August 2004 Archives

Christian Carnival XXXII

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The 32nd Christian Carnival is at Patriot Paradox. There's my account of why I got kicked out of a church youth group, right at the top.

The very next entry is from The Crusty Curmudgeon, a blog I don't think I've seen before. It goes back to the God's will discussions we had a while back (primarily) among the Blogdom of God. There was always something that I wasn't satisfied with about how most of us were expressing the view we were disagreeing with. Scott does that perfectly, and then he goes on to show how insanely ridiculous the view is. His step-by-step journey through Romans 12 and the following chapters is excellent in explaining exactly what sorts of things Paul had in mind when talking about the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

Also, Rebecca Writes has a good discussion of God's immutability.

Amazon's Double Standard

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If anyone can find any books other than Unfit for Command that Amazon has opened up for whatever people feel like saying, please let me know. Until then, I'm considering it a double standard. Their reason is that ad hominem attacks can't be restricted during a presidential campaign, which is pretty lame. Of course they can be, and they're still doing it on all their other books. If they want to come out and say that this book is different, giving a reason why it's different, then they should do so. They should just be aware that whatever they might say in such an explanation might also apply to books about Bush by Al Franken, Peter Singer, or others who put forth unresearched and undefended claims that fit at best partially with the facts. It's true that this book isn't exactly trustworthy on every point, but neither are most political books intended at attacking someone, and a double standard is a double standard.

I'm not sure exactly what to think of this, but Joe Carter thinks Antony Flew is showing signs of moving away from atheism. It's not clear what he's moving toward, but this is important news in philosophy of religion, since he's been one of the staunchest defenders of arguments for atheism and opponents of arguments for theism. I haven't read a word of his atheistic arguments, but I've been told that his work doesn't hold a candle to J.L. Mackie or William Rowe's stuff, so I don't think this is as big a deal as Joe does. What's interesting here is that the arguments for God's existence are actually playing some role in his move from atheism.

Conspiracy Theorists

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There's a ridiculous amount of credulity out there. It's common among those who assumed the SBVfT crowd was telling the truth about everything. As I've been saying in posts and comments for the last couple weeks, I don't think it's a good idea to believe unsubstantiated claims about presidents and presidential candidates, but I also don't think it's always a good idea to believe they're false simply because there's no evidence to prove them true. I don't happen to think there's much strong evidence either way about some key claims of the SBFfT group. The evidence points in Kerry's defense in a couple important spots, and I think it's clearly against him in a couple. Those who believed all the reports simply because Kerry has changed his story a few times on other issues had some evidence of a lack of trustworthiness in the man but none that he lied in the 70s on these particular charges, so I'm going to be as harsh with those who simply believed the Swift Boat Vets for Truth as I am with those who believe Michael Moore, moveon.org, and other 527 groups who offer no or little evidence for conspiracy theories about President Bush. The one difference is that I've never met anyone who simply believed all the things the SBVfT group claimed, and I've met lots of people who believe all these fanciful accounts about Bush, particularly philosophers, who are supposed to have a high threshold for when they should believe something, at least according to them.

This kind of acceptance of conspiracy theories thus seems to me to be much more common on the left, particularly among academics and intellectuals, including philosophers. [That's my experience, and perhaps it's just because of my positioning in a blue state and in academia. Those with conservative tendencies aren't allowed to accept conspiracy theories in that kind of setting.] I think it's pretty clear that I'm no anti-intellectual hick who opposes higher education. This is just something I've observed about some people I know well in academia, and I hate to admit it because this will confirm the anti-intellectualism of those who think academia is a place for people to go when they don't want to deal with the real world and just float around their theories with no concern for reality. This charge has even been leveled against me for saying that we aren't in a war between Christianity and Islam, that most Muslims in the U.S. aren't violent, and that the Qur'an has requirements about jihad that the 9-11 terrorists violated. I was called a liberal for saying such things, and I was told to get out of my high tower and get into the real world, even though I have spent time in an officially Muslim country and know a fair amount about these things from real life experience. So I hesitate to say anything that supports such conspiracy theories against the academy. Yet it seems to me to be true about a large enough group within academia that they are too open to conspiracy theories of their own. In the case of philosophers, some people in my department really do seem this way, but it's not necessarily true about what they're specialists in. It's pretty much restricted to politics and perhaps Christianity. The really ironic thing about all this is that the same people who think it's stupid to believe in God because there's no evidence tend to believe all sorts of conspiracy theories about President Bush with just as little evidence. It's a case of different standards for different situations.

Someone asked me to blog about abortion, thinking that I've never said anything about it. I have, but I haven't really given a solid defense of why I think abortion is wrong, though. I've more explored issues around the sidelines that I think have some bearing on the general area of topics. I do think there are excellent arguments for being solidly pro-life in the way that John Ashcroft is. He's seen as a Nazi on this issue who just wants to control women because he has such strong opposition to abortion. I'm sure that this was the major reason so many Democratic senators opposed his nomination for Attorney General. They simply thought he was a bigot because they were too ignorant to appreciate the position he has and the reasons for it. I think the majority of philosophers are in the same position, and I think it's merely ignorance in many cases. That's not to say that the liberal position on abortion doesn't bring something to the table that conservatives need to hear. I see a number of crucial points in Judith Jarvis Thomson's fundamental paper on the topic that conservatives would do well to acknowledge, though I think in the end her paper supports nothing like the abortion-on-demand that has been allowed in this country despite the false claims that liberals really want to make abortion rare. If they really wanted it rare, they'd be happy to restrict it rather than fighting tooth-and-nail against a law that forbids delivering a child halfway and then killing it before it's born on the grounds that somehow it's safer to kill a kid in mid-childbirth than it is to go through with the birth and just not have the kid raised by the woman who wanted to kill her child after halfway giving birth.

I've taught on abortion enough times and read enough different papers on it during the different times I've taught it that I think I have a better understanding of the liberal position on abortion than most liberals do. I know I have a better understanding of it than most students I've had who are inclined to that view. I say I understand it, but I don't think I really understand it. Peter van Inwagen is fond of saying things like that about metaphysical pictures that don't agree with his own, and one philosopher I know calls it Petering out when he has no real objection. Another philosopher I know refers to it as finding something unInwagenable. I think I really am in that position with the philosophical orthodoxy about abortion.

Christian Carnival plug

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I never linked to the last Christian Carnival, because I didn't have time to read more than two entries before leaving for a retreat this weekend, so here it is. I hope to read through the entries and indicate any posts I want to highlight before the next one is published.

In case I don't get to that, I want to thank Nick for including my entry at the last minute, especially when he had to add it twice (both times after he had finished and posted the Carnival). I forgot to post a plug for it this week, but I also forgot to send something in until he notified everyone on the list that it was up. Fortunately for me, there was a hidden loophole. His announcement of the submission requirements specifically said that he'd be accepting late entries well beyond the deadline and until 1pm the next day. I assume he meant 1am, but I called his attention to it when I sent my entry in at noon after the Carnival had already been posted, and he allowed it and told me he'd added it. Hours later, it wasn't there, so I emailed him back, and this time he really added it and gave it prime place at the top of the Carnival!

For my struggle with the wrongness of my initial reaction to what I could have seen as a sense of being robbed of justice due to a late submission to a different carnival, which was really just my attempt to see myself as nicer than someone else who was really just seeing a deadline as a real deadline, see this post. I thought it was a nice lesson on how mercy and grace are so fully noticeable in the face of real justice, which was in fact what I got in that case, but how I didn't have any right to expect anything else. That's why situations like this one with Nick are so poignant in their reflection of the grace of God, even if they're necessarily going to be ultimately inadequate in that role.

Anyway, this was supposed to be about the next Christian Carnival, so here we go: This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted at Trommetter Times. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read, and possibly pick up readers in the process or highlight your favorite post from the past week.

Note: See Part I for some context on this series.

The first argument for affirmative action is based on seeing it as a remedy for discrimination. Affirmative action can be implemented to prevent qualified applicants from being passed over because of race. I don't think anyone in the debate disagrees with affirmative action for this purpose. Even Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice Scalia, and Justice Thomas, who think it's always wrong to lower standards based on race, think it's ok to use affirmative action to require people not to raise standards based on race. The problem with using this argument to support affirmative action in higher education is that no one in college admissions discriminates against underrepresented minorities. Current policies go the other way, and those in positions to influence who will be hired in admissions offices would prefer to hire people who approve of affirmative action. So this could be a good argument for affirmative action in hiring but not for college admissions.

