Saturday, June 20, 2015

Criminalize guns, decriminalize drugs

Many people who support the criminalization of private gun ownership are the very same people who support the decriminalization of hard drugs. 

The case for decriminalizing hard drugs goes something like this: The "war on drugs" is an abject failure. Not only a failure, but counterproductive. Criminalizing drugs created a black market for drugs. It fueled organized crime, viz. drug smuggling from Latin American drug cartels–as well as domestic production (e.g. meth labs). It created a police state apparatus (e.g. SWAT teams; no-knock raids). And it had a disparate impact on minority communities. Minorities are more likely to be arrested on drug charges.

And I think that characterization is factually accurate. The question is whether the alternative is even worse. Both criminalizing and decriminalizing hard drugs will have dramatic tradeoffs. 

But the purpose of this post is not to debate the pros and cons of that issue. Rather, this is my point:

The same argument which liberals use respecting the criminalization of drugs applies to the criminalization of firearms. 

Now, gun-control advocates really want a national gun ban, along with gun confiscation. They don't admit that upfront. Rather, they pursue an incremental strategy. But restricting gun ownership to the police is their ultimate goal.

Suppose they got their wish. Suppose they succeeding in passing a national ban on private gun ownership (not to mention confiscation). What would be the result?

Wouldn't the predictable result parallel the "war on drugs"? It would create a black market for contraband firearms. So long as there's a demand, there will be suppliers to cash in on that lucrative market. It would foster organized crime. Gun traffickers. It would have a disparate impact on minority communities–where gun-related violence is rife. And it would expand the police state. 

The Better Angels of Our Nature

In the wake of the Chas church shooting, we have the predictable demand for gun bans. 
Steven PInker wrote a book that's very popular among secular humanists: The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
Pinker's book has many critics. But let's assume for the sake of argument that his trajectory is accurate. Guns didn't even exist for most of human history. So, according to Pinker, at the very time when you have far more violent deaths (percentage-wise), you had zero access to guns. By definition, there could be no gun-related violence before guns were invented. Conversely, violent death has gone down at the same time access to guns has gone up. An inverse ratio between gun-ownership and violent death.

I'd add that even if you disagree with Pinker's dubious stats, it's still the case that human history was enormously violent long before the advent of guns. Mass murder doesn't require guns. Massacres were committed far and wide without gun access. 

Gun bans and police brutality

Whenever you have an incident like the Chas church shooting, the preexisting anti-gun lobby springs into action. It's just like atheists who repeat their stale arguments about the problem of evil every time there's a natural disaster. 

I'd just like to make a little observation. On the one hand, these are people who don't think private citizens should own guns. Guns should only be in the hands of the police.

On the other hand, many of these same people decry police brutality. But in that case, they don't think the police can be trusted with firearms.

Moreover, if the police have a monopoly on guns, that will embolden them to be even more abusive to a disarmed and defenseless citizenry. 

"Collective racism"

But the deeper sin of the collective racism of our country that supports and nurtures killers like Dylann Roof...

Unfortunately, Enns fails to enlighten the reader on how our country's collective racism supports and nurtures killers like Roof. 

If that's the explanation for killers like Roof, what's the explanation for the Columbine killers? Or Timothy McVeigh? Or Ted Bundy? Or the Green River Killer? Or Jeffrey Dahmer. Or the black mother (Hyphernkemberly Dorvilier) who doused her newborn with lighter fluid, then burned it to death?

Is a collective ideology behind these acts? Why is that the first explanation we should reach for? Whatever happened to personal accountability? Why not say some people are just plain evil? Really evil?

Sometimes a culture or collective ideology can foster violence. We see that connection with Islamic terrorism. But that's because there's a pattern. It's not just isolated incidents or lone wolves. 

Likewise, the KKK was a terrorist organization–manned by Democrats–that supported and nurtured killers like Roof. But that's before the KKK was defanged. 

Does modern-day SC generally or Chas in particular suffer from "collective racism?" SC has an Indian-American governor. A black Republican senator who handily beat out white opponents, despite a majority white electorate.

The 10-term mayor of Chas is a Democrat. From 1982-2005, Chas had a black police chief. 

What was the collective racism that allegedly nurtured Roof? Suppose he was influenced by Stormfront. That's hardly the face of systemic or institutional racism. Rather, that's a group on the margins of society. 

In all likelihood, the system will charge Roof with nine counts of capital murder. 

The Confederate flag

Every time you have an incident like the Chas shooting, there's the predictable call to get rid of the Confederate flag. I'll venture a few personal observations:

i) I have ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War. My great-grandfather, who fought with the Union, used to horrify my father with war stories about how he and his comrades used the black cooks as target practice if they didn't like the chow. And that was the side that liberated the slaves.

I've lived in the Deep South. I generally feel closer to my Southern relatives than my Northern relatives. But I grew up in the North.

I think I'm just Southern enough to understand how some white Southerners feel about the Civil War and the Confederate flag without feeling the way they feel about it. 

ii) The Confederate flag means nothing to me. And flying the flag can be tactless or provocative. 

Certainly there are times when we should resist conforming to other people's feelings. That becomes tyrannical. But it depends on whether or not this is a worthy cause. 

I think the Confederate flag can become an idol. It's the wrong way to make a statement. It's too tainted to be a useful symbol. 

iii) However, I think both sides make this more important than it really is. Both sides take it way too seriously. 

The problems facing the black community aren't related in any way to some people who fly the Confederate flag. It becomes a diversionary tactic. A debate over empty symbolism that deflects attention from real problems and real solutions. 

Moreover, it's a futile debate. Although one can (and should) prohibit state agencies from flying the Confederate flag, one can't prohibit private individuals from doing so. It's Constitutionally protected free expression.

iv) I'd also like to venture a few observations about the Civil War. I think the Civil War had many villains and few heroes. And I apply that to both sides of the conflict. From what I've read, Lincoln was a tyrant. He posed a threat to democracy. He suspended habeas corpus. He imprisoned newspaper reporters who criticized the war effort. Likewise, Gen. Sherman went onto become a notorious Indian killer. 

On the other hand, Robert E. Lee was a cruel slave master. And even though the South could rightly complain about Northern oppression, that complaint was offset by Southern oppression of the black population. 

v) The best argument I've read for the Southern cause goes like this: imagine you're a Southern farmer. Not a gentleman farmer. Not a slaveowner. You have enough land and livestock to support your family. 

