Monday, September 26, 2022

What if you can't decide about God?


What if you think about theism and atheism, and just can't decide which one is true based on the evidence? You can
a) Not decide. But then if you have to make decisions which are based on whether or not you believe in God, what do you do? Sleep in on Sunday, or go to church? (Or maybe you try a synagogue, mosque, or church on even weeks, and stay away on odd ones).
b) Disbelieve. Believe only what you can prove. (Can I prove that I am not a brain in a vat being given my experiences by aliens?)
c) Believe. Theism has higher payoffs, so if you can't decide, bet on God. (This is Pascal's solution.)

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Brain death, brain birth, and abortion

 Pro-choicers believe that even though a human fetus is species member, it lacks those characteristic that endow it with a right to life. One argument is that fetuses do not have functional brains until very late on, and therefore have not experienced anything. You can either see life as the career of a biological entity--that begins at conception. Or you can see it as a series of experiences or mental occurrences, and that doesn't begin until late in pregnancy. At the end of life we think of a person as dead (and therefore lacking a right to life), once the brain has died, even if there is some biological function still going on. So, at the beginning of life, when there is some biological functioning going on it's life has started even though it doesn't have a functioning brain? (If I only had a........) Mind you this may not be the last word on the abortion issue. But it does make it difficult to see how the same level of heinousness attaches to abortions (at least before brain development) that attaches to infanticide. In my view the lack of a developed brain is a morally relevant difference even if you believe, as I do, that abortion inflicts a significant loss and requires a high standard of justification.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

What are the core claims of critical race theory?

This is from Education Week. 

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

The basic tenets of critical race theory, or CRT, emerged out of a framework for legal analysis in the late 1970s and early 1980s created by legal scholars Derrick Bell, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and Richard Delgado, among others.

A good example is when, in the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

That's it. It is true that people go from the idea that racism can be systemic and institutional to other kinds of conclusions, but this part of it seems to be just true. Racism is not just individual, and not a matter of being a bigot. The idea is that just going color-blind is an insufficient response to the problems posed by racism. If  you don't use the n-word, you don't support segregation, you have friends in minority groups, etc., you can still be supporting institutionalized racism. 

It doesn't seem to be adequate to answer the problem of racism by saying "We're all  individuals," while denying racial identity.  If all you need for critical race theory is to deny individualist race theory, count me in. Objectionable conclusions might spin out from critical race theory, but this is not a reason to deny the central claim. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Facts and ideology

 There are no right-wing facts and left-wing facts, there are just, well, facts. Alternative facts are what is known in logic as falsehoods. 

C. Everett Koop, an icon of the pro-life movement, who was Reagan's Surgeon General, remembered this when he refused to state that getting an abortion is traumatizing to the women who get them. 

People on both sides of the political aisle can learn from his example. 


Friday, August 12, 2022

Is it necessary for a superintendent of public instruction to learn how to read?

 You would think so. Tom Horne, who actually held the position a few years ago, is running for the post again in the State of Arizona on the Republican ticket. His principal campaign is directed against Critical Race Theory and the 1619 project which emphasizes the history of slavery in America. 

Here is what Horne says that the 1619 project asserts: 

1. The American revolution was not fought for life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but because American slave owners feared a threat of abolition by the British authorities.

Here is what Nikole Hannah-Jones actually says:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South. The wealth and prominence that allowed Jefferson, at just 33, and the other founding fathers to believe they could successfully break off from one of the mightiest empires in the world came from the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery. In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if some of the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.

This doesn't actually say that the Founders were PRIMARILY motivated by the preservation of slavery. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022



u  In most societies historically people have been concerned about underpopulating since people historically depended upon children (particularly males) to take care of them in their old age, and because a strong male population was needed to protect the people from attack and to do the manual labor needed to keep everyone fed. Underpopulation, not overpopulation, was feared.