Sunday, September 28, 2008

This guy must have been reading Dangerous Idea

HT: Ed Babinski.

Obama's speech on religion

I am redating an old post, which seems to suggest to me that Obama showed, at this point in his career, some capacity to listen to pro-life concerns. I posted this on primary day last February, but it seems relevant to our current discussion.

I'm still an undecided primary voter even today. But this is interesting.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wikipedia entry for the brain in a vat

The infamous brain in the vat has its own Wikipedia page.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Barack: The Biggest Baby-Killer of them all?

Some of you, I fully understand, would not vote for Barack Obama because he is pro-choice. I understand the underlying viewpoint here. But there is an added kicker to this, and that is that it is alleged that Obama is something worse than pro-choice, he's actually a supporter of infanticide, since he opposed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in the Illinois State Senate.

First, last I heard, the laws of the State of Illinois made it illegal to kill infants. So was this legislation even necessary?

Second, the name of a piece of legislation tells you nothing. By this logic, someone who voted against the No Child Left Behind Act wants children left behind, or someone who voted against the Healthy Forests Initiative wants sick forests.

Third, when I suggested that pro-lifers have to be prepared to accept a greater expansion of socialism to care for all the would-be victims of abortion, there was a chorus of objections from pro-lifers. But this law, if the linked article is correct, mandated state funds to take care of these children as long as they were alive. It also abrogated the rights of parents and would have given lawyers an opportunity to "sue everything on two legs." But I thought Republicans hated trial lawyers. In other words, there appear to have been various reasons for voting against this legislation besides wanting the accidental survivors of abortion dead.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Concerning that anarchist friend of mine

Which raises an interesting question as to how far we can go in separating the legal and the moral questions when it comes to abortion. Is it inconsistent to oppose abortion morally but not legally? The tricky part is that if you consider abortion to be the taking the life of a person, and you think it unjustified, you've got some actions that fall with the class of murders (which by definition is the morally unjustified taking of human life) which you think should nevertheless not be legislated against. That does seem initially counterintuitive, but is there solid ethical reasoning backing up this intuition?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anarchy, State, and Abortion

I had a friend once who was an atheist, an anarchist, and thought abortion was murder. Obviously he's a counter-example to the claim that pro-lifers want to impose their religious views on the public. But, of course, he would have to be opposed to laws against abortion, since, of course, he was opposed to, well, laws, being an anarchist

Are the biblical documents reliable?

An essay by Jimmy Williams.

Some Questions for Conservatives

Do you support scrapping Social Security, either gradually or suddenly?

Do you hold to a general principle of laissez-faire capitalism, that the government ought to stay out of the economy. That principle is equally violated by a corporate bailout as it is by LBJ's War on Poverty.

Was the GI Bill socialism?

Do you oppose any and all government assistance to poor people?

And who do you think was last conservative President? If you say GW Bush I'm going to laugh. Ronald Reagan? Give me a break. Herbert Hoover? Maybe.

Are child labor laws justified? There's government intervention to be sure.

The leaders who have run the Republican party for years are not principled conservatives. They want government to back big business. Their hearts start bleeding at the sight of a failing multinational corporation.

Do you seriously doubt that many have benefitted from government involvement in the economic life of the public?

What, in your view, constitutes principled conservatism? This isn't just a rhetorical attack. I'd really like to see what conservatism is really all about. The "conservative" ideology that has run the Bush administration seems to be an ideology that looks out for big business first and foremost. If that means government involvement, then government gets involved. It that means reducing government, then government is reduced. But I see no commitment to limited government as an overall governing principle. That is why, if you really convinced me that conservative principles were true, I would register, not Republican, but Libertarian.

A correction to a previous post

I had implied in my previous post that perhaps government assistance in areas like Social Security and Medicare would not be necessary if Christians were more generous. That assumes that Christians have it in their power to make it the case that we don't need these things, and that is not what I wanted to argue. I do not claim that the need for these things is the fault of Christians generally. I would make the general point that Christians should probably do better than we do in dealing with poverty, but I will not claim that Christian moral failure makes it necessary for anti-poverty government institutions to exist.

Ken Samples on the Importance of Worldviews

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why I am a Democrat.

Let's get down to the real point of this little piece on Joe Republican. The conservative belief that the government should not regulate the economy, that it should not take an interest in the welfare of less-privileged citizens by constraining the greed of large corporations, presumably because the better the big companies do the more jobs they'll create, therefore benefitting the rest of the world, looks just false to me. It looks as if historically, interventions by government have at least on many occasions been a good thing. Social Security was identified with Socialism when it was proposed, and it is sometimes attacked today as a Ponzi scheme. But I can't forget how much things better were for my mother and father, both political conservatives, once they started receiving it. In my childhood Medicare was attacked as Socialism, but again, it has made a huge difference to many people, including my parents. So much so that Bush wanted to expand it when he got into the Presidency.

