Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Safe spaces for philosophers

I'll comment on the controversy involving Swinburne's SCP speech. There are many permutations to this controversy. Let's consider just a few:

1. I expect Rea bit off more than he can chew. I doubt it occurred to him that his apologetic disclaimer would provoke this firestorm. For him, that's just a natural response given the liberal echo chamber he resides in.

This reflects a common pattern. Liberals inhabit a bubble. Self-reinforcing communities. 

It's like stories about school officials who do something predictably unpopular like telling a student he can't wear a patriotic T-shirt or telling parents they can't wave American flags at a football game. The NEA culture is so insular that school officials can't anticipate the utterly foreseeable response. They are constantly blindsided because they don't think like ordinary people. They don't relate to ordinary people. 

2. We're witnessing a predicable development. Although atheists are numerically in the minority, they dominate the power elite. Increasingly they persecute traditional Christians.

As a result, nominal Christians like Rea publicly disown traditional Christians. This is to signal to the power elite that they aren't to be confused with traditional Christians. Unlike traditional Christians, they are on the "right side of history". 

That, of course, leaves traditional Christians isolated and exposed. Nominal Christians desert them and denounce them to the secular authorities. Nominal Christians realign themselves with the power elite by adopting the social agenda of the power elite, and by adapting theology to echo whatever the power elite dictates. It's total assimilation. Just like the Nazi theologians. 

We're rapidly approaching a point where traditional Christians may resume the role of the Confessing Church in Germany under the Third Reich. 

What's striking is how some people (Rea, Timpe, Tom Morris) instantly collapse the moment their moral fortitude is put to the test. They never had the slightest resistance to despotic evil. This is how someone like Hitler can rise to power.

People like this are conventionally virtuous when the culture supports their conventional virtue, but if the tide changes, they change with the tide.   

3. The only pertinent philosophical question is whether the views expressed by Swinburne converge on or diverge from reality. Let the chips fall where they may. If some people's feelings are hurt by being told what is real, so much the worse for their feelings. They have no right to feel hurt. Their hurt feelings are intellectually and morally unjustified. 

4. Ironically, Swinburne's position was actually on the soft side. He said it was extrinsically disordered. The traditional position is that it's intrinsically disordered. 

5. Then there's the issue of the disability framework. Swinburne was accused to "dehumanizing" and "pathologizing" homosexuals. 

i) I don't agree with Swinburne's framework in reference to homosexuality. That said, homosexual activists have for many years declared homosexuality to be a genetic condition. If we respond to them on their own grounds, that naturally raises the question of whether homosexual orientation is genetically defective. 

ii) Likewise, transgender activists sometimes claim that gender dysphoria has a basis in brain chemistry or neurological structures. If we respond to them on their own grounds, that naturally raises the question of whether gender dysphoria is (technically) pathological.

iii) Apropos (ii), some people with gender dysphoria undergo hormone therapy and sex-change operations. From their standpoint, that's equivalent to reconstructive surgery or supplements to restore their condition to normal functioning. But that implies the untreated condition is defective. 

iv) It's understandable that people with disabilities are sensitive or sometimes hypersensitive to how their condition is characterized. There is, however, nothing inherently derogatory about noting that someone suffers from a disability. Take a child born with a congenital heart defect who will die young without corrective surgery. If the procedure is affordable, parents have a duty to fix the condition. That's acting in the best interests of the child. 

Take medical conditions like Tay-Sachs, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cystic fibrosis. Should we abandon medical R&D because some people imagine it's "dehumanizing" to speak of disabilities or genetic effects? To the contrary, it's the critics who are promoting an inhumane policy.  

v) Jesus healed people. Does that mean he was dehumanizing the people he healed? 

6. Supporters of Rea and critics of Swinburne complain about the "harm" that gender-normative and heteronormative paradigms have done to LGBT persons. One glaring problems with that complaint is that it's so lop-sided:

i) Homosexual activity is harmful to homosexuals. The homosexual lifestyle is disease-ridden. Just mouse over to the CDC. Homosexuals individually harm themselves. 

ii) Homosexuals harm each other. They transmit STDs. Likewise, homosexual men are at elevated risk of colorectal cancer and colectomies. 

In addition, you have elevated rates of domestic violence in homosexual relationships. Elevated drug use. And so on and so forth.  

iii) Homosexuals harm heterosexuals. For instance, the Catholic abuse scandal is a homosexual scandal, involving gay priests molesting adolescent boys. 