I wrote this entry on November 28, 2002 for an off-topic list for a Christian progressive rock music discussion list. The subject of who wrote the pastoral epistles (I Timothy, Titus, II Timothy) came up, and someone on the list said something about most scholars' view that Paul didn't write them even though they say they're by him, mostly due to a difference in style (which is easily explained by the fact that they're a very different sort of letter) and the claim that they're different in theology, which I just don't see. This was my response, with some format modifications and a couple minor content changes.

Poverty

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I wanted to write an extended comment on this Evangelical Outpost post on poverty, but I don't think I'm going to have the time today, and I'm not going to be able to post anything else after this afternoon until Sunday afternoon, so I'll just post this link now and say:

1. It has a great summary of why any statistics about how many people in the U.S. are poor need to be taken with a grain of salt due to the richness of resources and quality of life for most people in the U.S. who qualify as below the poverty level.

2. You can learn a little about Joe Carter's childhood, youth, and family background.

3. A start to how each Christian in the U.S. should reflect on poverty issues and those who have less, regardless of where they are on the scale from poverty to wealth.

4. Joe doesn't talk about this, but I think this raises concerns for much of the political rhetoric from black leaders who compare their plight with the poor of the world (where 'their' is supposed to refer to the plight of blacks in general, since the people I'm thinking of probably make more money a year than most Americans do in a lifetime).

One of the topics I've been teaching for the past year or so is affirmative action. I reviewed a lot more material on it during the spring semester in a short period of time than any previous time teaching it, and I've had the opportunity to teach on it this summer after having done all that. As a result, I think I've got a good presentation now of the various considerations offered for and against it, and I think I've figured out that a balanced presentation should conclude with a choice between two options. Either the arguments for affirmative action are strong enough that the negatives get outweighed, or the negatives are so serious that the reasons for affirmative action aren't good enough. It really does seem to me that those are the only two reasonable positions. Some think affirmative action is always wrong by its very nature. Others think that our history and current circumstances don't just make it a good idea but make it essential to racial justice. Those two absolute positions don't seem to me to hold water, even though at times in the past I've held both of them (not at the same time, of course).

In the case of hiring, choosing people for positions of influence, etc., I can see some forms of affirmative action as worthwhile and even sometimes necessary. This can't involve lowering standards a lot, since the people selected must be qualified, but it can involve lowering them enough to find qualified people of underrepresented races if having them there is worthwhile enough. If you see race as a qualification, this argument is easier to make, but I think that's harder to do than someone people make it sound. I also think it's easier to do than some people would like. So I'll end up taking an unusually complicated view on hiring and qualifications, which in the end will probably offend conservatives and liberals alike. When it comes to college and university admissions, however, I think the negatives are so bad that I think the Universtity of California system did the right thing to cancel race-based affirmative action in favor of income-based policies. It will take some great effort to explain why I think both these things, so you'll have to bear with me as I work through a number of different issues. In this post, I want to deal with a couple more preliminary issues and then list the arguments for and against affirmative action that I'll analyze fully in forthcoming posts.

Reverend

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Jollyblogger is, among other things, arguing against the clergy/laity distinction in a post about why pastors should be thought of more of a supporting cast than the main event. My comment shows at least a couple downsides of reducing the issue to that and that alone, but I agree with his general point, and I'm especially glad that he's expressing his distaste for the attitude that clergy are somehow more holy or more important to the kingdom of God than the ordinary believe living a godly life in service to their master.

One thing that occurred to me as I was reading the post was an alternative solution to the problem that referring to a minister as 'Reverend' gives a false impression.

Philosophers' Carnival I

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The very first Philosophers' Carnival is now online at Philosophy, et cetera... It includes my first Prosblogion post on the problem of evil and open theism, which has now been joined by part II, and Ben Bradley's OrangePhilosophy post Help Me Choose a Murder Victim from last month.

Michael Cholbi's PEA Soup entry on the issue of whether mental and psychological competence is necessary for execution or whether such a requirement is simply perverse was interesting to me simply because the whole issue had never occurred to me. He's right that a number of other interesting questions arise once you consider this. I don't know what I think about most of them.

Maverick Philosopher discusses a logical problem with the incarnation. His solution is to say that Jesus isn't essentially human (for non-philosophers, that just means he didn't have to become incarnated). I thought it was fishy when I saw the claim that God the Son might not have been Jesus, because 'Jesus' is a proper name for God the Son. My questioning that amounts to questioning the same inference Maverick Philosopher wanted to question, so I don't think we really disagree. The one thing he said that I really did question is his claim at the beginning that God the Father is radically transcendent and God the Son immanent, as if each person of the Trinity has to be one or the other. An orthodox Christian theology doesn't divide up transcendence and immanence between different persons of the Trinity. God the Father is as immanent as he is transcendent. A quick read of the psalms should give a sense of both. Similarly, God the Son is fully transcendent even with the incarnation. That's part of what he claims about his identity through doing things the scriptures assign only to God.

Proverbial Wife posted a piece of David Keirsey's Please Understand Me II in which he claims biblical support for the four temperaments he discusses at length in his book. He sees them symbolized by the four faces on the theophany of Ezekiel 1 and the four bodies on the living creatures around the throne in Revelation 4. He also thinks each gospel writer was of a different personality type, thus representing each type's distinctive account of the gospel story. I commented on her site, but I realized after I posted it that it was a significant chunk of writing and might as well go on my own blog. I already submitted it there, so it's there in case you want to read her whole post before seeing my discussion, but I figured if I'm going to write four substantial paragraphs (one for each temperament?) then I might as well post it on my own blog, especially because I've been over-politicking lately for my tastes. Here's my comment on her post:

Cheney Shut Out

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Some people think President Bush does nothing and really lets Dick Cheney run the show. Well, Cheney acknowledged today that that's at least not always the case. He reminded people of his stance on gay marriage, which doesn't quite agree with the president's. He said he has no problem with anyone having a relationship with anyone else, but he thinks the marriage issue should be left to the states (by which he undoubtedly means state legislatures, not state judges). Bush, on the other hand, holds a similar view in principle but has supported an amendment that would prevent states from going one way on the issue, though his reason for supporting the amendment is because he thinks the judges have gotten out of hand in not allowing the state legislatures to do their job. It's not a strong difference, but it's a policy difference, and it shows that when the president really wants to do something Cheney disagrees with he will still do it.

Not willing or clearly, though, but according to One Hand Clapping, an FEC official has made a statement that what John Kerry has been insisting President Bush do is arguably illegal. Kerry has repeatedly been asking him to call the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to tell them to stop running those ads. Technically speaking, that might count as coordination under some interpretations of the law, and coordination is the very thing Bush has been accused of all along (with no evidence, of course, and it's been striking that closer ties between the Kerry campaign and moveon.org haven't been relevant for Kerry or his supporters). So I was right when I said it would be immoral for him to do what Kerry has asked, but I didn't realize all the reasons I was right! Now this isn't all Kerry has been asking Bush to do, and that's still an independent debate (that I've already been having a couple posts ago) on that issue, but this is one thing people better stop saying Bush needs to do if it's quite possibly illegal.

Quite humorous is the last bit Donald mentions in his post. He wonders if Kerry's call to these people to cut it out counts as coordination. Hmm. I wonder if even the renunciation of them is coordination. One reason to think so is that it's a candidate's attempt to affect how such third-party speech goes that the law is designed to prevent. So if this is technically illegal, it's not merely on a technicality. There's something that it does that really is against the spirit of the law. So I think Bush has actually taken the legal high ground by not commenting on the content of the ads and merely saying things that contradict them (which as far as I'm concerned does count as renouncing the content without illegally renouncing anything about an ad or group that he might not legally be allowed to say anything about).

He's not letting even the hint of illegality show, not that it will stop the mention of such by the conspiracy theorists like Howard Dean who assert that Bush has personally organized this as a careful effort, when no evidence to show any real connection between the campaign leadership and this group has surfaced, while clear evidence of coordination between the Kerry campaign and moveon.org has even been on the DNC website! Conspiracy theorists don't know how to see anything outside their grid, though, and even when there's no evidence for their claims it's enough for them that the grid itself supports them. This can and does happen on the right, just to acknowledge that it's not a left-wing phenomenon, but it seems to me to be more prominent among more left-thinking people, including (which is suprising to me) many academics, who should be known for more careful thinking.

The Doctor Is In

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I found a new blog through my referrals, called The Doctor Is In. It's by a medical doctor who seems to have an interest in some things that are genuinely interesting and therefore worthy of having an interest in. He doesn't post very often, but his posts can be unusual enough to be worth checking in on him every now and then.