The reason you fight the Union is not for ideology, not to protect the institution of slavery, but to protect your family and your livelihood. If your part of the world is invaded, if that threatens the life or livelihood of your dependents, you have a right and a duty to fight back. Even if the overall cause is unworthy, even if the invaders have a worthier cause, your first priority is to protect and provide for your dependents.

I think that's a legitimate argument so far as it goes. However, it cuts both ways. It justifies slave revolts. And it justifies slaves collaborating with Union forces. Slaves can invoke the same principle in reverse. They are defending their own interests. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Labeling crime

One issue in political discourse is how to label certain crimes. The way we label crimes is a way of framing the issue. That, in turn, can be used to advance a political agenda. 

For instance, some leftwing pundits accused some rightwing pundits of racism for referring to rioters (e.g. looters, vandals, arsonists) in Ferguson and Baltimore as "thugs." They said rightwing pundits were using that as code language for the N-word. 

But for that objection to stick, critics would have to demonstrate that rightwing pundits (especially white conservatives) reserve the word "thug" for blacks. If, however, rightwing pundits use "thug" to characterize the behavior rather than the race of the agent, then the allegation is demonstrably false. For instance, I've seen Lois Lerner referred to as a thug. I've seen Eliot Spitzer called a thug. Vladimir Putin is often called a thug. And so on and so forth. 

On the heels of that, leftwing pundits accused rightwing pundits of a hypocritical double standard for calling the violent altercation between the two Texan skinhead biker gangs a "gunfight" or "shootout" rather than domestic terrorism. 

However, that's ridiculous. It's routine to refer to armed altercations between gangs or gangs and police as gunfights or shootouts. Take the North Hollywood shootout or the Gunfight at O.K. Corral. 

Now there's the question of how this Chas shooting should be labeled. Hate-crime? Domestic terrorism?

I have no intrinsic objection to calling it an act of domestic terrorism. However, some conservatives are understandably leery of that terminology because the DOJ and Southern Poverty Law Center treats conservative groups as domestic terrorists which require special monitoring–even though these groups don't commit or threaten violence. 

Conversely, shadow terrorist groups like CAIR enjoy official protection.  

Likewise, this figures in the larger concern about the surveillance state, domestic drones, &c. 

Problem is, "terrorist" is so amorphous that it becomes a very indiscriminate designator.

As legally defined, there's an obvious sense in which the Chas shooting was a "hate crime." But conservatives are leery of that terminology as well because it's part of larger paradigm, where you have "protected classes"–which violates the equal protection clause. 

Likewise, conservative organizations like the Family Research Council get branded "hate groups" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, &c.

And, after all, we could just as well call the Chas shooting mass murder, a massacre, an atrocity, &c. There are other terms that are at least as accurate.

Yahweh and Zeus

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. 
– Stephen Roberts 
There is simply no more evidence for Jehovah than there is for Zeus. Christians find no reason to believe that Zeus exists, so they do not believe in him. For the same reason, I do not believe in Jehova.

This is a popular atheist trope. And it illustrates the anti-intellectual quality of "freethinkers."

In Greek mythology, Zeus has almost no explanatory power. Almost nothing depends on his existence for its own existence–or flourishing. The cosmos preexisted Zeus. Zeus was not the planner or creator of the universe. Life on earth does not depend on Zeus. He didn't create life on earth. He doesn't sustain life on earth. Indeed, Zeus is, himself, a product of the world process. 

If Zeus existed, then ceased to exist, his nonexistence would change very little. Life would go on as normal. For the most part, it would be as if he never existed in the first place. He's not a load-bearing wall. 

Zeus fathered many offspring by women and goddesses. In that respect, his existence has a ripple effect. But hardly more so than any human life, or any human king. Nearly every human life has a ripple effect. For the most part, Zeus doesn't make bigger waves than humans do. 

In Biblical theism and/or classical theism (e.g. Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Aquinas, Leibniz), by contrast, just about everything that isn't God is dependent on God. There are some variations. In freewill theism, human choices are independent of God. But that's not the case in Reformed theism.

In Augustinian theism, even abstract universals are dependent on God, as divine ideas. 

In natural law theory and divine command theory, morality is dependent on God. 

By creation ex nihilo and ordinary providence, all creatures depend on God for their existence and continuance. 

In Biblical theism and classical theism, God is a unifying principle in a way that's not remotely the case for Zeus. Now, an atheist may attempt to deny that God has any real explanatory power, but the comparison with Zeus is inapt, for these are not analogous propositions. Even in principle, Zeus doesn't have the explanatory role that Yahweh has. Zeus is just one of many finite, contingent beings. More powerful than most. But expendable. 

Dear Francis, mind your own business!

You'd think Pope Francis has enough pressing issues relating to his actual job to write about: the nun/priest shortage, the secularization of Europe, the attack on religious liberty (including Catholic institutions) in the US, the priestly abuse scandal, the implosion of Catholicism in traditional bastions of Catholicism (e.g. Ireland, Quebec), rampant modernism in the church of Rome, an embattled archbishop of San Francisco, the threat of Islam, the predominance of homosexual clergy, &c 
But, no. He has to pen an encyclical promoting radical chic environmentalism. A topic on which he has no competence. 
I guess the remaining question is whether he's a green pope or red pope. Perhaps we could split the difference and dub him the purple pope. Part environmentalist, part liberation theologian. 

"Gay saints"

I'd say he's sending mixed signals:
An interview with Donald B. Cozzens

I would also really like to see the bishops agree to full disclosure on how the laity's money is being spent, and, of course, full disclosure of credible reports of misconduct by priests that would put young people at risk.
I see what's happening today as a manifestation of an unraveling of the clerical culture. By clerical culture I refer to a system of privilege and deference, exemption, status, and especially secrecy that seems to be part and parcel of the celibate priesthood.
I'm not aware of reliable studies about the incident rates of misconduct against minors by Catholic priests that compare them with clergy of other denominations or to other professionals that work with youth-teachers, coaches, scout leaders, social workers, or counselors. In the absence of those studies, I can only extrapolate from what I experience, what I read in the papers, and what is reported.
Authors such as Philip Jenkins feel that the incident rate is definitely not higher among priests than among clergy in other denominations. I respectfully disagree, especially when we consider that so many of the abuse allegations led to secret settlements. So it's hard for us to know how many credible allegations have been brought against priests, especially when the church until recently has been unwilling to make the numbers known.
If the bishops wanted to, they could easily find out if the incident rates are lower, the same, or higher compared with other clergy or helping professionals.
The church has been served well by gay and straight priests throughout its history. We've had gay individuals who are saints. We've had outstanding gay bishops. 

