Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Old Serpent

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made” (Gen 3:1).

“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Rev 12:9).

I’ve discussed the identity of the Serpent in Gen 3 on more than one occasion. However, I’m going to be bringing some additional documentation to bear.

To recap, both liberal and conservative Bible scholars tend to be puzzled by how the serpentine figure in Gen 3 evolved into the diabolical figure in Rev 12.

Beyond that, liberals regard Gen 3 as an etiological fable of how the snake lost its legs while conservatives generally interpret the figure in Gen 3 as a case of animal possession.

I think the interpretive problem that a modern reader is apt to have is that he doesn’t understand the cultural code language of the ancient text. Instead, he uses his own cultural markers as his reference point.

But the question we need to ask ourselves is how the ancient Near Eastern audience to whom this text was originally addressed would have heard it. What associations would the depiction of a rational, articulate serpent trigger in their minds?

Let’s turn to a standard reference work:

The snake-dragon (with horns, snake’s body and neck, lion’s forelegs and bird’s hindlegs) is represented from the Akkadian Period down to the Hellenistic Period as a symbol of various gods or as a generally magically protective hybrid not associated specifically with any deity.

snake gods
The snake gods of ancient Mesopotamia, especially Nirah, seem to be the only fully animalian, non-anthropomorphic, deities (although la-Tarak may have had a leonine face and worn a lion’s skin). The snake god Nirah was worshipped at the city of Der, located on the northern border between Mesopotamia and Elam, as the minister of Istaran, the city god of Der (see local gods). His cult there is attested from the earliest times and was long-lived. He was also worshipped until Middle Babylonian times in the E-kur, the temple of Ellil (Enlil) in Nippur, where he was regarded as a protective deity of the temple and a protective presence. The cult of Irhan, a deity of the city of Ur and probably in origin a god representing the river Euphrates, remained independent until the period of the Third Dynasty of Ur, but was later syncretised with the cult of Nirah. It is possible that the snake symbol found on kudurrus [inscribed stones] represents the god Nirah (see snakes).

An anthropomorphic god with the lower body of a snake, shown on cylinder seals of the Old Akkadian Period, may also represent Nirah.

On the cylinder seal of Gudea, prince of Lagas, the ruler is introduced into the presence of a superior deity by a god from each of whose shoulders a horned snake rises. This is probably intended to represent Ningiszida, regarded by Gudea as his personal protective deity (see personal gods).

Representations of snakes are naturally frequent in iconography from the prehistoric periods onwards, but it is not always easy to decide whether or not they carried any religious value. When depicted as attributes of deities they are seen associated with both gods and goddesses. And independent symbol of the snake appears on kudurrus and is identified by the inscription on one as symbolizing the minister of the god Istaran (and so is possibly Nirah; see snake gods). Snakes continued to be portrayed in religious and secular art in later periods. As a divine symbol in Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian art, the snake can be identified from ritual texts directly as the god Nirah.

The horned viper (Cerastes cerastes), a mildly venomous snake native to the Middle East, has a pair of spike-like folds of skin on its head. In art, the form of a snake with a pair of horns rising from the forehead occurs as a symbol on Kassite kudurrus and in Neo-Assyrian art as an element of seal designs and in the form of magically protective figurines…A variant horned snake with forelegs was apparently regarded as a different creature…Originally one of the trophies of Ninurta (see Slain Heroes), it was later—when the snake-dragon became Marduk’s animals—the symbol of various gods formerly associated with the snake-dragon, including Ningiszida.

J. Black & Anthony Green, Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary (U. of Texas 1997), 166-68.

This reference work concerns itself with Mesopotamia, but, of course, snake-gods and snake cults weren’t limited to Mesopotamia. For example, you can find the same phenomenon in ancient Egypt.

This identification would explain the preternatural powers of the snake in Gen 3. It’s not a snake at all. Rather, it’s a serpentine symbol of a numinous being.

Of course, we need to draw a further distinction. This text was addressed, not merely to an ancient Near Eastern audience, but to a Jewish audience in particular. They wouldn’t view the “snake” in quite the same terms. It would still be a numinous being, but a demonic or diabolical being.

Paganism didn’t really have a distinct category for the demonic. In paganism, all the gods are corrupt and malicious in varying degrees.

Biblical theism has a more complex classification scheme. God is in a class by himself. He is the Creator. And there are good spirits (heavenly angels, saints) as well as evil spirits (fallen angels, damned souls)—all of whom are creatures.

This interpretation has the further advantage that it doesn’t require any historical or theological development from the snake to the devil. The “snake” in Gen 3 was always emblematic of an evil spirit.

Symbolic consistency carries over to the curse (3:14-15). The same serpentine imagery. And, as Walton explains in his commentary, this is not a just-so story of how the snake lost its legs. Rather, it’s a standard imprecation, of the sort often employed for venomous snakes.

Operation Pro-choice Mop-up

Zach Moore responds and indicates that my responses to him are too wordy. Evident of his narcissism, he apparently think I am writing for him. I am under no illusion that Moore will be persuaded by rational argumentation, and don't think anything I write will have an effect on him, so I don't write for him. My posts are for others. Apparently Moore is concerned with time and how many words are used, yet for his end, he posts a reply that is about 95% smarm and 5% substance. Moreover, Moore clearly wants to avoid the argument and has been relegated to trying to get the discussion to move to such off-topic issues as TAG and who can smarm the best! How that figures into the debate is beyond me.

Anyway, Moore wants it short, so be it:

Z: His harranguing over the so-called "Utopian Principle" is getting tired, so I'll leave that alone

P: But Zach brought this up. It was his justification for he claim that he would like abortions "rare."

Z: His main thrust has been to assert the full humanity of the fetus.

P: A demonstrable lie, as those who have read my posts can attest. My main thrust has been to show Moore that he is wrong in saying that the full humanity of the fetus doesn't matter for his argument to go through. This means his argument goes through with the premise: Fetuses are fully human. I disagree his argument can go through with that premise, and gave arguments as to why. So my argument is that (a) Moore's argument doesn't work if the fetus is fully human, contrary to his protests otherwise; and (b) Moore must argue that the fetus is not "fully human." He's not done so as of yet.

Z: He claims that since my position is that personal sovereignty is without exception, if I were to grant that the fetus is human, my argument fails. As I have already pointed out, I'm happy to do so. As I said, "Even if I were to follow Paul down his rabbit hole and grant that a fetus has the same sovereignty enjoyed by its mother, that only extends to within the fetus' own body. Once removed from its uterine environ, the fetus is free to exercise that sovereignty in whichever direction it likes."

P: It's not a "rabbit hole" when your claim that, "My argument goes through whether the fetus is fully human or not." I just took Moore at his word. Apparently that's not good enough. I know he "pointed out" that Moore-sovereignty "only extends to within the fetuses own body." I know all of that. I rebutted that in my last post. I specifically showed how this very claim of Moore's works against Moore. So, rather than advance the discussion, Moore repeats himself. Funny for a guy concerned with word count.

Z: Paul doesn't like my definition of sovereignty.

P: Well, that's true, but irrelevant. The honest communicator would let his readers know that I gave actual arguments as to why I think your view of sovereignty false.

Z: But he also appears to not understand it. For whatever reason, he thinks that I'm talking about a 'right' to 'not have bad things happen to my body.' This is not the case. I'll repeat it again: it is the right to decide what things stay in one's body and what things stay out.

P: Right, and this is specifically what I rebutted in my post. I even quoted you verbatim making this exact same claim and gave reasons to suppose it false. Moore’s not advancing an argument anymore. He apparently thinks that the "THUS SAITH MOORE!!" counts as an authoritative word that I must submit to.

Z: I'd appreciate it if Paul actually used my premises, rather than just claim to use them. Thus, all his counterexamples fall apart like an unimplanted blastocyst.

P: I actually did, as anyone who reads my post can tell. And, notice all Moore does here is to assert that I haven't actually used his premises. Moore can't actually engage my argument, but he still had to save face in front of his loyal reader.

See, that's why my post was so long, because of how much I directly quoted you.

Z: don't know if anyone else thinks it's a shame that Paul didn't provide us with the "scientific" argument for the full humanity of the fetus, especially since it's apparently one of the easiest arguments to make.

P: It is easy, but also irrelevant to the specific argument I'm making. Funny, I made this point and explained it my last post. If Moore read it, he should've noted my explanation. But apparently he's big on people reading his post, not so much on reading other's.

Z: And even more especially since his entire argument rests on the humanity of the fetus, while mine does not.

P: Another demonstrable lie. My entire argument with you does not depend on me proving the full humanity of the fetus. That was granted by you. As was obvious to any who read my post, I covered this point in some detail. I'm offering a reductio. An internal critique. See, the beauty of an internal critique is that you don't have to prove any of your premises since all the premises you use are ones granted by your opponent.

Tinfoil Truthers


“When Condi Rice stands before a press conference and says no one ever imagined terrorists would fly a hijacked plane into a building, and then it comes out that the government had war games simulating just such a scenario, Condi was lying.”

How is that statement evidence that Condi was lying?

i) For one thing, Condi was head of the NSA, not the DOD. Why assume that she’s cognizant of everything that goes on over at the Pentagon? It’s a big place. Even the Secretary of Defense isn’t cognizant of everything that goes on under his own roof.

ii) It’s also possible to forget something you used to know.

iii) But let’s assume that she was lying. How does that constitute evidence that 9/11 was an inside job?

