Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Feel the Burn

Advice for Future Philosophers

Rob Koons offers sage advice for future philosophers.


I write to a “future philosopher” and not to a “future philosophy professor”, because I don’t want to presume that the latter is the only possible career for the former. That being said, I have found the life of the philosophy professor to be a remarkably rewarding one. First, because you can spend almost all of your time thinking about the most interesting subject of all. Philosophy is a field that can barely be mastered in a lifetime, much less in the few years one can spend in college and graduate school. And, second, because of the astonishing degree of autonomy one enjoys as a tenured professor. One is held accountable by one’s peers, but it is a fairly large group to whom one is accountable, and one can to a very large extent define that group for oneself. There is no one who can dictate to you what to focus on or what to say on your chosen subjects.

As a field, philosophy has done relatively well resisting the worst of the trends toward political correctness, dogmatic multiculturalism, and fashionable Franco-German agitprop disguised as serious scholarship. A strong tradition of clarity in writing and rigor in argumentation creates opportunities for the exceptionally bright young person.


What can you do with a philosophy Ph.​D. if you can’t find a tenure-track position in academia? Fortunately, there are alternatives. First, there are many secondary schools, especially private and charter schools, that will look favorably on your application. With a Ph.​D. in hand, you will be well qualified to advance to a headmastership. Even if you can’t teach technical philosophy, you can teach logic, political thought, and intellectual history at a high level.

You can pursue work with think tanks and academically oriented foundations (many in the conservative constellation). There is also journalism, political and business consulting, software engineering, and writing (at least as a supplement to one’s regular income).

It is very likely that higher education will succumb in the next thirty years to significant disruptions from innovation, partly driven by communication technology. It will become far easier to re-create the proverbial ideal situation for philosophy: Socrates sitting on one one of the log, a student on the other. Thanks to the internet, the two ends of this log can now be half a world apart. Investigate and strategize about ways to be on the winning side of future disruption. This might include: MOOCs targeted on introducing Western philosophy or culture to students in developing countries, quality distance learning in philosophy for adults (including retirees), or the developing of certificate or badges in philosophy and other liberal arts.

Short of an apocalyptic disaster, interest in Western philosophy will endure. You have formidable allies: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, Hume, Kant, Russell. Be hopeful but be well prepared for some adversity.

Do Christians and Jews and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Bill Vallicella has another post, this time defending the position that Jews and Christians worship the same God.  This too is worth reading by Bill.

Ed Feser, contra Vallicella, argues that Muslims and Christians worship the same God (though his argument is not without a significant qualification).

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"I'm an Evangelical Preacher. You can't be pro-life and pro-gun."

Read the whole thing if you think I'm being unfair in my comments below the fold.  It's short, thankfully, since it's mostly bad.  If this were a paper in class I'd give it a D for having no thesis and poor argumentation.  A difference between right and left will shine forth from this piece.  In spite of how badly this Evangelical Preacher argues, the left will praise him because he means well and it feels good.
In the United States, evangelicals are among the biggest supporters of gun rights. They are the major religious group least likely to support stricter laws. Evangelical Larry Pratt, who directs Gun Owners of America, even argues that all Christians should be armed.
For most of my adult life, I agreed
. I believed that we had a God-given right to defend ourselves. I also believed that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms, and that anyone should be able to obtain a gun.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Against Marriage and Motherhood

If you think the recent turn of events regarding gay "marriage" have come out of the blue, they haven't.  And they precede Obama's wanting to "fundamentally transform America."

This essay argues that current advocacy of lesbian and gay rights to legal marriage and parenthood insufficiently criticizes both marriage and motherhood as they are currently practiced and structured by Northern legal institutions. Instead we would do better not to let the State define our intimate unions and parenting would be improved if the power presently concentrated in the hands of one or two guardians were diluted and distributed through an appropriately concerned community.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

I haven't had time to weigh in on the recent controversy at Wheaton College over placing a professor on leave for saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.  Thankfully, I don't have to because Bill Vallicella has weighed in and says all and more that I'd want to say in his post and then in the comments section.  A number of the comments are good.  In particular a distinction I've mentioned to friends is addressed, namely that between successfully referring to God and successfully worshiping God.

For what it's worth, my view is that it is possible for a Muslim (and others) to successfully reference (depending on the context) and worship God.  But to say that Christians and (all?  most?) Muslims worship the same God is misleading and unhelpful.

Bill also links to Dale Tuggy who has a roundup of hyperlinks and commentary on the Wheaton affair.

This is speculation, but I suspect that the professor was not fired only for this comment about Muslims and Christians.  There is almost always much more to the story when someone is fired.  I would be shocked if she did not have a history of pushing the line internally at Wheaton.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

I just finished this short novel by John le Carre, the one that put him on the spy novelist map.  le Carre was himself a British spy during the Cold War.  Most of the novel takes place in Germany and in England.  le Carre has deep insight into the human condition and moral psychology, though his view seems rather bleak.  There is also a bit of social commentary on the U.S.S.R as well.

Excerpt (no spoilers):

   "Why don't you eat?" the [communist] woman asked again.  "It's all over now."  She said this without compassion, as if the girl were a fool not to eat when the food was there.
   "I'm not hungry."
The wardress shrugged: "You may have a long journey," she observed, "and not much the other end."
   "What do you mean?"
   "The workers are starving in England," she declared complacently. "The capitalists let them starve."
   Liz thought of saying something but there seemed no point.  Besides, she wanted to know; she had to know, and this woman could tell her.
   "What is this place?"
   "Don't you know?" the wardress laughed. "You should ask them over there," she nodded towards the window.  "They can tell you what it is."
   "Who are they?"
   "What kind of prisoners?"
   "Enemies of the state," she replied promptly. "Spies, agitators."
   "How do you know they are spies?"
   "The Party knows.  The Party knows more about people than they know themselves.  Haven't you been told that?"  The wardress looked at her, shook her head and observed, "The English!  The rich have eaten your future and your poor have given them the food--that's what's happened to the English."
   "Who told you that?"
   The woman smiled and said nothing.  She seemed pleased with herself.
   "And this prison is for spies?" Liz persisted.
   "It is a prison for those who fail to recognise Socialist reality; for those who think they have the right to err; for those who slow down the march.  Traitors," she concluded briefly.
   "But what have they done?"
   "We cannot build Communism without doing away with individualism.  You cannot plan a great building if some swine builds his sty on your site."
Liz [herself a communist in England] looked at her in astonishment.
   "Who told you this?"
   "I am Commissar here," she said proudly, "I work in the prison."
   "You are very clever," Liz observed, approaching her.
   "I am a worker," the woman replied acidly. "The concept of brain workers as a higher category must be destroyed.  There are no categories, only workers; no antithesis between physical and mental labour.  Haven't you read Lenin?"

Monday, December 21, 2015

Retributive Punishment and Christian Forgiveness

Alexander Pruss has a recent post  which I reproduce below, expressing a number of things I have discussed here over the course of this blog's short history.  Commentary throughout.

