Wednesday, June 20, 2018

What, if anything, is our humanitarian obligation to those who desperately need to enter our country?

I just head Jeff Sessions say that the family separation policy will deter people from going over the border illegally, and will instead require them to enter our country through our designated ports of entry. 

So if they didn't try to come here illegally, could they just hop on over to the ports of entry and get in? Country quotas make that impossible. Some people's circumstances are so desperate that the only solution to their impossible lives is to violate our laws and enter our country. It is similar to stealing a loaf of bread to feed their families, and those who defend a "zero tolerance" policy remind me of Javert in Les Miserables. 

The question I have is not whether they have a right to enter our country, but is rather, whether we have a humanitarian obligation to such people. We do not merit having been born in a wealthy country like America, any more than they deserve to have been born in a third world country like Mexico. I mean who would want to make the harsh trip across the Sonoran desert to emigrate here if they could just walk up to the office at the port of entry, stand in maybe a six hour line, and get in legally? They want to come here not because we are so great, but because life there is so bad. If you don't want to let them into America in order to lead a decent life, what are we willing to do to make their lives better where they are? Does anyone seriously think they are just coming here because they are evil and criminals?

This isn't, so far as I can tell, about liberalism or conservativsm. There are billions of people who want to come here. Well, probably not. Jonah Goldberg, who inspired these thoughts of mine, is a writer for the National Review. There are people who are in such bad shape in their current country that they are prepared to put up with a lot of misery to enter the country illegally. There may be some doing it for morally bad reasons, but it is easy to see morally acceptable reasons for at least wanting to come here illegally. Do we have any moral obligations to these people over and and above building a wall and making sure they don't come here? If we are conservatives, do we need to take a lifeboat ethics position and say that these people were just born in the wrong part of the world, and so it's just tough toenails if they can't take care of their families? America , I think, started restricting entry into our country with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Before that, there was no illegal immigration, because we didn't restrict it.

Hillary Clinton's gun control proposals

Here is a link to the proposals Hillary Clinton made as a candidate. Bernie Sanders actually ran closer to the NRA than Hillary did. Many will disagree with some of these proposals, but notice that she never said she wanted to take everyone's gun away. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

This foreign religion will destroy America

Before there was a Muslim ban, a over a century before Donald Trump was born, there were people concerned about a people who were from foreign countries who practiced a foreign religion, and might be dangerous to the United States of America. After all, that religion was, and has headquarters in a foreign country. It was.....The Roman Catholic Church, known to some as the Whore of Babylon. If we let those people come to America, it had better be with extreme vetting, so these people thought. Here is a song that expressed their sentiments. 


Come Uncle Sam, be "Wide Awake,"
Too long you have been sleeping,
Be on your guard, to crush the snake,
That round you has been creeping.
For it has almost charmed your eyes,
To such imprudent blindness,
That it could take you by surprise,
And crush you for your kindness.
Yankee Doodle, Wide Awake,
Be silent you should never,
Until you drive the popish snake,
From off the soil, FOREVER.
Our forefathers were "Wide Awake,"
When liberty was dawning,
They saw what foreigners would take,
And gave us timely warning.
Of foreign influence, beware;
Our Washington has told us,
And time indeed, there's none to spare,
His words they shall embold us.
Yankee Doodle, c.
Americans should be "Wide Awake,"
For surely you must know,
That for our country's own dear sake,
Each man his worth must show.
For we are free, and wont submit
To intolerance and aggression,
From papists, who from foreign lands
Come here to rule this nation.
Yankee Doodle, c.
Brave Washington bequeathed to us,
The liberty we enjoy,
Shall we not claim our rights, and thus
Prove worthy, without alloy.
For is he not the father of
The country that we love,
Shall we then stand and blush with shame,
For foreigners who disgrace the same.
Yankee Doodle, c.


Why Materialism is simply Untrue

This is from Dr. Dennis Bonnette on Strange Notions. 