What motive would she have to lie? What’s the context of her statement? She’s on the defensive. She was head of the NSA, as well as Bush’s National Security Advisor. Why didn’t she see it coming? Why didn’t she connect the dots?

Like many incompetent bureaucrats, she tells a lie to excuse her incompetence. To minimize blame for her failure to anticipate 9/11.

Isn’t that a simpler, more plausible explanation than a conspiracy theory involving countless conspirators both inside and outside of gov’t?

“When George Bush says(not once but twice), he saw the first plane fly into Tower 1 before he spoke to the children at Booker T. Washington Elementary, and it turns out that there was no videotape available then or live television coverage of the first plane, George was lying, or so monstrously confused he should submit to random drug testing, or at least provide us a copy of the script he's been reading from.”

What’s the point that DPW is trying to make? Is this supposed to be evidence that Bush had advance knowledge of 9/11?

If so, then the inference is obviously fallacious. When did Bush make this statement? Three months after 9/11.

How would a statement made three months after 9/11 be evidence of advance knowledge? The statement would only be evidence of advance knowledge if it was made before the fact. Before Bush was in a position to know what happened—unless he was in on the plot.

DPW is confusing the timing of the statement with the timing of the event. Even if the statement is anachronistic, it was made after the fact, long after Bush had seen footage of the planes hitting the towers.

The fact that Bush’s later statement about the sequence of events may be wrong is irrelevant to what he knew on 9/11. It’s only relevant to what he knew (or thought he knew) at the time he said it. The timing of a statement, and a statement about timing, are two different things. This is pretty elementary.

Why not assume that Bush misremembered the sequence? It’s very easy for subsequent information (or misinformation) to merge with our prior recollection and subconsciously change our recollection of events.

In fact, here’s a textbook example: Many Bush-haters think they remember Bush say that we needed to invade Iraq because it posed an “imminent threat.”

Of course, Bush never said that. In his State of the Union speech, he went out of his way to say the very opposite.

That was a memorable speech. Unlike the average State of the Union speech, there was exceptional public interest in this speech. And that’s because this was shortly after 9/11. Everyone was expecting Bush to use the occasion to say how the US was going to retaliate.

So how could so many people forget such a memorable speech?

And even if they did forget, it would be easy for them to refresh their faulty or fading memory. The text of the speech is posted at the White House website. And if you don’t trust the White House website, there are many other places on the web where you can pull up a transcript.

Yet despite all that, there’s a persistent urban legend that Bush lied us into war by claiming that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the US.

People think they remember what he said at the time they heard it live. But they don’t. What they really remember is subsequent coverage of the speech, which they subconsciously merge with their original recollection.

If they can misremember, why can’t Bush?

“Government bureaucrats should be assumed to be lying unless proven otherwise, not the reverse.”

By that logic, we should assume that official critics of the Bush administration like Michael Scheuer and Richard Clarke are lying unless proven otherwise.

“It seems as though no matter how many deceptions elements within the US government orchestrate, from the creation of the Federal Reserve, to the Lusitania, to the USS Kearney, to Pearl Harbor, to Operation Northwoods, to the Gulf of Tonkin, to the USS Liberty, to 9/11, ever the gullible rise up to believe the 'patriotic' lie.”

Let’s run through these items, shall we?


How is this evidence that American bureaucrats deceive people?

Pearl Harbor/USS Liberty/USS Kearny/Gulf of Tonkin

DPW is pyramiding. Using one conspiracy theory to prop up another conspiracy theory. All of his examples are disputed examples.

Operation Nothrwoods

i) That plan was produced at the height of the Cold War, around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That emotional climate didn’t exist in the 8 months before 9/11, when Bush took office.

ii) Despite Cold War tension, Operation Northwoods was never adopted or implemented. How does the fact that Operation Northwoods was rejected by gov’t bureaucrats prove what gov’t bureaucrats are prepared to do?

iii) This was also before we developed such an adversarial press corps. Before Watergate. Before the anti-war movement. A president could get away with more back then (e.g. JFK’s poor health and sex life).

iv) Finally, is Operation Northwoods even analogous to the issue at hand?

DPW is the one who suffers from acute gullibility.

i) People who lie, lie for a reason. Lying involves a cost/benefit analysis. If I lie, how much do I have to gain, and how much do I have to lose?

Evil people are motivated by their perceived self-interest. The 9/11 conspirators would have nothing to gain in comparison to what they’d have to lose if their plot were exposed. And in the adversarial climate of Washington, both inside and outside of gov’t, there would be a high risk of exposure. That isn’t even slightly comparable to “lying” about the Federal Reserve.

The fact that many people lie some of the time doesn’t create any presumption that someone lied to cover up a heinous crime. If he committed a heinous crime, he is likely to lie about it, but the fact that he lies from time to time is no evidence that he committed a heinous crime.

If you lie on your tax returns, that doesn’t make you a serial killer.

ii) It’s also credulous to assume that most folks who work for the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD and so on are as evil as DPW has to assume for his conspiracy theory to work.

Gov’t employees are not a breed apart from other human beings. They are not more dishonest or more corrupt than the private sector.

If gov’t employees are that untrustworthy, then 9/11 Truthers are just as untrustworthy, since both groups are just a subset of humanity in general.

Not to mention all of the additional conspirators he needs after the fact, both inside and outside of gov’t, to participate in the cover-up.

DPW’s scepticism is self-refuting. 9/11 Truthers are selectively sceptical and selectively gullible.

Pro-Life Legislation Works

Chris Price has drawn our attention to a recent article by Michael New that discusses the effectiveness of pro-life legislation. I recommend reading the entire article, but here's the conclusion:

During the past 35 years, the pro-life movement has made some real progress--progress that pro-lifers could at times do a better job of advertising. During the 1990s more states enacted parental-involvement laws, waiting periods, and informed-consent laws. More importantly, the number of abortions has fallen in 12 out of the past 14 years and the total number of abortions has declined by 21 percent since 1990. These gains are largely due to pro-life political victories at the federal level in the 1980s and at the state level in the 1990s, both of which have made it easier to pass pro-life legislation. Furthermore, since the next President may have the opportunity to nominate as many as four justices to the Supreme Court, the right-to-life movement would be very well advised to stay the course in 2008.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Adventures in Special Pleading: How to Sink Your Case for Abortion Rights

Zach Moore responded to my critical interaction with his comments on Craig Sowders blog.

Characteristic of Moore, his post contains pictures of aborted fetuses and embryos along with theologically ignorant slogans tacked on to the pictures. Apparently attacking caricatures is what passes for Moore's claim to have achieved cognitive rest in atheism. Always one to attack 50 foot straw men, Moore doesn't disappoint.

He says things like: "This little boy likes baseball and jellybeans, but God decided to abort him, just like the other thirty percent of pregnancies that end in miscarriage." But of course the 30% number has been challenged (cf. Davis, Abortion and the Christian, pp. 60-61; and Higler, Human Reproduction, pp. 136-152). Some place it lower, some higher. However, many embryologists have noted that the numbers are skewed since in a high amount of cases, fertilization has not occurred and what are aborted are not complete human beings (cf. Ashley and Moraczewski, Is the Biological Subject of Human Rights Present From Conception?, in The Fetal Tissue Issue, p.47). The main point here is to demonstrate that it is rather unclear how well Moore has studied this issue, and that he has the tendency to make empirically false, or at least highly disputed, claims.

Secondly, it's rather odd to hear pro-choicers use the "God commits abortion" argument since (a) it's flat out wrong in that God is not the actor, we have confusions about causality here, and (b) all people who die, or get raped, or steal, etc., did so on the basis of the decree of God. So why don't we read sophisticated atheists arguing that theists shouldn't think murder or rape immoral since God allows them? I've also found these objections to commit composition fallacies. Assuming God's good plan is made up of all good parts.

The post is much shorter when you remove the "argument ad pictorum" and the "ubiquitous pejoratives", like:

· "Paul Manata; a man who walks and talks with the bearing and authority of someone who speaks regularly with an omnipotent, omniscient, invisible friend."

· "It's possible that Paul's invisible friend tells him whether to choose Cheerios or Wheaties for breakfast."

· "I'm always glad to know that I've merited the attention of God's chosen."

So we'll try and weed out the pejoratives, the smarm, and Bill Maher condescension of this New Atheist, and focus on what Moore takes to be his substantive rejoinders.

Moore begins by struggling to make his "perfect world" justifier for his "safe, legal, and rare" stance make sense. I'll refer to this principle as,

[UP] the Utopian Principle

He recognizes the problem he has invoking [UP],

After writing this, I realized that the phrase "perfect world" would probably be taken all too literally. After all, in a "perfect world," birth control would never fail, right?
I did not take him too literally, and am unsure if his claim about "birth control" was meant to be serious or not.

Moore says that he,

came back to clarify my use of that phrase to mean "the most optimal world that I can conceive."
Right, I got that.

We'll label this principle:

[UP*] Utopian Principle acheived by conceiving

I'm still unsure how this "clarifier" does the wok Moore wants it to. I'm unsure if he knows the almost unlimited range "conceiving" has. Is he using this term as it has been used traditionally in philosophy? As David Chalmers writes, "There is a long tradition in philosophy of using a priori methods to draw conclusions about what is possible and what is necessary, and often in turn to draw conclusions about matters of substantive metaphysics. Arguments like this typically have three steps: first an epistemic claim (about what can be known or conceived), from there to a modal claim (about what is possible or necessary), and from there to a metaphysical claim (about the nature of things in the world)." Typically, 'conceivability' has been taken to mean, thinkable without logical contradiction. And there should be no doubt that I can fit a whole bunch of fun into that big box.

