Thursday, November 27, 2008

I give thanks

It is Thanksgiving in America.
I just wanted to say that I appreciate all (two) of you who read this blog. Thank you for reading and commenting.
To those of you who usually post challenging comments, disagreements, etc - thank you for taking the time and thought. You challenge me to sharpen my thinking and refine my arguments and presentation. You make me better. NAL, Dr Funkenstein, the many (or few?) faces of Anonymous (you know who you are, though I don't), Seth, Jason Streitfeld, the Jolly Nihilist, Chris from Oz, Paul C, whomever else I missed, thank you. May the Lord Jesus Christ be merciful to each one of you. I truly believe that is the highest and best good I could wish upon anyone.

Grace and peace to you,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Preaching to scum

Jason Streitfeld left a comment on the last post. I'd use the more conventional word "responded", except he didn't really do that.
Given his apparently bulletproof penchant for "I say it, therefore that's the way it is,"-type statements, one wonders whether he is a convert to atheism out of the Tony Alamo school of "Christianity", or was previously a disciple of one of those screaming preacher types who goes to university campuses and harangues the student passers-by with indiscriminate promises of Hell as final destination, near-universal refusal to engage in dialogue, stubborn conviction of Pelagian sinlessness, and utter cluelessness as to grace, tact, and irony.
I say this because his "rebuttals" never get beyond the level of naked pontification. If anyone is inclined to bow down and give his undying allegiance to Jason, I guess this kind of decree-from-on-high might be convincing.

Hi Jason,

I'll take your points as numbered.

1) Yes, I suppose I might be wrong. Up to the dissenter to provide an argument for that.
Knowing sthg "100%" is a bit unclear - how does that differ from knowing sthg infallibly? Just for the sake of argument, I'll say yes, I know 100% that all humans are created in God's image, b/c the Bible says so.
No need to go by DNA - that wouldn't have been available for most of human history. It's pretty easy - if an organism looks like a human and is the product of the union from two human parents, that organism is human. Sometimes a spade really is a spade. Humanity is a matter of ontology, not performance.
Chimp DNA is not close enough, no. And it doesn't matter what anyone THINKS - it remains true that a Jewish person is a human made in the image of God.

2) If you really recognise the is/ought distinction, I'd expect you to act consistently with that recognition, but I see virtually no such recognition in your writing.
Amazingly, though I've taken great pains to explain why your bogus "explanation" of how reason "informs" morality and how unreliable emotions are, you simply point me back to what you've already said. No need to go further here - feel free to engage the arguments anytime. You have a whole holiday weekend to do so.

3)Of course, we do care about lots of things. We wouldn't have survived natural selection if we didn't.

And? More is/ought conflation. This is precisely what I mean. Tell me WHY we OUGHT TO care about things, one thing, anything.

And the fact that we don't always agree only indicates that it takes work to live together.

Which speaks not at all to whether we OUGHT TO WANT TO live together. You're a walking begged question.

That's what morality is about--working together and getting along.

The great Pontifex Jason hath so decreed it, eh?
What is your argument for that? I don't grant that in the slightest.

I've explained at length why your assertion that "Christianity can" is, at best, unfounded, and at worst, a threat to the very well being of humanity.

*snort* As close as you've come is to make an vague and rather gauche assertion that God is by definition incoherent. Anyone can play that game. Materialistic atheism is by definition incoherent. Anyway, like I said, I'll get to that later.
Let me try to help you understand. Humor me for a moment. Pretend, just for the sake of argument, that Christianity is true. In what way, according to Christian teaching (aka, performing an internal critique) does Christianity fail to fulfill this? Prove your assertion, and remember - since this is an internal critique, you can have no recourse to your (question-begging) personal moral convictions.
I think I speak for most everyone reading when I say that no one cares about what YOU think on what is good and what is bad. We want to see ARGUMENTS.

I've also explained at length how my understanding of morality does, in fact, allow for objective moral judgments.

If you're not planning to interact with my numerous rebuttals on that score, I'm more than happy to leave that point where it is.

The irrational approach negates the very possibility of discourse, and so it is antagonistic to morality.

Make an argument!!!!! An argument!!! It's as if you've never heard the word "argument" before.
Let me try to help. Answer these questions:
1. Is it bad to be antagonistic to "morality"?
2. How do you know?
3. Why is it bad?
4. Why is discourse an integral part of morality?
5. How do you know that?

Answer those questions and it'll be a start. And seriously, spare me the naked assertions and "Well, that's just how it is" that you've been feeding up to this point.

And I can say, objectively, for rational agents at all times and places, that an approach to morality which rejects the possibility of negotiating values is immoral.

How do you know?
Are you not going to interact with the numerous rebuttals I posted on this very topic?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Welcome to the pond

It would appear that I am scum, and all of my hundreds, nay tens of thousands of unthinking, unflinching disciples (and more than a few automata) have been warned against drinking the Kool-Aid I'm serving up. Why? Because I hold (unhesitatingly and without apology, BTW) to the biblical standard of morality.
Such are big, judgmental words. I'm sure Jason Streitfeld can back up his assertion with arguments, especially arguments that respond to my own, laid out in my last post. I mean, surely someone in our enlightened, tolerant, politically-correct age would have nothing but the best reasons to label someone with such a nasty epithet as "scum", especially on account of his personal convictions! Let's see how well he did, first in his "warning" article:

Rhology thinks my "moral system" is very similar to the Judeo-Christian one. And, he says, this can be explained by the fact that I have been "created in God's image."
This suggests that a person who adheres to a different moral system--Muslim, perhaps--was not created in God's image.

1) A Muslim believes, he thinks, in the God revealed by Moses, Abraham, Jesus and the other biblical prophets. It stands to reason that we'd have virtually identical moral systems. Indeed, we do, with the exception of that whole blow-yourself-up-along-with-Jewish-women-and-children-in-Allah's-service. Of course, that's a relatively small group, and the causes are more than just religious.
2) If Jason knows anything about Christianity (which is certainly a debatable point), he would know that God created EVERY human in His image.
3) I'm giving Jason the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't think that it's OK to murder people indiscriminately, that the rule of law of gov't is generally a good thing, that stealing and rape are wrong, that we shouldn't torture children for fun, etc. But as an atheist, as we've seen, he has no reason to accept these precepts. There is no reason not to accept the opposites of these values, rationally speaking, outside of the consequences of a societal backlash. But fearing a backlash is not reasonable; it's visceral, related to one's desires.
Let me recommend, on this point, this quote from Michael Ruse, who seems to know sthg that Jason doesn't.
Let me also recommend a little study and thought on the so-called "Hume's Law", referring to David Hume, the famous skeptic and philosopher. Hume understood the is/ought distinction that Jason doesn't. In case Jason is tempted by the genetic fallacy in not listening to a fundy Bible-thumper like me, maybe he'll listen to one of his own on this issue, and thus stop making his silly statements that what is can communicate to us about what ought to be. They are two very different magisteria. What IS can only speak to what OUGHT to be if, as Hume himself says, we inject "sentiment" into the equation. "I want a stable society, and studies tell me that the best way to get there is, among other things, to outlaw and proscribe the torture of little children for fun. Therefore, torturing little children for fun is not OK."
Of course, what if we don't care about a stable society? Is torturing little children for fun then OK for that person?

When we refer to an objective basis for morality, we refer to a morality that is true independent of whether anyone believes it, and which can make moral statements that are true for all people, at all times and places, in all situations. It is blatantly obvious that Jason's hypothesis can't fulfill that. Christianity can.

This would mean that, as far as human rights go, Muslims are no more deserving than chimpanzees.

On the biblical worldview, that is of course hogwash. Muslims are human beings, right? There are differing commandments for humans vs chimps.
On atheism, what difference is there? We are both animals. I eat animals, had part of one just this morning. So what? We are both at equal stages of evolution - today. But of course, to argue that more advanced stage of evolution = moral permission to overpower and dominate is to argue that might makes right.
And of course, to argue that might makes right is itself a might-makes-right assertion. Who says that might makes right? (Certainly not God! There is no God, after all.)

the only reason he gives us for believing that Christianity is true is his inability to understand morality without Christianity.