Metaphysical Materialism is Simply Untrue

Only an immaterial cognitive faculty, that is, one not extended in space, can actually apprehend the wholeness of any sensed object. Moreover, in the same act, the sense faculty can apprehend manyindividual wholes at once, as in a flock of birds.
How does an immaterial sense faculty unify the object of perception into a meaningful whole? Knowing how an immaterial entity “works” would require knowing how to make one -- something that exceeds human capabilities. Still, I know a sense faculty can do it, because I actually sense meaningful wholes in sensory experience. That is, in a single act, I see a whole moose or experience hearing a complete melody or am aware that I am touching the total surface of a sphere. No purely physical entity can adequately explain this fact.
Sight’s ability to apprehend its object as a whole is sufficient to show that at least one external sense faculty must be immaterial. Because an animal’s sensitive soul is immaterial – that is, because it is not extended in space, even animals can experience the unified wholeness of sense objects – and many such wholes simultaneously.
Purely materialistic metaphysic’s essential problem is that sense cognition’s immaterial nature is what enables the knower to apprehend the physically extended object as a unified whole. In so doing, immaterial cognition achieves something that mere extended matter cannot do, namely, it can unify in a single simple act what in physical reality is extended in space and multiple in parts.
Some materialists admit that certain cognitive acts cannot be expressed in purely material terms. Yet, they insist that these “epiphenomena” somehow “emerge from” purely physical matter. That is, they are simply a product of physical matter in some way. The problem with this explanation is that the more perfect cannot be explained by the less perfect. Or, to put it another way, that which is inherently unable to explain the unity of the whole (discrete physical parts) cannot be a sufficient reason for apprehending the thing sensed as a unified whole.
Moreover, this immaterial principle must explain how unity is achieved from multiple sense data. Since a material entity can never explain the unity of its discrete elements, what unifies must not only be immaterial, but must be something within the sentient organism that unifies its discrete material organs into a functional whole respecting sense perception. Such an immaterial principle would be the form or soul of even the lowest sentient organisms.
This means that a purely materialistic explanation of all reality is simply false.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Why Opposition to Trump is so intense, or do we all want the same things?

I think that Trump has done a number of things, like implying an equivalency between Klansmen and their opponents at Charlottesville, or trying to undermine investigation of crimes against America by a foreign government, or his buddying up to another foreign government without once mentioning his human rights violations, that make people really concerned about his being President. How do you respond when you really think the President is harming the country.
I am not saying they are right in thinking this,(well, actually I am) but if you think this, how do you respond? Until now, Republicans and Democrats have mostly thought that their respective opponents want the same things, but think that the other party is just going about it in the wrong way. With Trump, I get the sense that he really wants something very different from what a lot of people in America want.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Separating families is not Christian. 2 + 2 is not 5. Any questions?


The monotheistic moral revolution

I think we don't understand, or take seriously, the moral revolution engendered by monotheism. Before the monotheistic religions came along, there were moral codes, but evolution gives us an interest in social cooperation but also makes us tribalistic. Moral codes require lots of social cooperation for "us" and nothing for "them." When people started believing in a deity who is interested in our moral lives as opposed to merely our sacrifices, things start changing. A God who values us equally because, in the case of Christianity, he sent his son to die for all of us, makes it hard to believe that anyone is just human garbage. It is true that Christians have historically failed to get it, and some even currently fail to get it, but logic of going from God's being interested in all of us equally, to people being of equal worth, is a real pathway to the idea of equal rights. I see nothing in the naturalistic universe that supports this kind of egalitarianism except that cultures have gradually evolved toward it, largely under the watch of Christianity, and we like the results and don't want to give that up, since it seems to work. But if some Nietzschean were to ask why we should continue to accept this kind of slave morality given the death of God, I don't see what the answer would be. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The measure of a conservative, or a liberal

Why is the measure of conservatism, or liberalism, a matter of loyalty to or opposition to Donald Trump? In my state a stalwart conservative senator named Jeff Flake is considered by many to be a phony conservative because he finds Trump dangerous. Trey Gowdy, the arch-conservative representative from South Carolina who pushed the criticism of Hillary Clinton for Benghazi as hard as anybody, is now regarded as a fake conservative because he won't agree that the FBI was engaged in spying on the Trump campaign for political purposes. 
Why? Donald Trump actually takes the liberal Democrat position on the war in Iraq, he thinks it was wrong and that we were deceived into going in there. Do conservatives all now think that that the leftists were right about Iraq and George W. Bush was wrong? 
Political conviction and personal loyalty have to be different from one another. Otherwise, we can't really have a democracy. 

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Fake News!

When I grew up there were three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, which had news broadcasts which were not openly of any political viewpoint, but were frequently accused of being liberal by conservatives. Today, there are the cable channels FOX, MSNBC, and CNN. We all know, I take, it, which of these channels is the most politically conservative.  The expression "fake news" abounds, and is deliberately used by Donald Trump (he said as much) to discredit any journalism critical of him. 
How do we apply fairminded thinking to what we hear in the media?  Even for practiced thinkers, it isn't easy. I recommend that you not try to find some piece of journalism that opposes your political perspective, and find bias in that. That is just too darn easy, and it wouldn't create growth in yourself as a critical thinker. Thus, if you're a liberal, don't tear apart some Fox News report accusing it of bias. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. If you are a conservative, don't go looking at the Washington Post or the New York Times, or CNN, to find bias. Again, that's way too easy. Find a source you agree with, and try to find bias from your own side. 
Some material from news sources are opinion pieces, and some are there to report facts. If it is an opinion piece, it's by definition on one side, and there's nothing wrong with that. But ask yourself if the opinion piece has material in it that would convince someone on the other side to question what they think, or, if it would only convince someone who agreed with the reporter to begin with. If it supposed to be factual reporting, we can ask if bias has crept in. Even when something is biased in favor of one viewpoint or another, it often contains real factual information that is worth knowing. Identifying bias does not imply entail that the entire article can simply be dismissed as worthless. 

