Thursday, December 27, 2012

Would deporting Piers Morgan help with the trade imbalance?

Piers Morgan, the insult-slinging CNN talking head who got so rattled by a gun rights advocate last week that he completely lost his composure, is now the subject of a petition calling for his deportation from the U.S. I, for one, would not be sorry to see the British expatriate sent packing back to the island from whence he came. The problem is that, apparently, they don't want him back.

There are now three petitions extant: The first calls on the government to send him back. The second calls on the White House to keep him because the Brits don't want him back anyway. And the third is a petition in Britain, which says, "“We got rid of him once and why should we have to suffer again. The Americans wanted him so they should put up with him. We washed our hands of him a long time ago."

Maybe we can compromise. How 'bout if we lust fly him back halfway?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

AP eliminating "homophobia" from style guide

The Associated Press is eliminating the term "homophobia" from its style guide. Surely the AP had a crisis of conscience and decided it should stop using hate terms for people who disagree with gay rights politics in its news stories.

Well, dream on.

The word "homophobia" was first used to indicate a homosexuals fear that others might think he was gay. It has been transformed by gay rights groups and a complicit media into a pejorative term for people they disagree with and one that implies that people with traditional views about sexuality may have a mental problem--the very thing gays complained about being charged of themselves for being homosexual.

But it turns out the AP just wanted to have journalists replace it with the word "anti-gay."

We're waiting for the AP to allow the label "anti-religious" for groups who disagree with church strictures against homosexuality. But we're not holding our breath.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Save Piers Morgan: Ban guns now

I am changing my position on gun control. But not because I think that more gun control will prevent shootings like the one in Newtown, Connecticut (it won't), but in order to save liberals.

In the days following the tragic shootings, my initial concern for the families has slowly given way to a concern for liberals, and particularly those liberals who populate the media. If you saw Piers Morgan's emotional meltdown during his debate with Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, you will get a taste of what I'm talking about.

We are now in Day 6 of wall-to-wall CNN coverage of the shooting. Over the course of these six days, liberals have worked themselves up into such an emotional state that they are no longer thinking rationally.

Actually, now that I think about it, they never have.

But that aside, they first covered the shooting, then they stuck their prying cameras into every weeping face in order to show the justifiably emotional response to the shooting by those who actually lost loved ones. Then they went out and found people in Newtown who knew people who had lost loved ones in order to show how emotional they were. And then they went out and found people outside of Newtown who had absolutely nothing to do with the people in Newtown who had lost loved ones or the people who knew people who had lost loved ones so that they could report to us on their emotional state.

Is there is a crying person left in America who hasn't had a CNN camera stuck in his face?

The media's six day accomplishment? To explore strange new feelings, to seek out new sufferings and new griefs, to boldly go where no cameras have gone before. And in the process they have made themselves so emotional that they have rendered themselves almost incapable of engaging in rational thought or intelligible speech.

From watching liberals like Piers Morgan, it is clear that they have worked themselves up into such an emotional state that they are a danger, mostly to themselves. And it will get even worse when the adreneline leaves their system and depression sets in. So the first thing we need to do is prevent liberals from buying guns. Particularly now. In their present state. To do anything else would be to facilitate the potentially self-destructive behavior of well-meaning people.

But, secondly, we need to take a serious look at gun restrictions for others. Again, I say this for the sake of liberals.

We need to understand the form of reasoning by which liberals get from their feelings to their conclusions. In the case of gun control, we must gain an understanding of the following syllogistic form:
Premise 1: I am saddened by gun violance
Premise 2: Gun violence is very upsetting to me
Conclusion: Therefore, we must ban guns
Many of us cannot see the rationality of such arguments, but liberals see it quite clearly.

Part of the problem, you see, is that liberals are so good. They want to do good things. They are so concerned about good being done that they are willing to use force to make people to do the things they think are good. They are the do-gooders par excellence. They are the guys (and girls) who were in all the service clubs in high school, and who in college grew their hair out long, wore jeans with holes in them, smoked weed, and got elected to the student council--and who then went out and wouldn't leave all the other students who were trying to study alone because they wanted to talk about getting the U.S. military out of El Salvador and stopping investments in South Africa.

They wanted to help in any place they could, as long as it was so far away that they couldn't really have any actual impact.

They believed (and still believe) with unalterable certainty that the mere act of caring contributes to the good. The more they care, the more caring there is. And if all of them care together real hard, all of the good feelings resulting from all the caring will amount to one gigantic, enormous, good caring thing. If we all get together and care enough, the good vibrations will eventually reach a critical point at which the Harmonic Caring Convergence subsumes everything in a warm, soothing, synergistic feeling of holistic attunement. Even though we haven't actually done any particular good thing, the mere feeling of goodness will pervade our being and improve our life energy and get us close to the Solar Logos.

There will be nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too.

But one of the things we also need to do in order to reach this state of liberal Nirvana is to ban guns for everybody. The existence of guns in the hands of so many people dramatically reduces the psychic energy liberals need to reach a state of weaponless interconnectedness because, even though the vast majority of people use them for good purposes, they detract from the psychic energy liberals need to help us all achieve the ultimate astral weaponless state.

Liberals know, through retrocognition, what guns can do to people. And if we don't ban guns, then liberals won't be able to imagine all the people living life in peace. And if liberals aren't able to imagine all the people living life in peace, then they will be sucked in to a vortex of depression. And if liberals get sucked into a vortex of depression, they might become self-destructive. And if liberals become self-destructive, they might shoot themselves.

Don't let liberals shoot themselves. Save Piers Morgan. Ban guns. Now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Piers Morgan loses it in debate with gun rights advocate

Last we heard from CNN's Piers Morgan, he was covering the Whitney Houston funeral and trying to figure out this God thing all these Black people were talking about. That was Piers the Confused. But last night, it was Piers the Rabid. He completely lost his composure (in addition to the argument) last night with Larry Pratt, the head of Gun Owners of America, when, after accusing Pratt of not offering arguments (which he clearly was), he then started calling Pratt names, and telling him he was "dangerous."

At the end of the interview, he gave the unflappable Pratt a parting insult, and Pratt simply smiled and congratulated Piers on his substantive contributions to the discussion, at which point Piers went off again.

The media has now painted its face and is on the warpath against guns--and completely ignoring its own contribution to violence in America caused by violent movies, television programming, and video games.

Piers, of course, had nothing to say about these.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: God addresses the Connecticut school shootings

*** BNN Report Transcript***

Blanderson Stupor: Thank you for joining us for BNN's continuing coverage of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut [BNN=Blithering News Network]. When 26 people were killed last week by a gunman in a Connecticut elementary school, observers began asking questions: Why would someone do this to innocent people? How could this happen in today's world? What is the meaning of evil? How can we make sense of all this?

State and national public officials wasted no time in trying to comfort the survivors. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy addressed a memorial service, calling for the community to come together, and a visibly emotional President Barack Obama held an impromptu press conference in which he spoke of the grief he felt for the families of the victims. But the key questions remain unanswered.

In all of the discussion following the shooting, one voice has been notably silent: God's.

But in a rare public appearance, the Supreme Being is finally offering comment on the tragic events of last week. We join the press conference in progress, as God, apparently in the guise of a whirlwind, answers a demand by one member of the press corp on how he can allow bad things to happen to innocent people:

[See further discussion below the quote]
Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it?
Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;
When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?
When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it,
And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors,
And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?
Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, that the wicked might be shaken out of it?
It is turned as clay to the seal; and they stand as a garment.
And from the wicked their light is withholden, and the high arm shall be broken.
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea? or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth? declare if thou knowest it all.
Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,
That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, and that thou shouldest know the paths to the house thereof?
Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?
Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,
Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?
By what way is the light parted, which scattereth the east wind upon the earth?
Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder;
To cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness, wherein there is no man;
To satisfy the desolate and waste ground; and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? ...
Blanderson: We're going to cut away from God's remarks at this point and see if we can talk with Rolf Schlitzer who is standing in the pressroom. Rolf, what do see there among the press corp as the Deity is talking?

