Monday, May 31, 2010

Michael Medved on Immigration

Is Comprehensive Immigration Reform Amnesty?

I often hear the statement that "comprehensive immigration reform" or a "path to citizenship" is just another word for amnesty.

If we took an offense that originally involved a jail sentence, and we change the penalty so that the person gets community service, is that amnesty?

This is from The Catholic News Agency

The reform would require those who have broken the law to pay a fine, pay owed back taxes and learn English. He said these requirements rebut claims that immigration reform is a kind of amnesty, since amnesty is a benefit granted “without anything in return.”
If you are penalizing an action, but you are not penalizing it in a different way than one would ordinarily have expected, is that amnesty?

The rebuttal might be that if you said if you let a murderer off with community service plus a fine, that's still surely amnesty, even though the person was penalized.

When I think of amnesty, I think of the law saying "Oh forget it." I don't see that in these proposals.

The Lakers-Celtics final is finally a reality

The biggest factor in this series, to me, was Kobe Bryant's absolute consistency. He got over 30 every time except when he was doubled consistently. Then he got all sorts of assists. When the Lakers lost two games, Bryant got in everybody's face about defense.

The last time the Suns got in the Finals, in 1993, the lost to a team with Phil Jackson as coach, and there was this superstar on that team, who produced a Bryant-like performance. His name was, I believe, Jordan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Do I support open borders?

Bill Vallicella asked me.

No. But I strongly suspect that barriers to legal immigration are probably excessive. We do have to keep out people with criminal records.
I think it's probably a false dilemma, or a straw man, to claim that anyone who wants to reform the immigration system simply wants open borders. It also doesn't follow that all "path to citizenship" programs are simply amnesty. Those that I have heard proposed involved paying a penalty, and earning citizenship. (I realize there are a wide range of fairness issues involved in all of this, but the idea that such plans involve our just forgetting that people are here illegally doesn't seem right to me at all).
This is an Ed Montini column which discusses the effort of Tyson Nash, the hockey player (not related to the Suns Steve Nash, apparently), who, in spite of being a model citizen, came close to being deported. It seems to me that I could ask whether we could make immigration easier without advocating open borders.
I am also convinced that we've have to combine a partial immigration reform with an increase in border security. I'd rather stop them before they come in than send them back after they've settled in and started contributing to our community.
As for the illegal immigrants that are already here, there are questions in my mind about what the economic impact of their removal from our community would be. The departures from Prince William County in Virginia, which was the basis for the movie 9500 Liberty, showed that it resulted in a lot of economic harm, and an increase in the rate of foreclosures. In short, illegal immigrants are a mixed curse, since they become part of our community and do contribute to its economy, pay taxes, etc. I'm not even sure it's physically possible to deport all of them, anyway. That flaming liberal Michael Medved said that in order to send all of the back you'd need buses that, laid end to end, would stretch from Tijuana to Seattle.
On the other hand, the people that actually do transport these desperate people over the border are, so far as I can tell, the worst sorts of criminals, and surely we can hit them as hard as possible.
I seriously doubt that 1070 is going to result in very many deportations. The cost in ill will between the Hispanic community and the rest of us, to my mind, far outweighs the improvement in will provide in law enforcement, which I suspect will be minimal.
So, without actually having done a full cost-benefit analysis on all of this, I would say start with security at the border, make the process of immigration more rational but don't just throw it wide open, and then provide some path to citizenship that involves a serious penalty and isn't just simple amnesty.
A fence? Yes, if it would work, no, if it wouldn't.

Critical Game 5

The Suns try to take it to LA's home court, and they have to get one either in this game or in game 7. It's odd how home court means a lot in some series and not in others. Over in the Eastern Conference, three of the five games have been won by visitors.

For the first time, there seems to be some serious doubt about who the winner will face in the Finals. Two Celtics got concussions, and the Celtics can't afford to play with a short bench.

In the Finals series the Suns played against the Chicago Bulls in 1993, only one game was won at home, and six were won by the visitors.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Doug Jesseph replies to Craig on directly experiencing God

And, now finally, to the question of whether God can be known. Is it possible, peering into one's own mind to find the still small voice that testifies to the existence of God? Here, I think, there is really a problem. A problem for the theist who will hold that he has a reliable, right, route to the truth, a reliable way of determining when God is talking and when not. David Koresh, for example, was firmly persuaded that he was in contact with God. I suspect that most of you would not be...would not welcome, right, the truth of that hypothesis; that he must of been the victim of some deception. But, if the only thing that matters is one's own subjective sense of certainty, that "Yes, this is God talking", it would appear that there is no objective means for determining when someone's religious experiences are correct, when they are veridical, so to speak, when they match up with the way the world is and when they are not.