Homosexual activists harm everyone's civil liberties by demanding policies that violate Constitutional rights regarding freedom of religion, speech, and association.

iv) Transgender ideology is harmful to people who suffer from gender identity disorder. They harm themselves through hormone treatment (consider the side-effects) and sex-change operations. Indeed, they can do irreversible harm to themselves.

v) Transgender activists harm everyone's civil liberties by demanding policies that violate Constitutional rights regarding freedom of religion, speech, and association.

Transgender activists put women at risk by demanding coed restrooms and locker rooms. Likewise, there's official pressure to make shelters for women and children accessible to biological men who self-identify as women. Just consider the predictable potential for harm to already battered women. 

And I'm just scratching the surface. 

Is God beyond gender?

Michael Rea, who's a philosophy prof. at Notre Dame, as well as President of the the Society of Christian Philosophers, recently and infamously issued an apologetic disclaimer on behalf of the SCP for a keynote address by Richard Swinburne in which Swinburne took a politically incorrect position. I plan to do a separate post on that controversy, but for now I'd like to note that there's a subtext to Rea's reaction. He has a position on gendered theological usage that's likely related to his position on LGBT issues:


1. There's duplicity and incoherence of Rea's position. He tries to play both sides of the fence. On the one hand he says God is beyond gender. On the other hand he says God is equally masculine and feminine. But if God is beyond gender, then he isn't both masculine and feminine, but neither. In that event we need to abstract away from our idea of God everything we associate with masculinity or femininity. The result is to depersonalize God. God becomes more like a principle. 

2. Among other things, his analysis suffers from a basic equivocation. Gender terms exist in ascending orders of abstraction:

man>male>masculine

Every man is male, but every male isn't a man. A man and a bull are both male, but a bull isn't a man.

Masculinity is an abstract property that can be variously exemplified. Although men and males are concrete, physical instances of masculinity, masculinity is immaterial. 

We can also associate gender with inanimate objects. It's natural to think of a Ferrari as masculine. Perhaps feminists would say that's sexist. So much the worse for feminism. 

Masculinity is more fundamental than men or males. In principle, God could have masculine properties. And God's masculine properties would be exemplary for their instantiation in men or male animals. So the masculine representation of God in Scripture is not metaphysically misleading. That's a coherent concept. 

3. We can also view the issue along the lines of a novelist. A novelist will create male and female characters. Obviously, there has to be something in the novelist that he puts into the characters. That comes from his imagination.

In the case of a male novelist, his female characters reflect his experience of women. And he describes them from a masculine standpoint. 

Of course, divine creativity isn't based on God experiencing the world. So there's a difference. The feminine paradigm originates in God in the sense that God has an idea of femininity. And God makes counterparts that mirror that concept. 

4. Scripture uses many metaphors for God. A few of these might be gender neutral (e.g. light, fire, potter). In theory, a farmer might be female. However, farming in the ancient world sometimes required physical strength.

In Scripture, God is a king. That might seem gender neutral inasmuch as you can have queens. However, in the ancient world, kings often had to be warriors. So it has a stereotypically masculine connotation. Indeed, Scripture frequently depicts God as a warrior. 

Same thing with shepherds. A shepherd had to be able to protect the flock from major wild predators (e.g. bears, lions, wolves). So that has stereotypically masculine connotations. 

Scripture sometimes uses animal metaphors for God (e.g. lion, leopard, eagle, bear). That might seem to be gender neutral inasmuch as each species has male and female.

However, human mothers don't have the defensive or offensive equipment of a lioness or she-bear. So the comparison breaks down at that point. 

It's not incidental that a number of these metaphors have protective connotations. Of course, mothers can be protective. Again, though, the focus is not on a protective instinct, but protective ability. As a rule, men have greater protective capabilities than women, and theological metaphors for God play on that natural association. 

Historically, a masculine duty was to protect women. Except for women who carry guns, women still depend on masculine protection–as do children. It's not incidental that Scripture uses the husband as a theological metaphor for God/Christ.