His post on myths points out a number of liberal narratives based on falsehoods that get perpetuated regularly. I don't like the modern notion that a myth involves falsehood, since a myth is just a story under which we think about ourselves and our lives, and those can be entirely based in truth, and he ignores right myths such as questioning the patriotism of people who disagree with their country's current policies or framing the abortion issue as being only about life (as if other issues are irrelevant and unimportant even to abortion rights advocates) rather than as being decided by conservatives on the issue because the issue of life is more important than liberals on the issue think. Still, his main point here seems right to me.

Also, see his provocative post on what he sees in common between contemporary liberalism and ancient gnosticism. I'm not quite sure what I think about this. For example, his claim that gnosticism predates Christianity seems really suspect to me. The biblical scholars I trust most have argued that there was no such thing as full-blown gnosticism until well after the New Testament was completed, though there were earlier movements whose elements were combined in gnosticism. Also, I can see examples of people (e.g. John Kerry) who seem thoroughly uninterested in things they've said in the past compared to what they're now saying (the case of pulling troops out of Europe and Korea comes to mind, since he thought it was essential when Bush wasn't expected to do it and then thought it was absolutely terrible once Bush announced that he would do it). The NOW case he mentions is another that really bothered me. Still, it seems to me that hypocrisy is the last sin for a thoroughgoing liberal of the secular mindset. If you don't believe in moral principles, then you don't have to follow them, but surely those who believe in them should! That's why hypocrisy is the most common complaint of secularists against conservative and/or Christian leaders. In the end, I think the surface similarities between liberalism and gnosticism are just happenstance, the coming together of an interesting set of features in two very different worldviews for completely different reasons in each case. Still, it's an interesting topic.

Political Messiahs

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Jollyblogger has a really late followup to the discussions on Christianity and politics that many of us in the Blogdom of God and elsewhere were having a couple months ago. This post manages to express something that I don't think anyone had quite put into words, but I think this was my primary motivation for taking the general outlook I've defended. This new point has to do with where we really find our identity, and it's evidenced by how we react when we don't have much chance to think about our responses.

Jollyblogger thinks many Christians tie together the fortunes of the gospel with a certain political view, more commonly the right but for some the left. Those who think Christian values are threatened when the other party gets in have something right. This is actually true of both parties, though I think the Republican party, especially in the direction it's been heading since 1999 or so, has more of Christian values at its heart, and the Democratic party, especially since 2003, has been moving rapidly in the opposite direction. There Christian values at the heart of the Democratic party, though, and Christians who are more conservative can't forget that without being in danger of losing the gospel.

More on Evil

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My second post on the problem of evil and open theism is finished and residing at Prosblogion. At this point I don't have anything else I'm planning to say, so that may be it, but I wouldn't be surprised if people leave comments that will leave me wanting to continue the post in a different direction. The blog was inactive for a couple weeks, so I suspect most of the usual traffic there has disappeared. If that's so, then it might be awhile before I get motivated by a comment discussion to say anything in a further post, if it happens at all.

For my 600th post, I've decided to do something a little different and tell an entertaining story. I was once kicked out of a church youth group. Why, you ask? Well, it's not exactly a simple story, so this will take some explanation. My younger brother was always a creative sort, but his creativity usually got him in trouble. I very rarely did anything to get in trouble, but when I did it was usually something that caused real damage. One time I sat on a fence at school that everyone sat on all the time, and it happened to break while I was on it. Another time, I decided to set a clock back after school to screw with the teachers' sense of time the next day. The clock stopped moving altogether. I was playing dodge-apple once, and a window broke. I don't think I threw the apple that broke the window, but my dodge led to its breaking. I think the only time I didn't cause actual damage was when I was trying to figure out how credit cards were supposed to open locked doors, and a teacher caught me. There may not have been more than a few other times that I got in trouble between 6th grade and high school graduation. One of them was the MFD incident, and it probably got the most attention out of any of them.

John Kerry has been calling on President Bush to condemn the 527 group that has been criticizing his Vietnam War service record. He probably didn't expect Bush to respond positively, but now Kerry has to deal with much more than he bargained for. Bush has raised him one. He asked Kerry today to join him in condemning and fighting against all 527 groups. The one quote I heard on CNN was that he said he meant all of them when a reporter asked if he meant to include Swift Boat Vets for Truth.

I think Kerry's words have now backfired. I don't expect Kerry to accept the offer, of course, since he's got far more 527s in service of his cause than Bush does, and they have far more money behind them. This will make him appear to be self-serving (which he probably will be) as well as not really being serious in his call to remove such forces as Swift Boat Vets for Truth from the campaign.
Yet if he joins Bush, he'll appear to be conceding to Bush rather than having the moral high ground that he wanted to be able to present himself as having. Not only that, but he'd have to give up all this free advertizing he's been encouraging this month through not running any ads for the whole month, not that there's a lot of it left, but George Soros and his empire have too much money ready to be spent on behalf of Kerry for him to want to lose it to save face here. As usual, Bush's poker playing skills have gained him the advantage in a situation that looked to some as potentially damaging.

One Hand Clapping has more, though he also has an extremely strange argument that this is all Bush's fault for not vetoing a bill that has restricted most such political speech but allowed only this thin sliver. If he had vetoed the bill, there wouldn't have been less of this. There would have been more of it, and not vetoing a bill that creates restrictions doesn't cause such speech to come into existence, nor does it count as creating the groups. It simply means his signature didn't force another version of the bill that could have been more repressive of political speech, as most conservatives would put it. So Sensing's argument is extremely strange in more than one way.

Self-Hating

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Eugene Volokh has a nice response to those who like to throw around the term 'self-hating' for those who criticize groups they belong to. People call Michelle Malkin a self-hater for her surprising defense of WWII Japanese interment camps. I can't agree with her stance on that issue, but Volokh is right. Nothing about this counts as self-hating. Clarence Thomas and other black conservatives frequently receive the same sort of criticism.

The argument for using such a label seems to me to go like this:

1. X person belongs to group G.
2. X says some things that are critical against G.
3. X must therefore hate G.
4. Therefore, X hates X's own group.
5. Therefore, X hates X.

This is such a poor argument that Volokh is right to take it apart piece by piece.

The latest Best of My Symphony is online. For those unfamiliar with this particular blog carnival, it takes the best posts of blogs, with one requirement -- that any post submitted is at least two months old. This week's episode has a Babylon 5 theme, and since that's the best TV show ever made I had to submit something. My A Deeper Notion of Marriage got associated with Vir Cotto, the lowly servant to Ambassador Londo Mollari of Centauri Prime, the servant who became Ambassador to Babylon 5 himself and later ended up leading a revolt against the Drakh occupation of the Centauri homeworld and eventually becoming emperor. He was one of the few Centauri characters in the whole series to have even an ounce of moral decency, though he himself had it in spades, much to the chagrin of Ambassador Mollari. I guess that's not a bad association.

You've got to love some of these quotes. The Ranger Marcus Cole always had a strange combination of smooth charm and dour pessimism. "You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe." There's something dreadfully right about that. J. Michael Strascznski, at times, shows great philosophical insight, particularly when it comes to human nature, though I think whenever he settles on any answeres to the questions he raises I end up being repulsed by his moral outlook.

A View From the Pew has a wonderful reflection on how much Christians today (and he uses 'we' to include himself) are like Jonah. We all have someone we'll call those people, at least in our hearts if not in our actual words. We might preach the call to repentance that Jonah did. Do we really want those people to respond with repentance? Jonah didn't, even once he was willing to deliver that message. He didn't want to welcome those people into his circle of us. It's not as often along national lines as it was in Jonah's day, where the nation of those people was the conquering and oppressing empire of the known world (though keep al Qaeda in mind!), but Warren suggests some other ways that we do this quite regularly.

Transparent Aluminum

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Right out of Star Trek IV. Now we can transport whales more easily.

I've Won a Jolly

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Now joining the Grammies, Emmies, Oscars, Tonies, etc. are the Jolly Awards. My post on lying has won the first Jolly ever given. I suspect I won't be receiving a figurine of a jolly little blogger to put on my shelf, but it's nice to win an electronic award nonetheless.