Speaking with conviction

Having a belief that something is really true is, you know, uncool. From Taylor Mali.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is it like to ban abortion

This New York Times magazine article talks about some countries, like El Salvador, that do ban it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A positive argument from reason

I'll have to give this some more thought.

The Fifty Per Cent Solution

What's wrong with SB 1070?

Well, my main concern is with the "reasonable suspicion" clause. That strikes me as horribly vague. Some people think that when they see a lower-class Hispanic-looking person who speaks Spanish much better than English, then we can reasonably suspect that they are illegal immigrants. We already have a county Sheriff who goes fishing for illegal immigrants.

In our state, most illegals are Hispanics, but most Hispanics are not illegals. If you define your conception of what it takes to have reasonable suspicion, and on my blog I made an un-remarked-upon recommendation that we have reasonable suspicion just in case we have objective criteria leading to the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the person is illegal, then you could at least eliminate the worst of the profiling problems. You can't just stop a Hispanic and make an immigration status inquiry, because being Hispanic is not sufficient for it to be more than 50% likely that the person is here illegally.

It isn't just a racial issue; most illegal immigrants make less money than people here legally, and they are more likely to be monolingual Spanish speakers or poor English speakers than their legal counterparts. But if these criteria are going to be sufficient to justify and immigration inquiry then, since such in inquiry is considerably discommoding to its object, it runs afoul of a basic conviction that law-abiding citizens should not be treated differently by the government because of race, color, or national origin.

If these criteria are not sufficient, then I have doubts as to whether the law will actually get much of anybody deported. So my "fifty per cent solution" may result in the law not result in invidious profiling, but it might also render the law ineffective.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Suns are back

At least for now.

Reasonable Suspicion and a Preponderance of the Evidence

One article I read made the case the "reasonable suspicion" is in a family of terms including "preponderance of the evidence." A preponderance of the evidence seems to me to be require a better than 50% likelihood. That's why it was so easy for the civil jury to find O. J. liable for the double murders, even though he was acquitted in criminal court. Civil court requires a preponderance of the evidence, criminal court requires that it be beyond reasonable doubt. It seems to me that one way of construing SB 1070 so as to avoid some of the most serious concerns about it would be to construe "reasonable suspicion" in just this way. While most illegals in Arizona are Hispanic, most Hispanics in Arizona are not illegal, and therefore merely being Hispanic should not be sufficient to generate reasonable suspicion so defined. Even criteria like lower-class clothing, playing Spanish-language music, and communicating mostly in Spanish would not be sufficient for reasonable suspicion. Though I suppose standing on the sidewalk of a Home Depot looking for day-labor work might be sufficient.

The point is, if a person is asked for papers, there has to be sufficient objective evidence that makes it more than 50% likely that the person is here illegally. (I admit that being a subjectivist about prior probabilities makes this recommendation more difficult.)

I kind of doubt I'd vote for the bill if I were a member of the State Senate even with this gloss. But it would certainly help if it were understood in this way.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is the Profiling Charge Trivial?

Steve Hays of Triablogue: Victor Reppert has made a shocking discovery. Thankfully, it took a man of his philosophical acumen to ferret this out. Reppert just discovered that laws disproportionately impact lawbreakers. Yes, you heard me right. Laws discriminate against outlaws. They have the insidious potential to single out non-law abiding citizens.

For example, laws against drunk driving single out drivers. By contrast, laws against DUI don’t profile joggers or swimmers–only drivers.

It’s appalling that in this day and age we still have such pernicious laws on the books. Time to stage a protest. Riot in the streets.

My reply: Hence, if a law is typically broken by a certain group, that group will on one level be disproportionately affected by the law. So the mere fact of disproportionate impact doesn't show that there is any invidious profiling.

However, it is possible that a law might have a disproportionate impact of one group as opposed to another that affects people who don't break the law. In other words, if a law, say, the law against illegal border-crossing, is violated by Hispanics far more than any other group, then if we try to catch them, there will of course be a completely benign disproportionate impact.

