Monday, December 30, 2019

Trump and the Seven Deadly Sins

I think some of Trump's statements make virtues out of what Christians describe as sins. I recently told me class that I used to think Richard Dawkins was the most arrogant person in the world, until Donald Trump became President. C. S. Lewis called Pride, not abortion, the complete anti-God state of mind. 

He has had some good words to say about greed as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Dualism persists in the science of mind

According to this study. Though people like Dennett dismiss people like that as "mind creationists."

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Politically Correct Scrooge

One of my daughters went to the customer service counter of a local grocery store and said "Merry Christmas." The woman at the desk replied "Hanukkah started yesterday." So my daughter said "Happy Hannukah." Then, the clerk replied "And then there's Kwanzaa."

In other words, Bah! Humbug!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

On Hunter Biden

How are board members selected in most companies. Do they need experience in the field? Is it wrong for them to be chosen because of their knowledge of the American political system, or for knowledge of American law? His being Joe's son probably had something to do with his being selected, but does it follow that Burisma was seeking illicit favors from the then vice-President? And, does it follow that he got any? To make these claims requires further evidence.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Abortion and Anarchism

I knew someone who thought abortion was wrong, murder actually, but opposed laws against abortion because he was an anarchist and opposed laws. Was he some kind of a hypocrite?

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Would you give up the rule of law to end abortion?

By the way, those looking to Trump to save us from abortion, are you willing to give up on the rule of law to save the unborn? If the only way to stop abortion was to set up a right-wing dictatorship and shut down the Constitution and the electoral process, would you be willing to go that far? If you had to choose between making abortion illegal but putting an end to our system of government, or allowing the right to choose abortion but allowing our electoral process, which would you choose?

Pope Francis warns of a "culture of hate" which reminds him of the rise of Hitler.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Kant on lies

 Kant holds a strict position on lying, maintaining that it is always wrong even in the most plausible of cases, such as when you are confronted by a homicidally minded person concerning the whereabouts of someone you are hiding. If you apply the Categorical Imperative, can you come up with an alternative view of lies in which some lies might be justified? 

Here is an attempt.

Can you use natural law to oppose homosexuality, but not use natural law to oppose contraception?

Here is a simple question. Can you accept the natural law argument against homosexuality, explained here, without also accepting the natural law argument against contraception. The former argument is popular even amongst Protestants and Catholics who are not strict adherents of Humanae Vitae. But the anti-gay argument and the case for Humanae Vitae are structurally very similar. So the natural law argument looks like a package deal to me.

Monday, October 21, 2019

My debates on SB 1070

It's remarkable how current the debate concerning SB 1070 nine years ago is. I posted on that issue quite often. Here. 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Gay Marriage and the Tax Exempt Status of Churches

Beto's O'Rourke's kind of political correctness (wanting to take tax exempt status away from churches who take a stance against gay marriage) is going to hurt the Democrats badly if it takes over. It doesn't really respect equal rights, if you insist that gay people are "being who they are," then religious people who find homosexual conduct morally unacceptable are being who they are, and you can't end one kind of discrimination by supporting another. Having an opinion and expressing it does not deprive anyone of their rights.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Stealing and murder

Here is an interesting ethical question. Suppose Smith knows for sure that if he steals $1.000,000, Jones will not murder Williams. But if he does not steal $1,000,000, then Jones will not murder Williams. If he steals, of course he's a thief, but if he doesn't steal, does that mean he's an accessory before the fact to murder? See what trouble you get into when you ask questions like this to a philosopher?

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Why is there no law requiring paid medical leave for pregnancy?

Why is there no law requiring paid medical leave for pregnancy? 
The reason is that Americans believe in capitalism, and they at least one of the major parties is highly resistant to doing anything that exercises control over businesses. In the 1990s we actually had to pass a law to require businesses to provide UNPAID medical leave to employees, and most Republicans voted no on the Family and Medical Leave Act. But of course, they also want to discourage women from getting abortions. Go figure. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

If there is no God, is free will possible?

