Saturday, May 27, 2017

Scientistic epistemology and same-sex marriage

Can you both believe that all knowledge is scientific, and that we can know that same-sex marriage is morally justified? 

Here is what Russell had to say: 

While it is true that science cannot decide questions of value, that is because they cannot be intellectually decided at all, and lie outside the realm of truth and falsehood. Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.

Bertrand Russell Religion and Science (1935), Ch. IX: Science and Ethics

It follows from Russell's statement that a statement like "Legalizing same-sex marriage is a good thing to do," is something we cannot know. 

My claim is epistemological. Some people have a scientistic epistemology, but they also claim to know that we ought to allow same-sex couples to marry. That, I am arguing, is an incoherent position. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Is there a scientific answer to the question of same-sex marriage?

What can repeatable scientific investigation show?
One group of people believe that homosexual relationships should be treated as marriages by the government. Another group believes that this ought not to be done. Demographically, there are more conservative religious people on one side as opposed to the other, but this, I contend, is neither here nor there. The question is whether, by use of the scientific method can determine whether the government should marry gay couples or not. 
The answer seems to be that science can't tell us a whole lot here. It can  maybe tell us, to what extent, people with homosexual inclinations have the power to choose to enter into heterosexual marriages. Maybe. Maybe it can figure out whether gay couples can be as successful as straight couples in the role of adoptive parents. But then what? 
The argument for same-sex marriage is based on the principle of equal treatment, the idea that people who are not relevantly different should not be treated differently.  That is based on what scientific argument, that all men are created equal and were endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights? Oops, that sounds a little creationist to me, doesn't it, and creationism is a no-no in science. 
Survival of the fittest? That sounds like a scientific principle all right. And being a gay couple is certainly a recipe for Darwinian disaster, right? Can't get any kids that way, right? So, maybe science shows that we shouldn't allow gay marriage because gay couples aren't doing their Darwinian jobs and aren't repopulating the species. 
Don't like this argument? Maybe you are going to remind me that you can't get moral imperatives out of scientific facts. EXACTLY. Science cannot prove that gay marriage is justified. Or that it isn't. 




Is America a Christian Nation? Yes and No

We might consider the possible meanings that might be attached to the claim that America is a Christian nation. 
On the one hand, it can mean that our government, by its nature, is committed to privileging the Christian religion and using the government to promote Christian worship and practice, then certainly not. The Constitution is perfectly clear when it says that Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion.
 On the other hand, did people in the formation of our country, frame it the way they did because of what they believed as Christians, then it is pretty clear that they did. And this includes Thomas Jefferson, who didn't believe in the miracles of Christianity but thought that if people stopped following the moral teachings of Jesus, our country would collapse. 
The French in their revolution and the Russians in theirs founded their revolutionary governments on ideas that were profoundly opposed to Christianity, even though, in the case of the French revolution, there were significant similarities between their ideas and those of the American founding fathers. Those revolutions, I contend, went quite differently from the American, because their world-views were different. 






Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ephesians and Slavery

Why do people only quote the beginning of this Ephesians passage and not the whole thing? 
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

The Ephesians passage is interesting because it starts by affirming the institution of slavery and then forbids masters from threatening their slaves. What??? What kind of slavery do you have if you can't threaten your slaves???? Paul would NOT be happy with the way slavery was practiced in the antebellum South, even if you get an approval for slavery out of his statement.
In American history, freed slaves lived a better life, even though they suffered as second class citizens until the Civil Rights movement. It is not clear that this would have worked in the first century. The evidence suggests they would have starved. Eliminating slavery within the church would not have helped slaves in the wider society. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Human rights? Where's your evidence?

 Do you have evidence that we really have rights, even though someone might disagree? What if someone were to ask you to prove the existence of human rights, in much the way a religious skeptic were to ask for proof of the existence of God. Would you have a good answer for them?

Why I am Not a Republican

Did I support all those things by being a Democrat? As if being a Republican would have saved me from supporting people and positions that are contrary to the Gospel?

C. S. Lewis was right. Any political affiliation by a Christian involves compromise. Political parties are coalitions of various interests, some of which are better than others. I don't like the Democrat's abortion rhetoric which makes abortion out to be a good thing, which it most certainly is not. I hate political correctness, and the "protection" of the LGBT community from anyone who might think there is a moral issue there. There is some deification of science from the Democrats that bothers me. I don't like the Obama administration's failure to protect Christians for persecution around the world. But I completely reject the demonization narrative that I hear from so many conservatives. I do think that they are overly devoted to social justice for "oppressed" groups who can make large contributions, as opposed to others who cannot.

But Republicans have been responsible for McCarthyite attacks on innocent citizens, (resisted, though by many in the party), dragged their feet on civil rights, have been funded largely by large corporations who use their influence to get government to help their corporation (leading to a bastardized form of capitalism), supported a war in Iraq based ostensibly on the grounds of WMDs, then showed they didn't really care about WMDs now that they were in Iraq, opposed Social Security and Medicare, which really do make life better for people, on the grounds that these programs somehow compromise capitalism.

And, they supported a system of health insurance that made it impossible for me and my family to get it, not because I didn't work for a living, but because I have spent my life, as an adjunct instructor, on part time contracts (often cobbling together my teaching with other jobs), and because I got a chronic illness at the age of 23. This system of medical insurance, had it remained in place, would he rendered it impossible for me to get desperately needed surgery to keep me from getting cancer. The argument has been that it was wrong on principle to compromise capitalism by insuring that people like me could get health insurance. Only because of Obamacare was I insured during my car accident of 2014, and now for the surgery I had this past March.

Now, being unable to afford the health care I needed might have been thought of as about the same as my not being able to afford a Mercedes Benz, but I find this wildly implausible. Why does the government tax everyone to protect me from bombs, but not from cancer?

Now you might say that I am just thinking about myself here, but if you can show me that the country would be a better place on a system in which I am kept out of the health insurance market, I am willing to listen. But if the argument is that the capitalist system distributes wealth and income with some justice, and the government interference such as we find in Obamacare is an unjust distribution that amounts to theft by taxation, then I find that conclusion totally unbelievable. And I find particularly disgusting the pretense that the health care bill that has passed the House and will die a merciful death in the Senate is a replacement for Obamacare. Straight repeal would have at least been honest.

Republican leaders could have withdrawn their support from Trump and supported a third party candidate that reflected real conservatism. They didn't. Yes, the result would have put Hillary in the White House for four more years, but at least they would have spared the country from having to deal with someone who doesn't understand the difference between a dictator and a democratic leader, who wants to keep up all his businesses, who takes taxpayer funded trips to his own resort hotel in Florida, so the taxpayers pay and Trump corporations benefit, who puts in a national security adviser who is compromised by the Russians and takes their time firing him, who embarrasses the country he leads every time he goes one Twitter, and who praises as virtue every single one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Hillary would have to be the devil herself to be the worse of two evils here, but there is no evidence outside the fevered imagination of Republicans to suggest that she is anything of the sort.