However, that doesn't dispel all objections to profiling, as some people seem to think that it does. It might turn out that a law not only affects law-breaking Hispanics, but also law-abiding Hispanics. If, let's say, the Maricopa County Sheriff were to perform a "crime sweep" in largely lower-class Hispanic areas as a sort of fishing expedition for illegal immigrants, using other statutes as a pretext for making stops that might lead to a paper check and a possible deportation, what we will find is that many law-abiding Hispanics will be caught in the net. Even if the vast majority of illegals are Hispanics, the majority of Hispanics are here legally.

Now, we can argue from here that the disproportionate impact on law-abiding Hispanics as opposed to law-abiding Anglos and African-Americans is a price worth paying to crack down on illegal immigration. That would be another argument. However, the implicit argument in this kind of statement, that the charge of racial profiling is invariably trivial, doesn't work.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

William Lycan's reconsideration of dualism

A redated post.

William Lycan considers the case against dualism, and concludes that it is largely overrated.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Suns versus the Lakers

The Suns are battling the LA Lakers. The Lakers just got their first lead.

Six arguments for legalizing murder

What does this tell us about arguments?

1. Some people, like O. J. Simpson, are able to find good enough lawyers to get them acquitted if they commit a murder. This is an economic injustice which needs to be rectified. So murder should be legalized so that everyone, rich or poor, can knock people off without being punished.

2. The illegality of murder means that people are depending on the government, instead of on themselves, to protect their lives. Such government dependence is a bad thing, and would be eliminated if murder were legalized.

3. The unborn, since Roe. V. Wade, can be murdered at will. But protecting the lives of people after they are born is birth discrimination. Therefore, murder should be legalized.

4. “Thou shalt not kill” is a religious commandment, and to enforce it as law it to impose religion on the public. Since church and state should be separate, and the imposition of religion by government is unconstitutional, murder should be legalized.

5. Government’s protection of people’s lives, instead of letting those who allow themselves to be murdered to die, weakens the gene pool. So we should legalize murder and let natural selection do its job.

6. The anti-natalist philosopher David Benatar has argued that it is better for people if they were never born. Legalizing murder will allow people to improve the lives of the victims.

Want to know what profiling looks like? Sheriff Arpaio's record speaks for itself

Do we really want the immigration law enforced this way?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

No fishing, please: a conservative Arizona Republic columnist challenges SB 1070

Here is that Robert Robb column from the Republic again. Again please note he's a conservative columnist who supports border enforcement, you will find that he thinks that so long as the "reasonable suspicion" arises in the course of ordinary police investigation of other crimes. That is what the law intends. However, he thinks the law doesn't provide adequate protection against what I would call "fishing expeditions," such as the ones Joe Arpaio has been engaging in.

Consider the following:

Case 1: An officer sees a car with a broken tail light. He stops the car, asks for a DL, notices that the people look Hispanic and don't speak English, and can't produce a license. The officer calls ICE.

Case 2: The officer sees a older-model car with a Spanish-language radio station bumper sticker. He notices the people look Hispanic. He THEN looks at the car closely for an onstensible violation and finds one, one that he would let pass if the people in the car looked like Anglos. He makes the stop, and if the DL is not produced, he calls ICE.

The trouble here is that, from the point of view of public record, these two stops are indistinguishable. The first officer is not fishing, but the second is.

Fishing expeditions are going to harm citizens and legal immigrants, because a group of people (and actually this could include Hispanic-looking people who aren't Hispanic at all, such as Bhutanese refugees). I consider that unacceptable.

Another set of cases I'm concerned about, which Robb doesn't talk about, are cases with pedestrians or passengers, not to mention cases where the police are called to a home but ordinarily ID is not required. If an officer comes to a home to tell them to turn their music down, he doesn't normally ask for a license. But if the music is in Spanish, and the people look like lower-class Hispanics, should he ask for papers? To me, that's fishing also.

Please notice that Robb makes a distinction between a disproportionate affect on Latinos, which he thinks is inevitable given any attempt to enforce immigration laws, and inividious enforcement, which he thinks the law either allows for or fails to effectively prevent.