5. Then you have the complex father/son metaphor. That has many dimensions. With respect to the issue at hand:

i) In Scripture, that's not primarily Incarnational. Rather, that's prior to the Incarnation. The Father, in his capacity as Father, sends the Son, in his capacity as Son, into the world. 

ii) In Bible times, a reason a father would task his son rather than his daughter to go in a mission is because it was a dangerous world. A son would be in a better position to defend himself. You had to be able to handle yourself in rough-and-tumble of the ancient world. 

iii) In addition, the father/son metaphor is related to the king/prince metaphor. A royal son as the father's heir. And that, once again, plays on the connotations of warrior kings. Indeed, messianic prophecy as well as NT depictions often represent the Son as a military conqueror. 

6. In Scripture, both men and women are in submission to God. That's stereotypically feminine. 

7. Finally, Rea harps on the alleged harm and oppressiveness of masculine characterizations of God. 

i) Let's assume for the sake of argument that's true. That means Rea wants a different religion. He's hostile to the Biblical concept of God. He rejects Judeo-Christian theism. He wants to invent a new religion. It's a classic heresy that has some roots in the religion it deforms.  

He should be honest about his repudiation of biblical theism and make a clean break. He doesn't think the Bible is an accurate self-revelation of God. Indeed, he thinks the Bible seriously misrepresents God. So he rejects Christianity as a revealed religion. 

ii) In a fallen world, whenever one person has power over another, there's the potential for abuse of power. That's true when men have power over women; that's equally true when women have power over men. It's trivially easy to give examples of both. 

iii) Feminism is harmful. Feminism is harmful to the judicial system. It's soft on crime. Feminism is harmful to the education system. It discriminates against boys. Feminism is harmful in the military: harmful to men and women alike. It's trivially easy to multiple examples. 

A Rejoinder to Thomas Talbott on Calvin and the Love of God in 1 John

http://www.jamesagibson.com/2016/09/27/a-rejoinder-to-thomas-talbott-on-calvin-and-the-love-of-god-in-1-john/

Choosing between the lesser of two evils

https://thearcmag.com/the-lesser-of-two-evils-98076c67e919#.cxfyb55ko

Limitations on the lesser-evil principle

I've discussed the legitimacy and limitations of the lesser-evil principle on several occasions. Now I'd like to expand on what limits the principle. The lesser-evil principle involves a twofold comparison. At one level it involves a comparison between two or more actions or choices. If, however, that's all there was to the lesser-evil principle, it would be relativistic inasmuch as it would be confined to comparing one choice or action in relation to another. 

At another, deeper level, the principle involves comparing each action to a standard of comparison. A standard of good, prudence, &c. 

Take the current debate about whether to vote for Trump, vote for Hillary, cast a protest vote, or refrain from voting for president in this election cycle (although you should still vote for downballot candidates, initiatives, and referenda). 

At one level, that involves a direct comparison between Trump and Hillary. Predicting what you think each candidate is likely to do as president. Predicting the impact on their respective parties. 

But at another level, you're comparing each candidate to a standard of comparison that's independent of either candidate or any candidate. Certain general criteria by which you evaluate any candidate. That includes possibly disqualifying criteria. And that preserves the lesser-evil principle from relativism. It's not just a question of assessing which choice is better or worse in relation to other choices, but the goodness or prudence of that choice in relation to an absolute metric. Indeed, you can even assess which choice is better or worse unless you have a standard of comparison. 

Some actions are intrinsically evil. That makes them out of bounds. The lesser-evil principle can never transgress that boundary. 

What makes something or someone controversial?

One thing I notice is how the media poisons the well by calling a conservative spokesman or conservative position "controversial". 

i) To begin with, the media only applies this label to conservatives and conservative/traditional positions. For instance, "Russell Moore's controversial LGBT comments at Justice Conference."

They use the adjective "controversial" as a prejudicial introduction. 

ii) Apropos (i), the label is one-sided. What makes a person or position "controversial"? As used by the media, it's instantly controversial if liberals are offended. 

Of course, that's one-sided inasmuch as liberal positions are just as "controversial" to conservatives as conservative positions are "controversial" to liberals. 

iii) In addition, the label is circular. Basically, you're controversial if the media say you're controversial. Your position is controversial if liberal pundits and liberal academics say your position is controversial. As if just using the label makes it so. "By definition," so-and-so's position is controversial because some people call it controversial. 

