Saturday, September 06, 2008

Long Live McCain!

I don't understand the approach some Democrats are taking in bringing up McCain's age and as a corollary Palin's (purported) lack of experience. It seems to me that this is a tacit admission on their part that the McCain of today is not the problem; the problem is the McCain of tomorrow, the McCain whose "length of days" might push him down a spiral of some form of dementia or other. Or say McCain's mental faculties don't degenerate, say he dies -- still, the concern is over Palin and her lack of experience than over McCain. Implicit in this objection is a validation of the McCain of today. Apparently, he's ready to lead. Though God forbid anything happen to him while he's leading! We'd be in trouble if something were to happen to the competent, coherent McCain of today.

BTW, I don't have a problem with Palin taking the helm should something happen to McCain. While I'm not hot on the idea of a woman president, my political pragmatism trumps my tentatively-held political principles. Palin's conservatism, however untested she herself may be at this level, topples the liberal alternatives no matter what their experience.

An "evil king" is an evil king. Much of the wicked kings of Israel (and Judah) in the Old Testament were dynastic successors to the throne and thus began their rule with vast experience under their belts. But I'd more readily elect Bristol Palin (given, of course, that she'd fall in line with her mother's policies) than say, King Ahaz.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Abstinence-only sex ed

In the bottomless cornucopia of disingenuous attacks on Sarah Palin is the charge that she’s hypocritical since she supports abstinence-only sex ed even though her unwed daughter became pregnant.

At the risk of stating the obvious, what about all the out-of-wedlock teen pregnancies involving the children of liberal politicians, social workers, and teachers because their own kids fail to practice safe sex?

Is God the source of sin?

Paul Copan has written a little critique of R. C. Sproul Jr. on the problem of evil:’s-evil-creating-deity/

For the most part I’m not going to comment directly on Copan or Sproul Jr. I’m more interested in questioning one of the underlying assumptions.

1. Before we get to that I will comment on one of Copan’s statements:

Sproul Jr., however, wants to get to the bottom of the matter and weigh in on what he takes to be the source of evil: God! Shocked? I certainly hope so.

Whether this is shocking or not depends on how you define your terms. The simple fact that God is the Creator of the world makes him the ultimate source of evil in the derivative sense that, if he hadn’t made the world, the fall would not have taken place. This conclusion is unavoidable whether you’re a libertarian or determinist.

It’s a necessary (albeit insufficient) condition for evil to occur. And God alone is responsible for that condition.

If, however, you mean that God is the sole source of evil, the sufficient condition, then that would be false.

“Source” is very vague. There are different ways of causing things to happen. We can all dream up hypothetical examples in which a certain type of cause would render the agent morally complicit.

On the other hand, we can also dream up hypothetical examples in which a certain type of cause would not render the agent morally complicit.

I’ve discussed this many times in the before, so I won’t repeat myself here. I’m just pointing out that this objection suffers from fatal ambiguities.

2. Let’s move on to something new. Copan quotes a passage from R. C. Sproul Sr.:

Herein lies the problem. Before a person can commit an act of sin he must first have a desire to perform that act. The Bible tells us that evil actions flow from evil desires. But the presence of an evil desire is already sin. We sin because we are sinners. We were born with a sin nature. We are fallen creatures. But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know (Chosen by God [1986], p. 30).

The problem here is that this is also ambiguous. What does it mean to have an evil or sinful desire? Let’s take something we all understand: sexual desire.

Consider the hypothetical case of a sinless husband.

i) Is it possible for a sinless husband to find other women (i.e. women other than his wife) desirable?

I don’t see why not. Isn’t what makes them desirable a natural good?

ii) But isn’t that an evil desire? An adulterous desire?

Adultery is sin. If he finds another woman desirable, isn’t his desire sinful? Illicit?

He desires something that God forbids. Isn’t that paradigmatically evil?

iii) Not necessarily, because, once again, this is ambiguous. It confuses psychology with logicality. Sin involves sinful motives.

Logically speaking, if you desire something that God forbids, then you wish to break God’s law, which is evil. Your desire is logically illicit.

But psychologically speaking, the husband doesn’t wish to break God’s law. Breaking God’s law is not the object of his desire. The object of his desire is the woman.

It’s the woman he finds attractive or unattractive, not the prohibition. He desires the woman. He has no desire to violate God’s law in the process. That is not his motive.

One desirable woman happens to be his wife, while another desirable woman happens to be single, someone else’s wife. Their marital status is incidental to his desire. That’s not what makes them desirable or undesirable.

Or let’s take a less loaded example. A single woman who wants to be a mother. She sees other women with children, and she finds their children desirable.

Is that an evil desire? Does this mean she wants to kidnap their kids?

That would be a very convoluted charge. There’s nothing wrong with a woman finding another woman’s children desirable. That’s a natural good. A perfectly normal, healthy maternal instinct.

iv) It is, of course, quite possible for someone to want to defy God’s law for its own sake. There are situations in which breaking God’s law is the object of desire.

In that sense, human beings are quite capable of entertaining evil desires. Some sinners revel in breaking God’s law just because it’s God’s law.

There are also men who want to commit adultery. Not merely that they find another woman appealing. They find adultery appealing. For them, adultery itself is part of the appeal. That, too, would be an evil desire.

v) My point is that we need to distinguish an evil desire, which involves a desire to commit evil, from desiring a forbidden good.

Once we draw that distinction, I don’t find the fall of Adam and Eve, or Lucifer, all that mysterious. God doesn’t need to give a sinless agent a sinful desire to kick-start the possibility of sin.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The lesser of two weevils

Weevils are evil. They damage crops. That’s a natural evil. So weevildoers are evildoers.

Some weevils are more evil than others. They do more damage.

It’s evil to choose the lesser of two weevils. That makes me complicit in the evil deeds of the evil weevildoers—not to mention the weevil evildoers.

Therefore, if I have a choice between a lesser weevil exterminator and a greater weevil exterminator, it would be morally compromising of me to choose the lesser weevil exterminator over the greater weevil exterminator.

Likewise, unless a pesticide can kill lesser and greater weevils alike, it would me morally compromising of me to use any pesticide whatsoever.

Better to let the evil weevil infestation go unchecked than sully my hands by choosing the lesser of two weevils.

Butterflies Are Free


Just as with so many things in Catholicism we are led from the corporeal to the spiritual, from the sensible to the intelligible, from the particular to the universal. But in reaching these higher matters, the means to them, that is, the corporeal, the sensible, etc. are not illusions but are perfectly real.

The accidental properties of the communion elements are illusory rather than real since they don’t correspond to an underlying substance of bread and wine.

Now Christ as a whole is present in the bread and wine, namely, body, blood, soul, and divinity.

How is the body of Christ physically present in a wafer the size of a quarter? The body of Christ has physical dimensions. So does a wafer. How do you squeeze one into the other? Is the body of Christ like a life-size inflatable blow up doll?

The body and blood are means to delivering the divinity. The Eucharist is a tool left by Jesus to assist the faithful in the fight against the devil. When the priest raises the host, it's as if rays of white light stream from it. Each host (both bread and wine) after consecration contains a small piece of light of Jesus's divinity.

That’s very pretty metaphor. Unless you can (i) translate your picturesque metaphor into a literal proposition and then (ii) provide a supporting argument, it’s just a nonsensical assertion.

When the host is eaten, the bread and wine, being body and blood and soul which contain the divinity open up like petals in a flower and release the divinity that settles in the will.

Wow! That’s worthy of Goldie Hawn! All you need to complete the picture is a Day-Glo bikini and a garland of daisies.

(Having been made suitable for it by Jesus's own union of human soul of divinity), strengthening it and filling it with love for God, scaring away the devil.

Really? It doesn’t seem to have that effect on pedophile priests or the Kennedy clan.