In addition, we would see our already critical seminary situation worsen. If the church tried to drive gay priests from the priesthood, it would significantly weaken our ranks. And if we wanted to be consistent, then we'd also have to ask the gay bishops to leave. 

The civic duty to bear arms

It never occurs to white liberals that the Second Amendment applies to blacks as well as whites. Black citizens have the right to bear arms, too, in self-defense. All citizens have the right to protect their person and property:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Papal folly

Dylann Roof

Predictably, Pres. Obama chose to politicize the Chas church shooting:

I’ve had to make statements like this too many times.
No one is forcing him to comment. I, for one, didn't ask for his opinion.  
Now is the time for mourning and for healing.
That's a throwaway line since the whole point is to use this incident as a pretext to  repeal the Second Amendment. 
But let’s be clear:  At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.  It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.  And it is in our power to do something about it.  I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.  But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.  And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.
Several issues:
i) What about the Rwandan genocide? What about this recent incident?

ii) What we know about Dylann Roof thus far is very sketchy. According to preliminary reports, the attack was racially motivated. Let's assume that's the case. 
If he just wanted to murder blacks, why shoot up a black church? Why not venture into the black part of town? Why not go into tavern that's frequented by blacks? 
I don't know for a fact what the answer is, but here's a guess: he's a coward.
He shot up a church because it's safer. It's less likely that churchgoers will return fire. Less likely that churchgoers will be armed.
Indeed, that's why he was able to walk away from the scene of the crime. He was apprehended in another state.
By contrast, supposed he tried to shoot up a tavern full of black customers. I think the story would have a very different ending, don't you? 
It's unlikely that he'd walk way from that. The bartender probably has a shotgun or revolver behind the counter. A number of customers are probably packing heat. 
He might get off a few rounds, but that would be it. He'd wind up dead…or worse than dead. Besides, firearms, think what else outraged customers might use on him: forks, steak knives, broken bottles.
By the time the police arrived, there wouldn't be much left of the shooter. 
iii) In a sense, it's a pity that we can only hang him once. However, he has a grim future ahead of him. He doomed himself by his own hand. He's facing many years of incarceration. Even if he's sentenced to die, the appellate process is glacial.
He's going to be locked up with a number of black inmates. It doesn't take much imagination to predict the reception that awaits him. Poetic justice.

Terrorism: Church Shootings, Baltimore Riots, & Political Bias

James White on Dr. Drew Show

I'm a leopard!

If he ever meets a real leopard face to face in the wild, he'll find out the hard way what the difference is.

Correlations with Providence in Genesis 1

"Correlations with Providence in Genesis 1" by Vern Poythress.

Brain/body mismatch?

The medical evidence for a mismatch between brains and bodies is ambiguous. The two studies cited most frequently by transgender activists, published in 1995 and 2000, examined the brains of a total of seven male-to-female transgenders and found that a region of the hypothalamus, an almond-shaped area of the brain that controls the release of hormones by the pituitary gland, was female-typical in those brains. But those studies have been criticized for not controlling for the estrogen — which affects the size of the hypothalamus — that most male-to-female transgenders take daily in order to maintain their feminine appearance.

Gender dysphoric kids

Perhaps the most influential account is that gender dysphoric children have the minds and brains of the other sex, adult transgenderism is inevitable, and early transition to the other sex is the only humane option.

But this narrative is clearly wrong in one respect. Gender dysphoric children have not usually become transgender adults. For example, the large majority of gender dysphoric boys studied so far have become young men content to remain male. More than 80% adjusted by adolescence.
Eric Vilain is a professor of human genetics and pediatrics at the UCLA and director of the Center for Gender-Based Biology. J. Michael Bailey is a professor of psychology at Northwestern University.

“Pope Francis” Condemns Air Conditioning

Yes, it’s true: in his new encyclical letter, “Sister Earth”, “Pope Francis” condemns air conditioning (among other things) from Paragraph 55 of the encyclical:


People may well have a growing ecological sensitivity but it has not succeeded in changing their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more. A simple example is the increasing use and power of air-conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive.

For a reference as to where this condemnation fits within the schema of “infallible” papal statements, please consult Pope Pius XII, “Humani Generis”:

20. Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who heareth you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.

“Pope Francis” does suggest (15) that this encyclical letter is now “added to the body of the [Roman Catholic] Church’s social teaching”, and he notes that he offers “some inspired guidelines” as to how to move forward – an indication of how seriously he takes this.

What's new in Mormonism? Not much!

We have no desire to become a part of mainstream Christianity. We do want to be better understood and appreciated for what and who we are, but we are not traditional Christians and have never claimed to be. We do in fact see ourselves as Christians with a difference. Mormonism professes to be restored Christianity, and its adherents believe that God has chosen to restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ through a modern prophet, Joseph Smith, and that the divine priesthood authority he received—the power and authority to act in the name of God, apostolic authority—has continued in rightful succession to modern apostles and prophets within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

Robert L. Millet, Coordinator
Office of Religious Outreach
Professor Emeritus of Religious Education
Brigham Young University

The rebirth of Christian medicine

After the Christian faith became legal in the Rome Empire, Christian hospitals were founded. Christians have always been in the vanguard of medical care. 

But there are currently secular forces which, if they have their way, will drive Christians from the medical profession. I mean in the Western world. Christianity is expanding in the Southern hemisphere. Whether they succeed remains to be seen.

There is, however, a possible countervailing trend that lies ahead. Superbugs are on the rise. We have failed to invest R&D in the next generation of vaccines, antivirals, and antibiotics. In the not too distant future it's possible or even probable that civilization as we know it will revert to pre-antibiotic, pre-antiviral conditions. Revert to the time when pandemics killed thousands or tens of thousands at a time.

If that happens, that will have a winnowing effect on healthcare. Traditionally, in nations influenced by Christian morality, it was an unquestioned duty to care for an ailing family member–usually at home. And this was before the advent of antivirals and antibiotics. This meant that when caring for a relative with a contagious, life-threatening disease, the caregiver was a high risk of contracting the same illness. And there was no effective treatment.

It wouldn't surprise me if many family members who cared for sick relatives succumbed to the same illness. They were in constant physical contact with the the sick, infectious relative. 

Likewise, Christian physicians, nuns, and nurses used to care for sick strangers. And they jeopardized their own lives in the process. 

I don't know the history of heathen cultures in that regard, but it wouldn't surprise me if pagans carted a sick relative off into the woods to die in isolation. To keep them at a safe distance, rather than care for them. 