Monday, June 04, 2018

Why evolutionary naturalism undermines liberal humanism

In one of my first posts on this blog, I wrote:

Perhaps some of the best-known words from our American heritage are the words from the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

But, if you are an atheist, there is no Creator, so we couldn't be created equal. Advanced thinker that he was for his time, TJ seems to have imbibed some creationist nonsense. Hence to reflect what an atheist really believes, it would have to be rewritten as follows:

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.

But thus altered, isn't this statement howlingly false? Evolution doesn't make people equal, it doesn't endow anyone with inalienable rights, and among these are certainly not life, or liberty, or the pursuit of happiness.

I'm not going to argue that atheists are bad citizens. But my question is what sense an atheist can make of these statements in the Preamble. Doesn't it conflict, profoundly, with what an atheist believes?

I wrote this way back in 2005. There has been some interesting discussion along these lines since. 

Interestingly enough, this issue has been taken  up by atheist Yuval Noah Harari. Vincent Torley takes up the issue in this discussion. Harari says that the statement form the Preamble must be revised in favor of this revision:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men evolved differently, that they are born with certain mutable characteristics, and that among these are life and the pursuit of pleasure.

Hardly the basis of liberal humanism. 

Torley then goes on to quote the following passage: 

At the same time, a huge gulf is opening between the tentes of liberal humanism and the latest findings of the life sciences, a pull we cannot ignore much longer. Our liberal political and judicial systems are founded on the belief that every individual has a sacred inner nature, indivisible and immutable, which gives meaning to the world, and which is the source of all ethical and political authority. This is a reincarnation of the traditional Christian belief in a free and eternal soul that resides within each individual. Yet over the last 200 years, the life sciences have thoroughly undermined this belief. Scientists studying the inner workings of the human organism have found no sould there. They increasingly argue that human behavior is determined by hormones, genes and synapses, rather than by free will – the same forces that determine the behavior of chimpanzees, wolves, and ants. Our judicial and political systems largely try to sweep such inconvenient discoveries under the carpet. But in all frankness, how long can we maintain the wall separating the department of biology from the departments of law and political science?

(Emphases mine – VJT.)

Consider, for example, the defense of gay rights in our society today. The idea people have on this is that even if you don't like gay people, even if they are not your kind, you have an obligation not to discriminate against them, to give them, well, marriage equality. A lot of people think that an atheist position makes it easier to support gay rights and gay equality. Well, yes and no. If you are an atheist, you don't have to worry about whether God created marriage for a man and a woman. However, if your argument is based on the idea that everyone deserves to be treated equally, your atheism looks as if it undercuts the moral foundation of human equality, on which the case for gay equality is based. The atheistic sword that cuts away the anti-gay arguments based on Christian revelation is the same sword that cuts the heart out of the foundation of human equality, which is the very foundation of the case for gay equality in the first place. 

John Loftus on Richard Carrier

JWL: Richard Carrier thinks this book is bad to say the least, but I find Carrier to be shrill, very offensive and exaggerated in defense of his own work.


The Seven Deadly Sins

Described here. 
Pride is excessive belief in one's own abilities, that interferes with the individual's recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as Vanity.
Envy is the desire for others' traits, status, abilities, or situation.
Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires.
Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body.
Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath.
Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is also called Avarice or Covetousness.
Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

A Christian case for abortion


I can't be part of a church that has hypocrites in it

Of course, judgmental and hypocritical might just be right about God and Jesus. Churches claim to believe the truth, and the truth of what they believe is independent of whether or not they are hypocrites. In fact, people with higher moral standards are more likely to be hypocrites, because if you have no moral standards, then  you can't claim a higher moral standard than you practice, since you had no moral standard to begin with. 

Timothy McGrew on Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Why is only empirical evidence evidence? Isn't this a self-refuting requirement?

This is from Sloan Lee's Facebook page. We've heard the "Where's  yer evidence" challenge around here a lot.