That's the title Jollyblogger is using for his latest series. It's worth reading just for the title, but he actually says some other things too. First, he quotes (at length) a pretty funny caricature of the "Christian" view of sex, only to discard it of course. Then he moves into a more serious discussion of what's wrong with the Augustinian view that sex is only good in terms of its good purpose of procreation and therefore what further good purposes it has. His third post briefly mentions three purposes -- procreation, marital unity, and (possibly, though he is less convinced of this than Catholics are) some sort of sacramental value. Then he spends most of the post arguing why leaving it at that still misses the point. One crucial purpose of sex is that it's "outrageous fun". The fourth post deals with what this should all mean for someone who is single. I was hoping to wait until he finished this series to post about it and thus capture the whole thing, but now he seems to want to extend it indefinitely, so I'll just go ahead, and if I want to say more later I will. I won't say anything myself now anyway, though. Instead, here are some key quotes from the series to whet your appetite for reading the whole series:

[Update: He's now done with his fifth and final post, this time on the negative effects of how the world conditions people to think about sex, in particular from pornography and sexual abuse.]

Kerry and Secrecy

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People like to complain about how secretive the Bush Administration. Most of them aren't very sensitive to legitimate reasons why secrecy would be important on national security matters, especially at a time of war, but that's standard practice for conspiracy theorists. Still, a number of people who know more about these things than I do, but aren't conspiracy theorists, say that Bush Administration is less willing to disclose information than most have been. That may be so. I wonder how a Kerry Administration would do with the secrecy issue, though. Belief Seeking Understanding gives some indications that John Kerry has been fairly secretive on some important matters that should be public record for a candidate for the presidency. It's not on the first level of things everyone should know, but it's relevant given the current complaints of the Swift Boat Vets for Truth, but he's arranged things so that he's gotten this far without having done the thing that would take more time than we've got remaining. There's no way for him to use these records to respond to the complaints, because there isn't enough time to get them released before the election. So if these documents could absolve him of guilt on these matters, then he's shot himself in the foot with his secrecy on the issue. If the documents prove the complaints of the Swift Boat Vets, of course, then his secrecy is worse than anything I've seen shown to be true about Bush. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, though, so I'm not going to assume there's anything condemning in there. I know a lot of people who won't give Bush that benefit of the doubt.

Best of Me Symphony plug

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The Best of Me Symphony collects older posts (at least two months old) that people consider some of their best work. This week it will be having a Babylon 5 theme, so I couldn't resist plugging it (and submitting something myself). That's almost as good as basing a carnival on a Kansas theme. See here for more info. It will be appearing on Monday, so get your entry in soon if you want to submit something.

I've posted my first part in a series on open theism and the problem of evil at Prosblogion. At least, that's what it's starting out as being about. It may go in different directions as it goes. The first post gives some problems with open theism's explanation of evil. The second will look at traditional responses to the problem to see why open theism doesn't really add much compared to the major complaints about where traditional responses are lacking. Those gaps can't be filled by open theism. If it goes beyond that, I'm not sure what else it will involve, but I can foresee it going in a number of possible directions.

Chris Matthews apparently thinks Bush has a moral obligation not just to say that John Kerry served honorably, not just to distance himself from all 527 groups that run independently of his campaign, but to call these groups and tell them to stop exercising their right to free speech. In other words, Chris Matthews is recommending government censorship. It doesn't matter that he didn't expect Kerry to do the same when Bush's military record was being attacked, something that all the major news media fully realized was a non-story after exploring it to death in hope that it would turn out to ruin him. They apparently think that about the Kerry story without at all exploring it. It doesn't matter that he didn't expect Kerry to tell Michael Moore not to released his film. So even though Kerry never had such an obligation, Bush still has that obligation now, I guess. People have been telling me that Chris Matthews has gone off the deep end, but I didn't believe it until today. Here's the transcript:

The abortion rights era wasn't the first time people denied personhood to human beings by fiat without argument. It's happened before with slaves in the United States and apparently also with women in Canada, for very different reasons.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied full personhood to slaves (not to black people as a whole, as some have claimed, and not to black people exclusively but to any slave regardless of race, and there were white slaves) only for the sake of counting how many representatives a district would have. It's not as if the denial of rights came from this. That was already assumed. It would be silly to claim that slaves have 3/5 of a person with 3/5 of the rights of a person. This was merely a compromise between the northern states that didn't want non-voting slaves to count for representation when only the much smaller voting population would wield all the power those slaves would give them and the southern states that wanted more influence without giving the people who gave them that influence any vote.

According to Bill Poser at Language Log, a Canadian woman became some sort of magistrate, and some lawyers opposed it on the grounds that she wasn't a person and couldn't carry out her duties as a magistrate. This was in 1916. It sounds unbelievable, but once you see the legal argument for it you can tell it was just a silly lawyer's argument with no basis. Once that's clear, though, it has an interesting consequence for the debate over gender-neutral language to describe groups whose gender is mixed or indeterminate.

Disinterested Media?

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Michelle Malkin is on C-SPAN's Washington Journal right now, and she just contradicted herself unintentionally. I'm not sure why, but in the last few weeks I've seen a much higher concentration of misuses of the term 'disinterested' to mean uninterested, whereas it really means not biased. Her whole point was to say that the major media outlets went way out of their way to focus on every little detail of Bush's National Guard service only to discover that there was no story there, while they've been dragged kicking and screaming even to mention all the stuff now with Kerry's Vietnam service, an issue he himself has placed so prominently in his campaign as to invite it. That's pure bias. Then why does she go and say that the major media outlets are disinterested, which means they're not biased? She's intelligent enough that I'd expect her to know the difference between being disinterested and uninterested. This isn't exactly a picky point of language. Her actual statement contradicted her main point. Aside from bad arguments for conclusions I agree with and unfair presentations of views I have sympathy with, there isn't much that a pundit can do to annoy me besides mangling the English language so much that the very argument they're making gets undermined. This particular mistake has been so common recently that it seems as if there's a major movement to annoy me.

China Drops One-Child Rule

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Well, sort of. I can't access the Wall Street Journal article World Magazine links to, so I'm not as sure of the details as I'd like to be.

I guess they realized how critical their woman shortage has gotten. I'm not sure they realized that their policy turns out to be sexist given the negative impact on women that it has (even though there was no sexist intent). They absolutely don't admit anything bad about the near-forced abortion policy. Still, their decision to allow parents to have another child if they have a girl is a step in the right direction.

Not the Right Time

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John Kerry once again shows that he thinks any stick is good enough to beat Bush with, even if it's a wimpy twig covered with little thorns that will hurt the bearer more than the recipient. This time it's with the troop movements. If Bush hadn't done this, it would have been bad for other reasons. It's the same sort of thing as with those who criticized him for the seven minutes of remaining calm with the children in the school on 9/11. If he'd rushed out of the room, a different stick would have been used to beat him. There are enough sticks to go around for any possible decision Bush might make, it seems.

Nearly every policy seems to be a good idea but is the wrong time and way for Kerry. I think I've figured out what the right time and way to do things would be. If the president doing it is a Democrat, it would be the right time, otherwise not. If the way involves Bush doing it, it's the wrong way. It would take too much work to go through every issue he's done this sort of thing with, but I've heard enough of them now that I sense a trend, and I'm not usually good at seeing trends until it's dead obvious.

The other thing that seems dead obvious to me is that any time anything negative comes out, the timing is suspicious. It doesn't matter when the time is. It doesn't matter if there's nothing going on. The timing is still suspicious. They try to find the nearest event that could raise suspicions, and since it's a political campaign there are plenty of events to go around.

Whenever a theory is irrefutable, it should raise eyebrows. If Bush's being bad depends on merely the fact that he did it, as the "any stick is good enough to beat Bush" attitude demonstrates, then the criticisms lose their content. If no policy can be good but is bad simply because of when it happens, that has the same problems. We don't know what Kerry thinks is good, and we don't know what he'd recommend until after Bush does the opposite. If the timing is always suspicious merely because there's some event nearby when an election year always has such events, the claim that timing is suspicious ceases to mean anything. There's no way to refute any of these argumentation styles, because they wait until something happens and then declare it bad simply because of who did it. I realize that there are things in this campaign that aren't like this, but I've seen enough of this to make me sick of having to listen to anything Kerry says about Bush. So much of it doesn't mean anything.

The Carnival of the Vanities has its 100th episode today. If you can find a link to it, check it out. Since I'm usually in it and usually link to it, I decided it was important to explain why I'm not doing so this time, even with such an important anniversary. I will say this: if I had been in it, I would have linked to it. If you want more details, read on.

Philosophers' Carnival

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The first Philosophers' Carnival will be posted next Monday. You don't have to have a philosophy blog to submit something, just a post that you think would be interesting to other people who are philosophically-minded. Check out the writeup here for more information.

