January 2007 Archives

Muggle Quidditch

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People (almost certainly college students with too much time on their hands) have come up with a version of Quidditch that you can play without magic, with some pretty creative ways to try to capture some things in the original that require magic to do. They've got leagues and everything.

I just found this old Freakonomics post, but it raises an interesting enough question that I thought it worth posting. It used to be that blacks and whites had very different TV viewing habits. According to recent data, these different viewing habits have begun to converge. I can't think of any good reasons why that might be. Any thoughts? Is it because the particular shows that are on now have something that appeals to both audiences when nothing before did? If so, what would that be? Or is it because something has changed in one or the other audience? If so, what would that be? The explanations offered in the comments don't seem very convincing to me.

Jews Making Oaths to Christ

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One way to be inconsistent is to hold two views that are inconsistent with each other. Another is to do something that, whether you realize it or not, is inconsistent with your official view. I'm regularly complaining that people confuse these two things. Only the latter can ever accurately be called hypocrisy, and only then if it's done regularly with the full knowledge of the person doing it. A slip here or there is not hypocrisy. It's just humanity.

But pragmatic inconsistencies are still worth pointing out, because people who engage in them ought to change their view or seek to change their behavior. Arnold Zwicky at Language Log has an example that seems to me to be exactly the kind of inadvertent pragmatic inconsistency that I wouldn't call hypocrisy but do think ought to lead to some revision of belief or practice. Jennifer Gilmore reports on the behavior of her Jewish parents:

My father, who is 100 percent Jewish, has always been obsessed with Christmas. He grew up in Minneapolis, in an unobservant household, and he considers it part of his childhood. "I remember the lights, the trees," he used to say to my little sister and me. "It was magical." He decorates the mantel with Christmas cards and tapes mistletoe to the doorways, and one year he even tried to get my mother, also Jewish, with a much more observant upbringing, to allow an evergreen wreath on our front door. ''I can't live with that,'' she said. "I just can't. Nothing on the outside of this house. We're Jews, for Christ's sake."

Now there's a separate issue of the inconsistency of allowing it on the inside but not the outside. That seems to me to be a deliberate allowance of the behavior in private but not in public, which is outright hypocrisy of a very crude sort. It's ok for us to do this, as long as no one knows about it. If it's ok for you to do, then you should be able to do it without embarrassment, and if it's not then you shouldn't be doing it anywhere.

But even aside from that, I think there's a much more interesting kind of inconsistency going on here. There seems to be a tremendous resistance to being seen as doing anything related to Christmas. The reason is because they're Jewish. This is a line that I've heard often enough from Jewish friends, despite the fact that Christmas trees are a non-religious symbol of a secularized holiday. Some Christians might choose to endow Christmas trees with some religious meaning, but as most Americans practice Christmas there is no symbol to the tree that has anything particular to do with Christianity.

The 159th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at thoughtsofagyrovague. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Interesting Comment

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It's very interesting to me that I could leave a comment on a left-of-center blog about race, a comment that's very sympathetic to a Marx-like perspective in critical race theory (here for those who want to see it in context), followed by a comment clarifying something that has virtually no value-laden component, only to have someone respond the following way:

Jeremy, I say what I’m about to say because I care.

The fact that you have a black wife fills me with dread. I wont go further because I don’t, as they say, “know you like that,” but let’s just say there’ll be a new family on my prayer-list tonight.

This is someone who has admitted in the past to be the sort of person who makes accusations about my views without actually reading what I said, which is particularly evil when the view being attributed to me is nothing at all like the view I'm actually defending. I'm not normally one to be upset when people pray for me, but I think I understand a little better now something of how gay people feel when Christians tell them they're praying for them to stop being gay.

So I'll say for the record right here: Those who would like to pray for me and Sam are very welcome to do so. We would genuinely appreciate it. Like all married couples, we do encounter difficulties in our relationship, and it's a real struggle dealing with three very active children five and under, two of them autistic. That doesn't make our life easy. But one things seems obvious to me, and that's that this person's prayers will likely be about nothing that actually goes on in our lives.

Before telling Sam of this comment and its context, I asked her, "if we were to list all of the problems we've had in our relationship and in our family, how far down the list do you think we'd have to go before we got to something related to race?" I was expecting maybe she'd say that it wouldn't be in the top 100 or that it wouldn't be in the top 500. She instead said something like, "I don't think it would be on it at all." Now maybe some ridiculously radical conspiracy theory about race is true, and interracial couples can have all sorts of devastating race-related problems in their relationship without ever knowing about them, but I think that's what it would take for us to be the sort of people whose relationship could justify the dread this commenter (who knows virtually nothing about us) has.

