Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Trump made his money through tax fraud. Does anybody care?

Apparently not.  Or maybe people think that whatever comes from the NY Times can be safely ignored.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Large-earthers and small-earthers

Actually, the idea that people who were critical of Columbus were flat-earthers is a well-known historical mistake. Everyone knew the world was round. There were two types of people, those like Columbus whom we might call small-earthers who thought you could get to the Indes after a relatively short trip, and large-earthers, who thought there was a large ocean to cross and that it would not be cost-effective to have lots of ships sailing West to get to the East. The large-earthers were right, of course, but Columbus made it into the history books because there was this other continent between Europe and Asia on the Westward route, what eventually became know as the Americas. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Christine Blasey Ford in the land of Narnia?

Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth. (pg. 52) 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Four consistent possibilities

1. Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, and abortion should be legal. 
2. Roe v. Wade was rightly decided, but abortion should not be legal. 
3. Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and abortion should be legal. 
4. Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, and abortion should not be legal. 

2 and 3 are the surprising combinations. 2 is consistent because abortion can always be rendered illegal through a constitutional amendment. 3 is consistent because it is possible that abortion can be defended for other reasons than that offered by Roe. But everyone assumes that 1 and 4 are the only options. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Legalizing murder: The argument from reasonable doubt

I have a strong inclination toward these two positions. 

1) Abortion is murder. 
2) Abortion should be legal. 

Which means I think murder should be legal in many cases, that although very wrong, the remedy for it should be moral rather than legal. That is because the personhood of the fetus is not provable beyond reasonable doubt, therefore the status of abortionists as murderers is not proved beyond reasonable doubt, and that is the standard for convicting someone of murder in America.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What price pro-life

 I think it is a mistake to make the acid-test of whether someone values life whether we are willing to put people who provide abortions in jail, when there are so many other things that can be done that we don't do to have a child-friendly society. When Roe v. Wade came out in 1973, women could be fired if they carried their babies to term. Employers didn't have to give them unpaid time off to have their babies, and when this was outlawed under Bill Clinton, the very party that is supposedly pro-life, or at least most of their Senators, voted no on the Family and Medical Leave Act. If we want women to have their babies and not abort them shouldn't we want to make sure they have health insurance? Yet the Trump administration cut the CHIP program. If we don't want to see abortions, aren't we going to see more babies born in difficult economic circumstances? Are we willing to pay higher taxes to see to it that these children don't starve? Are we doing enough to show people that life with a disability can be worth living, so that mothers who face the prospect of bearing a child with a disability will be more inclined to have that baby rather than abort it? And yet the party of life has been working on a law that undercuts the Americans with Disabilities Act, and conservatives in Texas want to eliminate all mention of Helen Keller from the American history books. If we want to stop abortions, do we really have to accept arguments that deny that a woman has a right to privacy in her medical decisions, because the legal arguments against Roe are all about rejecting and limiting the right of privacy, and not at all about a fetus's right to life. (If you think the route to getting rid of abortions is through conservative justices, that is what their argument is for overturning Roe. They never argue that the fetus has a provable right to life. Ever.)

I'm pretty sympathetic to pro-life. I don't think the pro-life position is provable to all reasonable persons, but I would never want to be party to an abortion myself. But pro-life seems to include a package deal which includes the Republican agenda. If have been told that I have to accept a President whose behavior harms the country in more ways than I can count, all because, by golly, he'll put people on the Supreme Court who will save all of those fetuses, all the while trying to take health insurance away from millions of people, including those very fetuses once they are born. If he shot five people to death on Fifth Avenue, some people would say "Yes, but at least he's pro-life."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

From the Left to the Outer Darkness

Intolerance and political correctness is the poison pill of the political left, the road out from some political viewpoints, many of which I am inclined to support, into the outer darkness of totalitarian thinking. 