Consider the demand for empirical evidence -- or the question (often rhetorical): "What is your empirical evidence for that claim?" -- where empirical evidence is evidence based directly on sensory experience (or something along those lines). Often the demand for empirical evidence is made (or requested) without the modifier "empirical" -- but it is assumed or understood that this is the sort of evidence being demanded (or requested).
Often empirical evidence is just the sort of evidence one needs in order to answer a question or settle an issue. For instance, if you want to know how many chairs are in the room or whether or not any trees are planted in the courtyard, empirical evidence is just the sort of evidence that is most appropriate. However, is that the only sort of evidence that is acceptable or legitimate? What sort of empirical evidence could settle the question of whether or not 2 is necessarily an even number? What kind of empirical evidence could refute (or establish) whether it is necessarily true (or not) that only nothing comes from nothing? Not even quantum indeterminacy or particles arising from minimal energy states could do that.
In any case, this sort of epistemological demand sometimes (perhaps even often) has as a background assumption that the only legitimate appeal to evidence is the appeal to empirical evidence. However, such a demand is self-defeating. This assumption has no empirical support itself. Further, an appeal to the success of science will not help here, for the most that this can show is that certain sorts of issues are best investigated by empirical (or scientific) means. In other words, there is no good empirical evidence that the only kind of genuine or real or legitimate evidence that one can have is empirical evidence. So, if the only grounds that one can have for rationally believing something is empirical evidence, then (by its own standard) no one can rationally believe the claim that only empirical evidence is legitimate evidence.
Nevertheless, the demand for empirical evidence as the only legitimate evidence is an extraordinarily pervasive demand on internet discussions -- but that doesn't make it any less self-defeating as a demand (or as a question or as an assumption). It is such a pervasive mistake that I think that it deserves its own name. To that end, I suggest the following:
"The Empiricist Fallacy"
Of course, I'm open to hearing the thoughtful, polite, and well-articulated considerations of others on this issue.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The slippery slope fallacy on steroids

I see no good reason to believe that the banning of assault weapons will lead to the banning of all weapons, which would, of course, take a Constitutional amendment. I know a lot of people say this, but it strikes me as the slippery slope fallacy on steroids. We could save lives in mass shootings if we could prevent potential mass shooters from getting guns that can fire and fire without having to reload. Stopping to reload ends many a mass shooting, as in the shooting at Safeway in Tucson where Gabrielle Giffords was shot. Ordinary self-defense and ordinary hunting does not require us to fire without reloading. You could be in a defensive situation where you need an AR-15, but you could be in a defensive situation where you could sure use and hand grenade.

There is a rationale for some weapons restrictions even if we don't want to rip up the second amendment and confiscate all guns. So why use the slippery slope argument?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Do I have the right to carry a hand grenade? Or a nuclear bomb? +

Guns aren’t the only kind of arms you can have. A hand grenade is a weapon, too. If there should be no restriction on our right to have weapons, shouldn’t we allow people to carry hand grenades? Or how about a nuclear bomb? Is that protected by the Second Amendment? Why restrict the right to bar arms to tubes with triggers that shoot bullets? Isn't that an arbitrary limitation?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Republic vs. Democracy and the Electoral College

The real purpose of the electoral college, which is spelled out as clearly as it can be spelled out in Federalist 68, is to put a layer of independent representation between the voters and the choice for President. His idea was that you wouldn't vote for Trump or Hillary. Who you would vote for are people who might choose between Trump or Hillary, or maybe put someone else in if they thought there was something wrong with both of them. If you take the republic vs. democracy argument seriously, that is where it leads you. I would admit that there is an element of geographical balancing in that the College is modeled on congressional representation, and so states with two senators and one congressman actually get more representation per capita than their population would warrant. But we aren't more of a republic and less of a democracy if we have a rubber-stamp electoral college and we reduce the college to a revised counting system. For centuries now people vote for actual candidates, and once their votes are counted, the electors have never surprised anyone or exercised any independent judgment, except for a few "rogues," and some states have passed laws making it illegal to do what Hamilton originally intended for electors to do, that is, exercise independent judgment.

The electoral college was designed to, among other things, stop demagogues from becoming President. The idea was that if a demagogue were to get the support of the people, the electors would exercise their own judgment and vote someone else in, even if the people who put the electors in wanted him for President, the electors could be counted upon to say no. You may disagree, but I think Trump is a dangerous demagogue with inadequate respect for the rule of law. In any event he had held no political office prior to the Presidency. If we had enshrined the Hamiltonian concept of the Electoral College into our system, I believe that the seasoned judgment of the electors would have prevented him from becoming President. A genuinely "Republican" conception of the electoral college would not have put Trump in the White House. And irony of ironies, the Democratic Party, with its superdelegate system, was far more "Republican" in its selection process, while the Republican party as more "Democratic," providing no way to stop a marginal Republican with great mass appeal to get the party's nomination for President. 

