Wednesday, June 26, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: High Court strikes down DOMA, leaves Ky Marriage Amendment intact

LEXINGTON, KY —"The two decisions by the U. S. Supreme Court today had to be a disappointment for those who are seeking to redefine marriage in Kentucky," said Martin Cothran, a spokesman for The Family Foundation. In two decisions rendered today, one on California's Proposition 8 and another on the U. S. Congress' Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court declined to rule that same-sex marriage is a "right" under the Constitution.

“In the Proposition 8 case, what we have is a situation where California public officials simply didn’t show up to defend the law,” said Cothran. “Proposition 8 was struck down, but only on procedural grounds.”

“In the DOMA case, Justice Anthony Kennedy invalidated the federal law and left marriage amendments like Kentucky’s intact. He basically invalidated DOMA because of state’s rights. We need to further analyze his reason for doing so. Legal decisions by the Supreme Court on issues like this seem to depend a lot on how Justice Kennedy is feeling that day. We will have more to say on this after we analyze his logic.”

"In the past, the Supreme Court has 'discovered' rights in the Constitution that nobody had noticed before," said Cothran. "We're just thankful the justices decided not to create rights out of whole cloth on this issue like they have for some other issues."

"The idea that the founding fathers secretly placed same-sex marriage rights in the Constitution for liberal judges to find two centuries later does not exactly constitute a convincing case," said Cothran, who was the lead lobbyist on the 2004 Kentucky Marriage Amendment.

“This is not the Roe v. Wade of marriage. The bottom line for Kentuckians is that Kentucky's Marriage Amendment is left intact, which was passed with more votes in favor than votes on both sides of any previous Kentucky constitutional amendment."

Cothran said his group will continue to oppose attempts to thwart the Kentucky Constitution's clear language in regard to marriage.

Monday, June 24, 2013

When President Obama sees real diversity, he doesn't like it

Once again, we have a so-called liberal criticizing diversity in the name of Diversity.

We go now to Geoffrey Norman at the Weekly Standard:
On his trip to Europe, the president accomplished a sort of synthesis of these contrary impulses, stigmatizing his enemies in the name of unity and harmony. The enemy, in this case, being the Catholic church. Or, at least, its tradition of establishing schools. As Charlie Spiering writes in the Washington Examiner, the president told an audience in Northern Ireland: 
“If towns remain divided, if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division.” 
One wonders if the president is willing to push his argument to its logical conclusion and lecture Muslim audiences as to why they should close the madrassas.
Just another indication that the "diversity" the Tolerance Police are talking about is only diversity if they agree with you.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sandwich Hell

The obsession with individual choice has wreaked havoc on many parts of our culture, but now it has gone too far. It has now infected the process of ordering a sandwich.

I walked down to a sandwich shop which is part of a popular nationwide chain today for lunch. I wanted (pay attention here) a sandwich.

So I get there and I am greeted by a perky young woman who seems enthusiastic about helping me through the process of getting a sandwich. I order a Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado and she begins making my sandwich.

After I pay the cashier and am putting the receipt in my wallet, the young woman begins asking questions. The conversation goes something like this (with some slight exaggeration to illustrate my point):

"What kind of meat would you like?" she says.

"Uh, well, I think this is supposed to be a steak sandwich. Maybe steak would be good," I say.

"Okay," says the perky voice, at which point she puts steak on the sandwich. "What kind of cheese would you like?"

"Well, you invented the sandwich, what would you recommend?"

"Most people put either American or provolone."

"How about provolone."

"What else would you like on your sandwich?" she asks. At this point I am pondering the fact that this sandwich chain must have spent millions of dollars developing its menu. And it must have spent a good chunk of those millions researching what kind of sandwiches people like. It must have expended a good deal of effort developing each sandwich and deciding what it should contain, and so I am wondering why I am being asked what I think she should put on the sandwich.

"Well, what would you recommend?" I ask.

"Most people put lettuce and tomato."

