Around the Blogosphere 2-4-05

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My list of things to blog about has gotten too long and contains a number of things that are too old for me to want to bother with extended comments, so here are some of them that I'm giving up on, along with some more recent ones that I've decided not to comment on but thought were worth a link.

Miscellaneous:

Phil Vischer, creator of the best children's program ever created, VeggieTales, comments on the James Dobson fiasco over the "We Are Family" video that he had criticized for its invisible but causally real connections with those who support accepting gay people as people worth loving. (I know that's not what he said, but that's what it implies.) Vischer seems to be aware of the complexities of the issue, and I think he takes the right view in the end. He claims that he never did a show on tolerance, but he did do a show (his third one) on loving your neighbor, which amounts to the same thing. It involved Junior Asparagus not wanting to invite a kid with a Spanish-sounding name to his birthday party. Bob and Larry showed him that gourds who sing weird songs and eat whole planets made of popcorn can contribute just as anyone else can, and Junior realized that his classmate is not weird but just different. That said, Vischer offers a lot of insight into a number of things, and I wish I had the time to write a long post interacting with it.

New England Republican points out that many of the same Democrats denying a social security crisis were cheering when Clinton used basically the same language to say basically the same thing in his own SOTU speech when he wanted to do something about the problems with social security. There may be legitimate criticisms of Bush's plan for solving those problems, but it doesn't do to pretend their aren't any problems now (to the point of the almost unprecedented booing and shouting in a SOTU address) under a Republican president and Congress when you had enthusiastically endorsed fixing them when the man offering to lead the way was a Democratic president. [Hat tip: The Moderate Voice]

I found this careful and thoughtful Catholic analysis of just war theory (and the common ignorance about it nowadays from some who claim to be experts) at Ektopos.

Pseudo-Polymath gives a roundup of those who have responded to his challenge to Christian bloggers to defend divisions within the body of Christ. I still intend to respond to this, but in the meantime look at the many and varied responses so far. I suspect some people are answering different questions entirely.

This week's Christian Carnival is up at Wittenberg Gate. I haven't even started looking through it yet, but I am planning my usual roundup of highlights.

Left2Right:

Over the last month, particularly around the Roe v. Wade anniversary, there's been much on abortion in the blogosophere. I was going to write something myself, but I had too much else going on at the time. Left2Right had some great posts from the left (and I think Hillary Clinton has been listening to them). Lynn Sanders encourages fellow pro-choicers to stop using the euphemism of choice as if that's the only or even the main issue. She says abortion should be framed in terms of self-defense. She suggests some unusual directions that the pro-choice view could move toward. I can't agree with much of what she says positively. I don't think she'd agree with me on this, but I think if we were willing to grant that abortion should be legal only in cases that are genuine self-defense then there'd be virtually no abortion. What she's calling self-defense is defense of one's right to use one's body as one feels like, even if it involves another human being. That's not equivalent to self-defense. Her critique of the pro-choice side's language is telling, and I wholeheartedly endorse her claim that it's both deceptive and counter-productive to the pro-choice cause to call abortion choice. I don't think what she's doing by calling it self-defense is any less deceptive and counter-productive.

David Velleman stepped in a couple weeks later, arguing that, while fetuses are not persons, it is morally justified to restrict abortion a good deal more than the extremists of NARAL and NOW will allow. He doesn't believe in a sharp line between non-personhood and personhood, but he thinks abortion can even be restricted when a fetus is a mere biological human and not yet a person. Abortion doesn't violate a person's right to life during the period when a fetus is not of course a person, but there are other considerations that allow restricting abortion. I myself think the distinction between personhood and biological humanity is a circular definition arbitrarily put to philosophical use, but I'm happy to point out that even if you engage in that business there are still reasons to restrict abortion, and David explains them nicely.

David Velleman also did a series on affirmative action, worth noting for a few things. First, he argued that one consideration in admissions processes is simply to have a diverse student body for its own sake. This includes not having a class full of complete nerds, which makes for a boring classroom experience and less actual learning. He lists a bunch of subjective factors that morally ought to be a part of the admissions process, and then he says that if those are morally important so should race. I agree. I don't think it justifies the ridiculous lowering of standards in most affirmative action policies, but those who insist that admissions should be absolutely color-blind are simply ignoring realities.

Volokh Conspiracy:

I had very much wanted to comment on the aftermath of Laurence Summers' willingness to consider biological explanations as part of the story behind why women are less represented in the sciences, but I never got around to it, and it's sort of run its course. The best stuff I saw was at the Volokh Conspiracy, and I wanted at least to nighlight those posts that I thought were especially insightful. Juan Non-Volokh points out that it's an empirical matter and therefore not one to huff and puff about as if it's not a matter even to be explored. It's possible that biology plays some role, and that question ought to be explore. Academia is all about exploring such things, so trying to limit the discussion over ideological conviction that such explanations are a priori impossible is a bit strange.

David Bernstein reminds us that sex differences do not simply resolve to socially constructed gender differences, as shown by the fact that you can't just chop off someone's genitalia and use reconstructive surgery to call him a girl. We tried that, and it didn't work. We just forget it when spouting off about how all sex differences are socially constructed. He also compares the idiocy of being insulted by this with the following example. "I once heard of a professor who gave a faculty workshop at a major law school in which the speaker pointed out that adoptive and step-parents are far more likely to abuse their children than are natural parents. The speaker noted, of course, that the vast majority of adoptive and step-parents don't abuse their children, it's just that they are far more likely to compared with natural parents. Nevertheless, informed sources tell me that adoptive and stepparents in the audience were gravely and personally offended, and accused the speaker of promoting Nazi-like theories of biological merit. I simply can't understand this logic." I can't either, and it's the same logic.

Todd Zywicki points out a study, which he says the jury is still out on, that suggests a bell curve for abilities in math and the hard sciences. Men tend to have a higher concentration at the top and bottom, while women are less concentrated at the extremes but as well represented throughout the rest of the curve as men are. This, if correct, would fully explain men's dominance in the fields that draw people at the very top of that field, and it may result purely from biological causes without in any way showing that men in general are any smarter than women in general. If it did, it would also show that they're dumber.

Eugene Volokh then links to Will Saletan's column that presents more information on exactly that explanation.

Scrappleface:

In the world of satire, Scrappleface has some choice offerings. First, Christians come under fire for withholding their best stuff in the tsunami aid relief cause. Apparently they know some really good news that explains why they're even bothering to help, but aren't letting on.

Then we move to a few that need no explanations: Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings, Captive U.S. Soldier Doll Rescued by Bush Doll, and Dean Likely DNC Chief, Rove Denies Involvement.

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BTW, the folks at Mirror of Justice (http://www.mirrorofjustice.com) and The Notre Dame ECenter for Ethics and Culture (http://ethicscenter.nd.edu/discussions/blog) have been blogging quite a bit about just war theory these days.

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