Sunday, June 26, 2016

George Will leaves the Republican Party

Will's father was emeritus at the University of Illinois when I was there. 

Jim Slagle's New AFR book

I've read his master's thesis and dissertation, and I like Jim's work. He also convinced me that Lewis was using the word "irrational" correctly in the first edition of Miracles, even though, under pressure from Anscombe's critique, he changed his term to "nonrational."

From Chesterton's The Dumb Ox

Thus, even those who appreciate the metaphysical depth of Thomism in other matters have expressed surprise that he does not deal at all with what many now think the main metaphysical question; whether we can prove that the primary act of recognition of any reality is real. The answer is that St. Thomas recognised instantly, what so many modern sceptics have begun to suspect rather laboriously; that a man must either answer that question in the affirmative, or else never answer any question, never ask any question, never even exist intellectually, to answer or to ask. I suppose it is true in a sense that a man can be a fundamental sceptic, but he cannot be anything else: certainly not even a defender of fundamental scepticism. If a man feels that all the movements of his own mind are meaningless, then his mind is meaningless, and he is meaningless; and it does not mean anything to attempt to discover his meaning. Most fundamental sceptics appear to survive, because they are not consistently sceptical and not at all fundamental. They will first deny everything and then admit something, if for the sake of argument--or often rather of attack without argument. I saw an almost startling example of this essential frivolity in a professor of final scepticism, in a paper the other day. A man wrote to say that he accepted nothing but Solipsism, and added that he had often wondered it was not a more common philosophy. Now Solipsism simply means that a man believes in his own existence, but not in anybody or anything else. And it never struck this simple sophist, that if his philosophy was true, there obviously were no other philosophers to profess it.

G. K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox. New York: Image Books, 1933, pp. 148-49.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Against recycling

Even recycling has its critics. Here.

Is underpopulation the real problem?


This is, of course, from a pro-life Catholic organization. I get the idea that most of our forbears, had they been asked what, if anything, is wrong with homosexuality, would raise fears of underpopulation. Even ancient societies with relatively pro-gay attitudes, such as the ancient Greeks, would not consider gay marriage because gay relationships could never replace the population maintenance role played by heterosexual marriages.

Mosher: Like other baby boomers, I lived through the unprecedented doubling of the global population in the second half of the 20th century. Never before in human history had our numbers increased so far, so fast: from three billion in 1960 to six billion in 2000. But the population alarmists, I came to see, glossed over the underlying reason: Our numbers didn’t double because we suddenly started breeding like rabbits. They doubled because we stopped dying like flies. Fertility was falling throughout this period, from an average of six children per woman in 1960 to only 2.6 by 2005.

Still, there seems to be little concern about population maintenance. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

What does it mean to say "I have a right to my opinion?"

What does it mean to say that I have a right to my opinion? If I have a right to life, it implies that some powerful person cannot take my life away from me without justification. How would someone take your opinion away from you, short of brain surgery? 

Learning fallacies from Trump


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Does Dawkins base his "religion is child abuse" argument on one letter?

No, he doesn't. He bases it on intuition. It can't be wrong if it feels so right. 

Richard Dawkins: That is of course true. And I am not basing it on that. It seems to me that telling children, such that they really, really believe, that people who sin are going to go to hell, and roast forever, forever, that your skin grows again when it peels off from burning, it seems to me to be intuitively entirely reasonable that that is a worse form of child abuse, that it will give more nightmares, that will give more genuine distress, if they don’t believe it its not a problem, of course.

What does the evidence say? This. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

An implicit premise in the gay rights debate

Race and gender are about who you are and are unchangeable (transgender cases aside). Actively pursuing a homosexual sexual orientation is about what you do. Opponents of gay marriage often say that there is nothing wrong with being gay, the only problem is gay sexual activity.

To hold this position, however, you have to abandon a culturally popular belief, that a sex life is essential to human happiness.

For example, colleges like Wheaton College are often accused of discriminating against homosexuals because they have code of conduct that proscribe homosexual activity. But did you know that a Bible professor at Wheaton College, Wesley Hill, is openly gay. Ah, you say, that doesn't count. Hill is committed to a celibate lifestyle. But he is not only a gay man, he's most certainly NOT in the closet.

But if a sex life is essential to human happiness, what happens to people who can only pursue that happiness with children? What about persons with a spouse for whom intercourse is painful? What about someone married to someone whose sexual ability has been destroyed through injury?

