're a man. Act like it. Indoor? Get in the kitchen. Fix me some meatloaf.

I wonder if it isn't more of a continuum, albeit bimodal.
Nevermind those pesky XY chromosomes: we've got a political agenda to pursue here.

And speaking of mapping onto others our own preconceptions, Day repeatedly attributes to me views he would apparently like me to have but which come as a surprise to me, the person who's supposed to have them. He repeatedly attributes to me the view that being "different" is bad:
It was another of his regular strawmen who did it - the "modern liberal secular society" which is "constantly championing social policies" that allows folks to be different. That's the problem.
Regular strawmen? Maybe he should read this paragraph and then compare it to what I actually said and then think a minute about pots calling kettles black.

And then he goes into the obligatory sermon about what Christianity is really all about and what Jee-sus said and all that. Now because my audience on this blog is, in good part, antagonistic toward traditional Western culture in general and Christianity is particular, I rarely appeal to Christian principles or explicitly Biblical beliefs as evidence for my positions--not because I don't believe them because I do. I don't to that because I believe in the Natural Law that is evident not just to Christian believers, but to everyone (a Biblical belief, by the way). In fact, not only do I not do that on this blog: I don't do it in any of my policy work. Despite this, I seem to attract these little sermons from my detractors.

Every time I testify in front of a committee in Frankfort that includes Kathy Stein in its membership, no sooner am I done with my testimony, in which I present a case based on reason and publicly available evidence, than Kathy preaches a sermon at me and waves a Bible in my face. These people are the people who get upset when other people bring religion into politics, and yet they're the first ones to bring it up. In fact, this is the second or third time Richard has taken the pulpit in one of our disagreements.

Maybe he missed his calling.
Isn't it a secular impulse to use religion for one's own political purposes?
Yes, Richard, apparently it is. Read your posts.

And then I must endure a final indignity. After listening respectfully to his lecture, given in righteous tones, about the sinfulness of bringing religion into politics (a sin I am unaware of ever committing), I then hear him invoking the Golden Rule as a model policy for schools.

I sometimes wonder if liberal ideology isn't more of a continuum, albeit bipolar.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Climategate: The CRUtape Letters

The first book on Climategate to be published is now out by Stephen Mosher and Thomas W. Fuller: Climategate: The CRUtape Letters (a clever, and fitting title in many ways). Here's Anthony Watts at Watt's Up With That, the best blog covering the coverup:

Climategate, written by Steve Mosher and Tom Fuller, is an account of the events leading up to the leaking of over 1,000 emails and assorted files that exposes the unethical and perhaps illegal practices used by the Hockey Stick Team to protect their turf as well as their information. These rock star scientists dined with the elite and feasted on government grants, but it was all predicated on ‘hiding the decline:’ Making sure no-one saw how shaky their data, analysis and conclusions actually were. Hide the decline didn’t refer to temperatures–it was worse. It was a decline in the quality of their data they were trying to hide. This book puts it all into context–and in context it is worse."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just in case you were worrying about drowning in melted Himalayan glaciers...


Oh, wait a minute ... No they're not. Nevermind.

Read the rest here.

HT: Climategate.

Is Global Warming caused by humans?

It seems to make sense that if Global Warming is caused by CO2 emissions, then there ought to be some kind of direct statistical correlation between CO2 emissions and warmer climate. The stronger the correlation, the more evidence it is a factor, and the weaker the correlation, the less evidence it is a factor.

Here is a chart showing the relationship between the two based on data from the Central England Temperature dataset, which, according to James Delinpole, is the oldest dataset in the world, with 351 years of temperature records drawn from “multiple weather stations located both in urban and rural areas of England, which is considered a decent proxy for Northern Hemisphere temperatures."

HT: Anthony Watts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Charter schools die in committee, but the issue could still rise from the dead

For Immediate Release
January 14, 2010

LEXINGTON--"We will be back," said Martin Cothran, communications director for The Family Foundation of Kentucky, after an amendment providing for charter schools failed in a tie vote in a State Senate committee. "This was the end for this amendment, but it wasn't the end of charter schools in this state."

"We were disappointed in the vote," said Cothran. "We understood we had the votes going to vote for the amendment. It turned a golden opportunity for more parental and local teacher control of schools into a lost opportunity." The bill failed when State Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr voted against the amendment.