I've argued for this assertion many, many times in my archives. Jason apparently thinks that I came into existence 5 minutes before I commented on his blog.
What I've been doing is drawing the distinction between our two moral systems.
On atheism, there is no objective basis for morality.
Yet Jason seems to think one exists.
On Christianity, there is one.
We can see the image of God, though suppressed, yet popping up here and there in Jason's own worldview and statements. He can't escape it, can't fully suppress it. He'll need to be way more consistent with his atheism to do so. I wonder how far he's willing to go?

Rhology thinks that morality amounts to doing whatever God has instructed in the Bible. "

Pretty much, yes. Since God is the very definition of good, therefore what He commands is good.

It has nothing to do with what is good for humanity, or what is good according to reason and common sense.

1) God created humanity, so doing what God says is by definition good for humanity.
God is the Creator, the Maker. Doing what He says is the equivalent of operating one's computer according to the user manual. Straying from it is the equivalent of trying to operate one's computer by plugging it into the wall with a kite string and pouring water into the CDROM drive and expecting it to pour forth butterflies and gold bullion.
2) Reason cannot inform what ought to be, as we've seen and as Jason has not rebutted, but only mocked.

This kind of thinking is fascist.

Oh NO! If "true" is fascist, fine, I'm a fascist.
I'd like to ask Jason to define just why being a fascist is morally objectionable, on atheism.

morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another

Notice the lack of argument. Jason hath spoken, apparently that is to be enough.

it is based in physiology.

How does the shape of my limbs inform how I ought to treat others? Whether I should cheat on my taxes? Whether I should eat that tasty-looking human over yonder?

Morality is a process of deciding what is best for humanity and civilization

Where does Jason defend his question-begging assertion of "what is best"?
How can we know that? What is the pre-existing framework by which he judges that? Why won't be honest, come clean and tell us this? I invite him to do so.
On what basis would anyone "justify" their actions to another? This is a patently circular, self-referential, empty claim. Tells us a whole lot of nothing.

Rhology is rejecting the very need to justify his views. He thinks he's above morality.

Pheh. Let the reader judge whether either of those are true, whether I've ever said anythg that would lead a reasonable person to think that I think I'm above morality, above God's definitions and commands.

Rhology would like to live in a dictatorship

1) I look forward to that day more than you know.
2) Whether Jason or anyone likes it or not, we live in God's world, God's universe. Refuse to admit it if you want - it matters not at all to reality.

where all possible judgments about life are constricted to those written down ages ago,

1) As opposed to a world where no objective judgments are even possible? Yeah, I'll take the former.
2) And of course, a sufficient revelation has been given to us by God, and yes, it was long ago. The applications of said revelation to the various situations I face in my daily life, however, are pretty widespread. They keep my small brain occupied, at least.

where anyone who disagrees with those ancient dictates is condemned

But not by me, by King Jesus Himself.

Moving on to the scum article:

I wouldn’t dream of arguing that somebody should be executed for adultery, or for following any non-Judeo-Christian religion.

1) Execution for adultery was good, back in the historical context in which that command was to be followed.
2) Jason needs to provide us with a way by which we can know that ANY action is morally objectionable before we can take his moralising seriously.
3) Didn't he just finish telling us that "morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another"? Everyone in Old Testament Israel were to follow this. Sounds like it follows his definition of morality just fine.

Do you agree with the Bible on all of these points?

I agree with the Bible on all points. Indeed, it is the primary and foundational shaper of my worldview, b/c it is God speaking. Just FYI.

because you say TGOTB is the final word—nay, the only word—on such questions

The final word. Not the only word - there is plenty of clamor from inferior, competing voices. Like Jason's.

you have two choices here: First, distance yourself from some of the teachings of the Bible, and thereby give up your assertion that the Bible is the only word on moral questions. Second, admit that you are scum.

Apparently I am scum b/c I follow a morality of which Jason disapproves. But what reason has he given to join him in his disapproval?

you think people who cheat on their spouses should be executed.

Read my article on the topic, and we can talk.
They should HAVE BEEN executed, back in the day. As for today, there is more than one factor. That's a discussion for another day.

You think Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus should be killed for their abandonment of the Judeo-Christian God.

??? Now Jason merely demonstrates his gross ignorance of the Bible. Nowhere is anything remotely like this expressed.
My best guess is that he refers to God's commands to OT Israel to wipe out certain civilisations. Certainly God did that, and it was good, morally upright, to do so and morally wrong to refuse. Jason may object. Fine. On what basis? Again, this fits his own stated definition of morality, that "morality is a process whereby people justify their actions to one another". Why the inconsistency now? Maybe he hasn't thought it all the way thru.

You actually think that you have the moral higher ground. You think that anybody who disagrees with your Bible is scummier than you are.

Jason apparently doesn't see just how that refers to himself as well, in his passing moral judgments on ME as scum.

I’ve been trying to explain this to you, but your mind has been so infiltrated by scum that you can’t see beyond the scum. You are trapped in a mental web of scum. It’s sad, because I think there is an intelligent and well-meaning person underneath all those layers of scum. But maybe I’m wrong, and you’re just scum to the bone.

See what I mean?
But this kind of thing is just fine when it's atheist targeting Christian. But let ME start flinging feces at him in the same manner, and I bet I get vilified as yet scummier.

on what grounds do you embrace your Bible, and not Mein Kampf?

Stay tuned, I'll get to that in a week or 2 probably.
Where does Mein Kampf, to be specific, make any claims that it defines morality for all people at all times, and is the word of the Creator of the universe?

your allegiance to the Bible is wholly arbitrary.

Jason doesn't bother to define what he means here.

morality is a process whereby justifications are established. It is an ongoing process, and it requires discourse

Apparently not when it doesn't suit Jason's preconceived ideas, such as in OT Israel or Nazi Germany.
So what's really driving his morality? Why, his personal tastes, of course! He's his own little god, as I've already observed.

You seem to think that, without a book to tell us exactly what is right and wrong, we would all be lost.

Not "a book". God's revelation.

You wish to end all negotiations and condemn those who do not adopt the views written in your very old book.

Apparently the idea of "you must adopt the views written in the Bible" is not even admissible as part of the negotiation. Jason is a hypocrite.

it is a dictatorial, fascist way to approach the process, because it denies the very possibility of negotiation.

Jason has made so many double-edged statements in these two posts that it is almost comical.

Anyway, I fully expect this to be my last substantive post before the Thanksgiving holiday weekend runs its course. Just FYI to all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Seen on captcha

That's quite a word-verification.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

More on human rights

I'm sick today and so don't have the energy to get deep into the issue of abortion. Some other things have come up, so I may have to leave that issue where it stands. I'm happy to leave it where it is anyway, given Jason Streitfeld's response on the topic. I don't think he has exhibited a particularly strong understanding of my rebuttals anyway.

Today I'd like to delve further into this issue of human rights, if atheism is true. Hopefully my explanation will help Jason understand my position a little better. In his response to my last post, he consistently confused internal and external critiques, so hopefully he'll be more careful about that in the future.

He begins by complaining that I have misunderstood atheism's stance on these issues. In this he makes a surprisingly common error, along the lines of "are you saying that atheists have no morality?" No, of course not. Atheists, or most atheists anyway, hold to some system of morality, and usually it conforms in general to the Judeo-Christian framework, which serves to illustrate their suppressed knowledge and latent hatred of God. But in my last post I wasn't arguing that he explicitly believes what I was saying. Rather, I am arguing that atheism leads logically to conclusions that are different than what he explicitly holds. There is no reason beyond wholly arbitrary, human-based reasons to hold to ANY morality, really. But, by contrast, he DOES hold to a system of morality that looks suspiciously like a Judeo-Christian one. Why?
It's b/c he is made in the image of God. He doesn't have a good reason to hold to the morality he does, and that could be said about ANY morality he might choose to follow. Since nothing is ultimately good nor bad on atheism, the most rational answer to any moral claim is: So what?

I will guess what he will say, given what he implies in his post (and I invite him to correct me): This morality is that which is generally good for society and civilisation. This is fraught with problems, however, which I'll draw out more later. But for now, let's consider that there is a big IF involved here. **IF** your goal is the "advancement" and "well-being" of society, then this morality is the way to get there. However,
1) there are plenty of people that don't want that. What makes their opinion invalid?
2) just who defines what advancement and well-being are? Let me guess - Jason and his fellow apparatchik do. Might makes right, apparently.
3) this changes all the time, depending on the society and the surrounding circumstances.