Okay, so at this point in the debate Moore has given his [UP], then clarified (he thinks) it to mean [UP*], and was then questioned by Craig Sowder as to why Moore would want abortions rare. Moore then acts as if I ignored some relevant qualifier, though I'm unclear how it helps Moore out, at all. Nevertheless, since Moore takes it to be important, I'll quote him quoting himself in full:

At this point, I was asked by Craig why rarity would be something I would hope for, if there was nothing immoral about abortion. Paul jumped on my answer to this question, which he neglected to quote in its entirety, but which I will do here:

'The rarity I would like to see for these procedures isn't inspired by any intrinsic immorality, but because it's such a difficult choice for women, who have to choose between their procreative and self-preservative instincts.'[emphasis added by Moore]
Moore thinks I've misdiagnosed this. He writes, "Paul claims that I have merely pointed out the existence of angst, and suggests that education is the solution." Well, it is angst:

angst –noun, plural ängste  /ŋkstə/ [engk-stuh]. a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish.

And I didn't suggest that education was "the solution" but named it as a possible solution given that if the belief: "This entity is a living, human being" were dropped, one side of the conflict would be eliminated. I had stated that there was more than one way Moore's [UP*] could go.

But Moore feels he has a substantive rejoinder hidden in this emphasis on the "educational." He writes,

I don't think that any amount of education can alleviate the emotional strain of choosing between two contradictory instincts. This is not an intellectual matter we're dealing with- it's a subconscious, primordial battle between the basic neurological impulses nearly all animals share: SURVIVE. REPRODUCE. This conflict is only subject to philosophical gerrymandering by those who don't have to answer these calls. And these are truly effectual calls, mind you- not subject to reason, evidence, exegesis, or any such intellectual strategy. Thus, the "angst" Paul correctly identifies is not so easily assuaged, and thus I am not as confident as Paul that this could be ameliorated with simple education (would that it were so).
Not only must I have missed this massive internal battle that my hamster went through as it ate its young, or my thousands of hours watching Discovery channel and seeing the countless animals that would kill or abandon their young. One also need not point out the radically different state of affairs in the ANE. But let's leave all this alone for the moment.

The main point here is that it is easy to conceive of a world where the "angst" is removed. The nature of [UP*] allows my suggestions. There's no "logical contradictions." So, despite all of Moore's efforts, he's still done nothing to non-arbitrarily answer Sowder's question. Why did he opt for one conceivability and not another? This is precisely the question up for dispute. In other words, a little analysis reveals the question begging nature of Moore's gerrymandering.

Moore then moves on to his "primary" argument for abortion. What is important to note is that the context of my post dealt with Moore's claim that the human status of the fetus was irrelevant to his argument, such that the fetus could be fully human and yet rightfully aborted in all circumstances. I attempted to show that this view was indicative of Moore's more general ignorance on matters abortion related. Moore now tells us what his main argument is:

My primary argument in favor of allowing abortion is that all human beings are sovereign over their own bodies. Thus, anything growing inside my body stays there only by my own approval (assuming that I have the available medical technology to remove it at my discretion).
Since Moore claims the fetus could be a full human and his argument still goes through, and since that was what I was objecting to, I will assume that we both accept this principle, which is logically entailed by the above statements of Moore. Call it the Fetus's Sovereignty principle:

[FS] Human fetuses have full sovereignty over their body

I maintain that by Moore allowing [FS], which he would have to if the fetus was a "full human", he undercuts his entire argument. So, my claim will be that Moore's argument only works if the fetus is not a human. And, of course, this makes his position irrelevant to the abortion debate since no pro-lifer disagrees that non-human "stuff" in the body is, ipso facto, immoral to remove. Therefore, Moore will need to either drop his argument as an argument for abortion, or submit it to the editors for some major revisions.

Now, originally I had pointed out a material objection to Moore's sovereignty thesis, saying:

"First, it's not true that all humans have sovereignty over their body and can do what they will with it making what they do ethically okay. They can't (well, shouldn't) strap bombs to it and run into occupied office buildings."

Moore takes umbrage with this, I'll quote his response at length:

Perhaps Paul has not understood what I mean by "sovereignty" over one's body. He seems to think that I'm mounting a variation of Homer Simpson's "Pie Eating" argument: "All right pie, I'm just going to do this [opens and closes mouth] and if you get eaten it's your own fault!" I am not talking about things people do to each other with their bodies; I am talking specifically about the right to decide what things stay in one's body and what things stay out. That is, one has the right to decide what kind of food one wants to eat, what kind of aesthetic modifications can be made to one's body, and what kinds of medical procedures should be undertaken. Of the latter, these include the decision to undergo a cardiac bypass, the decision to undergo a gastric bypass, and the decision to bypass pain and suffering through euthanasia. Either Paul agrees that we have sovereignty over our bodies or he does not. If we do not, then we cannot decide for ourselves what kind of food to eat. It's possible that Paul's invisible friend tells him whether to choose Cheerios or Wheaties for breakfast. But if Paul does agree that we have sovereignty over our bodies, that only he has the right to decide if his malignant testicle should be removed, then he seems to be special pleading for women not to have the right to remove anything they want from their bodies as well. [emphasis original]
There are plenty of errors in the above:

i) I reject Moore's false dichotomy that "Either Paul agrees that we have sovereignty over our bodies or he does not. If we do not, then we cannot decide for ourselves what kind of food to eat." I do not grant full sovereignty over the body as Moore defines it. For example, I don't think it extends to humans living inside our body. So on Moore's terms, I reject sovereignty. But I'm unclear how it follows that I "cannot decide for ourselves what kind of food to eat" becauase I reject that "one can kill full humans living inside their body, i.e., their children." I call this view of sovereignty then, Moore-sovereignty.

ii) I reject the idea that each and every single human being has the kind of "sovereignty" over their body as Moore suggests. For example, he claims that only the individual has the right to decide of some malignant tumor should be removed. Unfortunately, some young children suffer from cancer. Some of them might not want any medical surgery, or they may think, however cute, that eating "magic gumdrops" will cure it. In these instances, I'm glad that those children don't have the sovereignty Moore would like them to have, and their parents or guardians can make that decision for them.

iii) As is painfully obvious, Moore begs the question against my own objection saving that: "I am not talking about things people do to each other with their bodies." But since we've granted the full humanity of the fetus, you are, in fact, "talking about things people do to each other with their bodies." Since the fetus is a human, then it can't be the body of the woman's that is getting killed. So Moore fails to show how my argument from analogy is off.

iv) One wonders if I knocked Moore out, and then sowed a three-year old into his back using skin graphs from other areas of Moore's body, and I included some breathing and feeding apparatuses for the toddler to survive a bit, upon awakening, could Moore now kill that toddler? That seems odd. If not, then he's giving up his 'sovereignty' to do with inside his body whatever he wants.

v) Given that we both hold to [FS], then what of the fetus's sovereignty over what goes into or happens to her body? Here's an argument:

[1] If I am Moore-sovereign, then I have a right to not have burning chemicals placed on and in my body without my permission, especially if I am legally innocent. I also have the right to not have my body sucked into huge vacuums and them chopped to pieces.

[2] [FS] states that fetuses are Moore-sovereign.

[3] Therefore, human fetuses have a right to not have burning chemicals placed on and in their body without their permission, especially if they are legally innocent. They also have the right to not have their body sucked into huge vacuums and them chopped to pieces.

Which premise can be denied? Moore admitted he held to [1]. [2] was shown to be logically entailed from his sovereignty statements. Therefore, [3] follows necessarily. QED.

Therefore, my argument stands. Moore's argument doesn't go through if the fetus is a full human. What makes this argument even stronger, is that I've drawn my conclusion from premises Moore gave me.

vi) I am not guilty of special pleading, Moore is. I do think I have a right to remove tumors, and I think women have a right to remove tumors. The fetus, to quote Ahnold, "Is not a tumah." I do not think that I have the right to murder a fetus if, ex hypothesi, I could carry one. So I also, quite consistently, do not think that women have the right to murder their fetuses. These distinctions seem all rather elementary to me. There's not so much as a case for special pleading on my end. Indeed, (v) showed that Moore was guilty of special pleading.

Moore makes claims like this, apparently assuming they strengthen his case:

Although I appreciate the effort he has made on my behalf, he's running with the wrong assumption. I've already made it clear that I consider sovereignty to extend only to within one's own body for the sake of this argument.
Yes, and I'm specifically defending what happens to and within the fetsus own body.

Moreover, the fetus is not like a tumor, a wart, or any other non-fully human "stuff" in my body. It's not clear that the right to do what you want with non-human "stuff" in your body entails the right to do the same with fully human persons in your body. So Moore needs to justify this massive leap.

Paul's counterexample of a suicide bomber is simply the product of a categorical error.
No, it's not, as (iii) made clear above.

He's also assuming that I'm granting "human" or "person" status to a fetus, which I frankly have not; but again, it's immaterial to my argument.
Here's where Moore starts to hedge his bets. ;-)

As I made clear in my original post, it is relevant whether the fetus is a full human. I wrote: "So, Moore thinks "personhood" (or, if he will, humanity) doesn't matter for his argument. I beg to differ, for more than one reason:"

So, I am arguing that if the fetus is a full human, Moore's argument sucks. If he wants to add the extra premise that:

[P] The fetus is not fully human.

But Moore never argued [P]. He thinks it "immaterial." I do not. I have argued why it is not. Since that argument goes through, and it does, then Moore needs to revamp his argument.