One test of a law would be that if a law results in a group of law-abiding citizens being systematically treated differently by government and law enforcement as opposed to other groups of law-abiding citizens in virtue of the color of their skin, then something is wrong with the law. You should be able to go about your business, and if you obey the law, your should be treated just like everybody else.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Immigration, health care, and trusting the government

Joseph A. at Bill Vallicella's site wrote: Victor shows some deep distrust of law enforcement officials - he mentions how there's plenty of Mark Fuhrmans on the police force, and basically asserts that he doesn't trust them to enforce laws like this appropriately. But Victor also typically argues very much in favor of giving government far more authority and responsibility than it now has (see his views on health care, etc.) I just find it odd that he's very worried, deeply worried, about the actions of individual police officers operating at a local level - suggesting that they pose a problem/threat we're not going to be able to adequately address - but not nearly as worried about endowing federal bureaucrats with vastly more far-reaching powers.

Bill replied: That is just inconsistency on Reppert's part. As I said, skepticism about government and its law enforcement agencies is integral to American conservatism. The skepticism is shared by libertarians and paleo-liberals.

I reply: I don't trust the government in the area of health care. I only trust them more than I trust the insurance companies. Having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea, I choose the deep blue sea.

I believe in sin, which means that I believe that we need to be protected from Leviathan monsters. Sometimes those monsters are governments. Sometimes they are corporations.

The big issue between me and opponents of any kind of health care reform is the fact that insurance companies do exclude on the basis of pre-existing conditions, and make it impossible for many people to get health insurance who can't get it through their employers. They engage in what I consider to be unethical cost-cutting measures to avoid paying claims, including rescinding medical insurance when people get sick. In the end, some people have to be trusted to make these health care decisions, but the market-driven health care economy needs, at the very least, regulation from either God or the government to prevent what I consider to be an injustice. You may not. You may think it's just free market economics, and inability to buy health insurance is no different and no more unjust than the inability to buy a starter home or a late-model car because you can't afford it. But I think it's an injustice, and I have to trust somebody to right that injustice. Unfortunately, it looks like it has to be the government, even though the government, like everything else, is run by sinners.

But, in the case of the immigration law, I think you have a problem if too much is left to "reasonable suspicion." This piece, by conservative Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb, (the attempt to attribute all opposition to measures like SB 1070 to "liberalism" is about on the same level as attributing all support for it to racism), makes the case that there is a systematic potential for the law to justify fishing expeditions of the sort that Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been doing for years.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Illegal immigration, grand theft auto, and racial profiling

Here is a comment from one of the comment box, which is something one typically hears in the 1070 debate.

Racial profiling is a red herring; if 99% of the illegal aliens in a state are hispanic, then hispanics are going to be targeted in any enforcement of immigration law.

I don't see that this follows. Suppose 70% of car stolen in the Phoenix area are stolen by Hispanics. It doesn't follow that the police, in tracking down car theives, need to consider ethnic status in their procedures for finding car theives. 70% percent of the car theives they catch them will be Hispanic. That doesn't mean that profiling or anything like profiling was involved.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vagueness, Lawsuits, and SB 1070

I was asked whether I thought that bills like Arizona SB 1070 are motivate entirely or even mostly by racism.

The answer is no. I do not think that people who support bills like 1070 are motivated by racism, and, interestingly enough, neither does Attorney General Holder. There are certainly non-racial reasons for wanting to control illegal immigration.

However, sometimes people slide from resentment against illegal immigration to resentment against Hispanics, and people sometimes presume that people are here illegally because they are Hispanic, they speak Spanish, they are lower-class, etc. Resentments about illegal immigration can be a mask for racism, and those who have those resentments sometimes can attach those resentments towards Hispanics as a whole, as opposed to illegal immigrants. The movie 9500 Liberty shows just how these distinctions can end up getting blurred, and when they are blurred, you can get a slide into racism.

Perhaps the most efficient way to fight illegal immigration is to develop some kind of DNA-matched ID card for all citizens to have. You can't get a job if you don't have one. However, a lot of people will think this is too big-brotherish or even mark-of-the-beastish to be acceptable. You can also increase security along the border and prevent entry that way. I would support either measure if done in a feasible way.

When she signed the law Governor Brewer said that racial profiling was against the law and that she would enforce the law in such a way as to be in compliance with the prohibitions against profiling. Is she wrong about that? Should she just not worry about profiling?