Start with this argument:
1. Christians ought to forgive all wrongdoing.
2. Forgiving includes foregoing retribution.
3. All ought to forego retribution in the absence of [presence of?] wrongdoing.
4. Therefore, Christians ought in all cases to forego retribution.
And, yet the following also seem true:
5. Retributive justice is central to the concept of punishment.
6. Punishment is often needed for the public good.
What is the Christian to do? Well, one thought is that we should weaken (1). Thomas Aquinas in his sermons on the Lord's Prayer says that we are only required to forgive those who ask us for forgiveness. (After all, Christ tells us to expect God to forgive us as we forgive others; but we do ask God for forgiveness.) Forgiving the unrepentant is supererogatory, he says. That weakens the conflict between the displayed claims. Nonetheless, there are times when the criminal justice system needs to punish someone who we have good reason to think is repentant, because the risks to society of letting her go free may be unacceptably high. Furthermore, Aquinas's modification of (1) doesn't help all that much because the supererogatory is by definition always right. So even with Aquinas's modification of (1), we still seem to get a conflict between forgiveness and the needs of the public good.

TB: One might distinguish between forgiveness as conditional, the way Pruss does here, or as unconditional, or both.  On the conditional understanding, not only am I required only to forgive those who ask, but it is impossible that forgiveness occurs without the wrongdoer admitting his wrong and asking for forgiveness.  Alternatively, we might think that forgiveness can be (at least partly) achieved by the wronged party treating the wrongdoer as having the punishment already waved even if the wrongdoer does not ask for forgiveness, or as treating the wrongdoer as if he had not committed the offense.  I favor the latter understanding (but this is a blog post and subject to revision.)  I can forgive you by waving my right to punish you for having wronged me or treating you as if you had not wronged me (even if a punishment remains in place). This does not mean either that I am required to do so or that there are instances where I should not do so (for example if I know that in doing so it would increase your unjust resentment towards me.)   But how could I forgive you while a punishment is left in place?  Read on.

Another move, and it may be the most promising, is to distinguish between the individual and the community. Forgiveness is the individual Christian's duty (or at least supererogation--but for brevity I won't consider that option any more), but there are wrongs that, on account of the public good, the community should not forgive. I think this is a quite promising option, but I am not completely convinced. One reason I am not convinced is that Catholic social teaching allows for the possibility of a Christian state, with Vatican City being an example. And there is some plausibility in thinking that the Christian state should behave rather like the Christian individual, but a Christian state has need of punishment for safeguarding the public good. Now maybe forgiveness and punishment are one of the things that varies between the Christian individual and the Christian state, so that the individual should forgive while the state sometimes is not permitted to do so. But it would be good to have another approach.
TB: I don't find this avenue promising.  Suppose you have committed a series of batteries and homicide.  In jail you come to see that you have done wrong, wish you had not done wrong, and ask for forgiveness.  The Pope forgives you and wishes your restoration to the community.  But because of deep seated vices on your part, you remain in jail, in part for your own sake and the protection of the community as well as for deterrence effect.
This also happens on a smaller scale between parents and children.  Sometimes children come to see that they have done wrong and ask for forgiveness.  The parent forgives the child but tells the child that he must remain in timeout for 20 minutes until remaining anger towards a sibling subsides; as well, one notes that it's good for the child and the siblings to know that actions have consequences.
The point: One can forgive another, and sometimes one has a duty to forgive but at the same time can also have a justifying reason to punish.  By forgive I mean treating one as if the particular wrong had not occurred.  I see no reason for thinking that an authority in a Christian state could not have a duty both to forgive and to punish.  One could treat the wrongdoer as if the particular wrong had not occurred while still recognizing the underlying vice which calls for a punishment to remain in place.

Think about sports and victory. The very concept of a fencing match cannot be understood apart from seeing it as a practice whose internal end is getting to a score of five before the opponent does. Nonetheless, it is possible to have a friendly and honorable match where no one is intentionally pursuing victory. Rather, the players are exercising their skills in excellent ways that tend to promote victory without actually seeking victory. (The clearest case may be a parent fencing with a child and hoping that the child's skills are so good that the parent will be defeated; but one can have cases where each wants the other to win.)
Similarly, perhaps, just as sports cannot be understood apart from victory, punishment cannot be understood apart from retribution.
TB: I think punishment--moreover, just punishment--can be understood apart from retribution. In part because I think Jesus forbids retribution but not punishment (moreover, it would take a powerful theory to convince me that Jesus thought parents should never punish children.)  As well, I think the basic concept of punishment pulls apart from retribution.  Here is a stab at a definition of punishment:  Punishment is harsh treatment in response to perceived wronging which by the act of the harsh treatment is meant to censure or condemn the type of act committed which is perceived to be wrong.

I say "perceived wronging" to rule out cases where one punishes unjustly--where the party is punished but was innocent.  I add that the harsh treatment is meant to censure or condemn to distinguish punishment from harsh treatments in self-defense or actions in war.  (For the harsh treatment to be meant to censure or condemn the action, though, one need not be consciously or occurently intending this as part of its end.)

This definition also has the virtue of being compatible with having various reasons for punishment.  One of those might be retribution.  Another might be deterrence of crime.  Another prevention of crime.  Another correction.  And so on.

But just as there are reasons besides victory to play, there are reasons apart from retribution to punish. In those cases, punishment is not intended by the agent. (Another example: I have argued that sex cannot be understood apart from its reproductive end; however, agents can permissibly refrain from pursuing reproduction in particular cases of sex.) This suggests that perhaps we should weaken premise (2) of the initial argument to:
7. Forgiving includes refraining from pursuit of retribution.
TB: I don't understand the difference between "forgoing retribution" in 2 and "refraining from pursuit of retribution" in 7.  
The weakened argument only yields the conclusion that Christians ought to refrain from pursuing retribution. But refraining from pursuit of retribution may well be compatible with punishment. And the public goods that render punishment necessary need not include retribution--retribution can be left to the God who says: "Vengeance is mine".
This may be a part of why John Paul II says in Evangelium Vitae that for the death penalty to be justified in some particular (and presumably very rare) case it must be justified on grounds of protection of society. In other words, it is the protection of society, rather than retribution, that is to be sought.
TB:  "But refraining from pursuit of retribution may well be compatible with punishment."  I agree.  Not only can one punish while not pursuing retribution, one can justly punish while not pursuing retribution.  I reject 5 above.

Which raises the question, what is retribution?  Retribution is punishment for the sake of "evening the cosmic scale." One has been wronged n-degrees.  One is thereby to be given harsh treatment by a measure of n.  This seems to me wrong.  In wronging someone one loses one's right not to be punished.  Another is sometimes permitted to render harsh treatment up to a measure of n, but one is not required to do so.  There are overriding reasons which justify forgoing retribution: reconciliation, protection of society, etc.  See this post for several reasons for punishment.

"retribution can be left to the God who says: "Vengeance is mine"."

TB: Perhaps.  But perhaps even God punishes but not for the sake of retribution.  Perhaps we should understand "vengeance" as well as "jealousy" applied to God analogically or metaphorically.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Does it Feel Good? Continued...