Since I love to illustrate points with songs, this song, Ruby don't take your love to town,  is about a man injured in Vietnam whose wife has decided to run around.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It couldn't happen here, could it?

From Religious Culture: Faith in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia, by Jerry Pankhurst, in Russian Culture, 2012.

Socialization objectives.

 The atheistic socialization agenda included a wide range of positive incentives. Proper behavior and attitudes were reenforced by legitimate authority and thus carried a positive emotional charge. Atheistic socialization had as its ultimate goal what Soviet writers called "a scientific atheistic worldview," which included the following elements:

 (1) Strong scientific training awaited all students, starting from the earliest grades. Science was always taught as the indubitable and entirely sufficient way of understanding the world that left no room for alternative orientations. All other perspectives, most notably religion, were said to be incompatible with science and distorting of reality.

(2) A special emphasis was placed on the notion that humans make their own futures. There were no supernatural forces or divine entities which had any relation to the world. In Marxian terms, science was the surest basis for building the future because it recognized the true nature of the world.

(3) Atheistic socialization required teaching about the history of freethought and atheism, as well as about "religious obscurantism" that undermined the progress of science.

(4) Atheism had to have its "positive heroes" -- Charles Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, and others. The abundant literature on such characters served an important socialization goal of creating "reference idols" to encourage the youth in particular to emulate atheistic values. [39]

(5) Movies and newspapers, television and radio, literature and painting -- all forms of mass culture had to be upgraded in content, so as to woo the population away from religious spectacles. For instance, during the Easter holidays the state would show especially popular programs on TV and keep movie theaters open into the late hours to keep the populace from attending all night Easter services.

 (6) Atheist propaganda was carried out by a sprawling set of agencies and organizations, such as the Museum of Religion and Atheism and Knowledge Society, [40] which printed pamphlets and books, offered public lectures and presentations. Through all these socializing institutions and practices the authorities sought to provide models of atheist behavior and attitudes for average Soviet citizens, to turn them into "good atheists" intolerant of religioznoe mrakobesie (religious obscurantism). But the same outcomes could be, and sometimes had to be, accomplished through other means, like punishments and costs inflicted on the believers to discourage them from practicing proscribed behavior.

 Social Control Imperatives.
Soviet believers who evaded the socialization efforts mounted by the state had to bear excessive costs for their religious activities. The state did everything it could to "overcome" religion peaceably, to make it "wither away," but when its "constructive" efforts failed, it was ready to deploy a vast array of social control devices to stamp out religious customs.

Here are some of the more important social control venues favored by the Soviet state:

(1) Forbidding formal religious education for children, that is, any group classes, Sunday schools, etc.

(2) Hindering the participation of children in religious activities by pressuring and intimidating clergy, parents, and children themselves (usually in school).

 (3) Controlling baptism rites, i.e., requiring a formal "registration" and a "permit" for a baptism ceremony.

 (4) Ridiculing or criticizing believers in the public press.

 (5) Intentionally and actively seeking out believers and attempting to "reeducate" them. School teachers played a particularly important role in this regard, as did Pioneer and Komsomol cadres, Party and trade union activists at the workplace. Adults could also be force into one-on-one sessions with atheist activists.

(6) Publishing and disseminating antireligious propaganda through literature, lectures, newspaper articles, radio, and television programs. The Knowledge Society has to be singled out here for its relentless efforts on behalf of "scientific atheism," though the trade unions, party cells, atheist clubs, and antireligious museums did not lag far behind.

 (7) Manipulating religious leaders so as to limit their personal influence and ability to organize and disseminate religious influence.

(8) Limiting the prospects for appointment and job advancement for religious believers. Since most high level positions required party membership, believers were naturally excluded from advancement to such levels. In some cases, believers were denied routine pay increases and promotions because of their "backward views." Though this was not universal practice, it encouraged believers to be less visibly active religiously or hide their faith altogether, and it intimidated those who were not active from becoming so. In these and perhaps other ways, the Soviet state barred children from sympathetic exposure to religion and punished those who defied the state and sought to exercise their nominal constitutional rights. Needless to say, children who passed through this elaborate system of antireligious propaganda were less likely to become religious adults, while those who persisted in their religious beliefs and practices could expect their life options to be severely curtailed by the state.