Or so, at least, I was made to understand in a kind of revelation.

1 John 4:1.

Pawns of the devil

john w. loftus said...

If only he [Hays] was a reasonable polite discussion partner!?

That would be easier if Evan were a reasonable discussion partner.

He's not and he never will be.

I can be perfectly polite when I have a reasonable discussion partner.

He views us as pawns of the devil.


He thinks we are purposely misleading others.


We are not honest with the facts.


We distort them because we love sin.


Couldn’t have put it better myself. Loftus is really on a roll here.

Such arrognace and hubris is as unbelieveable to me, as is the Calvinist gospel he preaches.

Oh, well, nothing good lasts forever! (At least not in this life!)

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this characterization is accurate, why does an atheist think that arrogance and hubris are wrong?

And while we’re on the subject of my horrible attitude, let’s compare my attitude with the attitude of Scripture—vis-à-vis unbelievers:

Psalm 5:9

9For there is no truth in their mouth;_ their inmost self is destruction;_their throat is an open grave;_ they flatter with their tongue.

Psalm 10:7

7 His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;_ under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

Psalm 14:1

1 The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

Psalm 140:3

3They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,_ and under their lips is the venom of asps.

Romans 1:18-25

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Ephesians 4:17-19

17Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

John 3:19-20

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

1 John 3:8,10

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil…10By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

The Bible is so polite!

Evan reflux

Evan is so predictable. Like the sunrise, you always know that Evan is going to say something obtuse. This is his attempt to respond to my latest post on the Legend of Sargon:

To fully appreciate the lengths the tribe will go to, it's necessary to revisit the sentence I wrote that started the whole fracas in the first place. I made a simple, declarative sentence:

“I think the story of Sargon being floated in a basket of reeds down the river as an infant is a myth (that predates the Moses myth).”

This created multiple posts over on Triablogue that were apoplectic about how awful I was for suggesting such a thing. So now we have their "post-mortem" on the issue and I would like to see if they have succeeded at disproving my original claim. There are eight authors who they have selected as experts and we'll evaluate their statements in turn to see if anyone disagrees with my basic, initial assertion.

i) Notice the set up. Evan acts as though my post was a response to him. And, in particular, to his initial assertion.

Is that what this post is about? No. It’s a response to Hector Avalos, as well as general issues regarding the relation, if any, between Exod 2 and the Legend of Sargon.

ii) In addition, the voluminous exchanged spilled over to issues well beyond the boundaries of Evan’s initial claim. Hence, this post was never limited to Evan’s initial claim.

All this is obvious from the post itself, not to mention the fact that my post is simply the latest installment in an ongoing debate. Only someone as dense and egotistical as Evan would fancy himself to be the specific target of this post—much less that his initial claim is the specific target of this post.

Their first author is a no-show that's really just a tease for some future "dismantling" that we can all just hold our breaths and wait for.

That’s right—it’s worth the wait. It wouldn’t hurt know-nothings like Evan to invest in good commentaries, including good forthcoming commentaries.

He [Hoffmeier] admits exactly what I stated in my first statement on the issue and the tribe is kind enough to quote him on it. Post-mortem indeed. Their argument is buried by their own expert!

Evan is too dense to even follow his own stupid little argument. Even if we artificially confine ourselves to Evan’s initial claim, that was actually three claims bundled into one:

i) Both the Legend of Sargon and Exod 2 are “myth.”
ii) The Legend of Sargon antedates Exod 2.
iii) Implied claim: Exod 2 is literarily dependent on the Legend of Sargon.

If Evan never intended to move from (ii) to (iii), then (ii) is irrelevant to the historicity of Exod 2.

At most, Hoffmeier would only be “admitting” that the Legend of Sargon might antedate Exod 2.

Keep in mind, once again, that this is only relevant if you’re going to take the further step of contending that Exod 2 is literarily dependent on the Legend of Sargon.

But Hoffmeier denies that. He gives reasons for his denial. And, of course, Hoffmeier denies the mythical status of Exod 2.

So it’s gross stupidity on Evan’s part to act as if Hoffmeier is conceding Evan’s claim. And, of course, Hoffmeier wasn’t writing in response to Evan; he was writing in response to Avalos.

Yes, that's right. Once again there is not a speck of support for the idea that the Sargon legend didn't pre-date the Moses legend. Their expert supports Avalos by agreeing with him. He brings up no evidence to suggest the story of Moses has any greater historical validity than the legend of Sargon.

i) If you read the full text of Hess, you’ll see that he doesn’t agree with Avalos. He disagrees with Avalos on the specificity of the parallels, the relevance of certain generic parallels to the historicity of Exod 2, Hector’s argument from silence, as well as his selective appeal to archeological evidence.

ii) The historical validity of the Sargon Legend is irrelevant to the historical validity of Exod 2.

Looking closely, I see only the suggestion that both the legend of Sargon and the legend of Horus pre-date the legend of Moses. With experts like this, the tribe doesn't even need Dr. Avalos to debunk them.

i) To the contrary, Currid takes issue with Avalos. Avalos argued for a Mesopotamian background for Exod 2 while Currid argues for the Egyptian background for Exod 2. And since Exod 2 is set in Egypt, we would expect Exod 2 to reflect an Egyptian background if it’s historical.

ii) The question of chronological priority was never the only issue. That was merely a necessary (but wholly insufficient) condition to even allow for the bare possibility of literary dependence.

They can just read their own sources to prove that the story of Moses is a legend.

Of course, none of the scholars I cite proves that Exod 2 is legendary. Evan hasn’t begun to show that. This is his sleight-of-hand. Chronological priority—even if that were the case—wouldn’t begin to prove literary dependence.

I'm perfectly happy to admit that the culture of the Hebrews could easily have borrowed from both and of course there's nothing in the text of the Pentateuch to suggest this is not the case.

i) Both Currid and Hoffmeier do marshal evidence against a Mesopotamian source, which Evan typically ignores.

ii) ”Borrowing” is a deceptive descriptor. Currid doesn’t say the narrator plagiarized Exod 2 from the story of Horus. Currid affirms the historicity of Exod 2. He is speaking of literary allusions to the story of Horus.

This concludes all the expert testimony that the tribe was able to get from actual experts who had reviewed whatever they sent in. It's nice to see that not a single one of them support the position that the legend of Moses pre-dates the legend of Sargon.

i) Of course, not one of them classifies Exod 2 as “legendary” or “mythical” in the first place.

ii) They are addressing different aspects of Hector’s broadside.

The general rule when debating apologists is just to read the source of the apologist thoroughly and you usually have more than enough debunking ammunition within their own source, but rarely has the case been shown more conclusively than here.

i) Let’s apply that general rule to Evan’s own statements. He is backing away from his original assertion by oversimplifying his original assertion. He makes it sound as if his initial claim was limited to relative chronology. So he’s recasting the issue, then backdating his revisionism.

And speaking of ammo which the apologist supplies from his own lips, consider Evan’s own admission:

As the source of all this trouble I would personally like to thank Dr. Avalos for his excellent work (far superior to anything a layperson such as myself could create)

ii) He is also framing the issue as if my post was a response to him. Only someone who inhabits an Evanocentric world would imagine that he was the specific target of this post.

The rest of the reports are all from sources that were dug up from the library or the internet or wire services and yes, not a single one suggests that the legend of Moses pre-dates the legend of Sargon.

i) As if that were ever the only pertinent issue.

ii) Ross critiques the alleged parallels.

iii) And Millard, for one, does address the issue of relative chronology.

iv) What’s wrong with “digging up” material from a library? There’s a name for that: scholarship. Citing standard secondary literature is a perfectly respectable practice. Avalos does that himself.