Now, either we buy the Republic vs. Democracy argument or we don't. If we do, we keep the electoral college, outlaw pledged electors and encourage independent judgment on the part of the electors. If we don't buy the Republic vs. Democracy argument, then we abolish the Electoral College and go to popular vote. But I can't see a good reason for keeping the Electoral College around after its primary function, to put a layer of independent, seasoned judgment between the people and the selection of the President, has been effectively eliminated. What Hamilton was talking about in Federalist 68 never came to fruition, and it is an equivocation to say that Hamilton was defending the Electoral College as it now exists.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The original purpose of the electoral college

The electoral college was put into place so that people would not elect the President directly, but would put that decision into the hands of other people who were better informed and would do the voting for them. The electoral college was set up before there even were political parties in America, and when the system of pledged electors emerged, Hamilton and Madison were horrified, claiming that this defeated the whole purpose of the Electoral College.

Now, you may like the idea of a system where living in a densely populated area means that your vote counts less, and living in a more populated area means your vote counts more. I don't see an argument for this offhand, unless large states were somehow exploiting the smaller ones, and they're not. No one is crucifying Middle America on a cross of gold. I don't see much force in the Argument from Geographical Balance myself. But even if this were a good argument, you cannot say that this is the reason the founders put in the Electoral College. Alexander Hamilton would not recognize the Electoral College as it is currently employed. The original purpose of the electoral college went by the boards shortly after our country was founded. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A rebuttal of Judith Jarvis Thomson on Abortion


Does the multiverse solve the problem of evil?

I once wrote a paper suggesting that the multiverse solves the problem of evil. So God could have created a better world? He did. Then he created this world and all the worlds worth creating.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

I had to take the abortion cartoon down

Because it was messing things up. But instead I want to discuss a statement I made many years ago, that if politics were logical, Democrats would be pro-life and Republicans would be pro-choice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What do gun control advocates advocate?

A lot of people assume that those who advocate gun control want a blanket ban on guns. Virtually no one is suggesting this. Gun control advocates support assault weapons bans and strengthened background checks. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Deal or no deal?

 OK here's a deal for pro-lifers. Or pro-choicers for that matter. You can defund Planned Parenthood. All you have to do is agree that the federal government will provide all the reproductive health services that PP provided absolutely free of charge to all women with the exception of abortion. Deal or no deal?

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Roe v. Wade again

The argument in Roe v. Wade is that you cannot prove that the fetus has the same rights as those already born, and that moral reasoning leaves the question undecided. This was not only the majority opinion, it was explicitly not challenged in the dissent by Rehnquist, and was never argued by Roe opponents like Scalia. The argument in Roe was that we know a woman has a right to privacy, we don't know whether the fetus has as right to life, therefore the right we know takes precedence over the right that is open to reasonable doubt. Dissenters have only argued that the right to privacy is a made-up right and not really guaranteed in the Constitution, a position that I consider to be very implausible and, what is more, is not a real pro-life argument. Because the Court think there is a case beyond reasonable doubt that women have a right to privacy that extends to reproductive health issues such as birth control and abortion, opponents of abortion need to show beyond reasonable doubt that fetuses have the same right to life as babies. Maybe you think, say, the SLED argument does that, but if so, this would require a completely different, and to my mind, more intellectually honest legal strategy than the one that has been used by so-called pro-life justices from Rehnquist to Gorsuch.

Intellectually Honest Pro-Life Strategy

I think pro-life advocacy is, from a utilitarian perspective, a pretty weak way of saving lives, even fetal lives. Three pro-life Republican Presidents have not saved a single fetus. They cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in one county in Texas and it INCREASED the abortion rate. I do believe in a 24-hour waiting period, and having women view an ultrasound, and then choose. That is both pro-choice and pro-life. The only legal arguments that have ever been presented against Roe v. Wade don't argue that the fetus has a right to life and we can prove it. All they do is try to deny that women have a right to privacy in reproductive matters, allowing abortion to be a matter of democratic choice. But that seems absurd, and opposed to the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, because it would imply that fetuses have a right to life in Iowa but not in New York.

The only way to get an intellectually honest pro-life outcome out of the Supreme court would be to argue that fetuses have a provable right to life and then argue on the basis of the Equal Protection Clause that their lives should be protected. But if that is the case, we really have never had a pro-life justice on the Supreme Court, and we have never had a President with an intellectually honest pro-life strategy.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Legitimate investigation

The Mueller investigation is a witch hunt, and a deep state conspiracy, because some of his investigators are Democrats who preferred Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.
The House Intelligence Committee's report, contending that there was no collusion, was a legitimate investigation, since all of the signatories were Republicans and supported Donald Trump for President.
Makes perfect sense.