Continuing on the "Does It Feel Good?" vs. "Does It Do Good?" theme from the other day....

Gun Control: Calls for gun control after a public shooting even though none of the proposals would have prevented the shooting.  More gun control feels good.

The minimum wage: The overall net value is nothing.  It makes those getting the raise temporarily more happy (until prices adjust) and some people a lot less happy when they lose their job.  At best liberal economists will argue that it does no harm overall, admitting that it probably does no good.  But it feels good.

The Keystone Pipeline: Everyone acknowledges that it would've actually reduced carbon emissions and would have also reduced the risk of oil spills.  But environmentalists hated it and Obama killed it.   Why?  Oil pipelines don't feel good.  Killing the pipeline was environmentally "symbolic."

Paris Climate Talks: The talks were full of talk and not much else.  There are no legally binding agreements, and no means of enforcement.  But getting that many countries together to talk about "Climate Change" feels good. (Ask NPR).

Affirmative Action: It stigmatizes minorities and mismatches their current abilities with requirements.  But even if it did neither ill nor good, it definitely feels good.

That's all for now.  I bet if we thought about it we could come up with a pretty long list.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Drawback of Finitude

My tenderhearted (& future existentialist?) five-year-old son has been crying at night for the last week or two.  When I have finally gotten him to tell me why he says:
"Today is over and it will never happen again."

He reminds me of one of the best reasons to think that God is timeless.

Yale Students Sign Petition to Repeal 1st Amendment

To laugh, cry, or both?

We need more of this--more exposure of what a consistent ideology looks like for the general public to see.  That would be a start.

Women to Register for Military Draft?

Women could soon have to register for the draft — if the US military is serious about achieving “true and pure equality,” according to a top military official.
“If your objective is true and pure equality then you have to look at all aspects [of the roles of women in the military],” declared Army Secretary John McHugh.
Makes sense to me if your goal is equal opportunity (to die) and outcomes through force of government might.  Of course, if your goal is military might, then it makes little sense in the first place to have mixed combat units.  But strengthening the military was never the goal.

See also The Truth About Women in Combat

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Right and Left Explained in 5 Minutes

Right: Does it do good?  Left: Does it feel good?

This seems about right, at least as far as pithy explanations go.  It's certainly true that the left tends more towards subjectivism about value.

These fundamental stances explain the outrage and cries of racism directed towards Justice Scalia for noting a fact--that a lot of blacks flunked out of school due to affirmative action policies--and that they might be better off going to a lower tier school and passing.  (Of course, as Scalia himself noted, this question only applies to those blacks (etc.) admitted with lower qualifications.)  In short, he asked whether those policies actually do good.  Simply asking that question is impermissible.  Why?  Those questions might make some people feel bad.  This is essentially the objection that a panel on NPR reached the other day.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Who's the Media Watchdog's Watchdog?

On NPR this afternoon (paraphrase):

According to the Founders, the media is to be the watchdog of politics.  But who watches over the media?  Who is the media's watchdog?  [NPR's] On the Media, that's who.

But, as journalists are want to say, this begs the question: who watches over the media's watchdog?


Who's Checking the Fact Checkers?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time for a Moratorium on Immigration From Muslim Lands?

Unless you've been in a cave, you know that Donald Trump has called for a temporary halt (you wouldn't know it's temporary from most headlines) to immigration of Muslims, though the details, as usual for Trump, aren't very clear.

How about that proposal?  What is wrong with a temporary halt?  There are of course questions of international law no doubt, but what if anything would be wrong with a temporary halt in immigration from predominantly Muslim nations?  Can Americans not even have a reasonable debate about the question?  Why not?

The Maverick on an important question who anticipated Trump several days ago (and then I have follow-up thoughts):

And now San Bernardino.  It is surely 'interesting' that in supposedly conservative media venues such as Fox News there has been no discussion, in the wake of this latest instance of Islamic terrorism, of the obvious question whether immigration from Muslim lands should be put on hold. [TB: Again this was written prior to Trump's remarks]. Instead, time is wasted refuting silly liberal calls for more gun control.  'Interesting' but not surprising.  Political correctness is so pervasive that even conservatives are infected with it.  It is very hard for most of us, including conservatives, to believe that it is Islam itself and not the zealots of some hijacked version thereof that is the problem.  But slowly, and very painfully, people are waking up. But I am not sanguine that only a few more such bloody events will jolt us into alertness.  It will take many more.
So is it not eminently reasonable to call for a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands?  [TB: This by the way if perfectly legal.] Here are some relevant points.  I would say that they add up to a strong cumulative case argument for a moratorium. 
1. There is no right to immigrate.  See here for some arguments contra the supposed right by Steven A. Camarota.  Here is my refutation of an argument pro.  My astute commenters add further considerations. Since there is no right to immigrate, immigrants are allowed in only if they meet certain criteria.  Surely we are under no obligation to allow in those who would destroy our way of life. 
2.  We philosophers will debate until doomsday about rights and duties and everything else.  But in the meantime, shouldn't  we in our capacity as citizens exercise prudence and advocate that our government exercise prudence?  So even if in the end  there is a right to immigrate, the prudent course would be to suspend this supposed right for the time being until  we get a better fix on what is going on.  Let's see if ISIS is contained or spreads.  Let's observe events in Europe and in Britain.  Let's see if Muslim leaders condemn terrorism.  Let's measure the extent of Muslim assimilation. 
3. "Overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land, according to a worldwide survey by the Pew Research Center." Here.  Now immigrants bring their culture and their values with them.  Most Muslims will bring a commitment to sharia with them.  But sharia is incompatible with our American values and the U. S. Constitution.  Right here we have a very powerful reason to disallow immigration from Muslim lands. 
4.  You will tell me that not all Muslims subscribe to sharia, and you will be right.  But how separate the sheep from the goats?  Do you trust government officials to do the vetting?  Are you not aware that people lie and that the Muslim doctrine of taqiyya justifies lying?  
5.  You will insist that not all Muslims are terrorists, and again you will be right. But almost all the terrorism in the world at the present time comes from Muslims acting upon Muslim beliefs.  Pay attention to the italicized phrase. There are two important related distinctions we need to make.

There's more.  Read the rest.

Is the Maverick right?  The case has some compelling force but more can be said.

Let us first get a couple preliminaries out of the way.  I can imagine the following, knee jerk reaction from some Christians:  "Jesus said love your enemies, the Old Testament prophets said good things about immigrants, therefore, U.S. policy should never restrict Muslims in any way from entering the U.S.!  Islamophobe!  Racist!"  This is about the level of argument I've been seeing recently.  Of course to anyone who has even slept through a critical thinking class it will be noted that the argument is invalid.

Not much better is the claim that Christians are to avoid fear and that Christianity is all about taking risks, therefore... Well, I don't know what follows the "therefore."  Certainly no particular policy proposals which follow cogently simply from Bible verses.  Moving from Bible verses to public policy without any other premises is a recipe for a non-sequitur.

