Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Was the beginning of the universe uncaused?

Quentin Smith thinks so.

Class Warfare, or Common Sense? Elizabeth Warren on the social contract

"I hear all this, you know, 'Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever,'" Warren said. "No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own — nobody.
"You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.
"Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless — keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."1
 1. "Elizabeth Warren On 'Class Warfare': There Is Nobody Who Got Rich On His Own (VIDEO)," Eric Kleefeld, Talking Points Memo, 09-21-2011.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Columbus and the Flat Earth

The role of the "flat earth" in history is often taught wrong in grade school. People before Columbus already figured out that the earth was round. What they disagreed about was how big it was. Some people thought it was so big that if you sailed west to get to the East, you would be so long on the sea that your supplies would run out and you'd never make it. The other people said it wasn't so large, and you could reach the East in fairly short order by sailing west. The first group, who opposed funding Columbus' journey, were, of course right. What no one realized was that there was a whole different continent between Europe and Asia. Columbus didn't figure it out either. He thought he got to the Indes, which is why Native Americans are called Indians. The guy who did figure it out was Amerigo Vespucci, for whom the Americas are (in my opinion rightly!) named. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

How did the Diamondbacks go from worst to first in the NL West?

Maybe it has something to do with their manager. You get a lot of street cred for something like this, the most dramatic finish to a World Series in living memory. (Except maybe another game-winning hit by another injured outfielder, Luis Gonzalez).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lawsuit filed against one of my former teachers

Well, not exactly. This suit was directed against the college, and one of his followers who teaches it his college. 

One of my first philosophy teachers was Surrendra Gangadean, way back in the spring of 1973 (!), at Phoenix College. I took a logic class from him. I was 19 at the time. It was interesting to me to meet a Christian in philosophy. However, I spent much of the semester arguing against his Calvinism.

I was rather surprised to learn that a course at his present institution, Paradise Valley Community College, not him, but an adjunct at that college, was sued for using his book as a text, which the plaintiffs thought violated the establishment clause, because it advocated Christianity.

Now, using the classroom to advocate my own positions is certainly not my style of teaching. I have this nutty idea that if I do my best to fairly present all viewpoints, students will have the best chance to reach the truth, which, of course,accords with my beliefs. You can't keep your own positions in the closet completely, however (especially if you're a blogger).  But lots of professors advocate their own positions. A lot of people have the image of the atheist philosophy professor who does everything he can to convert his class to atheism. Some 25 years ago I heard of a well-known philosopher at the University of North Carolina who taught a philosophy of religion classes with the expressed purpose of destroying the faith of his students.

If Mr. Gangadean got sued, why don't these people get sued also? Oh, wait, it doesn't violate the Establishment Clause, because atheism is to religion what not collecting stamps is to hobbies. Yeah, right.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Gays won't inherit the kingdom? Was something lost in translation

Theogeek seem to think that something was indeed lost in translation in the traditional reading of this passage in  I Corinthians.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is Michele Bachmann a Dominionist? Nope. Next Question?

Left-wing critics aren't terribly well-informed about evangelicalism. I have plenty of objections to Bachmann. But this response by Doug Groothuis is right on target. 

I'm no fan of what is commonly known as the Religious Right. Going from biblical teaching to public policy is incredibly tricky business. But let's get our facts straight, shall we? 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Immigration quotas, an aspect of the immigration debate no one talks about

Sometimes I think that we make mistakes when we tempt reasonable people to break the law. Prohibition would be an example. When I was in a high school debate on legalizing pot,  I came up with an argument that said that since marijuana is a gateway drug to other drugs, we can take its "gateway" status away by making it legal. (I am not now prepared to endorse this argument now, however).

People like to talk about what to do about illegal immigrants (Path to citizenship? Attrition through enforcement?), and we also like to talk about border security (if we give a path to citizenship, and people are still entering illegally, aren't we going to repeat the cycle?), but could we reduce the problem of illegal immigration by making legal immigration easier?