"This was a loss for parents and local teachers and win for state educrats and teachers' union bosses who are to the left of the Obama administration on this issue. Charter schools are supported across the political spectrum--from Newt Gingrich to the Democratic presidential administration."


Monday, January 11, 2010

Tropical animals are dropping like iguanas from trees

Animals that thrive on colder temperatures are suffering severe consequences from warming weather and their lives are threatened from high temperatures that haven't been seen since 1989, and which are due to Global Warming...

Wait. Sorry. Change that.

Animals that thrive on warmer temperatures are suffering severe consequences from colder weather and their lives are threatened from low temperatures that haven't been seen since 1989. In fact, arctic foxes aren't keeling over panting: iguanas are falling from trees stone dead.

But somehow it's got something to do with Global Warming. It just has to.

Will the federal courts rewrite the Constitution on same-sex marriage?

This just in from the Decline of Western Civilization desk:
SAN FRANCISCO -- The first federal trial to determine if the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from outlawing same-sex marriage gets under way Monday, and the two gay couples on whose behalf the case was brought will be among the first witnesses.
And we all know, of course, what the Constitution says about same-sex marriage. Why there's that passage in Article ... let's see ... I thought I saw it here. Well, regardless of that, it says in the section toward the end ... hmmm ... try to find it ... Shoot. I could have swore it was there.

Oh, nevermind.

Insensitive remarks on gender confusion resulting from silly remarks in the promotion for the movie "Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up"

It's hard to tell exactly what the point of the gay documentary: "Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up" is, but judging from remarks by the promoters of the movie, it's about the "problem" of "gender boundaries." Somehow this "problem" helped bring about the suicide death of a Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School boy, and the way to deal with it is greater "acceptance of differences."

Merlene Davis of the Lexington Herald-Leader doesn't miss her chance to promote the movie, which was shown this weekend and sponsored by the Central Kentucky Council on Peace and Justice. Here's her description of the movie:
On Saturday, several ­organizations are hosting the first local screening of "Straightlaced: How ­Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up," a documentary that explores the pressures teens endure to conform to ­accepted gender boundaries. That film is dedicated to Hannah, who was one of the 50 young people ­producers ­interviewed to gauge the restrictions society puts on teens in defining their ­masculinity or femininity. [emphasis added]
That's Merlene, who is presumably female, although she could apparently have been something else had society decided differently.

The film is about a boy named "Josh," an openly gay student at Lexington, Kentucky's Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School who committed suicide and a fellow student name "Hannah" who was his friend and who later died in a car accident. Josh is described as having a "flamboyant personality," which attracts the negativity of his peers. It's never stated outright, but you get the definite impression that Josh's death is to be laid at the feet of anyone who has a traditional view of human sexuality.

Here is the description of the film on the Kentucky Theatre's website:
The message of the film is one of acceptance of others regardless of their dress, sexual orientation or desire to wear a particular color, said Woloch. That epitomizes what Hannah stood for. “In the movie she said people ask her why she was friends with Josh, and she said, ‘Why not?’” Woloch said. “These are stories of kids who identify as gay, straight, bisexual or whatever,” she said. “It’s about the biases we have and the determinations we make based on nothing. Hers was just acceptance and love. Acceptance for who they are.” [emphasis added]
What, exactly, does "acceptance" mean here? Is this, like, some neutral kind of acceptance that just means I'm supposed to recognize and respect others as human beings despite the fact that I think their lifestyle is abnormal and in many cases self-destructive (and in some cases just silly)?

Wait. Self-destructive? How could I say that? That's so insensitive and intolerant. Am I not ashamed of myself for saying this?

Well, actually, no. I know that in modern liberal secular society, which has constantly championing social policies that contribute to the disconnection of people from real cultures and real relationships, we are supposed to have compassion for people we don't know. This is one of the premises behind all the rhetoric about so-called "global culture." Which, by the way, not only doesn't exist, but can't.

I'm sure, if I had known the boy, I would have felt very sorry for him--for a number of reasons. I'm sure his parents too are understandably distraught and grieving. If I knew them, I'm sure I would feel equally sorry for them. But I didn't and I don't.

And he did, after all, kill himself. If there's something more self-destructive than that, I guess I haven't figured out what it is.

So does this "acceptance" simply mean being respectful of someone's humanity, or is it more on the order of I'm supposed to deny the basic principles of the Good the True and the Beautiful because they are right and I'm wrong?