Arguments for Free Will

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This is the the thirty-ninth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I looked at some of the reasons people might have for thinking determinism is true, and they turned out to be not very conclusive if taken as arguments, but they are some of the motivation people have had for thinking in that direction. In this post, I'd like to look at reasons people have offered for thinking we have free will.

1. It just seems that we have free will. When we’re confronted with a choice, it seems as if what we choose is up to us. Our options seem open, and we choose one.

Is this a good argument? We can’t deny that it seems this way, but couldn't someone still deny that it is that way? Is it like knowing you're in pain? My feeling pain is the sort of thing that guarantees that I am in pain. Is seeming to be free like that? Or is it more like seeming to be on a flat earth that turns out to be spherical? Perhaps it's not that bad, but is it as obvious as knowing you're in pain? Given no other arguments, one might say this argument is inconclusive, since it shouldn't easily convince those who aren't sure if they are free.

2. Believing we’re free allows us to be consistent with our other beliefs. We deliberate, weigh options, and make choices. We wouldn’t do that if we didn’t believe our actions are under our control. You can’t decide not to be subject to the law of gravity. So what would be the point of weighing options if we’re not really free?

Genesis Commentaries

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Tyler Williams reviews commentaries on Genesis. Tyler is a bit more positive about Walton that I'd want to be. I'm a bit disappointed with Walton's NIVAC in terms of the series' general strength, which is supposed to be contemporary application (and bridging the context from original meaning to contemporary application). Walton seems to have a very strained view of how much contemporary relevance Genesis has. Other than that, I think I agree with pretty much everything else Tyler says.

If you're interested in commentaries and haven't seen his Old Testament Commentary survey, you should take a look at that too. His Genesis post is basically an update to his entry on Genesis in that survey.

Update: Tyler has a followup post that adds a few more commentaries and then offers some thoughts in forthcoming commentaries on Genesis, including some information on when some of them are likely to be out.

Christian Carnival CLVIII

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The 158th Christian Carnival is up at Participatory Bible Study Blog.

Article on Justice Thomas

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Jan Crawford Greenburg has a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal called The Truth About Clarence Thomas [hat tip: SCOTUSblog]. It recounts some of what she learned about his first term or two on the Supreme Court from the records of other justices, especially Justice Harry Blackmun. I think this pretty much destroys the last vestiges of several of the common myths about Justice Thomas, e.g. "Justice Thomas is stupid", "Justice Thomas is simply Justice Scalia's lackey" (some would even call him his slave), "Justice Thomas doesn't have any original thoughts", "Justice Thomas' opinions aren't intelligent or well-written", "Justice Thomas isn't smart enough to ask questions during oral arguments", and so on. I've long wondered how much of this is buried racism that isn't allowed to come out with political liberals but is tolerated when it comes to conservatives, but I'm sure that even if it is it's not the sort of racism the person is aware of. I've blogged about some of these issues before here, here, and a series I started here but regrettably haven't gotten around to finishing yet. [Update: See also here.]

It turns out that, according to Justice Blackmun's notes, the first year with Justice Thomas on the court changed things drastically. He'd vote in conference as a lone dissenter, but then when the other justices saw his opinions several of them would change their vote and sign on to his dissent. This is especially true of Justice Scalia, which means it's more true that he was Justice Thomas' lapdog than the reverse, although neither is really true, and a more accurate description would just be that Thomas had just convinced Scalia with arguments that Scalia's original vote was wrong.

Oh, and as for oral arguments, apparently he's got a philosophical conviction against asking questions during oral arguments. He thinks it's the lawyer's job to present the case without much interruption. He considers it a violation of his oath to do otherwise. I simply thought he was the sort of person who takes a while to digest things over the long term but not quickly on his feet, something true of some of the best philosophers I know. But he's actually deliberately holding back for principled reasons.

