Wednesday, August 14, 2019

gay marriage and discrimination

There is an important sense in which the very concept of marriage is a discriminatory one--that is, we choose certain intimate relationships as worthy either of government sponsorship or of church sponsorship. Marriage means something more than that we will not forcibly prevent someone from having that kind of relationship, something we do in pedophilia cases (and,  yes, we used to do with some homosexuality cases through sodomy laws). But we choose certain relationships, in virtue of their permanence, or for some other reason, to say that if you are in one of those you can file married filing jointly, you can have community property, you can transfer your wealth to that person when you die no questions asked, you can get spousal social security benefits, etc. etc. etc . And we do that for some relationships and not others. When we call something a marriage, we say that it is something more than a hookup or even a shackup, it's something we as a society, or a government, or a church, should support. When you accept same-sex marriage, you eliminate being of the opposite sex as one of the requirements for sponsorship. When it comes to church sponsorship, one church was sponsoring gay marriages as far back as 1969, others, such as the Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist churches, or even the United Methodist Church, still won't do it.   But if you literally thought that all relationships were equal, you would be eliminating marriage, not making it equal. 

By the way, I have notice that legislatures are moving to change abortion laws in anticipation of a reversal of Roe v. Wade, but are not doing the same thing with the Obergefell decision. I wonder why that is. This seems to me like the dog that didn't bark. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Donald Trump and our monarchophobic founders

A simple question: Does Donald Trump understand his position as the head of one of three coequal branches of government? Or does he assume that he is somehow our sovereign? The President of the United States is powerful, to be sure, but our monarchophobic put founders limits on the position. All Presidents, I am sure, have been tempted to overstep those boundaries, and some have lurched us in the direction of an Imperial Presidency. When I heard his Republican acceptance speech in 2016, my thought was "You're just the President. You can't do all that, even if you are elected." In two and a half plus years since the inauguration, I have yet to see a glimmer of understanding of his constitutional role. He seems to think that the US Government is his to run in the same way that the Trump Organizations are his to run, since he is the CEO. Sorry, our founders didn't set America up that way.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nothing to see here, just fact of geography

So says Bertrand Russell. This would be a deterministic universe, to be sure.

Physical science is thus approaching the stage when it will be complete, and therefore uninteresting. Given the laws governing the motions of electrons and protons, the rest is merely geography—a collection of particular facts telling their distribution throughout some portion of the world’s history. The total number of facts of geography required to determine the world’s history is probably finite; theoretically they could all be written down in a big book to be kept at Somerset House with a calculating machine attached which, by turning a handle, would enable the inquirer to find out the facts at other times than those recorded. It is difficult to imagine anything less interesting or more different from the passionate delights of incomplete discovery. Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1925,

Friday, July 26, 2019

Should Russian interference have been investigated? Why in the the world not?

Worries about the origin of the investigation seem to imply that somehow we shouldn't have investigated the Russian interference in our election and whether anyone whose candidate benefited from the interference had conspired with them. There was interference by the Russians, it was designed to help Trump, it did help Trump, Trump kept denying that it was happening and welcomed, and welcomed, and welcomed the fruits of that illegal interference.

 It's not an awful thing for there to be a "cloud" over a President's administration, it's called oversight. What Trump has endured is nothing compared to what Nixon had to deal with, or Bill Clinton, who faced an investigation that started with looking into land deals in Arkansas and ended up, well, you know where it ended up.

 I think the most important questions arising from Mueller have to do with the interference itself, and what we need to do about it. Republicans are implying by their actions that the interference was not disturbing, and even the continuation of that interference is not disturbing. (One has to wonder what they would say if the Russians helped put Hillary in, instead). I have seen people say that it's not such a bad thing so long as it digs up dirt on Hillary and the Democrats. That seems to be the view of Trump himself, and seems to be widespread in the Republican party, although they don't normally put it so bluntly. (Maybe it would be a good idea to force them to put it so bluntly). Or does this kind of interference endanger our very system of government? 