Bill Vallicella once criticized my use of this little piece by saying that it commits a diachronic fallacy; it implies that because liberals might have been justified in going for government assistance to the economy in the past, it doesn't follow that the kinds of things liberals propose today are justified. As Palin would say, perhaps so. Nevetheless the general principle that government should keep its filthy laws off our collective economic body seems just false, and there can't be any greater proof that what we have seen this past week. The bitter fruits of deregulation have been reaped this past week, and now one of the leading deregulators, a member of the Keating Five, wants the job of cleaning up the mess?

The Bible says those who won't work should not eat. But those willing to work should eat, and the weakest members of society, those who are too young, too old, or too sick, or too disabled, to work, should be able to eat as well. It would be wonderful it trickle-down actually worked, or if in particular Christians were so generous enough so that government action was not necessary. The evidence suggests otherwise.

The Day in the Life of Joe Democrat mentions mostly things that Rush Limbaugh, in his worst nightmares, images liberals as advocating, not the actual accomplishments of real liberals.
Let's take a look at something that was enacted in the Clinton years, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was for the purpose of preventing companies from firing mothers who took of to have babies and spend time at home with their children before going back to work. I was pleased to see that McCain voted for this legislation, but I remember Limbaugh and other conservatives railing against it. But gee, if you're pro-life and you want women to carry their babies to term and not abort them, how can you be against this sort of legislation? Is overturning Roe all you can think of when you think about lowering the abortion rate?

For reasons I have presented earlier, while I don't subscribe to what I think is a doctrinaire commitment to "a woman's right to choose," I don't think that is an area where the President can make a direct impact. I am being told that if McCain is elected, we'll get a fifth pro-life justice on the Court, Roe will be overturned, and abortion will at least be prohibited the the red states. I think that won't happen; I think the abortion rate will actually rise if McCain is elected and fall if Obama is elected. So pro-lifers should vote Democratic this time.

In foreign affairs, again I am actually a conservative, I am very conservative about the traditional Just War theory, and skeptical of modernists who think that that its provisions are "quaint" because we live in a "post 9/11 world." Iraq was, in my view, a completely unjust war, and when I get in a bad mood I actually think it's a war we deserve to lose, since we invaded the country immorally to begin with. (Yeah, I don't like the sound of what I just said either). I don't care what the justification is, there are things you don't do to prisoners of war and things you don't do to criminal defendants, and the people we picked up off the battlefield in Afganistan should not have been put into some "neither fish nor fowl" category so that they we could do what we wanted with them.

So these are some of the main reasons why I am a Democrat.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pro-life Democrats

Ah yes, I know what some of you are going to say to these guys. "You're in the wrong party. How can you call yourselves pro-life when you support a party that's against your position. If you were real pro-lifers you would leave."

Spong on the Resurrection

That should stir things up.

Fact-check on some of the anti-Palin material

I should point out here that these attacks on Palin haven't actually come from the Obama campaign. Someone posted a Vallicella post on Palin which directed me to

The rumors about Palin are an understandable reaction to the possibility of having someone close to the Presidency who is unknown to the general public and is seen as extreme in some ways. Who she is is important. Is her campaign persona genuine? Or is she trying to appear to be something she is not. America wants to know, and should want to know.

It's my view that the Palin pick is a highly dubious pick for the reasons I gave earlier, which do not in any way rely on the truth of any of these speculations.

Palin can do herself a world of good by putting an end to the boasting about her stand on the Bridge to Nowhere and admitting quite honestly that she is a relatively new convert to the McCain anti-earmark gospel. In doing so, she needs to admit that her little one-liner about the bridge is highly misleading.

The e-mail mentioned by Factcheck from Anne Kilkenny raises some other issues concerning her leadership style which, while perhaps less sensational, are nonetheless important to the process of the vetting of Sarah Palin by our country.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beckwith against abortion

This is Francis Beckwith's attack on abortion.