My question is whether you have a workable law if you are trying to enforce the law and abide by the profiling laws at the same time.

I would have thought conservatives would object to the law for exactly the reason that they support tort reform. Whether a immigration inquiry is initiated is a matter of somebody's "reasonable suspicion????" The subjectivity of the law's terminology means that all sorts of things have to be settled in court, and that is not where conservatives, last I checked, like to see things settled.

If you are going to use state and local law enforcement to make immigration inquiries, you need a set of procedures as fixed as the procedure whereby you and I are asked for our DL, registration, and proof of insurance when we are pulled over by the police. As it stands, police departments are climbing the walls on this law, because they know they can be sued for profiling, but 1070 also says they can be sued for not enforcing the law.

Something that Vallicella, in his responses to this issue, has not covered is this. There are cases where the police come out but don't ordinarily ask for identification, such as when an officer comes to a house on a complaint about loud music late at night. I would argue, in such a case, that if the people in the house appear to be lower-class Mexicans, if they are playing Spanish-language music, that is not a reason for an officer to initiate an immigration investigation. Vallicella mainly talks about the kinds of police stops that involve the showing of identification in any event, but I wonder what he thinks of these other kinds of cases.

I am also concerned about police enforcing "tickytack" violations such as a cracked windshield or driving less than 10 miles over the speed limit, which they would let slide if the person were white, because of a desire to go on a fishing expedition for illegal immigrants. I can imagine the Mark Fuhrmans on our police forces jumping at the opportunity to do that.

It seems to me that there are two replies which have to be kept separate. One is "this is not profiling" and the other is "what's wrong with profiling?" But if it really isn't profiling, why do people then argue that profiling isn't wrong? You can take this position. You can say that illegal immigration is a huge problem, that most illegals are Mexicans, at least in these parts, and that law-abiding legal aliens and citizens who happen to look like Mexicans are simply going to have to suck it up and deal with a certain amount of profiling if we are to have a society safe from the menace of illegal immigration. But, if you take that position, then you have to say SB 1070 doesn't go far enough, and that Brewer effective emasculated the law by insisting that it be enforced in accordance with laws prohibiting racial profiling. Does anybody want to go there?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Legalize illegal immigration yes or no?

There's only one problem. It's logically impossible. You can't make it legal to enter the country illegally.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Suns vs. Spurs again?

Well, it's war time. The Suns have won two home games, and now it's time for them to take the show on the road. The Spurs have been the team to knock the Suns out in 05, 07, and 08. 07 was the controversial series involving the suspension of Stoudemire and Diaw which effectively decided the NBA title for that year, since the Dallas Mavericks, who had won 67 games in the regular season, mysteriously disappeared against the Golden State Warriors and were replaced by zombies.

Unfortunately, although some misfortunes followed the Suns in each of those defeats, the problem largely had to do with the fact that their teams were coached in a way that works for the regular season but not for the playoffs. Mike D'Antoni used a short bench, emphasized offense over defense, and didn't rebound well. But they could simply outrun and outscore most teams.The Spurs could and did beat them in bench strength, defense, and rebounding. Time and again some role player who spent most of the game on the bench would come in and make a critical play. Steve Nash had to play with pretty much no backup. So if the Suns had to play without someone, such as when they were missing Joe Johnson in 05 or when Stoudemire was suspended in 07, there wasn't enough of a bench to take up the slack. Gregg Popovich exploited these weaknesses, and therefore consistently outcoached D'Antoni at playoff time. D'Antoni is a very good coach, but his methods left the team something of a playoff underachiever.

After the arrivals and departures of Shaquille O'Neal and Terry Porter, the Suns put Alvin Gentry in charge, who has the Suns playing up-tempo like before, has his team playing better defense than its predecessors, and has 10 players who see action every game. He's not afraid to hand the keys over to backup point guard Goran Dragic. He likes to make sure Nash doesn't go back in until 6 minutes are left in the fourth quarter, when he can play at a 100% energy level to close out games.

Now the Suns have nothing in the bag, and  the three best players on the Spurs don't look as if they have lost anything. Popovich and the Spurs have already whacked the no. 2 seed Dallas Mavericks in six games, although the Mavericks are, for the most part, even worse playoff underachievers than the Suns. I think the Suns have the best chance ever to beat the Spurs, but one cannot underestimate a team which is one of the greatest playoff basketball teams in the history of the NBA.