There's no substantive reason. Just a question-begging, self-reinforcing characterization. 

iv) The question is, "controversial" to whom? For instance, segregating public restrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams by biological gender isn't "controversial" to most people. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy

I'm going to make some scattered comments on P. Gould & R. Davis, eds., Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy (Zondervan, 2016). 

1. The contributors are Graham Oppy, Scott Oliphint, Timothy McGrew, and Paul Moser. 

I've already done some posts on related topics, which I will link to at the end of this post.

It's unclear to me what the editors' selection criteria were. If you want a spokesman for atheism, Oppy is a good pick. He's probably the top atheist philosopher of his generation.

If you want spokesman for evidentialism, you can't do better than Timothy McGrew. 

However, Paul Moser is overrated. If the point was to have someone who represents a more existential or illative perspective, that emphasizes direct religious experience rather than formal arguments and empirical evidence, then C. Stephen Evans or Kai-man Kwan would be much better picks for that niche. 

Which niche was Oliphint chosen for? To represent Calvinism, presuppositionalism, or both? If Reformed presuppositionalism in particular, then either Vern Poythress or James Anderson would be far more competent exponents. If Calvinism in general, then Greg Welty, William Davis, or Jeremy Pierce would be far more competent exponents. (That's assuming Davis is not a presuppositionalist. I don't know his position on that one way or the other.)

There are many other Christian philosophers who might have interesting things to say about the relationship between Christianity and philosophy, viz. Robert Adams, Michael Almeida, Oliver Crisp, George Mavrodes, Alexander Pruss, Del Ratzsch, Nicholas Rescher, Eleonore Stump, Antony Thiselton, Kevin Vanhoozer, Peter van Inwagen, Merold Westphal, Edward Wierenga, Stephen Wykstra, Keith Yandell.

Perhaps, though, the editors felt that would be too idiosyncratic. Maybe they wanted to represent particular schools of thought. If so, why wasn't Thomism included? Mind you, I think Thomism is overrated, so I don't lament its omission, but I'm puzzled by the selection criteria.

Likewise, Augustinianism has a distinctive position on religious epistemology. 

2. I don't have much more to say about Oppy than I've already said. He's super-smart. However, he's dumb about the ultimate stakes in the debate over atheism and Christianity. Moreover, he has a kind of armchair intelligence that's more at home with abstractions. He's impatient with the nitty-gritty of sifting historical evidence.

A Response To Annette Merz On The Infancy Narratives (Part 5)

(Previous parts in the series: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.)

Merz raises the unbelief of the people of Nazareth as an objection to the historicity of the infancy narratives. What should we make of the passage she cites, Mark 6:1-6?

Mark refers to the general unbelief of the people of Nazareth, but adds the qualifier that some were healed (6:5). Given the association between faith and healing in this context (Mark 6:6, Matthew 13:58), the implication is that some people in Nazareth did believe in Jesus. Since Mark's references to the unbelief of the Nazarenes are generalities that allow for exceptions, there's no reason to conclude that only the people healed in verse 5 were believers. There could have been more. The majority of the Nazarenes were unbelievers, but a minority of unknown size responded positively to Jesus.

What about those who didn't believe? Merz seems to think the people of Nazareth would have known about at least some of the events in the infancy narratives if those events had occurred. And they wouldn't have reacted to Jesus as they did if they knew of events like those in the infancy narratives. Therefore, their reaction to Jesus is evidence that the infancy narratives are unhistorical.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Did Swinburne get Swindled?

http://rightlyconsidered.org/2016/09/26/did-swinburne-get-swindled/

Ambushed by life

41 And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk 22:41-44).

This is a famous passage. Theologians wrestle with this passage. Many Christian readers find it disturbing. 

I think it's a striking example of how fully the Incarnate Son entered into the human condition. It's not uncommon for believers and unbelievers alike to feel at one time or another that we've been ambushed by life. In some cases we can see it coming, but there's no U-turn. 

Now Jesus might seem to have an unfair advantage. Given his omnipotence, surely can he press the eject button whenever he gets into a tight situation. So he's never cornered by life–or is he?

Here we see him panicking at the prospect of the impending ordeal that confronts him. He must fulfill his destiny. He was born for this. There's something almost fatalistic about it. 