Why I Don't Want Sarah Palin in the Vice-Presidency

Perhaps the best way for me to sum up my discussions concerning Sarah Palin would be this. I happen to be a member of the Democratic party and an Obama supporter. There are a number of reasons that I have for this: I am skeptical of trickle-down economics, as important as private compassion is I think it needs to not stop when we get to the halls of government, I believe that invasions of foreign countries require justification we did not come anywhere near to meeting in our war with Iraq (though we did, I think, meet it in Afghanistan), I do think we should move away from fossil fuels sooner rather than later. I suspect that the mainstream Republican understanding of conservatism is to give large corporations and their CEOs whatever they want, which is hardly conservatism. On cultural issues I'm no fan of abortion but recognize some complexities in the issue and have some doubts about bringing the long arm of the law down on it. Though I think if I had a magic wand and could make Roe v. Wade go away I would wave it. I find the increased concentration of governmental power in the hands of the executive branch in response to an "emergency" created by 9/11 (the so-called "unitary executive) extremely troubling and the use of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques which I would call torture to be unconscionable. I believe in the separation of church and state, though some hyper-sensitive ways of applying that separation are, in my mind silly. But I don't want a great battle for a Christian America that never existed. I also find the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush Administration unacceptable.

Overall, I'm just more comfortable in the Democratic party than in the Republican. But suppse I were a Republican, and perhaps one that fervently desired and expected that Roe v. Wade be overturned. Would I be happy with the Palin pick. Many people think she is the greatest thing since Ronald Reagan.

The answer is, that were I a Republican I would be troubled for my own party. First, apparently party leaders are not leaving the vice-Presidential choice to the nominee, they are telling him that he may not nominate certain people like Lieberman or Ridge. Second, we are told that this person has been thoroughly "vetted" but we have no idea what that "vetting" amounts to. Palin is unknown to most Americans and they would like to know what she is like. She makes good emotional connections with people, but so far there are serious problems with her background, she gives scripted responses to questions on issues, she is under investigation for misconduct as a governor, and makes dishonest statements about her record. Even if this pick proves effective for the campaign, it could prove disastrous for governance, especially if she has to supplant the elderly McCain in the highest office of the land.

Reply to Groothuis on Obama

Doug Groothuis is a friend who wrote a blurb for my book. But I have some difference with him politically. To wit:

Conservatives care about the poor. But they think that a "privatized" compassion is better than one that enlists the government. They think that trickle-down economics works. I think that this is not the case.

Bush had zero foreign policy experience and zero military experience, (except for a questionable brief stint in the Guard) and he showed it by expending our energy in the war on terror against a dictator who of whom there could surely be a great deal said against him, but who was no friend of Al-Qaeda and had no WMDs. McCain want to continue the Bush policies. Obama wants to change the focus in the war on terror to the truly dangerous terrorists who plotted and carried out the 9/11 attacks.

As for abortion, I differ with the platform of my party on this matter, in that I would welcome a reversal of Roe. But were that reversal to occur, it would probably save the lives of two fetuses in the state of Mississippi. If we want to abolish abortion, we are probably going to have to make a large step in the direction of socialism in order to care for the children who would otherwise be aborted. Republicans aren't willing to do that, so their defense of life rings hollow.

Clinton to Obama: If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen

HC: “I’m with Harry Truman on this. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Just speaking for myself, I’m very comfortable in the kitchen. So if the heat goes up its okay with me, because we’ve got a lot of tough problems.’’

VR: Note to Sarah Palin: By dodging the heat, you are showing that you are no Hillary Clinton.

Evasion Central, Alaskan Headquarters

I did not have earmark relations with that bridge, to nowhere.

See this Youtube video. I'm sorry, but this doesn't pass the smell test.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On truthfulness in the campaign

From the New York Times article on McCain and the truthfulness of his campaign.

Mr. Obama’s hands have not always been clean in this regard. He was called out earlier for saying, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain supported a “hundred-year war” in Iraq after Mr. McCain said in January that he would be fine with a hypothetical 100-year American presence in Iraq, as long as Americans were not being injured or killed there.

More recently, Mr. Obama has been criticized for advertisements that have distorted Mr. McCain’s record on schools financing and incorrectly accused him of not supporting loan guarantees for the auto industry — a hot topic in Michigan. He has also taken Mr. McCain’s repeated comments that American economy is “fundamentally sound” out of context, leaving out the fact that Mr. McCain almost always adds at the same time that he understands that times are tough and “people are hurting.”

And not being truthful is a problem for either side. Should we demand that candidates raise the standard of truthfulness, not lower it?

A (very) basic account of knowledge

The traditional concept of knowledge is a justified true belief.

Let's take an example. Suppose the Cubs win the World Series this year. A lot of fans are going to come out and say that they knew at the beginning of the season this would be the year the Cubs win the series.

