Tuesday, November 30, 2021

An anti-abortion argument

1. Infants, however undeveloped, are considered persons whose lives are protected by law.
2. Fetuses differ from infants in four ways represented by the acromym SLED. The differ in size, in level of development, in their environment, and in their dependency.
3. Size is not a morally relevant difference when it comes to the right to life. The fact that I am bigger than my wife, but smaller than Shaq, doesn’t affect the right to life that we all possess.
4. The unborn is less developed than an infant, but I am more developed than an infant. So this can’t be a basis for discrimination with respect to the right to life.

5. The unborn in a different environment from an infant. It’s inside a womb, and the infant is outside the womb. But this is not a relevant difference. We would consider a law silly that said you can’t kill me inside my house, but you can kill me outside my front door.
6. Degree of dependency is not a relevant difference. Toddlers are more dependent than adolescents, but does that mean that an adolescent has a greater right to life than does a toddler? An elderly person becomes more dependent with time, but we don’t’ question the right to life of the elderly, do we?
7. All beginning points for the right to life, except for conception, are matters of degree, of a person having something that you can have more or less of. But that raises the question of how much is enough.  You either are conceived or not conceived, but you can have more or less of the SLED properties. Therefore, conception is the relevant difference that confers a right to life. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Christianity and partisan politics

 I think you can make pragmatic and tentative choices of party as a Christian, but Christian ought to be, in an important sense, independent of any party. Parties are coalitions that combine godly and ungodly interests, almost by definition.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

The devil and soft determinism

 If soft determinism is true, your total past circumstances, not just being poor, guarantees that you steal. It "makes" you steal, but it doesn't make you steal against your will. And because you wanted to do it, your act is considered free even though it's determined. But the past guarantees that you want to steal and do. It would be the same if the devil gave you the desire to steal and the made it so you would. You would still be considered free.

The Bible and the Death Penalty

 The Old Testament is loaded with death penalty offenses, though Christ said the only ones who could carry a death sentence against one adulteress in particular were ones who were without sin. (They were executing ONE person after catching her in the very act of adultery. What's wrong with this picture?)

Friday, November 26, 2021

On Karma

 Looking at the world around me, I have a lot of trouble believing in Karma, at least as it concerns life in this world. The fact is, cold-blooded murderers die in their beds of old age with no regrets, living off the benefits of the crime they committed. That's just a fact. Watch the movie Crimes and Misdemeanaors, which makes the point very forcefully. Unless there is something like God, or else a law of Karma that governs not this life, but reincarnation into the next life (that is how Karma is understood in Eastern traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism), what goes around does NOT come around. Or, at least, it doesn't have to. 

How free should a free market be?

How free does the market need to be? Does a regulated market cease to be a free market? If so, we lost our free market long ago. Free markets can create monopolies. In fact, that is what players in the Game of Capitalism are aiming for.

Friday, November 19, 2021

A (misguided) defense of the election fraud claim


This is a case for the election fraud claims, made by someone getting a degree in apologetics from Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary. I think very poorly of it, and I think Christians who pursue the MyPillow Delusion are bound to hurt the credibility of both Christianity and the Republican Party. 

I'd rather talk about C. S. Lewis and Bertrand Russell. But this is so harmful. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Facts, opinions, and rights

The fact-opinion distinction, along with the idea that you have a right to your opinion, is the bane of my existence as a philosophy instructor. Intellectual rat poison.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Shoving your religion (or lack of it) down someone's throat

 It is natural, if you think something is both true and important, which Christianity (and atheism) are certainly believed to be by their adherents, in wanting others to believe it also. What constitutes "shoving it down someone's throat", I think, takes some analysis.

I don't hear people say "Don't shove your atheism down my throat." But some atheists clearly do just that. 

Douglas Groothuis on Bertrand Russell


The world's leading Heinlein scholar.

 Bill Patterson.  

Also a leading figure in Phoenix fandom during the Golden age of same. 

God the micromanager?

There are two schools of thought on free will and God. One of them says that God can predestine and strictly control all of our actions, but so long as we have the desire to do what we do and act on that, we are still free. At this point, though, atheists will say that if all God has to give us is that kind of freedom, then he could have made us all in such a way that we always act freely while guaranteeing that we act rightly, and why on Earth would a good God refuse to do that if he could? The other view is that God's being in charge of everything includes the power to leave some things up to us, so that given the actual past, we have the power to do one thing or another thing. That way, if we obey His will, we are really obeying his will and not just doing what He programmed us to do in the first place. To say God is sovereign is not to say that God is a universal micromanager.

Thinking one's religion (or religious view) is true

 Any belief system is thought to be true by its adherent, and therefore other views are considered false. That is as true for atheist materialism as it is for Christian theism. And people tend to think that those who agree with them about what is true are in some sense superior to those who don't. But different religious groups look differently at those who differ from them religiously, in that some people think that people outside their religion are all going to hell, and others do not.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Socialism for the goose, socialism for the gander.