Rolf Schlitzer: It's quite remarkable Blanderson: The Divinity is clearly trying to put these events in some kind of larger context, and seems extremely impatient with the idea that there is any kind of simple answer to this tragedy. But I must say that many of my colleagues here do seem a little taken aback by the tone of the remarks. We are seeing none of the sentimentality we saw in earlier remarks by Gov. Malloy and President Obama. Both officials were visibly emotional as they addressed this unspeakable tragedy in their remarks, but God appears unfazed, as if He has seen all of this before. It's the demeanor of a man ... er rather, of a deity, who seems confident that everything is under control. Although I will say that His remarks were not completely devoid of emotion. In fact, when one reporter asked whether He thought the killer's violent behavior might have been the result of psychological problems, he was met with the whirlwind equivalent of a very icy stare. In fact, it is the only icy stare I have ever seen which was accompanied by actual icicles.

Blanderson: Rolf, just viewing this from here in the studio His tone seems almost petulant. Are you getting the same impression there in the gallery? And He doesn't seem to be offering any answers to the questions. Do you think there will be some disappointment with the lack of answers being offered here?

Rolf: Blanderson, it seems almost as if He is trying to communicate that he is not an object to be questioned, but that He Himself is The Ultimate Subject, which, as you can imagine, makes a press conference quite difficult. It's as if He's pointing out how utterly ignorant His audience is, and asking how, given their ignorance of the reasons for things much less mysterious than the problem of evil (He mentioned their inability to balance a federal budget as an example), they could possibly understand a mystery like this one. In fact, you get the distinct impression that He would like his audience to go away from all this with more questions than they had before.

Blanderson: That's a risky approach, isn't it? I mean a lot of people think that God has the answer to these questions and that He has some kind of obligation to reveal them to us mortals. Are you getting any sense that He feels any kind of obligation to give any answers at all?

Rolf: I'm not sensing that there is any feeling that He owes anybody anything, Blanderson. It's almost as if He feels like, since He created the world, and man along with it, that the obligation is very much in the other direction.

Blanderson: Rolf, back to your comment about how these comments might be received, it does seem that remarks like these are not designed to necessarily play well with the public. In fact, our viewers who were watching the graph at the bottom of the screen during part of God's remarks of the instant response of our focus group of people who are undecided about religion, it really didn't look good for God. Do you think this could be a problem for Him?

Rolf: Blanderson, I got a chance to talk with one of His staffers a few minutes ago and asked how these remarks might affect God's standing in the polls, particularly among the religiously undecideds, and he told me that it wasn't something they were terribly concerned about, since the position of Maker and Sustainer of the Universe was not an elected position. And when I brought up the significance of lower approval ratings among agnostics in our focus group, the staffer simply remarked that, in their staff discussions about members of focus groups of undecideds on any issue, the matter of "downward trajectory" had been discussed, but in a slightly different context. He wouldn't say, however, what conclusions they had come to.

Blanderson: I see. What about any policy prescriptions? Has the Supreme Being taken a position on gun control?

Rolf: Yes, well when I brought that up with a second staffer, he told me that He felt that there were a lot of things that humans could exert better control over (he specifically mentioned certain bodily organs, which it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss on the air). But on the specific issue of what could be done about violence, he said that their own historical research had shown that one weapon was easily substituted for another. He said that a lot of damage could be done with just a couple of pieces of wood and a few nails. In fact, that seemed to be a particular sore spot.

Blanderson: Alright, well, we'll be back with Rolf, reporting from the Vatican press room, in just a moment.

Pope Benedict's new book

When I read the first volume of Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth, I was stunned by how good it was. I had read a couple things by the former Cardinal Ratzinger, and they were excellent, but I was still not expecting his book on Jesus to be as great as it was. I have read a lot of Bible commentaries in my time, but I was stunned by how many observations were contained in the book that I had never run across before. Part of that is due, I am sure, to the fact that his education is in the continental European tradition: he simply has read people we in the Anglo world have never read. We Anglos are, unfortunately, a little inbred when it comes to our theological (and any other kind of) intellectual knowledge.

Here is a part of Anthony Esolen's review of the new volume in today's Wall Street Journal:

Imagine touring the Sistine Chapel with someone who has done more than merely read some learned commentary on the paintings of Michelangelo. He has looked at them, pondered them, loved them, even waited upon them to reveal their inner harmony, and now he seeks to hand on to you what he has found. Imagine listening to a master organist, not playing the whole St. Matthew Passion but showing you, as he touches a chord here and makes a progression there, some hint of the grandeur of Bach's composition that you might miss in the overwhelming storm of its performance. Then you have an idea of what Pope Benedict XVI has attempted in his three-volume work on the life of Jesus, but most humbly and sweetly in the "Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives."

Read more here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

People in Newtown, Connecticut flock to ... grief counselors?

Friends and families of the victims in the Connecticut school shootings flocked to psychologists and other mental health professionals seeking comfort and solace in the hours after the news of the deaths came. Mental health clinics were mobbed with the people and lines extended out the doors as people sought answers to questions like "Why did this happen?"; "What does it all mean?"; and "How can a loving God let evil happen?"

Additional mental health professionals had to be bused in in order to meet the demands of hundreds of people ...

No, wait. I might have gotten this all wrong. Hang on a second while I check something ...

Well, gosh. It turns out that it was churches people were flocking to for comfort and solace. While the media flocked to the grief counselors, and the grief counselors flocked to the people, the people themselves flocked to churches.


There is Faith for a Reason:Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy's speech on the Newtown school shootings

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy gave the following address Friday at the community vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Newtown:

Good evening, everyone. Monsignor, thank you very much for opening this very beautiful church so that we might in a communal way find solace and one another as a result of the unspeakable having occurred in this community. People's children, brothers and sisters, were taken from them. People's spouses. Those teachers and administrators, were taken from us.

Yet we stand in a church and many of us today, in the coming days, will rely upon that which we have been taught and that which we inherently believe that there is faith for a reason and that faith itself is God's gift to all of you. In these times of troubles and travails, when the unthinkable happens in our very midst, our faith is tested. Not just in the religious sense, not just necessarily our faith in God, but our faith in community, in who we are, in what we collectively offer.

And it's in so many ways, permissible to have those thoughts and those doubts about who we are and what we are and what community represents, but then we turn to understand as we turn around this room and recognize our friends and our neighbors. Those we have done things for, and those who have done things for us. This is a great and beautiful community located in a great and beautiful state in a great and beautiful nation. In the coming days and in the coming weeks, I will pray that you all embrace one another. That you lift one another up. That you understand the difficulties that you collectively will undergo.

Keep in your prayers the children who lost their lives today. Keep in your prayers the adults who lost their lives today. Understand that a test is just that. That which we rise to and answer and respond to. In the coming days as many of us prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, understand that that, too, will bring sorrow as we think about these instances that have happened so close to those days. And that too, will pass and be overcome.

And all of our prayers and the prayers and hopes of all of the public officials who have assembled here today and in the presence of your great select person, I bring and extend the condolences of the entirety of this state to you, the members of this community. May God bless you. May God bless our children who are with us today and those who were taken away. And may God bless the adults who lost their lives today. Thank you.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why traumatized adults need child grief counselors

Every time a tragedy strikes, particularly one that involves children, we go into long soliloquies about all the things we need to do to help children deal with their grief. Any time, for example, that there is any kind of school violence, we call in "grief counselors." 

But it is adults, not children, whose moral paradigms make it hard for them to make sense of tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.