It doesn't matter whether Jason agrees or not. He needs to tell us WHY this claim is wrong. Let's see what he offers in this post.

Justice, beauty, truth, rights . . . these are human values. We all have them because we have working human brains and because we are actively involved in the world around us.

Which does not respond at all to my argument in the first post.

You don't need Christianity to appreciate beauty, truth, justice, or nobility. You don't need to be Christian to have honor.

Which is, of course, not my argument. Rather, you need Christianity to ACCOUNT FOR, to EXPLAIN the existence of truth, beauty, justice, and honor. What reason would we have to think or judge those things on atheism? Don't just make naked assertions, like he's doing: "But *I* recognise them!!" And I'm happy for you. But I'm asking you to show me how those things would reasonably exist in an atheistic universe.

I will explain what an objective moral authority is.

OK, I'm ready.

The term “objective” refers to that which can be observed and measured by anybody (in theory, of course), and not what is only available for a single person...
An objective moral authority is one that provides authoritative answers to moral questions in a way that can be observed and measured by any properly situated person.

I find these statements very strange for two reasons:
1) Where, then, is it, that it can be observed and measured? What does it mean to "measure" a morality? Its length? Its mass? The number of neurons in which places in which brains it might provoke to fire? The amount, frequency, amplitude, and kind of energy waves it emits? The elements of which it is composed - perhaps barium, lead, mercury, calcium, carbon, silicon?
2) The Bible seems to fulfill this quite well - it CAN be measured and observed by anyone. Indeed, it has been. It's the most popular book in history. But of course Jason doesn't accept this answer. That's why the statements are a little weird.

people react differently to objective events

Uh oh - that's trouble for him. Hopefully he won't mind if I quote him later...

Authority is granted by convention, of course.

1) Now, let's not forget that he just told us that people react differently to objective events. He seems not to realise that this has serious problematic implications for this statement.
2) Notice that he's committing the same old error - confusing IS and OUGHT.
Let's just grant that this is indeed the way it goes. A person or a group of people get together and imbue authority to shape morality to another person or group of people. The question is not whether this is how it usually goes in the world, however. The question is - is this right?
3) As I've observed numerous times before, this is a statement pulled out of the air. 2 questions:
a. How does Jason know that authority ought to be granted by convention?
b. How does Jason know when authority has been granted? He goes on to say:
a moral authority is a person or body of persons whose decisions on moral questions are respected within a community.

I'd like to ask Jason to identify the community in which he lives. How that authority is granted. When it was granted. Where. By whom. Surely not by every single person living in the community, right? Who is excluded? On what basis? Who was out of town when the vote was taken? Why didn't I ever get a ballot? Did they survey all the criminals too? Either way, what % of the votes was necessary to grant that authority? Such questions must be known before we can accept Jason's standard.

Another question on IS/OUGHT, for Jason's edification - how does one go about proving a moral question right or wrong? What experiment(s) must be run? The decision - since it is material, what does it look like? Where does it grow? Of what elements is it composed?

All that to say, no, given the numerous and elementary problems with Jason's statement of morality, it is not to be taken seriously. Thus, Jason may not like the alternative of following the morality of TGOTB, but we do know that what he has presented here is no alternative at all.

If you want objective moral authority, it has to be at least theoretically available to everyone in the community.

1) I'd love to see you answer this for your own worldview.
2) There is no argument made for this assertion; I assume Jason won't mind if I deny the assertion just as gratuitously as he made his own.
3) On Christianity, the Bible is indeed available to everyone in the community. It can be read silently and also read aloud in the case of the very young, the blind, the illiterate, etc.
4) As far as being defined "out of comprehension", maybe Jason has only visited liberal or Emergent churches or known liberals and Emergents, but there are an awful lot of Christians that DO know the morality of the Bible, and know it well. So one can only guess what Jason means.

My position is based on the needs of civilization and the demands of reason.

1) Once again, we are not informed how Jason knows what the "needs of civilisation" are. Or what they are. Or what % of people = "civilisation". Or what studies he can cite to back all this up.
2) He denies it's arbitrary, but how can it be anything but? There is no overriding authority for him - God doesn't exist, remember? There is nothing to tell him what is good and what is bad. Millions of people, billions even, have differing conceptions of what good and bad are, what needs are necessary and what needs are peripheral, and to what extent those needs extend to affect Jason's own circle, so he can't just claim that it's all based on one's own limited circle/community. The global village is indeed a global village. This argument might've worked better back in the Dark Ages. How about that - an atheist caught in the Dark Ages!

I do not postulate any secret knowledge, any wholly subjective information, or any other-worldly, ultimately unknowable realm,

On Christianity, the knowledge is not secret, but available to everyone and anyone; it is not subjective since it is based on an objective text that does not change, from God, Who can communicate to people just fine; it is not ultimately unknowable at all, since God has made these things known to humanity. So maybe there's hope for him - all this rejection is based on a total misconception of the Christian position.

You claim to have a moral authority when you clearly do not.

This is an external critique. Jason believes that God does not exist, so given that, it would be true that I don't have a moral authority, since the God to Whom I appeal does not exist. But as we've seen, NOBODY has a moral authority at all.
On Christianity, as an internal critique, of course I do have a moral authority. I invite Jason to explain, using biblical exegesis, how it would be that I don't have a moral authority.

If you want to use quotes from the Bible, fine. But the Bible itself is not an argument. It's just a collection of really old stories.

Again the external critique. On atheism, yes, he's right, but he doesn't tell the whole story, b/c there is no objective moral basis at all on atheism.
On Christianity, the Bible is God's very revelation to humankind. God has the right to command His creation to do whatever He wishes, and so what the Bible says is indeed an argument.

Now you want to avoid the issue of rights by talking instead about God's commandments.

I feared this might happen when I modified the thrust of my argument. I admit that it is a bit of a shift, but to my advantage and in my defense, I shifted to a more biblical position.
So, to review, on atheism there are no rights at all. On Christianity, there are no rights per se but rather a set of commandments on how people are commanded to treat each other given a set of circumstances. And "human rights" are generally shorthand for "how humans are supposed to treat each other" - God's commandments function just fine for that purpose.

Who decides what is a capital crime?

On atheism, people do. And that can change any time, and there is no rational reason either way.
On Christianity, God does.

Jason now moves on to specific questions about abortion. I'll deal with that which is really illustrative of the points here.

why give some rights to humans, but not to chimps?

On atheism, as we've seen and as Jason has not rebutted, there is no reason to grant rights to either.
On Christianity, it's b/c humans are made in the image of God. Chimps are not. God has commanded us to treat animals with reasonable kindness, but there are limits and their mandated treatment is not comparable to humans. It is licit to trap and kill monkeys when they are a pest and threat to farmland, etc, but illicit murder to kill young babies when they are an inconvenience to their parents.

By your account, the Nazis had a rational standard of human ability. Their attitude towards the Jews was thus based on a rational standard. Are you taking that comment back now, or what?

Jason misunderstands. My point has been that:
1) the Nazis had made an unreasonable, arbitrary distinction of human/not-human - that which is Jewish is not human.
2) similar to Jason's position on abortion, it is arbitrary - that which is below a certain age (whatever Jason thinks) and in a certain location (in the womb) is not-human
3) given that distinction (though it is irrational), the Nazis acted consistently with their irrational distinction. More consistently than most atheists (though the Nazis were pagans, not atheists).
Hopefully that helps Jason understand.

I don't think you could find one atheist who would tell you that you've accurately represented their views here.

I agree - I haven't met too many atheists who think very freely at all, who embrace their atheism to any real and extended sense. The closest to doing so that I've ever met is the Jolly Nihilist.

Please produce a coherent argument for your infallible moral authority

As I mentioned, Jason confuses internal and external critiques.
*If Christianity is true*, here it is. If it is not, then there is, as we've seen, no objective authority, no morality beyond "I like it/I don't like it", let alone any infallible one.
And again, if Jason is inclined to disagree, I invite his exegesis of the relevant biblical passages.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Just what are rights?

Jason asks:

On what basis do you justify ascribing any rights to anyone at all?

Note that I anticipate an answer which points to religious beliefs and texts. And remember that I find it impossible to take such beliefs seriously.