One of Evan’s problems is that he doesn’t spend time “digging up” material from a library. He doesn't do real research. He’s a self-reinforcing ignoramus.

iv) I cite Internet sources, where possible, because more people have access to the Internet than they do to books. This gives them a chance to check the source material for themselves.

To pad the list, they even post something about medieval foundlings, a topic that is not particularly germane to the question of whether one foundling legend predates another.

Yet another example of Evan’s incorrigible stupidity. Let’s take him by the hand, like the child he is, and walk him through the process:

Liberals claim that Exod 2 is indebted to the Legend of Sargon (or some equivalent Mesopotamian exemplar) on the basis of alleged parallels.

One of the key parallels which they adduce is the common motif of riverine exposure. They cite this as evidence that Exod 2 is unhistorical.

I introduce the Roman origin of foundling wheels to establish the fact that, in a real world situation, rivers were used as a mode of child abandonment—for mothers living near a river. This is not a “legendary” motif. This really happens. This is how many real life mothers disposed of their unwanted babies.

If that can happen in Rome, it can happen in another riverine culture like Egypt or Mesopotamia. That could really happen to Sargon or Moses. (Not that Moses was actually abandoned to die. Just the opposite.)

Even if this becomes a folkloric motif, that’s because folklore has its basis in fact. The story can be history.

The medieval parallel doesn’t have to be germane to the question of relative chronology to be germane to the question of historicity. And since the liberal treatment of Exod 2 is based on alleged literary parallels, a historical parallel undercuts the facile assumption that comparable incidents imply the fictional character of the (allegedly) secondary source.

Only a simpleton like Evan thinks you can reduce the whole issue to relative chronology alone.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Remedial English 101

From David Waltz:

(Hopefully, they [Bridges, Hays] have been able to move past their Catholic serial killer mentality).

Hopefully Waltz has moved beyond projecting his own opinions onto us and then shifting the burden of proof.

Bridges seems to justify his stance with the points made earlier in a., b., and c.; he then recommends that I “take a gander at Carson and Beale”. Fair enough, so this morning I turned to Beale, who wrote:

"The conclusion of those who see the New Testament use of the Old Testament as non-contextual is that twentieth-century Christians should not attempt to reproduce the exegetical method of the New Testament writers, except when it corresponds to our grammitical-historical method…But it is not necessary to claim that we have to have such inspiration to reproduce their method or their conclusions. The fact that we don’t have the same “revelatory stance” as the New Testament writers only means that we cannot have the same epistemological certainty about our interpretative conclusions and applications as they did. Exegetical method should not be confused with certainty about the conclusions of such method, since the two are quite distinct." (G.K. Beale, “Positive Answer To the Question”, in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts, ed. G.K. Beale, p. 399.)

Amen Dr. Beale! I am truly left wondering if Bridges and Hays have actually read one of the authors they recommended…

Unfortunately for Waltz, the poor guy suffers from basic reading incomprehension.

In the first section which David quotes, Beale is summarizing a position in order to then oppose said position in the second section which David quotes.

Beale doesn’t take the position that the NT writers quote the OT out of context. He doesn’t take the position that modern exegetes should avoid reproducing apostolic exegesis except where it corresponds to grammatico-historical exegesis (on the assumption that the two are characteristically in conflict).

That’s the opposing position. The position that Beale is going to criticize. Beale is summarizing a particular view of apostolic exegesis as a set up to then critique that particular view of apostolic exegesis.

As he goes on to explain, he thinks this evaluation fails to distinguish between exegetical method and exegetical certainly.

Since a modern exegete is uninspired and therefore fallible, he cannot reproduce the certainty of Apostolic interpretations. But that doesn’t mean he cannot or should not reproduce their methods.

Waltz is a very careless reader. It isn’t difficult to distinguish Beale’s position from the opposing position—even in the section he quoted. Let’s consider some of Beale’s other statements in the same chapter.

He says the NT interpretation of the OT “does not contravene the integrity of the earlier texts but rather develops them in a way which is consistent with the Old Testament author’s understanding of the way in which God interacts with his people—which is the unifying factor between the Testaments “ (393).

“Put another way, it [typology] does not read into the text a different or higher sense, but draws out from it a different or higher application of the same sense” (395, emphasis his).

“In the light of our overall discussion, the proposal of many that the New Testament’s exegetical approach to the Old Testament is characteristically non-contextual is a substantial overstatement…I remain convinced that once the hermeneutical and theological presuppositions of the New Testament writers are considered, there are no clear examples where they have developed a meaning from the Old Testament which is inconsistent or contradictory to some aspect of the original Old Testament intention” (398).

“I am prepared to accept the possibility of non-contextual, Jewish ad hominem argumentation used polemically by New Testament writers, although I am unconvinced that this occurs anywhere in the New Testament. If it did occur, it might best be understood as the author’s intention not to exegete the Old Testament but to beat the Jews at their own game (402-03).

“Thus, I believe a positive answer can and must be given to the question, ‘Can we reproduce the exegesis of the New Testament?’” (404).

There’s no point in Waltz owning 15,000 books when his level of reading comprehension is so deficient.

Theological illusionism

Numerically speaking, the two major theological traditions are Catholicism and Orthodoxy. It’s striking that, in their different ways, both traditions have a deep commitment to theological illusionism.

In Catholicism, you can see this in the dogma of transubstantiation. Here the illusion operates at two levels. To begin with, the consecrated bread and wine retain the sensible properties of bread and wine, but that’s illusory because, in essence, the communion elements have been changed into the true body and blood of Christ. So there’s no connection between the substance and the sensible properties. The Mass is like the Matrix: virtual reality.

But the illusion runs even deeper. According to Catholic dogma, the communion elements become the “true body and blood of Christ.”

But what is a true body? What makes a body a human body? All of us have an intimate experience with human bodies.

Yet, when you consume the Host, does that mean you consume a miniature version of Jesus’ body? Are you, say, eating Jesus from the top down, starting with the hair, brains, ears, eyeballs, and teeth, and working your way down through the fingers, genitalia, and lower intestine until you swallow his toenails? Or is this a “processed body,” like processed meat?

Whatever else Catholicism means by the “true body,” I don’t think that’s what it means. And yet that’s our only point of reference. A true human body has all those constituents. Has that structure. Limbs, bones, organs, urine, &c.

So transubstantiation is illusory at two levels. The secondary qualities of the bread and wine don’t signify or identify the primary qualities. Indeed, the secondary qualities are systematically deceptive. For they naturally belong to a very different substance.

And the substance doesn’t correspond to what we naturally mean by a human body. The substance is alien to human experience. So the Host is an illusion encasing an enigma.

Orthodoxy also has a deep commitment to theological illusionism. We can see this in its dichotomy between the divine essence and the divine energies. God is said to be absolutely unknowable in his essence, yet he reveals himself in his energies.

But if that’s the case, then what do his energies reveal? Not his essence. Hence, God is essentially unlike his energies.

Orthodoxy prides itself on its Trinitarian theology. But is God really three persons? He may reveal himself as three persons, but that’s a manifestation of his energies, not his essence. Maybe he’s one person rather than three. Or maybe the Son is the fons deitas. For the energies are dissimilar to the essence.

We’re not just talking about the possibility that God’s energies may not correspond to his essence. Rather, if God is unknowable in his essence, then his energies don’t correspond to his essence.

His energies present an illusory revelation of God. Illusory persons. Illusory attributes. Virtual reality. What lies behind the mask?

Choosing the lesser of two evils

Every election cycle, Christians have the same debate. Should we choose the lesser of two evils? Some Christians take the position that it’s evil to choose the lesser of two evils. However, this reflects a semantic and conceptual confusion.

When we speak of choosing the lesser of two “evils,” “evil,” in this context, doesn’t mean “wicked” or “immoral.” Rather, we’re using the term the way we call a natural disaster a natural “evil.”