"Then let's just do what most people do," I respond.

"Would you like avocado on your sandwich, sir?" I look despairingly up at the menu, which says, "Chipotle Steak and Cheese with Avocado."

"Isn't that what comes with the sandwich?" I ask.

"That's what most people like," she says.

"That's what most people like?" I ask

"Yes, sir."

"So are there are some people who order a sandwich that has 'avocado' in the title who do not want avocado on it?"

She smiles a perky smile.

"Go ahead with the avocado," I say.

"Would you like salt and pepper on it?"

At this point I am mentally exhausted from having to make complex sandwich decisions and I am thinking that she should be paying me for making the sandwich. "Would you like me to come around the counter and make the sandwich myself?" I ask.

"That won't be necessary, sir," she says politely. "I can make the sandwich."

"Okay, well if you could put salt and pepper on it, I would be greatly obliged."

She puts salt and pepper on the sandwich, but the process of interrogation is still, apparently, not over. "Would you like anything else?"

I glare at her, thinking of those old fraternity hazing rituals in which you were woken up in the middle of the night, taken to a dark room, put in a chair and questioned by people you couldn't see who were standing behind a bright light aimed at your face. I'm trying to remember if any of the questions involved the construction of a sandwich.

The girl just smiles at me perkily. "That will be all." I say. "Thank you."

She closes the sandwich, and begins to wrap it up. As I watch her I am quietly praying that this will be the last step in the process and that she will hand it to me without further inquiry. She makes the final fold, reaches for the tape, secures the sandwich in its paper wrapper and hands it to me.

I take the sandwich from her and hold it in my hand. I gaze at it, pondering the destructive possibilities of a Chipotle Steak and Cheese sandwich with Avocado. I look up. She is still smiling at me: The quintessence of perk.

I lower the sandwich and walk away.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Pope's Twitter Feed

When I heard that the Pope was going to start tweeting, I was skeptical. But now that I found out he is tweeting in Latin, I'm all for it.

Here is Pope Francis' Twitter Feed:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Kentucky's new science standards document a "global warming manifesto"

LEXINGTON, KY--A spokesman for the group that was on the forefront of debate over the Kentucky Education Reform Act in the 1990s today called the state's science standards a "global warming manifesto" because of their "obsessive focus in climate issues at the expense of other more basic science." The Family Foundation charged prior to a legislative hearing on the standards today that the state's new science standards are long on indoctrination and short on actual science.

"When photosynthesis is mentioned only 19 times and climate is mentioned 72 times, we've got a problem," said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with the group.

"If we had only Kentucky's science standards to judge by," said Cothran, "we would have to conclude that climate and weather issues are more important than gravity, photosynthesis, electricity, genetics, radiation, and quantum mechanics."

Cothran said that a simple word search of the document reveals the inordinate emphasis that the state's academic standards have on climate issues. "Genes are mentioned 38 times; the solar system 23 times; DNA 16 times; oxygen 16 times; mutation 11 times; chromosomes 9 times ; electrons 6 times; bacteria 4 times; and mitosis 3 times. Meanwhile the terms 'climate' and 'weather' together are mentioned over 130 times."

The group listed the terms that are completely absent from the standards. They include: 'hormone', 'kinesis', 'lymph' (or 'lymphatic'), 'neuron', 'nucleotide', 'osmosis', 'phenotype', 'Celsius', 'Farenheit', 'plasma', 'RNA', 'somatic', 'vaccine', 'microscope', 'half-life', 'protozoa', and 'enzyme'.

"The Greenhouse Effect is mentioned twice, but the theory of relativity doesn't warrant a single mention," said Cothran. "What are we to think of science standards that talk about climate change, but don't even bother to mention mammals, reptiles or birds?"

He also asked why the standards don't mention a single famous scientist. "You would think students ought to know about Euclid, Einstein, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Alva Edison, and Marie Curie. In fact, despite all the controversy over the emphasis on evolution in the standards, Charles Darwin isn't mentioned once."