Of course I will argue for the full humanity, [~P]. I have "science" on my side here too. In fact, arguing for the full humanity of the fetus is actually one of the easiest arguments to make, I think. But that's "immaterial." Before we can go anywhere else, Moore needs to deal with the actual argument I'm giving, rather than move goal posts. So I'll assume he'll join me in assuming the full humanity of the human, [FS], and then seeing how those two assumptions entail that Moore should be pro-life.

Even if I were to follow Paul down his rabbit hole and grant that a fetus has the same sovereignty enjoyed by its mother, that only extends to within the fetus' own body.
Moore wants to make this a "rabbit hole" issue, but it's clearly not since the very reason I bothered posting was because Moore made the ludicrous claim that his argument goes through even if the fetus is fully human.

I'm not sure why he's stuck on "within" either. Doesn't "topicality" work too? Or can I do whatever I want to Moore's body so long as it's not "within" it? And, besides, Moore just gave the farm away, again. Abortion methods do things to the fetuses body, on it and in it, that go against Moore-sovereignty.

Moore now continues to run with the "get me away from Paul's actual argument" ball as far as he can. He writes,

Paul, by special pleading against the complete sovereignty of women, would have us believe that one organ among all others is arbitrarily off-limits.
But of course this is false if we grant the full humanity of the fetus. Moore has to since that point is "immaterial." His argument must go through if we do not grant humanity, and if we do. So, here's another argument.

[1] No human is "one organ among all others."

[2] Fetuses are human. (granted because of it's immateriality)

[3] Therefore, no fetuses are "one organ among all others."


I wrote,

"Third, another thing Craig might want to ask, it seems that not only do we have exceptions to murder, but sometimes parents don't have obligations toward their young children. Since we're dealing with a mother taking the life of her child, we have another moral consideration in play. Do we have exceptions here, too?"

Moore responds quite incoherently,

As has been shown previously, my argument is not one that advances a mother's right to take the life of her child. I've only argued that a woman's sovereignty is without exception, not that I am seeking exceptions as Paul does.
But it is clear that if:

[1] A pregnant woman has the right to destroy any living thing in her body, without exception.


[2] Fetuses are living full human beings.


[3] Fetuses are living full human beings inside their pregnant mother's body, making them children of the pregnant women.

then it is the case that,

[4] Therefore, a mother has a right to destroy a living full human being that is her child.


Again, all of these premises are premises Moore either explicitly or hypothetically grants.

I asked about ES cells and their existence in a Petri dish. As of right now, we harvest them from embryos, many frozen and not living in a mother's body. Apparently Moore can't go through with the logic of his position for he claims, and I quote him at length,

At long last Paul has given us something to chew on. It's a great question, not least of which because there's no clear answer. However, I should make it clear that we're no longer dealing with my argument for sovereignty, since stem cells do not need to be cultured inside a woman's body. In engaging with the stem cell question, we finally have no choice but to grapple with the concept of "humanity" or "personhood." And my answer to this question is, though Paul may be disappointed by it, "I don't know." I don't hold to a neo-Platonic worldview, and therefore I don't feel epistemological pressure to categorize reality using Universal concepts. "Humanity," like "species" or "life" does not neatly intersect with the reality our senses and reason present to us. At what moment did I become a human being? When my father's sperm came in contact with my mother's egg? But when, precisely? When the sperm passed the corona radiata? When it entered, or after it had passed, the zona pellucida? Before or after the cell membranes fused? Before or after the second meiotic division of the egg? Before or after the first mitotic division? At what stage of mitosis: prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase? The interim points, like Zeno's paradox, are infinite; yet a human is the result.
But if we grant the full humanity of the embryo, then she has sovereignty over her stem cells. This follows, by the strictest logic, from Moore's own premises. Indeed, his own "organ" argument leads to the conclusion that, if he were consistent, he'd have to say that the embryo is the only one that can tell us whether she wants to give up the ES cells. But Moore just doesn't have the courage to follow his own logic.

Moreover, I don't resort to any Platonism, neo or otherwise. I could make the case playing Moore's own game for the full humanity of the fetus. One place where this argument is strongly advanced is, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by George and Tollefsen. See answer to pedantic questions in ch. 2, esp. pp. 36-42.

I'm always glad to know that I've merited the attention of God's chosen, especially when there are so many more enjoyable things to do in Michigan's own Tulip Country. Between keeping one's wife pregnant, instilling a fear of The Lord in one's children, and drinking deeply of the Boddington's, I consider myself lucky to register on the radar. Cheers, sir!
I can't help reading this without adding a nervous laughter coming from Moore. I see no way he can get around the arguments I've just leveled toward his way.

But, even in this, I can't find agreement. See, I'm not the biggest fan of Boddington's anymore. Used to like it a lot, not too much anymore. It's more beautiful looking than it is tasting.

I'd still by ole Zach a beer or three of he were ever out my way. Cheers!

The Ostrich Factor

"I want abortions safe, legal, and rare, harumph!"

That's what a lot of pro-choicers say.

Then, there's always the Cememtary of Choice, a site dedicated to remembering the thousands upon thousands of women who have died as a result of our "safe" and legal abortion laws.

Of course some might respond that all this means is that if we criminalize abortion, women will just resort to the back alley abortion scenario.

But of course that's probably not true as it wasn't true before Roe VS Wade

And of course the data could be even more off as most women wouldn't give up doctors who botched the abortion and rather said that they did it. The above findings were that of two pro-choice researchers.

So of course the "coat hanger" scare tactic is just a myth.

When Thought Experiments Turn Real...

Charlie said...

Jim, here's a thought experiment for you.

You're trapped in a burning house, with little time to escape. To the left of you lies a 1yr old baby, Eddy. Eddy is drenched in smoke, barely able to breath, and sqealing in fear of the flames. He will be burnt alive in just a few seconds. But to the right of you rests a suitcase, inside of which are 50 embryos. They too will be burnt in a few seconds.

Your goal is to save as many persons as possible. You only have time to take one item with you when you escape: either Eddy or the suitcase.

Which would you take?

Rescued from Katrina, new life for a frozen embryo

· New Orleans baby being delivered by Caesarean
· Troopers saved storage tanks in flooded hospitalSuzanne Goldenberg in Washington

The Guardian, Tuesday January 16 2007 Article history

The new baby entering the world today in New Orleans will most definitely not be called Katrina. That much is guaranteed, and when he or she is old enough to ask how he or she got here, the parents will have quite a story to tell.

The child being born by Caesarean section today to Rebekah and Glen Markham is counted as one of the earliest survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans some 18 months before his or her birth. The Markhams do not know the baby's gender.

When the hurricane hit, their baby was a frozen embryo at a fertility treatment centre at Lakeland hospital in eastern New Orleans, a part of the city that was severely affected by flooding. When the power went out, the embryo that would grow into the Markhams' baby - and the hopes of having a family for hundreds of other couples - was put at immediate risk.

The embryos, the products of in vitro fertilisation, were stored at the hospital for couples seeking to add to their families at a later date after a successful treatment, or for those whose earlier attempts to have a child had failed. There were 1,200 such embryos at the hospital.

Frozen embryos are typically stored in liquid nitrogen tanks at temperatures of 320 degrees below zero, and New Orleans in those days was sweltering. It was also lawless.

At the time, the prospect of losing their stored embryos did not even occur to the couple. Other concerns were too pressing. Ms Markham, 32, a physiotherapist, had fled New Orleans with the couple's son, Witt, who was also conceived following fertility treatment. Mr Markham, 42, a detective with the New Orleans police force, stayed on the job where he was assigned to stop looters.

But the hospital had already contacted Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Bianco, and was preparing a rescue plan for the stored embryos.

"Thank the Lord they thought about them," Ms Markham told the Times-Picayune newspaper. But for that intervention, the Markhams might never had had their baby, or the task of coming up with a way of best commemorating that odyssey of an embryo.

Friends have suggested they call their baby Harry Cane, or Cat Five - for the magnitude of storm that hit New Orleans. Mr Markham is thinking about Breeze, if it is a girl. He is also taken with Nitro, from frozen nitrogen, if it is a boy.

The hospital's rescue plan began two days before Katrina made landfall. At the fertility clinic housed on its premises, technicians moved the embryos, stored in individual labelled vials for each family, into four large canisters of liquid nitrogen. The technicians then topped off those tanks with additional nitrogen, and moved the embryos to the third floor of the hospital.

Even if the waters rose, the embryos would remain dry. But Katrina's eight foot surge of water knocked out the electricity supply for the hospital. While the embryos inside the tanks might have survived in an air-conditioned room, doctors knew they would not last long in the subtropical temperatures. "We were troubled about the embryos and how we could easily access the hospital," Dr Brenda Sartor told the newspaper. "The city was still in lockdown mode, and we knew it would have to be coordinated through a civil authority."

After a few calls, the hospital arranged for state troopers and visiting police officers from Illinois to rescue the embryos. The police, accompanied by two doctors, set out in trucks, towing flat bottomed boats behind them.

Once inside the hospital, they paddled through flooded hallways until they reached the third floor, taking care to keep the storage tanks upright so the nitrogen would not spill, and compromise the embryos.

The Markhams' baby will be the second delivery from the rescued embryos. A Mississippi couple had twins last month.

"This is something the baby will always be able to tell, about his rescue and birth," Ms Markham said. "People like to hear good from something so devastating."

Couple celebrate birth of son after embryo rescued from Katrina floods

Last updated at 18:05 16 January 2007

A couple whose frozen embryo was rescued from a flooded hospital after Hurricane Katrina hit have had a baby boy - and named him Noah.