When we call a hurricane (to take one example) a natural “evil,” we’re not saying that the hurricane is wicked or immoral. The hurricane is not a sinner or villain. Rather, we’re using “evil” in this context to mean “harmful” or “injurious.”

That is what is meant by the lesser of two evils. In a political setting, which candidate will do the least harm?

And there’s nothing wrong with taking the possible consequences into account. Many Christians operate with a crude deontologism. Because Christian ethics includes moral absolutes, they act as if the circumstances are irrelevant. But that’s simplistic.

Although the end doesn’t justify any means whatsoever, it would be reckless never to take the possible consequences into account. If I’m a hunter, I should make reasonably sure that the rustling in the bushes is a deer or lion rather than a fellow hunter before I open fire.

Motives also matter. It makes a difference whether the person who tripped me was a blind man or a prankster. The blind man had no intention of doing so, whereas the prankster had every intention of doing so. So even moral absolutes can take motives and consequences into account.

This doesn’t mean we always have to choose the lesser of two evils. There are limits to compromise.

But I’m dealing with the opposite position: the idea that it’s always wrong to choose the lesser of two evils. It’s not.

Female magistrates

In the context of Sarah Palin’s nomination to be McCain’s Veep, one objection I’ve run across in some conservative circles is that a woman shouldn’t be a civil magistrate. While the dominant culture would decry this objection as unbearably sexist, it raises a valid question which Bible-believing Christians must address.

1.One objection I’ve seen is that a female magistrate runs counter to the creation-order in 1 Cor 11 and 1 Tim 2. There are, however, some complications with that appeal:

i) The Greek words aner/gyne can either mean “man/woman” or “husband/wife.” Which sense is appropriate must be determined by context.

For example, one standard monograph on the subject argues that the social context has reference to wives (or widows) in particular rather than women in general. Cf. B. Winter, Roman Wives, Roman Widows (Eerdmans 2003).

ii) Since Adam and Eve are the prototypal husband and wife as well as the prototypal man and woman, appeal to the creation order doesn’t settle the question of whether the referent is generic or marital.

iii) Beyond the semantic question, taking the usage generically would mean that every woman is under the authority of every man (1 Cor 11:3). But that would undercut the authority of a husband in relation to his wife.

iv) Because the US doesn’t have a monarchy or aristocracy, it’s easy for us to forget that, in the ancient world, authority was a question of social class rather than gender. Queens, queen-mothers, and noblewomen had authority over men lower down the social scale.

v) To some extent, this was bound up with their relation to the role of a man. If you were the wife or mother or daughter of a king, then you had a derivative, but genuine, authority. This is true in any hierarchical system. Except at the uppermost and lowermost ends of the scale, authority and subordination are not antithetical principles. A hierarchy both empowers and subordinates its members.

2.Another objection I’ve run across is that it would be inconsistent for a woman to wield authority outside the home, but be in submission in relation to her husband.

One can think of situations where these might be in tension. However, it’s quite common for people to have authority in one sphere, but not another. A four-star admiral has a lot of authority within the naval chain-of-command, but that isn’t transferable to the army, air force or Marines—much less the civilian sector.

3.In our system of gov’t, elected official have authority over the electorate, but in another respect the electorate has authority over its elected officials—since it confers authority on them by electing them, reelecting them, not electing them, not reelecting them, recalling them, or impeaching them, as the case may be. So the authority is bilateral, but ultimately vested in the electorate.

Postmortem on Avalos

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Hector Avalos writes:
If Triablogue were as wise, they might have Dr. Hoffmeier to guest post on their behalf. But perhaps Triablogue does not have enough credibility to attract experts on their side.
A few preliminaries are in order:

i) At the time Avalos responded to Peter and me, he was not, himself, a guest blogger at DC. Instead, he emailed Loftus and Loftus posted his email. Therefore, if Hector's own conduct is any yardstick, I don't need to invite an expert to guest post on my behalf. It would be sufficient for me to do what Loftus and Avalos did.

ii) An expert doesn't have to directly interact with Hector's material. The question at issue is the relationship, if any, between Exod 2 and the Legend of Sargon. There is preexisting scholarship that comments on that issue.

iii) Apropos (i)-(ii), in this post I'm going to consolidate information on the issue from several different sources.

iv) Notice that although different scholars offer different explanations, not a single scholar I cite agrees with Hector's explanation.

[The first four items feature email correspondences while the latter four feature excerpts from published works or articles.]
  1. Duane Garrett:

    Dr. Garrett wrote me back last night. He has a forthcoming commentary on Exodus in which he dismantles the argument of Brian Lewis. Stay tuned!

  2. James Hoffmeier:
    Re: Exod 2 & the legend of Sargon
    From: James Hoffmeier
    To: Hays
    Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2008 4:50 pm


    I suspect that Avalos is so ideologically committed to his anti-biblical stance that objectivity is gone, and thus to bring evidence that conflicts with his view to the discussion will simply be ignored. His statements about the dates of biblical books as you know is theory, not fact. Something Avalos and many like him seem to forget.

    Indeed the Sargon legend may well be the earliest example of the exposed child motif, but that does not mean that Exodus 2 could not be completely independent. To ignore the clear Egyptian linguistic elements of Exodus 2 (one that does not fit a Mesopotamian setting) is sheer obscurantism!


    James Hoffmeier
  3. Richard Hess:
    Re: Exod 2 and the legend of Sargon
    From: Hess, Rick
    To: Hays
    Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2008 5:22 pm

    Dear Steve:

    I am not sure who you are but I did receive your long retort from Avalos.

    I am not quite sure what the point here is.  The Sargon story is generally as Avalos says.  Lewis' book has been around and well known.  He cites dozens of Sargon story types in the ancient Near East and later, ending with the story of Superman's birth in DC comics.  The form of the Sargon legend involves a first person intro and an epilogue that concludes with 1 of the 4: blessings/curses, didactic lesson, temple donation, or prophecy.  None of this applies to the Moses story; so if there was a borrowing it was more general than Avalos would like to admit.  The general motif of the rescue of a leader as a baby and his/her being brought up by strangers is certainly well known in the ancient world and around the rest of the world.  So what?  No doubt the author and early readers of the exodus account saw the motif in the Moses story.  That says nothing about its historicity.

    Avalos seems to find the absence of a pre-Hellenistic citation of Moses outside the Hebrew Bible evidence for the lack of historicity of Moses.  Needless to say, this is exactly what Thomas Thompson wrote of David in 1992 when he published his book denying any historical value to the biblical account of pre-exilic Israel.  David never existed.  Then a year later in July of 1993 Avraham Biran discovered the Tel Dan stele dating from the 9th century B.C. And recording mention of the "house of David."  Again, the minimalists tried every kind of way to deny this, but a straightforward reading of the Aramaic text and a comparison with the only known parallel for the two words translated "house of David" has resulted in nearly all scholars agreeing that the dynasty of David was known in the 9th century, within a century and a half of the life of David himself.  Perhaps some day the same sort of thing will happen with Moses.  Whether it does or not, one is not entitled to conclude that someone is not historical just because they are not mentioned outside the Bible before the Hellenistic period.  Manetho's Hellenistic history of Egypt comes to mind as another example.  Before the decipherment of Egyptian in the 19th century, the same thing could be said about the names and numbers of Egyptian rulers and dynasties.  They were only known from the Hellenistic period (and a few from the Bible).  But now Manetho's history has been validated by many Egyptian texts covering about 3,000 years.  We will probably not see the same numbers of texts ever discovered in Palestine.  Not only is this because it is a poorer and smaller country, but because most Iron Age writing there was done on papyri and leather, neither of which has survived anywhere in the region except in the driest spot of the Dead Sea.  