Monday, April 30, 2018

How the NRA became radically opposed to all gun control

It didn't used to be that way, before the late 1970s when Hanlon Carter took over the organization.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Is proof necessary

 From here. 

"I do not think there is a demonstrative proof (like Euclid) of Christianity, nor of the existence of matter, nor of the good will & honesty of my best & oldest friends. I think all three are (except perhaps the second) far more probable than the alternatives. The case for Christianity in general is well given by Chesterton; and I tried to do something in my Broadcast TalksAs to why God doesn’t make it demonstratively clear: are we sure that He is even interested in the kind of Theism which would be a compelled logical assent to a conclusive argument? Are we interested in it in personal matters? I demand from my friend a trust in my good faith which is certain without demonstrative proof. It wouldn’t be confidence at all if he waited for rigorous proof. Hang it all, the very fairy-tales embody the truth. Othello believed in Desdemona’s innocence when it was proved: but that was too late. Lear believed in Cordelia’s love when it was proved: but that was too late. ‘His praise is lost who stays till all commend.’ The magnanimity, the generosity which will trust on a reasonable probability, is required of us. But supposing one believed and was wrong after all? Why, then you would have paid the universe a compliment it doesn’t deserve. Your error would even so be more interesting & important than the reality. And yet how could that be? How could an idiotic universe have produced creatures whose mere dreams are so much stronger, better, subtler than itself?"
C. S. Lewis, letter to Sheldon Vanauken (23 December 1950), from A Severe Mercy

Why evangelical Trump support is overrated


Lead-footed Literalism

Taking the Bible literally is one way of abusing it.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Health care and capitalism

Some people think that health care should be an individual responsibility. Some people think that capitalism shouldn’t be undermined, and just as some people can’t afford a Mercedes, some people can’t afford health insurance. That’s just the breaks. If something is a matter of capitalism, some people are going to be unable to afford some things. Here. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

J. L. Mackie and the bunny rabbit

This is from J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism 

“…there is a priori no good reason why a sheer origination of things, not determined by anything, should be unacceptable, whereas the existence of a god with the power to create something out of nothing is acceptable.” 

 I usually reply to this with my bunny rabbit argument. Suppose you and I are eating lunch. You look away, and then, you notice a bunny rabbit is munching on your salad. You ask me how it got there, and I reply, that, funny thing, it just popped into existence without a cause. Would you take that seriously?

Monday, April 23, 2018

The China Delusion

 It looks as if they have been reading Richard Dawkins in China. “It is an offense for any organizations or individuals to guide, support, permit and condone minors to believe in religions or participate in religious activities,” the letter said.

The l
etter said minors were at a critical stage of physical and mental development and had no independent thinking, so parents had an obligation to nurture children in accordance with national laws and social requirements.


HT: Bob Prokop

Lydia McGrew on approaches to the resurrection.


Friday, April 20, 2018

The Sharpened Intellect

Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself. That is why an uneducated believer like Bunyan was able to write a book that has astonished the whole world.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Do you believe in American civil religion? Not me.

Discussed here.  

Civil religion, on the one hand, often refers to America's covenantal relationship with a divine Creator who promises blessings for the nation for fulfilling its responsibility to defend liberty and justice. While vaguely connected to Christianity, appeals to civil religion rarely refer to Jesus Christ or other explicitly Christian symbols. Christian nationalism, however, draws its roots from "Old Testament" parallels between America and Israel, who was commanded to maintain cultural and blood purity, often through war, conquest, and separatism. Unlike civil religion, historical and contemporary appeals to Christian nationalism are often quite explicitly evangelical, and consequently, imply the exclusion of other religious faiths or cultures.

Does Richard Carrier Exist?


Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Christian tribute to an atheist philosopher