But what if God doesn’t exist? Does that mean we have free will? Well, a lot of people who don’t believe in God think that, instead of having a soul distinct from our bodies, we have instead simply a body which is a conglomeration of physical  particles. And what physical particles do, they say, isn’t determined by anyone’s will, it is determined by the laws of physics. Given the laws of physics and the positions of the atoms, some people think everything is predictable from there. There are theories in physics which have gotten away from this kind of determinism at the physical level, but if the universe is only the matter in it, then a person’s choice cannot be the final determiner of what they do.  
If materialism is true, libertarian free will is excluded, and I maintain that compatibilist free will is highly problematic given materialism, since it relies on the idea on the idea of acting for a reason, but in the final analysis, if materialism is true, that never happens. The physical state of the world,  not the reason, determines what we do. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Abortion and "socialism"

I should make a key distinction here. I was using the term "socialism" in the way Republicans like to use it, where they treat any expansion of role of government in social welfare as socialism. This is the ostensible grounds, for example, that Mitch McConnell is killing all the legislation coming from the Democratic House of Representatives--it's socialistic. This argument was used when I was a child and conservatives such as Ronald Reagan were arguing against Medicare. If you think you can expand social welfare, and maybe raise taxes to make sure this is funded, without being accused of socialism, then fine. I don't think this is really socialism, but it is called socialism when it is opposed by people like McConnell.  What I was really arguing is that outlawing abortion is going to require a strengthening of the welfare efforts of government. In order to make sure that the children who are born who would not have been  born otherwise are given a real chance in life, taxes will probably have to go up. 

I think there is a governing philosophy on the conservative side that suggests that what government is primarily there to do is protect people from violence. So, for example, terrorists, who can kill you, have to be stopped by government, but if we use government to make sure people are protected from disease, which can also kill you, that's socialism and we ought to do that as little as possible. Hence, it's a good thing to make sure women don't get abortions, since that is a violent treat to fetuses, but once the mothers carry their children to terms we will cut funding for any effort to make them better able to take care of those children. It is simply a fact that for many families to survive, both parents have to work, yet the legislation that required employers not to fire women for getting pregnant was sponsored by Democrats like Hillary Clinton, not the pro-life Republicans. But such legislation was considered an interference with the free market, and most Republican senators opposed it. I mean what are women supposed to do, give up their jobs so they can go have their kids? I suppose if you think the woman’s place is in the home, barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, you are OK with this. I am not.

I think serious opposition to abortion to include a willingness to step up to the plate a support those struggling families who abort babies for economic reasons. Something is wrong with our society if a woman finds herself in a situation where she has choose, as a student of mine once told me, between adequately caring for a child she already had, or carrying her pregnancy to term. And I think that means a willingness to step up to the plate via government, and a willingness to pay more in taxes to make sure that my former student's dilemma arises as infrequently as possible. Otherwise, I have to regard the "pro-life" commitments of Republicans as a mere political football to keep their voters in the fold, not as a genuine commitment to human life.

America is not a pro-life country. The idea that a woman has the right to do as she chooses with her own body is intuitively appealing to lots and lots of people. While this mind-set exists, there will be abortions, and if they are outlawed, they will occur illegally. (If abortion is outlawed, only outlaws will get abortions, but there will be plenty of outlaws). Those convinced against their will will be of the same opinion still. People who don't want to see abortions can remonstrate on ethical grounds, and they can strongly support sex education including contraceptive information even if a case for abstinence is made, and they can support pro-child public policies that reduce the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Want to outlaw abortion? Are you ready for some socialism?

If abortion is outlawed, then women who would have aborted will carry their pregnancies to term. Many of these are getting abortions because they can't afford children. Or they will give them up for adoption, making it likely they will end up in the foster system. If you do that, there will be more mouths to feed for people who can afford it least. Won't the government have to expand the welfare state to take care of these children?

If so, it seems to me that you can't both believe that abortion should be outlawed, and also believe that socialism or anything like it is a terrible thing. The idea that private charity will take up the slack seems to me to be a pipe dream. The pro-life movement may have the consequence of moving us more quickly in a socialist direction than Bernie Sanders could ever dream.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

gay marriage and discrimination

There is an important sense in which the very concept of marriage is a discriminatory one--that is, we choose certain intimate relationships as worthy either of government sponsorship or of church sponsorship. Marriage means something more than that we will not forcibly prevent someone from having that kind of relationship, something we do in pedophilia cases (and,  yes, we used to do with some homosexuality cases through sodomy laws). But we choose certain relationships, in virtue of their permanence, or for some other reason, to say that if you are in one of those you can file married filing jointly, you can have community property, you can transfer your wealth to that person when you die no questions asked, you can get spousal social security benefits, etc. etc. etc . And we do that for some relationships and not others. When we call something a marriage, we say that it is something more than a hookup or even a shackup, it's something we as a society, or a government, or a church, should support. When you accept same-sex marriage, you eliminate being of the opposite sex as one of the requirements for sponsorship. When it comes to church sponsorship, one church was sponsoring gay marriages as far back as 1969, others, such as the Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist churches, or even the United Methodist Church, still won't do it.   But if you literally thought that all relationships were equal, you would be eliminating marriage, not making it equal. 