Compare the following two translations:

1 "Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. 2 "If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed."Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4 If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double. [Exodus 22:1-4, TNIV]
1 When someone steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, the thief shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. The thief shall make restitution, but if unable to do so, shall be sold for the theft. 4 When the animal, whether ox or donkey or sheep, is found alive in the thief’s possession, the thief shall pay double. 2 If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred.[Exodus 22:1-4, NRSV]

Do you notice anything funny about the NRSV translation? They've transposed the order of the verses because verses 1 and 4 are about a similar subject matter, while verses 2 and 3 are about another subject matter. They've assumed that some copyist or editor was too stupid to notice that they'd moved the verses out of the original order and thus split up the original unit of verses 1 and 4. (Technically, they've also made what the NIV has as v.3b into part of v.1 as well, but it's more complicated to describe it if you factor that in.)

A more likely explanation for the only order we have in any Hebrew text (or any ancient translation) is that it's deliberately ordered the way it is as a chiasm, a common literary device in Hebrew literature. In this case, the chiastic structure is a simple ABA, with the A laws as bookends around the B law. Simple chiasms are common in this section of Exodus. Two of the more obvious examples include Exodus 21:12-14 and Exodus 21:15-17, both ABA structures. It seems, then, that the NRSV order is just a premature disordering of an already ordered text out of a complete lack of sensitivity to the kind of literary structure Hebrew literature regularly displays. It's an interesting example of cultural insensitivity leading to a sense of cultural superiority, i.e. the attitude a modern, western ordering would be superior.

When Is Flip-Flopping OK?

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I very much enjoyed Saturday Night Live's spoof of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) being interviewed by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Most of it was terribly unfair to her (and probably to several others too), but there's a grain of truth behind enough of it for it to be funny. I'm not posting this just because I liked it, though. I found one particular segment of it to be especially interesting, and I wanted to comment on it:

CM: What about those Democratic primary voters who are still upset about your initial vote for the war?
HC: Chris, I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere. Of course, knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it.
CM: Uh-huh.
HC: I mean, for heaven's sake, look at my record. I don't even support necessary wars.
CM: Well, a lot of Democrats like the fact that Obama was always against the war.
HC: Chris, let me say something about Senator Obama, for whom I have the greatest respect. He seems to take positions based on studying an issue and then following his convictions, which is perfectly alright, bt suppose he were to go to Iraq and conclude that the war was necessary after all. He might decide to support it. Do you really trust someone like that?
CM: I never looked at it that way.
HC: Whereas, with me, the Democratic base knows that I am not going to reverse my stance on the war a second time, unless of course they want me to.

I have two thoughts from different parts of this, one brief one and one that requires a little more reflection.

The 158th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Participatory Bible Blog. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

People of Color

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Geoffrey Pullum at Language Log has an interesting post about his dislike of the term 'people of color'. I've never been taken with the term myself, but I don't think there are any very strong objections to it that don't also apply to other terms that I readily use. For example, it seems funny to act as if white people have no color, but we do speak that way when we call white people white and non-white people non-white. If it's bad to speak of people of color, then it's bad to speak of people who are non-white. In terms of economy of words, it's awkward to say "people of color" as opposed to "colored people", but the former doesn't have the negative connotations now usually associated with the latter, and if grammatical sleight-of-hand allows for a good result without changing the actual terms much is that so bad? There's no really strong linguistic or moral reason against it. So why not?

Well, Pullum just doesn't like the term. That's it. He doesn't judge anyone as linguistically or morally on the wrong side for using it. He just doesn't like it and doesn't use it himself. I'm not sure I dislike it as strongly as he does, but I've never been especially excited about it, and it has nothing to do with the reasons he gives in his slightly unfair characterization of conservative views on race. (I say slightly unfair, because I think what he's describing does happen, but he doesn't seem to allow for people who have views very similar to his on the moral questions but different views on the political ones, which is exactly where I stand.)

I first encountered the term during orientation in my first year of college, and it struck me as very strange. I can't say I've taken to it more over the years, but I don't have any reason I can think of why I shouldn't like it except ones that rely on bad arguments. I suppose it's better than 'non-white' in one way, because it's not defining people in terms of what they aren't.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I can think of a way that 'people of color' makes any sense to refer exactly to the people it refers to except in the sense that they aren't white. So maybe I just find it deceptive as a way to avoid saying something else that might offend some people. In other words, maybe it avoids overt offense by relying on offensive assumptions that aren't immediately discernible without reflection. But I think this might take more argument than I'm prepared to give at this point.