Guns don't kill people, people kill people. So do slogans

If a gun is discharged and kills a person, it is true it is normally caused by a persons. So, a person decides to kill, this causes the person to pull the trigger, this causes the gun to discharge, and if it reaches its target, the person dies. So the gun caused the death, but the shooter caused the gun to caused the death.
But this doesn't meant that the availability of guns, or certain types of guns, or the availability of guns for certain types of people, isn't a bad thing. If a parent leaves a loaded gun out for a six-year old to get their hands on, and he shoots and kills his little brother, the parents can't just blame their kid and say "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." There is a reason why mass shootings happen in the US at a far more frequent pace than they happen in Britain, Canada, or the countries of Western Europe. With the Parkland shooting, someone with known violent tendencies has able to get a hold of an AR-15, a weapon that could kill numerous people in succession without the shooter having to reload. 
Slogans are very tricky. Because there is always a shooter who is morally responsible for the shooting, and the gun, as an inanimate object, is not responsible for the shooting, doesn't mean that there aren't reasonable ways in which we could limit gun availability and save lives. 
If I am homicidally angry and I have no weapon, I could choke someone to death, but that might prove difficult. Even stabbing someone to death with a kitchen knife might take a great deal of effort and be messy. If all I have to do is squeeze a trigger, it is going to be more likely that my homicidal intentions will reach fruition. And this will be so even if it is true that I and not my weapon if I use one, will be morally responsible for the act of homicide. 
Beware of slogans. They are often a substitute for critical thinking. 

It's Whately Time, again

This famous essay using anti-Christian arguments against Napoleon is a classic, and deservedly.

Monday, April 09, 2018

How God's nature is known

Some arguments for God. Here. 

Why are there Jesus skeptics but not Alexander the Great skeptics

Gary Habermas asks here. 

Obama on religious liberty

He does say this about opponents of same-sex marriage: 

I think it’s important to recognize that folks who feel very strongly that marriage should be defined narrowly as between a man and a woman, many of them are not coming at it from a mean-spirited perspective. They’re coming at it because they care about families. And they have a different understanding, in terms of what the word “marriage” should mean. And a bunch of ’em are friends of mine, pastors and people who I deeply respect.

But figures in his administration have not followed this up with their policy statements and actions,  unfortunately. 

McGrath on the Trilemma

Here.  It is designed to refute the idea that Jesus was a good man but not God, not to prove Jesus's divinity.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Reading assignment

People need to read C. S. Lewis's Meditation on the Third Commandment. Over, and over and over, and over, and over. 

Christianity will make you uncomfortable with the ideology of ANY party. If you are completely comfortable with the ideology of any party as a Christian, you are not thinking clearly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The bigot-bomb and the 2016 election

By the way, the attempt to, as I call it, bigot-bomb people who believe in and defend traditional marriage by comparing them to Klansmen is one of the things that got Trump elected. Evangelical Christians noticed that Hillary's infamous "deplorables" comment took place at an LGBT gathering. That and some statements by Obama administration officials that trivialized religious freedom issues as merely a cover for discrimination. 

It is one thing to say that we need gay marriage to be fair within a religiously diverse society, but we understand the right and rationality of people to dissent from the idea that gay relationships can ever truly be marriage. It is another to attribute all opposition to bigotry, as something not even deserving of respect in a pluralistic society. 

What puzzles me about all of this is that the Democratic politicians like Obama, Biden, the Clintons, and Kaine, are all Christians. Hillary seems very serious about faith. I know conservatives like to discredit faith claims made by liberals, on the assumption that if they were true believers they wouldn't be pro-choice. But liberals could just as easily counter that they think the faith of conservatives is phony because they support public policies that harm the poor and the needy, something that is all over the Bible. 

If you look at Romans 1 and other passages on homosexuality, it doesn't look good for gay relationships at least on the face of things. 

Now there may be ways of interpreting those passages so that they aren't so bad for homosexuals, or you can say that they reflect a limited understanding of homosexuality from the first century and they are not God's final word on the matter. But you have to admit that if it can be reasonable to be a Christian (I take it all these Democratic politicians think that), then it can also be reasonable, based on what Christians think of a special revelation, that homosexual acts are sinful. Because these arguments are Christian-specific, they might not be an adequate basis for law, but when we separate church and state we leave areas for the church that the state has to keep its hands off. By contrast, no reasonable interpretation of the Bible supports white supremacy. (Curse of Ham? Give me a break). These Democrats are also recent converts to the idea of gay marriage (Hillary says that Chelsea convinced her to accept it), so was she a bigot when she opposed gay marriage? Was her husband a bigot when he signed DOMA? 

This implied bigotry charge against conservative Christians kept a lot of them in the Trump fold when Access Hollywood should have sent them running for the hills. I believe that if the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign had retained a respectful attitude toward opponents of gay marriage, even while disagreeing with those opponents, they evangelical bloc would not have held for Trump and Hillary would be President today.

I stand by my view that the price of electing a corrupt, impulsive, racist such as Trump who has spent a lifetime disrespecting women is too high to make this choice the right one. But I do understand it. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

The real argument of Roe v. Wade: Abortion and the burden of proof

People tend to assume (I used to) that the legal debate about Roe v. Wade parallels the moral arguments about abortion and fetal personhood. We typically think that those who support the decision accept arguments like those of Mary Anne Warren or Judith Jarvis Thomson that abortion is justified, and opponents of the decision advance arguments like those of John Noonan, or Francis Beckwith, or Scott Klusendorf that fetuses are persons and therefore Roe has to be wrong.