I'd like to think it is the first, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it is really the second. In fact, the evidence for the accuracy of my suspicion is right there in the description. What are the beliefs of traditionally-minded people? They are "the biases we have and the determinations we make based on nothing." In other words, the views of those who think that males are not designed to be masculine and females are not designed to be feminine are to be accepted by those who disagree with them. On the other hand, those who think males are designed to be masculine and females are designed to be feminine are "biases based on nothing" and are to be rejected as unacceptable.

In other words, we use the language of moral neutrality to hide the fact that acceptance only goes one way. If you reject traditionalism, your views should be "accepted," and if you are a traditionalist, your views are not to be accepted, and furthermore you are to be characterized as intolerant in the process. If Group A rejects the views of Group B, then Group A is intolerant. But when Group B rejects the views of Group A, it is actually an exercise in tolerance despite the fact that it is no different in kind than the rejection exercised by Group A.

You agree with me, okay? But I don't have to agree with you. That's how the game works. Are you ready to play?

And what about these"determinations we make"? It doesn't take long to figure out that the people promoting the film want us to think, first, that it is only those evil, biased, intolerant people who, in having the temerity to think that males are males and females are females for a reason, are the only ones who make determinations. But is that true?

What about the "determinations" the promoters of the film make in regard to sexual orientation? These are people, after all, who think that gay people are born that way. I can't think of any belief more determinative that the belief that homosexual are born homosexual.

But, of course, we say that homosexuals are born that way when it suits our politics, and then conveniently ignore or deny it when it doesn't. In fact, as I have said before, it is a strange anomaly characteristic of the modern liberal mindset that it claims that everything, including gender, is culturally constructed and then turns right around and claims that homosexuality is inborn.

Go figure.

And are the determinations of those of us who unaccountably think that boys are born boys and girls are born girls really "based on nothing"? How about, oh, I don't know, ... nature? That, after all, has been the belief of cultures time immemorial. If you don't agree with it, fine. What's your argument against it? You got something more than--dare I say it?--a bias?

According to the promo for the film, which features a bunch of confused teenagers trying to articulate, like, something about gender, ya know, the basic premise is that gender is just as subjective as the colors and the clothes you wear. And, apparently, like your clothes, your gender can be chose and changed at will. In other words, people aren't really born male and female.

Now, put your finger on that page to hold your place and turn back to the earlier chapters of this whole debate over gay rights and read the chapter on how homosexuality is inborn. Whoa! Gender is not inborn, but homosexuality is? How can this be?

It is just one more measure of the crack-up of the modern secular mind that people who can't figure out whether they are male or female should be the first ones to demand recognition for "who they are."

HT: Richard Day

Saturday, January 09, 2010

No State of the Union to be found on LOST night

Just in case anyone was in doubt as to what this nation's priorities are:
Fans of the TV series LOST are rejoicing tonight because the White House confirmed it would not schedule President Obama’s first State of the Union address on February 2, the night LOST’s last season debuts on ABC.
Read the rest here.

The atheistic pot calling the theistic kettle black

Philosopher Edward Feser, responding to Daniel Dennett's 1993 review of philosopher John Searle's The Rediscovery of the Mind, in which alleged philosopher Dennett complains about the "supremely confident" Searle characterizing naive materialism as "daft," "monumentally silly," and "obviously false":
A “supreme self-confidence” that condescendingly treats serious thinkers as “daft” and their views as “monumentally silly” and “obviously false” – why, one would almost think Dennett was describing the author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon!

In fairness, though, there are some crucial differences between Searle and Dennett. Searle knows what he is talking about when he criticizes cognitive science. Dennett demonstrably does not know what he is talking about when he criticizes the traditional arguments for the existence of God. By Dennett’s own account, Searle has made “progress” by providing a book-length argument in defense of his objections to cognitive science. Dennett, by contrast, never progresses beyond a couple of pages of sophomoric objections aimed at straw men. Also, Searle’s funnier.
Read the rest here.