One might object that this was before germ theory, so that people had less reason to fear of infection. But I think that's implausible. Even if people back then had a poor understanding of disease transmission, they could surely observe the correlation. Indeed, even in the OT, you had quarantine laws. People in OT times understood that some diseases were communicable through physical contact. 

If the future flips back to the past, who will care for sick people with contagious, life-threatening diseases? How many atheists will put themselves at risk? How many atheists will endanger themselves to care for a sick relative–much less a perfect stranger? Or will the task once again fall to the Christians?

Typhoid Mary

i) When Christians defend OT holy war, they sometimes justify the execution of child by appeal to original sin. Every human is guilty is Adam.

ii) Now, I think that's theologically true. However, I don't think that's the best way, or even the right way, to defend OT holy war.

To begin with, original sin is just as controversial as holy war. People who find holy war morally offensive find original sin morally offensive. When you defend holy war by appeal to original sin, that just pushes the argument back a step, because you have to defend original sin. You're defending one thing by appeal to something else you must defend. But in that case, what's the advantage? Why not defend holy war directly? 

Someone might object that original sin is true regardless of whether critics find that appeal convincing. No doubt. But if you're going to fall back on an argument from biblical authority, you could just as well say the holy war commands are morally justifiable regardless of whether critics find the appeal to biblical authority persuasive.

iii) But besides the tactical problem, there's a substantive problem. The OT holy war commands and holy war accounts don't ground the ethics of holy war in original sin. So there's no reason to presume the Adamic guilt of children is a necessary condition to warrant their liability to be killed. Indeed, that argument may well be a blind alley. 

iv) Let's consider a different principle. Take the case of an asymptomatic carrier. By that I mean a person who harbors a contagious disease, but is immune to the disease. The carrier is infectious. 

Suppose the carrier is host to a highly contagious disease with a high rate of morality. Suppose the disease has a long incubation period. 

The carrier may infect hundreds of people, who in turn infect hundreds of people, and so on. The disease is communicated at an exponential rate. By the time the disease manifests itself, it is unstoppable. 

What should be done to the carrier? Through no fault of his own, the carrier is host to a deadly contagious disease. Although the carrier may be personally blameless, that doesn't change the fact that he poses a dire threat to public safety. 

Should he be quarantined? That's unfair to the carrier. He's done nothing intentionally wrong. But even so, he puts the entire population at risk. 

Moreover, is that a solution? Even in quarantine, even in solitary confinement, he's dangerous. He must be fed. Must be guarded. Any direct contact with the carrier is fatal. 

Furthermore, he's a flight risk. What if he tries to escape? After all, his isolation is unbearable. How can he stand to be cooped up year after year? 

v) Under the circumstances, would it be permissible to kill him? Should his life imperil a million other lives? 

My objective is not to answer that question. I'm not making a case for that claim.

But unless you're a Kantian deontologist, it's not unreasonable. And I daresay most infidels who attack OT holy war aren't moral absolutists. 

If, in principle, it is sometimes morally licit to take innocent life, then critics of OT holy war can't attack it on those grounds as a matter of principle. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


i) In the vast majority of cases, from what I've read, gender dysphoria is purely psychological. There may be rare instances in which it has a neurological basis. 

One question is whether there's a reliable diagnostic technique to determine which is which. If a patient's condition is psychological in origin, it would be foolhardy to undergo irreversible surgery. 

Likewise, puberty is an unrepeatable stage in the human lifecycle. If hormone blockers postpone that for too long, I assume the damage is irreparable. That's a lost opportunity. Unless you know for a fact that your condition has a neurological basis, why would you cross a line of no return?  

ii) But suppose we can identify those for whom gender dysphoria has a neurological basis. In rare cases like that, is a sex-change operation the solution? 

Medical science is a wonderful gift to humanity, but it's not a panacea. Medical intervention can't make you happy. There are many young, strong, normal, healthy, handsome men and women who are miserable. Medical science can't give you a happy life. You must have something worthwhile to live for.

iii) In addition, there are problems with medical science can't fix. It has many basic limitations. Even if your condition has a neurological basis, that doesn't mean its treatable or curable. 

Take otherkin. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that lycanthropy has a neurological basis. Does that mean a lycanthrope should undergo extreme makeover surgery? Will making his body resemble lupine anatomy solve the problem? No.

He's not a wolf–even if he thinks he's a wolf. He's not a wolf–even if his brain tells him he's a wolf. He has no idea what it's like to be a wolf. He can't. He never will. 

Pandering to his mental illness is not a cure–or even therapy. That's not treatment–that's mistreatment. He self-delusion is already self-destructive. Radical makeover surgery only treats symptoms, effects–and not the underlying cause. 

The only way to cure him is to solve the problem at the source. Repair the brain damage. Stimulate new neural pathways. But, of course, neuroscience lacks the ability do to that as of now. 

Not everything in this life is fixable. But this life is not all there is. The ultimate solution lies in the afterlife. Christian salvation. Heaven. The world to come.

The neurodiversity movement

1. It's a pity that Christians have to spend so much time on homosexuality and trangenderism, but we don't get to pick our battles. In this post I'll take a stab at transgenderism from a Christian public policy perspective. 

Because transgenderism is so politicized, it's hard to find reliable information. Much of the available "information" is put out by advocacy groups. But from what I've read, there's no one transgender category. Rather, transgender breaks down into several different groups:

i) It wouldn't surprise me if some people self-identify as transgender who in fact have a perfectly normal outlook. They pretend to be trangender because that results in an instant promotion in their social status. Take unpopular students in junior high and high school. If they identify as transgender, the establishment gives them an instant positive ascribed status. It's hip and cool to be trans. 

ii) Apparently, some adolescents suffer from gender confusion. That's a temporary phase. As they transition from boyhood to manhood, girlhood to womanhood, they must find their footing. What's their new role? What does it mean to be a man or woman? That's a new experience for them. 

That's something they usually outgrow. However, I expect the problem is now exacerbated by the power elite, and resultant peer pressure, which denigrates distinctive masculine and feminine virtues. Which attempts to shame people into denying intrinsic sexual differences. The current social conditioning probably contributes to gender confusion. 

Facts like broken marriage, blended families, absentee fathers, and the general absence of good adult role models, is, I suspect, another contributing factor.

iii) Then you have some boys and men who become aroused by seeing themselves provocatively dressed as women. This is a persistent condition. But this isn't a woman trapped in a man's body. These are heterosexual males.

And it's a purely psychological condition. Not based on neurological abnormalities. 