"It is a testimony to the lack of scientific reasoning skills students will receive that the word 'hypothesis' appears only once in the entire document."


Monday, June 17, 2013

Rand Paul: The Republican's presidential nominee in 2016

It's dangerously early to be offering political predictions for the 2016 presidential race, but I'm ready to make my first prediction: Barring some unforeseen major scandal, Rand Paul will be the Republican nominee.

He's making all the right moves.

One of the things that I like about Paul is that he doesn't play it safe: He's willing to go out on a limb for what he believes. And when was the last time you saw that in the herd of politicians who basically spend their lives telling people what they want to hear?

Rand Paul is one of a regretfully small handful of Republican candidates who goes beyond what is currently acceptable and is willing (and able) to not only argue on the basis of what people already believe, but to argue people into positions they do not already hold.

And he knows exactly how far he can go politically in doing this.

He's willing to push the envelope, make people mad, stir things up, and whatever other political cliche there is for doing what needs to be done.

I have long been uncomfortable with his libertarianism--which I maintain is not true conservatism--and yet he has so far stuck to conservative positions on cultural issues.

Another interesting thing about his is his ability to cross the usual political lines. As just one example, here is the New Republic (of all places) on Paul's meteoric political rise and his prospective run for president.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Special Report: Religious people found to be religious

If you are into boneheaded commentary on the issue of science and religion, there are few better places  to get it than at biologist Jerry Coyne's blog (named after his book), Why Evolution is True.

Today's commentary is illustrative of Coyne's lack of insight and his almost complete confusion when it comes to the issue:
As for understanding whether there is a god, whether—if there is—there’s more than one of them (viz. Hinduism or the Christian Trinity), what is the nature of any god, and what he/she/it wants us to do, we know not one iota more than did Aquinas or Augistine [sic]. That is, of course, precisely what we expect given religion’s unworkable “ways of knowing,” which, in the end, come down largely to revelation. [Emphasis added]
Um, well, yeah. To say that the religious "way of knowing" is illegitimate because it comes down to revelation is basically the same thing as saying that religious way of knowing is illegitimate because it is religious--a highly uninsightful and frankly meaningless statement.

Is somebody supposed to be scandalized by Coyne charging that religious people are religious?

If the Christian claim that it is in possession of Divine Revelation is true, then why should it have any need for "progress in its understanding of its subject"?

And precisely how does Coyne know that there is no more known about God than from the time of Aquinas or Augustine? Is he familiar with the literature at all? Past posts wherein he recounts his unsuccessful attempts to understand theological writing don't offer very much assurance that he does.

Has he read Karl Barth? Has he read Hans Urs von Balthasar? Has he read David Bentley Hart? In fact, has he even read Aquinas and Augustine--than whom he claims no one knows "one iota more"?

Coyne's whole argument boils down to saying that religion is an illegitimate way of knowing because it isn't scientific. The assumption being, of course, that science is the only legitimate way of knowing. In other words the very conclusion of his reasoning is the assumption behind his argument.

That's called arguing in a circle. And the fact that Coyne engages in this fallacy on an almost daily basis doesn't do very much to justify his claim that scientists are rational and religious people are not.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The liberal war on science: Abortion edition

Liberals not only coined the expression "War on Science," they seem to be the ones engaged in it.

The "War on Science" was a term invented by liberals to use against conservatives. It was conservatives who have a troubled relationship to the material facts. But in a congressional hearing on a bill that would ban abortion in the last four months of pregnancy except in the case of danger to the life of the mother. As John McCormack at the Weekly Standard describes it:

During the hearing, [Rep. Jerrold] Nadler called the bill "facially unconstitutional" because he said it would ban abortions prior to viability, the point at which a baby can survive long-term outside the womb, and the point at which the Supreme Court has ruled abortion bans may be enacted.