Like you and me, Jesus finds himself trapped by life. He is facing into a nightmare for which there's no escape. He wants to back out, but he can't. Sound familiar? Have you been there before? 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Critical Appraisal of a Non-Realist Philosophy of Religion: An Asian Perspective

By a Chinese Baptist philosophy prof:

http://kwankaiman.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-critical-appraisal-of-non-realist.html

Missionary and martyr

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/14/europe/scottish-missionary-jane-haining-auschwitz/index.html

McGrew on Van Til

Timothy McGrew recently raised some fundamental objections to Cornelius Van Til:

In his Christian Theistic Evidences, Van Til spends several chapters critiquing a broadly evidentialist methodology of the kind I endorse, using Butler's Analogy of Religion as a foil:

Hume's empiricism was far more critical and consistent than that of Butler. We proceed to see what happens to the conception of probability on the basis of Hume's empiricism. If all knowledge is based upon experience, and experience is interpreted without the presupposition of the "Author of nature" as Hume claims it is, we cannot expect that one thing rather than another will happen in the future. From the point of view of logic, one thing as well as another might take place in the future.
As for reported miracles, Van Til claims that Hume undermined the credibility of miracle reports chiefly by showing that, on empiricist grounds, "there is no reason to think that a God who could work miracles can be proved to exist." In particular, according to Van Til, Hume demolished the empirical arguments–cosmological and teleological–for the existence of God in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion…For anyone who, like Van Til, has fallen under the spell of the great Scottish skeptic and acquiesced in these melancholy conclusions, I have good news. Hume was wrong. He was wrong about inductive inference and his critique of induction, influential as it was, displays the poverty of his own understanding of probable inference. He was wrong in the objections he raised against the credibility of reported miracles and was resoundingly refuted on this subject by his own contemporaries, as even some modern agnostics have realized…[Hume] is mired in a deductivist framework... Four Views on Christianity and Philosophy, 108-09.

i) I agree with McGrew that Hume was wrong. However, it seems to me that in this instance, his objection to Van Til rests on a misinterpretation of Van Til. At least to judge by what he quoted, Van Til isn't making a statement about empiricism in general or empiricism per se, but naturalistic empiricism, which reduces everything to contingency. Van Til is remarking on what happens when you take empiricism to a logical extreme after denying the Creator. 

ii) In addition, although I myself affirm sense knowledge, it's dubious whether sensory perception alone is an adequate basis of knowledge. I think sense knowledge has to be supplemented. 

McGrew continues:

When someone starts out on the wrong foot, as I believe Van Til has done by his concessions to Hume, it is not surprising that problems tend to resurface throughout his philosophical system. To pick just one illustration, Oliphint quotes with apparent approval Van Tils' criticism of the non-Christian for whom
the law of contradiction is, like all other laws, something that does not find its ultimate source in the creative activity of God.
I find this sort of radical logical positivism unintelligible. I have no idea what it would even mean for what is logically possible and impossible to be the result of a creative act of God; the very notion of action seems to presuppose distinctions between actor and action that are intelligible only in terms of fundamental principles of logic. Ibid. 109-110.

Here McGrew seems to be on firmer ground. Van Til's statement about logic, in the passage quoted, does indeed appear to be nonsensical. 

McGrew goes on to say:

It is painful to have to point out things like this, since Van Til has inspired so many ardent and loyal disciples. But in my view, deep problems pervade almost every aspect of Van Til's thought–his epistemology, his history of philosophy, his description of the position of non-Christians, and his exegesis of Scripture. It is my considered opinion that there is no point in trying to correct his system pice by piece. One must simply start over on very different principles. Ibid. 110. 

Whether that's true or false would depend on McGrew successfully elaborating his allegations. I myself use different philosophers for different spare parts.

McGrew has his own package. I don't think we have to take it or leave it. We can disassemble the package and select some choice spare parts which we combine with spare parts from other thinkers. 

Dearly departed

1. I'd like to discuss something I've never seen anyone else discuss. I expect one reason some Christians frequent cemeteries is to commune with the dead. To speak to the dearly departed. Whether or not public cemeteries, private cemeteries, or church graveyards were designed with that in mind, I suspect that's how many people use them. That's why some people visit the cemetery. It's an occasion to speak to their departed love ones.

That's not something Christians talk about. That's not something I hear preachers or theologians discuss. But I'm figure it's something that's common among Christians, as well as some unbelievers. And for that reason, I think we should assess this practice. Is it innocent? Permissible? Rational? Orthodox? Or is this forbidden? Superstitious? Occultic?