James Dobson used to be a helpful resource to Christian parents on issues related to childrearing. Lately he seems to prefer being a political hack whose only two goals are preventing gay people from calling their unions marriages and stopping abortion. I think the abortion issue is very important, but I also believe in certain ways of pursuing change on that issue, and he has a more expansive view of how pro-lifers can implement changes to limit abortion than I do. I disagree even more strongly on gay marriage. I'd prefer to have the government out of the business of declaring anything a marriage, which I'd prefer to keep as a private category for religious groups to define as they see fit. But if you have to tie that particular sound in the English language to particular legal rights like hospital visitation, health insurance benefits, adoption and other parental issues, and so on, then I can't for the life of me figure out why it's pro-family rather than anti-family to treat families with gay parents as non-families.

But one thing is clear to me. You can be opposed to gay marriage as a matter of public policy without thinking the right way to implement such a policy is through amending the U.S. Constitution. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) hold exactly that position. But James Dobson is perfectly happy to say that Senator McCain "is not in favor of traditional marriage" [ht: Race 4 2008]. Dobson has a Ph.D. in psychology and shouldn't be stupid enough to be unable to distinguish between (1) being in favor of gay marriage and (2) being opposed to it but also opposed to a constitutional amendment banning it. He has to be aware of McCain's statements on the issue, or he wouldn't have any basis at all for his statements. As far as I can tell, he simply considers someone an enemy for not advocating his particular method of opposing gay marriage, and it doesn't matter to him that someone happens to oppose gay marriage as long as they opposed the amendment. His definition of being in favor of traditional marriage is basically supporting a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. He hasn't just reduced traditional marriage to heterosexual marriage (as if traditional marriage doesn't involve anything more than the fact that the two people who are married are a man and a woman). He's reduced traditional marriage to a constitutional amendment.

I've updated my response to the Mitt Romney flip-flopping charges once more, this time with information about his appointments to the judiciary as governor. Yet again, I don't think the complaints from conservatives stand up. His statements while running for president are perfectly consistent with what he's done over the years, and he's done what you might expect a genuine conservative on judicial matters to do in the environment he's been in. See the update for details.

Arguments for Determinism

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This is the the thirty-eighth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I defined 'determinism' and distinguished it from a view that is sometimes called fatalism. In this post I'll look at some positive arguments for thinking determinism is true and some positive arguments for thinking we are free.

Keep in mind the definition of determinism: "given the laws of nature and the state of the universe at any one time, there is only one possible state of the universe at any later time." Why might someone think this is true? I can think of two sorts of reasons why someone might think something like this. One is theological, and the other is scientific.

Pierce Ancestry

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I've been telling several people for a while now that I wanted to put some of my genealogical research on my blog, but I never managed to get around to it, and it kept getting pushed to the bottom of things I wanted to blog about. Well, here's some of it. I was looking around for information on my ancestry, because we've long known about the last ten generations, but we never were able to get further back than the Pierce who came to this country ten generations back who we knew had been born in England. A while back, I found a site that did take his ancestry back quite a ways, and there were all sorts of surprises.

I should say one thing before I get into the details of all that. I place no significance in having certain people as ancestors. I don't think I have any reason to be proud of ancestors who were famous or who were wonderful people, and I don't think I have any reason to be ashamed of ancestors who were really awful people. These are people whose genetic heritage was passed on to me, and some of the people I could trace back to really surprised me, but I don't think this has any significance other than just curiosity about my forebears. But several family members have been wondering about what I came up with, so I wanted to put it all together online in one place, and here it is.


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I don't have enough time to put together a more substantial post today, so here are some more ways people have found me recently.

Anselm proslogion misinterpreted as philosophical argument
I'm not sure it's fair to treat the whole work as a philosophical argument, but it certainly contains many. Who is claiming that Anselm wasn't doing philosophy? That's patently false.

conditional love same sex parents emotional vampires
If this is looking for what I think it's looking for, then what does it have to do with same sex parents? The same argument has some pretty despicable implications about any adoptive parents. See Wink's post for a more detailed argument.

is there any evidence that pornography leads to perverted sexuality?
Doesn't the use of pornography itself constitute perverted sexuality? After all, wouldn't we consider it a perversion of our dietary appetite if we sat around and took great delight in the appearance of pictures of food while imagining what it would be like to eat it? How much more so when the object of desire is a person, who by the very nature of pornography is not taking part in the sexual goings-on. Now if it leads to other kinds of perverted sexuality, that's not something I know enough about.

which is the worst sin smoking or drinking
If those are your only candidates for the worst sin, something's wrong.