By the way, I have notice that legislatures are moving to change abortion laws in anticipation of a reversal of Roe v. Wade, but are not doing the same thing with the Obergefell decision. I wonder why that is. This seems to me like the dog that didn't bark. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Donald Trump and our monarchophobic founders

A simple question: Does Donald Trump understand his position as the head of one of three coequal branches of government? Or does he assume that he is somehow our sovereign? The President of the United States is powerful, to be sure, but our monarchophobic put founders limits on the position. All Presidents, I am sure, have been tempted to overstep those boundaries, and some have lurched us in the direction of an Imperial Presidency. When I heard his Republican acceptance speech in 2016, my thought was "You're just the President. You can't do all that, even if you are elected." In two and a half plus years since the inauguration, I have yet to see a glimmer of understanding of his constitutional role. He seems to think that the US Government is his to run in the same way that the Trump Organizations are his to run, since he is the CEO. Sorry, our founders didn't set America up that way.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Nothing to see here, just fact of geography

So says Bertrand Russell. This would be a deterministic universe, to be sure.

Physical science is thus approaching the stage when it will be complete, and therefore uninteresting. Given the laws governing the motions of electrons and protons, the rest is merely geography—a collection of particular facts telling their distribution throughout some portion of the world’s history. The total number of facts of geography required to determine the world’s history is probably finite; theoretically they could all be written down in a big book to be kept at Somerset House with a calculating machine attached which, by turning a handle, would enable the inquirer to find out the facts at other times than those recorded. It is difficult to imagine anything less interesting or more different from the passionate delights of incomplete discovery. Bertrand Russell, What I Believe, 1925,

Friday, July 26, 2019

Should Russian interference have been investigated? Why in the the world not?

Worries about the origin of the investigation seem to imply that somehow we shouldn't have investigated the Russian interference in our election and whether anyone whose candidate benefited from the interference had conspired with them. There was interference by the Russians, it was designed to help Trump, it did help Trump, Trump kept denying that it was happening and welcomed, and welcomed, and welcomed the fruits of that illegal interference.

 It's not an awful thing for there to be a "cloud" over a President's administration, it's called oversight. What Trump has endured is nothing compared to what Nixon had to deal with, or Bill Clinton, who faced an investigation that started with looking into land deals in Arkansas and ended up, well, you know where it ended up.

 I think the most important questions arising from Mueller have to do with the interference itself, and what we need to do about it. Republicans are implying by their actions that the interference was not disturbing, and even the continuation of that interference is not disturbing. (One has to wonder what they would say if the Russians helped put Hillary in, instead). I have seen people say that it's not such a bad thing so long as it digs up dirt on Hillary and the Democrats. That seems to be the view of Trump himself, and seems to be widespread in the Republican party, although they don't normally put it so bluntly. (Maybe it would be a good idea to force them to put it so bluntly). Or does this kind of interference endanger our very system of government? 

They hacked into voter rolls in all 50 states, for crying out loud. What if, next time they did it, they "unregistered" a bunch of people so they couldn't vote? In my view, the real issue isn't collusion (whatever that means), or even obstruction. It is what I call dereliction.

 If Bush, after 9/11, and resisted clear evidence that it was al-Qaeda that attacked us, and refused to do anything to keep it from ever happening again, would that not be upsetting if not impeachable (especially if we couldn't figure out whether Bush was somehow under the sway of bin Laden for business reasons), even if Bush is this behavior broke no criminal laws? OK, nobody died in the cyberattack, just as nobody drowned in Watergate, but do we care about the independence of our electoral system?

 In my opinion, the Democrats, and we as citizens, do best if we keep the cart and the horse straight. They have to start with Russian interference and the complete failure of the Trump campaign and administration to deter it or prevent it in any way. These are undeniable facts. After that, we can raise the question of conspiracy or obstruction.