Do we perceive physical objects directly? Maybe not

A redated post (with a spelling correction in the title). 

Do we perceive physical objects directly, or are the immediate objects of our experience our own sense-data, which may be caused by some state of the physical world? Given that we can certainly have non-veridical experiences, what are we aware of in those cases? What is the direct object of our awareness?

Lewis wrote: “It is clear that everything we know, beyond our immediate sensations, is inferred from those sensations.” He goes on to say

“I do not mean to say that we begin, as children, by regarding our sensations as “evidence” and then arguing consciously to the existence of space, time, matter, and other people. I mean that, if we are old enough to understand the question, our confidence in the existence of anything else is challenged, our argument in defence of it will have to take the form of inferences from our immediate sensations. Put in its most general form the inference would run “Since I am presented with colours, sounds, shapes pleasures, and pains which I cannot perfectly predict and control, and since the more I investigate them the more regular their behaviour appears, therefore there must exist something other than myself and it must be systematic.”

In my study of this passage, and contrary to John Beversluis, I have supposed that this passage is compatible with what is called the direct realist position on perception. We could perceive physical objects directly, nevertheless perhaps when we are challenged about those perceptions we perform inferences in defense of the veridicality of those perceptions.

Nonetheless, we might ask whether direct realism is correct. Edward Feser, in his book Philosophy of Mind: A Short Introduction (Oneworld, 2005), suggests that there is a powerful argument for the indirect realist view of perception:

1. By stimulating the brain so as artificially to produce a neural process that is normally associated with a certain veridical experience, it is possible in principle to bring about a hallucination that is subjectively indistinguishable from that experience.
2. But if the immediate causes of veridical perceptual experiences and their hallucinatory counterparts are of the same sort, then these effects must be of the same sort as well.
3. In the case of hallucinations, the effect is obviously direct awareness not of any external physical object, but rather of a subjective mental, perceptual, representation of an external object.
4. So in the case of veridical perceptual experiences too, what one is directly aware of must be a subjective perceptual representation.

So, do we perceive physical objects directly? And, if we don’t, does this have any effect on the debate between materialists and their opponents?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Conservative Argument against Immigration Restriction

Very often discussion on Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona implies that it is liberals who oppose this kind of measure, and conservatives who support it. The linked essay, which criticizes Democrats for pushing for a national ID, suggests that there is a case to be made from conservatism to a more open border policy.

This also is a good time to question the entire idea of the national government trying to “seal the borders,” pick winners and losers among immigrants, decide who gets all the welfare benefits of being a legal immigrant and who is not even allowed into our golden door. Invariably, when the federal government imposes its way on immigration, we get some immigrants who come in with legal sanction and quickly become dependents of the U.S. government—whereas illegals are probably not net beneficiaries of the welfare state, legal immigrants might very well be. What’s worse, plenty of people are denied peaceful and legal entry when all they want is to enter the job market, improve their situation and that of their families, and join in the American dream. Of course, despite the state’s distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, most illegal aliens are de facto invited by the American people—by those who employ them, rent to them and associate with them as part of the community and in the glorious network of voluntary exchange known as the market economy. Since conservatives often say our rights come not from the government but from God and the nature of man, it is not for the government to decide whether someone should have the right to live here or not—it is up to individuals and communities, which obviously are able to sustain a fair number of illegals. Moreover, constitutionalists in particular should question the very notion that the feds have legal authority to crack down on the border, since immigration is not an Article I, Section 8 authority of Congress. Conservatives especially should follow Reagan’s example and embrace immigration amnesty.

More on Sodom and Sodomy

Genesis does not mention consensual gay sex. If one is entitled to assume that the only people who would try to force themselves on an outsider were people who enjoyed consensual gay sex amongst themselves, then one could make an inference that consensal homosexuality was rampant in Sodom, but I don't think we are entitled to make that assumption.

Ezekiel is consistent with homosexuality, in and of itself, being part of the problem, but it clearly implies that other types of problems existed. So, any attempt to say that homosexuality is the one sin that makes God so angry that he zaps people for it (as opposed to all the other deadly sins), collapses on the basis of Ezekiel.