Christians are terminally politically uncomfortable. Every ideology has a poison pill. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Socialism and Health Care

Let's do a little history. While he was still an actor, Reagan did recordings for the American Medical Association fearmongering about socialized medicine, but if you listen to them carefully what he is talking about is was for people over 65, so what he was objecting to was what eventually became Medicare. I'm old enough to remember opponents of Medicare were condemning that a socialized medicine. I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh complaining about Bill Clinton's health care proposal by saying THIS IS SOCIALISM. The s-word was used to scare everyone away from the plan, which, of course, never passed even through the Democratic Congress he had at that time, and the fear of socialized medicine was a major talking point for the Contract with America in 1994. Opponents of changing our health care system kept insisting that we have the greatest health care system in the world, even though it left millions of people uninsured and uninsurable. When Obama came along the Affordable Care Act was a compromise. It was originally proposed with a public option. Trump began his campaign by saying that everyone should be enabled to have health insurance, but called Obamacare a disaster and joined the chorus who wanted it repealed and replaced. He was challenged by Ted Cruz at one point for his comments at some point in his past in favor of single payer, but he denied that he supported that. It is hard to know what he believes about health care (if he believes anything at all coherent), but he does seem dedicated to destroying the works of Obama. Nevertheless the Administration has supported bills that would take health insurance away from millions of people. Even now they repealed the individual mandate and support state lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the ACA. Republicans have sometimes insisted that they want a market-based solution to the health care problem. But what does that mean? Markets are things you can be priced out of, otherwise they aren't markets. If it's a market-based, the insuring that everyone gets health care is like insuring that everyone gets, if not a Cadillac, at least a Hyundai. Health insurance companies won't make a profit insuring people like me, unless the government does something to make it profitable for them in insure people like me. It seems that there are two things you can say about the situation I was in for all that time. One is that the previous system, while it left me in an unfortunate situation, was part of the prince we pay for a free society, which means a free market. It's an argument that could have been used, and was used, against Medicare. Health care isn't a right, it's a commodity, which means that if it is unaffordable, that may be unfortunate, but it's not an injustice, and that Obama and the Democrats were wrong on principle for trying to fix it. Or, they can admit that Obama and the Democrats were right in attempting to redress that injustice, even if they didn't go about it in the right way. (Republicans, or course, are going to insist that single payer is not the right way either). Which makes it incumbent upon them to show us what the right way is instead of just objecting to what was actually passed. Republicans need to answer the in-principle question clearly, so that we can understand what, in fact, they want to do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

On Cadillacs and Health Care

I could never get affordable, or even any, health insurance until Obamacare was passed, since I was diagnosed with a chronic illness at the age of 23 and never worked for a big enough employer to get health insurance through them. But some would argue that people not being able to afford a good health insurance policy is like some people not being able to afford the car or house they would like to have. Sure, it would be nice if everyone could have a Cadillac, but in a free market economic system, some can afford it, and some can't. We'd bankrupt our country if we went socialist in such a way that we tried to give everyone who wanted one a Caddy. Besides, who would work hard if Cadillacs were distributed in accordance with need. What goes for Cadillacs, should go for health insurance. It is an individual's responsibility, not government's, to take care of our health. If we go socialist to the extent that will be necessary to make sure everyone has health insurance, we will end up with economic failure like they have in Venezuela. 

This is not an argument I buy, by the way. 

Where were you?

Alan Jackson's famous song is here.  I know where I was. I was in the shower. My wife came in, and I thought she was just trying to tell me to hurry up. Then I learned that the unimaginable had happened.

Saturday, September 08, 2018


 Let me pose the general question of when a candidate's moral problems ought to cause a voter either to vote for someone who is further away from you on the political spectrum that that candidate, or at least withhold support from the candidate closer to you and so, by default, help the candidate further away to get elected. The issue is complicated. It has to do with the extent to which a) the candidate's moral failures, or the discovery thereof, are going to affect the performance of their duties or cause a voter backlash which will benefit your ideological opponents in the long run, and b) whether you think the candidate in the other party isn't just someone who disagrees with you on some things, but in fact embodies an ideology you consider to be simply evil. A liberal, on those grounds, might, knowing what we know, vote for Mitt Romney in an election against John Edwards , because of Edwards' willingness to violate campaign rules to escape the consequences of an illicit affair, if he thinks conservatism to be an ideology with whom he merely disagrees. If he thinks it's the embodiment of evil, he may vote for Edwards anyway, because Romney's conservatism is too evil not to vote against. NeverEdwards is silly in light of that, they might argue.