How can you get rid of a child without having an abortion?
The legal method is called adoption. The illegal methods are called infanticide and abandonment.

wat dose sex mean?

McCain on Gay Marriage

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Since I've been defending Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) from flip-flop charges, and since he's my favored candidate for the Republican nomination for president for 2008, some might conclude that I'm just saying what I can in favor of him and would then say what I can against his opponents for that nomination. Not so. I think it's important to represent every candidate fairly and accurately, whether the person is my favored candidate or not. For that reason I feel compelled to respond to one of the lamest flip-flop charges I've ever seen, worse even than some of the pretty poor ones leveled against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in the 2004 race (not that all the charges against Kerry were baseless, but some were just awful, particularly when it comes to his position on abortion, which I think is immoral but is certainly consistent even if he didn't always explain it well).

In several places I've seen people charging Senator John McCain (R-AZ) with flip-flopping on gay marriage not across some long period of time in separate decades (as is the case with the Romney charges) but within minutes, indeed even from one side of a commercial break to another. I'll limit my linking to just the Evangelicals for Mitt posting, since there's a video of it there. As far as I can tell, anyone making this charge is outright misrepresenting the senator or completely incapable of understanding what he said, because I see exactly one position before the break and after it.

I've run across several more flip-flop charges for Mitt Romney, all of them (it seems to me) either at odds with the information or inappropriate in some other way given the circumstances. It's becoming increasingly clear to me that these charges are generated by people who are either (1) immorally twisting the evidence and Governor Romney's words to generate what those who don't know all the information might think are contradictions or (2) just completely unable or unwilling to think very clearly. In several of these cases, it's really not that hard to compare his words and see a consistent position. In others, changing political dynamics explain a change in emphasis.

I've decided to keep my information on this all in the same place for the moment, so you can see the updates at the bottom of my original post on the issue for the new bits.

The 157th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week at Imago Dei. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Philosophical Powers

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From Ian Vandewalker, the greatest minds of all time now have great bodies to match. For the ad-free version, see the mirror site. The action figures used in the pictures looked awfully familiar to me. We used to take our figures apart sometimes and exchange their heads and arms, so this isn't all that different from that. It was a lot easier with G.I. Joe than the Masters of the Universe and similar ones used here (I believe I detect some Lost World of the Warlord bodies as well, and there are some that don't look familiar to me at all). As the John Locke entry says, "a barrel-chested action figure with an enormous wig is objectively funny."

Descartes has an excellent accessory, an immaterial mind that you can't see or touch. Wait, the toy is actually conscious?

I have to love Augustine's weakness: "inability to do anything that will earn the divine grace necessary to make up for original sin". In other words, he doesn't have any weakness that his opponents don't also have. I guess that's just one more reason to consider him my favorite philosopher in the history of western thought.

I was slightly disappointed with the entry for the greatest modern philosopher, G.W. Leibniz. It focuses on his original views rather than what he spent much of his time on, which was defending traditional views. He does have an interesting pseudonym, however: G. Dubya. That way he can line up with the greatest president of the 21st century.

Determinism and Fatalism

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This is the the thirty-seventh post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I finished a series within the series on philosophical theology, looking at what sort of revelation we might expect if anything like the traditional view of God is correct. This post begins a new section of the series on freedom and determinism.

Before we get to any substantive philosophical arguments, I want to get clear on some
definitions. Some of the terms used in this discussion have been used in a number of different ways. To start off, I want to distinguish between determinism and fatalism. Philosophers generally define the term 'determinism' in something like the following way.

Determinism: given the laws of nature and the state of the universe at any one time, there is only one possible state of the universe at any later time.

Sometimes people confuse this notion with another one, and since both have been treated under the category of fate, destiny, or predetermination, it's worth getting clear on the difference. The term 'fatalism' has been used a few different ways in philosophy, but I'm going to use it in the following way to distinguish it from determinism and to make it clear that the issue here does not involve this commonsense notion of fate.

Fatalism: certain events are unavoidable, no matter what anyone does.