From my view, we have two choices here: one, approach the issue of rights pragmatically; two, approach them dogmatically. The former is rational, the latter is not. I support the rational approach. What about you?
That's a fine question, and it leads me actually to sthg I've been thinking about with the help of a friend with respect to this question.
As a disciple of the biblical faith, I started wondering just what biblical justification there is for this idea of "human rights", right before my friend emailed me to express just that concern for the way I've been arguing about baby murder recently around here.
It occurs to me that "rights" never occurs in the Bible, and neither does the idea of some intrinsic rights for humans. Rather, the ruling paradigm and therefore the question to be asked and answered on this issue is: In what way does God command us to treat other humans?
For example, God commands that we not murder other humans. He commands that we not steal, or commit adultery. He commands that we love our neighbor as ourself. Etc.

Why shall we follow His commands? There are many reasons, of course. Here are a few:

-So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time. (Deut 4:40)

-Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12)

-For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15)

-And (Jesus) said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matt 22:37-38)

-Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:16-18)

There are all sorts of reasons why not to sin, either against God or against another human. These are commands, strictly speaking, not 'human rights'.

I was sort of operating under the thinking that that which God commands I not to do to another (such as murder) can be loosely seen as a right. No one is supposed to murder anyone else. Thus, everyone has a right not to be murdered. Yet more loosely stated, everyone has a right to life, but one would want to be careful about that statement, for a couple of reasons:
1) Not everyone has a right to life. Those who have committed a capital crime should, most of the time, only live long enough for a fair trial and then be executed by the state, which has authority to do so. There are conceivable cases when mercy is called for, but not most of the time.
2) No one has a right that is higher than God's authority, but if we start talking too loosely about "human rights", then we could easily fall into that trap. I see it all the time in the media - this or that commentator or this or that man on the street complaining about "I can't believe God would allow this!" Believe it - He did.
Or, "I can't believe in a God that would allow this." At which point they run afoul of putting God in the dock, and there are all sorts of reasons why this sort of statement, while one can certainly have sympathy for the pain and grief out of which that comment might have emerged, is wrongheaded and rebellious. And of course, many times that person is not undergoing pain or grief at all; then it's just rebellion against God.
I've written recently on this very topic, and come to a conclusion that is probably hard for some to swallow. I'm not 100% sure of it, but I haven't seen a refutation yet.

Now, Jason says he will find this impossible take seriously. He admits his bias up front, which is more than can be said for many people, but it is still bias and therefore unworthy of much respect.
To further draw this out, we simply ask the atheist to provide a basis for human rights on his worldview.
On his worldview, everything is a product of chance and material and energetic interactions. There is no nobility, no beauty, no value, certainly no moral value. Evolution will continue and everything dies. Murder is simply making a weaker organism die a little before something else will have snuffed out its pointless existence, but both the interval and the life itself are infinitesimally small blips on the geological scale of time and size, to say nothing of the cosmic scale.

Since there is no value, it makes no difference whether I cuddle a baby gently and feed her, or whether I plunge her into boiling water for dinner. Neither is good, neither is bad.
It makes no difference whether I am an atheist or a Phred Felps gay-basher. Neither is good, neither is bad. If I deceive myself about the truth and become a Christian, it makes no difference.

Given that it makes zero difference how I treat others, whence do I think human rights might come? Besides, do paramecia have rights? Broccoli? What makes me better or morally preferable to those types of organism?

Since atheism is at its most consistent when it espouses materialism, one wonders of what human rights are composed. Of what elements? Do they grow somewhere? What is their natural environment? If they are simply products of human neural synapses firing, I suppose human rights are totally different depending on the human? So, Hitler and Pol Pot were just acting in accord with a totally valid expression of human rights, since they acted on their synapses firing just like everyone else, right? And those who think that there are no human rights are also expressing that which their own synapses are firing, so they are somehow correct as well, I suppose.

Summary - Jason's own worldview can't support human rights at all. So, it's vaguely amusing to hear him challenge Christianity to produce an account of them that he'll accept.
And he hates TGOTB, so he'll just reject anything that TGOTB might say in favor of something else. It doesn't matter what, just SOMETHING.


I tried out what turned out to be a crappy new format widget for this blog. It ate a faithful commenter's comment and asked me to Approve it, but didn't tell me HOW.
In my zeal for retribution I have tried to restore the original backed-up template, and it seems to have worked, but the last 4 posts' comments are gone. Annoying.

I still have them so I'll either just post them as edited extensions to the post itself or as standalone posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. 1st things 1st - I have to make sure that comments will be enabled from this time forward.

Edit: OK, at least it looks like they will work going forward. Beware Disqus.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I've been noodling these

...challenges to the theory of evolution.
Dick Dawk is actually coming to my town in the spring, and hopefully he'll hold an open-mic Q&A like Dembski did back in Sept 07. I'll be much nicer to the good professor than most anyone was to Dr Dembski, but I've been considering what to ask him.
Anyway, I came up with an interesting question that is maybe ready for some scrutiny, so we'll see where it leads. My first unfortunate subject was Tommy Holland, so let's see how it's gone down so far.
Note - I'll use "my side" as shorthand for Intelligent Design. I'm not a total fanboy of ID, but it's a fun argument tool at times like this.


Rhology said...

I have two challenges to evolution I'm wondering if you'd be interested in addressing, then.

Challenge 1: Given the great care that the Darwinian camp has taken to differentiate itself from the Intelligent Design stuff, one would think that certainly said camp would be highly, strongly interested in providing evidence for its position, absent ANY INTELLIGENCE involved whatsoever. Given that, I'd like evidence that evolution from one type of organism to another is occurring TODAY with the following qualifications:
1) A laboratory injects intelligence into the equation. No lab.
2) Experiments observed on a REPEATED basis, as good science should be.
3) No intelligent (ie, human) manipulation of the events.
4) With ALL normal environmental factors present. No control group, no outside interference from intelligent agents (ie, humans).
5) With ALL normal other factors present, such as predators, weather, fluctuations in prey, water, and other nourishment.
6) And a good way of judging when the line of organism has become a different type.

Challenge 2.

Tommy Holland. said...

The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle states that we can't observe something without changing it. Stick a thermometer into a small vial of water to get its temperature, and the temperature of the thermometer will change the temperature of the water.

Therefore, to artificially constrain science by insisting that it must conduct science without observing the conditions ("No lab.") is unreasonable. Incidentally, your qualifications would be just as inhibiting to demonstrating Intelligent Design as it is to the Theory of Evolution.

Historical events can't be reproduced scientifically. I can't duplicate my birth or the Battle of Waterloo in a lab and study the results. However, we can study the mechanisms of historical events scientifically and learn from them about how the events came to pass.

For example, we can't reproduce Columbus' historic voyage across the Atlantic Ocean--it simply can't be done. But we do know his starting point, his ending point, and his mechanism for sailing the ocean waters (Mediterranean caravels). Even though we can't draw a dotted line across the Atlantic reproducing his exact path, we know beyond reasonable doubt that in the year 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

What's more, our inability to exactly reproduce Columbus' voyage does not allow us to declare that perhaps he teleported from Spain to the West Indies. "Magic" is not a better answer than "probable, but not completely certain."

That said, evolution has been observed both in the laboratory and in the wild. From a century and a half of observational science, we have a framework that can begin with a starting point, an ending point, and the mechanism that bridges the two--natural selection.

Rhology said...

Yeah, actually the Heisenberg principle did occur to me.
It makes, hmmm, drawing strong, hard-and-fast conclusions about the concepts to which it applies pretty much impossible.
But of course, you won't admit that about your precious theory of evolution, will you? Even though you admit that you have to inject intelligence into any study on this supposedly non-intelligent process. It's laughable, actually.

Historical events can't be reproduced scientifically

1) Hey, all this certainty and strong statements come from YOUR side, not mine. Would that your people would realise this and adjust their statements accordingly.
2) Of course, I'm not asking you to reproduce a historical event. I'm asking you for evidence that the processes you appeal to are still in operation TODAY.

That said, evolution has been observed both in the laboratory and in the wild.

Prove it. Where?
Laboratory is right out, for reasons I already explained.
Please describe the "observed" in the wild. I'm very curious.