Jude is probably the best passage for the anti-gay case, but are we entitled to identify perversion with homosexuality? The Sodomites may well have been motivated by sadism, and were intending rape. I consider rape and sadism to be sexual perversions in and of themselves, whether directed toward the same sex or the opposite sex. Sadism and rape also fit better with the passages suggesting that the sin of Sodom was related to arrogance.

Hypothesis: The sin of Sodom was the sin of arrogance on the part of the rich and powerful toward the poor and powerless, which expressed itself in sexual terms through acts of sexual domination, even toward sojourners. Such acts could well have been both homosexual and heterosexual, but the defining feature of this perversion of Sodom was domination, not homosexuality.

Can this hypothesis be refuted?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Bible Lesson Time

Q: What was the sin of Sodom?

A: Ezekiel 16: 48-49. "This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God's eyes."

What did you think it was?

Bees, used car salesmen, and misrepresentation

Now if we are working on the level of simple representation, the perhaps some solution to the problem of misrepresentation can be generated. Let us consider, for example the case of bee dances. Bees perform dances which “represent” the positions of flowers in a garden. The bees, based on this information, go out to the garden only to find no flowers, because in the intervening time between the bees’ discovery of the flowers and the time when the bees performed the dance, a child had picked all the flowers and taken them indoors. We might be able to cash out this fact of misrepresentation in causal terms: there is a normal casual relationship between the bees’ dance and the location of pollinated flowers, so the bees represented flowers in that location, but the representation was incorrect, because the flowers had been picked in the meantime.

But other kinds of misrepresentation seem more difficult to deal with at the level of simple representation. Let’s consider the kind of misrepresentation that goes on in, say, a used car dealership. Can we really imagine a bee from a competing hive going “sneaking in,” giving a dance which would send the swarm of bees to a place where there are no pollinated flowers, in order to secure the real flowers for its own hive? This kind of misrepresentation seems to require that the fifth-columnist bee, like the used car dealer, know that the dance was misleading, in other words, understand what it is that their own dance and know that it was a misrepresentation. This seems to be beyond the capabilities of bees, and requires a radically different set of abilities. Can we account for the difference between being sincerely mistaken an lying in terms of causal relationships? I rather doubt it.

There have, certainly, been causal theories of reference which have been advanced. But these do not suggest that causal relationships alone are sufficient to fix reference. Consider the following standard description of causal theories of reference.

This is the wikipedia account of the causal theory of reference

A name's referent is fixed by an original act of naming (also called a "dubbing" or, by Saul Kripke, an "initial baptism"), whereupon the name becomes a rigid designator of that object. later uses of the name succeed in referring to the referent by being linked to that original act via a causal chain.

In other words, what causation explains, according to this theory, is how references is transmitted once an initial act of naming, an intentional (both in the sense of being intended and in the sense of possessing “aboutness”) is performed. How such actions could be performed in the first place is accounted for in causal terms. It is true, that some have attempted to provide more radical accounts of reference which attempt to stay within the constraints imposed by physicalism; Devitt’s theories are a good example of this. However, I think this attempt has been shown to be a failure in Martin Rice’s essay “Why Devitt Can’t Name His Cat.”

A question for neutral monism

Here is a kind of monism that was mentioned:

The world is composed of just one kind of substance, and its essence has both physical and phenomenal or protophenomenal attributes (alternatively: the one kind of substance is neither physical nor mental, but but the physical and mental are composed of it).

If this is the case, why does this stuff start behaving differently once brains show up? The AFR is supposed to show that the mental qua mental causes things to happen that wouldn't happen otherwise if matter simply obeyed the laws of matter. Because of the reasons that I have for acting, the protons, neutrons, and electrons in my body and elsewhere go to different places than they otherwise would go. Starting from the Big Bang through the formation of stars and planets, is there any evidence that the "one kind of stuff" has any mental characteristics? It looks pretty mechanistic to me before life emerges.

If theism is true, we can see a stable physical world as a backdrop for the creation of intelligent life. If neutral monism is true, why is everything so darn physical before life emerges?

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Argument from Reason: Its Scope and Limits (One More Time)

Again, I go back to Lewis on this. Lewis accepted the AFR against naturalism, and then accepted Absolute Idealism, which was extremely popular in his time. Then he found fault with Idealism and became a theist, and then finally a Christian. His argument against naturalism was a step on the way to theism, eliminating one of the major options. But he didn't take step into theism until later.