Actually, the debate over Roe doesn't turn on that. This is my best reconstruction of it.

1. There is a constitutionally guaranteed right of privacy, of which we can be certain.
2. In the case of abortion, the right of privacy must prevail unless there is a countervailing right of which we can be certain, such as the fetus's right to life. This protects a woman's right to consult with her doctor and decide whether or not to get an abortion. Just as it is a violation of privacy rights to make birth control illegal, it violates privacy right to prohibit abortion, unless a countervailing right can be established.
3. But the fetus's right to life cannot be established. Reasonable persons can disagree as to whether fetuses have a right to life or not. One may, based on one's religion perhaps, believe that they have this right, but this right cannot be demonstrated in the same way that the right of privacy can be demonstrated.
4. Therefore there is a Constitutional right to abortion.

All attempts to oppose Roe that I know of, starting with the Rehnquist dissent when the original case was argued, argue not against 3 but against 1. Scalia in one interview refused to refer to himself as a pro-life justice. All he argued was that the right of privacy on which the decision as based was made an absolute when it should not be, and that therefore abortion should be a matter of democratic choice.

It seems you can accept the Roe argument even if you, in your own viewpoint, believe that fetuses have the right to life and that abortion is always wrong. The question is not whether abortion is justified, the question is whether the fetus's right to life is as evident as a woman's right to privacy.

Is the right to privacy really in doubt? If not, do arguments like the SLED argument meet the requisite burden of proof? It would have to be so strong that it would be irrational to reject it.

See the discussion here.

Charles Colson's Argument from Watergate

“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The elder board's dilemma

                In a large church in a major American metropolis, there were two candidates for head pastor. One was selected for the pastorate. Then, after a year in the pastorate, it is discovered that the chosen pastor had had an affair with a porn star 10 years before, but, more than this, just before the final decision, he paid the star $10,000 for her silence. But the elder board says, “God is a God of forgiveness. Let’s give him a mulligan, and let him remain the preacher of the church.”
                What elder board would say a thing like that?

Jeff Lowder on gun violence

Here.  The idea of repealing the second amendment has just been defended by former justice Stevens.  He has been criticized here. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

The President's First Duty

The President's FIRST duty is to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States. That comes before nominating pro-life justices, or cutting taxes, or supporting Israel, etc. Unless you have been looking at him through Fox-colored glasses, I think the answer concerning Trump is overwhelmingly NO. It was bad enough that many Christian leaders supported him at election time, but I think I can understand it up to a point. At that time there was the contrast with Hillary. With respect to his extramarital relationships, I think we have the right to ask him to just come clean, and either tell the country that he doesn't think he has a duty to be a faithful husband because he has considers that requirement to be an outdated religiously-based prudish moral rule, or to say that he is deeply repentant for the disrespect for marriage, in word and deed, that he has shown in the past and that he has amended his behavior in the meantime. This is especially true for Christians who look to a Republican President to support traditional marriage and who find same-sex marriage to be a treat to that institution. Don't such Christians have a right to know if the President they are supporting respects the institution of marriage as they understand it? And shouldn't such Christians demand such answers from the President they support? 

Someone willing to make a payment of amount a few times my annual salary to keep someone silent is someone who is liable to be blackmailed by a foreign government to keep other improprieties quiet. His ability to put the American people first and uphold the Constitution has to therefore be questioned. 

Evangelical leaders are getting up on TV and giving Trump a whole bunch of breaks that they wouldn't give Clinton or any other previous President. Worse yet they focus on the actual affair, when the attempt, in violation of campaign finance laws, to keep someone from talking about the affair is far more serious. And if he has people out making threats of physical violence, this is worse. 

I am tired of hearing that the public policy bottom line is all that matters. A President who can't uphold the rule of law, who is so compromised that we can expect nothing but scandal after scandal, is someone who the American people will sooner or later turn against. I liked a lot of John Edwards' public policy proposals. But his character was so compromised that I would be far more comfortable with Mitt Romney in the White House than him. I think those who voted for Trump should have seen the handwriting on the wall when they voted for him back in 2016, but this constant talk of "mulligans" and "we believe in forgiveness" is nauseating and with a lot of people yes, it damages the credibility of Christianity. The Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkinses, not to mention Paula White, who says its a sin to oppose our President since God raises up kings, (How come we didn't hear that when Obama was in office), yes, they do give opponents of Christianity ammunition.