On Edwards, here. 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

From a facebook discussion on politics,as it concerns fact-checkers

In political discussions, particularly on Facebook, I like to fact-check the claims people make. But some conservatives, goaded on by Trump, don't like fact-checker. They think they are a bunch of liberals. But I don't see them recommending any conservatively acceptable fact-checkers. Do we live in a postmodern world now, where there are no facts, only the interpretations of facts? 

How do YOU determine what is true in politics? It seems to me, on one way of viewing things, we determine what is factual by whether it fits with the ideology we espouse. We assume that only those who are on our side of the ideological fence have any willingness to look at facts and determine what is factual. But why think that. I used to think that the MAGA hats were all made in China, until I fact-checked, and discovered they weren't. 

Or we can think that there are really no facts, only interpretations of facts, and so we can pick and choose based on our ideology what is a fact, since facts are determined by ideology. But that is exactly the kind of postmoderism that conservatives decry. Or we can ask who is doing their homework and working at getting their facts straight, regardless of ideology. 

When I was young I watched the Senate Watergate hearings thinking that Nixon was almost certainly innocent. I thought Democrats like Same Ervin wanted Nixon to be guilty, but why in the world would anyone but a bungling underling do something so stupid as to bug the DNC headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Surely Woodward and Bernstein at the Post were liberal Democrats who were eager to see Nixon fall. John Dean was just trying to save his hide. John Ehrichman came in and finally set everyone straight. And then there was the Saturday Night Massacre, the House judiciary impeachment hearings in which one pained Republican named Railsback laid out the evidence that Nixon was guilty, the Supreme Court said the tapes had to be released, and finally the web of lies fell apart. In the words of the Who, I won't be fooled again.

If you are a Democrat, you naturally want evidence to come out that supports what you believe as a Democrat. If you are a Republican, and like what the President is doing in general, you don't want it to be true that he has, for example, violated campaign finance laws in paying women for their silence in order to influence the results of an election. And then there is such a thing as evidence. We might ask this question-do the news sources you like ever report anything embarrassing the their own political beliefs. Do they ever retract claims that are shown to be incorrect?

The fact check that I quoted estimated the difference between what Trump spent on vacations as opposed to Obama more conservatively than I expected. But since it comes from Snopes, I guess you have to assume that, no Obama spent more money on vacations than Trump. This in logic is called the ad hominem fallacy. We don't look at the case a person presents, we look at the source instead. If we don't like the source, it has to be false, even if it isn't. Liberals can do the same things as conservatives, in which case it is guaranteed that no discussion on the issues on which we differ can be discussed with the hope of progress. You get conversations like this: 

L: Cohen pleaded guilty to a campaign finance offense and implicated Trump. 
C: You're only saying that because you are a liberal. 

Look, I would be more impressed by conservative complaints about fact-checkers if conservatives could point out some fact-checkers to me that were more credible than the ones I use. (chirping crickets).

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Supporting Trump and summoning the White Witch

Gina Dalfonzo, a former writer for Charles Colson's Breakpoint, claims that Christians who support Trump are doing what Nikabrik was doing in summoning the White Witch to defeat the Telmarines.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Five Views of Meaning Without God

Can there be meaning in life without God? Here. 

A voice from the past

Egil Krogh, one of the conspirators, speaks regretfully of the Ellsberg break-in, an attempt to punish free speech during the Nixon administration. He wondered if these lessons from the past were lost on the Bush administration.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hate speech laws

I am inclined to oppose hate speech laws.  laws like that would put Trump in jail for sure, and it would be a Pandora's box we would never be able to close.

What if?

Trump says he would retain his support if he were to go to Fifth Avenue and shoot people. But what if he were to sign an amnesty bill, or a single payer health plan.

Trump has no conservative principles, even though he gets conservative results. So if it were ever in his interests to do these things, (for example, facing a Democratic Congress about to impeach him), he might say "Look, I do deals. My VP, he's got conservative principles, so he will veto everything you try to put through. I don't have such principles, so for heaven's sake don't impeach me. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I always think I'm right. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

People sometimes criticize others because they "always think they're right. But don't we always think we're right? If we don't think we're right, we change our minds. Then, we think we are right about that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"The media" is a myth

Why do conservatives think there is a liberal media when most of their information about the news comes from sources with a conservative point of view? Doesn't it make more sense to say that there are liberal media sources and conservative ones? Many years ago, at least all television news came from three networks, and so if you thought all the broadcasters there were conservative, you still got your news from there and had to work to find a conservative perspective. (Except in Phoenix, where the newspaper was known for its right-wing stance). But now? To say that "the media" is liberal is to deny that Fox, Drudge, and Breitbart are part of the media. But they are part of the media. The fact is that today people can choose the political perspective from which their news comes. Which, I think, explains the polarized nature of the political arena today.

