It's probably not a good idea for a reputable science organization to put its credibility at risk by allowing Rosenau to stray far from the office, much less give him an official title, but such, apparently, are the standards now employed by the NCSE (The National Center for Science Education).
My original theory was that one of his parents worked for the NCSE and they took him to work one day and let him play at the desk and Josh started posting on the website, thinking he was a big person now. But, sure enough, when you go to the organization's site and scroll way, way, way down, there it is, a biography of their "Programs and Policy Director," where we are informed that Josh studied the "relationships between Philippine rodent species based on phallic morphology" at the University of Chicago.
Let's hope the Philippine rats he studied are better at operating the particular organ to which Rosenau devoted his undergraduate years than he is at operating a logical syllogism. If not, one could well wonder how the darn things survive at all.
Seriously, you would think Rosenau could at least inject some wit into his invective, but instead all we get this low grade name-calling that no self-respecting elementary school playground bully would be caught dead uttering publicly. Let this just be a lesson to us all: you go studying the male genitalia of Philippine rats as a young college student and the Peter Principle might just kick in early.
One of the epithets that got hurled this way was "logic-impaired." Anyone interested in investigating Rosenau's qualifications to make such judgments should check just several posts down, where he can find this statement: "good logic is only as valid as its premises."
Good logic is only as valid as its premises? Any logic student with a week's worth of instruction in logic could spot the problem in that assertion. Validity applies only to the deductive inference that occurs between the premises and the conclusion. It has precisely NOTHING to do with the premises themselves.
That's just an axiom in the morphology of logic. Even in the Philippines.
In any case, his most recent attack on this blog concerns my previous post on whether Internet access is a "basic human right." I asserted that this kind human rights talk as applied to Internet access was an example of "rhetorical inflation"--one more example of saying something we happen to like is a "right." And I pointed out that there are only two things you could possibly mean by such talk: that it was a part of what philosophers call the positive, written law or of the universal, unwritten (or "natural") law.
The first is civil, and it may or may not be based on the higher natural law. If it is, then it is a civil expression of the second; if it isn't, then it is a mere convention. If the civil law is based on the natural law, then it is a civil expression of real justice; if the civil law is not based on the natural law, then it only expresses a preference we all have and agree to for commanding or prohibiting something.
This simple disjunction, of course, set Rosenau to head-scratching. He just couldn't make anything of it:
First, assuming there is some sort of "inflation" of "rights language" ("rhetorical" or otherwise). Is that so bad? Is the suggestion that people have too many rights?
He then insists it must be metaphysical because it's possible to argue against some laws as conflicting with metaphysically granted rights (whatever that means), and then he doesn't really say how he'd assess that case.Well, first off, what does "too many" rights have to do with it? The question is what grounds something metaphysically as a right. You don't determine that by going around counting them up. That method may make sense to an expert in the phallic morphology of rodents, but it doesn't constitute a respectable philosophical analysis.
Can we just make everything a right? Then there would be more rights and, under a Rosenauian analysis, that would be all the better. It would also excuse us from having to think hard thoughts, and that would certainly suit Rosenau.
And what does "assessing the case" mean? I asserted that the only ground on which you could criticize a written law is on the basis of a higher law. How else are you going to criticize it? On the basis of another written law? If so, upon what basis do you say the one written law is better than the other?
If you disagree with that, then you are basically saying you don't believe in justice.
Let me say this in the simplest possible way so I can communicate this thought to the NCSE's Program and Policy Director: You can't possibly critique a written law (whether statutory or constitutional) unless you have some perspective outside of the written law itself from which to do it. How do you argue that a written law is wrong unless you have intellectual fulcrum from outside and above the written law?
But perhaps this is too much for Rosenau to intellectually digest all at once, as evidenced by this comment:
I'd start with legal rights, rather than metaphysical ones, because how do you test whether something is a metaphysical right? One of the rights protected in the US's Bill of Rights is a protection of "freedom of the press." The founders thought that was kind of important, and lots of other countries borrowed that concept, sometimes even that phrase, as they created democratic constitutions in the 20th century.(Yes, I know, this is an exercise in patience). You judge a metaphysical right by a legal right? Now that's a novel idea. You mean all you've got to do to establish a metaphysical right is to write it down and have everyone nod their head?
No. All you've got to is appeal to a group called the "United Nations." As long as the group has this name and it has a lot of countries participating in it (many of which are dictatorships with bad human rights records), their pronouncements are, apparently (in the world of rodent phallus specialists), infallible.
Conveniently for us, the UN crafted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights after World War II, and it was approved without objections by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Egypt voted for it then. The right to a free press is enshrined in it.Well, I suppose that is convenient for people who don't understand much about natural law and don't apparently want to know much about it. Rosenau is very impressed with the United Nations. It's big. And it has lots of delegates. That gives it more authority than any other organization.
For Josh Rosenau, human rights is a matter of counting heads.
But then comes the real howler:
Though the Declaration is, like the US's Declaration of Independence, not a law itself, it exists to set out the rights that the community of nations agreed to be universal.What? Is Rosenau saying that the Declaration of Independence simply "sets out rights ... agreed to be universal?" I guess he missed that part about "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." The Declaration doesn't leave off at social contract theory; it proceeds to invoke God in authorizing its "unalienable rights." And any theory that doesn't go that far (like the various U.N. documents Rosenau thinks came down from Sinai) simply begs the question.
If all you need is a bunch of people getting together and agreeing to something to establish the authority of a human rights declaration, what if something is wrong with it? Upon what basis would you judge it good or bad? Do you form the Super Duper United Nations to make an even better one?
And if you simply employ social contract theory, which theorist are you going to go by? John Locke? Rousseau? Or Thomas Hobbes, who advocated authoritarian monarchy? But isn't this just the problem in Egypt? Authoritarian monarchy (remember, he was grooming his son to take his place)?
This is the whole problem with human rights theorists who refuse to recognize a law above the law: they completely relativize the whole concept of human rights. If there are enough Hosni Mubaraks, then they've got just as much claim to the human rights mantle as anyone else.
Josh Rosenau: Hosni Mubarak's favorite human rights theorist.
Someone text this boy's parents and get his hands off the controls of the NCSE. Quick. Before this gets even more embarrassing.