Risk is not one of the theological virtues.  Risk is only good if the risk is prudent, i.e., wise.  It's not wise to give a homeless person a cup of soup if you have to walk your children through a field of landmines; it is manifestly unwise since the risk of death outweighs the benefit of a full belly.  Such examples are legion.  Nor is it always irrational to fear, though no one would fear, or course, in ideal conditions.

However I can also envision a not initially unreasonable response from some Christians.  Muslims are better off converting to Christianity.  Christians, at least, will agree to this (as well as non-Christians who esteem Christianity over Islam).  It might be asked, how better to bring about Muslim converts than by admitting them into the United States where there are lots of Evangelical Christians? Most Muslims appear to be assimilating well enough.  Few are terrorists.  In fact you (Borland!) have recently been posting excerpts from Nabeel Qureshi who converted to Christianity in the United States and whose Muslim parents appear to be fine, upstanding citizens.  In a similar vein, see also Francis Beckwith.

However there are questions worth asking: Are all Muslims going to hell?  (How about their children?)  How likely is Muslim conversion to Christianity in the U.S. now and in the future?  Would one be throwing pearls to swine or to sheep?  I don't know, I'm just asking.  It certainly seems less likely the more Muslims immigrate at a time: birds of a feather flock together.  If the epistemic probability of conversion is quite low, but the probability higher that an equal number of "non-saved" will be killed than those converted at this time, is it reasonable to think that refraining from a temporary moratorium is worth it? As I see it, it would not.  For based only on "souls saved" the cost would outweigh the benefit.  Not only is it bad that the "non-saved" are lost, it is bad for Muslims to kill innocents.  So it seems to be manifestly unreasonable never to suspend entry from Muslim lands if there is not reason to think that the costs outweigh the benefits for all concerned, those concerned including future generations of Americans who are not now able to weigh in on public policy.

Jesus' ethics is an ethics of love.  Christians no doubt have duties of love.  Christians are to be neighbors to those who are persecuted, to refugees in war-torn lands, as well as to their neighbors of proximity.  As such there is reason to lend assistance, for example, to Syrian refugees.  Such assistance could come in many forms, acceptance of refugees into the U.S. being one of those; monetary benefits another; relocation to other countries yet another.  Moreover, Christians in the U.S. have duties as well to U.S. citizens and future citizens down the line who have yet to born.  It does not follow from the fact that Christians have a duty to love their neighbors that they should advocate, for instance, for open borders as some Libertarians and Democrats suggest.  Nor does it follow straightaway that there should be a moratorium on taking in people from certain Muslim majority countries.  Wisdom requires looking at the available data and using it to make the best decisions we can in the midst of competing ideologies and factions in our democratic country--taking into account the concerns of many.

A few other questions: Do sovereigns of a country have a right to control immigration?  Do they have a right of refusal?  (Open borders?) Are you for a Christian theocracy?  Or do you think that Christianity instead should compel one to support a representative democracy?  Is Islam in its various manifestations compatible with a representative democracy?  Which variations are compatible?  Is Islam logically compatible, but does it tend towards theocracy or some other type of government?  Is there a reasonable cap to the number of Muslim immigrants a western democracy could withstand without political upheaval and social turmoil?  Would a political revolution be a good thing?

Some Christians suggest that it would.  Christianity thrives under persecution, they say.  But must it?   Surely Christianity would thrive in heaven where there is no persecution.  Surely Christianity does not need persecution in order to thrive, and surely it is preferable to thrive and not be persecuted.  Did Christianity thrive in the communist Soviet Union?  Has it in Muslim dominated countries?  In India?  Has it sometimes thrived where there is little persecution?  Will it thrive in a future United States under radically different conditions in the future?  Are such questions open for discussion?  The left loves to call for "conversations."  Are we allowed to have one about this?

Some future predictions are dire, especially for Europe.  Are such predictions right?  Can they not at least be entertained, discussed by reasonable people, and debated?
I leave you with Matthew Bracken. Hopefully he's wrong.  Excerpt:

Islam is similar to a self-replicating supercomputer virus. It is a hydra-headed monster, designed by its creators to be an unstoppable formula for global conquest. It’s almost impossible to eradicate, because it has no central brain or control center. Islam is like a starfish: when you cut off a limb, another grows to replace it. The names of the Muslim leaders, and the names of their Islamic groups, are transitory and ultimately unimportant. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are succeeded by Al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State, but they will all pass from the scene and be replaced by others. While Muslim leaders and regimes have come and gone, Islam itself has remained steadfastly at war with the non-Muslim world for 1,400 years.
Islam does not recognize secular national boundaries. To devout Muslims, there are only two significant realms of the world. First is the Dar al-Islam — the House of Islam, which is the land of the believers. The other is the Dar al-Harb — the House of War, which must be made Islamic by any means, including violent jihad. The expansion of Islam is sometimes held in check for long periods, but more often Islam is on the march, acquiring new territory. Once conquered by Islam, territory is rarely taken back, Spain being a notable exception.
The Muslim world produces almost no books or new inventions. Short of finding oil under their feet, most Islamic nations are backward and impoverished. So wherein lies the power source for Islam’s nearly constant expansion over the past fourteen centuries? The motor and the battery of Islam are the Koran and the Hadith, or sayings of Mohammed. A messianic Mahdi, Caliph or Ayatollah with sufficient charisma can accelerate Islam’s pace of conquest, but individual men are not the driving force.
Secular “Muslim in name only” strongmen from Saddam Hussein to Muamar Qadafi can hold Islamism in check for a period with brutal methods, but strongmen are often assassinated or otherwise removed from power, and in any event, they cannot live forever. Once the secular strongmen are gone, fanatical mullahs are able to stir their zealous Muslim followers into sufficient ardor to reinstall a radical Islamist regime under Sharia Law, according to the Koran.
This pattern of secular strongmen being followed by fanatical Islamist leaders has recurred many times over the past millennium and longer. Do not be fooled by modernists like King Abdullah of Jordan. To the true believer of Islam, any king or strongman is never more than a rifle shot or grenade toss away from being kinetically deposed, and replaced by another Islamist fanatic.
The persistent virulence of Mohammed’s 7th Century plan for global domination means that it is always ready to erupt in a fresh outbreak. Islam is like a brushfire or ringworm infection: it is dead and barren within the ring, but flares up where it parasitically feeds off the healthy non-Islamic societies around it. What produces this uniquely fanatical motivation, from within nations and peoples that otherwise seem devoid of energy and new ideas?
Going into 2016, I believe that Europe is primed to become the central theater of a third world war. Like an overstrained zipper suddenly failing and bursting open from end to end, the European conflagration could well reignite simmering conflicts from the Ukraine to the Persian Gulf, due to interlocking alliances (NATO, including Turkey, vs. Russia), and the Sunni-Shia divide (Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, which has been imported into Europe).
Yes, World War Three. But why now?
The rest of the story

A Transage Transgender "Mirl"?

A 6-year-old girl (who was formerly a 52-year-old man) deserted her wife and 7 children.