But medical studies show that Nadler is factually wrong: Some babies born 20 weeks after conception--the point at which the bill would ban most abortions--can survive long-term outside the womb. "In June 2009, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a Swedish series of over 300,000 infants," Dr. Colleen Malloy testified before Congress in 2012. "Survival to one year of life of live born infants at 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 weeks postfertilization age was 10%, 53%, 67%, 82%, and 85%, respectively."

Tsk, tsk. Read the rest here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Kentucky science standards shouldn't dictate scientific theories, says The Family Foundation

June 10, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY—Kentucky's science standards do not need to mandate the teaching of specific theories like evolution and global warming, says a group that has monitored education in Kentucky for over twenty years. The comments came as the state's "Next Generation Science Standards" were being presented before a state legislative panel.

"We shouldn't be dictating the teaching of particular scientific theories; we should let the state of the science dictate what theories are taught and focus in the standards and the skills that are necessary to think scientifically," said Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst with The Family Foundation.

Cothran noted that the national Common Core Standards that are driving these changes seem to be inconsistent in their emphasis: "Why are we so enthusiastic about mentioning specific theories in the science standards and so unenthusiastic about mentioning specific authors in the literature standards?" he asked. "We are apparently not mandating that students read particular writers, but we want to dictate what scientific theories you have to accept."

Cothran reiterated his group's position that the state's adoption of the Common Core Standards was premature and the adoption process mishandled. "We signed on to national education standards before they were actually formulated," he said. "And there was no process of public input in the decision to sign on to them."

Cothran was one of the chief voices in the debate over the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Were the Middle Ages really "dark"? Anthony Esolen counters another secular myth

Alfred North Whitehead once said that what the Middle Ages was an "age of faith based on reason," and that the so-called Enlightenment was an "age of reason based on faith." It is a counter-intuitive observation, but one that seems almost certainly true. And it counters one of the many myths propagated about Middle Ages by people who really don't like it, but don't know much about it.

The following is a short video by Anthony Esolen on whether the Middle Ages were really "dark."

Takeaway line: "In one crucial way, we are less civilized than those who enhanced human existence over a thousand years ago: We dismiss the achievements of our ancestors and fall short of them; they honored their ancestors and surpassed them."

Monday, June 03, 2013

Is science dead because it has not kept up with ancient developments in philosophy?

Writing for Britain's Guardian, philosopher and scientist Raymond Tallis argues that it would be a shame if people took too seriously the proposal of people like physicist Stephen Hawking to give up on philosophy.

Hawking famously declared philosophy "dead" because it had "not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics." It would be more true to say that science is dead because it has not kept upon with ancient developments in philosophy. Nevertheless, more than a few modern secular scientists are sympathetic with Hawking's dismissive attitude toward philosophy.

Tallis makes the case that it isn't philosophy that has a problem, but physics itself:
Fundamental physics is in a metaphysical mess and needs help. The attempt to reconcile its two big theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, has stalled for nearly 40 years. Endeavours to unite them, such as string theory, are mathematically ingenious but incomprehensible even to many who work with them. This is well known. A better-kept secret is that at the heart of quantum mechanics is a disturbing paradox – the so-called measurement problem, arising ultimately out of the Uncertainty Principle – which apparently demonstrates that the very measurements that have established and confirmed quantum theory should be impossible. Oxford philosopher of physics David Wallace has argued that this threatens to make quantum mechanics incoherent which can be remedied only by vastly multiplying worlds.
That physicists like Hawking, who have to posit the existence of multiple universes in order to maintain the coherence of his physical theories, should criticize philosophy for "keeping up" with it is amusing to say the least. There are a few of us who are also a little out of touch with recent developments in astral travel and holotropic breathing. That we should find that that requires us to reassess own own beliefs is not exactly self-evident.

Tallis also points to the inability of current physical theories to give a materialist account of consciousness or time. And then there is the materialist demand that we accept their preposterous claim that something came from nothing despite the fact that they can provide literally no explanation of how this presumably happened.