Go read an article in talkorigins

1) Interesting - this is just confirmation that your side can't define "species", but you're always ready to jump down creationists' throats for not being able to define "kind" of animal...
2) Let's see what this yields. - Nothing is mentioned on whether this variant was before present. And as you said, Tommy, there's little way to know. That's a draw. - Intelligent Design. Point for my side. That's 1 to 0. - See That's 1 to 0, with 2 draws. - See That's 2 to 0, with 2 draws. - See That's 3 to 0, with 2 draws. - See That's 4 to 0, with 2 draws. - See That's 5 to 0, with 2 draws. This is not going well for you. - See That's 6 to 0, with 2 draws. Ouch. - See That's 6 to 0, with 3 draws.

5.2.1 - See That's 6 to 0, with 4 draws.
5.2.2 - See That's 7 to 0, with 4 draws.
5.2.3 - See That's 8 to 0, with 4 draws.

Wow. At the rate this is going, it'll be a disaster for your side. That's embarrassing for you.
So, are you saying that you have no answer to my challenges?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The fundamental nature of reality: Discuss

Jason Streitfeld said:


Thanks for trying to provide a definition of "God." Before I explain the problems I have with your definition, let me point out a couple of assumptions I don't think you should be making.

First, don't assume that I am unfamiliar with the many ways people have defined the term "God." In fact, my arguments here are based on a rather thorough familiarity with many theological traditions.

Second, don't assume that you need some notion of "God" to found epistemology or metaphysics. In fact, I don't see any sense in claiming that God could be a foundation for anything at all. And, frankly, I question the idea that metaphysics is a legitimate subject of enquiry. What used to be called "metaphysics" is most reasonably called "logic" and "linguistics" today.

The foundation of epistemology, however, is rational thought itself. We can approach the subject of epistemology because we are rational beings, because rational thought is an object of enquiry for us. What other foundation for epistemology could there possibly be?

Now, you say that most theologians do not regard the term "God" as being beyond human comprehension.

What about Tertullian, the man who coined the term "Trinity" and who came up with the whole idea that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost? He said, "This it is which gives some notion of God, while yet beyond all our conceptions—our very incapacity of fully grasping Him affords us the idea of what He really is. He is presented to our minds in His transcendent greatness, as at once known and unknown."

In the New Testament, Paul argues that God dwells "in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see."

For the sources of these quotes, and more information about negative theology, check out Wikipedia's page on the subject:

Now, of course, many theologians have attempted positive definitions of "God." I never doubted or ignored that fact. However, none of the commonly accepted positive definitions of "God" make any sense.

Let's look at your proposed definition, because it's a very good example of what I'm talking about.

You said, "God is the lone ultimate foundation for reality and reasoning."

Currently, many scientists think that the ultimate foundation of reality might very well be superstrings. Do you suggest that God might be superstrings?

I'm guessing, no, you do not think God is superstrings, because that wouldn't fit with the rest of your definition. According to the rest of that definition, God "is personal, intelligent, all-knowing, omnipotent, the creator of space, time, and energy, just, holy, compassionate, wrathful, good, communicative, and spirit. In short, He is as He is defined in the Bible."

So superstrings are out. But what sort of "foundation of reality" are you talking about, if not superstrings or something else open to scientific discovery?

What does the phrase "foundation of reality" even mean, if not the laws of nature and fundamental entities discovered to make up the universe as we know it?

This is the kind of incoherence I'm talking about. You use a phrase "foundations of reality" in a way that doesn't seem to make sense.

Consider, also, that your definition supposes that God created both space and time. That means that God existed before space and time. And that, some time after God existed for a while, he created space and time. So, there was some time before time when God existed . . . and, I suppose, some space outside of space which God took up. It is clear that your notions of "space" and "time" are confused, and make your "God" impossible to understand.

There are plenty of other problems. For example, if God is good and compassionate, why is he wrathful? If God is good, why has he created a world in which people (including newborn babies) suffer horribly for no apparent reason? Why would a good, compassionate God punish people for sticking to reason and common sense--that is, why would he punish atheists--for all eternity? According to what notion of compassion does that logically follow?

Sure, you can say that God works in mysterious ways, and that it is not our place to question God's will. And we should just accept those aspects of God that are beyond our understanding.

And yet, if you take away those mysterious assertions and take out all the stuff that doesn't make sense, what are you left with? The idea of a very smart, very strong something which, apparently, has created mankind for the sole purpose of punishing those who don't properly respect it.

That is the only sensible meaning left from your definition, and I think you will agree that it does not sound anything like what you and other religious people claim to believe in.

So, no, I'm not going to revise my original post. All you have done is provide an example of the sort of meaningless definitions of "God" that I'm talking about.

You also provided a link to another definition which, like your own, combines a series of easy-to-understand adjectives with nonsensical ontological assertions. Here, God's essence is offered thusly: God "only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto."

So, God's essence is immortality, and only immortality. What on earth does that mean?

Of course, we are not supposed to know, because "no man can approach" God. It's just beyond our understanding.

I believe you've helped me make my point. Thank you.

I respond:

Hi Jason,

I invite your correction wherever I overstep or mistakenly state your worldview. I'm not trying to misrepresent it.
A good amount of what you're saying seems to be an argument ad incredulum, but not everyone is bound by the same limited understanding.
We say that God is the source of metaphysics and epistemology b/c He has revealed that He is just that. Then, just for fun, I examine other worldviews to see how they account for relevant things like the laws of logic. No atheist I've yet encountered has sufficiently accounted for the existence and nature of the laws of logic, while still remaining consistently atheist, but I invite you to do so.

You place your ultimate value in reason, apparently. Can you prove that reason is the foundation of epistemology, using reason? In other words, can you give me reasons why I should trust reason?
Of course not - that would be begging the question. You have faith in reason as your ultimate foundation. I have faith in God as the ultimate foundation. Fair enough so far?
The question then becomes: Does my ultimate foundation account for all of reality?
Mine certainly does; I'll get to your critiques of mine in a sec. Yours, however, well, it's tough. For one thing, you can't take reason based on reasons alone, since that's question-begging. So you take "reason as ultimate epistemological foundation" on faith. I ask: you got to this ultimate truth thru an exercise of faith. Why, then, abandon faith for other epistemological pursuits? Reason failed you in that most important ultimate question, why go back to it for other, less-important questions?

For another thing, reason tells us precisely zero about how we SHOULD act, once we know stuff. That is an important question - ethics. No atheist I've encountered has given me a foundation for morality, on atheism, that is simultaneously
1) consistent with atheism (of whatever flavor)
2) objective, and
3) not arbitrarily based on what that individual says or a collection of individuals says.

We're looking for a moral foundation that tells us what right and wrong are, independent of whether anyone believes it or not.

One statement of yours that makes me question whether you are up to the task is:
I question the idea that metaphysics is a legitimate subject of enquiry

That in itself is a metaphysical statement. You do realise that, don't you?
Or do you think that asking and answering questions about reason and such things are physical? Where are they located? Of what elements are they composed? What do they smell like?

As for your critiques of my position:
What about Tertullian, the man who coined the term "Trinity" and who came up with the whole idea that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

He coined the term, sure, but the concept is clearly expressed all throughout the Bible. He did not "come up" with it at all.

(Tertullian said): "as at once known and unknown."

Exactly - both known and unknown. You're trying to place all the weight on that latter, w/o taking into acct the fact that God has communicated a great deal of Himself in a way that humans can understand.

Paul argues that God dwells "in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see."

More precisely, the Father dwells there. John 1:18 explains: "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."
Many have seen the Son, Jesus. He is the icon of the Father, as Hebrews says.
Look, don't take this the wrong way, but you're out of your depth when you try to handle Christian theology like this. You don't get to take half of my worldview and try to make it the whole. Let ME define my worldview, then you deal with it as a whole, not only with the parts you like and have cherry-picked. Just a friendly reminder. :-)

negative theology

Yes, a great deal of statements about God are apophatic, but far from all of them.

Currently, many scientists think that the ultimate foundation of reality might very well be superstrings.

1) Yep, currently. Next year it'll be sthg else. I'm not impressed with such things.
2) That's a metaphysical statement, BTW. Superstrings, if they exist, are hardly physical.
3) Scientists are not omniscient. God is and He has said that He is not equivalent to a superstring.
4) If someone were to flesh out a full-orbed epistemology and metaphysics based on superstrings, I'd be happy to critique it like I am critiquing yours.