Here we go back to the perennial nature/nurture debate. Some mental illness is due to social malformation. 

iv) Finally, there's a fraction of cases where gender dysphoria seems to be the result of brain damage in utero

2. Assuming that classification scheme is roughly correct, how should that be addressed from a public policy standpoint? 

i) Let's begin with 1(iv). We don't think it's culpable to suffer from a neurological deficit. And it's often good to make reasonable accommodations. For instance, I think society should help autistics do whatever they are able to do. From what I've read, autism ranges along a spectrum. Some autistics are savants. But others require round-the-clock supervision. Left unattended, they endanger themselves.

In that case, an accommodation would involve protecting them. To treat them as perfectly normal human beings would be inhumane. 

ii) To take another illustration, we should help hemophiliacs do whatever they can safely do. But by the same token, they should not be allowed to play contact sports. In that case, we should discriminate against hemophiliacs for their own good. 

"Discrimination" is a loaded term, but that's because many people fail to draw an elementary distinction: we should treat like alike, we should treat unlike unalike. Insofar as autistics and hemophiliacs are like normal people, they should be treated like normal people. Insofar as they are different, it may be necessary, for their own wellbeing, to treat them differently. 

On the one hand, there should be reasonable accommodations. On the other hand, there should be reasonable restrictions. 

iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that pedophilia has a neurological basis. Even if we think that's exculpatory, that doesn't mean we should accommodate pedophiliacs. We shouldn't legalize pedophilia. 

iv) To defend gender dysphoria on a neurological basis is a double-edged sword for transgender activists. How many of them wish to defend transgender identity on the grounds that transgender people suffer from brain damage? Suffer from neurological abnormalities? 

In fact, there's a neurodiversity movement which chafes against what it views as the social stigma attaching to that classification. It takes the position that diverse neurological conditions are the result of natural variations. There's nothing pathological to treat. Nothing to cure. We shouldn't seek a cure for autism–or hemophilia. Deaf people shouldn't elect to have cochlear implants. 

Of course, that subverts medical science. By that logic, it makes no sense to undergo corrective surgery for a potentially fatal congenital heart defect. Makes no sense to undergo cancer treatment. Makes no sense to remove a benign brain tumor which, if allowed to grow, will prove fatal. 

v) Since, in the overwhelming number of cases, gender dysphoria is purely psychological, it would be medical malpractice to undergo irreversible surgery–or hormone blockers to delay the onset of puberty. That's not the solution, since the problem is psychological rather than physical. And it does irreparable damage to a normal functioning body or normal maturation.

vi) Likewise, if people are out of touch with reality, then we shouldn't accommodate their delusion–anymore than we should hand the car keys to someone who's high on LSD. 

The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing

The ontological argument

I'm going to take a stab at the ontological argument. It's the most intriguing and perplexing of the traditional theistic proofs. Plantinga, Gödel, and E. J. Lowe formulated important versions of the ontological argument, which merit serious consideration in their own right. But these are pretty technical. In this post I'm going to focus on a more Anselmian approach.

This isn't strictly an exposition of Anselm's argument. I'm not sure what he had in mind. Scholars differ on how to interpret his argument. 

i) Moreover, anyone writing a millennium later will have conceptual resources at his disposal which were unavailable to Anselm. My primary objective in this post is to consider what kind of argument it is. 

In addition, I will attempt to explicate a key principle of the argument: the internal relationship between what is and what is greater than (i.e. between existence and greatness).   

ii) It seems to me that the ontological argument takes the form of a dilemma. Even an atheist must begin with a concept of God. Unless he has a concept of God, he can't deny God's existence. (Anselm's target is explicit atheism.) 

The idea of God is either greater than the thinker who thinks it or not. If greater, then it must have a corresponding reality above and beyond the thinker. If we can entertain the idea of a greatest conceivable being, then that must be more than an idea. 

Anselm's definition of a greatest possible being includes a being who cannot fail to exist. 

iii) Anselm's barebones formulation suffers from a superficial equivocation. When he speaks of existing in the mind or existing in reality, he doesn't mean God in himself exists in the human mind. Rather, it's a type/token relation. Our idea of God is a token of the extramental reality. A God who exists in the mind is shorthand for a conceptual token of God. 

iv) In Contact, the action builds to the climactic encounter with a superior alien intelligence. However, that climactic scene is anticlimactic. Indeed, it's bound to be anticlimactic.

That's because the alien is just a fictional character. The alien is not a superior intellect. Rather, the alien is just Carl Sagan's idea of a superior intellect. So it was inevitable that the big scene would be a letdown. 

The alien character can't be any greater than its creator. It can't be wiser than Sagan. If it's just a human idea, then it can't surpass the source. 

That's a problem for SF aliens generally. Since the alien is just a figment of human imagination, it can't rise any higher than the source. 

v) Compare that to our notion of the Mandelbrot set. Mathematicians have a partial understanding of the Mandelbrot set. However, the Mandelbrot set vastly exceeds human comprehension. We're dipping our toes into a fathomless fiord. It's far too complex for the human mind to grasp in detail. We can only sample it. 

In that case, we have an idea of something greater than ourselves. Something we discover. Because the Mandelbrot surpasses human comprehension, it must in some respect exist apart from finite human minds. 

That's a type/token relation. Our idea of the Mandelbrot set is an instance of that greater reality. 

vi) In math we also have unproven theorems and conjectures. That means a mathematician can be smart enough to think of a problem that's he's not smart enough to solve. 

In principle, a mathematician can devise a provable (or falsifiable) theorem or conjecture which no mathematician will ever be able to prove (or disprove). These conjectures and theorems are true or false independent of whether we can solve them. 

But in that respect the concept is greater than the thinker who conceived it. It isn't reducible to human cognition. It has a reality that transcends our efforts to mentally probe it. 

vii) We could also relate this to truthmaker theory. Take counterfactuals. Must there be some corresponding reality that makes counterfactual claims true? What's the truth-maker for the truth-bearer? There's a relationship between what's true and what exists. Truth is contingent on being–of some sort. 

viii) It seems to me that to succeed, an Anselmian-style argument must demonstrate that the idea of God is suitably analogous to (v) or (vi). That our concept of God is that kind of idea. Once established, that will, in turn, implicate the existence of God. 

ix) A potential way to escape the force of the argument is to retreat into conceptualism or nominalism. Of course, that's only as good as the case for conceptualism or nominalism. 

Persuasion by proof or proof by persuasion?