Noah Markham was born by Caesarean section at St Tammany Hospital weighing 8 pounds and 6 1/2 ounces. His mother, Rebekah Markham, had decided on the name "because God put it on his heart to build an ark." Doctors said the baby boy was in good shape.
Relatives gathered around as father Glen Markham carried the baby downstairs to meet them. For a few seconds he tried to make them guess whether the baby in the pink-and-blue striped cap was a boy or a girl, then he said: "It's a boy" to an eruption of cheers and applause.

His grandmother, Lezette Crosby, got on the telephone to another relative: "It's Noah, Noah, it's a boy."

When Katrina struck, the baby was one of 1,400 embryos frozen for storage in canisters of liquid nitrogen at a hospital in eastern New Orleans. Rebekah Markham, 32, had evacuated before the hurricane with their toddler, Glen Witter "Witt" Markham Jr. Her husband, a New Orleans police officer, stayed to work.
Mother and son actually evacuated twice. The first time was to relatives' about a half-hour from their brick-and-tan-siding home, nestled among 40-foot-tall (12-metre) pine trees in Covington.

But the storm toppled trees and cut electricity across south Louisiana. Their first refuge became a poor place to care for a toddler who had turned 1 only 10 days before the storm, so they went to Rebekah Markham's sister's home in central Louisiana.

A cell phone text message - "R U OK?" - the day after the storm told her that her husband had survived. He was stationed across the Mississippi River from flooded parts of the city. But it had its own dangers. One member of his squad was shot in the head on August 29 after confronting looters at a gas station.

Markham, 42, never got his wife's answer to his text query. His phone's battery was dead. "It was about two weeks before I found out that they were OK," he said.
It took longer than that to have time to think about the embryos. When Rebekah Markham called, she learned that they had been rescued.

Dr Belinda "Sissy" Sartor of The Fertility Institute of New Orleans and the clinic's lab director, Roman Pyrzak, had led seven Illinois Conservation Police officers and three from Louisiana State Police on a rescue expedition to the facility in flat-bottomed boats brought from Illinois.

Witt is also an in-vitro baby. His embryo was created at the same time as his brother's or sister's, but it was implanted immediately, while five others were frozen in case of miscarriage - and because the Markhams always wanted more than one child.

They are not sure whether they will have a third. "I thought three would be the ideal number," Rebekah Markham has said. But her medical problems have required bedrest for the first three months of each pregnancy. "And I was even more sick with this one than with Witt."

They also needed a lot of family help to take care of Witt, a boy who never seems to stop running. So any decision probably will be postponed until both children are in school.

Sophie's Choice

Charlie said...

Jim, here's a thought experiment for you.

You're trapped in a burning house, with little time to escape. To the left of you lies a 1yr old baby, Eddy. Eddy is drenched in smoke, barely able to breath, and sqealing in fear of the flames. He will be burnt alive in just a few seconds. But to the right of you rests a suitcase, inside of which are 50 embryos. They too will be burnt in a few seconds.

Your goal is to save as many persons as possible. You only have time to take one item with you when you escape: either Eddy or the suitcase.

Which would you take?

I assume the purpose of this hypothetical is to create a wedge to then justify abortion. If the prolifer admits that he’d save Eddy instead of the suitcase, then Charlie will exclaim that prolifers really don’t believe that human embryos are persons or human beings. So how should a prolifer answer this question? And what would such a “concession” amount to?

1. It’s easy to come up with ethical dilemmas which make us squirm. All that means is that we can dream up scenarios in which there is no good choice. Every choice is a bad choice. Not necessarily a wrong choice, but a bad choice.

2. Suppose we save Eddy instead of the suitcase. What does that prove?

A prolifer might save Eddy, not because he thinks that Eddy is more human or more valuable, but because a one-year old baby has more capacity for pain than an embryo (with its underdeveloped nervous system). He might save Eddy because that’s a more merciful choice.

3. Or take a different scenario. We have two patients with liver failure. One is a 14-year-old boy, the other is a middle-aged alcoholic. Who do we give the donated liver to?

We give the liver to the 14-year-old boy. Why? Is that because we value his life over the life of the middle-aged alcoholic? Is that because we think the 14-year-old boy is more human than the middle-aged alcoholic?

No. Our reasoning is more like this: we figure the 14-year-old boy has more of a life ahead of him. We also figure that the middle-aged man is culpable for the situation he finds himself in. He was born with a perfectly good liver. He abused it. He blew his chance.

If we had two donated livers to spare, we’d give one to each. But since we don’t, the 14-year-old gets the transplant.

4. Or take a Sophie’s Choice dilemma. If she gives up one child to save another, does that mean she values one more than another? That she regards one as more human than another?

No. It may be a purely arbitrary choice.

BTW, if I were in her situation, I wouldn’t choose one child over the other. I’d tell the Nazi guard that if he forces me to choose, then he might as well shoot all three of us.

5. Or take another scenario. On the one hand, a kindergarten is on fire. I hear kids screaming inside. On the other hand, I see a 2-year-old walking over to a rattlesnake. Do I save the 2-year old, or do I try to rescue some of the kindergartners?

Logically, I’d sacrifice the 2-year-old. But, in reality, I might save him instead.

Why? Because there’s a natural tendency to save the person we can see, not the person we can’t.

I can see him. The trusting eyes. The pleading eyes. The gut-wrenching contrast between my sense of his danger and his childish obliviousness to his own peril. I’m close to him. A few feet away. All this triggers my protective, paternal instincts.

It may not be logical, but if I save him instead, that’s not because I value him more than the kids inside the kindergarten. It’s not because I think he’s more human.

It’s simply a natural human response. That’s how our empathy is wired.

6. We also place more value on our own children than on other children. This doesn’t mean we think they’re more intrinsically valuable. Or more human. But they mean more to us. We love them more. And we have a greater duty to them.

7. There’s also a difference between an embryo inside the womb and an embryo outside the womb. Both are human, but we can predict the fate of an embryo inside the womb with more confidence than the fate of an embryo outside the womb.

Even if I save the suitcase, I still don’t know what will become of them in the long-run. Will they survive? Will they ever be implanted? Ever be born?

8. To take a comparison: suppose there’s a fire at the hospital. Do you save the comatose patient or the lucid patient beside him?

You save the lucid patient because you don’t know if the comatose patient will ever come out of his coma.

This doesn’t mean he’s subhuman. And it doesn’t mean that you kill him.

It just means that if you’re forced to choose between the two, quality of life can be a consideration.

Likewise, would you save the terminal cancer patient or the patient who’s recovering from an appendectomy?

As a rule, you’d sacrifice the cancer patient.

An exception might be if he’s your father or brother.

As a rule, there is a difference between taking life and saving life. There are situations where quality of life is relevant to saving life, but not to taking life.

There are some extreme cases where quality of life is also relevant to the taking of life. On 9/11 we saw some victims jump from burning skyscrapers.

9. Of course, one doesn’t base public policy on the most extreme examples imaginable. Exceptional cases are just that.

10.Finally, the prolifer might opt to save the suitcase instead of Eddy. I’m just making that point that even if he didn’t, this doesn’t prove what the abortionist is trying to prove.



“Racial differences caused by climate variations are not restricted to climate adaptations. For example, cold weather played a role in increasing the brain size of European hominids, but once the extra cerebral matter was there, natural selection found ways to put it to work that had nothing to do with the weather.”

I’d like to see your evidence that encephalization is a climatic adaptation, not to mention your application of that claim to white superiority.

i) If encephalization confers a survival advantage, then how did hominids survive before they evolved bigger brains?

ii) "Hominids” occupy inhospitable regions through out world. If encephalization is an adaptation to environmental challenges, then that would apply with equal force to many different races, not just “European hominids.”

“Mixing races undoes the natural process of genetic mismatch weeding and "sets the clock back" by a dozen generations or more, since it will take that long, assuming that no more racial mixing occurs in the family line, to recover the inner harmony of the genotype.”

I also don’t see how your appeal to evolution justifies your opposition to interracial mating. As one evolutionary biologist explains:

“Physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, shape of the incisors, and stature vary geographically in humans, and they have been used by various authors to define anywhere from 3 to more than 60 ‘races.’ The number of races is arbitrary, for each supposed racial group can be subdivided into an indefinite number of distinct populations. Among Africans, for example, Congo pygmies are the shortest of humans, and Masai are among the tallest. Variation in allozyme allele frequencies among villages of the Yanomama tribe in Venezuela is as great as it is among the Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasoid ‘races” taken as a whole. The pattern of overall genetic variation among human populations, determined from proteins and other molecular markers, differs substantially from traditional racial divisions. Genetic differences among human populations consist of allele frequency differences only: at no known loci are ‘races’ or other regional populations fixed for different alles,” D. Futuyma, Evolution (Sinauer 2005), 220.

Continuing with David:

“There is no such thing as a ‘biracial child.’ Children who are called that actually have no race at all.”

Which just goes to show the fairly arbitrary character of racial classifications.

“If you changed your race, either of two things would happen to your IQ. If you remained at the same percentile in your new race as your old race, then you'd either be smarter or stupider, depending on whether the new race's average IQ was higher or lower than the other race's average IQ.__On the other hand, maybe you figure you can keep the same IQ by having a different spot on the "bell curve" of the new race than the one you had on the curve for the old race. In the latter case, you're not only changing your race, you'd also be changing your LUCK, and if you could do that, why not wish genius upon yourself while you're at it? And a pile of money. Wings, too.”