[Stefoknee Wolscht] thinks [ze] is actually a six year-old girl—not just a woman, but a six year-old girl—stuck in the body of a 50-something man.
At age 46, Wolscht deserted his wife and his seven children to live his “true” life.
“I can’t deny I was married. I can’t deny I have children,” Wolscht admits. “But I’ve moved forward now and I’ve gone back to being a child. I don’t want to be an adult right now and I just live my life like I couldn’t when I was in school.”
He explains, “Well, I have a mummy and a daddy. [An] adopted mummy and daddy who are totally comfortable with me being a little girl. And their children, and their grandchildren, are totally supportive. In fact, her youngest granddaughter… When I was eight. A year ago, I was eight, and she was seven. And she said to me, ‘I want you to be the little sister, so I’ll be nine.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t mind going to six.' So I’ve been six ever since.”

Identity change is now a fountain of youth.  Fascinating times in which we live.

I pity this guy and his family and have anger for all his sick enablers.  What he does not need is "play therapy."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ted Cruz's Interview On Law

Excellent interview of Ted Cruz by Princeton's Robert George.  Among other things they discuss the Obergefell decision.  I haven't seen this sort of high level, engaging interview with any other candidate.  It's an hour long but well worth it.
Lincoln was absolutely right. I agree with President Lincoln and courts do not make law. That is not what a court does. The court interprets the law, applies the law, but courts don’t make law. And, you know, this is an area of really striking divide in this presidential election. One candidate, Hillary Clinton, agrees with the court and embraces gay “marriage” and is happy that unelected judges had purported to tear down the marriage laws of all fifty states. On the Republican side, they’re quite a few Republicans who, when the gay “marriage” decision came down, they described it as the settled law of the land. It’s final; we must accept it, move on and surrender.

Those are almost word for word Barack Obama’s talking points and I think they are profoundly wrong. I think the decision was fundamentally illegitimate. It was lawless. It was not based on the Constitution. I agree very much with Justice Scalia, who wrote a powerful dissent saying, this decision is a fundamental threat to our democracy. It is five unelected judges declaring themselves the rulers of three hundred and twenty million Americans. And indeed, Justice Scalia, in the penultimate paragraph of his dissent, predicts, harkening back to President Lincoln defying Dred Scott, that state and local officials will refuse to obey this lawless decision. It is remarkable to see a Supreme Court justice saying that would be the consequence of this.

The Story of Ted Cruz and Family

A heartwarming story of Ted Cruz and his Cuban immigrant family. It's only 11 minutes. (It's not "leaked" in any scandalous sense, by the way, but it's definitely worth watching.)

Trump and Hillary are in trouble.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Muhammad the Violent

Nabeel Qureshi:

     As I continued reading from volume 1, hadith 3, I found many hadith with teachings I had heard often, including that Muslims should avoid harming others (1.10), feed the poor and greet the strangers kindly (1.11), and even follow the golden rule (1.12).  No doubt, this was the loving, peaceful Islam I had always known.
     But when I arrived at hadith 1.24, my jaw dropped.
     In it, Muhammad says, "I have been ordered by Allah to fight against people until they testify that none has the right to be worshiped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah's Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity...then they will save their lives and property from me."
Were my eyes playing tricks on me?  Muhammad was saying that he would fight people until they became Muslim or until he killed them and took their property.  That was impossible!  It ran counter to everything I knew about Muhammad, and it contradicted the Quran's clear statement that "there is no compulsion in religion."
     I simply could not believe it, and so I hurriedly moved on to the next hadith.  But 1.25 said that the greatest thing a Muslim can do after having faith is to engage in jihad.  As if to clarify what kind of jihad, Sahih Bukhari clarifies, "religious fighting."
     As I read through [Sufi biographer] Lings' book, I came across another section that challenged what I knew about Islam.  Titled "The Threshold of War," the chapter seemed to say that it was the Muslims who were the first aggressors against Mecca after Muhammad had migrated to Medina.  Muhammad sent eight Muslims to lie in wait for a Meccan trade caravan during the holy month.  Even though this was a time of sacred truce for Arabs, the Muslims killed one man, captured two others, and plundered their goods.
     ...Muhammad ordered a warrior to assassinate a mother of five, Asma bint Marwan.  She was breastfeeding a child when she was murdered, her blood splattering on her children.  When the assassin told Muhammad he had difficulty with what he had done, Muhammad showed no remorse.
     [I]n the aftermath of the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad captured and beheaded over five hundred men and teenage boys from the Jewish tribe of Qurayza.  After the Muslims killed the men, they sold the women and children into slavery and distributed their goods among themselves.
    Since this account was found in both hadith and sirah, the Muslims online could not argue that it was fabricated.  They instead looked to justify Muhammad's actions, usually arguing that the Jews had been treacherous and deserved what they got.  Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, pp. 219-222

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Gun Proposal I Can Get Behind!

Think of how many lives this would save!

Guns: NY Times Calls for...SOMETHING!

Front page editorial here.

Noteworthy quotations:

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.
This of course, is silly.  The guns are designed to fire for all sorts of purposes just like any other gun.  And why shouldn't citizens but sufficiently well-armed if the cops are?  The NY Times doesn't say.
Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true....They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. 
HA! It doesn't matter if taking away arms from law abiding citizens will do any good!  We have to do something!  Hoplophobia alive and well in New York!  All one can do is laugh.
It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

Brian Doherty has the takedown here.  Excerpt:
The move the Times proposes with such ceremony and passion is so purely symbolic, so driven by a superstitious desire to placate fate by acting as if it is doing something to stop grotesque acts of terror like in San Bernardino, and so motivated by a desire to sock it to a huge proportion of their fellow citizens over a contentious and heated political and constitutional issue, and is being offered with such emphasis (first front page editorial in nearly a century) that one could imagine the Times is only proposing such a move as a stalking horse for seeing if the government can get away with successfully banning and confiscating a class of weapon, by starting with one with such a tenuous connection with public safety on a national level.
It is likely that there is literally no other political crusade on which the Times could call for so much expense and turmoil for such a small benefit—again, except for the benefit of showing Americans who believe that they have an inherent right to own weapons of self-defense if used in a peaceful fashion, as the staggeringly overwhelmingly vast majority of them are, that the Times and those in government they speak for have the power and will to give it to them, good and hard.

In other NY Times related propaganda news, does the Times think its readership is this stupid?  I guess so.  No mention at all that the "bill" to eliminate terror was not actually a bill but an amendment attached to yet another bill to defund Obamacare, neither of which had a prayer of becoming law.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Military Opening up ALL Combat Roles to Women


Well of course they will open all combat jobs to women.  I predicted it.  This has been a foregone conclusion for years in spite of any and all empirical studies or lack thereof.  Because the issue has never ever been about making the U.S. stronger militarily (as if the Navy Seals have really been slacking recently.)  The left loathes the U.S. and would love to have it knocked down a few pegs.

When is the last time you heard someone on the left complaining that our military is not strong enough?  When have you heard the Chomskys say that they want a stronger U.S. military and military presence in the world?  It's not about making the military stronger, as Obama the feckless and mendacious promises, it's about fundamentally changing America as progressives want to change it.  The '60's sexual revolutionaries are the institution.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bill Clinton: First Ladies Man?