They hacked into voter rolls in all 50 states, for crying out loud. What if, next time they did it, they "unregistered" a bunch of people so they couldn't vote? In my view, the real issue isn't collusion (whatever that means), or even obstruction. It is what I call dereliction.

 If Bush, after 9/11, and resisted clear evidence that it was al-Qaeda that attacked us, and refused to do anything to keep it from ever happening again, would that not be upsetting if not impeachable (especially if we couldn't figure out whether Bush was somehow under the sway of bin Laden for business reasons), even if Bush is this behavior broke no criminal laws? OK, nobody died in the cyberattack, just as nobody drowned in Watergate, but do we care about the independence of our electoral system?

 In my opinion, the Democrats, and we as citizens, do best if we keep the cart and the horse straight. They have to start with Russian interference and the complete failure of the Trump campaign and administration to deter it or prevent it in any way. These are undeniable facts. After that, we can raise the question of conspiracy or obstruction.

Libertarianism, soft determinism, and hard determinism

When people hear the term "soft determinism" it sounds as if we are determined more softly on soft determinism than on hard determinism, but this is not the case. Indeterminism is the view that given the past, there are two possible outcomes. However, even with indeterminism there are things that can influence the will, but they don't determine it.  A hard determinist can agree that the immediate cause of a person's action is their motive for their action, but then they point out that the persons state of motive is also an event that is caused by previous events, and that these events go back before the agent was born. A soft determinist will agree, but soft and hard determinists differ on the originating cause of the action is relevant to moral responsibility, or whether we should just look at the immediate cause and leave it at that. 
Imagine two possible worlds.
World 1) Smith contemplates murdering Jones, but thinks better of it and refrains.
World 2) Smith murders Jones. 
If indeterminism is true, then the difference between World 1 and World 2 is a matter of the undetermined choice on the part of Smith. Given the past, prior to the decision, Smith can choose to murder Jones or choose not to murder Jones. 
If soft determinism is true, the difference between World 1 and World 2 does not occur when Smith makes his choice. Something prior to the choice (the laws of nature and the facts concerning the position of the atoms in the world, or maybe something God decided to do before the foundation of the world) guaranteed that Smith would murder Jones. But, soft determinism says that in spite of this, in World 2, Smith is to blame for murdering Jones because the immediate cause of Smith's action is his own desire to kill Jones. The soft determinist points out that the murder didn't take place against Smith's will-he wasn't forced to do it. Hard determinists and indeterminists say point out the fact that his action is still the inevitable result of past circumstances outside his control. The soft determinist says "So what?" 
If Hard Determinism is true, then the difference between World 1 and World 2 is some event or set of events outside the control of Smith, AND that, once we realize that, we must realize that Smith is not really responsible for committing the murder. We may need to modify his behavior, but the idea that there is some retribution that he deserves, either in this world or in the next world, is an idea that makes no sense.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Burden, burden, ....

Who has the burden of proof when discussing God? Here. 

To my mind, who you are trying to persuade. You have the burden of proof if you are trying to prove something to someone who isn't persuaded.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Friday, July 19, 2019

Does God out-abort Planned Parenthood?

From atheist philosopher and blogger Jonathan M. S. Pearce

No one is really a fan of abortion in and of itself, but it is useful a procedure for any number of reasons, and the fetus is often merely a group of cells or something that has no personhood and feels no pain. God has designed and created human beings, in some manner, and appears to love abortion, even though his denizens don’t. Anywhere up to three-quarters of fertilized eggs are naturally, spontaneously, aborted. They either fail to implant or are rejected by the body, or undergo other such problems.
This amounts to perhaps billions of individual blastocysts or embryos over time. God doesn’t appear to lift a virtual finger to stop this. 
But this does raise an interesting question. On the assumption that human personhood begins at conception, combined with the belief that God is that creator of nature, doesn't that mean that Planned Parenthood is a distant second behind the Almighty as an abortionist?