    I hope this helps some.

    Best wishes,

    Rick Hess
  4. John Currid:
    RE: Exod 2 & the legend of Sargon
    From: John Currid
    To: Hays
    Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2008 7:06 am


    Indeed, within ANE literature there is a common motif of a birth story in which a child is under threat but survives to become king or leader of his people. The Legend of Sargon is such a story, and many scholars identify it as the very basis of Exodus 2.  To go from Exodus to Mesopotamian literature has been the bias of ANE scholarship for a long time (creation and Enuma Elish; flood and Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.).  But the reality is, and many do not want to admit it, is that Exodus is set in Egypt (seems obvious, but apparently not!) -- the book is imbued with Egyptianisms (see my Ancient Egypt and OT, for example).  Consequently, I think that we ought to be looking in Egyptian literature for any such paradigm:  The Myth of Horus contains similar motifs as Exodus 2.
    It is at this point that I would diverge from Hoffmeier and others.  The Myth of Horus and Exodus 2 are accounts of a child being cast into the waters and then becoming a deliverer/king.  The writer of Exodus, who knew Egypt well, would have been familiar with the Egyptian text.  So, how do we explain that association?  Some argue, like Hoffmeier, that there is no relationship; others say it is simply crass plagiarism on the part of the Bible.  I think not.  What then was the Mosaic author doing?  He was using motifs and themes that were common ones in relating the birth of Moses -- certainly he was recording history, but perhaps more than that.  Perhaps this story is a polemic against Egyptian (and, more generally, ANE literature) literature and legend.  It may be, in particular, an ironic, belligerent critique of a well-known Egyptian story.  What was mere myth in Egypt was true history in Israel -- God truly called a deliverer, saved him from danger, and caused him to lead and deliver his people.  Myth in Egypt thus became fact in Israel. 

    I believe polemical theology may in fact be an important answer to such issues (vs. Enns and others). 

    I hope this helps even in some small way.

  5. Allen Ross:
    The circumstances of the saving of the child Moses has prompted several attempts by scholars to compare the material to the Sargon myth See R. F. Johnson, "Moses," in IDB; for the text see L. W. King, Chronicles Concerning Early Babylonian Kings, Vol. 2, Texts and Translations (London: Luzac and Co., 1907), pp. 87-90. Those who see the narrative using the Sargon story's pattern would be saying that the account presents Moses in imagery common to the ancient world's expectations of extraordinary achievement and deliverance. In the Sargon story the infant's mother put him into the basket in the river; he was loved by the gods and destined for greatness. Saying Israel used this would indicate that the account in Exodus was fiction, and that would be an unacceptable determination. But there are also difficulties with the Sargon comparison, not the least of which is the fact that there are no other samples of this type of story for comparison. First, the meaning and function of the story are unclear. Second, there is no threat to the child Sargon. The account simply shows how a child was exposed, rescued, nurtured, and became king (see Brevard Childs' commentary on Exodus). Third, other details do not fit: Moses is never completely abandoned, never out of the care of his parents; and the finder is a princess and not a goddess. It seems unlikely that two stories, and only two, that have some similar motifs would be sufficient data to make up a whole genre. Moreover, if we do not know the precise function and meaning of the Sargon story, it is almost impossible to use it as a pattern for the biblical account. The idea of a mother abandoning a child to the river would have been a fairly common thing to do, for that is where the women of the town would be washing their clothes or bathing. If someone wanted to be sure the infant was discovered by a sympathetic woman, there would be no better setting (see A. Cole, Exodus, p. 57). While we may not be dealing with a genre of story-telling here, it is possible that Exodus 2 might have drawn on some of the motifs and forms of the other account to describe the actual event in the sparing of Moses--if they knew of it. If so it would show that Moses was cast in the form of the greats of the past.

  6. Alan Millard:
    Some scholars suggested that the story was written to glorify him. Indeed, a few scholars still maintain this position…Gaston Maspero supposed that the Legend of Sargon projects the deeds of Sargon II into a remote past and says nothing about an earlier king (The Dawn of Civilisation [London: SPCK, 1885]), p. 599. See Lewis, Sargon Legend, pp. 101–107, for a similar view.

    What of the birth legend of Sargon? It is hardly likely that documentation of this will appear. The story is one common in various forms in folklore and is obviously comparable to the story of Moses in the bulrushes. Before we dismiss either or both as fiction, however, we should note that Babylonia and Egypt are both riverine cultures and that putting the baby in a waterproof basket might be a slightly more satisfactory way to dispose of an infant than throwing it on the rubbish heap, which was more usual. Today unwanted babies are frequently dumped on hospital doorsteps or in other public places in the hope that they will be rescued. The story of the foundling rising to eminence may be a motif of folklore, but that is surely because it is a story that occurs repeatedly in real life.

  7. Tremper Longman:
    While certainly a folklore theme, the practice of placing a child in the river may have been a widely practiced form of abandonment, similar to the more modern practice of leaving a child on the doorstep of a house.

    [Source: T. Longman, Fictional Akkadian Autobiography, 56.]
  8. Reuters:
    Medieval foundling wheels were wooden cylinders set in the wall of a convent or church. The baby was placed in the cylinder from the outside and the cylinder was turned towards the inside, where nuns would care for the baby and seek new parents.

    The first foundling wheel was believed to have been installed in Rome in 1198 at the orders of Pope Innocent III who was alarmed at the number of newborns, usually illegitimate, found caught in the nets of fishermen on the River Tiber.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008


“Been talking to people about the Bristol Palin story. How will McCain's newly-enthusiastic evangelical supporters react to is? My feeling is that they are simply not going to be judgmental. The whole tone of contemporary evangelicism seems to involve a lot of non-judgmentalism, at least in matters like this. My guess is that the only people who will partake in fire-and-brimstone rhetoric will be the left-wing blogosphere.”

I think Byron York is probably right about this, and it merits a comment or two.

The church is (or ought to be) a place for judgmentalism. The modern evangelical church is too nonjudgmental, too permissive.

To take one example, I read a Lutheran pastor (a conservative, not a liberal) who says that everyone is forgiven. Believers and unbelievers alike. Penitent or impenitent. Alive and kicking or burning in hell. Automatic forgiveness for anyone and everyone.

But according to NT ethics, fornication (e.g. premarital sex) is a potentially damnable sin. And forgiveness isn’t automatic. It’s contingent on repentance.

That said, this story has no business making it’s way into a presidential campaign. This is a matter for Bristol’s family and her church to deal with.

Bristol Palin isn’t running for high office. Sarah Palin is.

The misconduct of a child only reflects on a parent if the parent is, in some way, complicit on the misconduct. If, say, Sarah Palin and her husband had liberal views of premarital sex, then they would be complicit in their daughter’s misconduct. To my knowledge, the opposite is the case.

This is a just a smear campaign. An attempt to attack the mother through the daughter. I suspect it will backfire, and deservedly so.

Parents don’t have total control over the behavior of a 17 year old. Indeed, liberals typically attack “fundamentalists” because “fundamentalists” are said to be too controlling.

Of course, for liberals, hypocrisy is the only sin. If you’re a hypocritical serial killer, then that’s a bad thing—but if you’re upfront about your homicidal hobby, then that’s okay.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Stay-at-home moms and special-needs kids

One of the criticisms of Sarah Palin currently making the rounds is that she should be a stay-at-home mom, caring for her special-needs child, instead of being a career woman.

But what are the special needs of a child with Down syndrome? As an illustration, consider the range of services provided by The Center for Down Syndrome at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital:

• Clinical geneticists
• Genetic counselors
• Child development specialists
• Social workers
• Physical therapists
• Occupational therapists

Now ask yourself, in which type of setting is Trig most likely to receive the best care available:

1. In the care of a stay-at-home mom, on a single income, in the Alaskan Bush?

2. In the care of parents, one of whom is a Governor, Vice President, or President?

Does anyone doubt that if Sarah Palin becomes the next Vice President, her family (including Trig) will have access to world class medical care?