I recently emailed an eminent psychiatrist at a world-renown teaching hospital about transgenderism. I won't say who it was–although I've shared the correspondence with a few trusted friends. This is his response. (I've edited out the personal references):


There are a few studies out and about that make confusion rife in this domain. What’s noteworthy about them all is how selective they are, how they confuse matters of intersex and well known injuries to the occasional fetus with the vast majority of transgender cases where the causes are clearly psychological, What I always ask these folks is not to tell me what “current understanding” consists of but give me a reference to study. Then as usual–being controversialists rather than clinical scientists–they write back something ad hominem such as “you’re not mainstream” “you’re not a good judge” etc. I can’t therefore comment on “this putative evidence” because it’s all so “putative.”

You may remember, the Multiple personality/False memory craze some ten years ago. Again at that time, I’d hear from fellow psychiatrists–including many “leaders”–that they were “right behind you” but worried that their reputations would be damaged if they came out for me before the win was official!! It was extremely amusing as it revealed the careerism of so many of them. I’ve seen this set of tactics before–I put it this way: Controversialists want to “prove by persuasion” and use every trick they know to “persuade” including silencing you, insulting you, dismissing you etc. I’m, at least I think of myself as, a clinical scientist who wants to “persuade by proof” and am looking to open up the arguments by proposing what counts as proof and what needs to be challenged as “non-proof.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

“I’m not a lady, I’m a soldier,” she said.

Here is another article -- this one I wrote just as Beth was getting back into the country in 2003:

Letters from Iraq

Many of you may know, Beth was in the army, and she served in Iraq from April-October 2003. In June of 2003, I packaged up the letters she sent me, with some editing, and I sent them to several publications. World Net Daily picked them up and published them. They are still online:

Board my burning ship!

Peter Enns hosted a guest post by Karl Giberson

Giberson was a founder of BioLogos, the flagship of theistic evolution. 

The challenge of taking “God’s Two Books” (nature and the Bible) seriously has grown dramatically in recent years as genetic evidence has made it clear that Adam and Eve cannot have been historical figures, at least as described in the Bible.

i) That statement has the merit of clarity. Rather that saying genetic evidence forces us to reinterpret Gen 2 (or Rom 5), he says genetic evidence falsifies Gen 2. Adam and Eve, "as described in the Bible," "cannot have been historical figures" given the genetic evidence.

So on his view, Gen 2 is simply inconsistent with the genetic evidence. He doesn't fudge the issue by saying the traditional interpretation of Gen 2 is wrong. Rather, he says Gen 2 is wrong. The traditional interpretation is right; what's wrong is the text itself!

ii) Keep in mind that Giberson is a physicist. He has no particular scientific expertise to pronounce on human evolution. 

More scientifically informed evangelicals within conservative traditions are admitting that the evidence is undermining Creation-Fall-Redemption theology. Christians have struggled to preserve this central Christian understanding in a way that is faithful to both the Bible and science; literalists have tried to preserve it by rejecting science or making increasingly strange claims about the world.

Why does he label them "literalists"? He's just admitted that he interprets Gen 2 the same way they do. The difference is that he feels free to reject it. He acknowledges what the Bible says, but denies it. 

He then picks on Ken Ham. But Ham's an easy mark. Why not select a more intellectually impressive creationist as his foil? 

Ross also insists that the Fall inaugurated only human death. Ross goes further. Not only is death a part of the natural order but God ordained it to provide oil and other raw materials useful for humans. The benefits to humanity of these earlier life forms, says Ross, renders their suffering, death, and even extinction a good thing, and not an evil to be explained as a consequence of sin.

Although I disagree with some other things Ross says, I don't have a problem with that statement. 

[Denis] Alexander suggests that the Genesis account is based on an actual historical episode where God reached into history: “God in his grace chose a couple of Neolithic farmers in the Near East, or maybe a community of farmers, to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way, calling them into fellowship with himself—so that they might know him as a personal God.” (Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?p. 236)

That treats Gen 2-3 as an allegory. Problem is, Gen 2-3 doesn't say or imply that God chose a couple of Neolithic farmers in the ANE, or maybe a community of farmers, to whom he chose to reveal himself in a special way. It doesn't say anything like that. What it says isn't even analogous to that. And what it actually says is contrary to that. 

So that's an arbitrary "interpretation" that has no basis in the text. No connection to the text. Superimposed from the outside. 

Back to Giberson:

Christianity, after all, is not a religion about Adam; it is a religion about Christ. Adam can be understood in many ways. Unfortunately, however, the historical Adam has become a line in the sand for many evangelicals, who don’t even want to engage the conversation.

i) That's far too facile. Can a Christian have faith in Christ without having faith in what Christ had faith in? Christ had faith in OT history–including the creation account (Mt 19:4-5). Can a Christian have faith in Christ if he fails to share Christ's faith in OT revelation? 

ii) Moreover, many evangelicals do engage the conversation, but hold their ground.

iii) Finally, Giberson isn't laying his cards on the table. But as he himself as admitted elsewhere:

…my belief in God is tinged with doubts and, in my more reflective moments, I sometimes wonder if I am perhaps simply continuing along the trajectory of a childhood faith that should be abandoned. As a purely practical matter, I have compelling reasons to believe in God. My parents are deeply committed Christians and would be devastated, were I to reject my faith. My wife and children believe in God, and we attend church together regularly. Most of my friends are believers. I have a job I love at a Christian college that would be forced to dismiss me if I were to reject the faith that underpins the mission of the college. Abandoning belief in God would be disruptive, sending my life completely off the rails. I can sympathize with Darwin as he struggled against the unwanted challenges to his faith.

Sounds like he's a closet agnostic (or atheist). Intellectually, he's not a Christian believer. But the consequences of open apostasy are too emotionally and socially disruptive. So he goes through the motions. 

Why, then, does he think it's so important to make Christians agree with him, when he himself has so little intellectual investment in the Christian faith? Why go to such efforts to coax them into a sinking ship which he'd abandon if a lifeboat was available? Why exhort Christians to board his burning ship when he himself would jump ship were it not for his professional and sentimental attachments? 

Parsing race

What did Noah's ark look like?

Short answer: we don't know. Genesis gives the raw dimensions, but says little if anything about the shape. Terrence Mitchell says that:

While [6:16] can be taken in the traditional sense of describing three stories, it is also possible to understand it to indicate three layers of logs laid crosswise, a view which would accord well with a construction of wood, reeds and bitumen. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1:110.