One of the things you notice about children is that they deal with good and evil very simply. When they are introduced to someone new--whether in real life or in a book, the first thing they ask is, "Is he good or bad?" Once you have answered that question, the rest is easy: Good people do good things and bad people do bad things.

It makes complete sense. The problem is that our cultural authorities have abandoned a common sense view of good and evil and embraced instead a welter of confused beliefs about morality. Psychology, which means "the study of the soul," no longer acknowledges a soul. And philosophy, which means "the love of wisdom," no longer acknowledges wisdom. These are disciplines which, unfortunately, have cut themselves off from doing the very things they were invented to do.

And if you add to that the fact that we have an entertainment industry that no longer acknowledges virtue and heroism, and gives us one anti-hero after another, you have a complete recipe for moral confusion. If you wonder why so many people in this world are so screwed up, don't bother asking a sociologist. All you have to do is watch one episode of Dexter or Breaking Bad.

Most adults are morally confused, but most children are not--at least not until they are initiated into adult moral confusion at places like public schools. In fact, in all of the expressions of concern by the media and by politicians about the fate of children involved in these things, it often seems like the adults who are traumatized, at least if their inability to make moral sense of the situation is any indication.

Although I will have to say that the politicians so far have done rather well. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and President Barack Obama said all the right things. It was the media that performed its customary job of being morally obtuse. And pretty soon the politicians will descend into moral confusion too, as soon as they start talking about how the answer to the school shootings is gun control, despite the fact that Connecticut has among the nation's most stringent gun control laws. In fact, they're already doing it.

What I would like to see is a small army of competent children whose job it is in circumstances like the one that occurred Friday to sit all the professionals down who are always called in to give advice in these situations and make sure these adults are thinking about things properly.

I'm thinking of a scenario such as the following:
CHILD COUNSELOR: Now could you tell me how you're feeling right now? What do you think about the shooter who killed those people at the school?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: I don't know. What do you think?
CHILD COUNSELOR: Look, cut the crap, buster. Just give me a straight answer.
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Well, it's terribly complicated. I mean, there is still so much we don't know about the shooter: What he was thinking at the time, what his childhood was like, what kind of relationship he had with his parents.
CHILD COUNSELOR: At what point in your life did you start feeling like you had to complicate fairly simple situations like this one? Nevermind. I'm going to show you a series of pictures and I want you to tell me the first thing that comes into your mind:
[Child shows adult picture of doll]
[Child shows adult picture of monster]
[Child shows adult picture of children in classroom]
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Dangerous place.
CHILD COUNSELOR: I said "word." That means one. Pay attention!
[child shows adult picture of Sigmund Freud]
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: [tearing up, lower lip quivering] ... Father!
CHILD COUNSELOR: I think I see the problem. [Child attaches electrodes to adult's wrists] Now, answer these questions please: What do good people do, and what do bad people do?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Well, it depends on what you mean by "good" and "bad" ...
[Child presses button, causing adult to seize up in electricity-induced convulsions]
CHILD COUNSELOR: Now let's try that again: What do good people do, and what do bad people do?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: [Paying much more careful attention now] Uh, well, good people [He looks fearfully at the button near the child's hand] ... good people ... [He looks at child's lips, which are forming the words of the right answer] ... good people do ... Good people do good things!
CHILD COUNSELOR: And bad people?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Bad people ... bad people ... [Child mouths correct answer] ... Do bad things!
CHILD COUNSELOR: Very good. Now tell me this: How do we know good people from bad people?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Uh, well, its hard to divide people into neat categories ... [Sees child's finger moving toward button] I mean, I mean, we know good people because, [beads of sweat form on adult's brow] ... because, Because they do good things!
CHILD COUNSELOR: And how do we know bad people?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Because they do bad things!
CHILD COUNSELOR: Very good. [Child removes electrodes from adult's wrists, adult clearly relieved] So when someone walks into a school and shoots people, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
GRIEF PROFESSIONAL: Definitely a bad thing.
CHILD COUNSELOR: And so when someone ask us why the man did this, what is the first answer we should give?
GRIEF COUNSELOR: Uh, because ... because ... Because he was a bad man!
CHILD COUNSELOR: Very good. You've made excellent progress. And now our time's up.
GRIEF COUNSELOR: [stands up, nervously] Thank you so much. Can I go now?
CHILD COUNSELOR: Yes, you can go now. When would you like to schedule your next appointment?
GRIEF COUNSELOR: [Slowly backing toward the door as he talks] Um, how about if I just get back to you?
[Adult turns around, grabs the door knob, and goes quickly out. Child hears several doors open and close, and then the sound of someone sprinting down the sidewalk outside]
MOTHER: [voice coming from another room] Yes dear!
CHILD COUNSELOR: Can we go get some ice cream now?!
MOTHER: Yes dear. [she says, walking in the room] I'll go get my coat.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Was the Connecticut school shooting "evil"?

No sooner do you dispose of something than you realize how badly you need it.

There are very few times we trot out the word "evil" anymore. You get the impression we are supposed to have outgrown it or something. But while some people think we have outgrown the word "evil," evidence is still coming in that we haven't outgrown the reality.

Today's school shooting in Connecticut can be added to the long and growing list of such events that force us to resort to what we otherwise think of as linguistic anachronisms. "Evil," said Gov. Dan Malloy, "visited this community today."

When we go shopping for words to describe what the man who perpetrated the shooting did, none seem to quite fit—except one: "evil."

Using a word like this would almost make you think that what the man who mowed down 26 people, 20 of them children, was ... wrong—another word we try to avoid but find ourselves coming back to again and again.

Words like this don't fit in with our modern worldview. We now have scientific ways of thinking about these things. Our behavior, we are told, is merely the result of the previous state of our brain, affected by things like how we were raised—things that are out of our control. "Free will is an illusion," says atheist Sam Harris in his recent book Free Will:
Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control. We do not have the freedom we thing we have.
Harris himself draws the obvious conclusion: people cannot be held responsible for what they do, at least not in any sense in which we have traditionally thought such a thing.

Under the modern secularist view, words like "evil" and "wrong" simply make no sense. They are relics of our religious past, when we were under the sway of the superstitious idea that there were objective moral standards in light of which human actions could be judged as being good.

Or not.

They belong to a mindset that may have made sense before the onset of neuroscience and psychology, but which now has been rendered meaningless. A person's action can't be evil when we can explain it in purely therapeutic terms—as being the result of a faulty synapse in the brain, or a bad childhood.

Yet here we are, blowing the dust off of these hoary old terms. And the funny thing is they seem to work pretty well to capture the moment. It makes you kind of question the beliefs that caused us to put them into mothballs in the first place, doesn't it?

Britain flush with Jedi Knights

According to Tim Stanley, Christianity is on the wane in Britain. At the same time, 176,632 people now identify themselves as Jedi Knights.

I'm thinking this may be further proof that, as Chesterton said, "With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it."

The Fading of Christianity in Britain: A Lament

Tim Stanley, of the Telegraph, on what throwing Christianity overboard could mean to England:
A couple of thousand years ago, these islands were populated by wild men who painted themselves blue and read their fortunes in the entrails of birds. Then we were Celtic Christians, then Catholics, then Protestants, then a colourful mix of social gospels and now, today, a nation of agnostics who scoff at virgin births yet read horoscopes in vain search for a tall dark man ...
Read more here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Difference between Traditional and Modern Logic and the Difference it Makes

This is the first two pages or so of a 20 page essay I wrote some years ago. I've gone back to it several times, realizing it needed more work. I am going to use the recent article by Peter Kreeft in Touchstone Magazine and the recent response at First Thoughts as an excuse to go ahead and start posting it in pieces here to give me an excuse to finish it. It is still in draft form and parts of it clearly need more work, but what I'll publish here is at least approaching some kind of finished form.