Libertarianism, soft determinism, and hard determinism

When people hear the term "soft determinism" it sounds as if we are determined more softly on soft determinism than on hard determinism, but this is not the case. Indeterminism is the view that given the past, there are two possible outcomes. However, even with indeterminism there are things that can influence the will, but they don't determine it.  A hard determinist can agree that the immediate cause of a person's action is their motive for their action, but then they point out that the persons state of motive is also an event that is caused by previous events, and that these events go back before the agent was born. A soft determinist will agree, but soft and hard determinists differ on the originating cause of the action is relevant to moral responsibility, or whether we should just look at the immediate cause and leave it at that. 
Imagine two possible worlds.
World 1) Smith contemplates murdering Jones, but thinks better of it and refrains.
World 2) Smith murders Jones. 
If indeterminism is true, then the difference between World 1 and World 2 is a matter of the undetermined choice on the part of Smith. Given the past, prior to the decision, Smith can choose to murder Jones or choose not to murder Jones. 
If soft determinism is true, the difference between World 1 and World 2 does not occur when Smith makes his choice. Something prior to the choice (the laws of nature and the facts concerning the position of the atoms in the world, or maybe something God decided to do before the foundation of the world) guaranteed that Smith would murder Jones. But, soft determinism says that in spite of this, in World 2, Smith is to blame for murdering Jones because the immediate cause of Smith's action is his own desire to kill Jones. The soft determinist points out that the murder didn't take place against Smith's will-he wasn't forced to do it. Hard determinists and indeterminists say point out the fact that his action is still the inevitable result of past circumstances outside his control. The soft determinist says "So what?" 
If Hard Determinism is true, then the difference between World 1 and World 2 is some event or set of events outside the control of Smith, AND that, once we realize that, we must realize that Smith is not really responsible for committing the murder. We may need to modify his behavior, but the idea that there is some retribution that he deserves, either in this world or in the next world, is an idea that makes no sense.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Burden, burden, ....

Who has the burden of proof when discussing God? Here. 

To my mind, who you are trying to persuade. You have the burden of proof if you are trying to prove something to someone who isn't persuaded.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Why religion is not going away and science will not displace it


It takes some superficial readings of history to think otherwise.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Does God out-abort Planned Parenthood?

From atheist philosopher and blogger Jonathan M. S. Pearce

No one is really a fan of abortion in and of itself, but it is useful a procedure for any number of reasons, and the fetus is often merely a group of cells or something that has no personhood and feels no pain. God has designed and created human beings, in some manner, and appears to love abortion, even though his denizens don’t. Anywhere up to three-quarters of fertilized eggs are naturally, spontaneously, aborted. They either fail to implant or are rejected by the body, or undergo other such problems.
This amounts to perhaps billions of individual blastocysts or embryos over time. God doesn’t appear to lift a virtual finger to stop this. 
But this does raise an interesting question. On the assumption that human personhood begins at conception, combined with the belief that God is that creator of nature, doesn't that mean that Planned Parenthood is a distant second behind the Almighty as an abortionist? 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Of course, there is no proof of God's existence

The textbook that I use in Introduction to Ethics uses as an argument against the Divine Command theory the idea that there is no proof of God's existence. Of course there is a lot of debate about these arguments for God, and there is an atheist side to the discussion. What bothers me in the text is its assumption, without talking about any of the arguments, that of course there's no proof of God's existence. This is a popular belief in our culture, typically arrived at with no real study. 

Why Trump is a Racist


I don't use this accusation lightly, and am fully aware that people throw the term around too loosely. But, sorry folks, it really does apply to the 45th President of the United States, and there is no getting around it. If you are accepting him as either passable as President, or at least preferable to, say, the pro-choice position of the Democrats, at least be aware of the price you are paying in supporting a racist as President of the United States.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Human rights and philosophical naturalism

The Declaration of Independence says "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But what if we have no creator? Then shouldn't it say "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are evolved equal, that they are endowed by evolution with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." An obvious howler. 

But is this a false dilemma? 

Well, there are a couple of other options. One would be skepticism about the idea of human rights in general. States can give or withhold rights as they choose, and there is no moral fact (which is what the Declaration points to), that requires states to guarantee that our rights are respected. Thus, the right not to be taxed without representation, or the right not to be enslaved, is in the hands of whoever has the biggest guns. To accept this is to basically reject the moral foundation of what has energized us ethically over the past century in movements such as the Civil Rights movement. The other option is a kind of robust ethics in a naturalistic universe where the moral fact that states ought not to deprive citizens of certain rights is grounded in something somewhere in Plato's heaven. How such a moral fact can effectively be a deciding factor in someone decision to respect or violate someone's rights is something I have never understood. Jefferson thought he could argue for unalienable rights on the basis of how we as humans were brought into existence--that is, by Nature's God (A Christian God, just not a trinitarian God). If instead we were spat up by a blind watchmaker evolutionary process, then that argument goes out the window. The King can just say "I have the power, you don't, the Redcoats are coming, and if they win, you never had those rights in the first place." Apart from an appeal to God, how do we make the case that we don't just happen to have the rights we have because we won the wars we needed to win? How do we argue that it is not the case that if rights are being denied by some government, then they do not really exist at all? What are the moral consequences not just of atheism, but of naturalistic atheism, which rules out such things as Platonic forms, Aristotelian inherent purposes, laws of Karma, etc. on the same basis that it rules out God?