Palin vs. Obama

Sarah Palin vs. Barack Obama.

Heroiclife or Overthecliff?


Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely (at least in the developed world) have made a conscious choice to have that child.

Which is what makes the choice of the Palin clan so commendable. They knew in advance that they are bringing a “special needs child” into the world, and yet they were prepared to do what’s necessary to care for that child.

As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the “family values” of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith. They will be a symbol of religious reverence in the same way as the scarred backs of Catholics who flagellate themselves, or Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire, or Sunni Muslims who mutilate their girl’s genitals or Shiites who bloody their children’s heads with swords.

That’s an argument from analogy minus the argument. Why should we concede that giving birth to a child with Down syndrome is analogous to your deliberately invidious comparisons?

Genuine moral virtues – such as integrity, honesty, and productivity are not useful as evidence of religious virtue. To the extent that their practical benefit is visible to everyone, they do not represent the special domain of religion.

You need to show, from the standpoint of secular ethics, why integrity, honesty, and productivity are genuine moral virtues. Given your devaluation of human life, why should a “genuine moral virtue” be practical or beneficial to human beings?

To demonstrate religious virtue, it is necessary to sacrifice authentic moral values in favor of “religious” values.

As a Christian, I don’t care about generic “religious” values. I only care about Christian values. And, in Christian theology, we are justified by faith, not by works.

The particular object of the sacrifice is not important – there is nothing particularly “biblical” about being prolife (the Christian bible just as easily supports the opposite position.)

That’s an assertion, not an argument.

If Christian fundamentalists decided that cutting of one’s hand sufficed as proof of moral virtue, they would be wrong to do so, but not much more so than the numerous other ways that people find to be self-destructive.

That’s another assertion without an argument. For someone who prides himself on being a rationalist, you’re short on reasons.

What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses.

You indulge in lots of emotive, moralistic rhetoric. You have yet to justify your value-judgments.

To make it look good, you try to camouflage your position in humanitarian verbiage, but there’s nothing intrinsically humanitarian about secular ethics. For example, Julian Savulescu, a secular bioethicist at Oxford, takes a ruthlessly utilitarian view of human life:

“One objection to embryonic stem (ES) cell research is that it 'cannibalizes' human beings, that is, kills some human beings to benefit others. I grant for argument's sake that the embryo is a person. Nonetheless, killing it may be justified. I show this through the Embryonic Stem Cell Lottery. Whether killing a person is justified depends on: (1) whether innocent people at risk of being killed for ES cell research also stand to benefit from the research and (2) whether their overall chances of living are higher in a world in which killing and ES cell research is conducted. I call this kind of killing 'risk reductive’.”

David Veksler is expendible. If you interfere with the common good, then we have a right to kill you.

Likewise, eugenics doesn’t stop with the elimination of genetic disorders. For example, another secular bioethicist by the name of James Hughes envisions a world in which “Technologically assisted birth, eventually involving artificial wombs, will free women from being necessary, vulnerable vessels for the next generation. Morphological freedom, the ability to change one’s body, including one’s abilities, weight, gender and racial characteristics, will reduce body-based oppressions (disability, fat, gender and race) to aesthetic prejudices.”

By eugenic standards, David Veksler is a throwback to the dark ages of the genetic lottery. But thanks to prenatal testing and genetic engineering, we can weed out the David Vekslers of the world and replace them with a genetically enhanced master race.

One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty.

i) To begin with, you have a very sexist view of women. Don’t women know where babies come from? Wasn’t the woman in question engaged in consensual reproductive behavior?

And it won’t do to bring up cases of rape and incest since I hardly think that’s where you draw the line.

ii) You imply that the children of poor parents are condemned to a life of poverty. That’s an odd inference coming from the likes of you.

Didn’t your parents conceive you back in the bad old days when Ukraine was part of the Soviet empire? Why did they come to American? Because it’s the land of opportunity?

So, by your yardstick, it was immoral for your parents to conceive you. They didn’t’ know that they’d be able to immigrate to America and give you a better life. So, by your yardstick, they were condemning you to a life of poverty. By your yardstick, no one in the Soviet Union should have had any children—except for a few high-placed party-members in the Politburo. No parent, under that oppressive, communist regime, had a right to conceive a child. For that would ipso facto condemn the child to a life of poverty.

iii) Eugenics is no solution to poverty. It just transposes class warfare to a higher plane. It would create a two-tiered society of "GenRich" and "GenPoor,” genetically-enhanced "haves" and "have nots."

You could try to avert that scenario by universal access to genetic engineering, but that would require one of those socialist utopias that turns into the sort of socialist dystopia from which your parents escaped.

But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child?

Like millions of parents under Stalin or Brezhnev? You say you believe in individual rights, but you have a very selective view of individual rights. You say you believe in the “unconditional right to life,” but you, in fact, impose a quality of life condition on the “unconditional” right to life.

If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?

What makes you think that Down syndrome entails a lifetime of suffering? Not from what I’ve read. The same medical science that makes prenatal testing possible can also enhance the lives of men and women with genetic disorders like Down syndrome:

“Today, individuals with Down syndrome are active participants in the educational, vocational, social and recreational aspects of our communities. In fact, there are more opportunities than ever before for individuals with Down syndrome to develop their abilities, discover their talents and realize their dreams. For example, more teens and adults with Down syndrome each year are graduating from high school, going to college, finding employment and living independently.”

“It is important to remember that while children and adults with Down syndrome experience developmental delays, they also have many talents and gifts and should be given the opportunity and encouragement to develop them.”

“Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate impairments but it is important to note that they are more like other children than they are different. Early Intervention services should be provided shortly after birth. These services should include physical, speech and developmental therapies. Most children attend their neighborhood schools, some in regular classes and others in special education classes. Some children have more significant needs and require a more specialized program.”

“Some high school graduates with Down syndrome participate in post-secondary education. Many adults with Down syndrome are capable of working in the community, but some require a more structured environment.”

“Most people with Down syndrome have IQ's that fall in the mild to moderate range of retardation. Some are so mildly affected that they live independently and are gainfully employed.”

“The life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased substantially. In 1929, the average life span of a person with Down syndrome was nine years. Today, it is common for a person with Down syndrome to live to age fifty and beyond. In addition to living longer, people with Down syndrome are now living fuller, richer lives than ever before as family members and contributors to their community. Many people with Down syndrome form meaningful relationships and eventually marry. Now that people with Down syndrome are living longer, the needs of adults with Down syndrome are receiving greater attention. With assistance from family and caretakers, many adults with Down syndrome have developed the skills required to hold jobs and to live semi-independently.”

“While there is an increased risk for certain medical conditions compared to the general population, advances in medicine have rendered most of these health problems treatable and the majority of people born with Down syndrome today have a life expectancy of approximately 56 years.”§ionid=12&id=49&Itemid=119

“Many children with Down syndrome have health complications beyond the usual childhood illnesses...However, with appropriate medical care most children and adults with Down syndrome can lead healthy lives. The average life expectancy of individuals with Down syndrome is 55 years, with many living into their sixties and seventies.”