"The media" is a myth. No one political perspective controls all the sources of news and information.

Hey, whatever happened to the falsification challenge

Peter Atkins' atheism certainly fails it.

Could Trump end up signing a single payer bill?

Nunes seems to think it essential that Republicans be re-elected to majorities in both houses of Congress, because Mueller won't exonerate the President, so we have to. Nunes has done everything possible to limit inquiry into the President's conduct with Russia and to attack the propriety of the Mueller investigation with questions about FISA warrants, etc. If the Dems win the majority in the House, then he loses the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee falls to the aggressive Democrat Adam Schiff, who wants to do a thorough investigation of the Russia scandal along the lines of the Senate Watergate Hearings under Sam Ervin in the 1970s, which revealed the White House Tapes, included John Dean's harmful testimony against Nixon, and eventually resulted in the Nixon's resignation to prevent inevitable impeachment and removal. If that happens, Nunes says on the tape that everything will be lost. I take it this means impeachment, or if not, maybe Nunes fears that Trump, facing a Democratic Congress, instead of just vetoing everything they put through, decides that he is the ultimate dealmaker, and so to prevent impeachment, maybe he will sign some things the Democrats want on immigration or health care. Who knows, maybe even single payer. After all, Trump's conservative convictions are questionable, even if the actions of his administration are conservative. Maybe he thinks the Democrats won't impeach him if he makes a deal with them, because they know that Pence is a much more principled conservative and would never sign Democratic bills.

Nixon went to China. Clinton signed welfare reform. Trump.....

I mean it would repeal and replace Obamacare, now wouldn't it. 

Monday, August 06, 2018

What the laws say

This is what our laws say about foreign influence in elections. It says that foreign governments and foreign nationals cannot provide anything of value to American election campaigns, and campaigns cannot solicit or receive anything of value from foreign nationals and foreign governments. It doesn't matter whether it swung the election or not. Trump's tweet that people do this all the time and it's perfectly legal either shows massive legal ignorance, or is a bald-faced lie.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea is still in print

C. S. Lewis's Dangerous Idea is going into its 11th printing, nearly 15 years after its original publication in September of 2003. IV Press has told me that this brings the number of copies in print to 10.882. But I'm still a one-hit wonder as far s monographs are concerned, and am of course no match for Patterson and Clinton.


Who ought to hold claim to the more dangerous idea--Charles Darwin or C. S. Lewis? Daniel Dennett argued for Darwin in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Touchstone Books, 1996). In this book Victor Reppert champions C. S. Lewis. Darwinists attempt to use science to show that our world and its inhabitants can...

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Trump's choice

Does he really think that the evidence doesn’t support ongoing Russian interference (ongoing is the key word)?  If yes, he should commit to combatting it, if no, he should say that the while intelligence community is full of baloney instead of pretend to respect it. He can't have it both ways. 

A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

A redated post.

This post is dedicated to the memory of David Baur, a friend of mine whom I recently discovered died of a heart attack last August. He sent me this during the 2004 election campaign.


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.

Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

* written by Donna L. Lavins and Sheldon Cotler.

Is this a pro-life alternative to eliminating choice?


Friday, July 27, 2018

What is the great bias of the mainstream news media? Patriotism?

The  textbook I use for critical thinking (I didn't pick it) thinks that the most significant way in which the media is biased is not its partisan bias, which, of course differs from outlet to outlet, but rather its nationalistic bias. Our press is biased in favor of America and its allies, and not fair to opponents of America, like Cuba, North Korea, and Iran. In other words, mainstream news outlets in America, liberal or conservative, suffer from a patriotic bias. 

What do you think?