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A problem for the divine command theory

How do we decide which god to obey?  Well, we ought to obey a god who exists, so maybe we can rule out Zeus on that account. What if Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and company did exist.  What if each of them told us to do different things. Then what? (A famous Greek play, the Oresteia, is devoted to just that question). We should probably rule out Lucifer, but why? Because Yahweh is more powerful than he is, and created him? Are we saying might makes right? 
The answer would seem to be that we should obey Yahweh and not Lucifer because Yahweh is good and Lucifer is not. But the divine command theory says that what makes an act good is that God commanded it. But if what we mean when we say "Yahweh is good" is that Yahweh does what Yahweh wants Yahweh to to do, this doesn't sound as if it amounts to anything. Lucifer, I take it, does what Lucifer wants Lucifer to do. It could indeed turn out that paying attention to Yahweh's commands is the best way to decide what actions are right. But it doesn't follow from that that God's commandments make something right. If God is good by nature God might know what is right and command what is right, but God doesn't make something right by commanding it. This is a problem for the divine command theory. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

Is relativism the pathway to tolerance?

Relativism is supposed to be the pathway to tolerance, yet it tolerates intolerance if the culture accepts it. In fact, one of the things that differentiates mainstream Western culture from other cultures around the world is the value we place on tolerance. From the attack on Valentine's Day in Indian culture, to the rigidity of Japanese business culture, to the one child policy in China, to the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia, to the tolerance for rape cultures throughout the world, for example in Korea, to the practice of female genital mutilation in parts of Africa, we see practices in foreign cultures that do not respect human rights and are not tolerant. If our multiculturalism pushes into relativism, though, we are forced to say that there is nothing really wrong with the intolerant practices. To stand up for tolerance, you have to believe in an objectively binding moral law, something that hangs together nicely with theism, but fits with atheism only if you work very hard to get it to fit, a la Erik Wielenberg.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Relativism and Rape

A redated post.

I had a teacher at Arizona State who told me that in one culture rape is considered perfectly OK, so long as you do it at the right time. In the morning, it's forbidden. In the afternoon, it is frowned upon. At night, it is perfectly OK, since a woman who is away from the protection of her husband is asking for it. (He never said which campus fraternity he was referring to).

If cultural relativism is true, the rules of that culture, with respect to rape, are justified. There is no "court of appeal" that is over and above that culture and out culture that would permit us to say that their views on rape are wrong and ours are right. For us to suggest that they are "really" wrong in permitting rape is to elevate the rules of our culture to a kind of cosmic status they cannot have. It is to be intolerant.

Objectivity and provability

Before black swans were discovered in Western Australia, people believed that all swans were white. We had no proof that black swans existed. Nevertheless, the objective fact was, and is, that there were black swans in Western Australia. Objectivity is about what is real, not what we can prove. 
God, for example, might really exist, but have provided us with no proof of his existence sufficient to convince all reasonable persons. But his objective existence (or nonexistence) does not depend on it being provable either way. 

Chesterton beat me to it

I have been using the reductio ad absurdum "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are evolved equal, and that they were endowed by evolution with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." 

It seems as if G. K. Chesterton beat me to it by a few decades. 

“The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.”

― G.K. Chesterton

It comes from What I Saw in America.

Aw, shucks.

Homosexuality and celibacy

The Catholic Church teaches that there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual, but if you are homosexual, you ought to live a celibate life. But some within the Church don't really understand the church's teaching. What the Church rejects is the idea that sexual relationships are essential to human happiness and human identity. If one has to have a sexual relationship with someone you love in order to be who you are, then wouldn't it follow that Jesus and Paul were not who they truly were, since both lived celibate lives?

I realize that the Catholic Church, on this issue, is asking people of gay orientation to suppress a powerful human instinct, and instinct supported very strongly by our Valentine's Day culture.  Still, it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church's teaching oppose that person's identity. It may oppose how that person may want to express that identity, but does not oppose the identity itself. 