As a theist, I find it rather amusing to be asked to abandon my belief in metaphysical realities on the grounds that it makes no rational sense by someone whose own theories seem to become more outlandish and unprovable by the week.

In fact, the only thing the fairly new theory of multiple universes has done is to make longer the list of preposterous beliefs we would have to stomach in order to accept materialism. Not only are such beliefs no more irrational than a belief in, say, God, but they have even less relevance to our lives as human beings:
Perhaps even more important, we should reflect on how a scientific image of the world that relies on up to 10 dimensions of space and rests on ideas, such as fundamental particles, that have neither identity nor location, connects with our everyday experience. This should open up larger questions, such as the extent to which mathematical portraits capture the reality of our world – and what we mean by "reality". The dismissive "Just shut up and calculate!" to those who are dissatisfied with the incomprehensibility of the physicists' picture of the universe is simply inadequate. "It is time" physicist Neil Turok has said, "to connect our science to our humanity, and in doing so to raise the sights of both". This sounds like a job for a philosophy not yet dead.
Tallis is not too bad at playing the philosophical equivalent of the boy who pointed out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

The War on Gender: Should we promote same-sex relationships because they DON'T work very well?

We have observed here at Vital Remnants the amusing penchant among liberals to invoke Scandinavia in their arguments about social issues. If the Scandinavians do it, then it must be good. Let's call it the "Swedish Syllogism." It is the argument that ends all argument. It goes like this:
Any program that works in Sweden should be instituted here
Program X works in Sweden
Therefore Program X should be instituted here
If anyone contests that some social program is really a good idea for America, the liberal simply pauses, clears his throat, and exclaims, "Sweden."

Quod est demonstrandum.

I have amused myself in quiet moments by wondering what would happen if, the next time one of my liberal friends said, "Well, you know, a new study from Denmark has found ..." I simply responded, "Yes, but have you seen the most recent statistics from East Timor? And are you aware that they have been corroborated by similar research that has just been released in Togo? In fact, new findings from Madagascar conclusively disprove your assertion."

I imagine myself sipping the last of my drink, smiling victoriously, and walking away.

In any other context, holding up a European countries like Sweden or Norway (constitutional monarchies which both have established state churches) as cultural models would be thought completely unfashionable in the same circles in which the Cult of Diversity holds sway. In fact, liberals only give lip service to the idea of treating other cultures equally. When it comes to their model for what a perfect society looks like, it turns out there isn't any equality at all. When they get all dreamy about their social utopia, it isn't the Kingdom of Swaziland they are thinking of. Or Equatorial Guinea. No. They cast their adoring eyes on one of the most lily-white regions in the world.

But now their obsession with all sociological things Scandinavian has taken a new and disturbing turn: Now it isn't only the things that work in Sweden and Norway and Denmark that we are to emulate: It is also the things that don't work.

Check out the case for gay marriage now being made by writers like Liza Mundy of the Atlantic, who thinks gay marriage could "haul matrimony more fully into the 21st century." And that means changing those out-of-date "assumptions and stereotypes that create stress and resentment," like, I don't know, trust and faithfulness. And changing those hoary old "expectations at odds with the economic and practical realities of their own lives," like, oh, commitment.

In her Atlantic cover story, "A Gay Guide to Wedded Bliss," Mundy waxes sociological:
Same-sex spouses, who cannot divide their labor based on preexisting gender norms, must approach marriage differently than their heterosexual peers. From sex to fighting, from child-rearing to chores, they must hammer out every last detail of domestic life without falling back on assumptions about who will do what. In this regard, they provide an example that can be enlightening to all couples.
Yes, it's a Brave New World. One in which there are no rules. Particularly about gender. And we all know how much better things operate without rules.
Beyond that, gay marriage can function as a controlled experiment, helping us see which aspects of marital difficulty are truly rooted in gender and which are not. 
Experiment? Is that where children come in? Will there be requirements that these children sign consent forms before they are consigned to be Guinea pigs?