I am often asked why, as a logic teacher, I teach traditional logic rather than the modern system of logic, which is much more common today.  I would like to answer this question by explaining what traditional logic is and how it differs from modern logic.

In analyzing the differences between traditional and modern logic, we will discuss the assumptions behind the two systems, the structure of the systems and their competing purposes.  As we do this, we should be aware that, for the most part, the nature of these differences is not disputed by the chief proponents of either system.  In other words, both traditional and modern logicians agree that these are in fact the differences: their only disagreement has to do with the extent of the differences and the merit of the respective systems.

What is Traditional Logic?
Traditional logic is the system of logic originally formulated by Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, in the fourth century B. C.  It was taken up by the great Christian thinkers of the Middle Ages, who simplified its structure and formalized the methods of teaching it to students.

Traditional logic involves mostly the study of the classical syllogism.  Here is a classic example of a simple syllogism, which we will use shortly as a way to see how the two systems of traditional and modern logic are different:
All men are mortal
Socrates is a man
Therefore, Socrates is mortal
Traditional logic has also been called “term logic,” since it deals primarily (but not exclusively) with the relation of terms in an argument (in this case, the terms man, mortal, and Socrates). Whether the reasoning is valid depends on the proper arrangement of these terms in an argument.

It wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that Aristotle’s system of traditional logic fell on hard times.  Beginning in the Enlightenment, the influence of scientific materialism grew tremendously.  Because of the incredible technological progress made possible by the sciences, the quantitative methods of science came eventually to be seen as an intellectual elixir, applicable to any and all intellectual disciplines.  The whole discipline of philosophy changed, beginning with William of Ockham, and continuing on into the radical rationalism of Descartes and the radical empiricism of Francis Bacon—the two intellectual traditions that still constitute the two basic impulses of the modern mind.

Traditional logic appealed to Medieval thinkers not only because it was based on Aristotelian metaphysical assumptions (not a big surprise since it was Aristotle who developed it in the first place), but also because of its uses in the determination of Christian truth. It was displaced by modern mathematical logic for two reasons: first, because of the rejection by modern philosophers of certain traditional assumptions about meaning and reality—assumptions that affect the entire system of logic; and second, because modern philosophers were looking for a way to make a science out of human reasoning—a way to completely capture the intricacies of human statements in a formal “scientific” system.

The chief actors in the drama that produced modern logic were Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Frege, partly through his unsuccessful effort to show that mathematics was reducible to logic, developed a method of quantifying thoughts and inferences in a system of symbols. Russell and Whitehead took the basic conceptual framework of Frege’s symbolic system and used it to develop a full-fledged system of symbolic logic in their book, Principia Mathematica, the purpose of which, like Frege’s work, was to prove that mathematics was an extension of logic, but the most influential aspect of which was its system of logic. Wittgenstein both influenced and was influenced by Russell, and many of his ideas affected the Principia. Wittgenstein is reputed to have invented the truth tables that have become an essential fixture of modern logic.

The Differences Between Traditional and Modern Logic
The first thing to note about the differences between traditional and modern logic is that they are indeed different.  Although most modern logicians see the differences as differences in degree, they still consider these differences significant.  Irving Copi, the author of one widely used college logic text, does not reject the traditional system, but he does see the two systems as being very different:

Although the difference in this respect between modern and classical logic is not one of kind but of degree the difference in degree is tremendous.” [Introduction to Logic, 3rd Ed., 1968, Irving Copi, p. 212]

To the traditional logician, the difference goes even deeper:

“Aristotelian logic and symbolic logic,” says Edward Simmons, “are radically distinct disciplines.” [The Scientific Art of Logic: An Introduction to the Principles of Formal and Material Logic, 1961, Edward D. Simmons, p. 322]

Jacques Maritain, a traditional logician who referred to modern symbolic logic as “logistics,” put it this way:
Logistics differs essentially from Logic … Logistics and logic remain separate disciplines, entirely foreign to one another. (emphasis in the original)
Many traditional logicians, in fact, reject much of modern logic as mistaken.  Maritain, in fact, goes so far as to argue that modern logic is not logic at all.  This favor is returned by some modern logicians.  Traditional logic, says Bertrand Russell, one of the founders of the modern system, “is as definitely antiquated as Ptolemaic astronomy.” [Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), p. 195].  Anyone wanting to know Russell’s view of Aristotelian logic will find it at the end of his chapter on Aristotle in this book:
I conclude that the Aristotelian doctrines with which we have been concerned in this chapter are wholly false, with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant.  Any person in the present day who wishes to learn logic will be wasting his time if he reads Aristotle or any of his disciples. [Russell, p. 202]
So there.

In short, some of the most important traditional and modern logicians agree that the systems are different, and some advocates of the respective systems reject, in whole or in part, the opposing system.

As we mentioned above, the two systems differ in three respects:  First, the assumptions behind the two systems are different.  Second, the format or structure of the two systems is different.  Third, the respective purposes of the two systems are different.  In all three cases—in the assumptions, structure, and the purpose—the traditional system reflects traditional views, and the modern system reflects modern views about reality. Each system is based on a different metaphysic.

To be continued ...

UPDATE: Although I am still in the process of finishing the line of thought started in this post, I have posted another related article on the issue of why traditional logic does not employ truth tables that should be of interest to those interested in this article: here

Same-sex marriage, crotch-grabbing, and Glenn Beck

I heard about Glenn Beck caving on the issue of same-sex marriage at the very moment that I was pondering a news report saying that, at his recent concerts, Justin Bieber had begun to grab his crotch. I began to wonder if this was entirely a coincidence and, after a moment's reflection, decided that it was not.

Beck's change of position on same-sex marriage is the political equivalent of grabbing your crotch: It has immediate news appeal, it gives the impression that you are culturally relevant, and it communicates to your admirers that you have moved on from something--in Justin's case, boyish innocence; in Beck's case, conservatism.

Now I admit that the mental image of Glenn Beck grabbing his crotch is not a pleasant one. But it is necessary in order to fully comprehend the imbecility of his change of position.

I should first point out that the words "Glenn" and "Beck," in close conjunction, have been banned on this blog until this post--and after I finish it, the ban will go back into effect. I have never been able to watch the man. Not even for a moment.

Once, a couple of years ago, I was waiting to see a legislator in a Republican office at the State Capitol and they had Fox News on the office monitor and I had to sit there and listen to him for about half an hour. I was tempted to just get up and leave before I went into some kind of convulsions. It would have been bad if the legislator I was waiting to see came out and found me in the fetal position, quivering and in a cold sweat, right there in the waiting room, Beck's voice blaring from the monitor.

Anyway, what I was originally going to say about Justin--before my son sent me the link for the Beck story-- was that when my boys were young and they danced around holding their crotch, we would tell them to stop holding their crotch and go use the bathroom. And that I hoped Justin's mom would just suddenly show up at one of his concerts, walk out onstage in mid-crotch grab, and yell, for all the crowd to hear: "Stop holding your crotch and go use the bathroom!"

Beck is, at this very moment, in mid-political crotch grab. Where's his mom? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Traditional vs. Modern Logic: A short response to William Randolf Brafford's response to Peter Kreeft

I am going to post an article tomorrow that I worked on a few years ago on the differences between the traditional Aristotelian system of logic that I use in my logic texts (and which is still used at many Catholic schools) and the modern system that is emphasized in most college logic courses today. 

In the meantime, here is a response I wrote to William Randolf Brafford, who wrote an article at First Thoughts as a response to Peter Kreeft who has an article in the newest issue of Touchstone Magazine called, "Clashing Symbols: The Loss of Aristotelian Logic; the Social, Moral & Sexual Consequences." I haven't read the Kreeft article because it is available only to subscribers and I haven't gotten my magazine yet. 