I stole my theme idea for this week's Christian Carnival from a Carnival of the Vanities that did something similar. Instead of Rush, we're going with Kansas, who are in my opinion the best band ever to have existed. They took classical, rock, jazz, blues, and even country, along with some Middle-Eastern and Indian influences, and produced something that many progressive rock fans thought they'd just taken from British prog groups like Yes and Genesis, but early recordings released a few years ago show that they had been working on material like what King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Genesis, and Yes had done around the same time. It's just that their recording contract was later and their commercial success even later. They're musically brilliant, and the lyrics are often more carefully chosen and provocatively philosophical than even most progressive rock groups. Kerry Livgren wrote the largest part of their more thoughtful lyrics and complex music, and he became a Christian a couple years into their period of more commercial success, leaving the group a few years later and pursuing a solo career, with a short stint in a (reluctantly) CCM band called AD, then at times working with the band on albums and live while pursuing solo projects and also now resurrecting an earlier lineup of the band under the name Proto-Kaw. This week's Christian Carnival entries are organized by the Kansas or Kansas-related albums or songs I associate them with.

Due to my work on tomorrow's Christian Carnival, I haven't had time to post anything today. Here's a book review I wrote on Amazon in November 2002. This book is currently out-of-print, but these academic books go in and out of print every few years, and I imagine used copies are much more available over the internet than it used to be. A good library with interlibrary loan connections with academic libraries should be able to get ahold of it fairly easily also.

Peter van Inwagen, God, Knowledge, and Mystery: Essays in Philosophical Theology

Peter van Inwagen is a first-class philosopher, widely respected as one of the best metaphysicians of our day. This book collects previously-published work in philosophy of religion. He is a sincere Christian thinker who began his philosophical career as a nonbeliever. The value, difficulty, and strengths and weaknesses in this book vary from paper to paper.

Eugene Volokh makes some insightful comparisons between different kinds of discrimination. Many people create an analogy between sexual orientation discrimination (e.g. in the Boy Scouts) and race discrimination. The argument is that we outlaw race discrimination because people have no control over their race, and therefore we have to outlaw discrimination along any other lines caused by things outside people's control. Aside from the assumption that sexual orientation is entirely outside one's control (which I would say is at best only partly and sometimes true), there are too many kinds of discrimination that we don't have laws against that involve things outside a person's control for this sort of argument to work without raising the objection that such a principle would require changing too many laws to apply consistently. Discrimination according to height, age, sex, ugliness, and many other factors might be morally wrong, but we don't have universal laws against such practices. If we did, Hollywood would be put out of business, but so many other things we do would require serious revision, such as good things like men's and women's bathrooms, unenforceable things including how people vote for president (which tends to favor the taller candidate), and bad things that no one wants to outlaw such as wanting to marry someone attractive. What's worse is the fact that some of the areas where we really want to stop discrimination involve choice, such as religion or ideology, so whether someone really can change something is neither necessary nor sufficient for whether we should have laws against discriminating on that basis. A more careful and honest argument is necessary for the case of sexual orientation discrimination, one that acknowledges this.

One Hand Clapping has posted his sermon from this morning, and it's well worth reading. He starts from the issues raised by Michael Moore (on O'Reilly a couple weeks ago) about whether those supporting the war in Iraq would send their kids to Iraq. O'Reilly was right to dismiss Moore on this, because no one is sending any children to Iraq. Only adults who volunteered for the military are going there.

Still, this sort of question got Donald Sensing thinking. The most poignant part of Donald's meditation moves into comparing this kind of question with similar ones in the Bible. What does this sort of question mean about Abraham's decision to sacrifice his son at God's command? What does it mean about God's decision to sacrifice his Son for the sin of the world. I've known a number of people who have confronted these issues and declared God as presented in the Bible as simply immoral. For the Bible to be internally consistent, there must be some difference between either of those cases and the child sacrifice to Molech that's so frowned upon by the biblical prophets. I haven't thought about it enough to get a serious handle on what that difference is, though. Obviously something forbidden by God is different from something commanded or done by God, but there's got to be some explanation for why God forbids and commands.

Donald wonders if our resistance to the morality of these two acts (Abraham's and God's) is simply a residual effect of sin. "But I have a heretical question: is this inability or unwillingness to sacrifice our children with certainty mean that we are morally deficient? Is there anything we treasure so absolutely that we would with certainty part with even our most beloved ones to preserve it?"

I've identified one of the reasons I'm so resistant to aligning myself with those who oppose gay marriage. It's primarily the offensive rhetoric that comes out of almost everyone who speaks from that group, even the more reasonable ones. An example is at the World Mag blog today:

As the institution of marriage is increasingly minimized through divorce, labeled irrelevant by co-habitation, and profaned through homosexual unions, the successes of this God-ordained sociological model are often forgotten.

Why is it that divorce merely minimizes marriage, and co-habitation merely labels it irrelevant, while gay unions profane it? The assumption is that divorce and co-habitation are normal, while gay unions are evil to the worst degree. A consistent biblical position on marriage is going to be as opposed to each of these. Malachi tells us that God hates divorce. Why is it that gay unions profane marriage but divorce doesn't? Co-habitation isn't a concept used in scripture, because there were really three kinds of sex in biblical times -- prostitution, adultery, and consummating a marriage. Any action that we would try to put in a third category would have been seen in those days as the third, at least to the Hebrew mind. So co-habitation is as much a perversion of the marriage relationship by denying the kind of relationship that's already there, treating it as if it's less than it is.

Why do I constantly see people who place this one sexual sin on a level worse than others that contain more frequent and often more strong language than anything about gay sex? Paul describes one instance on non-marital heterosexual sex in I Corinthians as united Christ with a harlot. Is that not a perversion? People who pick on one sin they don't struggle with and call it a perversion while not doing the same with the ones most Christians are going to have more need to see as really negative are doing a disservice to all of society. It's a mindset that reminds me too much of the Pharisees to want to associate with. That more than any other thing is why I will have nothing to do with any political action regarding homosexuality, at least until people who want to see change in that area start letting their Christianity affect their language.

This week marks the second-to-last Carnival of the Vanities of the first century of COTVs. (Keep in mind that it starts at 1.) This installment is at The Smallest Minority. Next week Fringe gets to host the centenary.

My submission was White Liberal Racism. The entry that stands out to me as most intereting is from The Flaven Experience. It's one of the best presentations of the reasons why voting for a third party candidate isn't always in some way immoral for supporting the wrong candidate (e.g. a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush). Some of what he says is great in terms of identifying which situations make this true. One of his arguments really worries me, though, because it reminds of the guy in the firing squad who says he didn't have anything to do with killing someone because the other ones would have killed the person anyway.

World War IV

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The Fourth Rail questions those who would call the war on terrorism World War III. However, it's not because it's not a world war. It's because it's World War IV. World War III was the fight between the capitalist West and the Soviet empire, i.e. the Cold War. I'm not exactly sure what I think of this, but I'm inclined to think he's right.

For those who have links to the Fourth Rail, please note that it has moved to a new site and change your blogroll accordingly.

The next Christian Carnival will be hosted here at Parableman next Wednesday. It's a great way to get recognition for your blog. Submit your best post from the past week (i.e. since the time of post submissions for the previous Christian Carnival) on a Christian-related theme (including politics but only if it's close enough to being an issue relevant to Christianity). We've been getting enough submissions lately that we can afford to deny people's submissions if they're not Christian-related or not from within the last week.

Then submit the following information:

Christian Carnival XXX

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Beyond the Rim... had the honor of hosting the 30th Christian Carnival this week. My post on lying is in it.

I also highly recommend Miss O'Hara's post on why God hates sin and La Shawn Barber's post on why Jesse Jackson is at least misleading people when he claims Jesus was a liberal. I would have framed the discussion quite differently by presenting many different liberal conservative axes and finding that Jesus is in different places on them, but her emphasis on the spiritual mission of Jesus vs. the political look of what he did is one of the more important of those axes. You might also want to check out the other posts that didn't happen to strike my fancy as much as these two did.

The Conservative Brotherhood, a loose federation of black moderate to conservative bloggers, including my wife, has made it into a major publication. The National Review has an article on them. Thanks to King of Fools for pointing this out.

Blogdom of God Interview

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Army of One has posted the latest Blogdom of God interview with ... me! He asked me these questions months ago, and I did about half of them within a week or so afterward and just got the rest answered and back to him maybe a week ago. It was fun answering most of his questions, so go ahead and check it out to see if it's as fun reading my answers. Also, at the bottom of the post is a list of the first nine Army of One Blogdom of God interviews. If you read any of those blogs and haven't read the intereviews, it's worth doing so to get some more background on the blogger. Someone always presents a different side of themselves when someone else determines the topics and questions than when they can just blog about what they want.