Mundy (who should not have been released from whatever women's and gender studies department she came from without the proper papers) leads the reader through a journalistic hall of mirrors designed to make the manifold problems associated with same-sex relationships look like some kind of list of virtues. Mundy, says Glenn T. Stanton, "highlights some of the most important research on same-sex marriage, presenting much of its critical findings. What’s curious is how she spins the evidence she presents."

You can say that again.

Mundy admits that gay relationships have "higher dissolution rates" than married heterosexual couples in Scandanavia (See what I mean?). As Stanton notes:
This study, published in Demography, found that even though same-sex couples enter their legal unions at older ages—a marker related to greater relational stability—male same-sex marriages break up at twice the rate of heterosexual marriages.
And the break-up rate for lesbians? It is a stunning 77 percent higher than that of same-sex male unions. When controlling for possible confounding factors, the “risk of divorce for female partnerships actually is more than twice that for male unions.”
Mundy notes the problem of "bed death" among lesbian couples: The cessation of sex within the relationship. Meanwhile, Stanton points out, male homosexuals couples are having the opposite problem:
One study that she cites asked those in various relationships whether they had any agreed-upon rules permitting extra-curricular activities. The differences were astonishing. Only 4 percent of male/female couples had them compared to 40 percent of gay men in legally recognized unions and 49 percent in long-term cohabiting unions. 
... In fact, it found that in the openly nonmonogamous relationships, the frequency of sex outside the relationship from its start ranged from two to a whopping 2,500 separate incidents. The median was 41.5 extracurricular incidents since the relationship’s beginning. Frequency in the last year ranged from zero to 350 occurrences of outside sex, with a median of eight incidences in the last twelve months. Even those who pledged true monogamy, the range was from one to sixty-three “slip-ups” with a median of five. The corresponding numbers for men in heterosexual marriages are microscopic in comparison.
So if relationships between two women result in not enough sex within a relationship and relationships between two men result in too much sex within and without the relationship (and apparently a few other places), then what if we had relationships between one man and one woman ...

... Oh. Wait. I guess that's what we've been doing since (Let me verify this) ... Time immemorial.

But Mundy puts his finger on the real issue here:
In the face of all this negative evidence, Mundy bases her case for the superiority of same-sex marriages on the pure assumption that such relationships are better because they are not clouded by stifling gender stereotypes.  
One of the things too little recognized is that, if we take these people at their word about "gender stereotypes," we are forced to the conclusion that they don't just want "marriage equality." Traditional heterosexual relationships are essentially bound up in "gender stereotypes." If "gender stereotypes" are to be seen as inferior to those that are not, then relationships based upon them will need to be subordinated in some way to those that are not.

Furthermore, all this makes me wonder: What exactly do "gender stereotypes" stifle? I can think of at least one thing "gender stereotypes" do not stifle: the propagation of the race. In fact, no one seems to have noticed that one significant problem with the ideology of those now prosecuting this War on Gender: If we actually put it into practice, it would result in the extinction of our species.

Now I don't know what criteria modern sociologists currently employ to determine the viability of a cultural theory. But I'm thinking that one essential component of any sociological thesis should probably be that it doesn't result in the complete annihilation of humanity.

Including Swedes.

Now I fully realize that this assertion will get me into big trouble with the Cultural Authorities since it makes the now controversial assumption that heterosexuality (and hence "gender stereotypes") has had some positive cultural role--now and in human history.

Stanton finishes off his commentary on Mundy's piece by returning to facts, most of which are mentioned in her own piece, which, with any other sociological phenemenon than homosexuality, would be considered fatal:
No doubt some same-sex couples are happy, but the kinds of social science lessons Mundy seeks to draw are a matter of unforgiving averages. With more relational instability and divorce, less sex in marriage and more sex outside it, it would appear that same-sex couples do have something to teach us, if only by counterexample.