Contrast Between A Pro-Choice Mindset And A Pro-Life Mindset

In another thread, HeroicLife wrote:

“Whereas previously, a Down’s child could be born without the prior knowledge of the mother, going forward, a parent with a Down’s child will likely (at least in the developed world) have made a conscious choice to have that child. As prenatal testing for trisomy 21 becomes ubiquitous, Down’s children (and eventually those with other genetic disorders) will increasingly become symbols of faith – a freak show meant to communicate the ‘family values’ of their parents. The children will become public sacrifices made by their parents for their faith.…What is really vicious about fundamentalists in America is that the prey on the most vulnerable –poor pregnant young girls and women, those dying from painful terminal illnesses, the loved ones of brain-dead patients, — and children afflicted with terrible genetic illnesses. One can at least grasp the moral indifference with which a fundamentalist can force a single young mother to abandon her goals and dreams and condemn her and her child to poverty. But what can we say about a parent that chooses a life of suffering upon their child? If we are morally outraged by child rapists, how should we judge a parent who chooses a lifetime of suffering on their own child?”

Rich Lowry of National Review writes:

When I was thinking of Trig [Sarah Palin’s son with Down Syndrome], I was reminded of an encounter I had a couple of weeks ago on the Delta Shuttle from Washington to New York. It was a mostly empty plane, but I went all the back to the very emptiest part of the plane to spread out and enjoy he quiet. And there was a man sitting in the very back row who immediately piped up, "Hi. I'm Ian. Would you like to sit next to me?"

He was a guy with Down Syndrome, maybe in his twenties. I declined the offer, but we struck up a conversation. He was going to New York for a family celebration, including for his birthday. I told him I had a birthday coming up too and he lit up and came over to vigorously shake my hand in congratulations—more delighted by my birthday than his own.

When the plane began to fill up a woman and her daughter came all the way to the back with a huge bag. I began to wonder to myself if I should offer to help them with it, when Ian popped up, told them he'd get it, and lifted it up and shoved it in the overhead compartment. When two men came down the aisle with a box they weren't sure would fit overhead, he intervened and told them it would—"trust me"—and put it up for them.

He chatted amiably with his neighbors during the flight, and when we landed was up out of his seat first thing to help that woman get her bag down.

From this brief encounter, I dare say Ian is friendlier, better adjusted and more considerate than about half of the people on the streets of Manhattan or San Francisco on any given day. Yet most of those people are perfectly unperturbed by the elimination of babies with Down syndrome in the womb. To hell with them. God bless Sarah Palin for bringing Trig into the world, and may he shower those around him with as much sunshine as the gentleman I met on that flight.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Hippie Philosopher

If Palin was Rove's choice, then this shows that McCain is under the thumb of the Bush-Cheney wing of the party.

Really? From what I’ve read, Rove was rooting for Romney to be McCain’s pick:

For an article on the actual selection process:

Doesn’t look like the Karl Rove imposed Palin on McCain.

Comparing Palin's qualifications to Obama's is also absurd, at least at this point. Obama has executed a primary campaign, taken on formidable opponents within his own party, won the support of the Clintons for his general election campaign, and developed policy positions on the issues facing the President.

Translation: Obama is a Democrat who edged out another Democrat in Democrat primaries. He’s also had position papers written for him. Yes, his presidential credentials are nonpareil.

Obama has chosen Biden, someone who is not only capable of assuming the presidency should Obama's heart stop beating, but someone capable of posing tough questions concerning the President's policies. Someone who will not be a rubber-stamp and a yes-man.

Ah, yes...Biden is such an intellectual force to reckon with:

“One can only imagine how inquisitive reporters would handle a Republican nominee for vice-president who graduated 86th in his law school class of 95 as Biden did. As for Biden's unfortunate history with plagiarism, the less said the better.”

Reppert’s basic problem is that he’s a hippie masquerading as a philosopher. A creature of the Counterculture. He came of age during the Psychedelic Sixties. Those were his formative years. And it shows.



In our opinion, we think that the presidency and vice-presidency should only be vacated by men who have served in the military.

Hi Chad,

i) I think you mean, “occupied,” not “vacated.”

ii) As a practical matter, we can only vote for whoever chooses to run. What if a veteran doesn’t choose to run? Should we leave the presidency vacant, and thereby have no Commander-in-Chief unless and until a veteran chooses to run?

iii) What if a veteran chooses to run, but his views on domestic and foreign policy are far worse than those of his rival—who is not a veteran?

Suppose the veteran is a nanny state social liberal while his rival, who is not a veteran, is a social conservative who believes in limited gov’t? Should we still vote for the veteran? How do you prioritize the qualifications for office?

Two reason: __#1- The Commander-in-Chief and his vice should have military experience (served in the military), if he is going to send his troops to war.__What business does any President have leading his country into war if he has never had any war-time experience?

That’s not a self-explanatory reason. Is your objection that a President needs to be a veteran to have the (i) moral warrant to be Commander-in-Chief? Or is your objection that a President needs to be a veteran to have the (ii) competence to be Commander-in-Chief?

Let’s consider these in turn:

Moral Warrant

i) All things being equal, I think it’s preferable that a Commander-in-Chief be a veteran. It lends a measure of personal respectability to his decision to send men into harm’s way. He’s not asking them to take a risk which he himself has not assumed (in some form or another).

ii) But all things considered, that’s not a prerequisite. The presidency is an ascribed status, not an achieved status. His military authority is conferred on him by virtue of his office, and by the electorate—who chose him for the job.

iii) We don’t have a military dictatorship. We have civilian control of the military. And veteran can run for the presidency, but it’s up to the electorate whether a veteran or a civilian (with no military experience) assumes the role of Commander-in-Chief.

iv) At present, we have a volunteer army. Soldiers know, at the time they enlist, that the Commander-in-Chief may or may not be a veteran. But they choose to abide by, and defend, that system.


You can have military training and experience, but have no strategic or tactical competence. For example, Bush ran through a number of 4-star generals before he discovered Petraeus. And I’ve read that the Joint-Chiefs were opposed to the appointment of Petraeus. Bush, who’s not a veteran, had to overrule his top military advisors. Yet, in this case, he was right and they were wrong.

Likewise, Robert Gates seems to be a better Secretary of Defense than Donald Rumsfeld, even though Rumsfeld is a veteran, and Gates is not.

Likewise, Reagan was a better Commander-in-Chief than Carter, even though Carter was a veteran, and Reagan was not.

#2- Combat is for men, not women.:)


Therefore, it is absurd to have a woman leading the national armed forces into war.

That doesn’t follow.

i) #2 is reducible to #1. So it’s not a separate argument, but dependent on #1.

ii) Indeed, #2 undercuts #1. Like it or not, many women do have military experience, including combat experience.

So that would actually be an argument for a female Command-in-Chief if she happens to be a veteran.

iii) In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many female civilian advisors at the Pentagon, a number of who have a lot of expertise on military affairs. You don’t have to serve in the military, in some official capacity, to be a military consultant.

McCain is qualified to be the Commander-in-Chief.

I don’t think McCain’s military experience ipso facto qualifies him to be Command-in-Chief.

I don’t think McGovern would have made a good Commander-in-Chief, even though he was a veteran. Or John Kerry. Or Wesley Clark.

Military service doesn’t ensure sound military judgment. And even if it did, that’s not all we want from a President. You could be a great general and still have a lousy foreign policy or domestic policy.

My main objection to Obama is not his inadequate experience, but his inadequate worldview. His worldview is out of kilter with what the world is really like as well as what it ought to be like.

Palin is not qualified to be vice Commander-in-Chief.(See Reason #1 & #2).

There’s no such thing as a vice Commander-in-Chief.

And the Vice Presidency is on-the-job training to be Commander-in-Chief.

Qualified candidates running for the Presidency should only be for men who have served in the US Miltary.

And what about men or women who served in some other national security agency like the CIA?

Victor Hansen might make a great Commander-in-Chief. He’s a military historian.