What people sometimes say is we are a nation of immigrants, and that while we oppose illegal immigration, legal immigration is just fine. If that is our position, then we ought to make it easier to immigrate by increasing quotas. If, on the other hand, the real problem isn't just illegal immigration, but immigration itself, then we should be willing to say that honestly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If guns are outlawed......

"If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

"If immigration is oultawed, only outlaws will immigrate."

Is there any way that the first argument can be a good argument against immigration control, but the second is not a good argument against immigration control? 

Most of the people who would defend the first argument would hate the second argument.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Feser on Meta-Sophistry

This, among other things, contains an explanation of the conservative "slippery slope" argument against same-sex marriage in such a way that is doesn't come out as a blatant fallacy.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Deterrence and pickpocket hangings

Ilion likes to argue that the case for the death penalty has nothing to do with things like deterrence, or closure for victim's families. It is about retribution, and only retribution.

That's probably good for the death penalty, because the case for the death penalty as a deterrent to capital crime strikes me as weak. Pickpockets used to be hanged in England, and the most likely place to get your pocket picked was at a pickpocket hanging.

Prayer in Public Schools

A redated post. 

I honestly can't figure out what people want when they say they want prayer in public schools. Imagine the following scenario.

Jerry Falwell's Granddaughter: I'm so glad you worked so hard to bring prayer back into public schools.
Jerry Falwell: Yes, it was a hard fight, but with all the Supreme Court Justices that Bush packed the court with, we finally got that one changed.
Granddaughter: We prayed today in school for the first time.
Falwell: Praise the Lord! Thank you Jesus!
Granddaughter: We did the most beautiful prayer. I had never heard it before. It goes like this:

Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy
womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Be careful of what you ask for. You may get it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hate Speech

Should people be prohibited from saying things because they might offend others? Sometimes workplace discourage or even proscribe talking about politics or religion, because of the offense it might cause to some workers. But in the public square generally, can we realistically restrict speech?

Voltaire once said "I do not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it." But how far does this go? Is it a small step between yelling "queer" at someone you think is gay, to beating up a gay person?

On the other hand, if we make a hate speech law, where does it end? Does one have the right to say that homosexuality is a sin, that Islam is a false religion, or even that Jesus is the only way to be saved and that everyone else is going to hell, without fearing civil retribution? A preacher in Britain was arrested merely for asserting that homosexuality is a sin, and the link on the post's title leads to a discussion of this case.

A Question about Victim's Families and the Death Penalty

Sometimes we are told that execution, like no other penalty, provides closure to crime victims' families. Many victims' families feel that way when the death penalty is being sought. But, after the executions take place, do they actually feel the satisfaction that they were hoping to feel before the criminal was executed?

Is there any research on this?

Defending Buddhism against Loftus

John Loftus: A religion by definition must be about supernatural beings and/or forces. Atheism therefore is not a belief nor a religion. I really don't know how much plainer I can get.

VR: Quite apart from the fact that this was something Loftus said, I doubt that this is true. Buddhism, as originally conceived by Buddha, doesn't make any essential reference to the supernatural. As I understand it, Buddha did believe that there were supernatural beings, but one of the essentials of his teaching was that either those supernatural beings have achieved Nirvana, in which case they won't do you any good, or they are still subject to the cycle of birth and rebirth, in which case they can't do you any good.

I don't see anything in the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism that makes any essential reference to the supernatural beings or forces.

Religion is harder than it looks, certainly to define. You may have to adapt Justice Stewart's dictum with regard to pornography: I can't define religion, but I know it when I see it.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Global Warming Wager

Metacrock here points out the Pascalian character of the argument for global warming, and then shows that you can't accept global warming argument while at the same time also accepting atheist anti-wager polemics. He also has some useful things to say about the Wager as a tiebreaker for those otherwise undecided about God.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Immigration Policy from Leviticus, or what the Bible says about Arizona SB 1070???

Leviticus 19:34 New International Version 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Well, I suppose if we took Leviticus for our law, we'd be putting homosexuals to death. 

The End of Faith? Don't hold your breath

This is a CADRE entry on religious demographics.