2. Admittedly, I don't have any statistical evidence for this practice. It's based on my anecdotal observations. So I might be mistaken. But given human nature, I surmise that it's quite widespread. A coping mechanism. 

Death is so abrupt. What happens when there's that one person you can't afford to lose, but you lose them anyway? Suddenly they are gone–all the time. You miss them–all the time. You won't see them again for the rest of your life. 

For some people, a cemetery is a way of maintaining some sense of connection. A pitiful substitute, to be sure, but death is pitiful. 

Since I don't have any polling data, I can only guess, but I assume most folks who talk to the dearly departed when they visit the cemetery do so, not because they think their loved one is lingering around the gravesite, like an invisible ghost. And I hope they don't think the soul of their loved one is consciously trapped in a coffin, six feet under. Rather, I assume they visit the cemetery to screen out distractions, visit because they associate the grave with their loved one, visit as a way to direct their thoughts and words. 

As cemeteries become less popular, and more people become secularized, that practice may be declining. However, it's not confined to cemeteries. In principle, a person could do the same thing at home, by talking to a picture of the dearly departed. They talk to their loved one by talking to the picture. That's a stand-in. I'm not saying they successfully communicate with the dead. At the moment I'm just describing the action and intention. 

3. I suppose one reason Christians don't talk about it is because they fear associations with the cult of the saints or holding a seance. I'll discuss that comparison shortly. But for the moment, is there anything else we can compare it to? Let's take two examples:

Consider a friend or relative who's fairly senile. Maybe they live with you, or you visit them in the nursing home. You don't know how much they understand. You don't know how much is getting through. Maybe their facial expression shows recognition when they see you–or maybe not. At best they respond to touch, or a warm, friendly tone of voice. 

In other cases the dementia is more advanced. They are outwardly unresponsive. There's no indication that they are even aware of your presence. 

An analogous case is a comatose patient. Maybe they can hear you. But a "coma" can be a euphemism for brain death or a persistent vegetative state.

Still, none of that prevents you from reaching out to them. From holding their hand, stroking their hair, talking to them, maybe kissing them when you enter or leave the room. You do it in part, not because you know that they register your presence or because you know that what you say gets through to them, but because, for all you know, that's possible. You do it just in case that's comforting to them. 

But that's not all. Even if they can no longer reciprocate your love, even if they don't understand, even if they are no longer conscious of touch, or the sound of your voice, that doesn't stop you from continuing to show them affection, because you continue to love them. There are some dramatic examples of terminal lucidity. But that's not a requirement for continuing to treat the demented or the comatose as if they had the presence of mind to appreciate what you are doing with them and for them. You hope that's the case, but that's not the only reason you do it. Indeed, we even show reverence for the corpse of a loved one. You do it because expressions of love are irrepressible. 

4. One question is whether there's any point in talking to the dearly beloved unless you think they can hear you. But how can they hear you? Well, maybe they can't.

To be confident that they hear you is presumptuous wishful thinking. By contrast, the question is whether God might pass that along to the dearly departed. Does God sometimes allow them to overhear you. Does he act as an intermediary? Perhaps–or perhaps not. 

There are people who believe in heaven for the wrong reasons, like New Age universalism. But for orthodox Christians, I think this is probably a harmless and edifying practice that sustains the bereaved during the tunnel period between death and reunion. Something to make bearable an otherwise inconsolable separation. 

5. What about the comparisons I mentioned? In necromancy (e.g. a seance), an attempt is made to summon the dead. To bring them into contact with the living. To establish a two-way conversation. That's very different.

Necromancy attempts to change the status quo. To transgress the boundary between life and death. It refuses to wait. 

6. As for the cult of the saints:

i) Supplicants ask for favors from the dead. Again, that's very different.

ii) In Catholic dogma, this is based on the merit of the saints. That gives them leverage with God. So there's a pernicious theology that underlies that practice.

iii) In addition, there's the dogmatic claim that the Roman knows who's in heaven. Rome knows the saints can hear you. Rome knows that certain people have God's ear. Once again, there's a pernicious theology that underlies that practice. 

Everybody hates a holdout

In light of Cruz endorsing Trump, I'd like to make another point. This is not about the ethics of voting for Trump in the general election. That's a separate issue.