Sauce for the gander on Global Warming

As I sit here with our heater out, occasionally feeding more wood into the wood stove and sipping coffee, I see yet one more article reminding us that, in the case of cold weather, we cannot use it as evidence against Global Warming, although, of course we are free (indeed, it seems, obligated) to use warm weather as evidence in favor of it:
People across the northern hemisphere are facing the fact that a warming planet doesn't get rid of winter. The woes extend far beyond Britain's extended snow and chill. On Monday the heaviest snow on record plastered Seoul. Later this week the central US will experience its most brutal cold wave in 10 to 20 years. And most of western Europe will be encased in a deep freeze by this weekend.

In any given year, there could be a season as shocking as Britain's epic winter of 1962-63 – when snowdrifts were measured in metres, and temperatures stayed below freezing for most of January – or the summer of 2003, when tens of thousands died in some of the worst heat ever recorded in Europe.

What's different now is that climate change is shifting the odds towards record-hot summers and away from record-cold winters. The latter aren't impossible; they're just harder to get, like scoring a straight flush on one trip to Vegas and a royal flush the next.

The point seems to be that one swallow does not a summer make--or maybe we should say "one snowflake does not a winter make." It's not an illegitimate point, but why is it that whenever we see a snowflake we are reminded of this, but whenever there is a swallow a summer is considered to have been made?

HT: Roger Pielke

Friday, January 08, 2010

Global Warming headline of the week: "Meteorologists: Global warming and cold weather go hand in hand"

Meteorologists: Global Warming and Cold Weather Go Hand-In-Hand.” From the Voice of America, once again showing that any weather phenomenon can be taken as confirmation of global warming, a scientific theory that, being scientific, must be falsifiable, but which actually isn't since no evidence is actually interpreted to disconfirm it.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The fairer sex is also more focused in school, which is why they do better

Here's more information that someone in the Amazon Section of the Bureau of Gender Equity needs to squelch right away. It suggests once again that males and females are ... and I will try to put this in the most gentle way I can so as not to disturb the tender sensibilities of those among the our intellectual classes who get all upset and weepy when such things are suggested ... different:
Gender differences in the distributions of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities might be important in explaining gender differences in the propensities to go to and graduate from college. Gender differences in the means of cognitive measures like IQ are minor, but the degree of variability in cognitive abilities appear to be greater among men than women.

However, the main ability differences between men and women are in the non-cognitive arena. Non-cognitive abilities affect grades and test scores by affecting how much attention students pay to instruction from their teachers, how organized they are in doing homework and preparing for exams, whether they get disciplined for inappropriate behavior at school, and in various other ways.
Oh wait, this reflects well on women. Nevermind.

Yale University administrators are sissies

Yale University administrators, some of whom are men and some women (although it is sometimes unclear which are which), have proclaimed that a freshman class-sponsored t-shirt using the word "sissies" is unacceptable. The word was part of a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald that was to be included on a t-shirt in anticipation of the 2009 Harvard-Yale football game that read as follows:
"I think of all Harvard men as sissies"
Adam Kissel Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program wrote Yale President "Richard" Levin:
It is not a happy day when a Yale College dean with degrees from Yale and Princeton, an historian of art, declares that T-shirts quoting Fitzgerald are "not acceptable." "What purports to be humor by targeting a group through slurs is not acceptable," Dean Mary Miller wrote to the Yale Daily News, explaining her decision to "pull" the Freshman Class Council's democratically chosen design targeting Harvard students as "sissies."
Similar controversies have erupted over coaches who, trying to spur their players on to greater feats of athletic prowess on the court or on the gridiron, have employed terms such as 'wuss', 'wimp', and 'pansy'. John L. Smith, when he was the University of Louisville football coach, as I recall, was forced to publicly apologize for saying his players had "played like pansies" in a game in which they, well, played like pansies.

Not only is this one more sign of the increasingly intolerant Tolerance Police who engage in frequent and blatant censorship as the liberals who criticize such actions in every other context look the other way, but it is one more sign that our educational institutions are being run by people could be a little heavier in the loafers when it comes to doing the right thing.

The Persian King Xerxes is said to have declared, after observing the failure of his fleet in the Battle of Salamis in which a ship captained by a woman fared better than many of his ships captained by men, "My women have become men, and my men women." The same now seems to have occurred at many of our institutions of learning, where any open display of testosterone is received by the men who run them with cries of shock and alarm (and, one suspects, fainting spells), while the more masculine feminists elsewhere in administration and in the Women's Studies departments pat them on the head and tell them what good boys they are.

It's a sad situation--this world in which college administrators are such sissies.