What does the phrase "foundation of reality" even mean, if not the laws of nature and fundamental entities discovered to make up the universe as we know it?

That's a great question. It does mean that, precisely, but more than that even.
We're trying to account for why the world and the universe are like they are. Such questions include what you said, as well as questions of intelligence, the one and the many, consciousness, personality and personhood, thought, identity, relationship. All of it. TGOTB accounts for all of that. I'd like to see, indeed, I have yet to see, "reason" even get close.

That means that God existed before space and time...some space outside of space which God took up.

God created both time and space, yes. He inhabits neither, however - He is spirit in essence. He "existed", logically, not chronologically, before time. He is the cause of time's existence, therefore logically "before".
He is not physical; rather, He created the physical and the space in which the physical subsists. I have to use SOME language to express that idea.

Then you step into a minefield -
if God is good and compassionate, why is he wrathful?

Uh oh, as an atheist, how do you acct for making moral statements that should apply to anyone else? I'll need to see your justification for that before I accept any outside critique as valid.

Why would a good, compassionate God punish people for sticking to reason and common sense--that is, why would he punish atheists--for all eternity?

You will be punished for all eternity, unless you repent, and that offer is still good and still free, b/c you have broken God's law innumerable times to count. Not b/c you followed "common sense".
You know that TGOTB exists, but you suppress the truth in your wickedness, b/c then you'd have to repent and give up your evil deeds. You won't even admit it to yourself. That suppression of the truth is in itself evil.

God's essence is immortality, and only immortality. What on earth does that mean?

As the London Baptist Confession statement, to which I linked, says: "The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection..."
Etc. Re-read the statement for more. I'm not saying it can be exhaustively explored by human reason, only sufficiently to know that He is, and that He is great, good, holy, and the Lord.

I look fwd to your thoughts. I'll post this on my blog too, since it's good stuff, deep stuff.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Credibility kicks the bucket

I keep wondering if I should carve notches into some kind of trophy somewhere for having been banned or having comments suppressed on atheist blogs. It happened again late last week chez possummomma, who apparently can't stomach someone calling out cases of gross redundant question-begging assertions from her and from her commenters.

I had first posted on this issue of same-sex marriage on her blog, then posted one of my larger comments here, then continued over there. But this last comment, which I paste below, was suppressed.

Adam Slagle,

That would be a point in favor of the one who favors free religious expression in the public sphere. That's me; it might be you too, or it might not. But I thought being homosexual was an issue of being born that way - that's what everyone else here is saying. You seem to disagree, though, so I'm happy to know you're in agreement with me.


You seem to be very emotional. This issue certainly does seem to bring out the irrational in people. Could I ask you to calm down and stop being so nasty? For the sake of your own credibility, seriously.

No one is asking your church to recognize the marriage or perform any marriage they choose not to.

Not yet. But you contradict yourself in the very next two sentences -

As for non-religious workplaces having to provide benefits... sorry the bigots won't get to spit on that group of people selectively anymore.

Now wait just a second. Let's say I own a business, and let's say I'm a Christian who takes the Bible seriously. My beliefs extend to EVERY area of life, not just to what I do in church. You apparently want to force me to provide benefits to a SSM worker's "spouse", against my will. I have good, reasonable arguments for my position (which are pummeling the other side, if this combox is any indication), yet you want to call me a bigot, groundlessly accuse me of "spitting" on someone (which I would never do - again you, not I, prove to be the bigot here) and bring litigation against me if I don't break my conscience.
So, it looks like you don't even realise the full implications of what you're saying. You have to think these things thru, you know.

the issue of reciprocated consent

Which I responded to. Do you make a habit of responding to 3-day-old posts?

That's the whole damn point of a modern system of morality!

Then my question to you is the same I posed to Berlzebub - Who died and made you God?
Make your argument that that is the point, and why I should accept such a question-begging foundation for morality.

That and empathy, much as you casually dismiss that which makes it possible for there to be good people.

I made numerous arguments in the post I linked to about empathy. I know it's more comfortable for you not to even read those arguments and just throw out a "you casually dismiss our arguments", but you're certainly not fooling me. Read the post and interact with the arguments there.

completely ignoring any evidence or argument to the contrary

Pheh. Let the reader judge who is bringing substantive arguments to the table.

I don't think you are welcome here. (not to speak for you, PMomma, its your show, after all)

By all means, silence all dissenting voices. That's the liberal idea of "open-mindedness" and "tolerance", after all.

I am inclined to think of you nothing more than a troll, and a bigoted one at that.

There you go with the name-calling again.
Do trolls have dozen-page-long conversations?
I've made numerous arguments that you haven't even interacted with here. You might try that - name-calling and labels are poor substitutes for dealing with arguments.

homosexuals are not the enemy!

Where did I ever say they were?
Many homosexuals don't support SSM, for one thing.
I oppose the SSM movement. The idea. I know you want to paint me as someone who'd love to murder all homosexual people, but you'll have to take me way out of context or just not quote me at all to do so.

I'm sure there were lots of white business owners who didn't want to pay for health insurance for any of those blacks when that marriage alteration was passed

Once again you pass over an argument w/o comment. Pitiful. Go back and read what I've already said on this comparing SSM to the civil rights mvmt and then bring forth your response.


1) I already demonstrated that you personally advocate sthg that would affect me adversely.
2) And about the emptiness of the "love" argument.
3) Deal with the arguments I've made about an atheist's ability to make ANY moral statement and think it should apply to anyone other than themselves. Again, I've already said multiple things on this issue in this very combox. Is it too much to ask that you interact with things I've already said, that you progress the argument rather than take backward steps?


I then told possummomma my honest estimate of her actions:

You're not going to publish my last comment?
That is pitiful. If you're tired of the way I argue, here are two suggestions:
1) Actually answer the questions.
2) No one is forcing you to read the comments here, you know. If others want to continue the interaction, who knows to what interesting lengths it might lead? We'll never know now, b/c you've decided to censor.

It's quite obvious where the chips fell in this encounter. As for me, it's another "notch" in my "belt" of atheists who won't face up to actual arguments. It's not some war, as you have me thinking in your last comment, but it is a marketplace of ideas. Those who censor generally have the least confidence in their ideas to win the competition. It's obvious where you stand.

Thanks for hosting the conversation thus far. Too bad you apparently don't have the spine to let it go on and die a natural death.


Gotta love the intellectual honesty of the atheist blogosphere. She's a big-hitter too. It's got to make you a little bit sad.

Anyway, since that time, some more comments have appeared.

-Some of them rehash the consent issue. They are not advancing the argument at all, but just repeating the same old stuff over and over.

-A few other issues:

empathy, empathy, empathy

I had asked the atheists in the combox to justify their moral statements. I went in there and made NO argument based on my own morality; rather, I was arguing an ad absurdum - if we change this one element of marriage, might as well change them all under the same argument. They started saying stuff like "IT IS NOT MORAL TO DENY GAYS THE RIGHT TO MARRY SOMEONE THEY LOVE AND THAT LOVES THEM BACK! IT DOESN'T AFFECT YOU ADVERSELY!" so I asked them to justify that. The same old question. And the same old failures to do so. I even did them a favor and told them not to say "empathy" (b/c I've already mercilessly pwnd that idea), but that didn't stop them.

possummomma said:
Equating homosexuals to pedophiles and criminals is unacceptable.

Which I didn't do, of course. She has a hard time following arguments, unfortunately.

If your religion or your God feeds your hatred, then it and/or he is unacceptable as well.

1) I don't hate homosexuals, nor did I say anythg that would lead anyone to that conclusion.
2) God, OTOH, does hate them, and their sin. He lovingly calls them to repentance, but He is their enemy, and they are His, just like all unrepentant sinners and partakers in perversion.
3) Notice possummomma, despite my direct request that she and at least 2 other commenters do so, never attempts to justify her moral statement. She just asserts it.

When I see a blogger say that (I went to stir up trouble) and then note that it's a point of pride, I lose faith in their argument.

A classic case of the poisoning the well fallacy.

I think it's summed up by a post he made on the Atheist Experience blog where he claims atheists are unable to have true ethics or morals.

Nope, never said that. Re-read my posts on that topic.

PerpetualBeginner said:
It was more of MY beliefs are true. I know they're true.