 If you allow enough "socialism" to permit the government to bail a company out to keep it from failing, can't you also allow enough "socialism: to allow government to control executive salaries to help sustain the ethics of the company thus bailed out?

Does ethics pay?

 Even though ethics may often pay, the idea of ethics is that you ought to be ethical even if it doesn't pay. The Mafia, after all, has been pretty profitable organization over the years, but its ethical record has been somewhat questionable.

Religion, Morality, and Kitty Wells

A redated post/ 

Country music, as most of us know, is  the most theology-laden form of popular music. The lyrics of this song, sung by Kitty Wells in the early 60s, illustrates, I believe, something interesting about the effect of religion on morality. It is a song of a woman who supposes herself to have been a wrongly deserted wife whose husband has given her divorce papers, all legal and proper. However, she asks whether "God is satisfied" with his actions, telling him that he will be called to account for what he has done by God, and implies that his lawyer won't do him any good when he stands before God and must be held accountable for his actions.

Your lawyer called and said he had the papers all prepared
To sign my name was all I had to do
He saw the judge, now he seen me, there's only one thing left
Will your lawyer talk to God for you?
Will your lawyer talk to God and plead your case up on high
And defend the way you broke my heart in two?
Manmade laws to set you free on earth but is God satisfied
Will your lawyer talk to God for you?
We all face that final judgment and it's very strict they say
When your time comes, I wonder what you'll do
Will you bow your head in shame or will you turn your head away
Or will your lawyer talk to God for you?
Will your lawyer talk to God and plead your case up on high
And defend the way you broke my heart in two?
Manmade laws to set you free on earth but is God satisfied
Will your lawyer talk to God for you?

I am not saying anything about the morality of divorce in general. Clearly, it is evident that at least some people desert marriages without adequate moral justification, and the law, as we currently conceive it, cannot prevent them from doing so. I bring these lyrics up because it seems to make nonsense of the popular idea that somehow religious belief, or lack of same, isn't a game-changer when it comes to morality. Assuming atheism, this appeal would be plain nonsense. Again, I am not arguing that no one can follow a moral code without a belief in God. But I think we must admit the force of this sort of consideration, and face that fact that many people, over the centuries, have turned away from a wrongful act because they believed that God would hold them accountable if they performed that action. I am thinking primarily here of the accountability and shame for these actions, as opposed, say punishment in hell. If someone can't see the moral force of this sort of thing, then I would have to say there is a screw loose somewhere.

What polytheists and atheist agree on

 Polytheistic religions have been, for the most part amoral. It was the Jews who, in going monotheist, connected morality to religion. How THAT happened has to be one of the most amazing facts of history. Interestingly enough the pagans of the past and the atheists of today agree on one thing, there is no righteous being in charge of everything.

Friday, November 12, 2021

What difference does religion make to morality

 . There is one way in which religion on the face of things makes a difference, and that is if there is no God (or no law of Karma), then morally bad actions can be beneficial in the long run to those who perform them. If you get away with murder, you get away with murder. On the other hand, if there is a God, then some sort of balancing of the scales of justice awaits  us all. 

Do religions agree on morality?

Do religions agree on more than they disagree with when it comes to morality? Do any religions, for example, say that murder, adultery or bearing false witness is OK?

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Is the free market ever really free?

To what extent is our economy really a free market economy? Is government involved in the economy to a large extent even when it appears as if we have a free market?

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

What does it mean to say we are entitled to our opinion?

A redated post. 

What does it mean to say that someone is entitled to their own opinion? People say that a lot, but I am not sure what they are saying when they say it. To say I am entitled to something, I take it, implies someone might want to take it away from me, and either shouldn't or shouldn't be permitted to. But who might be taking out opinion away from us, and what kind of protection do we need from whoever it is that is trying to take our opinion away from us? Further, it isn't clear what an "opinion" is in this context. That can mean a personal preference that can be neither true nor false (country music is better than rock-n-roll), or it can mean a claim which can be true or false, and for which there can be evidence, but is not completely settled to everyone's satisfaction. Consider the "opinion" of Kirilov in Dostoyevsky's The Possesed, who believes that "he who kills himself, becomes God." Is this something that Kirilov is "entitled to," even if it may lead him to suicide (and did, in the novel).
And then we can look at the various means that people might use to get people to stop holding an opinion. We can torture someone to make them change their minds, we can disown them or give them a lot of disapproval and make them feel bad for believing what they do, or we could try to give them reasons why their beliefs are false. Does our being entitled to our opinion mean that no one should attempt to give another person a logical reason for rejecting what he or she currently believes? I would say, certainly not.

This essay is entitled "Sorry, but you are not entitled to your opinion."

I believe I have linked to it before.