Rather, it's about the social psychology of moral compromise. Moral holdouts are despised because they make everyone else look bad. Suppose you have 20 moral holdouts out of 100. That's tolerable. For one thing, the 20 moral holdouts support each other. They may be a beleaguered minority, but they have each other. And they other 80% feel that their majority status validates their views. 

Now, you might think that as the percentage of moral holdouts declines, they'd be easier to tolerate because they are so increasingly insignificant. Their numbers are too low to wield any power. 

But in reality, the fewer the moral holdouts, the more intolerable the remaining moral holdouts become. They make the defectors to the majority look like cowards. And they make the majority look bad. 

They stick out. As their power diminishes, their moral authority increases. Everybody else looks morally compromised by comparison…because they are.

There is, therefore, extirpative hatred directed at the moral holdout. If only he'd give in, then everyone else could feel good about themselves. But the very existence of that solitary moral holdout is a tacit judgment on everyone else. They can't stand it. So there's crushing pressure on all sides for the moral holdout to knuckle under and join the club. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cruz cries uncle

Turns out Ted Cruz is a Cylon sleeper agent. You know, the kind that's indistinguishable from humans. That seems to be on our side. Heck, it doesn't even know it's a Cylon until the delay programming switches on. 

In the end, Cruz puts political viability ahead of principle. I never thought he was quite the diehard ideological purist that some of his supporters imagined him to be.

In the end he decided to board Trump's ship before it left port, even though, by waiting until the last minute, he's stuck in third class rather than first class. But I guess he thinks that's better than to be left behind. Presumably this means he thinks Trump now has a good shot at winning. 

In fairness to Cruz, he may have been taken aback by the ferocious reaction of erstwhile supporters when he snubbed Trump at the convention. When you campaign as a conviction politician, and your ostensible supporters turn on you because you really behave like a conviction politician, it's not surprising if what we end up with is politicians who are no better than their supporters. Compromising voters breed compromising politicians. Although we can blame Cruz, blame should be shared with the erstwhile supporters who cut him off at the knees after he snubbed Trump at the convention. 

By refusing to fall in line, Cruz stood on equal footing with Trump. But now that he caved, he's just another one of Trump's many interchangeable underlings. 

By endorsing Trump, it puts himself in the worst of both worlds. I don't think Trump is the forgiving kind. Don't expect Caesar's clemency. Trumpkins will never forgive him. He will lose the respect of those who supported him up until now, on top of those who (wrongly) lost respect when he snubbed Trump at the convention, on top of those who can't stand Cruz in the first place. 

It's like people who apologize for telling the truth. Both sides despise them. They will still be despised by the side that was offended when they initially told the truth. And they will now be despised the other side when they back down after telling the truth.  Turns out that Cruz was a "servile puppy dog" after all. 

An immigration plus

In the past I've been very critical of Muslim immigration. I haven't changed my mind on that. Likewise, I've been very critical of illegal immigration. I haven't changed my mind on that either.

However, I'd like to note some positives of immigration–mainly legal. And that is the extent to which immigration may erode the power of the liberal white establishment. In general, immigrants don't come from cultures that euthanize the elderly. Don't come from cultures that hate children. Don't come from cultures that think coed bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams are a moral imperative. Don't come from cultures where you prosecute businesses that refuse to cater homosexual celebrations. Don't come from cultures that deny human exceptionalism. Don't come from cultures where trees are more important than people. Don't come from cultures that deny the right of self-defense. Don't come from cultures that punish success. Or if they do, they are escaping from that kind of culture. 

Disarming the police

I believe Campaign Zero is an arm of Black Lives Matter. 


I agree with some of their proposals. We should have independent investigations of police shootings. A police department has a conflict of interest. We should end for-profit policing. Bodycams are a good idea, though that only works if storage of the footage is contracted out to an independent third-party. Up to a point, I oppose the militarization of the police force, which makes it an occupation force. I oppose stop-and-frisk on civil liberties grounds. 

That said, I'd like to focus on this objective:

We can live in an America where the police do not kill people. Police in England, Germany, Australia, Japan, and even cities like Buffalo, NY, and Richmond, CA, demonstrate that public safety can be ensured without killing civilians. By implementing the right policy changes, we can end police killings and other forms of police violence in the United States. 
http://www.joincampaignzero.org/problem/

i) It's hard to take that seriously. Is BLM really that Polyannaish? Maybe so. Radicals can be softheaded utopians.