You’re confusing individual identity with group identity. A human being is not a statistical mean. My membership in a particular social group tells you precious little about my unique, individual characteristics. I might be a member of a football team. That tells you next to nothing about my athletic ability. I’m might be the star player or a backbencher.

“Your family is more closely related to you than most of your race is.”

That’s true with reference to offspring. However, families include in-laws as well as blood-relatives. Husbands and wives, mothers-in-law and fathers-in law, in addition to parents, children, and siblings.

Therefore, your racial argument breaks down since in-laws need not be members of the same race.

And, of course, a child can be related to more than one race if his parents belong to two different races.

“But the hominids of our times are largely characterized by race, which is proved by the fact that more hominid populations are found in clumps than between them.”

Of course, people tend to “clump” together for reasons of nationality or locality rather than race, per se. We generally prefer to live with the people we grew up with, went to school with, people of the same social class, people who speak the same language, &c.

This “clumping” can occur, by turns, in a racially homogenous environment (e.g. Norway) or a racially heterogeneous environment (e.g. New York, SoCal).

“Race is why emotional bonds evolved.”

I can’t form a close emotional bond with member of another race?

“Love evolved as an emotional pressure to remain in the service of someone else, or several someones else, when it would be contrary to your personal interest to do so.”

So I fall in love with a girl to remain in her “service”? It’s contrary to my “personal interest” to fall in love with the girl in question?

“It came from natural selection with events in which a person sacrificed his own interests to those persons most nearly related to him, so that his genes (incorporated in the bodies of those other people) would gain an advantage that they could not gain if the sacrifice had not been made.”

I don’t know what planet you live on, but in my world mating criteria have far more to do with who’s good looking, and not what race they are. Another criterion has to do with one’s bank account.

“That's why love causes people to do ‘crazy’ things, like willingly dying to save their children, to name an instance that might not seem all that crazy to most people. Biological relatedness is intrinsic to an emotional bond, and anyone who denies it is kidding someone... perhaps himself.”

What about military heroism—where one soldier will die for his biologically unrelated comrade?

“Being close to your White family members does not mean that you are AS CLOSE to the members of a different White family. But you are indeed ‘closer’ (emotionally) to that other White family than you could ever be to a Black family.”

You have a habit of making dogmatic assertions without any empirical evidence, and in the teeth of empirical evidence to the contrary. It’s perfectly absurd to say that a white man will be emotionally closer to any white family than he’ll be to any black (Asian, Latino, Indian, &c.) family.

“Being White DOES mean that you are related to me.”

By that token, I’m also related to Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Josef Mengele. Sorry to disappoint you, but that doesn’t begin to create an emotional bond.

“If your best friend is someone of another race, then you have had a very unusual life.”

An unusual life where? Iceland? Tibet? Paris? New York? SoCal?

“Cultural conditioning for White people is all about dispossessing them of their racial identity.”

Which doesn’t mean we should adopt your reactionary alternative.

“To the extent they still have it, they've had to oppose the conditioning of the parts of the ambient culture (which is created by Jews and disseminated via the media) that would have them discard it. The culture tells White people that race does not matter, that it's only skin color.”

To the contrary, the liberal establishment is fixated on race. And you are the mirror image of the liberal establishment. You share the same obsession with identity politics.

“There's a correlation between race and culture because culture originates in race. That is, a culture grows out of a race as your hair and fingernails grow from your body.”

That’s another absurd statement. Culture originates in many things—not least of which is geography.

In addition, Western civilization has many different cultures and ethnicities feeding into it. Same thing with the ANE.

“America originally was composed of White free citizens. Negroes did some labor, but the did not count insofar as America's founding went. All the Founding Fathers were White, not just some of them. Negroes neither made the decisions, nor participated in choosing the men who did make them. And because America was White, it prospered and grew strong enough to throw off colonialism and become independent - and do even better independent than under colonialism (something that not all former colonies can truthfully claim).”

Other issues to one side, let’s take two issues:

i) Western Civilization is a cross-cultural amalgam of Greco-Roman culture with Judeo-Christian culture. Do you include the Jewish input in your definition of “White”? Where does a Jewish book (i.e. the Bible) figure in your cultural synthesis?

ii) What about Latinos? What about Latin America? That was settled by another European colonial power. Is that white or non-white in your book?

“A grave mistake was made in the middle 19th century, when leaders in the North and in the South permitted Jewish bankers in Europe to turn America against itself in a bloody war, out of which both sides emerged burdened with war debt in the Jews' favor.”

Ah, yes, the International Jewish Conspiracy. Odd how that failed to prevent the Holocaust.

“But those mistakes occurred because Jews were not kept out of the United States, as they should have been.”

That “mistake” probably occurred because white settlers had a nasty habit of reading a book by Jews about a Jewish messiah. It’s set us back centuries from our noble Nordic-Teutonic pantheon. No wonder Thor no longer answers our prayers.

BTW, why do you have a Jewish name, David?

“Letting Jews come into America along with White immigrants was the original mistake of the United States, the mistake that led directly to the others.”

Notice that David is switching horses in midstream. All this talk of white bonding, but he complains that we allowed the wrong white immigrants to settle here. There are good white immigrants and bad white immigrants. And here I thought we were all one big family.

Isn’t in time that we identify the phenotype which distinguishes the right kind of white immigrant from the wrong kind of white immigrant? Without these genetic markers, how can we prevent ‘mismatches’ between right whites and Jacobite whites?

“Without the Jews, the Negroes would have been shipped back to Africa in the last half of the 19th century (at which time, they were willing to go).”

And I’m sure the Iroquois would be more than happy to ship you back to wherever your ancestors originally came from.

“There has been limited racial interbreeding, and although White people have been intimidated (with laws) to the point of fearing to show their distaste for mixed children (and for the White parents who helped to produce them), that distaste has not gone away. It remains, and you can see it in glances followed by a quick look-away. Once it was followed by a frown, but as I said, laws have intimidated White people to the point of making them fear to show what they really think.”

You mean, like the reaction many people have at the sight of skinheads and Klansmen and other “white nationalists”?

“Anyone who refers to White nationalism as supremacy has been getting too much misinformation from Jewish TV.”

Yes, the Mossad is beaming Zionist signals to my satellite dish. I think I’m watching a commercial for Count Chocula, but it’s really a subliminal message to vote for neocon candidates.

Speaking of which—why is the "Jewish media" so hostile to Bush's neocon foreign policy? And why isn't it doing more to support McCain's neocon foreign policy?

Economic justice


“You show me where the N.T. condemns slavery and doesn't explicitly endorse it.”

Several issues here:

i) As I’ve said on more than one occasion, Biblical law is not utopian. Biblical law is adapted to a fallen world. Biblical law is adapted to the socioeconomic structures of the day.

So Biblical law often involves a practical compromise between realism and idealism.

ii) NT writers weren’t revolutionaries or anarchists. They realize that law and order is essential, even though the state may be corrupt in varying degrees.

iii) As one scholar points out, “The ancient Hebrews as a people knew slavery in their Egyptian bondage (Exod 1:10-14; 5:5-14), from which they eventually were led to be free people under Moses (Exod 12:37-42). Because of that experience, Mosaic legislation developed certain rules about the keeping of slaves: ‘Remember that once you were salves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you; that is why I give you this order today’ (Deut 15:15; cf. Lev 25:42-45,55). Even though slavery as a social and economic institution was recognized in ancient Israel, there was a clear attempt to humanize it in a way that set Israel apart from its neighbors. The social and economic structure of ancient Palestine was not, therefore, built on slavery, as it often was in other contemporary cultures and lands,” J. Fitzmyer, The Letter to Philemon, 29.

iv) This stands in contrast to Southern slavery. The agrarian economy of the Old South was labor-intensive. Slaves were an easy source of cheap, mass labor.

As such, Southern slavery is at odds with the aim of OT law, which attempts, as much as possible, to curtail a slave-based economy.

vi) Finally, as Richard Bauckham has documented in “The Economic Critique of Rome in Revelation 18” (The Climax of Prophecy, chap. 10), the NT does attack an economic system which is dependent on forced labor.

By analogy, that would also apply to Southern slavery.

The Case for Global Warming Skepticism

One of the hot-button environmental issues is Global Warming. While some people argue we must be more specific and refer to “anthropogenic Global Warming,” I do not do so. Not because I think humans are not affecting the environment in any way, but because I think it is scientifically impossible to accurately measure the temperature and compare it to historical trends in the first place. And if it is scientifically impossible to do so, then all Global Warming (anthropogenic or natural) is unscientific.

In order to demonstrate the scientific problems with Global Warming, we must first understand a bit of how scientific experiments work. The two key concepts will be our understanding of precision and accuracy. Without these two ideas firmly in place, we cannot even begin to weigh the evidence presented for Global Warming.

While precision and accuracy are often thought of as being identical concepts, in science there is a specific difference between the two. Precision refers to the level of certainty an instrument gives us. For example, if we measure time using an analogue clock with no second-hand, the clock is precise to the minute. That is, we can tell that it is 10:58. But we do not know if it is 10:58:03 or 10:58:57. On the other hand, we could have a clock with a second hand that would be more precise because it would illustrate the seconds. Furthermore, we could have a digital clock that would be able to give us fractions of a second as well.

However, at some point the precision ends. We might be able to use a stopwatch to calculate that something took 10.874 seconds, but we wouldn’t know if it was 10.8744 or 10.8740 or (possibly, depending on the specs of the stopwatch) if it was 10.8739 and rounded.