I am primarily concerned with what I would call the "great divide" between world-views for whom the mental is a basic cause, and world-views in which the mental is not a basic cause. If the AFR shows problems for the latter type of position, then I think the epistemic likelihood of theism becomes enhanced, as do all other "mentalistic" options.

I understand "naturalism" to encompass those world-views that are, at bottom, anti-mentalistic.

So we can distinguish two propositions:

A) The basic causes of the universe are mental in nature. They are inheretly perspectival, having a subject. They are inherently normative. Something being good or bad, or thought good or bad, has something to do with what goes on. They are intentional. What something is about makes a basic difference as to what happens in the world. They are also purposive. Purposes in human thought and action are not "skyhooks" that have to be analyzed out in favor of cranes. They are ground-level reasons why things happen.

b) What is fundamentally real is not inherently perspectival, is not inherently intentional, is not inherently normative, and is not inherently purposive. The appearance that these mental realities are operative in our world is a byproduct of biological evolution, and at the end of the day the skyhooks have to be replaced by cranes.

I have never said that you get theism automatically if the AFR is an effective argument for preferring A to B. When people point out non-theistic alternatives that are compatible with A, as if that were an answer to me, I have to say, with C. S. Lewis, "How many times does a man have to say something before he is safe from the accusation of having said exactly the opposite?"

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Menuge's Dennett Denied

Dennett on original intentionality

A redated post. This was the closest I could come up with to AMC's request. Though he may be thinking of a Menuge paper.

This is a well-known Dennett paper on the issue of original intentionality. He seems to be arguing:

1. If naturalism is true, then humans cannot possess original intentionality.
2. Naturalism is true.
3. Therefore human beings cannot possess original intentionality.

It wasn't me, but an atheist fellow graduate student at University of Illinois at Urbana who suggested that the argument could be turned around into an argument for theism against naturalism.

1. If naturalism is true, then humans cannot possess original intentionality.
2. Human beings do possess original intentionality.
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.

If intentionality is irreducible, then materialism is false

"If intentionality is irreducible, then materialism is false. For such an irreducible characteristic has no place in physics as we now perceive physics. The materialist is committed to giving some reductive account of intentionality of the mental. Such an account is not all that easy to give.”

David Armstrong, "Naturalism, Materialism, and First Philosophy," in

Contemporary Materialism: A Reader, ed . Paul K. Moser and J. D. Trout (New York:

Routledge, 1995), p. 57.

HT: Pat Parks

Saturday, May 01, 2010

9500 Liberty comes to Arizona

Unfortunately, the theater was almost empty when I saw it at Gateway Pavilions today. The film shows that many people supporting anti-immigrant legislation are indeed motivated by racism, and that the economic impact of this sort of legislation can be devastating. Everyone who thinks that SB 1070 and bills like it are a good idea should watch this film. I have a link to the youtube video of it here.

Philosophy looks at chess

This looks interesting. But I'm going to wait for Dennis Monokroussos to review it before I decide whether to buy it or not.

The Flip Side of 2 Thess: 3:10

Paul said, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."." (2 Thess 3:10) But is the flip side of this statement true? Do you think that those who either work, are attempting the best they can to work, or people who are unable to work should eat? In particular, should we make sure that children are taken care of?

It doesn't seem to fit well with the New Testament to think that, for example there is no problem with someone putting in a 40-hour work week and then sleeping on the streets or in their car. So a Christian can't very well oppose the goal of seeing to it that workers, or would-be workers, be able to make a living working. What they might oppose, however, is deputize the government and making use of taxpayer money to accomplish this goal. But how else could it be accomplished?

Relativism and Inalienable Human Rights

If you believe in inalienable human rights, you can't be a moral relativist. A moral relativist holds that all moral obligations are derived from the norms of a society. But a right is a special kind of moral obligation, an obligation not to deprive you of something (life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness). Jefferson said that these come from our creator, which means that a society can't take them away just because it doesn't recognize them.

Of course if there is no creator, you have to rethink where those rights come from. Putting evolution in place of the creator creates this howler, which I gave in one of my first posts to this blog five years ago:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men have evolved equally, and that they are endowed by Evolution with certain Inalienable Rights, that among these are Life , Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Though this may be a special case of the issue of atheism and objective moral values.