Perhaps, though, there's an anarchist contingent in BLM. Maybe chaos is their goal. Anarchism is another form of utopianism. 

In addition, you have self-hating Americans who want to burn it down. A fifth column. 

There are political factions that profit from pandemonium. The white liberal establishment benefits by fomenting a free-for-all, as a pretext to crack down. That's a way to expand its grip on power. 

ii) Let's take an example of what happens when you disarm police. I don't necessarily mean literal disarmament. If police fear that they will be indicted if they do their job, then that's the functional equivalent of disarmament.

Take Muslim rape gangs in Europe. Their tactic is to form a phalanx around the victim. That both blocks the view of what's going on, as well as blocking police from rescuing the victim. 

The solution is for police to draw their guns, order the phalanx to disperse, and if they refuse, start shooting. Shoot their way through a crowd that's shielding the rapist. That's the only way to rescue women from Muslim rape-gangs who use that tactic.

But European police don't do that because they know the political establishment won't back them up. As a result, you have marauding Muslim rape gangs that act with impunity. 

Incidentally, that's also what happens when you disarm civilians. The consequences are only too predictable. For instance, Muslims attack Jews in Paris. If, however, Parisian Jews were armed, that would be a deterrent.  

Cut the strings

I'll make a few observations about the recent rioting in Charlotte in response to a police shooting. 

i) Let's begin with the "black lives matter" slogan. The insinuation is that police don't think black lives matter. Some conservatives have responded with counter slogans like "all lives matter" or "blue lives matter". In a sense, that's appropriate. It responds to the slogan on its own level. 

However, proponents of the "black lives matter" slogan object that this response misses the point. The point of the slogan is not that other lives don't matter, but that black lives matter too. 

A problem I have with this whole dialectic is issuing blanket generalities about a whole group of people. That conditions an outlook which lacks moral discernment. But the fact is, some lives matter more than others. What I mean by that is that a person can forfeit his prima facie right to life by certain kinds of misconduct. For instance, the lives of innocent school children matter more than the life of the suicide bomber who will murder them unless he's stopped by a bullet. In that sense, not all lives are equal. 

ii) Then we have the instant reaction to police shooting a black person. There's the presumption that whenever police shoot a black person, that must be racially motivated. I'd simply note that people who react that way are bigots. They are stereotyping all police. To assume, absent specific evidence, that when a policeman shoots a black person, that must be a racist shooting, is textbook prejudice. It's especially ironic in the case of the Charlotte incident where the policeman was black. 

iii) In my observation, black Americans are the only ethnic group in this country that routinely resorts to rioting as a form of political protest. They seem to think that being black gives them a special right to riot. Keep in mind that rioting isn't the same thing as peaceful protest or demonstration. Rioting involves arson, looting, and other forms of violence. 

iv) Apropos (iii), I'm struck by how a segment of the black community regards rioting, or even peaceful demonstrations, as its first recourse. An especially striking example is Ferguson. From what I've read, protestors complained that even though the city is 67 percent black, the local government is almost completely white. White mayor. Five out of six councilmen are white. White police chief. Nearly all-white police department. 

Now, I do think it's a problem when a majority population is governed by a minority government. I think it's a problem when the municipal population is drastically underrepresented in municipal government.

But I'm struck by the passivity of the population. If you represent 67% of the population, then you already have the political clout, if you choose to use it, to change the racial representation in city government. So why do the protesters act so powerless and disenfranchised? Why resort demonstrations or rioting as the first recourse when you already have the political wherewithal to change the status quo through legal means? Some blacks have become conditioned to a victimhood mentality that ignores a reality that's staring them in the face. If legal remedies are readily available, that should be your first resort. 

The composition of the police department is more complicated. Because black men have rap sheets out of proportion to other racial groups, that lowers the recruitment pool for black policemen. 

Now, Ferguson may be somewhat exceptional in that regard, but then we have the opposite irony in a city like Baltimore, where you had a black major, black police chief, black district attorney, majority black police department, majority black city council, black school superintendent, yet you still have the same knee-jerk reaction, as if black citizens are powerless and disenfranchised. 

v) There's a certain percentage of blacks who allow themselves to be manipulated. The only people who benefit from rioting are Democrat politicians and the white liberal establishment. It's not a good thing to let political puppet masters pull your strings. You need to cut the strings.