That said, sometimes the people who teach in Catholic schools don't get anything right when it comes to Catholic teaching. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

How religious belief can affect morality

There are various ways in which religion affects our moral conduct, that go beyond the specific teachings of a religion. Religious belief supports the idea of an inherent purpose to human existence, and the idea that in the end justice will be served. This is supported either by a belief in a final judgment or in a belief in some kind of law of karma, which in Eastern religion governs reincarnation. Some people believe in a law of karma that governs our earthly life, but that doesn't work perfectly.  The simple fact is, that in this world, people can commit murder, get away with it, and be happy about it.  On this matter, watch atheist filmmaker Woody Allen's movie Crimes and Misdemeanors. The belief in an inherent  purpose  and the belief in ultimate justice, either through karma or through a final judgment, provide energy for the moral enterprise of many persons. I'm not saying you can't be moral without them, but for a lot of people, they sure help. When we think about religion and morality, we think about specific teachings, but there is more to it that. 

Kamala Harris fires a blank

I fail to understand Harris's gains based on the debate. She fired a blank at Biden, and made it look like she hit him.I guess she hit him with a soundbite. It is one thing to say "That little girl was me, it sure helped me." It is another to argue for busing as public policy mandated by the Department of Education. That kind of federal control of schools is going to freak out the entire middle and help Trump. Biden doesn't have to deny that it could help in some instances. But busing as public policy has been abandoned in the public arena, and unless you can argue that it ought to be brought back, this is going to hurt her in the overall primary fight and certainly in the general election, especially among swing voters in states like, well, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Does the law of noncontradiction apply to moral claim, such as the claim that adultery is wrong?

There are a couple of possibilities here. One is that physicalism is true. If physicalism is true, then all facts are physical facts, and the law of noncontradictions applies to physical facts. Claims about what is right and wrong cannot be reduced to physical questions, therefore, the law of noncontradiction does not  apply here. But what if  there are facts that are not physical facts? Mathematical facts, strictly speaking, are not physical facts, since they do not obtain at particular places or times, but rather obtain at all places and times. There are also logical facts, which also do not depend upon locality. And then, are there moral facts? Atheists disagree with  one another as to whether there can be moral facts. Atheist J. L. Mackie argued that there are no moral facts. But even without God, philosophers like Erik Wielenberg think that there are nonetheless moral facts. 
If there are moral facts then the law of noncontradiction applies to these. 
But then, suppose that religion is not just something people make up, but instead is true. In this case, physicalism would be false, because a divine reality exists which, at least we ordinarily define physics, physics cannot discover. In that case, there would be a real God, maybe a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim God which actually exists, in which case it is quite possible that facts about what is right or wrong is grounded in what God knows, or what God commands. Thus, God might know, and therefore command, that adultery is wrong, and even if you are the President of the United States, if you disagree with that, you are mistaken. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Racism then and now

One problem is the fact that we have gone from blatant bigotry to more subtle forms of racism. "I have nothing against Mexicans, but why can't they learn our language like immigrants of the past used to when the came over. And, of course, a lot of them are here illegally." That isn't exactly calling them "spicks" like kids of my playground used to, but the racism is still there.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A big difference between Christianity and Islam

 There are some big differences between Islam and Christianity. A big one has to do with what happens when someone is caught in adultery. Muhammad approved of the stoning of an adulteress (after she bore and weaned her child), but Jesus required that the one to cast the first stone had to be without sin and ref used to cast it himself .

Sunday, June 09, 2019

What do we mean by "society?"

"Society" is a hypostasized abstract noun. I often wonder sometimes if it refers to anything.Is there such a thing as "society" or are there just socieities?

Are we genetically inclined to be generous?

It would be nice to believe that the human genome is constructed so as to find joy through contributions to the good of all. This is a claim that might require some scientific evidence. There is a popular belief in our society that our genetic structure pushes us to be selfish. In the new prefaces to Richard Dawkins' book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins is at some pains to dispel the idea that the "selfishness" of our genes provides a justification for selfish behavior in humans.  But it looks like an attempt on his part to put a meme back in the bottle after if got out.  