President Bush has revealed that his opposition to what's commonly called affirmative action (but not what he calls affirmative action, which is simply seeking out more candidates from unrepresented groups) is firmly consistent. One fallacious argument against removing affirmative action is that people are given a boost in admissions processes if they have family members who attended the institution. (It's fallacious because the existence of one practice you don't agree with doesn't necessarily mean another one is ok. If they're both wrong for the same reasons, then the existence of legacy admissions doesn't mean we should retain affirmative action. It might simply mean getting rid of both.)

Now I think it's in a university's best interests to consider this sort of factor, as much as it is to consider someone's soccer or French horn abilities. I think some occasions of considering race are a good idea. But Bush's view on these matters is merit only, and that requires getting rid of legacies. It's nice to see that he's saying that publicly. Anyone who takes his stance on race preferences should, to be fair, give reasons why legacy preferences are ok if they aren't also going to oppose both. He's taken the more straightforward approach in opposing both. Of course, this won't be publicized much. So far the only place I've seen it is at Jon Mandle's post at Crooked Timber three days after the CNN story and two days ago.

Most Liberal Senator?

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Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber is making much ado about the misleading National Journal report that had John Kerry turning out to be the most liberal senator in 2003. All the information he presents has been known for a long time, and it surprises me that people still trot this out as a study that proves something about his really being the most liberal senator. I do think it's something to point to regarding his votes that year and what it reveals about his priorities (see below), but it's important to recognize the bigger picture, and this site that Kerry fans are promoting with a Google bomb is designed to give that bigger picture. Since nothing it says is false (except perhaps the claim that he's progressive and the claim, based on an unstated assumption that Cheney knows the truth, that he must have lied -- a problem also with Ted's Crooked Timber post), I don't mind linking to it, though I'm not going to join the Google bomb, because I think the whole tenor of it is misleading. There really is something important that this study shows.

As I commented on the Crooked Timber post, what was interesting to me about the National Journal study was the reason Kerry came out as most liberal in 2003. It was not because he changed his views and got more liberal on the issues he'd previously voted moderately on. It was because he showed up for such few votes that the ones he did vote on counted more, and those were the issues he's most liberal on. What it does reveal is that his liberal-leaning views are the ones that most define him, since those are the ones he cared about enough to show up for. That he voted more moderately some years rather than others is more an accident of what issues there were to vote on than an indication of his priorities. Since the difference with Edwards is even more drastic, that shows an even greater tendency to prefer liberal issues with a much more moderate stance when he doesn't choose which issues are most important to him.

Lying

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jolly_good_blogger

This is really a day late. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Richard Nixon's resignation, and I decided to do my month-delayed post on lying. Well, I didn't get to it yesterday, so it's today, the 30th anniversary of Gerald Ford's first full day as president in the aftermath of Watergate.

Is lying always wrong? I say no. Immanuel Kant argued that lying is always wrong, but what would you do if you were holding Jews in your basement and the SS troops showed up to ask if you were holding Jews in your basement? If you turn them in, you're doing something wrong. It would therefore be wrong not to lie in this case. Most philosophers are convinced by this sort of case. Kant dug in his heels and said that you just need to tell the truth. He went so far as to say that if we tell the truth in such circumstances then we're allowing the Jews in the basement to escape, while lying means if the Jews try to escape then they'd get caught because the soldiers wouldn't be in the basement where they should be if you tell the truth. If it takes that kind of denial of what's really likely to happen, the view doesn't have a lot going for it. I understand that some would say God will reward truth if only we're trusting enough to speak it, even when it seems we'd be condemning someone to death, but usually people who say such things believe the Bible, and I think lying in some cases is biblically defensible for a Christian.

I'll look at the relevant texts given on both sides, and then I'll come back to the issue of presidential lying in the cases of Nixon and Clinton and also the purported cases of Reagan and George W. Bush. I was originally planning to use the title "What if Bush Really Did Lie?", but there are so many other issues I'm discussing here that using a counterfactual title would have been misleading about the main content of the post, so I've just gone with a generic title.

Saved is a soon-to-be-released film about a Christian school, someone coming out as gay, his girlfriend being told in a "vision" to have sex with him to keep him from being gay, and both of them being ostracized because of it. I'm always suspicious when Hollywood does anything about evangelical Christians, because I know full well that most people in Hollywood have never even met a serious and thoughtful evangelical. I don't know if anyone involved in this film is a Christian, but MC thinks the film is a good satire of Christian culture and not just an attempt by unbelieving Hollywood to make fun of Christians, though it does contain far too many examples of one-dimensional stereotypical Christian characters. Check out her review for more.

I still won't go see it without seeing other reviews and gauging more people's thoughts on whether it seems out to make fun of Christians, but we see hardly anything these days, so our not seeing it may just be a result of having too many other things that take priority. Spiderman 2 is still our top priority at the moment, and that's been out for weeks. The last movie we saw was The Prisoner of Azkaban, and I think the last before that was The Return of the King. I may be forgetting one, but we don't see movies in the theater that often, and if it's not sci-fi or at least an action movie it doesn't go on the top of the very small list we can afford to hope we'll go see.

Amen

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Tim Challies has a good post about the uses and abuses of 'amen'. He doesn't discuss my favorite abuse, but my comment over there does, so I won't repeat it here.

I got the following example from Ben Bradley about a completely different topic, but since it raises interesting issues about the afterlife I figured I'd steal it and ask some questions about it.

Suppose you had a terminal illness. You're given six months to live. There's a treatment that can save you, but it will lead to a total transformation of your personality and interests. For example, you might stop enjoying philosophy and the intellectual life and start enjoying bottle cap collecting. You would find complete fulfillment in bottle cap collecting and not miss the intellectual life, but the desires you currently have would no longer be fulfilled. Ben poses the case as a means to wondering whether it would be better to die in six months or to undergo the treatment and be transformed so drastically that your current desires and preferences would very likely go unfulfilled.

My question is this: what significance does this case have for the possibility or nature of an afterlife? More particularly, what should someone who is not a univeralist say about this sort of case? If I need to spell out the details of what I'm thinking to guide the discussion in the direction I've been thinking, I will, but I'd rather see what people want to say about it first.

Oprah just had a segment on black people in Nova Scotia. Like most black people in the U.S., they have their own community, including their own churches. They're descendants of slaves from the U.S. Nova Scotia was a stop on the underground railroad. Canada outlawed slavery before the U.S. did. What was shocking to me was how these people talked. They sounded just like any other Canadian would. There was absolutely nothing I could detect of standard Black English inflections.

Why might this be? I have no easy explanation. Black English is to be found in any large enough community of black Americans, with regional differences. In the South, you have Southern lengthening of syllables and more of a drawl. In California, you have standard West Coast vowels. But in Canada, at least in Nova Scotia, you have the ordinary Nova Scotian accent without any of the usual inflections of Black English. I suspect it must have something to do with cultural differences and more ease in identifying as normal Canadians, with American blacks having ess of that ease of identifying as normal Americans. Some of that may be due to racist history and some due to cultural opposition to becoming part of what's viewed as "white culture". Given that racism would have been just as present in Nova Scotia, I'd expect more of the latter. I wonder if this counts as evidence for the view that resistance to "acting white" is a key concern among many black Americans, which then slows down the cultural acceptance of elements mainstream society in black communities.

Scroll to the bottom of this Chicago Sun-Times piece on the Alan Keyes acceptance of the Republican nomination for Peter Fitzgerald's seat. They asked Barack Obama's campaign spokesman what he thought of this whole business. He said, "Are they busing people in from Maryland?"

Hmm. Now it's time for audience participation. Is this a racist comment? If it's not, does it give in to racial narratives that are sufficiently harmful that it counts as being part of a racist system even if the person uttering it isn't to count as being a racist? Consider the arguments I gave about that awful Condi Rice poster as you formulate your response. I don't want votes for whether it's racist or not. I'm looking for arguments, i.e. reasons backing up what you think.

Update: Here's an additional question. Consider the following quote from a black comedian, retreived from the memory vaults of The Gnu. Is it racist? If so, why? If not, why not? Here's the joke: "I like sports but not hockey, because the only black thing gets hit with sticks. However, I do like golf."