Embryo Banks

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Suppose you had a whole bunch of children whose parents didn't want them, and they left these children frozen in a laboratory somewhere. After a while, it would be impossible to recover these children, but no one could do anything about it due to the parents' rights over what happened to them. This was perfectly legal. The only thing people could do would be to try to reason with these parents to get them to give up these children for adoption, to reason with the companies that allowed parents to do this, or to wait until the Supreme Court changed enough due to moral outrage from those who saw this as wrong, so they could overturn their precedent on the issue and allow Congress to pass laws against the practice.

Then someone comes along with a way to minimize the loss of all these children. Short of changing the laws, they argue, the best we can do to help these children is to allow people to pay the parents for them so they can adopt them. So they decide to set up a clinic that allows people to take a look at these children to see if there are any there they want to adopt. Some conservative groups complain that it cheapens life to allow parents to do this, calling it eugenics and designer children, since they can pick and choose the characteristics of which child they want to adopt. However, ordinary adoption methods also have that element, do they not? This method just helps save those children who would otherwise be left for dead. Doesn't it seem like a good policy to save these children who would otherwise have no life?

Oh, and these children are all still in their embryonic state, and the people opposing this notably pro-life development are supposedly pro-life. You do the math.

Welcome to the 156th Christian Carnival. I usually put together a nice theme when I host, but even though I've been on break from teaching we've been both sick and busy at the Pierce residence, which left me without much time to put together anything interesting. As a result, I'm going with the old standby and putting all the posts exactly in the order they were submitted, with one minor modification. I've decided due to a fairly low turnout this week to add several of my own picks of good posts from Christian blogger who didn't submit posts this week. Those who submitted posts get first priority in the order I received them, and the sneak-ins appear after mine at the end. Given the low turnout, I will still consider late submissions, which I will add to the end if there are any. On to the Carnival...

Tyler Williams posts some highlights from biblical studies blogs from 2006. Check out my appearance during the month of June.

The 41st Philosophers' Carnival is at Westminster Wisdom.

In Christ

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Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog argues that the Greek phrase usually translated "in Christ" in the New Testament would better be rendered in other ways. His main reason is that the English expression "in Christ" just doesn't mean very much to most English speakers who aren't thoroughly steeped in this expression from English translations of the Bible. I generally agree with this sort of argument when it applies to things that would have been very clear in the original language but are not at all clear in contemporary English, but I think there are sometimes other factors that count against such a translation, and this case may well have several of them.

My first thought on reading his post was to ask whether this have sounded like natural Greek grammar to its original audience. I've always gotten the sense that it wouldn't have. If that's right, then we do Paul a disservice by translating the unnatural form out of it. But I don't have good information on this. The only extra-biblical case I can think of is Epimenides' "in him we live and move and have our being", which Paul quotes in Acts 17 when speaking to the Epicureans and Stoics in their own terms. But was this a normal way of speaking in religious contexts in the Greco-Roman world, or was is strange to Epimenides' context and still strange when the NT authors used it?

It's also worth pointing out that this isn't just "in Christ". Paul regularly says "in him" and "in whom", and John has a lot of similar expressions, e.g. "in me", "in the Father", "in the Son". I believe we get expressions like "in God", "in Jesus", "in the Lord", and even "in the Beloved" in various places, and then there are the compounds like "in the Lord Jesus" or "in Christ Jesus".

The 156th Christian Carnival will be taking place this week right here at Parableman. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The 13th Biblical Studies Carnival is at Codex, covering posts from the month of December. I don't post a lot that I think is worth submitting to this carnival, and I have a very strict policy of not linking to carnivals I'm not in so as not to undermine the gratitude links I give to ones that I am in. I recommend it every month, but this time I can link to it. If you want to keep up with the Biblical Studies Carnival in general, just remember that each one appears in the first week of the month containing posts from throughout the previous month, and you can always check Tyler's main page for it for the link to the most recent one.

Laurence Thomas has an excellent post Are There Gay Animals? On Justifying Gay Behavior in Humans. [If you have trouble accessing the post, see the comments below for how to get it to load properly.] Laurence doesn't think there's anything at all wrong with being gay, but he points out some severe flaws with one argument for the opposite conclusion. Some people, in order to support the view that Laurence holds, point out same-sex sexual interaction in non-human animals. I've observed such behavior myself, so I know it's out there. Several things are wrong with this argument, but I'll summarize two of his points here, and you can read his post for a fuller treatment.

One is that lots of things animals do could be wrong for humans to do. Laurence gives the example of promiscuity. Just because animals don't settle down with long-term partners doesn't mean we shouldn't. There are in fact good reasons for thinking that we should have long-term partners, and these have nothing to do with religion but arise simply from thinking about the nature of human sexuality and psychology.