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

No collusion? Witch hunt? Hardly

Let's go over some clear and undeniable facts. The Russians, not a 400-pound guy in a Manhattan apartment, engage in a great deal of illegal interference against our country's election system. This, in my view is an attack on our country. Countries that do that should be penalized, and we should make it clear we won't tolerate it. Even the beneficiary candidate has a moral duty to issue a "thanks, but no thanks" message to such a country. But instead, the beneficiary candidate starts acting as if he welcomes the interference,, even going so far as to suggest a further crime they might commit, of delivering the missing e-mails of Hillary Clinton. You also have Trump's staff getting the Republican platform changed from its prior anti-Putin stance to a more pro-Russian stance, you get all kinds of contacts during the campaign between Russian agents, contacts about which Trump official lied repeatedly. You had a campaign chairman who had previously worked for a pro-Putin dictator in Ukraine. You had a national security adviser who was an agent of the Turkish government and had inappropriate connections with the Russians. You had an attorney general who lied about contacts with the Russians and had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. You have a President who acts as if everything is normal and tries to keep Russia from suffering any harm from the crimes they have committed, and even at a conference in Helsinki took the side of the Russians against the word of all of his intelligence agencies that Russia didn't do it. And you're telling me that what was wrong was that they investigated the possibility that there might have been not collusion (there was plenty of that), but an actual criminal conspiracy between people in the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Oh, and I didn't even mention the Trump Tower meeting with Don, Jared, Manafort, and Veselnitskaya. Mueller didn't find enough evidence to issue conspiracy charges, although if they had been really a dirty cop in the pay of the Democrats he would have found a way to invent some. Oh, and you find Trump trying to shut down the investigation on multiple occasions, and if he had had a more cooperative staff it would have worked. But to say that do investigate all of this was a big no-no, and only someone who didn't like Trump's immigration policy would initiate such an investigation to keep Trump policies from being enacted? That's ridiculous. Anyone in their right mind would want to know what was going on, at least anyone who doesn't own a MAGA hat. We can all be thankful there wasn't some quid pro quo between the Trump staff and the Russians, and, if anything, we should be grateful to Mueller for assuring us of at least that. But that still leaves a lot of conduct on the part of the President and his aides that is, quite frankly, profoundly corrupt. To say "no collusion" as if this is a clear bill of health for the President is a shameful distortion of the truth and the product of clever marketing and propaganda. People like Justin Amash and 800 former federal prosecutors came to a very different conclusion when the actually read the Mueller report.

Monotheistic science, religion and the ecological crisis

With the rise of monotheistic religions, we began to think of the world as operating in accordance with laws as opposed to the whims of various deities. In this is makes sense of what science discovers about the world. But  science enables technology, and technology permits humans to exercise control over the natural world in a way they never could before. But that power of technology brings with it the temptation, never so much as experienced by ancient peoples, to exploit the earth's resources in ways that harm the ecosystem, make life more difficult for many living creatures, and make the world potentially unlivable for future generations.  You could, I suppose, say that monotheistic religion helped cause the ecological crisis for the same reason you might say that science caused the ecological crisis. But if you can condemn religion for this reason, you also have to condemn science for the same reason. 

China and the attempt to blame Christians for the ecological crisis

 Lynn White (and others) lay much of the blame for the current ecological crisis at the feet of the Abrahamic traditions, especially Christianity.

I think the refutation of Lynn White's thesis can be found by looking at the climate crisis in China, a country for years under atheistic communism and certainly no history of Christian domination. They have the worst climate problem in the world. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Virgin Birth and the Immaculate Conception

Lots of people get these confused. The Virgin Birth of Christ, which is 
taught in Matthew and Luke, says that Christ was conceived in
Mary’s womb without sexual intercourse, through a divine miracle. It is 
accepted by Catholics and conservative Protestants.

The immaculate conception of Mary is the doctrine that Mary herself was
conceived in her mother’s womb free of the stain of original sin. It’s a 
Catholic doctrine that Protestants deny on the ground that the Bible teaches
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Monday, May 20, 2019

The poached egg argument

“A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse… But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Donald Trump of atheism

Dawkins is kind of the Donald Trump of atheism. But he has his following, just as Trump does. 

Does the Bible support slavery? Well, it depends on what parts you cut out.

Apparently slaveowners were afraid to let their slaves read the whole thing, because they might rebel if they read it.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Is there anything you accept on faith?

think it is Dawkins' view that you should never take anything on pure faith. But on the one hand, if you take statement X, and say that statement needs proof, then someone might say ask for proof of that statement, and then ask for proof for that statement, and then ask for proof for that statement. etc. So there  has to be something you believe that doesn't have to  be proved by something else.  Is what you believe without proof something you believe on faith? If so, what are those things you don't need proof for? 

Is gay monogamy a myth?

I think the tendency on the part of people of a more conservative bent to nonetheless find gay marriage acceptable depends largely on their ability to see gay marriage as a mirror image of straight marriage, only with a same-sex as opposed to an opposite sex couple. Some, however, doubt that this kind of mirror image can exist in the gay community. 