To tell how precise an instrument is we need to know how many decimal points the measurement goes to. The more numbers after a decimal point, the more precise the measurement is. As a result, 10 seconds is not as precise as 10.0 seconds (since 10 seconds could be rounded from 10.3 or 9.7, etc. while 10.0 could only be rounded from, say 10.03) and 10.000 would be even more precise.

In addition to precision, however, we must take into account the accuracy of the instrument. A stopwatch might give us a precise measurement down to the eighth decimal point (for example), but if the stopwatch is inaccurate then that precision is illusionary. For example, if two stopwatches measure the same amount of time and one says 10.000 seconds passed while another says 9.989 seconds passed, we would know that one (or both) are inaccurate instruments. There is, however, basic general agreement between the two instruments. We would be safe to say they were approximately similar, but we would need to give an error range in order to remain scientific. (And it should be noted that any scientific experiment that does not give you its error range is worthless.)

In addition to instrument accuracy we have to deal with human error. Sometimes, people misread instruments or write down the wrong number. Further, as we again use the stopwatch illustration, we have to deal with the lag between when the event being measured starts and when the experiment observer presses the button to begin the clock. This reaction delay must be figured into the experiments as well.

All that is fine and well, but what does it have to do with Global Warming? Well, first of all we know that Global Warming claims a specific temperature change over the course of the last century. For example, global temperatures are said to have risen about 0.6 degree Celsius since 1900. The problem with this is that our thermometers are far more precise today than they were in 1900 as the advancement of technology continues. Beyond that, we do not know how accurate the experimenters in 1900 were per say, or where exactly their thermometers were placed, or a host of other possible important factors to the experiment.

This is important for the simple fact that 0.6 degrees Celsius is a very small number. In fact, when you consider that most historical weather reports give temperatures in whole numbers (i.e., “On April 4, 1907, the high temperature was 68 degrees F”) this means the recorded temperature is not very precise at all.

This immediately brings us back to an important rule of precision. An experiment is only as precise as the least precise measurement used. For example, suppose you were trying to determine the volume of a cube. We know that volume is length x width x height. If we measure the length as 10.0 meters, the width as 5 meters, and the height as 14.973 meters, we multiply those numbers together to get 748.65 meters cubed. However, since the width is a whole number variable, the precision of the experiment can only be a whole number! We cannot have any decimal portion at all, so the true, scientific volume of the cube is 749 cubic meters. Due to this, the extra precision that we got measuring the height is irrelevant to the final answer. It can only be as precise as the least precise measurement.

Which means that if temperatures at any point in the data are in only whole number increments, we cannot have a temperature change of 0.6 degrees. The precision of the answer is more precise than the data given; it is invalid.

Now someone could argue that it doesn’t matter because the 0.6 degrees is in Celsius rather than in Fahrenheit, which is what virtually all of at least the earliest American data was measured in. However, this brings up another matter. The Fahrenheit scale is inherently more precise than the Celsius scale because the degrees are finer. That is, between freezing and boiling there are only 100 degrees on the Celsius scale, but there are 180 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. This means that measuring in degrees F is 1.8x more precise than measuring in C. To show why this is a problem, both 87 and 88 degrees F round to 31 C. In fact, assuming infinite precision, 87F = 30.555…C and 88F = 31.111…C, a difference of 0.555…. Or, to put it another way, about 0.6 degrees C.

This means that virtually all of the touted Global Warming temperature difference could possibly be nothing more than just the imprecision of conversion between C and F.

But there is another problem with the methodology used to calculate Global Warming. It’s based on average data. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see a report that indicates how the averages are determined. I’ve even emailed specific people who have written on the topic and gotten no response. Granted, I am pretty much unknown; still, this information is necessary for us to be able to make an informed decision as to the veracity of Global Warming.

Let me give an example of what that is the case. If the average is simply the average between the highest temperature of the day and the lowest temperature of the day, two radically different days can give the same average result. For instance, if the high was 80 degrees and the low was 40 degrees, the average would be 60. But the average would also be 60 degrees if the high was 120 and the low was 0. Granted, that is a rather extreme (and unlikely) example; but more realistically, 82H and 38L also average out to 60.

But beyond that, there are even more problems. Two days with identical highs and lows can themselves be radically different once you factor in the temperatures throughout the day. For example, suppose the high and the low occur within a 6 hour range and the two days look like this.

Day 1: hour temperatures from 6 – noon = 40, 50, 55, 60, 70, 80
Day 2: hour temperatures from 6 – noon = 40, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80

(The second day had cloud cover that kept the cooler temperatures in the morning, but once the clouds burned off the heat increased.)

The average (keeping the precision of the “experiment” above) of all the numbers for Day 1 = 59 degrees. The average for Day 2 = 57 degrees. That’s 2 degrees F different, more than 1 whole degree C too…and neither of those matches the 60 degree average between the high and the low alone.

While those numbers are arbitrary, they are not unlikely numbers at all. Indeed, it is very probable that the cloud cover effect could happen in the morning while the afternoon temperatures remain similar.

It is therefore critically important that we know how the averages are calculated. Indeed, another possible way that averages are collected is by simply taking the high temperature for the date and averaging it out for every other year for that same date. I.e., saying “The average high temperature on June 7 is 87 degrees.” In addition to not accurately representing how hot a day actually is (given the above, since two days with the same high can have radically different average temperatures when you break the day down hour-by-hour), we are also left with the fact that averaging on a daily basis ignores an important calendar phenomenon.

Leap year.

Yup, that pesky leap year thing throws off our precision because comparing June 7 of this year to June 7 of last year is not a precise comparison. The Earth is not in exactly the same place as it was that time last year (of course this also ignores the rotation of the solar system, etc. which probably would affect temperature well below the precision our instruments can detect anyway). In fact, it is possible that June 7 of this year is more likely correlated to June 6 of three years ago than June 7 of last year. As a result, “record highs for this date” are also pretty much pointless. They’re okay for giving a general idea of the weather, but they play havoc with trying to maintain any kind of precision on temperatures.

Unfortunately, I do not know which method scientists actually use to try to determine the average temperatures and to come up with their number of 0.6 degrees C. As I stated earlier, no one that I’ve e-mailed about this topic has ever bothered to answer my question. In order to make an informed decision, we must know this.

But even not knowing the actual method used, the methods I’ve shown above would be unable to provide any precise data for the past 100 years. And I do not see how any other method of determining this number could work. As a result, I have no reason to believe in Global Warming at all, let alone anthropogenic Global Warming. Scientists must provide the details of their experiments, the details of how they determined these averages, the error bars for the temperatures collected at the beginning of the 20th Century, etc. before we can even hope to accept it as a theory. Anything less than this disclosure renders Global Warming as unscientific.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some "Moore" on Abortion

Since we've been dealing with abortion as of late...

Scientist Zach Moore opted to step outside his area of expertise and engage Craig Sowder in the abortion debate.

Moore said he wanted abortions, in a "perfect world," safe, rare, and legal. Craig wondered, "Why rare?"

"The rarity I would like to see for these procedures isn't inspired by any intrinsic immorality, but because it's such a difficult choice for women"
Why have a "perfect world" where abortions are rare do to the above rather than one where the "difficulty" of the choice is eliminated?

Moore's done nothing to non-arbitrarily answer Craig. He simply announces what would and wouldn't comprise a "optimal world". But it's subjective. One could get rid of the angst, in the perfect world, and solve the problem that way.

Furthermore, perhaps women should be educated. Why is there angst? They don't have the same angst when "departing" with unsightly moles. Indeed, one could argue that the angst is a holdover from theistic beliefs about the womb and conception. We need to educate the masses. And of course Moore's perfect world would have educated people, people with no holdovers from the ancient, dark times of man's history.

So, why rare?

Next, Moore asserted that all humans, and by implication, women, have complete autonomy over their body, and can do whatever they want with it or any entity residing in it. So Craig rightly wondered if Moore's position entailed that claim that "You shall not murder," as admitting of exceptions.

"Yes, if someone could prove to me that a fetus is a person, then I would still agree that a woman's personal sovereignty takes moral precedence."
So, Moore thinks "personhood" (or, if he will, humanity) doesn't matter for his argument. I beg to differ, for more than one reason:

First, it's not true that all humans have sovereignty over their body and can do what they will with it making what they do ethically okay. They can't (well, shouldn't) strap bombs to it and run into occupied office buildings. Of course, Moore may say that their sovereignty stops just at that point where they are hindering another human's sovereignty over his or her body not to be blown to bits. But of course, as should be obvious, this response rather removes the teeth from his entire position. Indeed, Moore's (radical) libertarianism is undercut since he is now forced to add that some humans (the fetuses) do not have sovereignty over their bodies! It looks like special pleading to dismiss, out of hand, the fetus's sovereignty. Moore just can't think far enough to consider the logic of the case.

Second, Moore basis rights on accidental features of the world, i.e., a person's location. Of course it's completely arbitrary to simply announce that one's location determines whether he has any right to life. Moore's placing the location in the womb is no more arbitrary than Hitler placing the location somewhere in the Middle East. In fact, as almost all ethicists will tell you, morally irrelevant facts shouldn't factor into moral principles. That's one reason why racism is ethically backwoods. It take a non-moral fact, skin color, and tries to make it a basis for moral facts. Skin color, location, size, level of development, etc., are morally irrelevant to questions of morality.

Third, another thing Craig might want to ask, it seems that not only do we have exceptions to murder, but sometimes parents don't have obligations toward their young children. Since we're dealing with a mother taking the life of her child, we have another moral consideration in play. Do we have exceptions here, too?