1) And I'm sure that she doesn't really believe that her own beliefs are true. How disingenuous to say sthg like this.
2) Around here, I do sthg that these commenters are evidently unfamiliar with - argue for my position rather than just assert it.

he's another of those creepy people that seem to think that belief in God is the only reason people don't roam the streets raping and murdering randomly

That is full of misunderstanding.
1) It is not belief in God, but rather God's existence and His common grace that He gives even unrepentant human beings that holds us back from these evils.
2) But of course, my actual argument wrt atheism is that, while atheists are in general nice people, nice to children and dogs, etc, they don't have a good reason to be, on atheism. There is no objective reason for them to think that being nice is morally preferable to being nasty.

Flatly, the bible provides no grounds for saying that raping little girls is always wrong.

This from a self-professed "Christian". I'll hopefully get to that this week. Her worldview is certainly far from biblical, and therefore far from Christian.

Terra said:
It's ironic to me that his profile says he's so loving of all things foreign, and yet he can't open his mind long enough to see he's being a bigot.

Terra provides no argument. I think I was called a "bigot" like 9 times in that thread.

evolveintobirds said:
in one of the longer arguments he is pushed to answer the question "if God told you to kill your child would you obey?" (they were discussing Abraham and Isaac). After much beating around the bush he finally admitted that he would not because it contradicts his understanding of the Bible.

No doubt s/he refers to this post. While I give him/her credit for driving down that far into my archives, I don't see an argument to back up this assertion. What a surprise.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

To whom rights belong

In December 1993, Eddie Tabash debated Greg Bahnsen, the latter of whom delivered this zinger:

He tells us that it's alright to execute these developing human beings because, according to him, there's no capacity for consciousness up to a certain point. And yet, earlier in the debate you heard him say that we only know things based on observation. And I'd like to know: On what observational basis does he know what consciousness the developing fetus has or doesn't have, or is even capable of having? Are capabilities something that you observe as well? You see, he just can't decide which worldview he wants to use. As a matter of fact, what you see in the case of the developing fetus is always a matter of degree. There is no question after conception that you have all the biological components here of a human being. The child does not become a human being when it is fully developed in its mental capacities. I can't believe a man who has relatives who were killed under that kind of thinking would now apply it to innocent unborn children. For you see, if you start saying "those people that you don't deem fully developed" can now be executed, then we're right back to Hitler and the genocide of people that you think aren't fully developed.
(Emphases follow Bahnsen's voice pattern.)

This served as a bit of an inspiration for me last Thursday when I was engaging some pro-legal-baby-murder protesters near the Justice For All exhibit on the nearby university campus. I found myself in a conversation with two young Jewish men, one of whom was making the case that the unborn child acquires human rights at time of his or her exhibition of brain waves. Another protester later told me that whether the unborn baby has human rights should not affect the legality of abortion and does not affect it in her mind, but anyway... I'd say for most reasonable people, if the baby has human rights and is human, they would say it shouldn't be legal and it isn't moral to kill the baby. In other words, for most people, unborn baby = human? is the foremost question of the abortion debate.

The point that I made to the Jewish gentleman was rather provocative. The 3rd Reich decided on an arbitrary basis that Jewish people (among other ethnicities and social groupings) were not human. (Yes, the tired "Hitler example"; don't turn your brain off - just b/c it is [over]used does not mean it does not hold.) I ask: In what way is the arbitrary decision that the unborn human acquires human rights when s/he exhibits brain waves qualitatively different than the Nazis' arbitrary decision that Jewish people were not human?
He responded: "But these Jews were walking, talking, had jobs, had families, had lives. How could you say that it's the same?"
I reminded him that an arbitrary decision based on performance can be on a limitless sliding scale - whomever is in power gets to decide who has human rights. If they decide you don't have human rights, you don't. Then you're no more important than cattle, and you can be killed without much remorse at all. Which is what happened.

Human rights must be bestowed based on whether one is human. There is no good reason to believe that human rights are bestowed based on what one can do. This leads to all sorts of highly faulty and awful conclusions - those in a coma are no longer human. A little adjustment one way or the other, and someone loses his humanity when he is asleep. Or I have greater human rights if I am older, stronger, smarter, richer, or in a better location; if those things are true, and someone who is younger, less intelligent, and poorer is standing in my way, I can morally (and legally) kill that person. They were inconvenient to me, and my human rights supersede theirs.

No, the real bases for human rights is ontological, not performance-based. We argue against the latter using, among other things, the acronym SLED.
The conferral of human rights does not, indeed, must not depend on:
-Size or physical appearance
-Level of development
-Environment (location)
-Degree of dependency

Friday, November 14, 2008

The tolerance of the tolerant

In other news:

Worshippers at a Bible-teaching church in Lansing, Mich., were stunned Sunday when members of a pro-homosexual, pro-anarchy organization named Bash Back interrupted their service to fling propaganda and condoms around the sanctuary, drape a profane banner from the balcony and feature two lesbians making out at the pulpit.

According to a blog posting by Nick De Leeuw on Right Michigan, the Bash Back organization orchestrated a protest in front of Mount Hope Church to draw the church's security staff away from the sanctuary.

Then Bash Backers who had dressed up and mixed in with church worshippers took action.

According to De Leeuw, "Prayer had just finished when men and women stood up in pockets across the congregation, on the main floor and in the balcony.

"'Jesus was gay,' they shouted among other profanities and blasphemies as they rushed the stage. Some forced their way through rows of women and kids to try to hang a profane banner from the balcony while others began tossing fliers into the air. Two women made their way to the pulpit and began to kiss," he wrote.

He cited the Bash Back organization's own announcement of other items members brought into the church, including "a megaphone, noise makers, condoms, glitter by the bucket load, confetti, pink fabric. ..."

According to the alternative Lansing City Pulse – which reported it was notified of the protest ahead of time and sent a reporter along instead of warning the church – the protesters also screamed at parishioners and pulled the church facility's fire alarm. Printed material protesters distributed said, "We specialize in confronting homophobia, transphobia and every and all other forms of oppression."...

De Leeuw reported "the 'open minded' and 'tolerant' liberals ran down the aisles and across the pews, hoping against hope to catch a 'right winger' on tape daring to push back (none did).

"This is what we're up against," De Leeuw wrote. "Amidst worshiping congregants and following unifying prayers that our president-elect be granted wisdom as he prepares to lead our nation through difficult global, social and economic challenges, the Michigan left declared open war on peaceful churchgoers...

In a statement posted on the Internet, Bash Back confirmed its "operatives" were in the service, "stood up, declared themselves fags, and began screaming loudly. … Another group threw over a thousand fliers to the entire … congregation. The fire alarm was pulled. Queers began making out in front of the pastor. And within a matter of minutes, everyone had evaded the guards and made their escapes."

The statement continued, "Let is be known: So long as bigots kill us in the streets, this pack of wolves will continue to BASH BACK!"

*Update on the Bash Back story, to be fair.

In yet more news:

Catherine Vogt, 14, is an Illinois 8th grader, the daughter of a liberal mom and a conservative dad. She wanted to conduct an experiment in political tolerance and diversity of opinion at her school in the liberal suburb of Oak Park.

She noticed that fellow students at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for president. His campaign kept preaching "inclusion," and she decided to see how included she could be.

So just before the election, Catherine consulted with her history teacher, then bravely wore a unique T-shirt to school and recorded the comments of teachers and students in her journal. The T-shirt bore the simple yet quite subversive words drawn with a red marker:

"McCain Girl."

"I was just really curious how they'd react to something that different, because a lot of people at my school wore Obama shirts and they are big Obama supporters," Catherine told us. "I just really wanted to see what their reaction would be."

Immediately, Catherine learned she was stupid for wearing a shirt with Republican John McCain's name. Not merely stupid. Very stupid.

"People were upset. But they started saying things, calling me very stupid, telling me my shirt was stupid and I shouldn't be wearing it," Catherine said.

Then it got worse.

"One person told me to go die. It was a lot of dying. A lot of comments about how I should be killed," Catherine said, of the tolerance in Oak Park.

But students weren't the only ones surprised that she wore a shirt supporting McCain.

"In one class, I had one teacher say she will not judge me for my choice, but that she was surprised that I supported McCain," Catherine said.

If Catherine was shocked by such passive-aggressive threats from instructors, just wait until she goes to college.