From a book I read this past year.  Interesting speculation from a close associate of the Clintons:

     "Everybody continues to talk about how badly [Bill] wants Hillary to run.  Why would he want to be the first spouse?" asks a close associate of both Clintons, and who suggests that Bill actually dreads the prospect.  "What's he going to do?  Live back in the White House and do the Christmas cards?"  The former president, who likes to dominate any conversation, is all but certain to be frustrated being confined to the East Wing, kept out of cabinet meetings, and out of the national security meetings in the Situation Room.  A man who has spent the last decade doing pretty much whatever he's wanted to do suddenly will have to have his movements, trips, and associations vetted and cleared by aides to his wife for fear of conflict of interest.
     What does all this portend for 2016?  A former president deeply conflicted.  On the one hand motivated by the altruistic thought that his wife deserves a shot at the presidency.  And on the other prone to give in to his darker qualities--selfishness and self-destructiveness.
     "He'll work his ass off to get her elected," one longtime Clinton friend suggests.  Taking a sip of coffee, he pauses before qualifying his statement.  "But in the back of his mind he would always be thinking, 'Maybe I'd be better off is she weren't elected.'"  He smiles.  "He could sabotage her.  ANn he'd be like, 'Oh, oops.'  And with him, honestly, it could be subconscious, but it's there. If it's there.  If it's conscious, if he's purposely doing it, that's some crazy shit."  ~Daniel Harper, Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine, pp.276-7

House of Cards?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Concept of a Miracle

Miracles are often defined as violations of laws of nature, perhaps also with the proviso that they come from a god.  An alternative way of understanding a miracle is an event brought about by a supernatural being which no natural agent has the power to bring about.

Humeans sometimes complain that miracles just are violations of laws of nature (foot-stomp), and that there is something illicit about (re)defining miracles in such a way to avoid law violations.  But it seems to me that Humeans might be dead wrong in making this objection.  The ancient Greeks and Hebrews certainly had a concept of a miracle, but did they have a concept of a law of nature?  Probably not if we understand a law of nature as either a proposition describing powers of natural things, a universal, or a regularity.  Rather I suspect their concept of a miracle was simply an event or action brought about (or elicited) by an immaterial being or god.

Would they have added the proviso that no natural agent had the power to bring about the event or duplicate the action?  That I don't know.  The History Channel often provides a naturalistic account of alleged miracles.  For instance, a sea parting is unusual but it certainly seems like something that natural agents have the power to do.  Turning a rod into a snake would have definitely seemed unusual, but if one believed that natural agents could perform magic, then this would be another case where it might have been thought that a miracle could be duplicated.

Monday, November 30, 2015

East vs. West: Authority and Reason

Nabeel Quresh:

     When my parents taught me to examine my beliefs, I was essentially expected to build a defense for what they had taught me.  In [my philosophy of knowledge class], we were ostensibly doing the same thing--examining our beliefs--but in practice, it was the exact opposite. We were critically probing our beliefs, challenging them, testing them for weak points, pliability, and boundaries. Some students were even replacing them.
     The difference between Eastern and Western education can be traced to the disparity that divides Muslim immigrants from their children: Islamic cultures tend to establish people of high status as authorities, whereas the authority in Western culture is reason itself.  These alternative seats of authority permeate the mind, determining the moral outlook of whole societies.
     When authority is derived from position rather than reason, the act of questioning leadership is dangerous because it has the potential to upset the system.  Dissension is reprimanded, and obedience is rewarded.  Correct and incorrect courses are assessed socially, not individually.  A person's virtue is thus determined by how well he meets social expectations, not by an individual determination of right and wrong.  Thus, positional authority yields a society that determines right and wrong based on honor and shame.
      Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity                            (Zondervan, 2014), pp.107-8.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Defense that the Universe Begins to Exist

A friend recently raised the following interesting, objection to William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's existence.  Craig's basic argument is as follows:

1. Anything which begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Thus the universe has a cause.

Craig then proceeds to defend (1)--the causal principle, (2) that the universe does not have an infinite past and thus begins to exist, and finally that the best explanation for the cause of the universe is God.

My friend's objection was to premise two, even conceding that the universe does not have an infinite past.  His objection: just as there is no good reason for thinking that a universe with an infinite past which exists at all times past begins to exist, so too there is no good reason for thinking that a universe which does not have an infinite past and exists at all times past begins to exist.  In short, why should we think that anything which exists at all times past can rightly be said to begin to exist?

A good question, one which I'm unaware that Craig addresses.

Here is an argument in defense of Craig's claim that the universe begins to exist (on the assumption that the universe does not have an infinite past):

1. One is immortal only if one exists at some time and does not permanently cease to exist.
2. If time eventually comes to an end, then someone--Ted--existing for only 30 years right up until the end of time either (a) permanently ceased to exist or (b) does not permanently cease to exist.
3. If Ted does not permanently cease to exist at the end of time, then Ted lives only 30 years in the entire history of time and is immortal.
4. But it is absurd that someone could live for only 30 years in the entire history of time and be immortal.
5. Thus if time eventually comes to an end, then Ted permanently ceases to exist.
6. If 5, then it is sufficient for permanently ceasing to exist that x exists until there is no subsequent time.
7.  So it is sufficient for permanently ceasing to exist that x exists until there is no subsequent time.
8. If it is sufficient for permanently ceasing to exist that x exists until there is no subsequent time, then it is sufficient for beginning to exist that x exists when there is no prior time.
9. Thus it is sufficient for beginning to exist that x exists when there is no prior time.

More on the Clock Boy

Just as I suspected:

Detention wasn’t the worst of it. While his discipline record is confidential and his father didn’t want to discuss it, the file was thick by some accounts.

“I told you one day I’m going to be — and you told me yourself — I’m going to be really big on the Internet one day,” Ahmed said.

Some Courageous Princeton Students Fight Back!

Their letter to the president of Princeton here.

The difference between the activist left and right explained in a single paragraph:
Academic discourse consists of reasoned arguments. We simply wish to present our own reasoned arguments and engage you and other senior administrators in dialogue. We will not occupy your office, and, though we respectfully request a minimum of an hour of your time, we will only stay for as long as you wish. We will conduct ourselves in the civil manner that it is our hope to maintain and reinforce as the norm at Princeton.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Pacifism and Nonviolence

I have seen some Christian pacifists recently aver that Jesus advocated an ethic of nonviolence.  I have written extensively on the blog about pacifism and nonviolence in the past, most notably here.

Pacifism comes in various forms, but let us take the paradigm as our model which is the view that no one (or at least no Christian) should kill another human regardless of the circumstances.  And let us understand violence as the OED's primary definition of "violence":

a. The exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on, or cause damage to, persons or property; conduct characterized by this; treatment or usage tending to cause bodily injury or forcibly interfering with personal freedom.