Fourth, as Moore should know, we can achieve conception in a Petri dish, soon we will be able to bring a child forth that spent all three trimesters in an artificial womb. Assume that Moore doesn't hold to "Petri dish sovereignty," would he then say (remembering that we assuming the humanity of the fetus since it supposedly "doesn't matter either way" for Moore's argument) that no one can kill these babies? What will happen to Moore's support for stem cell research, then?

Moore tries to give an argument from parity, claiming that even Craig believes it morally acceptable commit premeditated murder, to take the life of an innocent person outside of a context war, and usually for the sole purpose that it is believed killing said innocent human will make one's life easier; whether economically, psychologically, or socially.

"Yes, this means that the premeditated taking of human life is ethical under certain conditions. The "Trolley Problem" is a common example, and most people will take a life in that situation."
And of course this is totally disanalogous. The "Trolley Problem" is what's known as an "ethical dilemma" because either way you go, you end up killing people. It's a forced moral decision. It's also not proper to call the decision of the switch-thrower as committing a premeditated taking of innocent life, or, more properly, premeditated murder.

One quick source, Wiki, tells us:


Premeditation, frequently referred to in the vernacular with the term "in cold blood", is contemplation of acting out an intended crime, thinking about, planning, or plotting a crime beforehand[1] and not in a moment of duress[2] or imminent danger.[3] The amount of time necessary between planning and the act to prove premeditation...cannot be arbitrarily fixed.[4] Premeditation in the context of murder describes actions which were planned prior to their being executed. The establishment of premeditation in homicide generally carries with it the inability to argue innocence by cause of insanity.


So Moore's case is just another irrational attempt to justify the obviously wrong.

The Christ Bowl

I recently received an e-mail concerning the discovery of an ancient bowl that might refer to Jesus. Ben Witherington has written about it here and here. I'm skeptical that it refers to Jesus Christ, but I think that the bowl has little significance even if it does refer to Him. It would add weight to some conclusions that are already well-supported by other evidence. Even if it would be the earliest extant reference to Jesus as a magician, we already know that such interpretations of Jesus were circulating early on.

If the bowl is referring to Jesus Christ, it may be another example of an early non-Christian attempt to explain His miracles. The early Christians and their enemies didn't disagree over whether Jesus performed apparent miracles. What they disagreed about was how He did so. Josephus, the Talmud, and other early non-Christian sources explain Jesus' apparent miracles as Satanic, sorcery, or trickery, for example. Arnobius commented that the enemies of Christianity "commonly" (Against The Heathen, 1:43) made the charge that Jesus was a magician.

A few years ago, I wrote two articles on the uniqueness of Jesus' miracles: here and here. Glenn Miller has written a series of articles on evidence for Jesus' miracles, including one about some of the early references to Jesus' miracles in non-Christian sources. Apollonius of Tyana is often cited as a parallel to Jesus, but there are many problems with that argument, as discussed here and here. Regarding the apparent corroboration of the darkness at Jesus' crucifixion in Thallus, see here, here, and here.

"Christians claimed that the miracles of Jesus proved he was the son of God. The most obvious way for Celsus to respond to such a claim was to deny that Jesus had performed the wonders attributed to him. But he did not take this approach. He was willing to grant that Jesus actually did the things the Gospels record, 'cures or resurrections or a few loaves feeding many people, from which many fragments were left over, or any other monstrous tales...related by his disciples' (c. Cels. 1.68). Celsus did not dispute that Jesus performed miracles. What he wanted to know was: by whose power was he able to accomplish such wonders?" (Robert Wilken, The Christians As The Romans Saw Them [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984], p. 100)

"He [Julian the Apostate] allows that Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus, at the time of the taxing made in Judea by Cyrenius: that the Christian religion had its rise and began to be propagated in the times of the emperors Tiberius and Claudius. He bears witness to the genuineness and authenticity of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Acts of the Apostles: and he so quotes them, as to intimate, that these were the only historical books received by Christians as of authority, and the only authentic memoirs of Jesus Christ and his apostles, and the doctrine preached by them. He allows their early date, and even argues for it. He also quotes, or plainly refers to the Acts of the Apostles, to St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians. He does not deny the miracles of Jesus Christ, but allows him to have ’healed the blind, and the lame, and demoniacs,’ and ’to have rebuked the winds, and walked upon the waves of the sea.’ He endeavors indeed to diminish these works; but in vain." (Nathaniel Lardner, cited in Philip Schaff, History Of The Christian Church, Vol. 3, 2:9)

9/11 Truthers

Last month, Mike Butler posted the latest installment in his ongoing series defending the 9/11 Truthers. I notice that Turretin Fan took issue with his post. Turretin Fan was then criticized for his failure to furnish suitable evidence to back up his claims.

Speaking for myself, I’m not a 9/11 Truther because I’m just to sceptical be a 9/11 Truther. It demands a high degree of credulity to be a 9/11 Truther, and I can’t muster the requisite level of credulity.

The demand for evidence is a two-way street. Before I could respond to someone like Butler, I’d need to know which 9/11 conspiracy theory he subscribes to. Different versions have different implications.

For example, does he believe that real airplanes flew into real skyscrapers? Or was that staged in a Hollywood movie studio?

If so, then that 9/11 conspiracy theory would require the complicity of the national and international news media, as well as about 8 million New Yorkers.

Assuming he even grants the fact that real airplanes flew into real skyscrapers, were these piloted by Arab terrorists? Or does he have a Universal Soldier scenario in mind, where rogue gov’t officials sent UniSols on a suicide mission? And were their cooling units destroyed to eradicate the evidence?

The difficulty of a large-scale conspiracy is twofold:

i) The more people you tell a secret to, the harder it is to keep your secret a secret. A certain number of coconspirators has to be in the loop to plan and execute the plot.

And, before you approach then, you don’t know in advance which ones will agree to participate. If you approach the wrong person, you’ve tipped your hand too soon. He will report your intentions to the authorities or the news media.

ii) By the same token, many other people must be kept out of the loop.

In addition, what happens when someone like Robert Gates takes over from one of the original conspirators? In his new position, Gates is certainly in a position to find out who did what. Is he part of the gov’t cover up?

What conspiracy theory is Butler advancing? What rogue gov’t officials would have to be involved to pull it off? Are we talking about the president, vice president, secretary of state, secretary of defense, attorney general, NORAD, CENTCOM, NSA, FBI, CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, &c?

Does it start at the top? And how many subordinates must be involved? How far down the ladder does the conspiracy reach? Were the boys at the Weekly Standard in on the plot?

Or does he think that 9/11 was the work of wily, neocon subordinates who kept their superiors in the dark? Did Karl Rove, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz hatch this plot in a sauna somewhere, and manage to hoodwink their superiors? And how did they manage to requisition all the manpower and material needed to pull it off? Are we back to the UniSols?

I would like to see the specific evidence for the specific theory that Butler is advancing. He floats the notion of a “small cadre of rogue government officials” behind the plot.

But would a “small cadre” be sufficient? Where is the concrete evidence? Name names! Who said what to whom?

iii) Another reason I’m not a 9/11 Truther is that Bush has too many enemies, both inside of gov’t and outside of gov’t, to keep the lid on this conspiracy. Many anonymous sources inside gov’t have been leaking information to the NYT and other organs of the news media.

Many of his opponents are spoiling to take him down. If there’s probative evidence that 9/11 was an inside job, then why haven’t Congressional Democrats as well as liberal pundits used that to destroy the Bush administration? They have every incentive to do so.

Or does Butler think Congressional Democrats, along with the news media, are all on the take?

Why about earlier critics of the Bush administration like Michael Scheuer and Richard Clarke? Why didn’t they produce the goods on Bush?

iv) When Rosie O'Donnell said 9/11 was an inside job, Popular Mechanics shot her down. Are the employees at Popular Mechanics on the secret payroll of rogue gov’t officials?

Why does Noam Chomsky repudiate the 9/11 Truthers? Does Butler think that Chomsky is really a right-wing zealot of the Gordon Liddy stripe who was recruited in college by the CIA (back when Chomsky was a covert member of the John Birth Society) to cultivate his street creed as a radical, anti-American academic so that—when the time came—rogue gov’t officials could roll him out to debunk the 9/11 Truthers? Like Sen. Pardek in the Star Trek episode?

I’m afraid and I’m not gullible enough to believe everything that Butler is prepared to believe.

There are some other problems with his argument.

iv) He cites Pearl Harbor as precedent. But there are two difficulties with that appeal:

a) He’s using one conspiracy theory to prop up another conspiracy theory.

b) The gov’t is not an individual. The gov’t does not have a modus operandi in the same sense that an individual may have a modus operandi. Due to rapid turnover, it isn’t the same set of officials from one generation to another. Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that FDR was a conspirator, this doesn’t create any presumption that Bush is a conspirator too.

v) He also says that men like Stalin have gotten away with similar things in the past. But that’s a very loose analogy.

I don’t deny that gov’t officials lie to the public from time to time. But that’s a calculated risk.

Stalin was a despot. He wasn’t assuming much of a personal risk. In his position, he was pretty immune to reprisal—as his opponents found out.

By contrast, Bush, Cheney, and the other conspirators would be taking a tremendous personal risk if their plot were uncovered. What possible benefit would outweigh the cost of exposure?

vi) Butler also makes allegations about Bush and Cheney that he doesn’t bother to document. What’s his source of information? The Cigarette-Smoking Man?