"Later, that teacher found out about the experiment and said she was embarrassed because she knew I was writing down what she said," Catherine said.

One student suggested that she be put up on a cross for her political beliefs.

"He said, 'You should be crucifixed.' It was kind of funny because, I was like, don't you mean 'crucified?' " Catherine said.

Other entries in her notebook involved suggestions by classmates that she be "burned with her shirt on" for "being a filthy-rich Republican."

Some said that because she supported McCain, by extension she supported a plan by deranged skinheads to kill Obama before the election. And I thought such politicized logic was confined to American newsrooms. Yet Catherine refused to argue with her peers. She didn't want to jeopardize her experiment.

"I couldn't show people really what it was for. I really kind of wanted to laugh because they had no idea what I was doing," she said.

Only a few times did anyone say anything remotely positive about her McCain shirt. One girl pulled her aside in a corner, out of earshot of other students, and whispered, "I really like your shirt."

That's when you know America is truly supportive of diversity of opinion, when children must whisper for fear of being ostracized, heckled and crucifixed.

The next day, in part 2 of The Brave Catherine Vogt Experiment, she wore another T-shirt, this one with "Obama Girl" written in blue. And an amazing thing happened.

Catherine wasn't very stupid anymore. She grew brains.

"People liked my shirt. They said things like my brain had come back, and I had put the right shirt on today," Catherine said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My upcoming multiple marriages

Over at the recently-revived possummomma's blog, I've been stirring up some trouble on the issue of same-sex marriage (SSM) and simultaneously challenging her readers' reading comprehension levels. I don't really think they're following the argument, but I have more confidence in my readers. I had fun writing this; I hope you have at least half as much fun reading it.


So as not to extend this unnecessarily, I'll just say this up front about the vitriol hurled my way.
1) I challenge anyone to quote me insulting anyone. OTOH, how many times have I been insulted? Not that I care, but the atheists here act like they have taken and hold the high ground of courtesy. It's laughable.
2) It is not poisoning the well to point out ad hominems when I was the one accused of ad hominems. Please. Rather, the one who engages in ad hominem risks poisoning her own well before the reader.
3) To Hugo, I thought that since you were from Belgium you might speak French. I speak French. You do well enough, it appears, but I don't know why you reacted the way you did. Did you ever consider actually answering my question, or is it just easier to rip me?

Berlzebub said:
You can't seem to comprehend that there are people different than you who might just want the same happiness.

Lots of people are in unhappy marriages.
Possummomma said just above the following: "Marriage is no guarantee for a moral life."
It's no guarantee for a happy life either. My marriage is happy, but many are not. Why even bring it up?

You've continuously refused to entertain the concept that homosexuality is not a choice. It even seems to be central to your argument.

You don't read very closely, I'm sorry to say.
Homosexual BEHAVIOR is a choice.
And it's not central to my argument at all. I grant it in the argument based on the deconstruction of the 4 points of the institution of marriage.
The 4 points are as follow:

A homosexual can marry anyone of the following qualifications.
1) One person.
2) Of the opposite sex.
3) Of marriageable age.
4) Who gives consent.
I have the right to marry someone who fulfills the 4 qualifications; so does any homosexual. This is the definition of the institution of marriage.

Moving on, there is a misapprehension about my 4 points. They describe the marriage institution as it is in reality, not as I wish it to be or as I wish to define it. That's the way it is. Deal with it. If you can't, you forfeit the argument.

As for the defenses of the other 3 points, you're in part missing the thrust of my argument. If we change point #2 of the institution, what is the reasonable response to anyone who wants to marry these disparate things and ages and numbers of people and things? It's not a slippery-slope argument, per se. I'm just asking why your same arguments don't lead to the conclusions I'm drawing.
Plus, remember that I feel very strongly about these marriages. My vision of marriage extends far beyond the possibility of anatomical compatible for sexual relations, just like the SSM advocate does. This is my preferred behavior, and these are my preferred relationship partners. Who are you to deny me my rights? I don't have the same rights as you do! I can't marry whom or what I want to marry!

Perpetual Beginner said:
#1 - we'd have to reinvent marriage and marriage law almost from scratch

1) Be honest with me. Would you accept this argument from a conservative, to deny SSM? No.
2) We have to revamp it anyway. This is pretty much begging the question. We ARE CHANGING the institution of marriage (since we are removing #2) to allow SSM. WHY NOT change other parts of it?

#3 - The first is the potential for serious power differentials.

Surely you're aware that serious power differentials exist in all sorts of adult relationships. Friendships, hetero marriages, homosexual relationships...
So why would this be an argument against my proposed marital relationships? Just another imperfect relationship in a world of imperfect relationships.

4) Who gives consent.
This is the one where I keep thinking people have to be kidding, but they never are.

You are such a bigot. How dare you make fun and make light of my choices for the marital bond. I LOVE these people and things and want to be married to them!

Consent is important because if consent isn't involved you're violating the rights and personhood of the other person involved. Marriage without consent would be kidnapping and rape.

So, you're saying that if we remove one of the points of marriage, it's no longer marriage? Be careful - what happens when you start to consistently apply the same standard to the other 3 points, such as #2? It's no longer marriage, is it?
Besides, the donkey, the grapefruits, and the tree are not persons at all. So what? Speciesism - discrimination on the basis of your species. You're a bigot indeed.
On top of that, you're engaging in age discrimination - why do YOU get to modify marriage, but I don't, just b/c I happen to love and be attracted to people that are a little younger than the people YOU'RE attracted to? No one is asking you to be attracted to them. I'm just asking that my own rights be recognised!

at makes all the slippery slope arguments about SSM simply silly. Every time someone starts going on about people marrying golden retrievers and trees I want to smack them upside the head.

What a bigoted thing to say. I hope you don't criticise, then, Westboro Baptist Church when they advocate violence against homosexuals! Sounds like you're advocating violence against people of my persuasion.

somehow we never get confused and let them form companies, buy houses, or join the army

Question-begging - 1) you're not arguing for SHOULD anymore. You're just saying what IS, but what should be is the very question at hand.
2) Homosexuals don't get to join the army. Your analogy fails.

possummomma said:
By equating human love to the love you have for a donkey and a grapefruit, I question your understanding of the concep

I'm not equating love at all. I'm just telling you that I want to marry them. Love is irrelevant; people don't just get married for love, you know.

If your concept of homosexuality is akin to pedophelia (sic), then I think my accusation of bigotry is completely and totally justified as you clearly do not understand that which you wish to prohibit.

I'm engaging in a whole lot of argument ad absurdum. I have made no statement one way or the other on that count.

The institution of marriage is a cultural concept, not a Biblical or biological one.

It actually IS biblical; it's there from the first chapter of the Bible. The Bible is pretty old, you know.

Allow me to ask you why you think your "institution" is more moral than any other married couple?

1) My argument here has been independent of the "more moral" question, actually.
2) It's more moral b/c God says it is. God's character defines morality.
3) I seriously doubt that you as an atheist have any non-arbitrary, objective basis for your own code of morality. You might surprise me, but I haven't met one yet, and I've talked to quite a few atheists. I've had "empathy is the basis" thrown at me, and that fails utterly. Go ahead, knock me out. Prove your morality doesn't come down to just "I like it/I don't like it". Hugo already declined the invitation. Make it into another post if you like - that might be a better way to go. I'll be watching for it.

Berlzebub commented on the 4 points:
while Donkey's are well suited for pulling things, they're not so well suited for matrimony.

A conservative could say the same thing about homosexual relationships - they're not well-suited for matrimony.
Double-edged sword arguments are not the best weapons.

you or the donkey won't spread some mutated disease through the rest of your respective species.

1) Again you ape the conservative. That argument is (correctly and often) made against the SSM position.
2) FYI, I wasn't planning on having sex with the donkey. It's strictly a platonic relationship. Since when did sex become an integral part of the marital bonds? Who died and made you God?

there's the problem of alimony if either or all of your spouses were to decide the marriage wasn't working.

1) Alimony is already a complicated catastrophe of a social and legal problem.
2) I, like many of my fellow freedom-fighters on the SSM side, do not intend to split up. This is a lifetime commitment.

I would also suggest a life insurance policy, and Saran Wrap or Tupperware, with the grapefruit.

I made the same argument above about employers and insurance policies and was ridiculed for it. Try to be consistent with your own side, OK?