It would probably help if Mr. Brafford read some of the literature from the Aristotelian perspective on this, particularly the work of Henry Veatch. I recommend Two Logics, Intentional Logic, and Logic as a Human Instrument.

The most obvious difference is that symbolic logic assumes without warrant that existential import for particular (but not universal) propositions. The result of just these two assumptions is that five of the traditional 19 valid categorical syllogism forms are rendered invalid, and the "square of opposition" becomes the "cross of opposition," since three of the four kinds of opposition are eliminated. This assumption is embedded in Venn Diagrams commonly used in logic courses.

Another big difference is that, in symbolic logic, all statements are considered truth conditional when they clearly are not. This was one of the reasons why Wittgenstein, who devised the system of truth tables, later repudiated them. In fact, two of the principals involved in the Principia Mathematica (from which virtually all modern symbolic logic derives) later repudiated the project--Wittgenstein and Alfred North Whitehead. Russell stayed with it, and was not nearly so sanguine as Brafford about the two systems being consistent.

"I conclude that the Aristotelian doctrines with which we have been concerned in this chapter are wholly false," he says, in his history of Western philosophy, "with the exception of the formal theory of the syllogism, which is unimportant."

On the other side, Jacques Maritain said, "Logistics [which is what he calls modern symbolic logic] and logic remain separate disciplines, entirely foreign to one another."

Brafford says that it must have been possible for nominalists to use Aristotelian logic since nominalism goes back to the 1300s and modern logic does come along until about the turn of the 20th century. That ignores the fact that there was quite a bit of discomfort with a system of logic that philosophers knew was based on Aristotelian metaphysics. The problem was there simply wasn't any alternative until Frege and Boole began to develop the rudiments of the modern system, a system that was brought to fruition by Bertrand Russell, Whitehead, and Wittgenstein. This was one of the reasons that the then mostly logical positivist (and by implication nominalist) philosophical establishment immediately seized upon it.

To borrow a phrase from Richard Dawkins, the modern system made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied positivist.

William Barrett has perhaps the best popular account of how all this went down in his Illusion of Technique. Veatch challenged the academic establishment on its almost exclusive emphasis on symbolic logic and as far as I can find in the journals, no one ever responded to him. I asked Kreeft about this one time and he said that, to his knowledge, no one ever did.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why it's okay to talk about Kate Middleton's pregnancy (or anything else about her)

The fashionable thing to say about the interest in Kate Middleton's pregnancy is that it is some kind of unhealthy obsession. Well, okay, too much of it would be an obsession. But the thinking seems to be that any interest in Kate Middleton's pregnancy or Kate Middleton or the royals at all is somehow misdirected.

The reason, apparently, is that the royals don't deserve the attention. Okay. Fine. So all the other people with whom the public is obsessed are?

Why are so many people interested in the doings of the royals? My own theory is that people have a deep-seated need to believe in a class system. They really want to believe that some people (societally speaking) are better than others: that there should be stations in life.

That's why we Americans—who pride ourselves on our egalitarianism—keep coming up with surrogate royalty. Instead of placing a class of nobility in a higher social station (the old European system), we substitute the rich, Hollywood celebrities, or the powerful. Rather than ancestry, we substitute wealth, fame, or power as the criteria for our own form of aristocracy.

Just listen to people talk about the Koch brothers or Warren Buffett or Bill Gates. Or Jennifer Lopez or Oprah Winfrey or Lady Gaga. And just listen to liberals talk (in reverent tones) about John F. Kennedy.

We clearly have a need for some kind of aristocratic class to look up to, and when I hear people criticize the royals (for anything other than their misbehavior--a criticism that assumes what it is trying to disprove: namely that royals are supposed to be better than that), I always wonder why wealth and fame and power have anything more to commend themselves in terms of status than who your daddy was--or your granddaddy or your great granddaddy.

The hierarchical metaphysics of classical ages lent authority to the idea of aristocracy. There was a natural place for everything--from physical objects that sought their natural place (a phenomenon now explained by gravity, an explanation no less occult than Aristotle's), to people who, however equal in the sight of God, had a natural place in society.

We could say that modern people whose metaphysic is thoroughly nominalistic are perfectly consistent in their rejection of aristocracy if it weren't for their de facto acknowledgement of it when they substitute for it the higher caste of money, celebrity and political position. But there are also those who hold to a more classical ontology who (as T. S. Eliot did) should accept a class system de jure and yet reject it. Their position seems to me even more problematic. How do you accept the existence of hierarchy in everything but human society?

In fact, why shouldn't ancestry be more deserving of reverence than these other things? Who your family is tells us much more about your character than how much money you have, or how many people know who you are, or how many other people will do what you tell them to do. I'd have far more regard for someone who had "come from a good family" than for someone who had a large bank account or who had a popular TV show or who held a high political position.

I haven't been paying much attention to Kate Middleton so far. But I think I just convinced myself I ought to.

Why people don't pull over for funeral processions anymore

I remember when I moved from California to rural Kentucky some 30 years ago. Not long after arriving, I was driving along a country road and all of a sudden everyone pulled over to the shoulder. Not knowing why, I just did it too. Soon a funeral procession passed by. "Oh wow," I thought in my still Californian brain. "That is so cool."

I had never seen anybody do this, but here in small town America, it still happens. Not so in many other places, as George Neumayr explains:
The British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge saw all this coming. When he visited America in the 20th century, he noticed the "extraordinary efforts made, linguistically and in every other way, to keep death out of sight and mind." He spent a month in Florida at Sunshine Haven, a retirement home where the residents were expected to behave like teenagers, "perfectly capable of disporting ourselves on the dance floor, the beach, or even in bed."
Read more here.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

More evidence of crisis of mentally fragile atheists

We have reported before on this blog about the weakening mental fortitude of many contemporary atheists, who are apparently so weakly constituted that the have a mental breakdown when confronted with religion. Christians don't seem to be any the worse for the fact that they have to live in an increasingly secular culture, but atheists, on the other hand, seem to have become so psychologically tender (perhaps through intellectual inbreeding), that they cannot seem to handle the mere mention of religion.

Last we heard, an atheist group was suing the state of Kentucky for having mention of the word "God" in its Homeland Security law, claiming it caused them "mental pain and anguish."

The most recent case of athiests is that of an atheist at West Point who has resigned from the school because it was too religious there. Even though West Point does not mandate any kind of religious activities, Blake Page claims it does. But it appears that he just doesn't like the fact that so many of the students there were religious and disagreed with him. At least the story in the Lexington Herald-Leader doesn't mention anything much more than this.

Worse still the ... Foundation is calling Blake's act of running away from those mean ol' religious people who don't believe like he does an "act of sacrifice." Ironically, Page's "act of sacrifice" came "after he was notified he would not be commissioned in the Army because of a medical issue related to clinical depression."

"Act of sacrifice." Mmhmm.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: They just don't make atheists like they use to.

When Alfred Hitchcock returned to the Catholic Church

At least one Hitchcock biographer claims that Hitchcock "rejected suggestions that he allow a priest . . . to come for a visit, or celebrate a quiet, informal ritual at the house for his comfort." Here's the real story, from a guy who was there:
After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the living room through a breezeway to his study, and there, with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts, "The Birds," "Psycho," "North by Northwest" and others—a great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.
Read the rest here.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Folly of Scientism

My friend Mike Janocik pointed me to this article in the New Atlantis on scientism:
When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. This attitude was attractive precisely because it stood in sharp contrast to the arrogance of the philosophers of the positivist tradition, who claimed for science and its practitioners a broad authority with which many practicing scientists themselves were uncomfortable.  
The temptation to overreach, however, seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth. And this attitude is becoming more widespread among scientists themselves. All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects. 
 Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I will be speaking in Wichita in January

I will be speaking at the 8th Day Institute's 2013 Conference in Wichita, Kansas on January 24-26, 2013. The theme is "Dostoevsky: The Divine & the Demonic." My main talk is titled, "Dostoevsky or Tolstoy," and my breakout session talk is called, "Who killed Anna Karenina: Tolstoy or Hollywood?"