Another problem with the argument is that it would be thoroughly inaccurate to describe animals as being gay. Being gay is not engaging in certain behavior. It's all wrapped up in having a sexual identity defined in terms of sexual or romantic relations with someone of the same sex. Animals don't do that. They have nothing like the kind of developed sexual identity that humans have (and Laurence gives several examples having nothing to do with gay to show the level of difference between animals and humans in terms of sexual identity).

See also his previous post Gay Marriage and the Argument from Consenting Adults for a criticism of another bad argument on a related issue. Laurence's position on record on gay marriage is the same as mine, i.e. that the government shouldn't be endorsing any marriage but leaving it to religion, while allowing same-sex couples to have inheritance, hospital visitation, health insurance, and other couple benefits. But the mere fact that couples consent to gay sex doesn't at all justify it.

But You Did It First

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After the election in November, I wondered whether all the talk from Democratic leaders about finally running things as uniters rather than dividers would ever come to anything. The answer turns out to be no. Straight out of the Washington Post:

House Democrats intend to pass a raft of popular measures as part of their well-publicized plan for the first 100 hours. They include tightening ethics rules for lawmakers, raising the minimum wage, allowing more research on stem cells and cutting interest rates on student loans.

But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories.

The "but you did it first, so it's ok for me to do it too" mentality seems to have replaced Speaker Pelosi's earlier assurances that things would change with Democrats involved. A lot of people voted for Democrats to get the Republicans out of control. Issues of corruption and how government is run were front and center, even if those weren't the only issues people cared about. This move, therefore, seems to me to frustrate the intent of those voters who wanted to remove Republicans from control of Congress primarily because they were led to believe Democrats would do things differently. They should feel betrayed.

President Ford Quotes

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Here are two interesting quotes from the late President Gerald Ford, which I found in this SCOTUSBlog post:

What, then, is an impeachable offense? The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body [the Senate] considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office.

Christian Carnival CLV

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The 155th Christian Carnival is at Wittenberg Gate.

This is the the thirty-sixth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. In the last post, I continued a series within the series on philosophical theology, looking at the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom. This post moves on to questions about divine goodness and revelation.

The final discussion from Ganssle’s book (see the first of the philosophical theology posts in this series) has to do with God’s goodness, but it is less a puzzle and more an argument for a thesis. Ganssle’s claim is that if God exists in anything like the traditional monotheistic view, i.e. the view that most of the philosophical arguments for and against God assume, then we might expect such a being to have communicated with us in a particular kind of way.

Site Problem

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For some reason the individual archive page for my last post and the January 2007 archive aren't accessible. That means no one can read more than the first two paragraphs of my last post (unless you read it in an RSS reader, which for some reason is working fine), and no one can comment on it. I'm guessing the same will be true of this post. I'm not sure what's going on at this point, but I'll let you know when things have been resolved.

Update: Interestingly, posting a new post seems to have solved the problem when a complete site rebuild did not. I don't know what the issue is, but I guess it's now resolved.

Update 2: Or maybe Matthew fixed it while I was writing the second post. It turns out he was making some changes at the same time.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has been trying to place himself as the conservative alternative to more moderate presidential candidates, most notably former Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York City and Senator John McCain of Arizona. He's been doing much worse in the very early polling in early primary states, much to the surprise of pundits who have been predicting him to be a close third to the two early leaders. One reason for this seems to be that the religious right is refusing to get behind him (see, for example, here; ht: DaveG), claiming that he isn't conservative enough. He may not be conservative enough for some people, but he seems to me to be the most conservative candidate in the arena right now who would have a chance of winning the election. Maybe another governor will pull forward a bit, e.g. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin (who also has federal government experience as Secretary of Health and Human Services) or Frank Keating of Oklahoma (who hadn't been in office very long before the Oklahoma City bombing incident). Kathryn Jean Lopez has been defending him, and I thought I should do the same.

As I just said, I think at this point Romney has the most chance of the more conservative people in the arena. Even so, all that is really my fallback argument for why I would support him. I actually think the social conservatives who are criticizing him are doing so extremely unfairly. I don't have much problem with the various combinations of positions he's taken on gay rights issues, and I think he's offered a plausible explanation of the change in his positions on abortion.



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