One point that is seldom addressed is the fact that pacifism and nonviolence are not coextensive.  Neither of the following propositions are true by definition:

1. If pacifism were true, then no violence is permissible.
2. If no violence were permissible, then pacifism is true.

Start with number one.  One tells us that if pacifism were true, then one should never perform a violent act.  But it does not follow from the proposition that all killing is impermissible that one should never inflict injury upon someone else or damage property.  Even if pacifism were true, it does not follow that it is impermissible for one to destroy weapons intended to be used for terror or that it is impermissible to injure a terrorist.

Turn to number two.  Two tells us that pacifism follows from the impermissibility of violence.  Yet this does not follow, for one could nonviolently kill another person by giving him an overdose of morphine.  Euthanasia is a form of nonviolent killing (sometimes at the request of the one being killed).

So those who hold that Jesus teaches both pacifism and an ethics of nonviolence have not a singular but a dual task of proving both pacifism and an ethics of nonviolence, since the one does not necessarily follow from the other.

Ahmed the "Clock Inventor" is Back!

Surprise, surprise.  The teenager (who I wrote about here)--the one whose father was a politician--is now seeking 15 MILLION dollars in damages.

Please, PLEASE, someone arrest ME!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Quran and the Seige of Paris

David Wood asks which of the following better explain what went down in Paris:

1. Climate Change (Bernie)
2. Income Inequality
3. Islamophobia
4. Joblessness
5. Starbucks Coffee Cups
6. Muhammad's Repeated Commands to Wage Terrorist Attacks

Give it a listen.  It's only 8 minutes.

Friday, November 20, 2015

White Student Union Challenges "Black Lives Matter" Radicals

Cartoon from the Facebook page
Here is the Facebook page.

Well, what do you really expect when the left says that racism can't be eliminated by ignoring race as an insignificant property (even though there is no such thing in exta-mental reality!) and when race is only used one way as a political bludgeon?  

From the Washington Post:
A Facebook page ostensibly created for an audience at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign called “Illini White Students Union” has drawn fire after it characterized the national Black Lives Matter movement as “terrorism.”

The Facebook page seems to be taking a satirical stance with "terrorism."  If the radical protesters intimidating students in libraries--as well as cowardly administrators who have it coming--are genuinely powerless victims (contrast with genuine victims of terror in Paris, not privileged students in college), then their acts of intimidation might as well be labeled acts of terror.

On Ben Carson's "Comparison" of Refugees With Dogs

Ben Carson compares Syrian refugees to dogs.  That's the headline of the Politico article.  I saw a philosopher comment today remarking, "Ben Carson: Syrian refugees akin to 'mad, rabid dogs.'  And some Xians like this creep?"
Here is what Carson said with regard to balancing safety and humanitarian concerns:

“For instance, you know, if there is a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog, and you’re probably gonna put your children out of the way,” Carson said. “Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination.”“By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly,” he added. “Who are the people who wanna come in here and hurt us and wanna destroy us? Until we know how to do that, just like it would be foolish to put your child out in the neighborhood knowing that that was going on, it’s foolish for us to accept people if we cannot have the appropriate type of screening.”
So the headline is misleading and the philosopher dead wrong.  Carson makes an analogy with a terrorist and a rabid dog, not a refugee (since someone entering the U.S. seeking terror is not seeking refuge.)  The salient point of the analogy is that terrorists are like mad dogs, and if you think there might be a mad dog in a group of dogs, you don't let your children play with the dogs until you know which one is rabid.  A fine analogy.  Nothing to see here, though this sort of coverage shouldn't be surprising.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Colorblindness Will Not End Racism"

From our Public Broadcasting Network (PBS).

Pay attention to 9 and 10:
Our eyes tell us that people look different. No one has trouble distinguishing a Czech from a Chinese. But what do those differences mean? Are they biological? Has race always been with us? How does race affect people today?
There's less - and more - to race than meets the eye:
1. Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies, like the Greeks, did not divide people according to physical distinctions, but according to religion, status, class, even language. The English language didn't even have the word 'race' until it turns up in 1508 in a poem by William Dunbar referring to a line of kings.
2. Race has no genetic basis. Not one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race.
3. Human subspecies don't exist. Unlike many animals, modern humans simply haven't been around long enough or isolated enough to evolve into separate subspecies or races. Despite surface appearances, we are one of the most similar of all species.
4. Skin color really is only skin deep. Most traits are inherited independently from one another. The genes influencing skin color have nothing to do with the genes influencing hair form, eye shape, blood type, musical talent, athletic ability or forms of intelligence. Knowing someone's skin color doesn't necessarily tell you anything else about him or her.
5. Most variation is within, not between, "races." Of the small amount of total human variation, 85% exists within any local population, be they Italians, Kurds, Koreans or Cherokees. About 94% can be found within any continent. That means two random Koreans may be as genetically different as a Korean and an Italian.
6. Slavery predates race. Throughout much of human history, societies have enslaved others, often as a result of conquest or war, even debt, but not because of physical characteristics or a belief in natural inferiority. Due to a unique set of historical circumstances, ours was the first slave system where all the slaves shared similar physical characteristics.
7. Race and freedom evolved together. The U.S. was founded on the radical new principle that "All men are created equal." But our early economy was based largely on slavery. How could this anomaly be rationalized? The new idea of race helped explain why some people could be denied the rights and freedoms that others took for granted.
8. Race justified social inequalities as natural. As the race idea evolved, white superiority became "common sense" in America. It justified not only slavery but also the extermination of Indians, exclusion of Asian immigrants, and the taking of Mexican lands by a nation that professed a belief in democracy. Racial practices were institutionalized within American government, laws, and society.
9. Race isn't biological, but racism is still real. Race is a powerful social idea that gives people different access to opportunities and resources. Our government and social institutions have created advantages that disproportionately channel wealth, power, and resources to white people. This affects everyone, whether we are aware of it or not.
10. Colorblindness will not end racism. Pretending race doesn't exist is not the same as creating equality. Race is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice. To combat racism, we need to identify and remedy social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.
RACE - The Power of an Illusion was produced by California Newsreel in association with the Independent Television Service (ITVS). Major funding provided by the Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Diversity Fund.

9 says that race isn't biological, but racism is real.  Is race biological?  No, if we mean biological in the natural kind sense of the term.  Races are neither like species nor like different breeds of cats or dogs since the people who normally fall under our race terms (e.g. Caucasian, black, etc.) have no significant genetic dissimilarity; for instance, one is likely to find more genetic similarity between some who we call "black" and "hispanic" than between some who we call "black" and others who we call "black."  This leaves open whether races are (a) unreal (that is, there is nothing which our race terms and ideas refer to), or are (b) real but not natural kinds; instead they are social kinds (like citizens or bankers) perhaps partly grounded in phenotypical features, or (c) some other thing altogether.

According to 9, race isn't grounded in phenotypical features at all; rather race is simply an idea. And there seems to be nothing to which the idea of race refers.  Moreover it's an idea which privileges whites. How?  In what way?  No examples are given.  But these advantages are there, even if we aren't aware of it.  (Trust us.  They.  Are.  There.)  Presumably, though, these advantages do not exist in the form of affirmative action programs!