I know there's nothing here that wasn't already in John Rabe's comments on my Alan Keyes post, but since not everyone reads comments that show up after they originally read the entry, I've decided this is important enough to link to his entry making the points his comment already made. His point is that the hypocrisy charges against Alan Keyes are not necessarily justified. Keyes does have an argument for why his case is very different from Hillary Clinton's. She pushed her way into a state whose Democratic party hadn't originally asked her, even if it welcomed her, and her popularity would be expected to discourage other potential candidates. Keyes was asked by the state Republican party in desperate straits who might not otherwise have a candidate who could stand a chance against the guy the national Democratic party gave a spot at the convention to. Keyes might be able to argue that in such a case it's worth risking something he doesn't like to stave off something he likes even less. If there's no absolute principle against running in a state you don't live in, this should be ok. Now he just needs to argue that it's not an absolute principle against it, and Hillary's case was bad enough even given a non-absolute principle that it was worth his harsh words. Otherwise, he needs to say he's changed his view and apologize for what he said.

The next Christian Carnival is at Beyond the Rim... The lucky dog gets #30. (I guess I'll have to do more jokes about the significance of a prime number with little innate interest when I host #31 the following week.) So be thinking this week about submitting a post or getting your blogging friends to submit a post. Email William either by using the button on his sidebar or sending a message to beyondtherim at meisheld.com and including Christian Carnival in the subject line. Also include the following information:

Blog name
Blog URL
post name
post URL
brief description of post

If you have a mail client with a receipt request, William requests that you use it to request a reciept. If you don't receive such a receipt or a message from him, assume he hasn't gotten your sumission.

Eugene Volokh distinguishes between discrimination because of someone's religious action and discrimination because of someone's non-religious actions based on one's own disapproval of that action for religious reasons. If I refuse to hire a Muslim, that's illegal. If I fire someone for eating pork, when the pork eating is for a religious ritual of some sort, then it's illegal. In this case, a woman ate pork on the grounds of the Muslim company she worked for. She didn't do it for religious reasons, though. She was just eating pork. It was entirely secular. Volokh says there's nothing illegal about that, because no one's religion is being discriminated against. It's a secular action that's being discriminated against, and he says that's legal (as long as it doesn't also discriminate against the person for being part of a different protected group, e.g. a racial group).

Two things surprised me here. One is that it isn't agaisnt the law to fire someone for being gay. He's a little uncareful here, because he's talking about actions, and being gay isn't an action. It's a state of being. Engaging in gay sex is an action, so if I fire someone for having gay sex there's nothing illegal about it. He thinks it may still be immoral, but the law can't stop me. I didn't think it was legal anymore to refuse to allow someone to rent from you simply because the person is gay, but perhaps it still is. Second, isn't this structure really easy to abuse? It's hard to argue that eating pork is required by one's religion, and having gay sex is also at least non-obligatory in every religion I've ever heard of, but religions can form easily, and lots of practices that might be a good reason for someone not to want you working for them but that are legal can then be declared part of the religion. I don't like how easily this can lead to discrimination charges if someone wants to go to the effort to sue over something they can concoct a religion to require.

This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs (and aggregation sites) are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).

Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate -- the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

The GUID for this experiment is:

as098398298250swg9e98929872525389t9987898tq98wteqtgaq62010920352598gawst

The above GUID enables anyone to easily search Google or other search engines for all blogs that participate in this experiment, once they have indexed the sites that participate, which may take several days or weeks. To locate the full data set, just search for any sites that contain this GUID.

Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)

Judge Pickering, victim of Democratic politicking in the Senate, now has a temporary position as a federal judge. The primary reason Democratic senators opposed even giving him a Senate vote was from one case of two cross-burners, one who was only an accomplice who got a harsher treatment than the other who was the real driving force behind the incident. Pickering wanted to see the accomplice treated less badly than the main provacateur. Democrats on the Senate Juiciary Committee used this as an excuse to pretend Pickering is a racist, even though he has a strong record in favor of civil rights. It was some of the most shameful misrepresentation I've seen in the current Senate lineup, in the same category of worrying about John Ashcroft merely because he's an evangelical Christian.

Stuart Buck reports on Pickering's first decision as a federal judge on the issue of segregation and discrimination. Here are some choice quotes:

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is at seldom sober. My national sales tax post is there. Four posts struck me as thoughtful, provocative, interesting, and fuel for pet points of my own.

In a Michelle Malkin post on Ann Richards (the Planned Parenthood board member or whatever she is who callously defended her convenience abortion of two of her three triplets), there's a little tidbit that I hadn't picked up on before. She's working under a surprising ethical principle, in addition to somehow thinking it's worse to be alive and have your mother shopping at Costco than it is to be dead:

Also, I personally believe that the long term physological impact on my child would be more negative if he knew that he had "siblings" out there whom he didn't know.

This is incredibly strange. Which would have a more negative impact (I'm not sure if she meant physiological or psychological) -- knowing that your mother decided to sacrifice for the sake of her children, knowing that they have biological siblings (that they shared the womb with!) out there, or knowing that your mother killed them? Besides the physiological results of sharing a womb and the psychological impact that might come with that (about which I know very little), the psychological impact of knowing your mother killed your siblings seems to me to be much more obviously harmful than the knowledge that she put them up for adoption just to make her life slightly easier and to make you feel richer than if you were lower middle class rather than solidly middle class, and knowing that she made the choice to sacrifice for them seems obviously less psychologically harmful than either of the above.

Christian Carnival XXIX

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This week's Christian Carnival is at Digitus, Finger & Co, including my post on eschatology. Rebecca Writes continues her series on God's attributes with God's Eternity. Reasons Why has a great satire: The Prayer of Samson!

Next week's host: Beyond the Rim...

Poverty Gene

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According to a candidate for Congress in TN, there is such a thing. He prefers to speak euphemistically of "less favored races". This guy's about as far away from either party as you can get, probably belonging in the Constitution Party or something, but since no one was willing to oppose him until too late to get on the ballot, he's actually gotten the Republican nomination. This is one race where I'm cheering on a longtime Democratic incumbent, who really has no chance of losing anyway (which is why no one bothered to run against him in 2the first place except this yahoo).

White Liberal Racism

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Make that rich, white, liberal racism. Janeane Garofalo has joined the ranks now, calling a black conservative a House Negro simply because he supported the Iraq war. I've argued before that this is flat-out racism. I'd like to add one more argument now.

I guess Garofalo would say bad things about anyone who supported this conflict. But the particular term she used here assumes that there's something different about his support of this military conflict. Somehow he gets a morally worse simply because he's black. Isn't that, totally apart from my arguments in my earlier post, enough to show that some sort of racism is going on here?

Mutual Submission

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Tim Challies is on a roll lately, tackling some controversial topics. Now he's got a succinct argument for why Ephesians 5:21 does not and cannot mean that every individual in a congregation submits to each other person in the congregation. This has important consequences for one relatively recent interpretation of the passage that begins with the next verse about wives' submission to husbands and husbands' love for their wives as reflecting the relationship between Christ and the church. One view that's become common maybe in the last twenty years is that the call for wives to submit to their husbands is part of every believer's call to submit to every other believer and thus isn't a specific instruction just for wives. The problem is that this passage requires a non-symmetrical relationship to make sense of the Christ-church analogy. That means something of the wife's submission is not true of the husband's love, and something of his love is not true of her submission.

There are so many other issues that this brings up, but since his post basically says nothing false that I could detect on one reading, and I think that's extremely rare when it comes to such issues, I had to give it a mention.

Update: For more on the Challies family, you can read about his drunk toddler. Should we trust his views on the family?

Vaccum Energy, a fellow Syracuse-based conservative blogger, gives some reasons completely independent of mine, why a conservative should be horrified at Denny Hastert's proposal to replace income taxes with a national sales tax or VAT. I don't they're all equally good reasons, but together they're sufficient even without the issue I raised, which the flat tax he and I have both admitted to favoring doesn't have problems with.

He's also got a good followup to my Using X for Political Gain post.

Alan Keyes for Senator

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Republicans in Illinois have just announced that they've asked Alan Keyes to run for Senate against Barrack "pretend I'm a moderate even though my voting record looks like democratic socialism" Obama. Now I wish I could be voting in Illinois (though I'll take great pleasure in casting my vote against Schumer). I'd vote for Keyes over almost anyone. I already have. I voted for him in the 2000 primary against Bush and McCain, and I really like Bush. I'd love to watch that debate. He'll hold Obama to all his claims about "one America" and taking responsibility. I'm fairly confident that there's never been a Senate race before with a black candidate from each party. It could be a hard race for Keyes to win, but he's faced greater odds before, and it could be great fun to watch.