If you're near Wichita, stop in and see me.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Zoophobia in Germany

Last week, Germany banned bestiality (after legalizing it in 1969) because it is cruel to animals. As Eugene Kontorovich points out, this is clearly an example of the government is staying out of people's bedrooms--and getting into their barnyards. This is clearly a case, he points out, of zoophobia.

I am expecting Europeans to start wearing beanie hats any time now as a sartorial expression of their moral seriousness.

You gotta love liberals

Did the Virgin Birth happen?

Okay, so I am having this discussion in the comments section of a previous post about the Virgin Birth of Christ with "Singring," one of our resident skeptics (we keep a few here as pets). Now when you utter the expression "Virgin Birth" to a skeptic, they react like a vampire who has been shown a cross: they half cover their face with their red cape, cringe, foam at the mouth, and scowl, saying, "I vill refute zis vile beleef!"

Singring, who worships at the altar of empirical science, is very practiced at this routine.

In any case, this being the Advent season and all, I thought the discussion relevant enough to bring out on the main page for discussion. I thought we could address each particular topic, one at a time. I might even split up the posts to dedicate one to each topic to make it a little more manageable.

The discussion started when Singring said, "So are you saying that you, as a Christian, believe in the virgin birth? You believe that a woman who never had sex was impregnated miraculously by God?"

To which I answered: "Precisely," this belief having been a fundamental part of the Christian Creed since, oh, I don't know, about the 4th century. But this belief, it turns out, is at odds with the secular creed, which proclaims ".. and was NOT incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, since we believe, on the basis of a metaphysical principle which we deny having, that miracles cannot happen ..."

And at this point of course, Singring went into his vampire routine.

Now he has come forth with is first set of actual arguments, which, to give him credit, he usually does after the first shock of hearing somebody actually say that they believe something that people, not sharing his metaphysical presuppositions, have, in fact, believed for thousands of years (and which hundreds of millions, if not billions, still do today).

If you want to see all his arguments, you can go to the comments section of the post. But we'll take them all up eventually. But for the time being lets address his first one. Here it is:
The documents we have containing this testimony (empirical evidence) clearly indicate that the authors lived dozens of years after the death of Jesus and did not even speak his language. They were Greeks and certainly were not direct eye-witnesses to the events. It is highly doubtful they even had contact with any actual eye-witnesses.
It would be interesting to apply this to all historical documents to see what we get. In fact, one wonders how many historical events we currently take for granted that we will now have to call into question, since many (if not most) are based on writings written by people who lived not only dozens of years after the events they relate, but hundreds--and didn't witness the events they relate and didn't even have contact with any witnesses--not to mention not speaking the language they speak.

As it happens, the New Testament documents have less of a problem in these areas than just about any other ancient documents. The number of manuscripts, their historical proximity to the events--and the access to witnesses is better than just about any document of ancient history.

If we can't accept the reliability of the New Testament documents, then we're going to have to dump most of what we know about the ancient world.

Go Singring.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What is science for?

It will undoubtedly prove controversial to say that our approach to science ought to take account of what nature is.

Unfortunately, we live in a time in which the nature of nature has become a topic of dispute, and much of the scientific establishment seems to think that nature can be considered and taught in a way that takes no account of its fundamental ..., well, nature.

In fact, one of the chief problems in discussing science is the equivocal use of the word "nature." To modern thinkers, the word "nature" is merely a reference the cosmos as a whole. It is the sum total or aggregate of all physical objects. But to classical thinkers, the primary meaning of the word "nature" had to to do with the intrinsic order and purpose of things.

The poet Alexander Pope once wrote:
Nature and nature's laws lay hid by night;
God said, "Let Newton be," and all was light.
Here, the word "nature" is used very much on its modern sense. The classical use of the word, however, can be illustrated from a nursery rhyme:
Dogs delight to bark and bite ...
For 'tis their nature to.
Here the word "nature" is used in the classical sense, to mean the inner essence of a thing.

To modern thinkers, the world is like a machine. We live in the wake of the so-called "scientific revolution," which introduced the view that nature was a giant mechanism ultimately reducible to lifeless atoms. In this view, the things of nature have no real essence or purpose, since what they fundamentally are is a collection of dead particles. Natural objects are the particles they can be reduced to, and that is all they are.

To classical thinkers—whether Christian or non-Christian—this was not so. Nature was not a machine; it was an organism. The universe was, in a sense, alive.

In the old view, science was a study of the causes of things, and they believed there were four causes: formal, material, efficient, and final. A formal cause was the metaphysical pattern of a thing. A material cause was what it was composed of. An efficient cause was what brought the thing about or kept it in existence. And the final cause was what it was for, its telos.

In the classical Christian view, man was a creature made in the image of God (formal cause) out of flesh and bone (material cause) who was created by his Maker (efficient cause) in order to enjoy and glorify Him forever (final cause).

But beginning in the 17th century, formal and final causes were jettisoned: There was no metaphysical pattern upon which things were designed, or any intrinsic purpose for which they existed—no pattern nor any telos. There was no longer any why or wherefore. Nature was shrunk down to the dimensions of the instruments by which it could be measured. Now there was only the what and the wherewith.

And with the advent of Darwin, the what itself was eliminated. Nothing was what it was, since everything was always in the process of becoming. All that was left was efficient cause.

The object of the old "natural philosophy" was to apprehend nature. Aristotle, for example, practiced science by naming, defining, and classifying. The purpose of what we now call "science" was to behold nature in its fullness. But in the modern view, the whole point of science is to deconstruct nature—to reduce it to its ultimate meaningless components.

In the classical view, the point of science was to apprehend the mystery of the nature; in the modern view, the point of science is eliminate the mystery of nature.

Science begins and ends in wonder, and wonder cannot be had in an approach whose whole purpose is to eliminate it. It can only be accomplished by viewing nature as a mystery we can never resolve, but only marvel at.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Neville Chamberlain School of Republican Strategy

First Things' R. R. Reno, in response to former chairperson of the Republican National Committee Ken Mehlman, on whether the Republican Party should surrender on same-sex marriage:
Same-sex marriage will encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values? We can’t predict the future of culture, and I suppose Mehlman is entitled to his dreams. But a sober-minded observer sees that same-sex marriage puts an exclamation mark on the transformation of marriage and parenting from the basic norm for adult life into one life-style choice among many, one that we can enter and exit as our choices change. There’s nothing about same-sex marriage other than the now redefined word “marriage” that remotely suggests “family values.”
Even more ridiculous is the notion that redefining marriage makes government less intrusive. The notion of civil rights that fuels the push for “marriage equality” requires pumping up the power of the state to bulldoze older traditions and attitudes that stand in the way of the full acceptance and affirmation of homosexuality. It’s going to lead to litigation, regulation, mandated school programs and “inclusivity” seminars, and lots of other legislation. For good and for ill, the civil rights revolution of the 1960s created entire government bureaucracies, which in turn led to corporate diversity consultants and many other positions, all keyed to compliance.
Read the rest here.

Coyne betrays his ignorance of theology. Again.

The biologically intrepid but theologically illiterate Jerry Coyne has a few things to say about Pope Benedict's reaffirmation, in his new book, about the Virgin Birth. Not very intelligent things, mind you, but when has that ever stopped him?