Here's one hypothetical design, which shows how different it might have been than popular representations:

Meir Ben-Uri Rhomboidal Design.
Reported by Ya'Acov Friedler "What the Ark was Really Like" Jerusalem Post 10 Oct 1967 

Friedler, a reporter for a major Israeli newspaper, describes Noah's Ark as proposed by Mr. Meir Ben-Uri. His ark is 150m (492 ft) long, weighed about 6,000 tons and had a carrying capacity of 15,000 tons. Ben-Uri, Director of the Studio for Synagogual Arts took several years to complete his study, based on the numerical values of the Hebrew words of Genesis 6:14-16. From this he prepared a scale on which he based his measurements, which led to a cubit length of 500mm (19.7 inches).
Image The Jerusalem Post 1967

The most striking aspect of Ben-Uri's ark is the rhomboid cross-section - almost a Vogt hull in appearance, but with a "V" bottom (deadrise). Ben-Uri claims a rectangular vessel would have less space inside due to the need for a "maze of supporting beams", and that the rhomboid design is more buoyant. (This is testable, the enclosed rhomboid has exactly half the area of the bounding rectangle, so the interior space is halved. Worse, the sloping sides will make inefficient use of space. There is also no reason to expect the rhomboid will have substantially less interior structure than the rectangular hull. TL)
The roll stability of Ben-Uri's ark is a substantial improvement over the Vogt hull, but it is not as stable as the rectangular hull.  The rhomboid design is also very sensitive to variations in draft.

Naval architect Dr Dan Khoushy commented on the design; "I would not have chosen this shape for the vessel, but I must say that it is practically optimal for the purpose;

According to Ben-Uri, the hull would be built up in identical triangular compartments, forming ten "holds" in a virtual "mass production" process. Laying the ark on one side, the roof mounted door would be accessible, but when buoyed by the floodwaters the door is in the roof. (Seems like a lot of effort walking around on sloping floors for the sake of sealing a little door. TL)

The last claims of the article refer to the cubit length being the same as for Solomon's temple, which is an interesting point, and finally that the reed basket of baby Moses may have been rhomboid also.  (This assumes "tebah" refers to shape, and make the dubious assumption that Jocabed took a rhomboid basket when Egyptian reed basket were more likely rounded.

Monday, June 15, 2015

You Will Be Assimilated: The same-sex marriage bait-and-switch

BW3 on women in ministry

I'm going to comment on this post:

1) Women can’t be ministers, because only males can be priests offering the sacrifice of the Mass etc. The root problem with this argument is that the NT is perfectly clear that apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons ARE NOT PRIESTS IN THE NT.

I agree with Ben that this appeal falters on a false premise.

2) Women can’t be ministers because then they would have headship over men, including their husbands— and this will never do, and is a violation of the household codes in the NT. This argument is often complex and at the heart of it is an essential confusion of what the NT says about order in the physical family and home, and order in the family of faith, wherever it may meet. It is certainly true that texts like Col.3-4 and Ephes. 5-6 and other texts in 1 Pet. for example do talk about the structure of the physical family. As I have argued at length, the patriarchal family was the existing reality in the NT world, and what you discover when you compare what is in the NT and what is outside the NT, is that Paul and others are working hard to change the existing structures in a more Christian direction. Paul, for example, has to start with his audience where they are, and then persuade them to change. And you can see this process at work in Philemon, Colossians, and Ephesians. For example, though the language of headship and submission is certainly used in these texts the trajectory of the argument is intended to: 1) place more and more strictures on the head of the household to limit his power and the way he relates to his wife, his children and his slaves; 2) make the head of the household aware that women, children and slaves are in fact persons created in God’s image, not chattel or property.

i) Here Ben resorts to the "trajectory" strategy. That's a popular argument among feminists, pacifists, homosexuals, &c. You claim that even though the Bible doesn't condemn something–indeed, even if the Bible commands something–the Bible is moving in the direction of abolishing the custom in question. That's a very loose argument.

Ben is critical of homosexual marriage and (active) homosexual ordination. Yet members of his own denomination use the same trajectory strategy to argue for both. 

ii) Although there's some truth to what he says, it disregards the fact that Paul grounds male headship in Gen 2. It's not just an accommodation to the prevailing cultural norms.

iii) In addition, there's a nagging tension in Ben's argument, both here and elsewhere. On the one hand he stresses Greco-Roman "patriarchy" as the norm. On the other hand, he appeals to emancipated, upper-class women. But those two arguments tug in opposing directions. 

Similarly with the roles of husbands and wives, in Ephes. 5.21ff. Paul calls all Christians to mutual submission to each other…

That's deceptive, for the way in which husbands and wives are called to submit to each other is asymmetrical.  

Furthermore, we need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. The family of faith is not identical with the physical family, and gender is no determinant of roles in it. Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church. 

Needless to say, that simply begs the question in favor of egalitarianism. Yet that's the very issue in dispute!

This is why we should not be surprised to find even in Paul’s letters examples of women teachers, evangelist, prophetesses, deacons, and apostles.

That fails to examine what the terms and examples mean in context. 

Paul adds that in Christ there is no ‘male and female’ just as there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free.

Ah, yes. When all else fails, whip out the old Gal 3:28 trump card. That's the all-purpose standby of desperate egalitarians.

i) To begin with, Paul's phraseology is hyperbolic. Notice the rhetorical parallelism.

ii) In context, Paul isn't discussing equality in general, but common membership in the Abrahamic covenant via the new covenant. That's open to all by faith in Christ.

iii) Paul isn't abolishing all role relations. For instance, his discussion in Rom 1 presupposes irreducible differences between men and women. Men and women aren't interchangeable.  

1 Cor. 14.33b-36 (assuming that it is an original part of this letter, which many scholars doubt on textual grounds. I disagree with the doubters) is part of a large problem solving letter. 

I'm not a NT textual critic, but I'll venture the following observation. In a few MSS, vv34-35 are transposed to follow v40. What's the most likely explanation? Is this a scribal dislocation or a scribal interpolation? If the latter, it's hard to see how these verses came to be incorporated in all our MSS traditions.

If, on the other hand, a scribe inadvertently skipped over vv34-35 when he was copying the letter, then noticed his oversight, it would be too late to add them in the original sequence (between v33 and v36), because that space was now filled up. Because he continued copying before he noticed his oversight, he can't go back to insert vv34-35 where they belong. He can only add them further down, when he stopped copying. There's space ahead, but none before. When later scribes copy his MS, that becomes a MS tradition, albeit a minority tradition. 