“Male homosexuals are very seldom monogamous,” Dr. Elizabeth Iskander asserts, “they overwhelmingly reject the type of relationship most heterosexuals think of when they think of marriage: a long-term relationship where sexual activity is strictly limited to one’s marriage partner.”


Friday, May 03, 2019

A gay rights slogan

It is a slogan to say that allowing gay marriage allows gay people to be who they are. 

Is a person's true identity to be found in their sexual feelings? Not their beliefs, their ideas, their friendships, their occupation, etc? What about people who never find the right person to have a relationship with? Are they unable to be who they are?

Wherever you stand on issues like this, beware of slogans. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Punting to the government for our morals

Why do we always punt to the government to decide whether something is right or not? That is, if we think something is wrong, we want the government to pass a law against it, and if the government doesn't pass a law against it, we assume it's OK? There was a woman in Colorado who was asked why she smoked marijuana during  her pregnancy, and she replied by saying that since the government said that smoking pot was legal, she figured it was OK for her to smoke pot while pregnant. The government need not be our moral compass, or abortion, on homosexuality, on marijuana, or on whether it's OK to tell a woman you love her in order to get her to go to bed with you, even though you don't. Nor should it decide whether it is OK to show up at funerals of AIDS victims with "God hates fags" signs. Of course it's not OK, but we don't want the government stopping it either.  

Adam, Steve, Donald, and Melania

It seems to me that you could take the anti-gay position from a theological point of view (homosexuality is wrong in God's eyes), and still support same-sex marriage in the civil realm. This is what most people do with respect to Donald Trump's marriage. If we are enforcing Christian standards in the area of marriage through government, then you would have to say that someone who is dumping his wife for a younger woman for the second time, and is a well-known serial adulterer, should not be given another marriage license.  Instead, we ask him "are your prior divorces final," and if they are, he gets a license. If you are going to say that Adam and Steve can't get married because of what the Bible says, then you also have to say that Donald and Melania can't get married because of Mt 5:32 and other passages.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Abortion and demographics

People who accept traditional understandings of these monotheistic religions have a greater tendency to oppose abortion that those who are, say, religious skeptics. But the arguments on both sides of the issue rarely mention God or the Bible directly. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

What does "abortion is murder" mean?

What exactly is packed into the idea of murder is interesting. For example, if you do not believe that the things whose life you are taking is a person, is it still murder? Is manslaughter murder?

 What if you deceive yourself into believing that some being who clearly are persons are not persons---Jews, for example? In cases like that my intuition support the use of the word “murder” because the perpetrators clearly and unmistakably ought to believe in the personhood of their victims, even if they do not. Is abortion murder in that sense? Is the full and complete personhood of the fetus so clearly true that to deny is to, to use Paul's phrase, "suppress the truth in unrighteousness?"

What if you take the life of a person for reasons that you morally justify taking the life of a person, but sub specie aeternitatis, they do not justify the homicide? Are you then a murderer? 

 The word homicide does not carry the negative connotations of the word murder. Should the word murder be used for all homicides that lack moral justification? 

It looks as if the term "murder" in the context of abortion, even if appropriate, needs some parsing. 

What should the punishment be for abortion if it is to be punished?

Pro-lifers believe that abortion is not currently a crime, due to Roe v. Wade, but it should be one. Though, interestingly enough, they often think that abortion providers, not the women who get the abortions, should be punished, and the punishments they recommend are not nearly as severe as the punishments for first degree murder. Does this make sense? If pro-lifers are right about the fetus, what kinds of punishments should there be for the parties involved in an abortion? 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Is there a dissonance between the legal and the moral arguments concerning abortion?

Roe is based on this argument:
1. The right to bodily autonomy, and privacy with respect to medical decisions (absence any superior countervailing right) is known to be established by the Constitution. For example, as decided in the Griswold case from 1962, state governments do not have the right to prohibit artificial birth control.
2. The fetus's right to life prior to viability is not a right we can be sure of. Reasonable opinion differs as to whether the fetus has such a right.
3. A right of which we are certain takes precedence over a right over which there is uncertainty.
4. Therefore, because of the uncertainty with respect to the fetus's right to life, the right of the mother to bodily autonomy and medical privacy takes priority, and a woman has a right to an abortion prior to viability.
What do you think is the bad premise in this argument, (if you think there is one)? What is surprising to me is that the anti-Roe legal arguments seem to concentrate their firepower on premise 1, but people interested in the moral issue of abortion object to premise 2. There seems to be some dissonance between the legal arguments on Roe v. Wade and the moral arguments concerning abortion. Does anyone besides me find this troublesome?