He first takes note of a reference by the Pope to the Holy Spirit being one part of the Trinity, to which he responds:
Note that the Trinity is not an explicit claim of the New Testament, but a doctrine (now ironclad) made up by Church fathers from some questionable references in the New Testament. And it’s not accepted by many Christians (e.g. “Unitarians”, Christian Scientists, and Mormons). Once again, theology has just made something up. But I digress ...
No, the Trinity is not explicit, but nature doesn't exactly announce in explicit terms that operates on evolutionary principles, but Coyne believes that. In the case of the Trinity, the assertions are clear and the inference is straightforward: The person of the Father is God; the person of the Spirit is God; the person of the Son is God; there is only one God; therefore, there are three persons in the one God. You can disagree with it, but you can't coherently quibble with the claims or casually dismiss the inference.

And someone please inform Jerry that the Unitarian, Christian Scientist, and Mormon churches are not exactly your paradigm Christian institutions. They reject every central tenet of the Christian faith. So on what grounds can anyone call them "Christian"? Because they claim to be? Historically, a Christian is someone who can affirm the Nicene Creed. These institutions reject it. This is not theological rocket science.

Does Jerry accept Scientology as science? It claims to be.

Coyne goes bumbling along, asking (on the basis of a report--yahoo being a well-known repository of theological scholarship) why the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are "cornerstones of faith" while the Flood, Adam and Eve, and the parting of the Red Sea are not (answer: for the same reason that systematic circulation of the blood or that photosynthesis converts light into chemical energy or that tides are caused by the Moon are "cornerstones of science"--because, although they are scientific conclusions, they are not determinative of what is science and what isn't); why he accepts creation but does not reject evolution (answer: because not all evolutionary belief is Darwinian); and why he accepts some Biblical truths as literal and some as metaphorical (answer: because some Biblical truths are intended as literal and some are intended as metaphorical).

But I don’t see the Virgin Birth as such an unequivocal truth. Nothing really depends on that tale except the notion that Jesus was an extraordinary (i.e., divine) being. And by holding fast to such a ludicrous doctrine, the Pope is making things tough for his Church, and harder for adherents to accept its doctrine in an age of science.
Naw. Nothing depends on it. Except the central claim of Christianity. That's all.

And as for making things "tough on the Church" because we are in the "age of science," Coyne can't name one discovery of science that makes belief in the Virgin Birth "tough." The Virgin Birth is a miracle, and, as I've pointed out, science, as science, can have exactly nothing to say about it.

Coyne says the Pope has "embarrassed himself." And he didn't even blush when he said it.

Did I mention that the Pope has more knowledge of history and theology (as well as the philosophy of science) in his little fingernail than Coyne has in his whole body?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cutting Edge Culture: Swedes eliminating sex specific pronouns

Every once in a while, I feel a Thoughtcrime coming on. I try to resist it, but it never seems to work. One of the incorrect thoughts that accost me from time to time is thinking that males and females are different. It us just one more piece of evidence that my re-education is still not complete.

It is at times like these that I appreciate reading stories like this one, in the New York Times, about Sweden, where some people are trying to eliminate male and female pronouns. All in the interest, of course, of dealing with the Thoughtcrimes that we are all tempted to commit about, um, our "friends":
STOCKHOLM — At an ocher-color preschool along a lane in Stockholm’s Old Town, the teachers avoid the pronouns “him” and “her,” instead calling their 115 toddlers simply “friends.” Masculine and feminine references are taboo, often replaced by the pronoun “hen,” an artificial and genderless word that most Swedes avoid but is popular in some gay and feminist circles. 
In the little library, with its throw pillows where children sit to be read to, there are few classic fairy tales, like “Cinderella” or “Snow White,” with their heavy male and female stereotypes, but there are many stories that deal with single parents, adopted children or same-sex couples.
Girls are not urged to play with toy kitchens, and wooden or Lego blocks are not considered toys for boys. And when boys hurt themselves, teachers are taught to give them every bit as much comforting as they would girls. Everyone gets to play with dolls; most are anatomically correct, and some are also black.
Yes, it is unfortunate that we must forsake stories like Snow White and the ... Seven Longitudinally Challenged Persons. And one does wonder who Cinderella is now supposed to dance with at the ball. Perhaps we can add a black transvestite drag queen to the story to spice things up a bit.
It is stories like this that hold out for me the hope that someday I too can successfully deny the manifold biological and psychological evidence and not be internally conflicted about it.

I am a little concerned, however, about the "anatomically correct" dolls they are using in these schools. Doesn't this underscore differences between the sexes? In fact, weren't the old Barbies and Kens, which were gender neutral, more "anatomically correct" than anatomically correct dolls? Isn't it the old gender neutral dolls we saw when we were young that provide us with the very image of how people really are? Isn't this one of the psychological props we resort to when these politically incorrect thoughts come upon us?

In fact, isn't the whole "biological" thing kind of dangerous to our political health? I mean, if you think about it, biology itself is one of the most culturally dangerous things we have to deal with, since it is always underscoring gender stereotypes, like things being male and female.

Sweden might want to think about eliminating biology entirely.

I suspect the Swedes will realize their mistake here eventually. The problem is that you will have all those dolls out there who will have to have their anatomy "corrected." I'm having visions of male dolls having their "anatomically correct" genitals lopped off. Maybe they could open up centers where children could take their dolls in to have this done. I mean, as long as they don't circumcise them or anything drastic like that.

I love Sweden.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My article, which the paper titled "For GOP, Wooing Moderates a Self-Destructive Strategy," is in today's Lexington Herald-Leader. Of course, it's not about wooing moderates, its about listening to those in their own party. Oh well.
When one political party wins a national election and the other loses, the best thing for the losing party to do is take a lesson from what the winning party did. But moderates in the Republican Party seem to think it's a great idea to do exactly the opposite.
As soon as the election was over, moderates put the Republican Party on the political couch and began psychoanalyzing it to determine the problem. The advice they are now in the process of giving it is the same advice they have given the Party repeatedly over the last 40 years: Drop the social issues and nominate a moderate.
This, they say, is the key to realizing their electoral potential.
There must be something in the childhood of moderates' that prevents them from learning from their past mistakes--even those in the very recent past. What they should have noticed, but apparently haven't, is that this is exactly what the Republicans did this year and it didn't work.
Read the rest here.

"Bad Advice for Republicans" in Louisville Courier-Journal

My article, "Bad Advice for Republicans," was in yesterday's Louisville Courier-Journal:
As if the loss of the presidential election was not enough, Republicans must now suffer the indignity of being given bad advice.
As soon as the results of the election were in, moderates within the party announced that the problem lay in the party’s conservative position on social issues. The reason the Republicans lost was because of their opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
The people who argue this must not have been watching the same election as the rest of us. They talk as if Mitt Romney ran for president as some sort of crazed socially-conservative radical who wanted gays locked up and women forced to give birth at gunpoint. In fact, the Republicans this year did everything moderates in the party always say they should do: They nominated the least socially conservative legitimate candidate, and they almost completely ignored social issues.
You would think that if the advice of moderates in the party was good, it would actually work. But it clearly didn’t ...
Read the rest here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mitt Romney's disastrous get-out-the-vote failure

Some people will make too much of this (I'm thinking Fox News here), but one of the interesting aspects of last Tuesday's election was the crashing of Mitt Romney's "ORCA," his get-out-the-vote machinery, on election day:
Starting in the early afternoon, reports were coming in from across swing states that ORCA had crashed. That morning, when Shoshanna was on the phone with Boston, she was told the system was crashing, unable to withstand thousands of simultaneous log-ins. The system had never been stress tested and couldn’t handle the crush of traffic all at once. Thousands of man-hours went into designing and implementing a program that was useful on one day and one day only, and on that day, it crashed. My source familiar with the campaign described it this way, “It was a giant [mess] because a political operative sold a broken product with no support or backup plan. Just another arrogant piece of the arrogant Romney campaign.”
It's a fascinating piece. Read the rest here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"Fiscal cliff": A linguistic complaint

If I hear the term "fiscal cliff" on more time, I'm gonna, ... I'm gonna jump off a steep non-financial precipice.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Why Republicans should drop free market economics


TO: Republican Moderates

FROM: The Special Committee to Protect You from Yourselves

SUBJECT: Positions we should abandon in light of last Tuesday's election

In the wake of last Tuesday's loss by Mitt Romney in the presidential election, Republicans need to reassess their core beliefs. They need to take a look at where the nation is going. They need to modernize. Clearly, Obama's win in this week's presidential election tells us that there are certain issues which simply don't play with the American electorate, and the Republican Party needs to listen.