This kind of reminds me of the Outsider Test for Faith applied to whether America is a good nation or not. According to this line of reasoning, whether you think America, or Saudi Arabia, or Germany, or North Korea is a great nation depends on accident of birth. Therefore, in dealing with this question you must abandon any prior convictions and accept only those beliefs in this area supported by hard, scientific evidence. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Debates about socialism vs. capitalism

It seems most of these, so far as I can see, founder on definition. If, in order to have socialism, you have to have state control of all the means of production, the case for it gets difficult. If on the other hand, you think that any increase in government involvement in the economic system is "socialism," then such "socialism" is far easier to defend. What we now call Medicare was attacked by Ronald Reagan in the ads he did for the American Medical Association as socialized medicine. I am sure Social Security was called Socialist Security by its foes. Obamacare regulated the insurance industry more it had been regulated before and is often called socialistic. But I have an Obamacare-based health plan, and every month I make a premium payment to one of those money-grubbing, capitalist, profit-making corporations, corporations whose very existence would be illegal in countries that have truly socialized medicine.

What was the death toll of the Spanish Inquisition?

Apparently, if you do the math, about 1250.

Monday, July 16, 2018

A crime against America

 It's very simple. Our government intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying that a massive crime was committed against the United States electoral system. Out intelligence community further says that this will continue in 2018 and 2020. OK, no dead bodies such as in 9/11, but our very system of government is threatened. The Russians hacked into voter rolls in 2016. If they can hack into voter rolls this time, they can wipe thousands of names off the voter rolls next time so that when you try to go vote, they are going to tell you that you weren't registered, so you have to fill out a provisional ballot, and if we happen to find your name in our system, your vote will count. No matter who it benefits, it's totally wrong. Trump stood on stage with the chief perpetrator, our enemy, and said that since he vigorously denied it, that has to be taken at least as seriously as the work of our own Justice Department. O. J. Simpson says he didn't do it, too. This is not about liberalism and conservatism. Let me repeat: This is not about liberalism and conservatism. Both senators form my home state of Arizona have vehemently condemned Trump's performance today as disgraceful. They are conservatives with the conscience of a conservative. Conservatives used to be the first to stand up for our national defense, and Ronald Reagan once told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall. If you want to point to something Obama did you think is just as bad, well, Obama is out of office and can't be impeached, and last I checked, two wrong do not make a right.

The biggest mistake you can make is making issues concerning Donald Trump all about liberalism and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, Left and Right. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Monday, July 09, 2018

Socialism is not a sexually transmitted disease

 I never got a full-time tenure-track teaching job, so I spent most of the last 26 years cobbling together adjunct teaching jobs and other part-time work. I worked as hard as anyone else, but I never got insurance except for one semester when I got a temporary full-time position. I was diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis at the age of 23, so individual health insurance companies wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. Finally, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I got insured in 2014, and since then I have had three surgeries, the last to prevent cancer. Under good old fashioned capitalism I would have had to wait until I actually got colon cancer before my condition would have been considered a sufficient emergency for my operation to be paid for. After that surgery I was in the hospital for three weeks watching the debate over the attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, after the ACA, arguably, had just saved my life. The legislation, supported by Trump, would have cost me my health insurance for 2018.

 Socialism? It is not a sexually transmitted disease. We are all socialists when it comes to our military, our police, and our fire department. Not so much, maybe, for cars and houses. People should earn a living and work hard. But I don't see that moving in a socialist direction on medicine in any way undermines the work ethic, which seems to be the great fear with socialism. Now it could be that for others the ACA has done harm. Maybe I am thinking selfishly here, and it would be better for the American people in general not to have laws allowing me to get health insurance in spite of a pre-existing condition. Maybe I didn't deserve health insurance, since I didn't earn a place with an employer who would provide insurance for me. Maybe someone could have told me when I was 18 not to get ulcerative colitis. As they say, "don't get sick." But I say, "Thank you, President Obama."

And, by the way, what does "repeal and replace Obamacare" even. You don't replace something if the basic idea is rotten to the core, you just get rid of it. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Foreign Aid: A solution to illegal immigration?

Chad wrote: The only real solution to illegal immigration is helping to make other countries in our hemisphere safe and prosperous. People with good jobs and safe streets don't walk a thousand miles to come to another country.

And bmiller agreed. 

Hey, I've got an idea. We should raise taxes in America to pay for massive foreign aid to countries like Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, etc. Then their people won't want to come to America, and we won't have such a severe problem with illegal immigration. 

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.