Update: Wink has pointed out an unfairness to Obama in my description of him ("pretend I'm a moderate even though my voting record looks like democratic socialism"). He's right. It would be more accurate to say Barrack "the democratic socialist with some conservative social hopes". My point was not about him or to complain about how he frames himself. I really like the conservative emphasis in his speech. I just don't want people to conclude that he's conservative or moderate in any way in terms of the policies he supports. My intent was more in response to moderates who see him as a moderate than it was to him. He isn't really a moderate at all. He's a mixture of the standard democratic socialism of someone like Dick Gephardt with the more conservative social emphasis shared by liberals like Bill Cosby and moderates like John McWhorter (and compassionate conservatives like George Bush, for that matter). The difference between Obama and McWhorter is primarily in McWhorter's agreement with some economic or social libertarianism and Obama's insistence on policies that look much more like the democratic socialism of much of Western Europe (and to some extent Canada). That doesn't make him a moderate, in my view. It makes him a political liberal with some conservative moral views (the opposite of most libertarians, who tend to have liberal moral views but support conservative economic and some conservative social policies).

Marriage and Celibacy

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Beyond the Rim... has a great explanation of why it's unfair to characterize the biblical position on marriage as saying celibacy is a higher calling, with marriage a fallback option.

There's a discussion of this also, with more focus on the passage from I Corinthians 7 that's often used to justify the view that celibacy is preferred, at Challies.com. I don't agree with either what Tim calls the traditional view or the one is he is presenting (but not necessarily endorsing) as an alternative, but it's an interesting discussion. If you want to know what I think, look in the comments. I do fully agree with everything he says in the followup post on whether Paul is reporting an uninspired opinion when he says "I, not the Lord".

More Myth-Refuting

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On WMD: Esoteric Diatribe has a good summary of the WMD and WMD components that have been found in Iraq and why those who keep perpetuating the untruth that no WMD have been found aren't thinking very carefully.

On unilateralism: The Key Monk discusses some coalitions assembled by the Bush Administration to deal more effectively with nuclear proliferation and particularly with Iran and North Korea. This is something I've never heard of before, which confirms The Monk's claim that the press won't give any publicity and also partly explains why so many people think Bush has acted unilaterally (though that also ignores how many allies, particularly how many allies not traditionally given a voice, have supported the United States in the very actions declared by many to be unilateral).

Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) was on the Diane Rehm show yesterday, and he confirmed himself in my mind as largely a man of conscience, even though I disagree with him on a number of issues. I didn't realize how stupid Diane Rehm was, though, until I heard her questioning him repeatedly on something he'd already answered more than once, her questions assuming something he'd already stated pretty clearly to be false. It was quite a spectacle, if audio can be a spectacle.

The senator was explaining his vote regarding the FMA. He was one of three Democrats who sided with Republicans, along with Bill Nelson and Zell Miller. Diane Rehm asked him why he voted for the FMA. He said the Constitution serves two purposes, to set up our federalist system of government and to give basic civil rights. The FMA doesn't serve either purpose and thus doesn't belong in the Constitution. She proceeded to ask him why he then voted in favor of the FMA. He said he voted the way he did because he couldn't see this issue as the sort of thing to use as a political weapon. I didn't think he was really clear yet on what he meant by this, so it isn't surprising that she asked yet again why he voted for the FMA. I imagine she was thinking that the Republicans had been using it as a mere political weapon and that the Democrats were rightly voting against it, that Byrd must have meant this, and that his vote was thereby inexplicable. Well, no. His forthcoming explanation was quite clear, but it wasn't that.

Here Come the Zombies

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Scientists have now made a great leap in the progress toward zombies -- pulseless humans.

Digitus, Finger, and Co will host the Christian Carnival for the first time this Wednesday. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read and possibly pick up a few readers. Read on for details.

Double Positive

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Sidney Morgenbesser, philosophy professor at Columbia University, died yesterday. NPR had a little tidbit on him this afternoon, demonstrating that a famous urban legend really happened. One of his colleagues was on the air recounting it.

J.L. Austin was giving a talk formal semantics and pragmatics or something like that, and he said something about double negatives canceling out and making a positive but that double positives never turn to a negative. Morgenbesser, under his breath and not expecting to be heard, said "Yeah, yeah..." Everyone in the room did hear and of course broke out in laughter.

I heard this story without any names and without it being said to be even related to philosophy. I think it was "Yeah, right!" instead. I had assumed it was just another urban legend like most stories about professors, but it turns out to be a true urban legend.

Drudge is claiming that Bush is going to introduce a new campaign issue. [Thanks to Imperfect but Forgiven for the link.] If Drudge is right, Bush wants to get rid of the IRS and replace it with a national sales tax or a value-added tax on specific kinds of items. This is an extremely bad idea, both politically and in terms of just governing.

This sort of policy is unjust largely because it requires poor people like us who don't pay taxes to pay taxes. The only taxes we currently pay are phone, utility, medicare, social security, and state sales tax and other taxes added at purchase (e.g. gas tax). Those are the taxes that people, regardless of their income, pay. A good tax relief plan should minimize increases in these taxes or even decrease them. The tax policy as it is allows people under a certain income to be exempt from any income tax. What Bush is proposing may be good for the majority of middle-class people, and it may allow collecting on money made illegally, because it's collected when spent and not when earned, but the downside is really not worth it.

Stem Cell Facts

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John Rabe has a great post giving the facts on stem cells and stem cell research, and as far as I know he's exactly right on each point. The most important point is that adult stem cell research has borne great fruit, and embryonic stem cells have only led to problematic developments when inserted into adult organisms. Ron Reagan says Republicans opposing embryonic stem cell research are scientifically ignorant, but he may more accurate if he directs that charge toward himself. The Democrats' decision to make this a key issue of the presidential campaign is a bad idea, since science is not on their side.

What I'd like to see is more information on placental stem cells, since those are usually just discarded and are adult stem cells, having the DNA of the mother. Our obstetrician, a pro-life Christian, told us there isn't any research showing it to be of much use, and he recommended discarding it, but I'd like to see the studies showing that. I haven't coming across any.

Update: Robert George argues for an even stronger conclusion. Ron Reagan is taking advantage of people suffering from Parkinson's Disease and other ailments by promising them a change in administrations is going to lead to cures for many such diseases. I didn't read his speech carefully, but what I saw doesn't contradict this. He also points out that Reagan chose a very careful way of phrasing the process of extracting stem cells that isn't technically false but makes it sound as if it doesn't kill a live embryo, which is nuts. It does, and most of the research people would do with a policy change would be using embryos created deliberately just to be killed for such research.

I keep hearing these quick news blurbs on the Arminian churches that have been attacked in Iraq, and I've been wondering why it is that they've been targeting the churches that emphasize human freedom in salvation as over against God's sovereignty. Why wouldn't they target Calvinist churches also? I just don't get it. Is there something about the emphasis on human freedom that the terrorists think is more threatening? Well, isn't Calvinism also known for its connection to the middle class in Europe and the drive to prosper economically? Sure, it has nothing to do with what Calvinism is really about, but I wouldn't expect Islamicist terrorists to know anything about what really drives Christians, so I don't buy this explanation. What was that? They weren't targeting Arminian churches? They were targeting Armenian churches? Well, someone better tell all the news anchors at CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and everywhere else that's been misreporting it! I wonder if they're using Christian bloggers as their source of information. After all, a number of Christian bloggers in the circles I've been reading tend to contrast two different theological positions -- Calvinism and Armenianism. Last I knew the Armenian Orthodox were closer to Russian and Greek Orthodox than to anything else (though there are still big differences). A good Google search can pull up some good examples of this phenomenon, but I'm going to be nice and not point anyone out.

Theology Posts

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Here's one more Favorite Posts filter. This time I'm collecting theology posts. I think some of these are among my all-time best.

Apologetics Posts

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To clean out my favorite posts list in the sidebar, I'm removing five apologetics posts and then adding this post. Two of these are in my top 15 list, so I don't think entries shunted to being linked from posts that are themselves in the list of favorite posts are necessarily not as good as the ones in the sidebar list directly. It reflects more which of the older posts can easily be grouped.

So here are six of my favorite posts on apologetics.

Democrats used 9/11 for political gain all through the conference. Every time they mentioned it, their statement was intended to get people to support John Kerry and the party's agenda. Yet they're going to be harshly critical of the Republicans is there's any bare mention of 9/11 or if Bush even in passing mentions his leadership during that time. There's an inconsistency here. That's not what I'm interested in right now, though. What I'm wondering is why it's wrong to use something for political gain, especially given how common it is.

Responses to a Friend

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I've finally given the originally-promised response, such as it is, to w1re's questions in my post Questions From a Friend from over a week ago. Those who might have been following that discussion who don't look at my Recent Comments list in the sidebar might miss it without a mention in a post, so here we are.

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