It is time for Republicans to abandon free market economics.

That's right. Romney ran on one thing and one thing only: on free market solutions to the nation's economic problems. He ran on these things and lost. So it is clear that what was repudiated in this election was economic libertarianism.

Okay. Now that you are all riled up by what I  just said, calm down for just a moment. Have you peeled yourself off the ceiling? Good. Alright.

Once your heart rate has returned to normal, I want you to sit back a moment and ponder the argument I just made. Doesn't make any sense at all, does it? In fact it's kind of stupid. Whoever really believes such a thing should have his head examined. No one should abandon his core beliefs on the basis of one election. In fact, if it really is a core belief, a person should keep it no matter what.

As soon as you have pondered the absurdity of this argument against the Party's free market position on economics, think about just how bone-headed you sound when you make arguments like the ones you are now making that the Republican Party needs to abandon its position on social issues.

Many of you are at this very moment engaged in a campaign to convince rank and file Republicans that the answer to their electoral woes is to cut and run on abortion and same-sex marriage. The extent of the absurdity of this argument is hard to fathom, since, in case you didn't notice, if there was anything Romney did not emphasize during this election, it was abortion and traditional marriage.

I don't remember him (or anyone else) saying anything about either of these issues at the Republican National Convention. Nor, with one exception, did either issue ever come up in a debate. Exit poll after exit poll confirmed that Romney got exactly what he wanted: voters going to the polls with unemployment and high food and gas prices on their minds.

This presidential election was about economics. Period.

So if you are going to argue that anything is a losing issue, it's going to have to be free market economics. But for some strange reason, I don't hear any of you arguing that. And ridiculous as that argument obviously is, it is ten times more ridiculous to argue what you actually are arguing: that the pro-life position and the championing of traditional marriage are hurting the party's electoral chances--despite the fact that these positions were not issues the Republicans emphasized in this election.

So go freshen up. Get something cool to drink. And come back tomorrow with recommendations that actually make sense.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Commitment Gap: Mitt Romney and the Republican Party's crisis of values

Republicans trying to figure out what went wrong in Tuesday's election should put down their charts and graphs and visit the graveyard of the idea that they are more politically competitive if they nominate a moderate for president. They will find there a row of gravestones, each bearing the name of a candidate who was thought more likely to win because he was a pragmatist rather than a man of ideas.

The Litany of the Moderate Republican Political Dead includes Gerald Ford (lost to Carter), George Herbert Walker Bush (lost re-election to Clinton), Bob Dole (lost to Clinton), and John McCain (lost to Obama). In each case the party took the advice of those inside and outside who said they had a much better chance of winning without an "ideologue" (read: someone who is serious about ideas) on the ticket. Romney joins this list as only the most recent casualty of the crisis of values in the Republican Party.

Mid-campaign shifts of position, as we saw in Romney's general election campaign, are just symptoms of a deeper problem. The reason Republicans nominate moderates is that they don't have enough confidence in their own most deeply held beliefs—and this is not a technical problem; it is a moral problem.

Romney lost because he did two things that all technocratic pragmatists do: 1) He triangulated on fundamental moral issues and focused exclusively on what we might call "secular" issues: issues on which there is no fundamental disagreement among voters; and 2) He cast himself as a more capable administrator than his opponent.

To a moderate, an election is not about issues, it is about competence. An election is not about what the candidate thinks; it's about what he can do. Moderate pragmatists only want to talk about means, but they do not want to talk about ends. Democrats have the moral confidence to talk about both.

Republicans try to convince Americans that Republicans do agree with Americans; Democrats try to convince Americans that Americans should agree with Democrats.

This is why many Republicans emphasize economics and are squeamish about moral issues: Everyone wants a job, a higher salary, and lower inflation. These are ends about which there is no debate: The only thing at issue is the means by which these things can be brought about. But when you start arguing about whether a fetus is a human being deserving of legal protection, or whether marriage necessarily excludes a man marrying a man or a woman a woman, then all of a sudden you have crossed a line: the line between means and ends.

There is no technocratic calculus by which a moral issue can be resolved, and so it must be minimized, if not ignored altogether.

There is one issue in which these contrasting emphases can both be seen at play. Both parties have been willing to fight openly over the health care issue. But what to the Democrats is a moral issue—an issue about social justice involving fundamental human rights—is to Republicans an economic issue—one about facts and figures and technical feasibility.

The problem with pragmatism is that it isn't very useful—at least not in the political world. With the one exception of Clinton (who stands in a separate Machiavellian category altogether), Democrats don't run pragmatists; they run ideologues—people with an explicit moral agenda. Just look at this year's party conventions: The Republicans talked about who Romney was and what he could do; the Democrats talked about abortion and same sex marriage. The Republican's hid their views on controversial moral issues and lost; the Democrats put them front and center and won.

The irony is that, if you look at polls on these issues, they still slightly favor traditional marriage and the pro-life position. There is no reason for Republicans to run from them and every reason for Democrats to fear invoking them. And yet they do it anyway.

In this year's presidential race the abortion issue raised its head again and again thanks to Republican politicians who, ill-equipped to address it when asked, tripped all over themselves and lost their elections. Two seats in the United States Senate fell into Democratic hands yesterday for one reason and one reason only: the candidates were simply incapable of articulating moral issues.

The difference between the two parties is that there is a depth of moral commitment among Democratic leaders that is lacking among their Republican colleagues. The average Democratic activist will fight and die for nationalized health care, the "right" to abortion, and most of them now will spill blood over the "right" of gays to marry. Although Republicans will argue the economic feasibility of the nationalized health care, when asked about the right to life or traditional marriage you get qualifications a mile long.

Democrats go into battle with the intention to come back with their shield or on it. Republicans too often go into battle with their tails between their legs.

This was evidenced repeatedly throughout the campaign. While spokesmen for the Obama campaign championed the "pro-choice" position unapologetically, whenever a Romney spokesman was asked about the careless remarks of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock—or on Romney's position on Roe v. Wade, they went into prevent defense. They dissimulated on the issue itself and gave all the reasons why Romney's stated position on abortion wouldn't make any practical difference. The "practical" result of this, of course, is that people begin to doubt your sincerity and question the depth of your convictions.

The obvious response on the abortion issue would have been to shoot right back and attack Obama's history of supporting partial birth abortion, a procedure in which a full-term baby is partially delivered and then, through an incision in the back of the head, has its brains sucked out. This is an easy and effective response for a person even moderately competent in basic moral discourse, but for the soulless Republican political operatives now deployed to defend their candidates, it is a form of articulation foreign to them.

Republicans have lost their moral voice. They have tried to occupy what they perceive to be the high ground of abstract economic competency, only to cede the much higher moral ground to their liberal adversaries. They have abandoned what Richard Weaver once called the "Office of Assertion," and have settled into the Seat of Sophistry.

Republicans either need to stand for what they claim to believe in or admit they don't believe in what they claim to stand for—things like the sanctity of life, the integrity of marriage, and larger moral well-being of Americans.

If they take the first course, they will remain a viable political party. If they take the second course, they will not only become politically irrelevant; they will have lost their political soul.