Paul is correcting problems as they arise in the house churches in Corinth. One such problem is caused by some women, apparently just some wives, who are interrupting the time of prophesying by asking questions. Now Paul has already said in 1 Cor. 11 that women are allowed to pray and prophesy in Christian worship if they wear headcoverings to hide their ‘glory’ (i.e. hair), since only God’s glory should be visible in worship, and he is not reneging on that permission in 1 Cor. 14.33b-36. The largely Gentile congregation in Corinth brought with them into the church their pre-existing assumptions about prophecy and what was appropriate when approaching a prophet or prophetess. The oracle at nearby Delphi for example was a consultative prophetess. People would go to her to ask questions like— Should I marry this man, or Should I buy this land etc. and the oracle would give an answer. Thus it was natural for some Corinthians to think that when prophets spoke in their assemblies, they had a right to ask them questions. Paul’s response is no— “worship time is not Q+A time, and you are interrupting the prophets. If you have questions asks your man (probably husband) at home. There is a time and place for such questions, but Christian worship isn’t it. 

Ben offers that harmonization with great assurance. Keep in mind, though, that that's just his hypothetical historical reconstruction. It could be correct, but the text itself doesn't say that or imply that. So his harmonization is overconfident. That's merely one possible explanation. He doesn't have any actual evidence that they were influenced by the Delphic oracle. 

The reason Paul corrects women/wives in this case is not because they are women but because they are in this instance causing this problem, of course. 

Except that Ben himself draws attention to 1 Cor 11. But there Paul grounds the principle in the creation narrative (Gen 2). For Paul, the fact that Eve was made from Adam, rather than independently, or vice versa, is an indication that, in some respects, men naturally outrank women. 

A couple of other points about this text need to be noted: 1) the text says nothing about women submitting to men. 

An exercise in misdirection. 

The call here is for these women to be silent and in submission as even the Law says. O.K. where in the OT is there a commandment for women to be silent and submit to men? Answer NOWHERE. Its not in the Pentateuch at all, or for that matter elsewhere. 

That's a pretty obtuse objection considering the fact that Ben himself drew attention to 1 Cor 11. Paul is picking up where he left off in 1 Cor 11. He's alluding to Gen 2. 

What about 1 Tim. 2.8-15?…In regard to his correction of women, something needs to be said about high status women in cities like Ephesus. What we know about such women is that they played vital roles in the Greco-Roman religious festivals, temples, worship services. They were priestesses, they were prophetesses, they were teachers, healers, keepers of the eternal flame, etc. It is then not surprising that such high status women would expect to be able, once they converted to Christ, to do the same sorts of things in the church. 

i) That's kitchen sink methodology, where you ransack Greco-Roman culture for miscellaneous material which supposedly forms the background to Paul's discussion. But that's much too generic. 

ii) Moreover, it's counterproductive. Ben oscillates between patriarchy and freewheeling upperclass women. But if some women already had that much authority in 1C religious circles, then it undercuts his appeal to oppressive patriarchal structures which kept women under the thumb of men. 

The problem was, they needed to be properly instructed and learn before they began to instruct others, whether male or female.

That turns Paul's prohibition into the opposite of what he actually said. 

Secondly the Greek verb “I am not now permitting” as Phil Payne has shown over and over again, is not a verb that implies an infinite extension of this refusal to permit. It means what it says “I am not presently permitting…” Why not? Because the women needed to learn before they taught.

The key issue isn't the force of a Greek verb, but Paul's anthropology. 

Finally, what about the argument from creation, from the story of Eve? Paul is assuming some in his audience know the story very well…I would remind you as well that on a literal reading of the Genesis story, Adam was right there with Eve on this occasion and could have and should have stopped her from picking the fruit, but he did not do so. Eve plucked the fruit, and Adam dropped the ball as the authoritative teacher for the occasion. This is no doubt why it is Adam who is blamed for the Fall in Rom. 5.12-21. 

i) It isn't clear from a "literal reading" of the narrative that Adam was right there during the temptation. The fact that Adam was there at the end doesn't mean he was there at the outset. For one thing, you must make allowance for narrative compression. Adam could have been out of earshot, then noticed that Eve was talking to a stranger, and came over to investigate. In fact, it would make sense for the Tempter to isolate Eve. Catch her when she was alone. More vulnerable. By the time Adam joins the conversation, it's already over. 

I'm not saying that's correct. I'm saying you have to make assumptions either way that go beyond what the account says. But if anything, the account indicates that it began with just two people–Eve and the Tempter. 

ii) Moreover, despite the fact that Adam takes the lion's share of the blame in Rom 5, Paul still takes the position that men naturally outrank women in 1 Cor 11. 

One more thing about the Genesis story. The author tells us that the effects of the Fall is patriarchy. It was not God original creation order design. The text tells us that part of the original curse (not the original blessing) on Eve will be “your desire will be for your husband, and he will lord it over you!!”

Paul's argument is based on Gen 2, not Gen 3. The principle is prelapsarian, not postlapsarian. 

This is totally forgetting that Paul is speaking as a missionary into a strongly patriarchal cultural setting whether in Ephesus or on Crete, and his principle is to start where the people already are, not where he would like them to be. This means starting with the existing male leadership structure in the culture until the leaven of the Gospel can fully do its work and change things from the inside out. So quite naturally, it is men that Timothy and Titus are going to appoint first as leaders to these brand new church plants. This does not mean it needs always and forever to be that way, but the new converts would have to be convinced by loving persuasion that it was o.k. for women to fill such roles. You can see however how Paul is already beginning to push in that direction because in Rom. 16 he mentions a woman leader named Phoebe who is a deacon in the Corinthian churches, and probably there is a reference to women deacons in the Pastoral Epistles discussions about elders and deacons as well.

Once again, this reflects a systematic tension in Ben's argument. On the one hand he wants to say patriarchy was the norm. Men were over women.

On the other hand, he shifts to upper class women. But in that case, "patriarchy" oversimplifies the situation. In that case, the culture was stratified by social class as well as gender. Upperclass women were over lower-class men. The culture assigned some women (e.g. Roman noblewomen) a position of dominance over some men. 

Consider Galla Placidia. In the Roman pecking order, she outranked most men. Few men could afford to cross a woman in her station. 

And that might indeed account for some of the problems in some Pauline churches. A turf war between (male) elders and high-society women. Some women were used to wielding authority over men–men who were their social inferiors. 

Thank God for strong, gifted women in the church. No, the problem in the church is not strong women, but rather weak men who feel threatened by strong women, and have tried various means, even by dubious exegesis to prohibit them from exercising their gifts and graces in the church.

Keep in mind that Ben is an ordained minister in the UMC. He laments the liberalization of the UMC, yet he's oblivious to how the role of women in the UMC has contributed to the liberalization of his denomination.