Far Left Fundies

I don’t ordinarily surf the liberal blogosphere, but Friday I was surfing the web to gauge conservative reaction to the Palin pick. Beginning at a conservative blog, I found myself, just two clicks away, transported to the alternate universe of the liberal blogosphere. It’s a truly alien landscape:

FROM CNN’s Jack Cafferty:

Sara Palin is in her first term as governor of Alaska, a state that has 13 people and some caribou.

By all means remind the electorate that the Democratic Party is the party of coastal and urban elites.

Obama is a member of the United States Senate from Illinois.

Obama is a first-term Senator whose Congressional experience consists of running for President.

At some point, voters will have to ask themselves who they would want running the country if it ever became necessary: Joe Biden or Sarah Palin.

That was easy: Sarah Palin.

Here’s my question to you: And here’s my question for you: Does John McCain undercut his own message by naming someone even younger and more inexperienced than Barack Obama to be his running mate?

And here’s my question to you: Does Barack Obama undercut his own message—that judgment is more important than experience—by naming someone far older and much more experienced than himself to be his running mate?

Are former Obama supporters going to vote for someone else now that Obama undercut his own message by picking Biden? Should they?

If not, then why is Cafferty’s question relevant to McCain voters but not to Obama voters?

Darcy Brady

Also, investigative reporters might be interested in the recent scandal involving Palin over her firing of the state safety commissioner.

That’s a valid concern. But from what I’ve read, there’s nothing to it:

And what about the Clinton scandals? Did that deter Democrats from voting for Hillary?


You already said it Mr.Cafferty.

A) She’s no Hillary Clinton!
B) She’s no Hillary Clinton!

Well, I should hope not! Why would we expect a Republican candidate to be a Hillary clone? You might as well say that Hillary is no Palin!


What a horrendous insult to Hillary, her experience and policies

Why should a Republican candidate be a compliment to Hillary? You might as well say that Hillary is a horrendous insult to Palin, her experience and policies.

Kelley in North Carolina

Finally, by putting her military son out there as an example of her patriotism, she drew a major difference between her and Joe Biden - he did not use his son’s service to show his character - he didn’t need to - the American people already know Joe Biden.

Many liberals have accused conservative politicians of hypocrisy for supporting the war when they’re not prepared to “sent their own children” (as the phrase goes) to war.

I was never impressed with that argument myself, but Palin is answering the liberal critics on their own grounds.

Terry in Hanover County

He’s pandering to get women’s vote.

Wasn’t Hillary pandering to get the women’s vote?

And what message would it send if the GOP snubbed the women’s vote?

hilary suppoter decides for obama

If he wanted to pick a women why not Condy Rice

i) Condi has expressed no interest in higher elective office.

ii) If she were interested, she could have run for the top job.

iii) Is she a social conservative?

iv) She’s identified with an unpopular administration. She’s also identified with an unpopular war.

v) If she were McCain’s pick, feminists who currently attack Palin would turn their guns on Condi as a traitor to her sex for serving in the Bush administration.

Why not Kay Hutchinson

i) Wouldn’t the same feminists who attack Palin find reasons to attack Hutchinson?

ii) Wouldn’t they demonize her Texan roots the same way they demonize Bush’s?

iii) Wouldn’t they treat her as a traitor to her sex for belonging to the GOP?


I supported Clinton because she was a woman – a qualified woman.

Qualified for what? She spent most of her adult career riding on her husband’s coattails. She then ran, as a carpetbagger, for a NY senate seat, for the exclusive reason of using that position as a stepping-stone to the White House. When she did run from President, she ran, not on her Congressional record, but her experience as First Lady—which amounted to ceremonial functions. She’s complicit in most of her husband’s scandals—including a pardons-for-votes quid-pro-quo.

Suppose McCain had chosen Laura Ingraham instead of Sarah Palin. She has an impressive resume. She’s at least as smart and articulate as Hillary. Would disenchanted Hillary supporters praise his pick? I don’t think so.

I also have question about her character when she has a special needs child (as I do) and goes back to work when the baby is just 3 days old and now the baby is just a few months old and she is taking a job that will almost never allow her to be home.

That’s a valid question, but what of it?

i) It’s a question for whom? For me, the voter? No. I’m only concerned with a candidate’s policies. I don’t have to answer that question for myself.

I do think it’s a question that Palin should ask herself. And question for Palin and her husband. But I’m not responsible for their domestic arrangements. That isn’t relevant to me, the voter.

ii) Does a baby with Down syndrome need more attention than a normal baby? When he reaches a certain age, he’ll require more supervision, but as a baby?

iii) Why would being the Veep almost never allow her to be home? The Veep is not a full-time job. It’s a job without job description. The Veep does as much or little as the President tasks him (or her) to do.

iv) I’ve heard that Palin takes her baby to work with her. That’s one of the perks of high office. And she’s not a single mom.

v) Has Kim ever seen the Vice Presidential mansion? I’m sure it has an office.

vi) Obama has young children. Is it okay for the man to neglect his family? Is it okay for the man to “take a job that will almost never allow him to be home”?

Here we see feminists suddenly endorsing the traditional double standard. You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

Marie Spearman

GOP family values? Gov. Palin has a 4-month old baby boy who needs his mother perhaps more than most. But power brokering is more important than her family. I assume she is not wearing a nursing bra - and her Downs Syndrome son is being fed formula. He deserves a better start on his rough road of life.

i) For liberals who constantly scream “hypocrisy,” it’s pretty rich to see feminists say a woman’s career should take a backseat to her maternal duties.

ii) The campaign will get very interesting if Joe Biden gets into a debate with Palin over Vice Presidential policy on breast-feeding v. bottle-feeding.

iii) While a man can’t breastfeed a baby, he can certainly bottle-feed a baby. It’s funny to see feminists suggest that child-rearing is the exclusive duty of the mother. They’re like a parody of fundamentalism. But fathers have parental responsibilities too, ya know.

donna sherman

Palin can’t speak, her voice is grating…

As if Hillary has such a soothing, dulcet delivery.

I am also appalled at the decision to force her child to lead a life with downs syndrone because of Palin and her husband’s neglect to practice safe sex at her age of 44. The child should always be considered first, not the parents’ self righteousness when confronted with a decision of abortion. This family actions speaks loudly to the need for women’s rights, saying; Take responsibility for your failures in birth control. Don’t make your child the victim.

i) The notion that a married couple has a duty to practice safe sex is unintentionally comical. Only a liberal could be that Victorian.

ii) Then we have the twisted logic in which you victimize a child by not aborting the child, in which abortion is a case of putting the child’s interests first. I somehow doubt that abortion represents the viewpoint of the child.

iii) How is a baby with Down syndrome wronged by allowing him to live? Is this condition especially painful?
The people with Down syndrome I see appear to be quite cheerful. They need a lot of love, but they give a lot of love in return. Indeed, they seem a lot happier than the angry, self-loathing feminists I see and hear.

iv) Donna is simply judging someone with Down syndrome by the standard of someone without Down syndrome. But that represents her viewpoint, not the viewpoint of the person with Down syndrome.

v) It’s true that someone with Down syndrome doesn’t have the IQ of a normal person. For that matter, Donna Sherman doesn’t have the IQ of Isaac Newton or Da Vinci.

Imagine a world in which Isaac Newton or Da Vinci were the norm. Imagine a genius deploy the same argument against Donna Sherman. Eugenics would weed out defective babies like Donna:

“I am also appalled at the decision to force their retarded child to lead a life with a stunted IQ of 100 just because Donna’s mom and dad neglected to practice safe sex. The child should always be considered first, not the parents’ self righteousness when confronted with a decision of abortion. This family’s action speaks loudly to the need for genius’s rights, saying; Take responsibility for your failures in birth control. Don’t make Donna the victim by allowing her to live!”

Indeed, to judge by the intellectual performance of most commenters at Cafferty’s blog, few would make the cut. Most of them would be prime candidates for eugenic abortion.