First, the Cubs have to win the series in order for someone to know that the Cubs won the series. If the Angels win the series, no one can know that the Cubs won it.

Second, the person has to believe it. So someone who says he knew the Cubs would win would have to believe that the Cubs would win. Someone who was picking the Diamondbacks would not qualify as someone who knew that the Cubs would win.

Third, a person has to be justified in believing it. So the mere fact that one is a die-hard, incurably optimistic Cubs fan, who have predicted victory for the last 70 seasons would not qualify as someone who knew that the Cubs would win the series.

Some philosophers have posed problems with this definition (google the word Gettier if you want to know about that) but this is a fair enough rough idea of what knowledge is.

And now for something completely different, a ticket I could really support!

Too bad they're constitutionally ineligible.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Does Lying Matter?

"I said thanks, but no thanks, to the bridge to nowhere."

Does anyone really care that this statement is exceedingly misleading at best and a bald-faced lie at worst. I think the latter is closer to the mark.

But does this matter? Should we care? Now telling me all the lies you think the Obamacrats might have told doesn't answer the question. That just gives us more lies to either care, or not care about.

Did it matter when Clinton lied? Should we give up on expecting our candidates to be truthful?

Jewish rejection of Original Sin

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Original sin and inherited guilt

Does it make sense to say that we inherit guilt from our ancestors, recent or remote? It makes sense that you can inherit money from Mom and Dad. Guilt? I would admit that that is harder to see.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Christian Atheism?

Thomas J. J. Altizer's book The Gospel of Christian Atheism is online.

Some important distinctions in response to Christian Reconstructinoism

This is a Huffington Post piece by Chip Berlet.

This is the Wikipedia entry on Christian Reconstructionism

This is a description of Christian reconstructionism from Wikipedia. It looks pretty scary to me, not perfectly normal, as Ilion seems to suggest.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Why a Fellow POW won't vote for McCain

Rebuttals to anti-Palin claims

To be fair, this is a rebuttal page to the anti-Palin rumors that have gotten about. It will take some effort to sort out all the facts on this sort of thing.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Is Palin a Christian Reconstructionist

I've been reading Daily Kos stuff, which is, after all Daily Kos, and so they often aren't very good at distinguishing various strands of what has come to be known as the Religious Right. In their minds, Campus Crusade, and James Dobson, and ID, and Christian Reconstructionism all smush together, and that really weakens their case when they talk about this sort of thing. There may be bones to pick with all of them, but they are different entities.

However, this Christian Reconstructionist is praying for McCain to die so Palin can run the country. Wow. I have the suspicion that defending herself against the charge of right-wing Christian extremism will probably be the most critical challenge for candidate Palin.

Pro-Life, Soft Pro-choice, and saving real babies

I think Clayton makes a legitimate point. Let's think about what it will take to outlaw abortion. First, we have to add a justice to the court with just the right legal philosophy to seriously consider overturning a 35-year-old precent like that one. Now you can't ask potential justices how they will rule on cases, so you have to go by overall legal philosophy. This has all sorts of implications about how the Constitution will be applied to many cases which have nothing to do with abortion. OK, so Roe finally gets overturned. Then I take it whatever laws were in place back in 1973 would go back in force, but then I seriously doubt that many states will go for a blanket ban on abortion. So how many real babies will it save. As many babies as would be saved by, let's say, health care reform? We have two parties, the majority of one says they don't like abortion and want it outlawed, and the other side says they want it to be safe legal and rare. But it is not rare. Most pro-choice people seem to me to be what I would call "soft pro-choice," they think abortion a moral tragedy, one they would like to see as little of as possible. It looks as if the soft pro-choicers and the pro-lifers could team up to work on making abortion as rare as possible. I can't help thinking that interest in appearing ideologically pure to their "base," on both sides of the aisle, is keeping the abortion rate higher than it would otherwise be.

Barack Obama Campaign on Community Organizers

In watching the convention speeches last night I was struck by the ridicule that was given to Obama's experience as a community organizer. I think the attack was seriously misguided. This is from a response by David Plouffe of the Obama campaign.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies. And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How would you explain sin to someone who had no idea what it means?

Suppose you were explaining all of this to someone who didn't know what sin is. You had to explain sin to them because they just didn't know what you were talking about when you used the word. How would you explain it to them?

It's a little like this when we are having religions of the world explained to us, religions of which we are not a part. In the Buddhist religion they have a conception of dukkha. It's translated "suffering" into English, but Buddhists tell me that that simple transliteration doesn't capture the meaning completely.

I suspect Buddhists react the same way when Christian talk about sin. How would you make the idea clear to them?