According to 10, we shouldn't presume that race doesn't exist.  What does this mean?  If 9 is correct, race is only an idea--and nothing whatsoever is mentioned about any extra-mental reality to which our idea refers.  Blacks and whites are like unicorns and centaurs.  Still, racism is real.  Even though there are no blacks to which our idea of race refers, a Klansman can still be a racist.  Racism is real, but race is an idea.  Got that?

Still, we need the idea of race.  Why?  10 tells us.  So that we can have social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups (non-whites) over others (whites).  In other words, even though the idea of a particular race does not refer to anything in the world--it's a mental fiction--we need to pretend there are extra-mental races, so that people like Al Sharpton, race studies professors, diversity officers, etc. have employment and can privilege some over others--in the name, of course, of remedying alleged advantages given to whites by institutions and policies.  Ignoring race as the (alleged) fiction that it is would have the undesirable result that affirmative action policies and institutions go out of business.

One wonders, if colorblindness would not end racism, what would?

National Review The Musical

I make a cameo appearance towards the end as my former incarnation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What Is It Like to Be a Progressive?

My wife and I were recently discussing various events in the world.  She was perplexed; it's as if the left has a special power to hold many contradictory things before the mind all at once.

I too find progressivism perplexing.  Sometimes I think I understand how someone could think the way progressives do and see the world as they see it.  I believe I have brief flashes of insight where I understand what it might be like to see the world in that way.  And then it vanishes.  The further the left progresses leftward, the more I simply have no idea how to relate.

Thomas Nagel once explored this very issue.  His essay was called,  "What Is It Like to Be a Bat?"

Muslim and Western Values Collide

Coming to a town near you?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Could God Have Stopped the Paris Attacks?

Theologian and philosopher, Thomas Jay Oord, says, no.  Excerpt:

Too few believers will go so far as to ask this question: “Could God have stopped the Paris attacks?”

Perhaps many believers will not ask this question, because the answer they have been told is not comforting. Most theologians in the past and present, after all, would say God allowed the Paris tragedies and other terrorist attacks. They believe God has the kind of power to prevent this unnecessary death and suffering. But according to most theologians, God permitted this pointless pain in Paris and elsewhere.
I disagree.  A few theologians will say it is logically impossible for God to both give free will and not give free will. So in choosing to give free will to the ISIS terrorists, God was self-constrained.

Quick Solution to the Syrian Immigration Question

If there's no problem (it helps the economy, etc.), Democratic governors (California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, Maine, etc.) should just get out in front and volunteer to take all the immigrants* no questions asked.

*Immigrants, not necessarily refugees.  For all anyone knows some of those migrating are not seeking refuge but are instead seeking terror.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's Wrong With Calvinism?

Houston Baptist University philosophy professor, Jerry Walls, on Calvinism.
It was actually a conversation I had with Walls (when he taught at a seminary) that solidified my choice to continue my education in philosophy rather than change directions by going to seminary.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Am I Essentially Material, an Animal, a Human?

Here is an inconsistent set of propositions:

1. I am essentially human.
2. Humans are animals essentially.
3. Animals are essentially material.
4. I can exist immaterially with no material parts.

One could deny 1.  Perhaps to be a human just is to be a (rational) animal.  I can survive death and exist immaterially, but since animals are essentially material I would not be an animal and thus not a human.

One could deny 2.  Perhaps I am essentially a human, but one can exist with no material parts and still be a human, since animality is merely a stage in a human life.  Or perhaps I'm never an animal.

One could deny 3.  Perhaps I am essentially a human and humans are essentially animals.  However since I can survive the death of my body, an animal (me) can exist with no material parts.

One could deny 4: Perhaps I am essentially material and cannot exist with no material parts.

My inclination is to deny 2 or 3, leaning towards a denial of 3.  It could be that all humans must begin to exist having a material part but can exist immaterially.  But it could be true that humans are essentially immaterial, in which case one should reject 2.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ESPN is Wrong (as usual) on Mizzou

Howard Bryant begins his article with the following:

Despite its complex web of allegiances and rivals, the dynamic that doomed Missouri system president Tim Wolfe and school chancellor R. Bowen Loftin was quite simple: It was the workers versus the owners, the little versus the big, the invisible versus the invincible.
The power of the Missouri football team provided the fulcrum, because money ultimately forced the action. But so much of the uprising was rooted in the frustration of minority students facing years of entrenched racism. 
 It all stemmed from a movement addressing major offenses that were deemed too trivial by an administration whose only response had been to advise that the slapped get tougher, have thicker skin, get over it.

First, there are no owners of universities, unless, since Missouri is a state school, one thinks that the owners are the tax-payers.  But the president is no more of an owner than the board which appoints him, and no more of an owner than the faculty or the students.  They all "own" the university if we want to call it that.  Second, it's not true that the administration's only response had been to advise that the "slapped get tougher."  It has been reported that the president met with students personally.  As well, it has been reported that one of the drunken students who made the racial slurs was removed from campus until campus disciplinary proceedings run their course.  Third, the reported evidence of "entrenched racism" consisted of a nut who scrawled feces (!) and a couple jerks who spat racial epithets at a school with over 35,000 students.  Are we to think that the student body, professors, and administration at large are by and large racists?  Fourth, though the football team no doubt provided the final muscle to upend the president from his presidency, the power of the football team is overrated.  It is only the action of the football team in combination with the progressive radicals that provided the impetus.  As David French writes,

If you think football players are suddenly all-powerful, imagine a counter-factual — like a “strike” by a few players in solidarity with an athlete wrongfully convicted by a campus sex assault tribunal, or a stand in solidarity with a team chaplain under fire for allegedly offending the LGBT community. Would ESPN fawn all over them, celebrating their courage? Would faculty and radical students extol them as heroes? Would a university president and chancellor step down within 48 hours in response to an athletic cry for religious liberty? Student-athletes can’t even figure out a way to be fairly compensated for the billions in revenue they bring to college athletics. Powerful? Only when weaponized by the campus Left. The story at Mizzou is the same old story we’ve reading and watching since the Sixties. Radicals rule.
Read French's other devastating critique.  Excerpt:
Closeted campus conservatives are worse than useless. Indeed, their very timidity contributes to the narrative that there is something shameful about their beliefs. To read anonymous letters from professors who are afraid to “out” themselves in a hostile campus culture is to read the sad dispatches of people too pitiful for their profession. Do something else, anything else, than merely sit and watch while the revolutionaries shred the Constitution, reject our culture, and assert their own will to power.The true shame is that it doesn’t even require actual courage to defeat the university Left, just a tiny bit of will — a small measure of staying power. No one is shooting at trustees. No one is beheading professors. There’s no guillotine in the quad. Instead, campus “leaders” tremble before hashtags and weep at the notion of losing a football team so inept that it couldn’t score a touchdownthrough most of the month of October. Let them strike. With an offense that inept, the SEC won’t even notice.These are the times that try men’s souls? No. These are the times of men without chests. The Left has the will to power. University leaders have no will at all. They have earned nothing but contempt.